Papers, Please Dev’s Obra Dinn Returns In New Demo

“Say,” you say in that odd tone you affect, “what ever did happen to that new game from the Papers, Please chap? First-person mystery doodad, set about a lost ship, had some kind of magic watch? Quite a nice weird dithered look going on?” You are a godsend, you, always stumbling along with rambling questions at convenient times.

You can see for yourself how Return of the Obra Dinn [official site] is going, as creator Lucas Pope has released the new work-in-progress demo he showed at GDC in March.

Return of the Obra Dinn, to refresh your memory, is a first-person mystery set in 1807, investigating a ship which has been lost at sea for years but now drifted into sight. With a magical pocketwatch in hand, the player can step back in time to see frozen scenes revealing what happened.

You can grab the new demo free from Itch for Windows and Mac. If you played the early prototype Pope released free in October 2014, you might be suprised by how familiar this is. As Pope explains in his TIGForums devlog, switching to a new version of Unity, trouble with tools, and rebuilding things all took a fair while, so this slice is essentially that but fancier.

“That build was a pretty nice vertical slice of the game; stuff was missing but for the first ~20 minutes of gameplay it turns out to be fairly representative. This is something I’ve experienced before – kicking out a solid vertical slice in X months, then breaking everything badly while scaling up the tools/pipeline/systems for the full game. Years later you look back and wonder, based on the quality of the initial slice, wtf took so long.”

This new build is “not meant to be a proper demo of the final product,” Pope says, “but it’s probably safe to extrapolate from here.” I am keen to see more of this.


  1. Talahar says:

    Lucas Pope is one of the greats. So looking forward to this game!

  2. TĪ›PETRVE says:

    Really stoked. After Ethan Carter turned out to be more of a theme park than a puzzle adventure, this gives me hope.

  3. wcq says:

    Yup, that’s a good demo, all right.

    Really, my only complaint is the fact that the doors and hatches that allow you to progress seem to just open for no reason after death flashback scenes. These kinds of invisible flags are a pet peeve of mine.

    Well, if all of it happens on one (not very large) ship, I suppose searching for opened doors after each flashback is manageable.

  4. Pich says:

    Oh man i love this 1-bit dithered artstyle.

  5. Velleic says:

    That was really great! That’s a lot of crew… don’t know how I’m gonna keep track of who everyone is!
    Looking forward to exploring the whole ship and figuring out what happened to everyone.

  6. Victor A Yorke says:

    Does anyone remember Cryostasis? Obra Dinn does seem to follow a similar ‘time travel via dead people on an abandoned ship’ narrative device, only with that brilliant dithering in place of the icy soviet-era shooting of the former.

    I think we could possibly do with having the watch on screen for longer though, or possibly let the player snap it closed earlier.

    • EdgarAllanPawn says:

      I’ve been meaning to give cryostasis a go actually after I stumbled upon it on a torre-I MEAN PURCHASED IT THROUGH A LEGITIMATE RETAILER. Is it worth the trouble?

      • Victor A Yorke says:

        For the atmosphere, yes. It’s another example of Ukrainian studios making amazing game worlds (see also Metro, Stalker). the ice is pretty well done, the zombies/demons/whatever you want to call them are well designed, thematically well integrated and their impact isn’t wasted by pushing large numbers at once. The posthumous possession mechanic is prescriptive in its use – it gives you vignettes about the last days aboard the ship, and occasionally provides puzzles to solve too.

        For the action, maybe? interesting approach to health (body heat, staying outside depletes it but staying near heaters or fires restores it), representing ammo by using a cross-section of the gun is a nice touch too, but it didn’t really stick with me for the fighting.

        That said, the first weapon in the game is a heavy padlock and chain, which the protagonist loots and then wraps around his right arm as an industrial knuckleduster.

  7. tomimt says:

    It’s an interesting concept for sure and the art style works nicely. It’s surprising really, as I’m not really a huge fan of old school 3D graphics, but here with the emulated style, but with modern 3D engine and controls, it’s really pleasing style.

    Some kind of fast forward/rewind option would be a nice addition for the flashbacks though.

  8. dylan s says:

    Showed this to my wife, and it’s a rare game that gets her excited. She said it reminded her of Jordan Mechner’s The Last Express, which is a pretty good comparison, I think. Her only question was: when’s it coming out?