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Return of the Obra Dinn (no spoilers please)

Content of the article: "Return of the Obra Dinn (no spoilers please)"

A youtuber I follow had given Obra Dinn a glowing recommendation years ago, but I didn't like the art style and wasn't sure I'd enjoy the game so I didn't want to pay full price.

I finally picked it up, and I'm loving it! It actually reminds me a bit of Outer Wilds. Not that they're at all similar, but they're both games that are unlike anything I've ever seen before, that have little to no action, and are really about piecing together a mystery as you explore a fascinating little time capsule.

My GF was over the other night after I'd started playing it, and she really got into it as well. Which is slightly unfortunate because now I don't want to play it without her, so she won't miss anything (which is another similarity to Outer Wilds, though in that case it's both easier to explain what she's missed and also was more difficult for me to resist playing on my own).

The gist is you're sent to investigate what happened on a ship that disappeared on its voyage and then one day it's found derelict. The core gameplay loop is you've got this pocket watch that you can point at a corpse and see how they died, in the form of a voice-acted (and subtitled) audio followed by a frozen moment in time when the person actually died. From there, you can walk around the frozen moment and try to piece together what happened.

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Ultimately, the goal is to identify all the passengers and crew of the Obra Dinn, as well as determine each of their fates. It actually has a bit of a logic puzzle feel to it, as you'll frequently have to infer the identities of people based on snippets of conversation (names, accents, mentions of countries), relations to other people, locations you find people on the ship, etc. I've already run into one instance where I knew someone's first name, but there were two people on the ship with that name, but I'd already identified one so I could identify this one as well.

It's not without frustrations. In particular, when you first open up one of these frozen moments, you're given a couple minutes (with no visual indication) to explore. Then a little screen wipe plays and the events you saw and heard are recorded in your journal, with a prompt for you to answer some questions. The frustration here is that, as I said, there's no indication of when it's going to pop up, and much of the time it interrupts me right as I'm really getting into the investigation of the current scene.

On top of that, and this is a very minor spoiler related to the gameplay loop, frequently in one of these frozen moments you'll discover a new corpse that isn't present on the ship, and you're then forced out of the frozen moment to go follow a wispy smoke around the ship to lead you to that corpse. You can ignore the prompt, but it's automatically triggered if you hit left click or space

You can always return to any of the scenes, but the interruptions are kind of flow-breaking and frustrating. Plus, you'll frequently find other interesting clues you want to follow up on during these interruptions, and if you've got a terrible memory as I do it can be nerve wracking trying to make sure you remembered to check in on the new ones and continue your investigation into the old ones.

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My only other complaint is related to my poor memory. You can identify people however you want in your journal (i.e. you can make mistakes), but there's no way to mark something as a guess or whatever. Notably, you can't put down partial information. Like, I might know that someone's French or a midshipman, but I can only identify them as a specific person on the manifest. If I don't have enough to uniquely identify them, I have to either remember those details or go back through the journal to try and reconstruct it.

Anyways, they're pretty minor complaints from an otherwise outstanding game. I'm really enjoying it, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for an interesting mystery to solve.


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