The developer of Papers, Please has just announced on Twitter that his upcoming mystery investigation game Return of the Obra Dinn will be released on October 18. In 2014, soon after the release of the critically acclaimed Papers, Please, he announced that he had started working on his next game: “Return of the Obra Dinn, 3D 1st person mystery, 1-bit rendering.” The 1-bit rendering is intended to emulate the look and feel of classic Apple II games. In 2016 he released a demo at GDC, which can still be downloaded from his itch.io page. I remember trying the demo and thinking how unique it looked and felt.
The ship Obra Dinn was lost at sea in 1803. Built in 1796, in London, it had a crew of 51 men in its final voyage to the East with over 200 tons of trade goods. Six months later, after missing its rendezvous point at the Cape of Good Hope, it was declared lost at sea. Early in the morning of October 14th, 1807, the ship drifted into port at Falmouth with damaged sails and no visible crew. The player assumes the role of an insurance investigator for the East India Company’s London Office, dispatched to Falmouth, where they can find the means to board the ship and assess the damages. In the demo and the trailer, the player holds a mystical clock of sorts that can be used to reveal the past at certain spots inside the ship, investigating the disappearance of the crew. The mystery will also require exploration and logical deduction to be solved.
Similarly to Papers, Please, players should also expect some form of bureaucratic analysis gameplay. Lucas Pope also said on Twitter in August that “Obra Dinn ends with an insurance assessment, as any half-responsible adventure should. 21 pages of riveting claims.” The trailer shows some of this insurance assessment and how the player might interact with it. If it’s anything like the compelling document cross-referencing of Papers, Please, it should be a fascinating game.
Return of the Obra Dinn will be available on October 18 from Steam, for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X.
What do you think of Return of the Obra Dinn? Are Apple II-style games making a comeback? Let us know in the comments below.