Indie developer, Cyan Inc., has launched the spiritual successor to their hugely popular Myst series: Obduction. Entirely standalone from the original series, it mirrors the winning gameplay combo of adventure, mystery, puzzle-solving and exploration. Obduction is not fast paced or action packed. Its job is to intrigue, inspire, test your brain, and look fabulous doing it.
But before getting into the meat of the matter, let’s get superficial for a second.
Firstly, if you do not exceed the minimum requirements for this game, your computer will struggle. Massive frame-rate drops, loading screens take minutes – not seconds, some of the quality is… lacking to say the least, and the lower draw distance can result in some bizarre sights – for example, if you were to see an aeroplane in flight, all that is visible are the wings. This is by no means an indication that your game experience will be terrible. If you have patience with yourself, the loading screens, and your poor, slightly smoking computer over there, there is absolutely nothing that will prevent you from enjoying the game - albeit forever knowing that there is so much more to those already gorgeous water shaders.
And “already-gorgeous” is the truth. Even with a crummy machine, the game looks incredible. Everything about it is just so beautiful. Don’t feel bad for stopping to stare at the water rapids, or simply gazing upwards and watching the clouds float by (which they do!)
The sound is also stellar. The music fades in and out as you explore the world – imparting that emotional emphasis of mystery, excitement, creepiness, or all of the above as needed to accent the story. The sound design is also superb. Every sound feels satisfying. The turning pages of the books, the push of a button, the clunks and whirs of the machinery. Everything is handcrafted to bring this world to life. Nothing sounds jarring or out of place.
It would be easy to ramble on and on about just how pretty this game is, but put simply: If you like games that are atmospheric/ immersive/ spell-binding/ any other synonym for beautiful, this is the game for you. Easy. You don’t have to keep reading this review if you don’t want to, it’s ok.
Atmosphere aside, the other main component is of course, the puzzles. The mind boggling, head scratching, notebook-at-the-ready to keep track of any numbers or clues you might stumble upon. Oh yeah, this is the good stuff!
Obduction does offer some of that.
The puzzles are interesting and intuitive, but maybe a little too intuitive. If something looks like a puzzle, it is. If something looks like a clue, it is. If you find one of each and they look like they could be related, they are. And this is fine. It makes sense doesn’t it? But if you’re looking for something to really stretch those synapses, this isn’t the game to do it.
There is also a lot of walking. A LOT of walking. And a LOT of backtracking. Shift or Caps-Lock is an absolute must if you would like to play this game moving at a “reasonable pace”.
But don’t be disheartened! The game is not boring, not by any means. The puzzles will make you think, but they aren’t designed to get you stuck and frustrated. You will make progress – and no walkthrough is required. If you do get stuck, the most likely culprit is that you have not explored a particular path, or activated a certain object. Take a moment, have another walk around, and you’ll find the next steps.
Read everything, explore everything. Savour the small moments and admire the interesting doodads littered about which you would otherwise normally be zipping past. Take the time to be immersed and ask the questions – Where am I? Why am I here? Will I ever be able to get home? The experience is the game.
Obduction is good, but not without a few stumbles along the way, giving it a final score of 8.5/10.
If mysterious, introspective, atmospheric puzzlers are your kind of thing, you will absolutely enjoy Obduction.