Obduction is the latest title from Cyan Worlds, a game developer that is over thirty years old. There was a time when Cyan World’s breakthrough title Myst was the best-selling computer game around. With the likes of Doom and Sim City 2000 on the market at that time, that’s no small feat. In fact, I believe that’s what they call a ‘big deal’, in industry jargon. In the mid-nineties, Myst was a bona fide phenomenon. A regular point-and-click, puzzle-solving juggernaut. Are you old enough to have played the original in its heyday, or did you play any one of its million re-releases? If so, then you know the game dropped you into this beautiful, yet mysterious world with little explanation and little setup. Each solved puzzle led you deeper into its web until you couldn’t wait to see what was next. Almost twenty-five years later, Cyan Worlds is trying to catch lightning in a bottle for a second time. Sounds easy right? Keep reading to see if it succeeds.
Obduction starts out with your character dropped into an idyllic, picturesque campsite, complete with a peaceful lake, hiking trails, dense forest trees, mountain vista’s, oh, and constant shooting stars that might be meteors hijacking humans back to an alien planet. Or as I’ve always said, all of the things you would expect from a semi-decent camping trip. The game looks great, and this is evident in this opening scene. Unlike Myst, the game opens with a voiceover giving us an explanation (albeit an ambiguous one) of what is happening. But that’s not the biggest difference between Obduction and its big brother: that distinction goes to the fact the game uses first-person navigation in lieu of old school point-and-click. Actually, you can select the point and click option from the settings, but honestly … why would you? Instead, you’ll navigate freely through the Unreal powered landscape until you stumble upon what looks like a floating dragon egg. Before you get a chance to look for the Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, yada yada yada, you’ll find yourself transported to an alien world that, in spots, looks very much like our own.
The sci-fi story at the heart of Obduction is this: You’re transported to an ‘other’ world that looks somewhat like a movie set from a spaghetti western, but with a skyline that is unmistakably alien. The perimeter of this strange western town continues the alien motif with impassable barriers that bring to mind Stephen King’s novel Under the Dome. This strange old-west town is made even stranger by all of the sci-fi artifacts you’ll find strewn about. You’ll see laser beams, holograms and complex futuristic machines, all of them intricate pieces to a much larger puzzle. Although you’ll find no enemies, you’ll stumble upon fellow humans that appear to have been stranded in this strange place along different time lines. Not-so-fun-fact: one of the humans you meet looks just like one of the hosts from Myth Busters.
Obduction is an adventure puzzle game, which, of course is where Cyan Worlds butters its bread. Much like Myst, this puzzling romp is a slow burn with puzzles that range from “oh, that was clever” to “f#[email protected] this game, I’m out!” levels of difficulty. Either way, you could spend up to 30 hours walking back and forth across this alien world flipping levers and pushing buttons until the answers finally slaps you across the face. Unlike a real slap, it feels great when you finally solve one of the those hard ones, but very much like that real slap, the sting of knowing you have to do it all over again (and this next one promises to be even harder) lingers long after the smack has finished ringing in your ears.
We’ve all solved many a videogame puzzle, and the vast majority of them were simply there to provide an obstruction. In other words, a puzzle for puzzle’s sake. In Obduction, the puzzles always have a why and each of these why’s teach us a little bit about the strange mystery of this world.
My biggest problem with the game is that it is wrought with technical difficulties. The game stops and stutters from the opening scene and only gets worse the longer you play. It never became unplayable (although in spots it was damn close) but it was frustrating, and it’s something that is becoming inexcusable in this day. These tech difficulties make me nervous about what would be potentially be my favorite part of the game, and that’s the soon to be released free VR add-on. I will definitely be jumping back into the world of Obduction once the VR patch drops, but if they don’t improve the game’s performance before then, a motion sickness barf bag will need to be at the ready.
At this point, I feel Cyan World is the AC/DC of video game developers. Much like the band, Cyan World was once at the top of the mountain. But, here we are, a quarter century later and they are still releasing the same old album. The titles change, but the song remains the same. That’s not to say that they don’t have a market, or that it isn’t any good, it just means that there has been little growth, no evolution. You may pick up Obduction and feel that same joy you felt back in ’93 when Myst was number one with a bullet. Or you may feel like you’ve moved on, you’ve cut your hair, and this is no longer for you. Through little fault of the game, I think I fall into the latter camp. Obduction still offers most, if not all of the charms of the iconic Myst, but for me, it turns out that doesn’t cut it anymore. Maybe, for the first time in recorded history, the phrase “It’s not you, it’s me…” isn’t just something we say when we grow tired of looking at the same person each and everyday.
Obduction PS4 Review
They say you can't go home again, but that is just what Cyan Worlds attempted with Obduction, a modern day version of its iconic title Myst. It looks beautiful, and the puzzles are challenging and meaningful, but the technical bugs and lack of innovation hold it back.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
When Jeremy isn’t writing books or playing video games, he’s living his life one random movie references at a time.