For the sake of such a gaming industry was worth it to exist. Return of the Obra Dinn review 5 hours ago | Review | Computer and mobile games
Have you caught yourself thinking that games have become monotonous in recent years? From AAA studios, we see either battle royale or open worlds with activities. If an indie game is gaining popularity, then this is probably a roguelike or a survivor. But today we're going to talk about a game that can change your idea of what a game can be in general – and how it can serve itself to a player. This is Return of the Obra Dinn by Lucas Pope, author of Papers, Please.
The starting point of the game is simple. The main character must investigate the mysterious death of the entire crew of the Obra Dinn merchant ship. In business, he is helped by a magic clock, which, when interacting with a corpse, sends the hero to the moment of death. With their help, the player will have to find out the fate of the ship and its crew.
What makes Return of the Obra Dinn different from other games? After all, there is essentially no gameplay here, the game could be called a “walking simulator”. I will highlight two key points. The first is a real detective. No, not a game like “find a pixel and click on it so the protagonist tells what happened here.” Here you need to keep track of the smallest details yourself and indicate yourself what happened to whom. The smallest details are used – the location of the characters, their clothes, accents, personal relationships. The second moment is the magnificently recreated atmosphere of life on a sailing ship of the early 19th century. If you are fond of “ship” theme – this game will pleasantly surprise you.
Interested? Let's take a closer look at the game.
About plot structure and development
The game begins in 1807, when the ghost ship Obra Dinn arrives in Falmouth. The main character in the role of an insurance inspector goes to the ship to assess its condition and find out what happened to the people and cargo. In addition, he receives a half-empty book, a strange watch and a letter in the package. The author of the letter asks the hero to use the clock in order to find out the history of the ship. The story should be recorded in the book and sent back to the specified address.
Having found a corpse on the ship, the hero can use it in order to transport himself to the moment of the death of a person. First, the player hears sounds and dialogues at the moment preceding death, after which he is shown a frozen death scene. In this case, the player can walk around in a certain radius in order to better see the details of what happened. Moreover, if the memory also contains a corpse, then with the help of the clock the player can transfer his projection to our time. Thus, he can open new scenes, which are conventionally combined into chapters.
The fact that the new corpse should already be present in the character's death scene forms an interesting narrative move. The story unfolds backwards. The very first scenes show us a tragic ending – after which we gradually learn how people came to such a life. I will not spoil the plot, but I can say that there was a place for everything that comes to mind when discussing a sea adventure: mysticism, betrayal and rebellion, heroism and self-sacrifice. Seemingly straightforward enough in its ideas, Obra Dinn's plot comes out best in superbly written details. Facial expressions, posture, intonation in words and the dialogues themselves serve not only to help in detective work, but also to better acquaint the player with the plot itself and its characters.
The crew fell … all
About the detective part
Fun fact – the whole game can be played without adding a single story to the book. In this regard, it can be regarded simply as a visual novel. But the main interest is still precisely the determination of the fate and names of the dead people.
The reader may be surprised – what is the problem of identifying the victims? After all, the clock shows the moment of their death! Moreover, in the table of contents of the book, the stranger kindly indicated both the list of the crew, indicating positions and countries of origin, and a group portrait of all crew members. The problem lies in the fact that we do not know how people relate to specific names. Moreover, the book should include not only the name of the deceased, but also the cause of death – which is not always so obvious. If the death was violent, then the name of the killer must also be indicated.
And this is where the fun part of the game begins. Some people are easy to guess – for example, at the time of death, someone addresses them by name or position. But in most cases this is not the case, and everything that is possible is used. Take a close look at the general portrait of the team – the position of the characters and their clothes are far from random. It is also worth paying attention to where the characters are located and what they are doing, where their cabins are, where they sleep, with whom you most often see them in scenes. Also, do not rush to guess the character as soon as you see him. Many characters appear quite often in scenes, so that as the plot progresses, you can get new clues about their personality.
The situation with the cause of death should be noted separately. They can be specified in the game as good three or four dozen. Gunned down? No, you need to indicate what was shot from – a carbine, a cannon, a bow? And this sometimes gives rise to extremely interesting situations. For example, you see that a person is dying, all pierced by thorns. Were they the reason? But no! He was accidentally shot by another man, a bullet went through the wall and finished off the wounded man. Who killed? And you go and look through the gap in the boards. But sometimes it comes out sideways. Some deaths are highly controversial. There are also those that generally happen off-screen, and you need to almost guess what happened to the person.
|No, you can't just take and write “shot”. It is necessary to determine whose shot was fatal – however, it is not so difficult|
In terms of guessing, it is worth mentioning how brute-force protection is implemented in the game. Any information that you enter in the book is by default only assumptions and written in italics. When you correctly guess the fate of any three characters, the game will inform you about it and replace italics with printed text. Yet this system leaves you room for easy cheating. If you are definitely sure of the fate of two characters, then with the third you can try and pick up his fate or name. And, I will not hide, I used it more than once – because some detective moves were too difficult for me.
About your toolbox and detailed research of the past
The above-mentioned book will be your main assistant in detective business. Each death has a separate spread. The left page shows the face of the deceased (or perished), as well as a sketch of what happened. By clicking on the sketch, you can once again read the dialogue that sounded before death. The right page shows the location of the corpse on the ship and a list of other participants in the scene.
Also, in the table of contents of the book you will find a list of passengers, a sketch of the entire crew, a detailed scheme of the ship and a travel map. The scheme of the ship is extremely important – not only the names of specific compartments and decks, but also the belonging of the cabins are signed on it. Sketching the crew also plays an important role – for example, by clicking on a character, in the drop-down menu you can find out in which memory he died and in which he took part.
|An example of a spread from a book. In order to avoid spoilers – where not a person died. If you click on the pictures on the left or right below, you can get additional information: recording dialogues and information about the persons present.|
If you decide to remember everything better, then any memory can be played again – just go to the corpse and use the clock. But here I would like to dwell on a number of disadvantages of the project. The game contains unnecessary and annoying routine. The same scenes of death – first you need to remember where the corpse lies, then reach it (the hero walks rather slowly), then move into memory. You can also leave it only through a special door. Thanks to this and a couple more unnecessary moments, the game stays a little in places. This is especially annoying when a guess is already spinning in your mind and you run to check it – but once again you have to put up with the slow movement of the hero and the inability to instantly view the memory.
About the game shell
Here we come to the piano in the bushes – the graphic of this masterpiece. As you can easily see from the screenshots, it is monochrome. But you can quickly come to terms with this – I got used to it in fifteen minutes. But if you are sitting at a computer with a normal monitor, then I suggest you click on any of the screenshots and see the second problem – the resolution of this game is extremely small. It looks good from a distance, but already on FullHD it causes noticeable discomfort. It even interferes with playing in places – some details are simply impossible to properly see. The graphics are the only serious drawback of this project.
Design and atmosphere
But what the game can and should be praised for is the atmosphere and the detailed life of a particular sailing ship. We can say – there are other games on this topic, the same AC Black Flag or Sea of Thieves. But all these projects revolve mainly around navigation and naval battles. In the same game, it is the everyday life of such a ship that is conveyed with incredible thoroughness. How and where the sailors and officers live, how they spend their free time, who does what and what. This game for me was like a small window into the past, and during the passage I learned a lot about sea life – for which I am grateful to the game.
The soundtrack for the game is great – and there isn't much to add here. I would suggest that you familiarize yourself with the main topic , as well as with this example . The sound, in our opinion, perfectly complements the atmosphere of this game.
A very slippery question is the translation of the game. On the one hand, it is made quite well. On the other hand, without knowledge of English it will be difficult for you. The fact is that all the lines in the game are translated only with subtitles – as voices and accents are an important part of the original game. Moreover, more than once the characters in the game speak their native languages, which is also important for the plot. The problem is that it can be problematic for a Russian-speaking person to assess with what accent the character speaks.
For me, Return of the Obra Dinn is a little gem on the sidelines of the gaming industry. Yes, she gained some fame thanks to the name of her creator – but clearly deserves more. This game, which is almost perfect within its genre. An interesting plot, specific mechanics, attention to the smallest details – what else do you need to be happy? Yes, this is a game for only ten hours – but I will remember these ten hours for a long time.
And although the game can be chided for a couple of little things, I am still extremely glad that I got acquainted with it – and I advise all readers to do the same. Don't make excuses about “terrible graphics” or “I'm too dumb, I can't do that” – just download and try it. Moreover, the two hours that Steam measures for the possibility of a return is considered 20% of the game. Games like these need to get significantly more attention in order for people to carry the good news – the industry isn't full of AAA projects. That there are new games that surprise with mechanics. Games that do not try to be everyone at once, while losing on all fronts – but clearly define one direction and are close to perfection in it. That there is Return of the Obra Dinn that can give you back your faith in games.