Hands-on: ‘Obduction’ is VR’s Spiritual Successor to ‘Myst’

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Obduction is an upcoming adventure puzzle game for Oculus Rift from Cyan Inc., the creators of Myst (1993) and Riven (1997), and if the thought of seeing those intensely atmospheric worlds in virtual reality excites you, than I shall say no more. Except I will, because that’s why they pay me.

Much like Obduction’s critically acclaimed forebears, the level I experienced safely keeps game characters and creatures at arm’s length as you trek through the world with the weighty feeling of being truly alone. You have no companions, no enemies, only a mystery laid out before you that only a keen eye and persistence can solve.

In a tribute to the point-and-click style of Myst and Riven, Obduction uses a node-baded teleportation system which highlights predefined warp markers for you to select on your way through the desolate and vast world. Moving around like this admittedly seems a bit limiting at first – jumping from hotspot to hotspot instead of just ‘walking’ with the left joystick on the XBox controller – but the tugging nostalgia that it evokes really can’t be denied. Although I was assured that a ‘free roam’ option would be available at release, which uses snap-turn and traditional first-person VR locomotion mechanics, I relished the idea of playing it point-and-click style – if only for old time’s sake.

Kaptar Stairs - Obduction E3 Early Access Screen

I look down below me to see a thick fog rolling in. Warping from glowing blue marker to glowing blue marker, I make my way across a metal scaffolding perched atop a cliff. Above me, a pair of giant multicolored crabs minding their own business skitter across the high rock face. Inching ever closer to a platform on a rocky outcrop, I find a single lever and a valve wheel. Toggling both to no effect, I start to zoom around the rusty little platform to find a second, larger valve wheel. Aha. Turning it causes the structure to release an audible groan. Returning to my original lever and valve wheel, I try again, this time extending a second scaffolding across the gorge to a winding set of stairs carved into the rock face.

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Traversing down the cliff side, I run into pieces of some ancient behemoth machine littering the way. The further I descend, the more ruins I find until I happen upon a giant room containing a bottomless pit and a 500 foot crankshaft standing lengthwise above me. More levers, more valve wheels, a button pad containing numbers and Cyrillic script. Turning the right levers and wheels I extend a sort of propeller. Catching wind emanating from the endless drop below me, the massive crankshaft slowly comes to life. I’ve awoken a machine of some sort – and that’s when the demo ends.

The scale of things in Obduction impresses a near instantaneous fact upon me: you are small, alone, and a new comer to an alien world – one very much like our own, but different enough to give you serious pause.

Graphics in Obduction easily rank with some of the larger productions we’ve seen in VR up until now, including Crytek’s The Climb, a recently released title I called ‘the best-looking VR game I’ve ever played’. And with a promise of between 5 and 15 hours worth of puzzle-driven gameplay, of course depending on how long each of them takes you, Obduction is poised to become one of VR’s most hotly awaited titles of this year – and only just so.

Fans following the game’s 2013 Kickstarter, which gained a whopping $1.3M and busting the initial crowdfunding goal by over $200k, may not know that the VR version was built as the result of reaching stretch goal. The studio has of course entertained investment from outside sources other than the Kickstarter campaign, but the thought of not being able to really engage in the grandiosity of Obduction’s world is disheartening.

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Obduction’s VR version launches on July 26th exclusively on the Oculus Store, and is priced at $29. Owners of the VR version will be able to also play the desktop version, but take note that the only way to access the VR-enabled game is via Oculus Home. The developers made no comment regarding the possibility of supporting additional headsets.

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