Although Incomplete, “Return of the Obra Dinn” Hints at the Frightening Story of a Missing Ship’s Last Days
It’s a little early to be writing about Return of the Obra Dinn, but bear with me. Made by Lucas Pope–of Papers, Please fame–Return of the Obra Dinn is about a mysterious merchant ship that sets out in 1802, vanishes, and returns in 1808 devoid of crew. An insurance adjuster from the East India Company’s London Office must find a way to board the ship and find out what happened. Luckily, he has the power of temporary time travel on his side.
The premise is intriguing, but the current playable demo–really more of an alpha release–reveals only the bare bones of Return of the Obra Dinn. What’s been laid out though is eye-catching. The Obra Dinn is crafted out of stark, minimalist lines and a black-and-white grainy texture, sort of like an old computer game. As your inspector pokes around the ship and turns back his pocket watch, frozen figures caught mid-action are revealed: a man falling backwards with an axe embedded in his chest and another man firing a gun at a sailor reeling away. Whatever happened on the Obra Dinn, it was bloody, it was dark, and it remains utterly unknown.
Although nothing like Papers, Please, Return of the Obra Dinn does share its incredibly minimalistic aesthetic and limited environment. Where the former confines you to a single desk in a single booth, The Obra Dinn expands the environment just enough to encompass a small merchant ship, then packs each room with enough detail to make you forget how small the area really is. Notable details: the pixelated spray of a bullet violently ejected from the barrel of a gun; the real-time movement of your hand grasping at door knobs and opening drawers; and the pinpoint precision of the ship’s design and authenticity.
When Return of the Obra Dinn is finally released, I’ll definitely be picking up a copy.