The latest game from Papers, Please creator Lucas Pope has you boarding the lost ship Obra Dinn to figure out what happened to its 60 crew and passengers. Armed with a crew roster, a collection of group sketches, and a skull-adorned pocket watch that lets you revisit the moment someone died, it’s your job to figure out their identity and fate.
How Many Hours of Gameplay is Obra Dinn?
A game that requires logic and patience, Return of the Obra Dinn is a rare gem that rewards the player with an enthralling experience. It’s a highly original, immersive and award-winning puzzler that will definitely test your deductive skills to the limit.
In 1802 the merchant ship Obra Dinn set sail from London for the Orient with 60 souls aboard. However, a year later it failed to show up at the Cape of Good Hope and was declared lost at sea. As an insurance investigator for the East India Company, you are dispatched to board the vessel and determine the fate of its passengers. Armed with a crew manifest, group sketches of daily life onboard, and a magical pocket watch that lets you revisit the moment of a person’s death, it’s up to you to figure out their identities and causes of death.
The game uses a first-person perspective and a limited set of interactions. All you need is WASD, ESC and TAB to play, so even your grandma could pick it up with no problem.
The story of Return of the Obra Dinn is an incredible tale of mutinies, mad scrambles for survival and random sea monster attacks. It is also a fascinating study in human greed, deceit and stupidity.
The game is a non-linear adventure thriller that plays from a first person perspective. Players take on the role of an insurance inspector sent to figure out what happened to the Obra Dinn. He is given a logbook and a Memento Mortem stopwatch that can recreate an image of a dead body at the exact moment of their death.
The story unfolds in a series of vignettes that are accompanied by an appropriately moody soundtrack. There are some very powerful moments of violence and loss in these scenes, but the simple aesthetic and the way that the game cuts from dialogue to imagery means that they are never exploitative or sensationalist. It is a remarkable and deeply immersive experience. Lucas Pope (Papers, Please) has crafted an unforgettable tale that celebrates the power of scrutinizing details.
The core gameplay in Obra Dinn is superb, as it relies on exploration and logical deduction. While the game does have some tedious mechanics (like not allowing players to take notes while exploring) that serve only to slow down the pace, the overall experience is spectacular.
Players take on the role of an insurance inspector for the East India Company sent to a ghost ship after it reappears after a five-year disappearance with every person aboard either dead or missing. The inspector is given a logbook and a Memento Mortem stopwatch, which when used on a corpse, allows the player to witness the exact moment of death, frozen in time.
The lore behind the game is excellent, with clues to the fate of each passenger being sprinkled throughout the ship. Often, these clues are not directly related to the story, but instead hint at a cause of death or a probable current location for each person.
The Final Words
The game ends on a tragic note. Nearly all of the Obra Dinn’s crew dies. The Captain is dealt a bad hand and kills all of the mutineers in self-defense, but he doesn’t get away unscathed. Second Mate Nichols is a jerkass and gets a well-deserved karmic death. He was in on the whole plot to hold the Formosan royalty for ransom, and was part of the conspiracy that led to most of the crew deserting.
The last mermaid, the one who survived in the lazarette, agreed to release the chest’s shell and guide the Obra Dinn back to England in exchange for seeing it home. She did as asked, but it was too late to save anyone. It-Beng Sia sacrifices himself activating the chest’s defenses, but it was too late to save Ms. Lim. She was clawed to death by a mermaid soon afterwards. The mermaid’s final request was fulfilled, but it came too late to prevent the loss of life.