While there have been some excellent game releases so far this year, none have quite drawn me in the way Devolver‘s Observation did. Primarily set onboard an international space station, you play the entirety of this sci-fi horror title as an AI assistant named SAM (Systems Administration & Maintenance).
I big part of your objective in Observation is simply to serve the crew of the station, which represents itself as a series of clever puzzles. You’ll be switching through cameras in different parts of the station, connecting to devices to retrieve data, scanning documents for vital info, and zooming around the place in a spherical drone. I know that doesn’t sound particularly thrilling, but there’s enough variety in the tasks you do that it never really feels like a chore.
While the gameplay itself presents an interesting perspective on the genre, it’s the eerie and unsettling story that’ll keep you playing Observation, which is fantastically written and constantly leaves you hungry for answers.
The space station itself is unbelievably detailed and was apparently modelled using blueprints of the actual International Space Station. It’s not a direct replica by any means, but you can tell there’s a fair amount of realism in its cramped and claustrophobic confines. Each segment has so much to explore and examine, revealing the surprisingly dense backstories of the station’s crew as well as the Observation mission itself.
It’s not a particularly long game, but this works to its advantage. Drawing out this kind of gameplay without a compelling story to drive it would only end up being a frustrating endeavour for the player. Instead, Observation wraps up its story perfectly around the 5 to 6-hour mark, depending on how long you take to explore the space station in between critical tasks. I’m not going to give anything away, but the final 20 minutes or so are one helluva ride, folks.
If you put 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gravity, Interstellar, and Arrival in a blender, Observation is what it would spit out. It’s a clever, eerie, interesting game that I wasn’t at all expecting, in the best way.
If you’re a fan of a good sci-fi story, I can’t recommend Observation enough. You can pick it up right now on PS4 or PC via the Epic Games store.