The first time you teleport to another world in Obduction feels just like unlocking those books to other ages in Myst. Cyan is great at creating mysterious civilizations that were once thriving and are now desolate. That isolated expanse persists through Obduction. Each new area is unique, going from the brightly lit desert town to a mist filled haven built from stone and steel, and more later in the story. It was, in fact, walking down one of the narrow metal bridges in the foggy granite canyon in Kaptar (the second area) that really hammered the Myst/Riven connection home to me, making me pine for the more innocent days of my youth.
For game developers, there is such thing as gamification, that is to say, compromising the story or world for the sake of game design. It’s an iterative cycle that, for better or worse, is quite clear in Obduction. Let me be clear. Obduction is not a casual gamer’s game.
Most every puzzle in Obduction helped me to gain a better understanding of the world, or sometimes an understanding of the story led to figuring out a puzzle solution. Why and how a particular door was locked or path was blocked off is reconciled in the narrative, told through journals, sheets of paper and other bits around the world. I did run into an occasional issue where these in-game sheets of paper were hard to read, whether it was too small on my TV or just illegible handwriting. Subtitles for in-game text would have been a nice addition for accessibility. It makes it too easy to skim over important plot points just because it is inconvenient to read it.
There’s one particular puzzle that is strictly mathematical in nature, utilizing an alien base 4 number system (instead of base 10, as humans use). It’s a complex system I’m not sure if I fully understand, but I fail to see most average players getting this one without at least looking up a hint. As long as Obduction could possibly take you without a guide, looking up the solutions would complete the game in a fraction of the time. It’s okay though. Every puzzle has a logical answer and solution that can realistically be discovered through thorough exploration, so I’d recommend that even if you do look up solutions, try to understand the why behind the answers. It will give you more insight into Obduction’s fascinating plot.
Speaking of plot, it’s tough to delve into without spoiling too much. What I can say is that it seems pieces of earth are being stolen from time and space, redeposited on an alien planet. You are the latest to be transported to this makeshift town, but when you arrive, the people you expect to see aren’t there. You must discover where they went, why you are here, and how to get home. Musical overtures come in at just the right moments during exploration to really give Obduction a cinematic feel and bring these worlds devoid of the living to life.