Obduction Review

*PLEASE NOTE* This is a review specifically of the PlayStation 4 version, and it was played without the use of PSVR.

When a game has a history, it can be a bit difficult to separate the game itself from what you know about it and its past. With a game that is so beloved in the hearts of many gamers as the Myst franchise, the task of separation can be even harder.

For those of you who don’t know, Obduction is a game which not only comes to us from the developers of the original Myst games, but it is actually billed as being the spiritual successor. Honestly, the game has no real need to bill itself in that way at all, the second you step into the world, you can tell where this game has come from.

The story of Obduction is focused on a small American mining town that has been abducted (see what they did there? Me neither) and dumped on an alien planet. Along with the town, random people from different Earth time periods have also been taken and forced to live together. You play as another of these abductees, arriving in the world when everyone else seems to have gone missing, and it is up to you to piece together what has happened.

The gameplay of Obduction will probably be exactly what you’re expecting if you’re a fan of Myst and have tried any of the updated versions that have come out for the game over the years. It takes the form of a first-person exploration game. You control the character with the left stick and look around with the right, interacting with objects by clicking X.

There are several different options that you can toggle with simple button presses. By clicking the left stick, you can toggle between walk and run speed while moving, and by clicking in the right stick, you can choose a fixed cursor which stays in the middle of the screen and a free cursor which you control with the right analogue stick while stationary.

Immediately off the bat, it’s easy to notice a key difference between Obduction and the older style of adventure games like Myst. Mainly, the puzzles in Obduction stem from exploring the environment and trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing, very rarely throwing in a cryptic logical leap. Myst, on the other hand, had a very small initial area to explore and relied more on giving the player vague hints at how to solve puzzles in order to progress.

This focus on exploring an area does give Obduction an appealing edge but also slows down the entire process. This is especially hampering right at the start of your first playthrough when all of the doors which can act as shortcuts between areas are locked. Until those doors open, you have to go all the way around a small mountain range to get from one side of the map to the other, meaning you can have a much less satisfying ‘Eureka!’ moment when you finally figure out the answer.

Visually, the game looks impressive for the most part. The environments created for the alien world look stunning, and even the pieces of Earth that are present do a good job of representing what they’re supposed to be. Oddly, the use of real actors is one of the worst visual hang-ups. It works okay when the people appear on the pre-recorded holograms that have a certain expectation of looking odd and having fuzzy edges. However, when the actors appear directly, there is no reason for them to look so badly imposed onto the background. It’s a clear sign that either this method just doesn’t work and doesn’t look good with a high fidelity environment, or that considerably more work was needed to make this sort of thing work well.

Musically, there is pretty much nothing to say. There is very little music in the game, basically relegated to strings at certain points and odd sounds when you approach certain areas. This works from a quiet contemplation sort of angle, and I can imagine it would make the world feel more realistic if you were playing through VR. The issue is that it does make the world feel somewhat lifeless and empty at times. Honestly, the best solution is to just put on your favourite music, something relaxing like lo fi hip hop works best, and just use that as the game’s soundtrack.

There is something that we need to talk about, and that is how terrible of a port of the game the PS4 version is. For those who aren’t aware, Obduction has been out since 2016 on PC and has only just now been ported onto home consoles. This version of the game differs from the PC version in that it suffers from many lag spike moments where the framerate drops and the console sounds like it’s getting ready to take off. The game has also crashed numerous times during the 6-8 hours of playtime needed for this review.

There is also one final porting issue which is what we like to call ‘the final nail in the coffin’. The game is unplayable under certain circumstances. Apart from the numerous graphical glitches and crashing problems, it is possible to break the game so as to make it un-winnable . For us, this came in the form of being stuck in a little train car with a laser on the front, and no matter what we tried, we were totally unable to get out. After 8 hours of gameplay, this was enough to make us quit for good.

Developer: Cyan Worlds

Publisher: Cyan Worlds

Platforms: PS4, PC

Release Date: 24th August 2017

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