Insurgency: Sandstorm – The Ultimate Observer Field Guide

The easiest class that nobody is good at.


Maybe you just picked up Insurgency: Sandstorm, or perhaps you’ve been playing for over a hundred hours. If you know how the Observer class works, you may think that this guide is unnecessary. After all, Observer is one of the easiest classes in the game, right?

Yep, it really is as easy as you think–which is why I am completely astounded by the shortage of good Observers, and the shortage of Observers, period. I’ve seen players from levels 50 to 1500 all fail to fulfill Observer’s most basic responsibilities.

So, I’ve decided to compile a guide on how to best play this class. With 250 hours of playtime at the time of writing, and most of that spent playing Observer, I am quite suited to writing this guide.

What is the Observer? + Background

In Insurgency: Sandstorm, the Observer class is responsible for assisting the Commander in calling fire support, such as artillery, drone strikes, and helicopters. To call in fire support, the Observer must be within ten meters of the Commander when they order it.

In real life, a forward observer is responsible for directing fire of artillery batteries or mortars, as those manning the guns typically cannot see their targets. Unlike the game, where the Commander decides which fire support to use and where while the Observer contacts the base, Forward Observers are responsible for deciding where the artillery fires, and sometimes which rounds they use (You can read more about them here). So why the discrepancy?

The Commander/Observer mechanic in Sandstorm is directly carried over from New World Interactive’s previous game, Day of Infamy. It was set in World War II, so DOI’s Officer class could only call in bombing runs, artillery strikes, and supply crates with the help of the Radioman. This is reflective of how air strikes were requested at the time. Although this setup doesn’t entirely fit within a modern setting, NWI figured it was a fun mechanic that encouraged teamwork.

Why Pick Observer?

The Observer class doesn’t have any cool toys like Demolition’s rockets, Advisor’s exotic weapons, or Marksman’s anti-material rifles. Even worse, Observer’s defining feature requires no input from the player whatsoever; simply existing within ten meters of the Commander at the right time is all it takes. The class is just as basic as the Rifleman.

In fact, the Observer’s weapon options are the exact same as that of the Rifleman.

There is no answer to the question “Why Pick Observer?” other than why not. With a wide selection of the most reliable weapons in the game and your mandatory squad radio, the only reason not to pick Observer over Rifleman is if there are no slots left.

This point may sound obvious to some, but as I have alluded to earlier, I see a lot of players picking Rifleman over Observer.

Rule 1: Stick With Your Commander!

By far, the worst mistake you can make as Observer is not to follow the Commander. It is also the mistake I see most. As Commander, its never more frustrating to have opportune moment and sight-line for an artillery barrage, only to discover your team’s sole Observer is now 100 meters away.

Why can’t the Commander just follow me? you may wonder. While not all Commanders will know what they’re doing, those that do will have a plan on what choke points they want to hit first. Time is of the essence, so where the Commander goes, you follow.

I know the idea of a PVP escort mission isn’t thrilling, but there’s a lot of benefit here. There’s strength in numbers, and an extra rifle in a firefight is an indispensable asset.

In addition, since Commanders are often very experienced players, you can have the rare opportunity to be taken off the beaten path whenever your Commander wants to get a cheeky gun-run right outside the enemy spawn. These exciting and risky detours are a great way to learn more about the ins and outs of Sandstorm’s maps!

It should also be noted that, if there are other Observers on your team who are following this rule, then your adherence to it is far less necessary, although still recommended. If you still wanna tag along with the crew, try not to huddle together like a pack of penguins, or an enemy grenade is sure to make you all extinct.

Commander or not, its always nice to have someone watching your back. Speaking of which…

Rule 2: Watch Their Back!

With the ability to control game-changing firepower, you and your Commander are priority targets for any halfway competent team. Anytime your Commander is looking through his binoculars, watching an angle, or simply trying to score a clean kill, activate sentry mode. Identify nearby sight-lines and flanking routes that leave the two of you vulnerable and watch them for enemies.

Like the last section, this can seem pretty boring on paper, but I’ve found its a reliable way to accumulate kills. Since Commanders need direct line of sight on a target to hit it with fire support, it means the you’ll find yourself nuzzling up against enemy lines, if not settled directly behind them.

Don’t give an enemy the satisfaction of two free kills. Make them fight you for it.

Rule 3: Keep Your Head Down!

As mentioned in the prior section, you should be defending your Commander, but what you absolutely do not want to do is play too aggressively and stick your head into an enemy cross-hair. If you die, your Commander becomes nothing more than a mundane Rifleman, and you’re stuck spectating. Commander’s are exempt from this rule on the grounds that they need direct sight on targets to actual call the fire support.

Now, its fine to have the occasional peek when you’re certain that your angle isn’t being watched. Who doesn’t want a snag a quick kill? But you should never, ever do this if your Commander just called for fire support. If you didn’t know, your character has to complete the entire “Station, we need a…” voice line for it to work, so don’t stand up just to get domed mid-sentence.

This is the second most common mistake Observer players will make. Don’t let it be you.

What Do I Do If My Commander Dies?

Believe it or not, being an infantryman comes with a wide array of workplace hazards. One day, your Commander will stick his head out to pick a new target, only to come crashing to the ground with an extra hole in their head. There’s no medics in this game, so you might be on your own at that point. You have two options:

1. Get Busy Living: If you’re not deep behind enemy lines, it might be worth holding your position for a couple minutes so your Commander get catch up with you when they respawn. Holding the local sight-line or choke point might not just net you extra kills, but it can also help your team in the long run.

Alternatively, you can wait for the next wave to deploy and head back to spawn, if its not too far.

2. Get Busy Dying: If its unlikely or impossible that you can reunite with the Commander in this life, you might as well meet him in the next. But why let this one go to waste? Burn the candle at both ends and go out fighting. Aggressively push nearby enemies or prepare an ambush. Avenge the Commander. You have nothing to lose.

Loadout Tips

If you’ve dedicated your every waking moment to optimizing your Observer gameplay like I have (good choice!), then its likely you’ve wondered what your loadout should look like.

In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with the assault rifles in this game. Pick the one that speaks to your heart. Whatever you decide, be sure to grab a 1x-2x scope for extra versatility, and most importantly, a smoke launcher with a heavy ammo carrier. Smokes always come in handy, and any fire support duo needs to travel across the map as quickly and safely as possible. Don’t forget your sidearm, too!

if you have a few points leftover, buy yourself a fragmentation grenade or incendiary/Molotov as a treat. You deserve it.


  1. Never leave your Commander’s side.
  2. Protect your Commander from enemies.
  3. Don’t get shot, especially when you’re contacting base.
Helena Stamatina
About Helena Stamatina 3012 Articles
I love two things in life, games and sports. Although sports were my earliest interest, it was video games that got me completely addicted (in a good way). My first game was Crash Bandicoot (PS1) from the legendary studio Naughty Dog back in 1996. I turned my passion for gaming into a job back in 2019 when I transformed my geek blog (Re-actor) into the gaming website it is today.

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