Content of the article: "Return of the Obra Dinn is a one-of-a-kind game that truly makes you feel like a detective!"
I'd been expecting the great atmosphere and how captivating the puzzle of deducing the identity and manner of death of each crew member, but the story and strong sense of place truly blew me away!
I'd known the game would have me exploring a series of static tableaus, snapshots of each individual's moment of death, but I'd not expected them to be so damn cool. Each scene, especially the early handful, are presented with a tasteful dramatic flair that leaves a strong impression. And the manner in which they are told out of order makes it easy to get swept up in just wanting to know what happened and in what order.
A first pass through the series of freeze-frames will find you a few easy answers to the 40-ish blank slots in your crew manifest. The causes of death are the most obvious, and you'll get an occasional name drop to help get you started, but the real puzzle begins once you've seen all the scenes and have to start going back through them hunting for more subtle clues — an boy are there some head sctrachers!
Despite the challenge of some of the later blanks, the game does a strong job of keeping the feeling of progress going. Each time you successfully complete three individuals' "fates" — that is, their name, cause of death, and name of who (or what force of nature) killed them — there's a little moment where the game pauses and locks in your answers as correct. And boy does that little sound become satisfying as you start to guess based on increasingly harder clues! Obra Dinn makes you feel like a detective like nothing else I've played. Though if I had to draw a comparison, I might pick Outer Wilds for its similarly player-driven puzzle solving. But while Outer Wilds is more focused on exploration and broad, thematically driven puzzles woven into its systems, Obra Dinn is far more interested in what the minutiae can tell you.
My only criticism would be that I found it a bit confusing to track down the correct memories I was looking to get back to. Since you access them via the remains/corpses of the crew, they are scattered all over the ship in a completely chaotic way, and while you can use the journal to mark the ones you're after and find them with the map, it was a bit more cumbersome than I'd have liked. Honestly, something as simple as a little pop-up showing the name of the chapter associated with the body you're looking at would have gone a long way to smoothing it out.
I also found the reveal of the "hidden chapter" at the end a little underwhelming. By the time you actually see it, it was pretty easy to guess roughly what had happened, and it felt a bit strange to obfuscate it from the rest of the game when it wasn't anything particularly shocking or revealing.
Aside from that though, the game is a true masterpiece! I just wish there were more out there like it, because it scratched a very specific itch that is so hard to satisfy.
Commenters, please be mindful of using spoiler tags in your replies here. And readers who have not yet played it, please be careful in the comments section too! This is a game you can only really play once, and knowing details can completely taint the experience.
- The Outer Wilds
- ELI5: What’s the appeal in playing games in chronological order instead of release order?
- Is there any games out there like Outer Wilds?
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