Rarely do we see social structures that games don with descriptors like “cooperative” or “competitive” so cleanly and elegantly as I’ve seen with OBEY. Wrapped in the most innocuous, innocent set up, OBEY pits bunny vs. fellow bunny vs. a giant turret that can mow down any of them in an instant.
In a large field, one object towers above all: a monkey-looking humongous tower of destruction and doom, equipped with a machine gun, flamethrowers and rockets. At its feet is a tiny entrance that enables anyone to enter and take steer. This puts the bunny in a position of nearly absolute power, with a commanding view over the map. But this power isn’t a one-stop victory roadmap. The searching light of the tower akin to a prison guard tower shines only where the controlling player is currently looking. As it zooms in and out in search of the tiny bunnies, any of them can sneak in for the win.
But it’s usually not that as simple, especially because when a new player assumes power, the rest get collars that track their position. This lets the turret identity their position fast before the bunnies are able to sneak off, but the collar can be taken off. If the turret has a chance to spot the bunny, that’s when the advanced social and power structures in OBEY really come out.
As the ominous light shines on the little critter, the turret controller can dispose of it immediately, but he or she can also do something much worse, and much more beneficial: force the bunny to cooperate or work out an exchange. While the tower seems unquestionably more powerful, there’s a lot of things it cannot do: effectively spot multiple bunnies, restock ammo, place mines, and build fences. All of those are possible for the bunnies thanks to a variety of items in the game. If both sides can work out a deal, temporary alliances can in turn be extremely effective for both the turret and, for instance, a player in the last position. The player in the turret can give commands by voice and place money rewards for the bunnies.
Two caveats to know: the player with the most money at the end wins (bunnies in the tower make much more) and voice chat is rather a requirement for the game.
In practice, this works extremely well, provided that there are at least four friendly players in OBEY. A lot of the gameplay does happen in dialogue between players, which is mirrored in the tactical options. Even though the bunnies don’t have any special abilities and can’t do anything without items, the stealth and barter combine for compelling options. Turret player busy looking at the center and ordering a different player around? Sneak from the side when he’s not looking. Unless he or she has some bunnies helping him out, in which case they can point to you with a signal light.
At the time of play, the game is labeled to be about 45% finished, but it makes a great first impression because of the intact, well put-together gameplay mechanics. All the advertised ideas come out in OBEY, which results in hilarious moments: staring down at a discovered bunny from the mechanized, futuristic aiming retinas while shining a light on the rabble-rouser and threatening it with a short life-span if it won’t comply is simply a blast. There’s a multitude of opportunities to engage in all kinds of bargaining, and it’s easy enough to oust a dominant player to switch up the roles. Helping the turret as a bunny only to back-stab in the end has never been more satisfying.
Too bad that, at least for now, there isn’t almost anything that the bunnies can buy to help themselves out. The wide choice of items to buy, especially when a lot of money is amassed, seems a bit pointless if in your head all you want to do is disobey and rebel. The only possible help is nitrogen, which can be planted for the turret as an investment, or conversely, it can be used to take down the spawning space ship. If the tower bought a futuristic spaceship for the bunnies for a $1,000, the spawn point is always clear as it drops them off in a specific spot. Therefore, it’s in the bunnies’ interest to buy some uranium while onboard to destabilize it and take it down.
Some “positive” items are likely on the way, and the developer suggested power-ups that enable the bunnies to dig in to a stationary hole for quick cover or seeds that would grow trees back – which should come into play when the environment becomes destructible. Other than this, the user interface, for now rather simplistic, will make an enormous difference in acclimating in the initially complicated rules. Clearer displays of items, status indicators and such would contribute to a smoother experience.
Gameplay being in such solid state right now, sound and graphics take secondary stage, but simultaneously there’s a lot at stake for them in order to make the game more attractive. The graphics overall are fine, and there’s excellent frame-rate even in best detail, though surely they’ll get much more polished. In this build, there was no sound at all yet, so only hope remains for presumably a somewhat cutesy but intriguing music tracks and appropriate sounds for the fluffy critters.
There’s a lot to look forward to, especially since OBEY has well-defined structure and design that supports the philosophy of the creator. Dez, the sole creator of the project, has much potential to show yet, and plenty of promising features to round out OBEY: map editing, alliances, destructible environment, more items, and ways to customize the bunnies. Anyone who likes to mess with their friends just a bit will likely enjoy a lot the social-power-structures the game offers; As well as the simple thrill of scouting out the little bunnies from behind a massive turret of doom.