The Return of the Obra Dinn is unlike any gaming experience I’ve ever had. There’s no “oh it’s like this game” phrase that I can give you. It stands apart. I’m happy to tell you though, that in standing apart it is entirely remarkable and fully enjoyable.
For our August episode we played and reviewed the newest offering from Lucas Pope. You can have a listen via the below link.
Simply put, RotOD is a detective story set in the 1800’s. Your character, an insurance adjuster for the Dutch East India Company, has the dubious task of boarding the Obra Dinn and figuring out what exactly happened to the ship and crew. You have dozens of dead bodies and a magic pocket watch and off you go.
In every way that this game doesn’t test you in speed and reaction time it does test you in deductive reasoning. Whatever part of your brain is worked by Dark Souls, the opposite end is worked by RotOD. Since the gaming space is saturated with speed/reaction games it was nice to take a step back and work in a gaming space that took me back to the early days of Mac/DOS detective adventures. If you’ve ever enjoyed MYST it’s fairly safe to say you’ll be happy in this world.
The game works essentially like this. You have a book that you’re using to record the fates of each person on the manifest. For each person you need to list two things. First their name/identity, and second of course, cause of death.
The catch is the game works in groups of three. So it won’t tell you you’re correct until you have three fates right. This simple mechanic is everything. It gives the game its difficulty curve and keeps you adequately frustrated and occasionally rewarded. The reward is one of the finer dopamine hits that currently exists in gaming. Once you have your third correct “fate” the game gives you a great audio cue. Then your answers become typecast into the book, solidifying the fact that you’re on track.
At some point, your character will of course be done with their job and you’ll mail back your book of answers. The number of correct fates will determine which of the three endings you’ll receive.
It’s stupidly easy to go online, log in your answers and finish this game shockingly quickly. However with some effort RotOD becomes a hugely rewarding experience.
I highly recommend this game especially if you’re fond of cockney accents.
Nathan is the co/host and co-creator of the Splash Damage Bros. and hopes to one day become a pirate. He can be found at @splashdamagebro and @thenatejc