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OBDUCTION 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 owrd 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.

Bit 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 obstacles simple.

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.

Obduction screeenshot   Obduction - Maray jungle

I 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 so far only for the Oculus Rift, and the Mac version is buggy enough that the studio is not quite ready yet 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 Christmas.

The game launched at $29.99 but Gog.com knocked $3 off that for a few days recently and I imagine it'll be available for $20 or so somewhere before long.

Obduction -- Hunrath

I've 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.

Player ratings on Steam are pretty solidly positive, about 85/100.  Obduction has sold roughly 45,000 copies on Steam as recently estimated by SteamSpy,  which puts it in the category of critically acclaimed, but mostly unnoticed.  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.

If 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 underappreciated or unnoticed by most of the public)


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