When a game drops you on a lone planet with no direction, no plan, and no clue as to what is going on, the craving to explore is unparalleled. As the glowing sphere transported me to a new world in Myst and Riven developers new adventure “Obduction,” I was in awe at the beautiful wasteland that lay before me, and felt compelled to start my journey to discover the secrets, sights, and true purpose of the journey I’ve embarked on. It’s a game of trial and error, an examination of clues, moving from one town to another, retracing my steps, trying new solutions, often wrong and consumed by frustration, but when all the pieces fell together, that excitement grew back, and I was on my way to the next destination ready to take on the next puzzle that would follow.
In Obduction, you play as a nameless figure who embarks on a journey once you’ve been transported to a new world by a mysterious glowing entity. Your motives are unknown, but that’s okay because at the first sight of planetary light glimpsing through the canyons, you cannot help but feel compelled to move forward to discover this wild west like abandoned city, adjacent to the bright purple planetary surface that entraps you, yet gives you plenty of ground and even more desire to explore what remains in this structurally populated wasteland
The game involves a series of obscure puzzles controlled by hand motions, turning valves, moving levers and so forth helping you open new paths for you to discover. The maps are littered with not necessarily collectibles, but items that can be examined to give you insight to what’s happened on this mysterious planet and help unravel a little bit of mystery that surrounds you in the evacuated cities and structures.
As soon as you begin to witness the variety of architecture, colors, shading, and just general atmosphere, you are immediately hooked. Running on a GTX 1070 on a 4K monitor, my jaw dropped as I looked at every indent on rock formations, grains of wood between panes on buildings and the vast planetary atmosphere around me. Water runs throughout structures with every ripple and ease and every crunch of your footsteps makes you realize the incredible amount of variety in environments you get to explore. Obductions score leaves much to the explorers imagination, many moments leaving you with nothing but the faint sound of insects in the distance, but as soon as you hear those music cues while turning a lever, you feel a great deal of excitement as the violins reach high tones that give you a great reminder that you’re headed in the right direction.
You feel a slightly disturbing ominous tone through abandoned towns, jungles and alien-esque structures all filled with notes, artifacts and video holograms with real live actors. It creates this sense of feeling uneasy about where you are and what you’re doing. But contrasted with the bright colors of structural formations, uplifting orchestral backing, and beautiful vistas, you almost feel warm and welcome as you explore through every building and crevice desperately looking for more mystery to unravel.
With so much to explore, it begs the question if there’s too much? A good puzzle game always pushes the player to think abstractly and tackle puzzles sometimes not always in the most logical sense. With my experience, some puzzles had a tendency to feel tedious, having you walk from place to place with a “running” speed of what seemed like a fast walk. With so much ground to cover and puzzles requiring actions between multiple areas, trying to find that one piece of the puzzle you’re missing to crack the code can feel burdensome. Even with all of this, once you spend the past 20 min wandering for that lone piece of paper giving you the 4 numbers needed to continue, the excitement is invigorating, and with such a beautiful map to explore, its hard to want to take a step back and leave Obduction behind, maybe rather just requiring a little break before tackling the next strenuous puzzle.
Puzzle games are a tough breed, you want to mix just enough difficulty with puzzles, while promoting the immersive nature of a universe that begs to have every inch of ground touched. Obduction captures you in its beautiful vistas and doesn’t let you leave, but the risk/reward ratio feels a little unbalanced, risking a lot your time for not much reward. When you do accomplish those puzzles it feels great and the excitement to see what the world of Obduction has left for you is invigorating, just don’t expect to tackle this all in one sitting, rather in medium sized doses.