HON Reviews: Beholder
My children died and I was jailed for stealing a comb. Life is hard in a totalitarian State.

Disclaimer: a review key was provided by Warm Lamp Games. Say hi to them on Twitter

Like everybody, as a child I dreamt of becoming the ruler of a dystopic totalitarian State. I can’t do that, but being a whistleblower for said leader in a game is pretty close, I’d say. Beholder is quite similar to This War of Mine, and I’m not only talking about the point-and-click mechanics and the colour palette; they both explore how far people can go to ensure basic needs, survival, or a more comfortable lifestyle for them and their loved ones. How conflicts can strengthen, destroy, or create relationships, and even shift the balance of power when society is not what we are used to.

In Beholder you play as Carl, the new landlord for a State-issued apartment building. As the previous landlord is dragged outside by the police, your overseer tells you he hopes you will do a better job at spying on your tenants to find illegal items, overhear subversive opinions and uncover plots against the Government and reporting them to your superiors. Every decision you take affects the story and can result in different endings (good and bad) depending on which path you take. Every character, including your family, has their own opinions, personalities, and circumstances, so when you are ordered to frame by any means necessary the tenant that gave you the expensive medicine that saved your daughter’s life, which side will you take?

The moral dilemmas posed by the decision making in Beholder are clearly inspired by the works of George Orwell and Ray Bradbury, but personally it reminded me more of German film The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen, 2006), where a civil servant in East Germany experiences a shift in his vision of the State because of one of his spying assignments. That’s the kind of experience that Beholder offers. Although one may see it as just a resource management simulator with a story, the realisation of how deep the themes run start hitting you after a couple of hours into the game.

Beholder is a 5/5 for me, and it’s currently available on the Steam store for $9.99 USD. I highly suggest you try it; in my opinion, it’s worth even more than that.