The creators of Myst are back once again, and this time, they’ve brought us the stunning, Sci-Fi adventure of Obduction.
Designed as a mystery and puzzle challenger, this title is a casual, laid-back trek into an alien world, where the player is trapped after being transported there from Earth. Released on Steam on August 24th, 2016, Obduction is the latest release from Cyan Inc., but unfortunately, it fails to impress the same way that their previous titles -- Myst and Riven -- did in the past.
The Tedious Task of “Puzzles”
The opening scene in Obduction is fantastic, with a lovely campground location, a creepy, static-riddled voice-over explanation the abduction theme, plus some unnerving lights in the sky. From there, the player is teleported to another planet, and a bygone era – there are lots of Old West motifs and buildings, which is a fascinating world to suddenly appear within. Alas, this is where things start to go awry, and where the redundant, back-and-forth navigation starts to quickly diminish the excitement. It took me over an hour of poking around, while having inexplicable amounts of FPS drops, before I found the first true “puzzle” situation; from there, the difficulty never really improves, and most of the challenges just feel intentionally obtuse and not enjoyable at all.
In Obduction, players have the option of navigating the world either in a free form roaming mode, which feels a lot like your average first-person exploration adventure, or in a Point-&-Click style way in which the character moves from waypoint to waypoint. It offers partial controller support, but I stuck with a keyboard/mouse combination while trying both of the navigation options. While in the Point-&-Click mode, walking around took forever, as each waypoint took a few seconds to load; I also repeatedly ran into the problem of the glowing beams that indicate the path ahead disappearing at random, and I had to turn my character in circles to get it to appear once more. When I switched over to free roaming mode, I immediately preferred it. It's the best way to traverse such a large, detailed landscape, but I was also greatly disappointed that it came with lag and delays, thereby hindering my progression.
What It Does Right
Without a doubt, Obduction is a gorgeous game. The landscape is absolutely compelling, and the old, outdated buildings and locations made me think of Fallout and other post-apocalyptic titles. The sounds tie in nicely as well; I loved listening to motors hum, the waterfall crash, or drops of water on metal. It’s a great piece of immersion for sure, and if Obduction had run smoothly on my gaming rig, I’d have enjoyed exploration tremendously.
I loved the small details in various locations: the clutter in houses, or the debris near the gas station, not to mention graffitis on the side of train cars. Like a set for a vintage Sci-Fi movie circa 1965, Obduction creates an excellent foundation set for its play. Yet the rest of the game just leaves it feeling hollow and undersold. There’s so much potential here, and the ease of immersion in this detailed and lovely of an environment is very satisfying, but it dwindles so quickly without a compelling storyline and because of its clunky system.
Fact is, I would love to recommend Obduction, especially since it’s packaged in a beautiful, intriguing world. Unfortunately, the issues were just glaring: the laggy, buggy aspect of the game itself, plus the tedious, intentionally obtuse “puzzles” just left me wandering around, unable to enjoy and reflect upon the scenery. It had so much promise, and the graphics/audio combination was so compelling... Sob. Sadly, that’s all Obduction offers at this time.
If the stability issues are fixed, and it runs smoothly while players are navigating the terrain in free roam mode vs. the Point-&-Click option, I would certainly give it another try. But, in all honesty, the lukewarm storyline and the overwhelming amount of backtracking required to progress through the story just left me disappointed and disinterested. Plus, I had trouble getting my saved game to load successfully after taking a break from play, and it took me three tries to even get back into my saved data – something that doesn’t bode well, when you already feel as though you’re wasting large chunks of time back-tracking.
Obduction needs more love from Cyan to be able to compete with competitors of the genre, and it needs a lot of changes to ever be in the same category as Myst in terms of charm, depth, and immersion. Nostalgia, I'm afraid, just isn't enough to make Obduction a noteworthy gaming experience.