We haven’t played something really fresh for a long time. Earlier, in the 2000s, projects constantly appeared that were breakthrough, brought something new to the game. Now this is, perhaps, the prerogative of only indie games. So it’s no surprise that creator Lucas Pope’s new project, Paper Please! – Return of the Obra dinn came out so good. What awaits the player in the new game of the American genius? Let’s figure it out.
It all starts with the fact that the East India Company merchant ship Obra Dinn, which disappeared several years ago, is drifting to a British port without any crew on board. You – the investigator – go aboard in order to find out what happened to the crew. But you are not a simple detective. You have at your disposal a powerful secret weapon – a magic clock.
Adorned with a sinister grinning skull engraving, this curious, unexplored artifact allows you to visit the moments before a person’s death in an attempt to establish what happened to them. But, judging by the fate of sixty sailors, this is not an easy task – especially in the situation with Obra Dinn, because even with such an advantage you will not have a “warm bath” waiting for you: nothing is known about the fate of either the ship or any member of the crew. From the word in general. All you have at your disposal is a few notes in your personal diary.
This game was created by dedicated master of art in the gaming industry – Lucas Pope, author of Papers Please! It is a fully 3D project (unlike its legendary predecessor), rendered in a bold, beautiful art style reminiscent of the 1-bit anti-aliased visuals of old Macintosh adventure games. But the Obra Dinn, while technically more advanced, is no less atmospheric. In fact, the in-game world, created by its hard lines and limited palette, is very beautiful and original. Something really different from the universes of the same type of AAA projects awaits you.
As you explore the ship, you’ll discover piles of sun-bleached bones formerly of the crew, and by activating the pocket watch next to it, you’ll get a static yet surprisingly detailed scene a few seconds before the victim dies. It could be an accident, a brutal murder, or something completely bizarre. And this is where your exploration really begins.
The investigation was conducted
Determining the cause of death is usually the easiest part, because the evidence is right in front of you. You can see a man recoiling in pain when a flint pistol shot through his lung, or a sailor fatally fell down a ladder, slipping on a slippery step and smashing his head. But the really tricky part of the investigation is identifying the people involved in the scene. This already requires some kind of real detective work.
There are several ways to find out who is who. In some death scenarios, there is a short snippet of dialogue and you can hear the name pronounced. Or you might have to look at where the person is on the ship or what they are doing to establish their identity. It is safe to assume that the guy in the workshop doing wood sawing is, for example, a carpenter. But then again, things might not be that simple. In this game, anything is rarely easy.
In addition to the clock, you have at your disposal something like a notebook. Here you can cross-check and work with information, supplement it with notes, it outlines the roles and nationalities of the crew, there is an illustration of everything collected on deck and a glossary that explains some of the obscure, archaic nautical terms that you will have to deal with. Information like this can often help you figure out who a person was.
Whenever you make three accurate decisions, the necessary conclusions are drawn up – the name, the cause of death, and in some cases the killer. They remain in the book forever. This stops you, the investigator: sometimes it is very difficult to determine the role of each specific character on the stage. In the end, everything can be geometrically opposite. You will, at times, feel like a real Sherlock Holmes. But it also made me feel bewildered sometimes when, without any intelligible evidence (at first glance), I had to, almost based on intuition, develop my own theories, which in the end turned out to be a failure.
Ships and sailors
But in moments like this, something hurts you. You will stagger in the lower decks, bouncing off the oak hull as an idea hits your mind. Moments from a previously visited death scene that suddenly resonates with the current one. Seaman’s identification mark. Emphasis in a fragment of the dialogue. All this is very important for the investigation. And in a brutal storm shake, you will piece many pieces of the puzzle together, making what happened on the Ship a little clearer.
These moments of success are rare, but you get immense satisfaction from them. Spending a lot of time with the return of Obra Dinnm, wandering around the ship, jerking free threads and, it seemed, without going anywhere, it seems that everything, you will never make the right decision. But remembering those moments of success that occasionally happen, I want to play again and again, create a new card in my head every time that will take you out of the maze of raw theories.
The game paints a vivid picture of life aboard the Obra Dinn, and as the player goes through each unlocked chapter, exploring and discovering more bodies, a more cohesive story begins to take shape. I won’t go into details of what happened to the team because it is at the core of the game, but I can say that Obra Dinn must be the most unfortunate merchant ship in the world, with so much chaos and disaster happening on board, that one wonders how this vessel still floats.
Return of the Obra Dinn is a stunningly smart thing and one of the best puzzle games on PC. Not only does it provide you with a vast, complex and interconnected mystery to solve, but it trusts your intelligence enough to allow you to do it yourself, without any hints, markers or guides getting in the way of the process. Few games have this kind of player confidence and the result is a very satisfying experience, even if I sometimes felt like I was stumped. In the company of modern, commercially successful projects, this creation of Lucas Pope looks like something special, unique.
A little about the schedule
A special charm, of course, is given to the game by its visual style. The single-line graphics make Return of the Obra Dinn a real high art in terms of stylistics. The author, with the help of such a simple and at the same time complex visual style, very skillfully conveys the atmosphere of a mysterious adventure that will make you truly feel responsible for every decision you make. I am sure many of you will bite your elbows very hard for what you do in the course of the investigation. And for this Return of the Obra Dinn deserves special praise. Making the player feel so strongly with such simple graphics … only Lucas Pope can do that. If in other strongest India projects the visual component serves as a completely optional shell, then this is a radically different case. Without this one-bit 3D graphics, Return of the Obra Dinn wouldn’t be all that brilliant.
What is the bottom line?
This is undeniably a masterpiece. There is nothing special to add. If you’re not the pampered 4-hour storyline gamer of yet another Call of Duty, you’re tired of the same type and want a breath of fresh air – Return of the Obra Dinn is just what you need. Non-trivial gameplay, great story, masterpiece visualization – everything just shines. Don’t miss this project!
LID2PRO reviewer verdict
The unique mechanics of Lucas Pope games, which cannot be clearly described in words, you just need to try!
An excellent example of how, without having a huge budget, but only talent and desire, you can create something magical.
The atmosphere of the port of colonial England is perfectly reproduced. You will not feel like a fictional character, but a real participant in those events.
Great story and better endings will keep you on your toes at the screen until the very end.
In general, everything is good on this point. There are minor flaws (for example, it would be nice to add the ability to run around the ship), but this does not greatly interfere with the gameplay.