Return of the Obra Dinn, unmissable masterpiece

I understand that many of you will be busy robbing banks, ravaging saloons, grooming the beloved nag, or wandering aimlessly in the Old West. I understand that and I don't blame you. However, this article is an invitation not to miss the opportunity to play a brilliant masterpiece that, given its indie nature and the delicate release period, could easily pass under the radar.

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Don't miss this indie gem!

The return of the Obra Dinn è an investigative adventure entirely set aboard a ship of the East India Company, the Obra Dinn, which, after having mysteriously disappeared in 1802, reappears after five years spent adrift. With no crew on board.

We play the role of an insurance agent and our task is to examine the wreck in order to identify the sixty missing persons and reconstruct their fate. To do this we have two objects available: a diario and a very special compass. The first collects i names of the missing and a photo in which we can observe their faces, obviously not knowing who is who.

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The second allows us, when we are in the vicinity of a corpse, to go back over time to the few seconds before death. We can therefore listen to the last words of the dying person and the people around him and observe a still image of the instant of death, moving freely in space.

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The game is played by passing from corpse to corpse, fencing say reconstruct the flow of events which, of course, are shown in random order, depending on which body we observe first. Some corpses, moreover, are only accessible through other corpses, according to the mechanism of the dream within the dream described in the film. Inception at Christopher Nolan. From the few casual dialogues, poses, outfits and accents, we must deduce the required information.

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As you may have guessed, The return of the Obra Dinn it is not a simple game: trusting in ours deductive skill he feeds us the information necessary to solve the mystery. The bare essentials, no more: missing a detail, therefore, is equivalent to getting stuck. There is never a moment in which we are taken by the hand and accompanied towards the solution: the game is limited to confirm correct identifications in groups of three.

If we really wanted to highlight a delicate aspect of the game (albeit nothing that minimizes its enjoyment) we would say that, having to choose the causes of death from a predefined list, sometimes there are terms that are similar. For example: "Tizio died punctured" is similar to "Tizio died hit by a harpoon thrown by Gaius". In any case, it is a matter of trifles.

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From a production point of view, The return of the Obra Dinn is, incredibly, the work of one man: Lucas Pope, former creator of Papers, Please and, previously, a member of the Naughty Dog development team that gave life to Uncharted 2: Den of Thieves.

The game conveys the entertainment concept of its creator, Lucas Pope, in a magnetic and exciting way.

From the graphic interface, original and preciously retro, to the musical interludes that accompany each step of the adventure, the game conveys the entertainment concept of its creator in a magnetic and exciting way. The intrinsic genius of the underlying idea behind the game is supported by the overflowing expertise with which the mechanics are conceived and implemented.

Contrary to the modern notion of game design that the time spent inside menus and inventories must be minimized, Obra Dinn entices the player to spend a lot of time leafing through the pages of the diary. This is made pleasant and satisfying thanks to aclever handling of shortcuts which aims to reproduce the flow of logical thought that is necessary for solving a complex puzzle. In other words, the game manages to present itself as a real and profound investigative simulation: always free, never guided.

Obra Dinn manages to present itself as a real and profound investigative simulation: always free, never guided.

From this comes the most extraordinary aspect of The return of the Obra Dinn, that is the immense satisfaction one feels when taking a step towards the clarification of the mystery. Every little achievement is genuinely an achievement: we have earned it.

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I played Return of the Obra Dinn on PC. Dubbing in English and subtitles in Italian, all of excellent workmanship.

  • It took about fifteen hours to identify all sixty missing persons.
  • No selectable difficulty level. Only game option present.
Game Card
  • Game Name: Return of the Obra Dinn
  • Release date: October 18, 2018
  • Platforms: macOS, PC
  • Dubbing language: English
  • Texts language: Italian
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If you are reading this review and maybe you are undecided about buying the game, know that I envy you. Because you still have the opportunity to enjoy this gem for the first time.

Review by gmg215

Tasteful: original, deliciously retro and incredibly suited to the historical-investigative context of the game. Entirely made with the Unity engine.


The dubbing, available in English, is of the highest quality. When you are intent on solving the mystery you will find yourself listening to the scenes over and over again, looking for clues even in the accents. The music, composed entirely by Pope, accompanies every little step of the adventure with surgical precision, enhancing the atmosphere.


Backed by flawless gameplay architecture, convenient shortcuts and skillful inventory / diary management, Obra Dinn's gameplay succeeds where countless others have failed: it gives the player the thrill of a true investigation.

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