Video Game / Obduction

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You're definitely not in Arizona anymore.
An environmental Adventure Game from Cyan Worlds, Inc., their Spiritual Successor to the Myst series.

Like Myst, the player controls an unnamed protagonist, with the exception that the character can be male or female. You start near a campfire by a lake in a forest, where paranormal streaks of light descend and dance in the sky. One of them slows down to approach you, resembling an acorn shaped stone. It opens up, and teleports you to a mysterious alien world.

It was released August 24, 2016 on PC with Oculus Rift compatibility released on October 31, with a Mac version forthcoming. A console port has been announced for 2017.

Tropes featured in Obduction:

  • After the End: Earth as seen in the Bad Ending.
    • This is implied to be the state of the Mofang homeworld as well, and if Farley's theory about the purpose of the Trees is correct, the other two worlds are on the verge of extinction as well.
  • Alien Geometries: The hearts of the Trees are connected, allowing a person to walk from one world to another by following their roots.
  • Alien Sky: Every sphere has a very strange sky, as each protects its inhabitants from an unbreathable atmosphere.
    • Hunrath has giant purple rocks floating outside its sphere, as well as three Earth-like planets unnaturally close to the one you're on.
    • Kaptar
    • Maray
    • Mofang is on a sand-blasted dead world; if you go up to the highest point of the sphere, you can see devastated roads and buildings - it's Earth, and it's a big hint that you don't want to go back there.
  • Alliterative Name: The current mayor of Hunrath is named Josef Jannson.
  • All Planets Are Earth-Like: Justified, according to the Hunrathians' theories; the four worlds were chosen to be linked because of their similar atmospheric conditions. Despite this, they're still different in some very significant ways.
  • All Up to You: Cecil depends on the player to do all the legwork of getting all the spheres connected again, but there are good reasons for this: first, he's lame and can't move well, and he thinks he needs to finish building his giant swapper to take Hunrath back to Earth. And in a slight subversion, if you never connect his battery despite numerous reminders, he'll eventually do it himself.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Just before reaching the Tree on Maray, there's a battle between a Mofang and a couple of Villein guards, resulting in two corpses and an injured guard trapped under some rubble. He makes sure you see the humans in stasis before he lets you proceed.
  • Already Undone for You: Justified - all the worlds you explore were preparing for a battle, and thus configured everything into the position that made it hardest to get around, for defensive purposes.
  • Alternative Calendar: Because Soria, the planet that Hunrath is marooned on, has no distinct seasons, the citizens use a system of just counting the number of days since they've been trapped there. For some reason, they chose to mark the election of Karl Hunrath as mayor as their zero point, so the calendar is divided into "BH" and "AH" units. The player arrives sometime in the 17150s AH, somewhere in the range of 50 years later.
  • Alternative Number System: The Villein number system is in base 4, and involves connecting dots in a square array.
  • Anachronism Stew: Justified - the seeds can abduct people across time as well as space, and the humans who populate Hunrath were taken in years between the 1870's and the 2040's (or more). Most of Hunrath's geography is a 19th-Century mining town, but it is cluttered with buildings and objects swapped in from different times and places.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Justified and lampshaded; everyone knew a battle was about to begin, and they left journals laying out in various places in case no one survived the conflict and someone came along later to wonder what had happened.
  • Beautiful Void: Naturally, although unlike most other Cyan games, there is a human being present in the game world that you can talk to anytime you want. He's just too paranoid to open his door and speak to you face-to-face, is crippled so he can't move, and is really surly, making him of only occasional use.
  • Benevolent Precursors: Josef notes that whoever is responsible for engineering the trees, they made sure that those who get abducted have a renewable source of water in their new home. Farley goes even further, suggesting that every seed grabbed someone shortly before they were about to be wounded or killed. The game's Bad Ending implies she's right, with its glimpses of a ruined, dust-covered Earth. The Good Ending makes it far clearer with all four of the regions in the game placed on a beautiful green planet without the domes keeping them in. However, there's an alternate theory that this generally benevolent process is entirely natural and not caused by a specific intelligence. The truth is not known.
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: What we're told of the Arai lifecycle is pretty unorthodox. They lay eggs all over the place that resemble barnacles. These are coordinated by a mature Arai, called a polyarch, and can either hatch into mindless bee-like drones or grow into another polyarch, which is immobile but controls the drones and uses them as its sensory and manipulative organs.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: The four species' visual spectrum and audible range differ. This impedes verbal communication from Villein to human, while allowing humans to conceal notes from the Mofang by writing in blue ink.
  • The Cameo: A number of Cyan employees can be seen inside Villein cryopods. Some of their voices also appear on Farley's tape recorder.
  • Closed Circle: Literally; Hunrath and its adjacent worlds are locked inside force-field domes. Attempting to leave one of these domes only transports the traveler to the point on the opposite side. Though the inhabitants are capable of traveling between these domes, the system of four worlds is sealed off from the rest of the universe.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • Villein technology is light gray with blue energy signatures, whereas Mofang tech is darker and more angular with red signatures. This is related to their biology, these being the colors their eyes are best adapted to see. This also means that light blue text is used for messages meant to be hidden from the Mofang, flagging these as extra-important to the player.
    • Each of the four worlds has an associated color that is based on the predominant color in its palette: yellow for Hunrath/Earth, red for Soria, green for Maray, blue for Kaptar. These are seen when an ambassador seed is preparing to swap, in the sky when a Mofang beam is destroyed, as well as within the caves that connect the Trees.
    • Arai eggs glow a particular color depending on the surface they're attached to. Farley shows this can be useful for finding precious metals: if they go pink, you've struck gold!
  • Creator Thumbprint: There are certain visual touches typical of Cyan games, such as floating rocks and an Anachronism Stew approach to the setting.
  • Diegetic Switch: Farley has a music box that plays her own leitmotif. The Mayor has a Victrola that plays his.
  • Door to Before: All over the place, especially in Hunrath. Some of these are necessary to the player, i.e. because they allow one to get to a room in a different way, which allows them to reconfigure the path they used originally and thereby reach somewhere new. In other cases, they just make it easier to get around within the area.
    • In a patch after the release of the game, an extra one of these was added to Maray. Before its addition, it was possible for the player to fluke their way through the Villein number panels controlling the bridges, but upon reaching the sign-in area, where use of a specific number is required, the game became Unwinnable by Mistake as there was no longer a way to reach the tutorial sheets in Hunrath.
  • Fantastic Light Source: Farley uses the Arai barnacles as lights in her bedroom, noting that they don't hatch if not connected to a polyarch.
  • First-Person Ghost: The player character has no in-game model or reflection and their appearance is not referenced in any way, but there is an option for a generic male or female shadow.
  • Flying Seafood Special: There used to be giant fish that swam through the skies of Kaptar.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Despite having very different technologies in many ways, both the Mofang and Villeins have opted for highly-visible beams as their main weapons.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Cecil designed and built much of Hunrath's infrastructure, including reverse-engineered alien technology. This is especially impressive considering he was born in the 1800s.
  • Genius Cripple: C.W. can't move very fast, and uses the town's rail system to get around. Which makes the player especially helpful.
  • Genocide Dilemma: Happens in the backstory. The Mofang decide that they'll be better off without any other races to compete with and decide to wipe out the inhabitants of the other spheres. Learning this from a few sympathizers, the other races sabotage their plans and kill off the Mofang. From Farleys' journals, it's clear there are severe misgivings on both sides about this scenario. In the end, Mofang extinction seems certain; there are a few defectors who were saved along with the humans, but not enough to repopulate their race.
  • Glamour Failure: On Maray, there's a Mofang infiltrator disguised as the Mayor who tries to trick you. His illusion is given away by the Hologram Projection Imperfection of his tech, plus vocal distortions and poor grammar that make him pretty clearly unhuman.
  • The Greys: The Mofang have this body type, though their skin ranges in color from red to yellow.
  • Hive Mind: Superficially the Arai seem to have this; but in fact, the insectoid drones are mindless extensions of a gigantic organism that is rooted in place and controls them remotely.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Hunrathians defeat the Mofang with the help of a few Mofang defectors and some well timed swap seeds, use the weapons intended for use against the other spheres against their own creators.
  • Hologram Projection Imperfection: The Mofang hologram projectors have a red crackling light that indicates their falseness, though according to C.W.'s notes, this can be reduced if their power supply provides exactly the right voltage.
  • Homeworld Evacuation: The Villeins' long-term lifecycle involves this, living on a planet until it is about to die, then putting themselves into stasis and voyaging through space in search of a new home.
  • Hornet Hole: The polyarch's cavern inside Kaptar's cliffs is a friendly one.
  • Hugh Mann: On Maray, there's A Mofang disguised as Mayor Josef. However, his image has numerous flaws that should make anyone suspicious of his true nature. That said, because of their differences in vision and hearing, it's probable that the Villeins were less able to detect these clues.
  • Human Popsicle: And alien popsicle: The Villeins use cryonic pods to preserve their population during their routine homeworld evacuations. During the games, the Villeins as well as the populations of Hunrath and Kaptar are frozen in this way as a last-ditch hope to protect them from the Mofang WMDs.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Many areas in the game are cut off by obstacles that in real life could easily be climbed over, swum through, or even taken apart.
  • Just Before the End: There are hints that the Villeins' and Arai homeworlds are on the verge of becoming uninhabitable: The Villeins have a tradition of Homeworld Evacuation and were getting ready to leave before getting trapped in their sphere, and the Arai have outlived several other civilizations, who are now seen only by their ruins.
  • Late to the Tragedy: The player character arrives at most a few weeks after a major conflict reached its climax, meaning that all the locations you can visit have been abandoned and put into the highest possible defensible state.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: Swapping from one place to another can take a long time, especially on less advanced computers, as in most cases the game has to load the entire world that the player is moving into. This can be problematic as several puzzles involve multiple swaps back and forth. There were some efforts to mitigate this, particularly in the maze at the end of Maray, where swapping to Hunrath only loads the immediate mines area, but it can still take a while to get back.
  • Multiple Endings: There are two, plus a Non Standard Game Over.
    • If you connect C.W.'s battery before destroying the Bleeder, his plan succeeds, circumventing the intentions of the Benevolent Precursors and returning the four domes to their original planets, but when Hunrath is returned to Earth it's After the End. Furthermore, most of the Human Popsicle survivors didn't even make it back to Hunrath, leaving their fate unknown.
    • If you destroy the Bleeder and leave the battery unconnected, the Benevolent Precursors original plan goes forward, and all four spheres are transported together to a verdant new world, with the force-fields removed.
  • Mythology Gag: Veteran Myst fans will definitely get a sense of deja vu over the course of this game.
    • Learning an Alternative Number System in a base other than 10.
    • Exploring Hunrath, an empty desert settlement, with the goal of entering a chamber inside a tree, is reminiscent of the Cleft segment at the beginning of Uru: Ages Beyond Myst.
    • There are several explicit references to the Myst series. The first is when the Mayor's holographic greeting says hello in several languages, including D'ni ("Shorah"). The most obvious is the Myst book and Myst tie-in RPG manual found in Farley's bedroom. A few sounds and visual assets have been reused, as well.
    • There also more subtle references. The first thing C.W. says to us is "Who the devil are you?", the exact same thing Atrus says when he first sees the Stranger in Myst. The gas station contains bottles of "Moula Cola". MOULA is an acronym for Myst Online: Uru Live Again.
    • The presence of Multiple Endings based on which character you trust.
  • Notice This: Certain hints in journals are written in blue. In-universe, this is to hide them from Mofang who can't see very well at that end of the spectrum.
  • Ontological Mystery: You get whisked away to an alien planet. There's a farmhouse and an old, abandoned mining town. That's all you're given.
  • Organic Technology: The object which transports the player to the alien world resembles a kind of seedpod with other, stranger shapes nested inside.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Cecil assumes the rest of the townfolk were killed, rather than just ask the player character, who has seen that they're all alive in Human Popsicle form. He also assumes the earth will still be habitable when he returns to it, while the player, provided they got a good look around while on Soria, knows better. This hastens his resolve to complete the plan to swap Hunrath to earth when the trees mature, which proves to be a bad idea.
    • Cecil in general could get his plans moving along a lot quicker if he spent a few minutes explaining to the player what is going on, or where everyone has gone, or what any of the machinery that he built does, or the codes to any of the doors, or at least the location of the codes to any of the doors. Since the player character is a Heroic Mime, they have no ability to ask themselves.
  • Portal Cut: Everywhere. The swappers exchange perfect spheres of matter, resulting in some very obvious cuts; you appear in a perfectly spherical depression in a canyon containing the picnic area you were abducted from, and every abducted structure is on a perfect circle of ground from another place; the house and gas station are on circles of asphalt, the train station is on a circle of concrete. The kitbashed swappers are on circles of grass or stone, all very noticeable in the bright red Arizona sand - and the giant stone sphere next to the junkyard is the result of an underground swapper. Late in the game you even find a Mofang who was apparently attacking a swapper mid-swap - only the upper half of its body is inside the swapper.
  • Punny Name: Like previous Cyan entries such as Riven and Uru, this title uses an obscure term to suggest a more apparent one. In this case, obduction, a geological process in which one tectonic plate covers another, and abduction, because the player is stolen away.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: The Mofang have this motif going. It's especially heavy in their homeworld, although that's largely because it was recently burnt to a crisp. Strangely, the Mofang on the human side have orange or yellow skin, but what this means is not explained.
  • Red Herring: The "Box of Infinite Complexity", a device in Kaptar with dozens of buttons and switches, lights with apparently randomly changing patterns, and instructions in Russian. By the time you get the code that works with it, you don't need it. You do get an achievement for destroying it, though.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Many mysteries in the setting are never fully answered, most notably the ultimate source of the swapper trees, and whether they are part of a natural process or created by some intelligence. Many details of Hunrath's history, both recent and distant, are left unexplained as well.
  • Rock of Limitless Water: The stream in Hunrath flows from the top of a cliff without any source. This is taken by some as a sign that the sphere they're trapped in has a benevolent purpose.
  • Scavenger World: Because the inhabitants of Hunrath can't control what materials are brought into their sphere, they keep everything that is brought in that might remotely be useful at some time in the future. Everything that's not in use is kept in a massive junk pile, and what is used is combined haphazardly with an aim to function over aesthetic.
  • Scenery Porn: This is game was made by Cyan Worlds, the team responsible for proving that video games could look beautiful, and none of the worlds fall short of this legacy.
  • Schizo Tech: The structures around Hunrath were transported in from different time periods, so a wide variety of human technologies and devices from the 19th to 21st centuries can be found, along with technology from three different alien species including the extremely advanced seed-teleportation technology made by whatever species created the trees.
  • Schmuck Bait: At the beginning you will probably see notices posted all around Hunrath warning you not to approach a dodecahedral object. Near the end you see one in Maray. Three guesses as to what happens if you approach it.
  • Spanner in the Works: C.W. has a plan in place to use the teleportation technology to return everyone home. Unfortunately the Benevolent Precursors had a good reason for displacing the spheres from their respective planets. Following through with the battery plan short-circuits the Precursors' original plan and presumably ends up screwing over every character in the game. The player character has the opportunity to put a spanner in C.W.'s own plan by disconnecting his battery just before the final swap occurs.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Myst
  • Shout-Out: The white farmhouse and lantern in the initial area, to Zork
    • The initial scenario, an alien vessel appearing from the sky and whisking the player off to a strange world, is remarkably similar to The Dig.
    • There is also a Myst book in Farley's vault. Instead of opening the front cover, the player opens the back... and most of the pages are cut away to hide video equipment for the linking panel. This is a shoutout to a fan who made a Myst book replica containing a computer that actually plays all five Myst games through a touchscreen where the book's panel would be.
  • Starfish Language: All of the alien races encountered in the game use forms of speech that humans cannot replicate. Moreover, none of them can naturally speak to each other, either. However, perseverance has allowed the species to develop secondary ways of communicating.
  • Tele-Frag: The swapper seeds teleport everything within a certain radius of them, creating a sphere of teleportation. Anything crossing the edge of that sphere gets cut in half. This is seen all over the place with rocks and buildings, but In Kaptar, there's a half of a Mofang who was caught in a sphere while trying to prevent it swapping back, realizing the returning piece of land would be carrying a weapon of mass destruction.
  • Time Travel: The people brought to Hunrath by the collector seeds, like the player character, are drawn from a wide variety of times, ranging from the late 1800s to the 2040s. Presumably the same is true of the other alien spheres.
  • Unbroken First-Person Perspective: Much like Myst, the whole game is in first-person.
  • The Unpronounceable: All alien words and names are unpronounceable to humans, so the names we have for them are loose approximations of their real languages.
  • Unspecified Apocalypse: As seen in the bad ending, The earth has been roughed up pretty bad, but the cause isn't clear. All we know is earth isn't a viable long-term home, which is why the seeds picked us up in the first place.
  • Unusual Euphemism: C.W. uses the term "Karffin'" in place of actual swear words.
  • World Tree: Each of the four alien world spheres has a tree at the center. These are the sources for the seeds used to travel between spheres, and are connected to the spheres themselves and to each other. There's a theory in-universe that these and others are all connected to a single "mother" tree, but this is unsubstantiated.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/VideoGame/Obduction