I’ll be honest… when I sat down to Beholder: Complete Edition, I had no idea what to expect. It’s not a game I’d ever heard of, and I wasn’t sure what it was even about. Ten minutes in however, and I soon realised this was no simple adventure to be taken lightly.
In fact, what I had now taken charge of was a borderline inhumane role to enforce the views of a totalitarian state on the unfortunate tenants of the lonely apartment complex I was now the new landlord of. Due to my failure to maintain a positive cashflow, ten minutes was all it took for the Ministry of Association to warrant my arrest and my family’s execution. So, after being booted back to the main menu, I went in for another shot – this time with a much more serious eye for the job.
Go on, admit it, you’re intrigued now right. I certainly was, so let me tell you a bit more about the Complete Edition of Beholder.
So, after getting back into the swing of things, I took on the role of protagonist Carl Stein, a family man who’s just been appointed the new landlord of a Class D apartment block by the Ministry of Allocation. Being landlord of this apartment means you are now an elite official rank and given the importance of the job, must start work immediately – at least according to your boss Mr. Bruno Hempf, the Senior Public Servant for the Ministry of Order who is waiting for you at your new home. Fortunately, your family will be coming with you, so you at least have some familiar faces to cry to at the end of each day, as you’ll all be living in the basement apartment below the complex.
Upon arrival you see the previous landlord being whisked away by police. My initial thoughts on this were that he was simply a bad man who’d warranted being dragged away, although a little while into my stint as landlord, I wasn’t so sure that my pre-judgement was accurate.
Being a landlord in a Ministry of Allocation apartment block isn’t quite the same as the typical landlord roles you would expect. You see, being a landlord is a public servant job that requires that you follow the directives of your government at all times. The directives set out from the start are to essentially spy on your tenants and report any misdemeanours to the Ministry. To become the perfect landlord, you will need to document the hobbies, interests and even conversations of each of the tenants in the apartment building – or as impressed upon as I started my new role, observe and record.
This isn’t a nine-to-five job however and with a constant watch over the tenants expected at all times, my new employers were quick to administer an experimental drug during the medical exam that suppressed the need for sleep, meaning more time, or all my time rather, could be spent serving the Ministry.
In basic terms, you are essentially the building spy in private, whilst putting on the face of the friendly landlord in conversation. You will need to spy on all tenants, which is done by placing surveillance cameras in their homes when they are out – all of which must be bought from your own pocket via money earnt – to searching through their personal belongings to check for further information and potential contraband. At times you may well even need to take rather underhanded measures against a seemingly innocent individual just because the Ministry wants them gone.
Whilst that may sound harsh, it was the Ministry’s directives that really impressed the severity of control I needed to have over my tenants, with new directives/law changes coming almost daily to make things such as books, apples, theatre, music, and even jeans all made illegal. This means that when the lonely doctor who had recently moved in to apartment 3 was found to have an interest in music, I was forced to report my suspicions to the ministry before watching the police arrive to beat the poor man senseless and whisk him away. Did I feel bad? Terribly, especially when my payment came to increase my money and reputation points, all as I realised a part of that was down to my grassing on a lonely man’s interests. But that’s part of the job, and I was doing what needed to be done.
Of course, you don’t always have to follow the rules, and with many different outcomes available, there are plenty of reasons to stray from the righteous path every now and again. For example, there is one part that pulls on your morals and brings about a hard choice in which a stubborn man, Mr Klaus Schimmer who is residing in apartment 1 with his wife, starts to become someone who should probably be reported. He’s not a criminal in the true meaning of the word, but due to the overbearing directives forced upon the community, he’s someone who isn’t following the rules. Here is where an opportunity arrives to either confront him, call the authorities, or even try to help him escape. There’s a chance of course that it could go well, but there’s an even higher chance that it could all collapse miserably and you’ll either end up dead or on your way to prison whilst your family are killed to ‘compensate’ your efforts. Nevertheless, these people aren’t bad people, so Beholder constantly asks you which decisions you are willing to make.
Beholder: Complete Edition is full of little challenges like these – there was even one which saw my family require immediate care as my daughter Martha was taken ill and needed medicine that was extortionate in price, and as I couldn’t afford it, she then died, causing my wife to kill herself in grief. By this point my son had already gone too, so before I knew it, I had lost my whole family all thanks to paying too much attention to finding out what a young lady was whispering about. Not long after that I had spent too much money again and ended up being carted off by the police for running out of money – not to mention I was regretting my early judgement on the poor chap being dragged away at the start of the game.
It’s probably a good time to point out there are two difficulty levels to the game, Government Elite and Trainee. However, after consistently making terrible mistakes on the Trainee difficulty in which things are already much cheaper to buy, and the gameplay in general is apparently easier, you will probably understand why becoming a Government Elite wasn’t for me.
Even without the moral provoking choices that appeared along the way, Beholder already has set objectives that will prove challenging enough, with the Ministry often ringing you up to give out new orders, which then come with their own time limit should you wish to succeed for the day.
Fortunately, gathering all the information you need is a rather simple process that is done by use of a journal that sits nicely in a menu on the side of the screen, and is accessed with a simple tap of the RB button. In here you can find all the information gathered on your current tenants, as well as who lives in each apartment, any tasks that are currently set, all the government directives, bills paid, and any messages or enquiries you have received, meaning you’ll be able to go about your rather busy schedule without needing to faff around on multiple menu screens.
As mentioned before, all your efforts are rewarded via the means of money and reputation points; two things which are vitally important to the game. Money is used for things such as buying surveillance equipment, electrical and furniture repair kits for the moments in which you’ll need to open up a vacant flat, paying the bills and on the odd occasion paying people by whatever means necessary. Reputation points on the other hand are important as these represent your standing within the building and can be used for personal gain when trying to persuade people around you to do as you want them to do. Of course that may not be the most morally rewarding option, but by now you’ll probably be used to that. Especially given that blackmail is an option if you don’t choose to utilise your reputational powers.
Despite this already being quite a bit to contend with, this is the Complete Edition of Beholder, and that means should you wish to try something a bit different, then the option to jump into the included Blissful Sleep DLC is an option.
In Blissful Sleep, players are taken away from the busy life of Carl Stein and instead get put in to the shoes of Hector Medina – the poor soul/ex-landlord you originally take over from in the base game. You know, the one that I had prematurely judged as he was dragged away by police.
And it is here where you get to see just how unlucky the poor man is. The DLC begins as a bit of a prequel to the main game with players starting out in the familiar apartment complex before receiving a phone call from the ministry congratulating him on his 85th birthday. Due to a new directive enforced upon the land, anyone who reaches the grand age of 85 must make their way to the newly opened Euthanasia Centre within two weeks in order to be put down for a ‘blissful sleep’.
The issue for Hector however is that he isn’t 85, he isn’t even close to 85, and instead the government have recorded his age incorrectly. But despite his pleas, government paperwork is government paperwork and he too is expected to arrive to the centre to be euthanised… it was at this point where I began to feel terrible for my early assumptions.
Throughout the DLC, your main objective is to find a way to help Hector escape from the harsh and upcoming life ending event. Sure, you’ll still have to put time in to helping people and solving issues within the apartment complex, and, much like in the main game, there will still be times you’ll still find yourself unable to please everyone, but with a much larger issue on the horizon, it doesn’t feel quite so morally bankrupt to be selfish this time around. And it’s a lot easier too.
Beholder: Complete Edition is a surprisingly challenging experience, but is still a fantastic game. With new challenges arriving each in-game day, plenty of characters, tough choices and the perfect dark and grubby environment to match the general moral breaking tone of the game, Beholder: Complete Edition provides a rather unique experience and is certainly one that’s worthy of your time and attention.