To perceive Oddworld: Soulstorm, you should perceive Oddworld’s historical past. You want to know that Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, launched in 1997, was meant to be the primary a part of a five-game collection, every starring a model new protagonist—and you should perceive that these plans instantly fell aside.
First got here success. With Oddysee a shock hit, writer GT Interactive demanded a sequel for the next Christmas. The end result was 1998’s Abe’s Exoddus, a stopgap launch. Still well-received on the time, it didn’t advance the core Oddworld storyline and was thought of a “bonus” recreation by each builders and followers.
Then got here circumstance. Munch’s Oddysee, launched in 2001, was thought of the true successor to Abe’s Oddysee—the second a part of the unique five-part plan. But a late-stage deal to make it an Xbox-exclusive noticed Munch’s Oddysee primarily rebuilt from scratch in simplified type, rushed to launch alongside Microsoft’s console debut.
Then got here Stranger’s Wrath. A cult traditional, the fourth Oddworld recreation strayed even farther from the unique five-part story and primarily used the universe as backdrop for a faux-Western. It additionally offered poorly on the time, after which Oddworld went dormant.
Finally, got here Lorne Lanning himself. He devised the unique plan, all these years in the past, and he can rattling nicely blow it up if he desires to.
And he desires to. I traveled to Oddworld Inhabitants’ workplace a number of weeks in the past to see Soulstorm, and got here away with particulars about what’s going to certainly turn into probably the most formidable retcon in online game historical past, erasing 21 years of established canon and expectations so Lorne Lanning can take a second shot at telling the story he got down to inform in 1997.
“Abe’s back.” That’s how the most recent Soulstorm trailer ends, and that’s the important thing to Lanning’s tailored imaginative and prescient. Soulstorm is a direct sequel to Abe’s Oddysee, or relatively to the 2014 remake New ‘n’ Tasty, and it’s additionally (because the trailer places it) “The all-new second episode of the Oddworld Quintology epic.” No extra different-protagonist-for-every-game. Oddworld is, at the least on this reimagined Quintology, the story of Abe, the unwitting slave who sparked a revolution nearly by chance. Abe and Abe alone. Sorry, Munch.
“But wait, Abe’s Oddysee already has a sequel. You talked about it up prime.” True sufficient, and Soulstorm incorporates features of Abe’s Exoddus. Both Exoddus and Soulstorm revolve round Soulstorm Brew, an vitality drink that retains customers silly and complacent and which turns into the most recent goal of Abe’s rising riot as he liberates these concerned in (fairly actually) making it.
Soulstorm isn’t a New ‘n’ Tasty-style remake although. It’s not elevating Exoddus from a so-called “bonus” recreation to a core a part of the collection. It’s, at the least to listen to Lanning inform it, grander and extra formidable than that, lifting components of the unique Quintology plan however refocusing them round Abe.
It’s additionally an evolution of the traditional 2.5-dimension Oddworld mechanics, a proven fact that’s instantly clear when Lanning begins the demo. “Everything you can see in a level becomes playable, even if it’s way back in the distance,” says Lanning, as we begin trudging by way of a well-recognized Oddworld manufacturing unit panorama. And there’s a lot within the distance. Lanning calls it 2.9-D, this sensation of added depth in Soulstorm. The manufacturing unit stretches again 4 or 5 discrete layers, with staff patrolling and equipment clanking round. It’s all actual, saved in reminiscence and rendered in real-time, and Abe will finally enter these areas as he progresses by way of the extent.
It’s spectacular. It doesn’t change the best way Soulstorm performs actually, with every space considerably self-contained. But it’s cool to see all of them laid out in the beginning, and to get a preview of what’s to come back in a while.
Which is to not say Soulstorm performs like Oddysee. Quite the other, actually. “We built something we refer to as a scavenger’s economy,” says Lanning, as Abe roots round in a trash can. “He can take what he should buy—Brew, Fizzy Pops, Bubblegum, Lighters—and craft them a la Anarchist’s Cookbook with the collectibles he’s discovering, so it’s actually extra within the revolutionary spirit.”
Yes, crafting. And weapons. The system appears remarkably strong, with Lanning exhibiting off at the least two-dozen completely different variants throughout my demo. Items can be utilized as-is, so Abe can throw a jawbreaker at a guard to knock him out—or he can wrap one in rubber bands first so it bounces off partitions. A hearth extinguisher is self-explanatory, however combining an extinguisher with Brew, a lighter, a battery, and a wire will create a flamethrower, for the other impact.
These concepts aren’t new per se, however they’re new to Oddworld, partly as a result of most of them turned fashionable after the collection disappeared. Right now the system appears a bit finicky, a bit heavy on micro-managing a number of assets, however it’s nonetheless an fascinating course for the collection now that the platforming challenges in Oddysee and Exoddus don’t seem to be sufficient to maintain individuals .
“We wanted to shift out of the super-tight twitch puzzles, like get underneath these blades that will kill you, and get more to the point where the puzzle is keeping everyone alive,” says Lanning. And on that be aware, the individuals Abe liberates are much more hands-on this time round as nicely. “Traditionally your followers were beasts of burden. In this case, we wanted you to feel like you had delicate characters in a dangerous world. Then you can empower them, so you become this dangerous gang.”
Anything you possibly can craft, you may give to your followers. The result’s emergent chaos, as I witnessed a number of instances within the demo. Lanning was keen on giving his followers flamethrowers and molotov cocktails, which as you may anticipate ended up with a complete lot of stuff on hearth—enemies and associates alike. A useful tip: You may give your followers bottles of water, they usually’ll attempt to extinguish any crispy associates with it.
In traditional Oddworld custom, your methodology of method additionally influences how the story performs out. “You can get by way of the entire recreation with out killing anyone. Not even the unhealthy guys,” says Lanning, “Or you can kill everyone, even the guys you’re supposed to be rescuing, which leads to very different dark or light endings.”
Though it’s additionally custom for Oddworld to contemplate the sunshine ending canon. “We’re not doing the Peter Molyneux thing, like ‘What if I go dark?’” says Lanning. “We want you to go light.” Something to bear in mind for an eventual Quintology, Part Three.
Soulstorm can be divisive I wager, particularly to longtime followers who’ve waited practically twenty years for the third entry (apparently Squeek’s Oddysee) within the unique Quintology. I believe it’s the precise transfer although. I admittedly haven’t seen a lot of Soulstorm’s story but, however was proven the nearly-ten-minute film that opens the sport. It hints on the character progress Abe will undergo, from naive and reluctant hero to battle-hardened veteran. That tease alone already pushes the overarching plot ahead greater than Munch’s Oddysee did.
And that’s finally what I would like, if the choice is the story left unresolved. I voiced similar concerns with Darksiders III final yr, a collection which deliberate a equally formidable collection of interconnected video games—the primary 4 going down concurrently, the fifth tying the plot collectively. And whereas I cherished that concept when the primary two video games launched, six years and the near-death of the collection made it appear foolhardy to stay to that plan when Darksiders III launched. What if we by no means get a fourth? Or a fifth?
With 9 years between Stranger’s Wrath and New ‘n’ Tasty—and practically twenty between Munch’s Oddysee and a correct Oddworld sequel—maybe a little bit of focus is exactly what’s wanted. Look for Oddworld: Soulstorm to launch in early 2020, offered all the pieces goes to plan from right here on out.