Return Of The Obra Dinn Review: Stylish Swashbuckling Ahoy!

Return Of The Obra Dinn

In 1802, the merchant ship Obra Dinn set out from London for the Orient with over 200 tons of trade goods. But six months later the vessel hadn’t met its rendezvous point at the Cape of Good Hope and was declared lost at sea.

Early this morning of October 14th, 1807, the Obra Dinn drifted into port at Falmouth with damaged sails and no visible crew. As an insurance investigator for the East India Company’s London Office, dispatch immediately to Falmouth, find means to board the ship, and prepare an assessment of damages.

Return of the Obra Dinn is a first-person mystery adventure based on exploration and logical deduction.

Gameplay

As described by the developers, Return of the Obra Dinn is a first-person mystery adventure.

Playing the game from the perspective of the inspector, trying to piece together what exactly happened aboard the Obra Dinn.

Needless to say, the game is story driven and it really taxes your observation skills. You move from incident to incident, checking the myriad of bodies with the aid of your “magical” pocket watch.

Controls are kept very simple thanks to minimal interaction options. Simply standing in front of a door, you’ll see your arm automatically reach for the handle. Simply press A to open. Standing over a body automatically brings up the pocket watch, it’s very straightforward.

Activating the pocket watch transports you back to the moments before the hapless crewman met their demise. Once you have heard their plight, use the pocket watch again to be whisked off to their final resting place.

Everything you discover and every mystery you solve will be recorded in your ledger. Which at the end of them game will be submitted to your superiors.

The tutorial makes it abundantly clear that not every crew member can be accounted for. But do your best to examine and cross reference the evidence placed before you and you’ll be scored at the very end.

Audio/Visuals

Return of the Obra Dinn is an instantly distinctive title because of the striking monochrome colour palette used. It caught my eye straight away as I love unique and different art styles.

Couple that with the “stippling” effect to the textures, it really feels like you’re playing through the pages of a 19th century novel.

Everything runs silky smooth in handheld and docked mode and with a small play space, load times are non-existent.

It’s worth noting that none of the incidents you investigate are animated. Instead, the screen fades to black and you have to listen to some very well done voice acting, combined with some truly authentic – and at points – visceral sound effects.

Add to the mix some great naval styled music to help convey the sense of misery, dread and anxiety. You really start to feel sorry for the crewmen that lost their lives aboard the Obra Dinn.

Critique

Your deductive and investigative clout will really be put to the test with this one. It does take a bit to get used to the art style and how the mechanics work, however, pretty soon you’ll be sleuthing your way all over the vessel.

At certain points in the game, in particular, some scenes can get very busy with lots happening, the art style and colour can make it a little difficult to pick out details, though I only experienced this a couple of times.

I feel some people could struggle on some of the scenes as this game really doesn’t hold your hand. With that said, the feeling you get when the game announces “three more fates correct” is ellative.

Probably my only major criticism of Return of the Obra Dinn is the ability to recap on the evidence. Whilst you can view things like the body location and location of each memory, to actually view the cutscene again, you’ll have to physically backtrack to revisit the scene every time.

Whilst you can re-read the transcript in the ledger, if you need to hear things like accents, you have to hunt down the body. This happened to me again and again.

I can understand the reason that the developer Lucas Pope did this, as if you’re physically at the scene it could help jog your memory. Still it would’ve helped save time by having some form of “theatre mode.”

Verdict

With all that said, these are much smaller issues with what is otherwise a great game. I had a lot of fun playing it.

There is easily 6 or 7 hours of gameplay here and toward the end it had me and my wife bouncing ideas off of each other to help solve the many riddles presented to us.

Highly Recommended

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Reviewed by Micramanic on the Nintendo Switch. Game provided by Lucas Pope.

Neil

Gamer enthusiast, huge Nintendo fan and of anything retro. Fulfilling my dream of writing game reviews, thanks to AnyDayReviews.

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