Note: I received a full copy of Beholder to review.
Beholder is a weird game. On the surface, its a game where you are a building manager of an apartment in a fictional dictatorship, charged with the task of spying on the tenants and reporting them to the authorities. Underneath that premise, Beholder plays somewhat like a choose-your-own-adventure game, where one choice leads to others and the story progresses. The actual gameplay is limited to talking to people, settings up spy cameras, searching furniture for items, and filing reports based on your findings.
Initially Beholders feels incredibly different from most games. The art style is pretty unique, the setting is very quickly well established, and the characters you interact with are interesting. The first hour or so of gameplay also feels different, as there are almost always multiple ways to accomplish the different tasks you have, and events chain very well most of the time.
For me the game broke down shortly after that however. For one, you can lose the game very abruptly. One quest was to sell stolen food, and when I sold it to a certain character, that character didn’t end up paying full price. Going back to the original seller and informing him of this resulting in him shooting me dead. Game over. It was shocking, and that was a good emoting to get, but after that it just resulting in loading up the game, going down a different path with that quest, and seeing the result (worse still, it seemed all of the results I had available ended poorly, so I ended up declining the quest chain altogether, which didn’t end my game, but I think hurt me later).
You rinse/repeat this pattern a lot (the game auto-saves after every quest progression, and you can’t save on-demand), sometimes having to go back pretty far because the key event that triggered a certain ‘death chain’ was a long time ago. After a bit, the interesting world and character dialog fades (because you have seen it multiple times already), and what is left are just menu options that you pick and test to progress.
Worse still, I’ve had multiple attempts where I wasn’t able to progress at all. One quest asks for a crazy amount of money, and if you can’t pay it in time, game over. I’m sure there is a way around paying the money, but I’ve not found it, and I don’t know which events in the past could be done differently to ultimately get me past this roadblock. Its just not that fun for me to reload over and over again and tweaking what selections I made. The game really hurts itself IMO by being so brutal/difficult. If more quest results were slightly negative vs a full-stop, you could continue to progress and enjoy the setting/writing, and could then play it a second/third time to experience different results. As it is right now, with so many full-stops, you won’t go too long before you end up in a reload cycle, and that breaks the immersion terribly.
It’s hard for me to recommend Beholder unless you enjoy the reload/retry style of gaming. As mentioned, if the difficulty or game-over choices were tuned down, I think it would be a fun game to explore a different world and narrative with a somewhat unique playstyle.