Obra Dinn

April 22, 2021

I recently finished playing Return of the Obra Dinn.

I don’t post about games very often any more. First of all, I don’t get to play them all that much. And even if I do, there’s not much interesting to say about most of them.

Obra Dinn is an incredible independent game, designed and developed by just one person, Lucas Pope (with of course help for various aspects of the production, but the concept and design is his alone.) I do think such independent efforts deserve praise and recognition more than multimillion-dollar studio productions. Plus, Obra Dinn just is a very unique and enjoyable game.

I wish I could say I finished it without cheating. I didn’t. I cheated. Well, not entirely. I did go through all the content there is to go in the game, and I honestly solved a few fates all by myself. But that was it. Just a few. For going through most of the game, I relied on this great wiki that explains (and spoils!) everything about the game.

Even though I’m sad that I resorted to cheating, I’m glad I went to that wiki and read all there is to read. I missed tons of subtlety and nuance and lots of the story just by looking at the game. I just didn’t understand what was happening much of the time. Maybe I’ve been too accustomed to high-budget games and their high production values. Or maybe my eyes are aging. Or maybe my brain is aging and I’m getting dumb or lazy. Going through the explainer content on the wiki only made me appreciate the whole game, story and content more than I could gain just from the game experience itself.

I try to play games as a form of escapism with great “immersion factor” - that really place you into a different time, place, and character. Obra Dinn is brilliant at that. The combination of mechanics, 1-pixel graphics, and sounds is just perfect. Even though I didn’t succeed at solving most of the game myself (and didn’t try too hard either), I much enjoyed going through the whole experience just for this immersion aspect.

Here’s a more complete video (with some spoilers) that shows and explains the whole premise in more detail.