Obduction is not a game that makes you think- It is a game that makes you wonder. Much like its legendary predecessor, Myst, Obduction pushes players forward solely based on a sense of shrouded mystery that will have you guessing from the very moments you first begin your adventure. There are no underlying themes, no agendas or heavy plots that Cyan Worlds is pushing, at least none that immediately jumped out at me, just pure unadulterated science fiction. To put it lightly, Obduction is an uninhabited, glorious game.
Players will begin Obduction alone, walking through an unnamed outdoors park. Almost immediately, you are greeted by a woman’s voice narrating as if being interviewed for a documentary. The voice describes a mysterious light that “chooses” those who see it, only to transport them away to a mysterious location. Naturally, as this is going on, the player follows the so-called light only to end up in the western ghost town of Hunrath.
Hunrath acts as the sort-of hub for your adventures, much like the island in Myst. Most of the story beats you encounter will happen here, as well as many of the game’s puzzles. Though, unlike recent Myst-like games such as The Witness, puzzles are not thrown at you as soon as you enter. Rather, much of the early parts of the game are focused on introducing this new world, and finding hints that help discover the mystery of what happened. As you might be able to tell upon first arriving, Hunrath is almost completely abandoned, save for a few holograms here and there. Though, I say almost because one person stayed behind, a man named C.W.
Now, it’s important to mention that while Myst is remembered fondly for a number of reasons, one of the most important, from a technical stand point, was the combination of three dimensional environments and FMV cutscenes. Obduction follows this trend by having all of its main characters as FMV actors, which ends up being a fantastic aesthetic combined with the otherwise gorgeous and inventive visuals. Back to C.W.- The live-action character will be your guide through most of your time on Hunrath, giving you various objectives to help you get back home. Though- you quickly discover that C.W. is not the only denizen that still remains in Hunrath.
And that is where I am going to leave you. As I mentioned, Obduction is a game that makes you constantly wonder and imagine what might happen around the next corner. Revealing too much would honestly be a disservice to the game. However, it is at about this point where the game completely opens up, introducing the core mechanic of gameplay- exploration..
Obduction is a very puzzle-heavy game, but almost every single one is solved simply with keen observation skills and thorough searching. The game’s very first puzzle requires you to restore power to the town. As it happens, power cables line the dusty roads of Hunrath so it doesn’t take much to realize you need to follow them to find their source. However, just following the power lines will require careful thinking, either through various environmental obstacles or even a few red herrings that will lead you away from the real goal. Even when you finally find the power station, actually getting power will require some serious out-of-the-box thinking.
It is not necessarily hard to complete the game, however, it just requires a completely different mindset than most games need. You have to go in knowing that absolutely everything you see will be important at some point. Those red herrings mentioned above? They are needed for a puzzle later on. That seemingly plot-related only note on the desk? Yeah. You need to remember that, too. For a game that only has movement and one interact button, it is a heavily involved journey. There is a mechanic that allows you to take screenshots that can be pulled up at any point in the pause menu to help out, but having a pen and notepad around will definitely help out in the long run, too.
Gameplay itself, despite the simplistic control scheme, is just as involved. Exploration and puzzles aside, almost every important device you come in contact with can be interacted with. Whether that’s simply throwing a lever or figuring out a complex sequence of buttons and switches to push. While you may be thinking, “Oh. I’ve pulled levers in games before. That’s not a big deal,” it is. Rather than just requiring a simple click, you have to click and pull each lever or object. It sounds simple, and it is, but these simple acts help immerse you into the game that much more with each satisfying click of a toggle or buzzer from a button.
Obduction is a masterpiece of its genre. It may not be a game for everyone, but even if you need to use a guide for every single step of the game, you will find nothing but fun and excitement. As you may have noticed, I have been quite sparse about what you will actually do and discover within Obduction, and that is on purpose. My vague musings of the game are solely just so I can recommend you discover everything for yourself in Hunrath and beyond. From its incredible visual and audio aesthetics to its ingenious approach to gameplay and puzzle-solving, I wholeheartedly recommend Obduction to absolutely everyone who can get their hands on it.
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