Observer review for Xbox Series X, PC, and PS5
Observer is my favorite Bloober Team title to date, and it’s hard to believe it’s been three years since it was released. The Polish cyberpunk dystopia still haunts me with its oppressive, lonely atmosphere, and unrelenting body horror. Its simple setting, a rotting, dilapidated Krakow apartment building in 2084, unfurls into a spiderweb of narratives that players must navigate as KPD detective Daniel Lazarski.
Despite being a striking game in its 2017 release, Observer wasn’t without issue. As we noted in our original review, the stealth sections were frustrating and poorly paced, which marred an otherwise excellent experience. Fortunately, Observer: System Redux revamps the game’s stealth and brings new animations, models, updated lighting, and improved textures. This remaster also introduces new side cases and refines some narrative elements in the main story.
Review PC Specs
|CPU:||AMD Ryzen 7 3800X|
|Motherboard:||ASUS ROG Strix X570-E Gaming ATX Motherboard|
|RAM:||32GB G.Skill Trident Z Neo Series DDR4 3600MHz|
|GPU:||Gigabyte RTX 3090 Gaming OC|
|Install Drive:||Sabrent 1TB Rocket PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD|
Life imitating art
The plot of Observer puts players in the shoes of KPD detective Daniel Lazarski (voiced by the late Rutger Hauer). Lazarski gets a call from his son asking for help, and this leads him to the seedy apartment building in which most of the game takes place.
It’s interesting how much more relevant Observer has become in the last year. Shortly after arriving, the building is placed on lockdown due to the threat of Nanophage. This disease is a constant threat to the cybernetically endowed citizens of the future. It can be transmitted by air, touch, or even through wireless data streams. When contracted, it affects the nanites that prevent the body from rejecting implanted cybernetics, acting like an autoimmune disorder. Eventually, it causes lesions as the nanites attack the body and ultimately leads to madness and death.
These denizens of future Poland are imminently identifiable as they huddle in their apartments, waiting for an all-clear signal. Since they exist in future Poland’s lowest caste, Class C, there’s also the fear that “Cleaner” teams may simply exterminate everyone in the building to contain the Nanophage threat. Even the residents who don’t have anything to hide (of which there are surprisingly few) are reluctant to speak to Lazarski.
For the most part, the game’s main plot remains the same in Observer: System Redux. There are a few changes here and there and some new or altered scenes, but Lazarski’s quest to help his son still follows the same beats. The three new side cases are tertiary to the plot but help to flesh out the lore and provide some new insight into the plight of Class C citizens.
The cyberpunk aesthetic is strong in Observer, and the addition of raytracing, along with the updated lighting system, in System Redux allows for some breathtaking artistry. The gleam of neon off of tepid puddles gives the apartment building an austere beauty that highlights the refined textures.
On the Xbox Series X, the game targets 4K @ 60fps and hits it for the most part. There were some hitches during loads, but nothing too distracting. On PC, it’s a different story. Observer: System Redux supports NVIDIA RTX but doesn’t implement DLSS. This means even with an RTX 3090; we couldn’t get 4K @ 60fps at ultra settings. We turned it down to 1440p and were able to keep a consistent 60fps+, but it seems to run rougher on PC in general.
Observer: System Redux Review | The Final Verdict
Overall, Observer benefits from the improvements implemented with System Redux. However, those who didn’t like the original won’t find enough changes or improvements here to fall in love. It’s still a Bloober Team game, which means a large part of it is merely walking forward and drinking in the environment and atmosphere. However, I will say there are enough puzzle elements, especially considering the new side quests, that it can’t be regarded as a pure “walking simulator.”
In essence, Observer plays out much the same way FMV games from the 90s did. Fittingly, players are in this game as an observer, and those who chafe at lack of agency should look elsewhere. This is Daniel Lazarski’s tale, and it’s not a happy one, but it is one worth playing for any sci-fi or cyberpunk fan.