I cannot express how happy I am to have gotten this game to review. I have played every Myst game there is by the Cyan team, back in the day when I still had computers to run them. I am even more satisfied that they have brought this to console. I would have been severely depressed had it been exclusive to PC. If you doubt my obsession with the Myst series, perhaps this will change you mind...
And now I am once again thrust into a Cyan world. Watch my initial gameplay of Obduction, which I kept short as I don't want to give too much away.
As with the Myst series, you start in an unknown world, with no idea how you got there or why. You just appear in the world and start to walk around and explore it. Unlike the Myst games though, you encounter human and earthly things. A park with barbeque facilities, a huge lake, conifer trees, until you encounter a strange sentient life form that transports you somewhere else.
You appear to be in an alien world, with floating rocks, but there is a small human settlement trapped within a large dome you cannot escape at first. Mysteries abound everywhere as you investigate every nook and cranny to discover who the settlement belongs to and what has happened to them.
From notes and objects lying around, you learn about what has happened on this planet, which just intrigues you further as to where everyone is. And as the game progresses you realize that you may just be caught in the middle of something dangerous.
You play in classic first person mode, though never really see your hands or body. When you start, there is no indication of the controls and you have to work your way through them. As usual, everything you encounter in the game is vital. From sounds, to color, to mechanics, to forlorn scrap....
I love that interaction with objects are easier than any Myst game. You have a white cursor before when you inspect objects where your character can comment on its usefulness. When a white dot appears in the centre of that circle, you can either handle the object or pick it up for further inspection. Levers, mechanisms and locked doors are all back again, bringing some well-deserved nostalgia.
You travel between different alien worlds, but sadly the Linking Books are gone. There is live action motion pictures of the real actors brought into the game's environment as with Myst. And of course the puzzles are so detailed that you travel throughout each sector of the worlds until you have uncovered them all before you can begin to solve them.
The most vital element that was retained is one that us screenwriters call Foreshadowing. This means something that happens or is discovered that hints to something that is to come. Every moment that you walk through the worlds of Obduction, foreshadowing is everywhere. You know that lever is going to come in handy later... you know that home's address might be used in a secret combination soon... you know the color arrangements and animals sounds are important for some event later. Obduction does this marvelously again, and I applaud the minds in Cyan for delivering another masterpiece performance.
There was a slight moment, a stammer in my breath, a hiccup in the beginning where I thought "Oh no....". I remembered the old PC Myst games, how immaculate the imagery looked on high end Pentiums of the time. Walking through the starting area, I looked at the conifer twigs and leaves, and it was slightly, very slightly, smudgy.
Working with game developers myself, I knew this probably had to do with polygon rates and the PS4's ability to render them as beautifully as a beast of a PC can. Like I said, it was only a stammer though, and as I walked through the rest of the areas I realised how wrong I was. The scenery is absolutely stunning.
Cyan could not allow Obduction to be surpassed by the Myst series, and I can honestly say they did a great job for the console. Even the overlapping sky, where most games would just have a static backdrop, the floating islands actually shift against the clouds and sky in real-time perspective. And no matter how many objects are found in one space, the framerate never drops.
The one thing I actually was disappointed in was the real life motion video of the actors in the game's environment. They are very much real, and not rendered, but the objects around them are rendered. The live actors are too real for their surrounds, making it look quite bad in some instances and reminding you what full quality should look like. Riven, which is Myst II, had done this seamless imposition into the game world perfectly, setting the benchmark for every Myst game thereafter. Unfortunately, I feel the PS4 does not bring this across very well.
Here's an sad offnote. Unless you are obsessed like me, once you finish the game you will probably never pick it up again. When I miss the worlds of Cyan, it will be nice to venture back into them again. You may do it again for the trophies, or for the various endings, but once that is all done, I don't believe many will be encouraged to play it again just for the sake of it.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER
I am extremely hesitant to suggest a multiplayer mode, although that would have improved the replayability. I believe we and Cyan have learnt from Uru: Ages Beyond Myst and that multiplayer does not work in this environment. Yet, if they could have done like Skyrim and allowed players to build their own homesteads and puzzles for others to work out with Obduction assets, that would have been incredible.
Nothing really needs to be improved on, except maybe polygon frames and density. I believe Obduction will show its real potential when 4K kicks in. Until then, I am happy with the graphics the PS4 can kick out for now.
Cyan is back, and better than ever!! Rand Miller is an absolute game and puzzle mastermind and a genius, and only a man of his intellect could have produced a game with such beauty and extreme complexity.
Obduction brings us back to what Myst always was and always will be, and recreates a world for us that we want to dive in immediately.... It doesn't disappoint.