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E3 2016

Obduction Hands-On Preview – Not Your Standard Western

IndieCade showcased a lot of gorgeous independent games at E3, including award-wining Cyan Inc.’s latest title, Obduction. Featuring a compelling storyline, dynamic characters, and taxing yet intuitive puzzles, Cyan evokes the spirit of Myst and Riven by creating an extremely immersive world that tests your powers of observation, rather than your reflexes.

The premise: an organic artifact plucks you from your serene night-time walk in the woods and transports you to a strange planet, to a small town that juxtaposes scenery of the old west and elements of futuristic technology. Holographic messages that you can play with the simple push of a button dot the town against the natural desert plant life and mine car tracks. Homes and other structures are built along side and into towering walls of red rock. There’s some imagery of Calico (California), Sedona (Arizona), and maybe a few other abandoned mining towns west of the Mississippi–but this isn’t Earth. Far from it.

Most of the holographic messages at the start of the demo were from the town mayor (acting as a sort of tour guide as he welcome you.) These are strategically placed at key points in the main part of town and, much like a self-guided tour of a museum, he’ll tell you about everything–from the people to the water. This part of the demo had a theme park feel to it, as it seemed oddly formal and detailed, and impersonal at the same time. The mayor himself was a little too “excited to see me,” even for a hologram. For as much information as he had about the town, he couldn’t seem to tell me where I actually was. There was something inherently sinister about him.

I did find one hologram of a woman outside the first house you’ll come to–a farmhouse with a porch and a white picket fence blocking in the front yard that could have been caught up in a Kansas twister itself. The woman’s message is friendly, albeit foreboding, as she tells you the name of a man not to trust in the area. There’s a giant laser-beam pointed into the sky, glowing and sparking, and a distinct lack of actual people. I did come across one gentlemen barricaded behind a high-tech vault door, unwilling to set foot outside. We conversed for about a minute or two, and that was that. I wandered away to explore the area further.

By sprinkling little bits of story from several characters right out the gate, it not only aids in creating Obduction’s immersive atmosphere, but it gives the player a mystery to solve–the chance to play detective and to figure out not only where they are and how they got there, but what secrets is this near-abandoned town is trying to cover with cacti and dry heat.

Obduction will be released for PC via Steam on July 26th and will be available for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

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