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    dkirschner's Observation (PC)

    [December 6, 2020 11:22:46 AM]
    Finished this yesterday evening. I was really looking forward to it for the clear 2001: A Space Odyssey vibes and the role reversal where you play as the AI instead of the crew. I thought I would be like HAL trying to kill my crew or following some secret orders, but it wasn't quite that exciting. This also reminded me of Carrion because of the role reversal (there you play as the monster escaping the facility instead of the typical human trying to fight the monster).

    Observation is a slow burn. Something has happened; the lone survivor, Emma, needs you to help her figure it out. Gameplay involves traversing Observation (the space station) and interacting with a lot of computers to help Emma do things. You'll also find tidbits of information on computers that clue you in to the relationships between the Observation crew, their problems, and their mission. There are twists and turns in the story that I won't spoil, and each one pulled me into the narrative. However, the end...I didn't like the end. And I'm someone who usually is fine with whatever ending! How to say...the end makes conclusive something that was best left ambiguous, or that I wish had been conclusive in an unexpected way.

    So, overall, I enjoyed the story and the way that it was presented. I didn't mind how slow it was except that a lot of the slowness isn't the story but the ways in which you will be hampered by trying to figure out what the hell to do. Some of this is okay because it sets the mood. You're confused. The space station is busted up. People are dead. It's dark and hard to navigate. Fair enough. As SAM (the AI), you can look through cameras scattered throughout the space station and you can possess spheres and putter around yourself. Often, you are looking for some specific terminal. Moving the cameras around to look is very slow and I realized at some point that this aspect of the game is essentially a pixel hunting, like in those hidden object games. A couple times I missed scanning a document I needed that would be taped to a wall but didn't stand out as I looked around. Unless you look right at a thing, SAM doesn't see it. Another time, I had been stuck forever. I knew I needed some schematics and knew they were on a laptop somewhere, but couldn't find them. It was the only time I had to look something up. The answer? It's on one of the laptops displaying a low battery icon. I thought those were just unusable. Turns out you have to follow the power cable to the wall plug and MANUALLY TURN ON THE PLUG. Really? That's when I realized that this was part hidden object game and became a bit disappointed.

    Another thing that I disliked was that you have to get Emma's explicit confirmation before being able to perform actions sometimes. So for example, there was one part where I had to find and enable three things, like pressure detectors or something. I had found them but couldn't figure out how to interact with them. It was driving me nuts. I knew exactly what to do but I couldn't do it. Finally, I realized that I had to report to Emma first that there was even a problem with the pressure. She already knew this so I have no idea why I had to report it. Anyway, once I reported it, she tells me to go look for the pressure detectors and then I could magically interact with them. This happens often. Emma has to "know" what you are doing before you can actually do it.

    There's a third problem that's a technical one. This might indicate that development was rushed in the end (perhaps explaining the letdown ending too?). Toward the end of the game, objects (NPCs and SAM) seem to not have collision detection. During this very emotional scene, Emma sank through a wall (then stayed in a very weird position with her arm disappeared into the wall). She asked me to give her some light, but because her position was all wrong, I couldn't complete the objective correctly. Another time, SAM follows Emma and Emma was moving really jerkily, like the girl in The Ring, floating through the station. Unsettling. Then during the final sequences of the game, Emma is holding SAM and walking. She literally moves through objects and drags SAM through them too. It was so weird. For the final final part of the game, she put me (SAM) down and my view of the finale was blocked by an object! After a minute, SAM just teleported to the left a few feet (where he was obviously meant to be placed) with a clear view. Really glaring issues there!

    Observation nails the atmosphere and tells a slow, engaging story, but one that doesn't have much to chew on and that disappoints in the end. Playing as SAM was novel. I look forward to playing No Code's previous game, Stories Untold, but I wouldn't really recommend Observation unless you are a huge fan of this kind of sci-fi or you really enjoy a good walking simulator. I think this will be memorable, but it's not a great as I'd hoped.
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    dkirschner's Observation (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Tuesday 1 December, 2020

    GameLog closed on: Saturday 5 December, 2020

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Neat playing from the perspective of the station AI. ----------- Game is a slow burn, payoff isn't as great as I'd hoped.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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