Jonathan Blow, with The Witness, has made an attempt at creating a puzzle game, which would not only be challenging, but also full of underlying sub-plots. A title with a world, which was as familiar, as it was foreign to an average player. But ultimately, the world of The Witness while being beautiful and intriguing, was equally dull. It was static, dead, and uninspired, and in turn, forgettable.
Such turn of events has ultimately sealed the deal on the fact that we may never get another deep, and thorough puzzle game, since even Jonathan Blow ‘the videogame mastermind’ couldn’t do it. But while most where looking for a new developer to become the next-big-thing in the world of puzzle games, many have forgotten about the developers, such as Cyan Worlds, who have defined the genre all those years ago. And as it turns out, the developers of old, may be the only ones who can keep the genre alive.
Cyan Worlds, of the Myst and Riven fame, is a thirty-year-old studio, which specialises in creation of adventure-centric puzzle games. And after many years, the developer in question has finally returned with a spiritual successor to its early titles, a game which is known as Obduction.
Obduction was initially released in August, of 2016 – but after a very long year, a redefined, and final edition of the title has finally made its way to the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR, in its complete, masterful glory. And many console players around the world will finally have a chance to experience the excellence of Cyan Worlds within a modern, technical setting. As Obduction, unlike a large portion of recent Cyan World releases, is a brand-new title, and not a port of an older, accomplished game.
Obduction, despite of its modern visual façade, and an expansive world, is a true and down to earth, puzzle-adventure. From the very beginning, until the end credits, Obduction keeps one engaged not through adrenaline pumping action, or rewarding combat – but through a series of meticulously crafted puzzles. Puzzles which are not just there to impede your progress, but to allow you to bring the world, or rather worlds back to life. And that is because a single puzzle may have an impact not just on your current path, but the game as a whole, as every action causes a reaction.
In a way, Obduction is like a butterfly-effect simulator, as every change to the title’s world, even the slightest, may have a tremendous impact on the rest of the game. And the way in whch this plays out is utterly brilliant, but certain puzzles require a lot of tedious labour, which many may find to be unpleasant. And once one enters the latter stages of the game, and finds out that the primary world of Obduction, is just a fraction of the title, and that in-fact, Obduction is composed of multiple planets, all featuring an entire gauntlet of inter-layered, inter-connected, mind bending puzzles. He/she may simply feel overwhelmed not just by the sheer amount of content, but the unnecessary amount of direct involvement into each end every portion of the title.
At a certain point, player is introduced to seed-swappers. Machines which are used to transport both the player, and a part of the world onto a different planet. And initially, these are just used to move the player from one planet to another. But later on, such are used to solve puzzles, as at times, player has to move not just himself, but also a particular chunk of the world, in order to solve a puzzle. And initially, this mechanic seems incredibly impressive, as it takes puzzle solving to a whole other level, or rather dimension. But once one is forced to travel between worlds, over and over again, in order to simply open a door, he/she may feel disheartened, as each and every transition features a lengthy loading time, and brings with it a plethora of technical issues.
From the design stand point, Obduction is an incredible title, one could even say that design-wise, it is one of the best titles of this generation. But unfortunately, this is exactly where the positive aspects of the title come to an end. As in its current form, Obduction, is a plagued by endless bugs, glitches, and mechanical inconsistencies. At times, title’s performance deteriorates so much, that one is no longer playing a title, but watching a slideshow.
The second one takes the first step within Obduction, he’ll notice that the title’s framerate is rather poor. But once he/she gets dropped into the main section of the title, the previously fluctuating framerate, turns into an absolute horror show. Whenever one is traversing the world, framerate takes a nosedive, and renders the title borderline unplayable – and that’s not all. At times, Obduction can completely collapse onto itself, and start hitching uncontrollably, and if one makes an attempt at running during that time, he/she will be presented with a loading screen, right in a middle of an open field, of a fully loaded area.
Poor framerate, hitching, and loading mid-level, are all bad enough in order to deter one from purchasing Obduction. However, neither of the three are as bad as the fact that Obduction has a horrendous tendency to crash, and to do so often. And what makes this matter even worse, is that the title has a tendency to crash during seed-swapping, and within the later levels, where seed-swapping is a norm, the game is quite literally unplayable, as it crashes constantly, preventing one from making any sort of meaningful progress.
In the end, all of Obduction’s achievements are erased by its poor optimisation. All the excellent world building is ultimately destroyed by the abhorrent framerate. The incredible level design is decimated by constant hitching, and loading. And the fascinating, and ingenious puzzles, are ultimately rendered unplayable by the title’s current unstable technical performance. And when all is said and done, all that can be said about Obduction is that it should have spent few more weeks, if not months in development, as the current build of the game is simply not ready for release, and quite frankly it deserves much better.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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