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Hands-on with Obduction: Myst's spiritual successor straddles the line between familiar and alien

Hayden Dingman | Oct. 21, 2015
In which we spend two hours with Obduction and come away impressed.

Obduction

Those days are for the most part gone. Hunrath still had a few areas of untextured orange and purple boxes, but the majority of the world looked like...well, a world. And it’s mesmerizing.

Hunrath is a mining town—the remnants of a mining town, all whitewashed houses and rusted-out railroad tracks tracing mazes around pillars of red rock. Or, at least, that’s what it looks like for a quarter mile in either direction. In the distance, the red rock gives way to a purple alien landscape, with nothing but a strange force field separating the two.

The town’s empty, silent except for your footsteps kicking up dust and a few alien creatures scampering around. You walk up to the first of the houses. Locked, of course, but there’s a weird projector-looking device sitting nearby. You turn it on and—in classic Cyan form—a holographic woman appears, hinting at some sort of conflict. From how long ago? Who knows.

Obduction

These projectors (there were a few in what I played) were the only bits of story in the build I played, and shed very little light on the greater conflict. I’m pretty much going to ignore them, except to let you know that they were shot with real actors and real cameras, a la Myst. I expect longtime fans will love this (I did) while newcomers will be more mixed in their reactions, as there’s still a level of artifice to the look.

There’s still the question of the locked door though. Locked doors, actually. This is a Cyan game, after all, and you’re going to need to work through a bunch of puzzles to figure out what’s going on.

What I played of both Hunrath and Mofang felt like classic Cyan—classic Myst—full of levers to pull and buttons to press and cranks to turn and et cetera. Sometimes it’s recognizably realistic, like the minecart I rode around Hunrath or the empty diesel generator sitting in a trainyard. Other times it’s awesomely alien, like the hundred-foot-tall engine at the heart of Mofang (pictured above), massive chains wrapped around the center’s whirring gears.

Obduction

The early hours seemed quite a bit easier than, say, Riven, but it’s hard to know how the game will progress—especially because pretty much everything I played was mechanics-based. Last year Miller told me Obduction switches towards other types of puzzles in the back half, but I’ve yet to get there (and language/symbol puzzles are typically what stump me).

The hardest part at the moment—Cyan’s biggest challenge, I think—is letting players know what’s a puzzle and what’s merely scenery. These environments are so large, at one point I actually had to ask, “Have I...missed something?” because I felt like I’d wandered so far without encountering a major puzzle.

 

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