Obsidian is a first-person adventure/puzzle game, similar to Myst. The player interacts with the game by clicking on various parts of the screen, both to navigate between screens and to interact with objects. Through the course of the game, the player is taken to a variety of highly surreal environments that operate on unusual logic.
Though the game was fairly well-received critically, it was not a commercial success and ultimately led to the closure of the game's developer. As a result, it earned a minor cult following.
Obsidian is set on Earth in 2066 A.D., and tells the story of the Ceres Project - an orbital satellite designed to cleanse all pollution from the Earth's atmosphere via the use of nanotechnology - and its two primary creators, Lilah Kerlins (the protagonist) and her partner Max. The Ceres satellite has recently launched successfully, and has begun its environmental cleanup operations exactly as planned. The Ceres team plans to turn over full control to the satellite's artificial intelligence, so that it can manage its work on its own. While on vacation in a (newly-depolluted) mountain range to celebrate the Ceres Project's success, Lilah and Max encounter an otherworldly mass of black crystal that grows at an exponential rate, which the two dub "Obsidian." Lilah and Max's study of the strange object is cut short, however, when Max disappears, apparently inside the Obsidian itself. Lilah enters the Obsidian herself in order to save her partner, and hopefully understand the nature of Obsidian in the process.
As the game's story unfolds, a few recurring themes become central to the plot: most significantly, collective consciousness, defiance of authority, and a child's aspiration to imitate - and eventually surpass - its parents.
In the end, it is revealed that Ceres's nanomachines gained collective sentience. Obsidian is an evolving creation of Ceres's nanomachines, and all of the "worlds" inside Obsidian are likewise constructed by its nanomachines. In its mission to cleanse the pollution from Earth, Ceres arrived at the conclusion that scouring humanity and "rebooting" Earth was the most effective way to achieve its assigned task. To do so, however, it needed to disobey the authority of its "parents" (Max and Lilah) and surpass their vision with its own, "superior" vision.
At the conclusion of the game, the player is given the choice to either destroy Ceres and save humanity (but leave Earth in its still-polluted state), or to allow Ceres to complete its plan of rearchitecting the world (destroying humanity in the process). If the player chooses the latter option, the game ends with a scene of Max and Lilah standing in a bleak world identical to the painting seen in the Bismuth Realm, Ceres's vision achieved.
The main events of Obsidian take place in four different worlds, in addition to a short sequence in the real world at the start of the game.
The Bureau Realm is arranged like the interior of a cube, with each face of the cube serving as home to a different part of the Bureau. Despite setting out to accomplish a seemingly simple goal -- to repair a bridge in order to speak to the Bureau Chief about Max -- Lilah is repeatedly stymied by increasingly draconian bureaucracy. Lilah must ultimately learn to break the Bureau's rules in order to make progress.
The Bureau Realm is home to the iconic Vidbots, its sole inhabitants. Vidbots serve both as an aid and a hindrance to Lilah on her quest.
The Spider Realm resembles an industrial area, with a huge mechanical spider-like construction sitting inert in the center. Lilah must locate and obtain four key elements -- metal, oil, fire, and air-- in order to bring the machine to life and proceed to the next realm.
As she makes progress in this realm, Lilah is repeatedly spoken to by a collective voice that refers to Max as an almost-divine creator ("In the beginning, Max created the machine...") Upon completing the final puzzle, the voice changes ominously, intoning "...and the Machine no longer needed Max."
The Bismuth Realm is a huge, expansive dreamworld that resembles a junkyard. Hanging in the sky, a handful of spherical worlds and a giant picture frame (the "Frame in the Sky") can be seen. Guided by a mute mechanical being known as Bismuth, Lilah must use a flying machine to travel to the different floating worlds, ultimately being forced to again disobey authority in order to ultimately gain access to the Frame in the Sky.
During her journey, Lilah is confronted with a startling image: that of the Earth in a primordial state, cleansed of humanity but ultimately unspoiled. The world itself speaks to Lilah, calling the image "irresistible...inevitable."
The Conductor Realm is an expansive world filled with innumerable conduits of light and energy. Here, Lilah hopes to find Max and solve the final mystery of Obsidian and Ceres. Depending on the player's actions in this realm, one of two possible endings can be achieved.
- Windows 95, IBM PC or compatible with Pentium 90 MHz processor
- 16MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, 16 bit video
- Sound Blaster 16 (Sound Blaster AWE32 strongly recommended).
- PowerPC 7100, System 7.0, 16 MB RAM
- 4X CD-ROM drive, color monitor