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Video Game / Observer

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Observer (stylized as >OBSERVER_) is a Cyber Punk thriller/horror game, developed by Bloober Team of Layers of Fear fame and published by Aspyr. The game released for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on 15 August 2017.

Takes place in 2084 Poland, where after a "digital plague" known as the Nanophage and a resulting war, what remains of the country is controlled by the Chiron corporation. The player takes control of Daniel Lazarski, a special police agent known as an Observer, who has augments that allow him to go into a person's mind and relive their memories. After getting an ominous call concerning his estranged son Adam, he investigates a seedy apartment complex under lockdown because of a suspected resurgence of the Nanophage. What he finds there is a string of dead bodies and the implication that something more nefarious is at work.


This game provides examples of:

  • After the End: The Earth has suffered two apocalypses of increased severity with Poland being one of the few countries left. It's a Cyberpunk dystopia.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Daniel is about the nicest Observer you're ever going to meet, even though he's terrifying to the public and still works for an evil megacorporation.
  • Antihero: Observers are Corporate Samurai who work for the corrupt megacorporation Chiron and Mind Rape their targets during investigations. Daniel, however, acts more like a cop and tries to help whenever possible. This prevents him from being a full blown Villain Protagonist.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: Scanning people's implants will display a brief profile describing their personal information, including their gender. Rather than being classified as "male", "female" or nonbinary, gender is apparently classified using a letter - "A" to denote masculine-identified people and "B" to denote feminine-identified people - and a number (i.e., A1, A2, and A3 or B1, B2 and B3). It's ambiguous what identities exactly these designations refer to, but it would appear social views of gender are much less binary in the game's world.
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  • And I Must Scream: In the "Embrace" ending, Daniel willingly allows Adam's A.I. to merge with him... except it doesn't it. The A.I. completely takes control of Daniel's body and mind, while Daniel's consciousness remains trapped inside with no way to assert itself other than manifesting as a few minor glitches, which the A.I. assures it will get "worked out".
  • Arc Words: From Janus, "Need to get out." He says it at least three different times, in different contexts; "You need to leave" when Dan's snooping, "we need to get out of here" when they're trapped in the lockdown, and "we need to evacuate" during a flashback to the war.
  • Augmented Reality: All over the place in the apartment, at least before the power goes out during the lockdown.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Amir and Helena have a pretty terrible but realistic one where he's an unemployed ex-con drug dealer while she's a low level programmer trying to make it ahead who live in a nightmarish slum. A neighbor notes their relationship was at least devoid of Domestic Abuse.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: Trapped in the apartment complex with no way out, no backup and no clues, Daniel jailbreaks his Dream Eater to dive into the mind of a deceased victim, something his onboard AI warns him is both illegal and really dangerous (and something he could NEVER do if he wasn't cut off from supervision). Then he has to do it again when he's late to the next victim. By the end he figures he's either going to die or get used to it.
  • Brain Uploading: Throughout the game, Dan is led to believe that Adam has uploaded his brain into the form of an A.I. However, mindjacking the A.I. reveals that it's actually a copy of Adam's mind that manipulated the Splicer (Victor Maderski) into killing the real Adam, who really was the headless body you found at the beginning of the game after all. The A.I. justifies its actions by claiming that Adam had killed multiple A.I.s, as it considers each time Adam deleted a previous A.I. version to be "murder".
    • A minor version of this appears earlier, with Pieta, an amoral, rich old lady, wanting to steal the body of an autistic child. However, when Pieta actually connects with Pauline, she starts to feel what Pauline feels, and helps ease some of the symptoms of her autism. When Dan confronts her, she becomes possessive of Pauline, and wishes to merge minds with her so she can stay with Pauline and help her be happy. This also helps the Adam A.I. fool Dan into thinking he wants to merge minds - when all he really wants is an escape.
  • Cat Scare: Repeatedly with cyborg birds - which may or may not be Chiron surveillance.
  • Closed Circle: When you get to the first crime scene, the room locks you in because of a security alarm, and afterwards the whole building goes into lockdown for reasons unknown. Which means Dan is locked in with the killer...probably.
  • Cool Old Guy: Daniel seems to be about Rutger Hauer's actual age and is well into his sixties, if not pushing seventy. His health isn't the best either but he's still investigating multiple homicides and terrorist operations.
  • Crapsack World: The world has gone through a Trauma Conga Line and can rightly be described as After the End. The Nanophage ravaged humanity, followed by a nuclear war, with Poland implied to be one of the last civilized places on Earth. It's a poverty and crime ridden hellhole with the police owned by a megacorporation.
  • Cutscene Boss/Self-Disposing Villain: Victor "Splicer" Maderski never actually confronts you in the real world; he just attacks you in a cutscene and immediately ends up electrocuting himself completely by accident with no input from you.
  • Downer Ending: Neither of the game's two endings turns out well for Dan.
    • If you choose to merge with Adam, the final dialogue with Janus makes it clear Adam was lying all along and that he's simply stolen your body instead of merging his mind with yours like he said he would. Now, Dan's trapped helplessly in his own head while Adam escapes into the world using his body.
    • If you refuse to merge with Adam, he steals your body anyway and dumps your mind into the maintenance droid Rudy. Dan reluctantly hijacks Janus' body when he passes by looking for Rudy, then uses it to attack his original body before Adam can escape in it. However, after managing to punch Adam in the head several times, Janus/Dan is shot dead by arriving police, who from their perspective see a crazed janitor attacking a police detective. The ending also ambiguous whether or not Adam had survived your attack, leaving open the possibility that Dan's efforts didn't matter.
  • Everything's Messier with Pigs: The noises in the basement turn out to be a pig... being used as an organ farm and hooked up to a VR system to keep it complacent.
  • Fantastic Drug: In a few places given the Cyber Punk setting. One of note is Syncrozene, a drug that Observers need to regularity take in order to keep their consciousness stable, especially after reliving someone's memories. Another drug that pops up regularly is the illicit narcotic "feed", a green goo which seems to be the setting's equivalent to heroin/crack.
  • The Fundamentalist: The Immaculates are a religious family that live in the Stacks that refuse all cybernetic modification, even for medical purposes. Daniel has a somewhat disdainful view of them. It's Subverted as while a patriarchal group which puts the father at the head of the household, they seem to be the only people who genuinely give a shit about not only each other but their neighbors.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Chiron Corporation doesn't directly intervene in the game's plot, but it's made clear on multiple occasions that they have totalitarian control over what's left of human civilization and are not nice people. The Big Bad, Adam's A.I., is actually trying to hide from them, but both he and them turn out to be thoroughly unpleasant.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The Splices, humans intertwined with animal genetics and mechanical augmentations. The murderer turns out to be one, and is apparently a huge fan of werewolves...
  • Hell Hotel: The Stacks are more like an apartment complex but it ticks all of the boxes. Everyone is behind heavily secured doors, overflowing toilets, and a monster stalking the halls.
  • Hell Is That Noise: A major part of the game's scares as there's all manner of creepy, weird, and unsettling sounds in both the regular world as well as when Observing.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Daniel Lazarski looks a lot like the voice actor who plays him, Rutger Hauer
  • Law Enforcement, Inc.: The Chiron Corporation owns the police and Daniel is one of their Elite Mooks. Generally, he seems to be more on the side of being a police officer than a Corporate Samurai but he knows he's aware of who is masters are.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The building's superintendent, who lost half of his head in the war and had it replaced with rubber skin, is named Janus (the two-faced Roman god). He also has great difficulty dealing with time and memories of the past; Janus was said to look to the future and the past.
    • "Adam" is not Dan's human son, but rather an advanced A.I., a new type of created being.
  • Mind Screw: Viewing the memories of victims tends to lead into this. Especially when Daniel's memories start mixing with them. And then the screwiness starts to happen outside the memories.
  • Multiple Endings: The game has two endings, based entirely on the final choice you make in the game. Namely, whether to allow Adam (or, rather, the Adam A.I.) to merge with your mind so he can survive, or to reject him.
  • My Greatest Failure: Near the end of the game Daniel relives the moments that led him to become so estranged with the real Adam. After his wife was diagnosed with a normally incurable disease, Daniel on his wife's wishes didn't go through with giving her augments that increased her chances of living. After his wife passed away, Dan got into an accident, and in order to continue supporting Adam, accepted augments. This caused Adam to grow to hate Dan for this hypocrisy. This is one of the main points the Adam A.I. uses to try to convince Dan to merge minds with him.
  • Non-Action Guy: The game is a detective game, not a shooting game. Dan mentions offhand that "they don't even let us carry guns anymore," as apparently Observers are prone to psychotic breaks.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: All over the damn place. It doesn't help that Augmented Reality seems to be ubiquitous, turning even a crappy apartment complex into a light show. Also at times happens to Daniel's vision, indicating when he needs to take more Syncrozene.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Cyborg werewolves created through a lifetime of abuse and manipulation from the Adam A.I.! The Serial Killer Dan is trapped with, Victor, is often met with a werewolf motif.
  • The Plague: The Nanophage, a deadly disease where a programming glitch causes the nanites inside an augmented person's body to devour them alive. It's so feared that every building in the city is programmed to cut itself off from the outside and residents fear "the cleaners" coming to exterminate everyone.
  • Retraux: CRT monitors and clacky 80s-style keyboards abound. The game With Fire and Sword: Spiders Daniel can play on computers scattered throughout the apartment complex is also a throwback.
  • Sadistic Choice: You're forced to make three of them.
  • Serial Killer: It quickly becomes clear that you're trapped inside the apartment complex with one. though he turns out to merely be The Heavy to the real Big Bad, Adam's A.I.
  • Tv Head Robot: When Dan jacks into the killer's memories, one of the first things he sees is a group of people staring at him with boxy T Vs for heads, all showing twitching human mouths in black-and-white.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: During an optional foray into Adam's mind, his memory defense system becomes a series of minigames, ranging from a first-person reverse Tetris game, to a runner game, to even a dungeon crawler.
  • Wham Line: Although not important to the plot and can easily be missed, one particular line from a sexbot, named Fem-Com 6.0, suddenly changes the entire tone of the conversation she has with Dan:
    Dan: ...What did you say?
    Fem-Com 6.0: Please, feel free to use me. (leaves the intercom)
  • Word-Salad Horror: During one point, Daniel's dialogue choices become quotes of this ilk, such as "I smell like dandelions on a corpse", and even devolving into random strings of letters.
  • World War III: The Great Decimation, in the opening narration it is stated that "The West killed the East. The East killed the West".
  • Wretched Hive: The apartment complex the game takes place in becomes more and more wretched the deeper Dan goes. Former and current tenants include: Drug dealers, human traffickers, organ harvesters, gene-spliced murderers, and a malevolent A.I. at the center of it all.