Obduction Review

If I’ve learnt anything in my time with Obduction, it’s that I’m really not as good at puzzlers as I hoped I was. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it – far from it – but man, I need to use this time in isolation to get the kids to teach me some maths!

There’s a rather compelling tale sprinkled throughout Obduction, and one that rewards players for searching out more information and clues. We start off walking in the woods, a bright glowing object flying around in the distance, while a recorded speech plays in the background. Eventually finding the orb sees us whisked away and dumped in a desert looking canyon. From there, we’re on our own to explore and attempt to figure out what the hell just happened.

And figure it out we must – there’s zero way to keep track of info gained or current objectives in game. It’s quite refreshing, but at the same time can be a bit frustrating to be wandering back and forth attempting to figure out just what little trinket we need to find or press next. Especially so when we need to step away and come back the next evening. But by the same token, when I managed to crack a code, or stumbled across the next solution it felt pretty great. Obduction is great at making us feel smart, and a lot of the puzzles are just the right amount of obtuse – it’s not as simple as saying X goes in Y, but it hints that X may be needed around Y and lets us figure out the exact how’s and why’s.

As is usually the way, I found a few puzzles where I stumbled around for a while, adamant that my choice of solution was correct before the little light bulb went off and the actual way forward was revealed. Coming from the developers of the classic puzzle adventure Myst, I’d expect nothing short of some truly outside the box thinking. There’s more than one occasion where it’s a case of thinking logically and following the clues laid out for us in the environment – some power cables lead to a generator, but it needs fuel. Handily, a fuel line leads us to a gas station, but of course, it’s not that simple. We’re rewarded for carefully studying of the environment and making notes of things that could come in handy later – in a real world note book, or via a snap on our phones camera.

It helps that the environments are wonderfully designed and interesting to look at. There are plenty of details to discover and it looks lovely across the board. I did find some frame pacing issues in some of the more dense areas; there’s a noticeable judder to movement and turning, but for the most part it runs well enough. A motion blur option helps too, smoothing out the judder and making it feel much nicer to play.

Previously blocked off areas slowly unravel, as does the mystery of how we ended up here, and how we’re going to get home again. There are a load of notes, logs and diary’s left around to fill the gaps, and the further I got, the more I wanted to see what was next.

Which made some of the progression halting sections all the more frustrating. One puzzle in particular had me stuck for far too long, and even when looking up the solution (I know, I know – thankfully there was some help already) I still don’t understand how the answer was concluded. Of course, that’s my problem mainly and clearly others were able to solve it, but it still tainted the experience somewhat knowing that that likely wasn’t the only example. At other times I was left wandering around aimlessly, or focusing on a puzzle that I simply wasn’t at the right place in the puzzle progression to solve. There’s no clear indication from the game on where we should focus our attention and if a small note or clue is missed we could end up looking around aimlessly for some time. I also had a couple of control based issues; I’m an inverted player, but when choosing this in the options it doesn’t invert across the board. Travelling in the mine cart sees the camera revert to standard, while manoeuvring the turret is inverted, but on the left stick. Using a keyboard and mouse helped a lot, especially for some of the fiddly selections in the world such as individual button presses on a phone, but that may not be a option for all players.

Conclusion

Again though, I still really enjoyed my time with Obduction, even despite getting severely stuck at points. It looks great, there’s a compelling tale being told and for the most part the puzzles are just the right balance of difficulty, rewarding our time spent invested in exploring the world. A little more guidance – even an optional hint system – could have kept me from visiting Google, but the fact I still wanted to continue means it must be doing something right.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.
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Good
  • Compelling tale
  • Looks great
  • Some truly ingenious puzzle design...
Bad
  • ...alongside some maddening ones
  • A lack of direction can lead to feeling lost for a bit too long
  • Some control difficulties when using a gamepad
8.6
Great
Gameplay - 8.5
Graphics - 9
Audio - 8.5
Longevity - 8.5
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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