There are a handful of indie developers that are synonymous with a certain style of game. Just as you can spot a Quinten Tarantino or Christopher Nolan film right from the opening scene, some games immediately give away their creator with just a snippet of gameplay.
Prime examples would be the likes of Toby Fox, or Supergiant Games. However, the best example of all, in my humble opinion, is Lucas Pope.
Lucas Pope has this incredible ability to take something so mundane and bureaucratic, and morph it into a narratively compelling and engaging title that will stay with you long after the credits roll. Making his work instantly recognizable.
Papers Please was the first example of this, and he followed it up with insurance verification meets nautical murder mystery epic, Return of the Obra Dinn.
Return of the Obra Dinn offers sublime storytelling primarily told through flashbacks which ask you to use deductive reasoning to understand just what happened in each cryptic scenario.
Some answers come naturally through basic logic and reason, whereas other answers needed for the insurance claim will require you to do some critical thinking, tie loose threads together, and generally make some educated guesses.
However, even with your thinking cap firmly planted on your dome, this can prove to be quite a monumental task.
That’s where we come in. We assure you, there will be no spoilers here, as we want you to experience this game as intended.
However, we will be giving you a series of fun hints that will act as a nudge in the right direction, allowing you to still have that eureka moment and feel like the smartest person alive. So without further delay, here is Indie Game Culture’s Return of the Obra Dinn Hints Guide.
Learn Boating Terms and Roles
One thing I would urge players to do if they want to make sense of the scenes presented to them is to make sure they know the roles of a boat, the general attire they wear, and what their duties are on the ship.
This will allow you to identify people based on their activities in scenes, and will also allow you to tie characters to other crew members through their dialogue. For example, with the highest ranking members, the bigger the hat, the higher they rank.
Take A Geography Lesson
Another thing that can prove quite helpful is taking the nationality and background of the crew members into account.
This will allow you to identify people based on if they are speaking in their mother tongue, it will also allow you to identify groups and cliques on the ship, and it will also allow you to analyze certain traits and behaviors and attribute these things to respective characters’ cultures.
When analyzing a scene, take note of all items present, not just the ones directly in play, often crushing or impaling someone. You would be surprised how many prop items give you an inkling as to what a crew member’s role is on ship, or where a particular event takes place.
1st Follows 2nd
A way to identify a lot of the people aboard the ship is to first identify their commanding officer, and then assume they are their mate, or vice versa. On pretty much all occasions, if someone is prominently featured in a scene, they will likely be in the company of their partner, who aids them with their role on the ship.
Beginner Obra Dinn Hints
Chances are that you will be able to correctly label at least a quarter of the ship’s crew correctly without having to do much intensive thinking or deductive reasoning. After all, almost half the crew is killed by a terrible beast in some fashion.
However, if you are really struggling to get off the mark and feel like every scene you encounter is passing you by with no information garnered, then these tips below may help you get the ball rolling:
O Captain, My Captain
Firstly, before you do anything else, make sure you spend time learning who pretty much everyone is in ‘The End,’ as, without this basic info, it can be tricky to identify some of the major players in the story.
Missing From The Sketch
An easy one that could be overlooked is one that can be deciphered by simply looking at the execution sketch in your journal. Almost everyone is present and accounted for. However, someone had to draw that sketch, right?
There are two instances where you can identify characters based on their tattoos. Think of the time period. Tattoos weren’t all that common in the 1800’s, meaning that it’s much more likely that these individuals come from more exotic climates.
Where’s My Frenchman?
This is where knowing boating titles comes in handy. There are plenty of examples where you can identify 1st Mates by identifying their superior, and in the case of a certain Frenchman, because they are the only French person on the ship, this allows you to identify not only them, but the injured party asking for them. It’s a two-for-one.
18th Century Vegan
There is a scene where a group of individuals are gathered around a big ol’ cow as someone is slicing it up, and one of the crew, who is revealed to be Charles, hasn’t got the stomach for it. As we have already identified the Frenchman above, there’s only one Charles left.
Plus, you can rest assured that the person cutting up the cow has a particular role on the ship. I’ll give you a hint; it’s not the chef; it’s the other one.
While you will likely be able to identify them otherwise, you should note that before you even begin your investigation, you receive a journal and the Momento Mortem from one Henry Evans. Just have a think about where the letter was sent from, and if that’s the case, what the likely fate of Henry might have been aboard the Obra Dinn.
Intermediate Obra Dinn Hints
After you deal with all the low-hanging fruit, there are a few threads that you can follow that are certainly not as hard to deduce as some others. We would label these the intermediate puzzles present on the Obra Dinn.
These are in that sweet spot of challenging, but very attainable in your first run through the game’s content. However, if you feel like these are sailing over your head, we have a few tips that might help you cross out some names on the crew list:
Should Have Put A Ring On It
Attire plays an important role in identifying certain characters, including jewelry that reveals their marital status.
For a male crew member, married or not, they will simply be Mister, but if the crew members are female, you’ll be able to sort between the Mrs and the Miss on board. Find a scene where they appear, and check those fingers to put a name to a face.
Here’s a tip for you. Everyone either speaks in their native tongue or English during this story. So if you catch a group of people, I don’t know, playing some cards and speaking Russian, then you can rest assured that those people are from Mother Russia.
A Brotherly Bond
In the midst of a Kraken attack, you would imagine that politics and grudges would be unlikely to influence decisions, but even in the heat of the moment, people don’t forget. You may remember that someone was unfortunate enough to get crushed by falling cargo. Well, it turns out that he has a brother, and he blames the man holding the ropes for killing their brother. Identify the brother’s, and then find their proposed killer, and in turn, you establish how the victim’s brother turns murderer themselves.
A Frame Job
There is a scene that sets the wheels in motion for a number of other key events, such as the execution, and Edward Nicholl’s attempted escape, so getting your head around this section is key.
You must understand that the person in question intends to steal the Formosan Chest, but is discovered by a passerby, and then frames the unconscious guard for their crimes. Identifying these people is up to you, but considering their distinct attributes, you should manage just fine.
Heavy Is The Head
In case you weren’t aware, there are a group of royals on board the ship from Formosa, an island off the coast of Taiwan.
You can immediately identify the female of the group, as she’s the only one, but labeling the rest can be tricky. To point you in the right direction, The same man who frames the first Formosan abducts two others, whereas the one left behind plays a key role in the fate of the abductor as they know what they have been up to all along.
Advanced Obra Dinn Hints
Then lastly, we have hints that correspond with puzzles that we would deem to be the hardest to decipher on the ship.
These tend to be very intricate, easy-to-miss details that you might not equate to a clue, even if you are staring right at them. As such, these clues may be a little more on the nose, so if you really want to try and solve these on your own, you might want to avoid these until you are well and truly stumped. Here we go:
Check The Hammocks, Check The Shoes
One of the things that the game doesn’t make apparent to the player is that the crew numbers actually play a vital role in identifying crew members. The reason is that lower-ranking crew members are assigned bunks/hammocks, and they are labeled with each crew member’s assigned number.
This allows you to attribute a name to those in the bunks, but these individuals’ faces are usually hidden from view, meaning you’ll need to identify them through other telling features, such as their footwear, perhaps.
Midshipmen Stick Together
One of the hardest groups of men to identify is the Midshipmen, as they don’t have a lot of telling attributes that allow you to put names to faces. However, one thing you will find is that the Midshipmen are pretty much always found in scenes are a clique. Whether that be fighting Crab-people, gutting cattle, or wrestling mermaids.
Making a Break For It
Then finally, I would like to point you to the above-mentioned journal hint. We hinted that someone escaped the boat and that they were alive and well in a foreign country. Well, think about the scenes that are presented to the player. Think about those in their company, and think about their fate. If he escaped, then chances are, they did too.
Return of the Obra Dinn Hints: FAQs
Question: How Long is Return of the Obra Dinn?
Answer: If you aren’t too hung up on solving all the puzzles in the game, and simply want to see all the content and finish the game, you’ll sail through in about 3-4 hours. However, it will take you anywhere from 8-12 hours to solve everything, I reckon.
Question: Does Everyone Die Aboard The Obra Dinn?
Answer: Mild spoilers here. No, not everyone dies. I won’t reveal exactly who survives, but despite the rest of the crew dropping like flies around them, there are a few crew members that escape and start a new life elsewhere.
Question: When Is Return of the Obra Dinn Set?
Answer: The game takes place in the year 1807, and considering that the ship was found off the coast of England, we can assume that this is also the setting.
Detective Meets Deckhand
As you can see, Return of the Obra Dinn is a simple game to finish, but if you want to experience the true ending and understand the fates of every crew member, you need to really channel your inner Sherlock Holmes.
I’ve personally platinumed this game, and I know how painstakingly difficult it can be to analyze each tableau, read between the lines, and search for any potential breakthrough.
However, I couldn’t recommend the experience higher, as it’s a truly unique experience that exhibits the craft of detective work majestically. I hope that these clues give you the push you need to fill out your insurance document, and as always, thank you for reading Indie Game Culture.
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