is Cyan's newest game, a sci-fi puzzle/adventure title which imagines
you're abducted by a strange alien seed pod, and dumped into a strange
town called Hunrath.
The name is often thought to be a typo but
actually is a real - if obscure - word used in geology as the inverse
of 'subduction' and in surgery. The word means 'to layer over'
and that's precisely what's going on here.
You've been abducted,
but into a swath of Earth that was obducted - placed into an alien
landscape with an energy field between the Earth area and the alien
one. Why is that barrier there? Is the scene beyond the
town real or is it a facade? Is this an experiment? An
alien zoo? Who is or was here?
The game reveals its story a
bit at a time, in holographic recordings and notes and a lone man named
C.W. As with the original Myst, there's a sense of mystery and
confusion. It is the same feeling players had when dumped onto
Myst Island for the first time, no explanation, no context, only a
brief and cryptic introduction.
The later Myst games
built on an existing canon established by the first, so you had some
context going in. Here, as with the original Myst, there's no
clue what is going on when you start out, and nothing prior to the
experience that you feel you ought to have done first to 'get' it.
by bit, things unfold. By exploring and observing and figuring
out how things work, you'll unlock new areas and make sense of what is
going on. Obduction is a game that, like the Myst titles, assumes
the player is smart, and doesn't spell things out for them or make the
Obduction is apparently amazing to experience
in VR with the Oculus Rift, but most players won't get to experience it
that way. Regardless, it's still a beautiful game with an
unnerving, varied, somewhat off-kilter soundtrack by returning
Myst/Riven composer Robyn Miller, and art direction by Stephan
Martiniere (Uru, Myst V) but this time executed in more detail with the
advantage of improved PC computer technology since '05 and the
advantages provided by the Unreal 4 engine.
It's vibrant and
beautiful. There was a Kickstarter for the game in 2014 and in
the two years after that Cyan assembled a team and made this game,
expanding from the assorted concept art and design materials and a few
3D models, that they had when the Kickstarter was actually running.
can't say it's a perfect game - there are certain puzzles which require
a lot of moving back and forth, backtracking, between two environments,
and this can be tedious. There are occasional seams or weaknesses
and some bugs, like the defect in a certain FMV moment where a
character's hat is visibly clipped off, or collision boundaries that
don't line up nicely with the visible art. Cyan is patching the
game repeatedly, trying to resolve the glitches that players have
noticed. The system requirements are a bit high, the VR support
was only made available a month after launch, and even then at first only
for the Oculus Rift, and the Mac version was buggy enough that the
studio took a while to release it on the Mac App Store.
So there have been some missteps out of the gate, but the issues
are, by now, mostly resolved, and it seems likely that the price will
drop soon on one or more of the stores selling the game in time for
The game is ordinarily $29.99 but there've already been some sales and steep discounts since launch.
finished Obduction and I'd recommend it, but then I like this type of
game so I am clearly rather biased. Less biased are the actual
reviewers - almost all of them give Obduction at least a 70% positive,
usually more like 80-90/100, which is quite solid. The Metacritic
score, which aggregates ratings from all major review sites and
publications, is 77/100 last I checked, mostly due to a scathing (and
really, somewhat unfair) negative review by Game Revolution that skewed
the average down dramatically. Everyone else either likes or
loves this game, but Game Revolution hates it, which makes them a clear
outlier in this case - and way off from the consensus.
ratings on Steam are pretty solidly positive, about 85/100.
Obduction has sold roughly 120,000 copies on Steam during its first year as recently
estimated by SteamSpy, which puts it in the category of
critically acclaimed, but mostly unnoticed and unplayed. The devs (Cyan) know
this is a problem and given the way they poured everything they could
into the project, they can't really promote it themselves, so the
reviews and word of mouth from fans of the game are their best, maybe
their only bet, at the game being a success that could spawn more
imaginative, beautiful, and breathtaking work by the studio.
Obduction doesn't continue selling, it may join the ranks of games like
'Beyond Good and Evil', 'Psychonauts', 'Grim Fandango', and yes, the
studio's own past project Uru, in what Cyan's creative leader Rand
Miller calls 'successful failure' (creatively and critically
successful with a small but enthusiastic fanbase, but commercially
disastrous and generally unappreciated or unnoticed by most of the
Myst series and Obduction are creative works by Cyan, Inc. No
copyright infringement is intended as this is a non-profit informational fan page.