You can immediately feel the loneliness of space in Observation. It’s quiet, bleak atmosphere had me on edge the moment I panned a camera. This sci-fi thriller is all seen through the lens of a space station computer system, S.A.M. OS.
Observation opens with S.A.M. being brought back online by crew member Dr. Emma Fisher. A catastrophic event has left many systems offline and the remaining crew missing in action. While this setup sounds cliche, seeing everything through the lense of S.A.M. gives a view into this scenario that makes it feel brand new. As S.A.M you’re tasked with relaying issues you find back to Emma, like telling her if a camera feed is down or which vital systems needs to be brought back online. This usually involves finding schematics or codes in the environment to solve puzzles. These systems usually also tie into a particular crew member who was assigned to this section of the station and will help unravel what actually happened to them, but mostly you’ll find out their fates through collectable audio logs found around the station.
Within the first hour or so you’ll realize there’s more going on as a mysterious force reveals itself to you. I wont get into spoilers in this review, but the reveals and twists of this game are surprising, and Observation had its hooks in me as a fan of sci-fi media. One early reveal acts as a twist that sets the tone of how being alone in the large void of space can be terrifying, and it only escalates from there. This mysterious presence always looms over the game, yet it never feels overbearing. Developer NoCode strikes a perfect balance, as you know this presence was here and involved, but you don’t know the being’s motives. They don’t constantly throw it in your face.There wasn’t always a jump scare around the corner or some monster chasing you down a hallway. Yet it still feels threatening, and it’s actual presence is always there in the back of your mind as you work to put the station back in working order. This creeping dread over the station was really felt and I loved every moment of it.
This looming presence was a major driving force for my enjoyment of Observation as the gameplay itself is simplistic. Much of it feels like a point and click adventure in a 3D environment. It’s simple gameplay, however, allows the mystery of the station and the fate of the crew member to be the focal point. I felt for Dr. Fisher’s slow descent into madness as she finds out more and more of what’s actually happening. It’s a memorable performance, but sometimes undercut by some odd facial animations. To me, these are relatively minor shortcomings, as Observation is proof that sci-fi stories don’t have to be grand space epics to be memorable and tell human stories. It went beyond my expectations going into the game and subverted them completely by the end.
This game was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro system with a review code provided by the PR representative of the title