The impact and legacy of Myst cannot be overstated. The game is a classic, weaving an engaging tale inside of a fascinating world. Players were astounded by how immersive the game could be, transporting them to a magical new world, one which they could explore at their leisure. The game was lightning in a bottle, eventually becoming the best selling PC game of all time, and holding the honor for years afterward. Myst had its sequels, with Riven being particularly noteworthy, but the entire genre has seemingly disappeared from the gaming conscious as of late. But this is the Kickstarter age, and Myst’s creators have returned with a brand new game called Obduction. Unlike other crowdfunded projects, Obduction has seemingly delivered on all of its promise, delivering a magical adventure for Myst fans old and new.
Obduction likes making you feel confused about pretty much everything. Players start in a dark forest, before suddenly being shot into space by what looks like an interstellar seed. An intro video plays upon your arrival, explaining that this place is called Hunrath, but little else is shared. In fact, it seems like everyone is only able to speak in cryptic messages throughout the game. You quickly discover that all might not be right here, with alien lands surrounding the relatively familiar landscape of Hunrath. Exploring the world yields story bits, and even other characters to talk to, but you won’t really get a real sense of what is going on, or what you need to do for quite a while.
The world of Obduction is mysterious, foreboding, addictive, and engaging all at the same time. Using Unreal Engine 4, developer Cyan Inc. has crafted a gorgeous landscape to explore. Environments vary from one extreme to the other, with the desert of Hunrath simply serving as your intro into this wondrous world. The music pushes this feeling to new heights, with evocative tones playing throughout your time in Obduction.
The world of Obduction is mysterious, foreboding, addictive, and engaging all at the same time.
As you explore the landscape you’ll come upon various puzzles. These make up the bulk of Obduction’s gameplay opportunities. Unlike the somewhat similar feeling The Witness, Obduction’s puzzles are more abstract. You won’t find some board filled with symbols to be interpreted. Instead, the puzzles and challenges in Obduction are more natural feeling. Finding an elevator, flipping a switch, tracking a pipeline to discover its source, working out how some alien device functions, then using its output as a door code elsewhere. It’s all classic stuff for fans of the genre, and it is exactly what people were expecting when they backed Obduction on Kickstarter.
For those who weren’t waiting years for this game, Obduction is still a fantastic puzzle-focused adventure. The Witness is the best comparison one can make, with Obduction offering players a long series of challenges, with no real threat if you don’t solve them quick enough. There are no enemies or possibility of death either, there is no inventory system to speak of, and movement is restricted significantly. If you can’t walk somewhere, then you aren’t supposed to be there, and you’ll probably have to work out some new puzzle to open the path to that location. And all of these puzzles simply require either actions on your part, or information found somewhere else. There’s no “I don’t have the specific item needed to complete this puzzle”.
Things really get difficult after you finish up the first hour or two. The game opens up to larger expanses, with additional mechanics and obstacles being thrown at you at a steady pace. It never gets too overwhelming thankfully, but if you aren’t one for taking notes you should be ready to fumble around for a while, probably multiple times throughout the game. Making this feeling go from enjoyable frustration to just simple frustration is the navigation of the somewhat large open world.
Some of the puzzles in Obduction require you to flip switches, or manipulate objects on opposite sides of the area. If you haven’t found or unlocked the shortcuts then getting from one side to the other can be a bit of a chore. When solving puzzles you usually want to remain active, either spending your time figuring out what to do, or directly doing it. However, sometimes in Obduction you will know what to do, and how to do it, but you still have to spend some time just getting where you need to be, or remembering exactly where that one object was.
None of this is anywhere close to game breaking, but it’s important to note exactly what type of game Obduction is. This is not an action-thriller, it is a relaxing puzzle game with a large world layered on top. If that doesn’t sound interesting to you, then Obduction simply was not made for you. It sets a goal and it achieves it quite well, and if that goal is something you might enjoy then Obduction has a lot of potential.
But unfortunately, even when taking it on its own terms, not everything is perfect. I’ve lavished a lot of praise on Obduction so far, and it is all deserved. But there are some problems that manifest alongside the aforementioned travel woes. First up, the game is extremely unforgiving. This is another one of those love it, or hate it sort of things. It’s just important to note that you can get stuck in the game with no idea what to do, and even turning the “hint” system on simply highlights objects that you can manipulate. It gives you no idea of how you need to work with it, or what it might do, or even if it is what you should be doing at that point in the game. If you are easily frustrated, or aren’t ready to sit and work out puzzles in your head, Obduction could be a big problem.
Obduction Launch Trailer
Something that isn’t as subjective are the myriad technical issues. These can, and likely will be worked out as the game matures, but in its current state Obduction has some problems. The biggest concern is a save game corruption that I experienced. I’ve been assured that this was patched out after I hit it, but be careful with your saves if you are putting a lot of time in. What has definitely not been patched out yet are some framerate problems, especially once you get to a particularly effect heavy area. My PC should have easily been able to handle it, but it dragged a lot, resulting in me dropping the settings. Also, with the higher settings enabled there was a fairly consistent framerate freeze. It would happen for just a split second, but it was distracting, and seems to be independent of my machine’s capability.
Even with these things, Obduction was a delight to play. Sure, I got pretty upset on occasion, as the game’s more perplexing puzzles seemed so unintuitive at times. However, once I broke through those walls I felt a level of achievement that is often lost in today’s gaming industry. Obduction won’t hold your hand, or flash a message on screen telling you what switch to flip. At times this can cause quite a bit of anger, but there are dozens of games that offer that type of experience. Those seeking a more classic approach have finally gotten what they’ve yearned for all these years.
Obduction is a very niche game, but it fills that niche in almost perfect fashion. Fans of Myst and Riven will be delighted at what Cyan has crafted once again. A beautiful, mysterious world awaits them, full of mind bending puzzles, and wondrous vistas. This experience is marred in a few places, with technical problems causing a bit of concern. But these are small prices to pay for what many have waited years to experience once again.