Oddworld: Soulstorm has been a very long time coming. A direct sequel to Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty, Soulstorm is a loosely drawn reimagining of the second Oddworld sport, Abe’s Exoddus. Soulstorm appears shiny and PS5-new, with fantastically detailed characters and huge sweeping landscapes in its backgrounds, however it has an previous soul. Soulstorm’s stealthy platforming seems like a throwback: It’s in contrast to any sport I’ve performed in a very long time, and that is refreshing. But with old-school gameplay, Soulstorm retains some archaic design decisions that really feel outdated in 2021. The ache from these decisions is accentuated by the sport’s many critical technical points, which may blow even probably the most rigorously performed sequences on the drop of a hat. Soulstorm has a number of coronary heart, however its poor tuning makes it a little bit of a slog.Like its predecessors, Soulstorm places you in charge of Abe, a now free slave with the flexibility to take management of his former captors utilizing a particular chant. Each stage strings collectively a gauntlet of side-scrolling stealth-platforming puzzles. As Abe, you will sneak throughout every stage, leaping throughout platforms to dodge traps whereas avoiding battle as a lot as doable. All the whereas, you are trying to find your fellow Mudokons, Abe’s species of lanky inexperienced Oddworlders, most of whom are nonetheless slaves in factories and mines. Staying out of hurt’s means requires cautious planning and timing. Like many stealth video games, you are rigorously monitoring guard actions and imaginative and prescient cones to search out the proper second to maneuver from one hiding spot to the subsequent, or to dispatch a guard. There’s a tense, nail-biting thrill to maneuvering your means into and out of hazard.Though stealth elements into most areas, there are additionally a good variety of pure platforming sequences. Dodging flamethrowers, buzzsaws, spikes, and different risks can be usually a matter of getting the timing proper. Soulstorm’s greatest platforming sequences really feel extra puzzle-like than a reflex check, balancing time stress and a must methodically really feel your means via no matter deadly obstacles it throws your means.In each conditions, endurance is a advantage. Though working and leaping are responsive, most different actions take time. Hiding in a locker or stepping out of 1 takes a second. If you do not get the drop on a guard, they’re going to shoot and kill you earlier than you possibly can purpose and throw a rock. The home windows for transferring round and staying out of sight are fairly small, so that you must understand how each enemy within the space strikes and the way they’re going to react to no matter you propose to do. If you ever have any doubt, ready and seeing is one of the best plan of action. That means, in fact, that you’re going to progress via every encounter fairly slowly.Abe is not a fighter, however he has some instruments at his disposal. He can discover and craft makeshift weapons like rubber band balls, smoke screens, and explosive sodas, which may both assist him keep away from detection or knock guards unconscious. Abe additionally has the flexibility to regulate sure enemies with the aforementioned chant capability, which helps you to use guards to open doorways and combat enemies. While there are sometimes many choices to cope with any given state of affairs, all of those instruments are pretty simple and apparent of their software. If it appears like that you must make a smokescreen to dam a patrolling guard’s imaginative and prescient, then that is in all probability one of the best factor to do. Soulstorm’s specific model of stealth measures your timing greater than your creativity.This is doubly true if you’re main a gaggle of AI-controlled Mudokons round. After recruiting them, the Mudokons will observe shut behind Abe until you inform them to hold again. Though they’re packed intently, a gaggle of stragglers makes your actions infinitely bigger and simpler to identify. And whereas they will technically defend themselves when you give them instruments, they’re going to die in a short time if seen. They’ll additionally step proper on a landmine, even when you leap over it. Moving round with allies in tow requires you to take the slowest, steadiest tempo and provides each impediment a large berth. It could make for fascinating and extra strategic play however stings when somebody will get smashed by a piston as a result of they did not take that one additional step to dodge a large swinging pendulum.No matter how sluggish you progress ahead, that demanding precision is the place issues disintegrate for Soulstorm. The character AI for each your enemies and Mudokon allies is comparatively unpredictable. In some circumstances, it is purely a glitch: When your alert standing drops from “Medium” to “Calm,” guards do not at all times revert to their peaceable guard patterns, making it not possible to go with out partaking them. In different circumstances, the AI merely reacts poorly: When you enter a locker, your Mudokon followers are supposed to search out different lockers and conceal, however I misplaced many followers as a result of they stood nonetheless like a deer in headlights reasonably than enter an empty locker. Too usually, the equipment of an encounter would break down and pressure a reset or a lower than fascinating consequence. With an antiquated checkpointing system and no possibility for a guide quicksave, a expensive AI error can roll you again to the beginning of a really lengthy, slow-moving sequence that turns into much less fascinating with every strive.There are additionally loads of different impactful bugs. I encountered enemies that would see past their imaginative and prescient cones, I’ve misplaced management of mind-controlled enemies, and I’ve woken up at the very least one sleeping Slig as a result of it was floating in mid-air reasonably than on the bottom. As with all video games within the fashionable period, it is doable that each one of those points can be mounted in future variations, however till they’re, a sport that provides little room for error is rife with technical issues that pressure you to retry. At the chance of beating a lifeless horse, it could actually’t be understated how massive a deal it’s that Soulstorm depends purely on progress-based checkpoints for saving. You can simply end up caught in a poor state of affairs when you, as an example, roll via a checkpoint as an enemy is about to search out your hidden Mudokon buddies. It may pressure you to repeat mundane duties like selecting up objects and crafting. Both issues trigger troublesome sequences to take longer and make bug-induced resets extra irritating. Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty, a sport from seven years in the past, had a quicksave characteristic, so this seems like an enormous oversight.Soulstorm’s setting and story are charming, although. The story, which picks up from the top of Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty, brings us again to Abe and his flock of revolutionary Mudokons, who at the moment are free and on the run from their former masters, the Glukkons. Abe’s escape has thrown Oddworld into turmoil. Through touring and assembly extra escaped Mudokons, he finds that his symbolic place as the primary Mudokon to efficiently throw off his shackles would require him to tackle an actual management function. The established however still-unique look of Oddworld’s characters makes the world and its story instantly charming. For longtime followers, seeing that world reimagined with PS5-level graphics could also be definitely worth the worth of admission, regardless of the sport’s technical shortcomings.Even when you do not have already got an affection for Oddworld, Soulstorm appears nice. The ranges characteristic what developer Oddworld Inhabitants calls a “2.9D” visible model: 3D artwork on a 2D airplane, which twists, turns, and shifts to make the degrees really feel much less linear. In the background, you possibly can usually see a whole stage stretched out into the gap, together with rocky mountain faces, huge buildings, and manufacturing unit equipment, which all create an unimaginable sense of scale. Abe, essential as he’s, is just a bit fish in comparison with Oddworld’s sprawling industrial panorama. Though the background is commonly simply set dressing, there are just a few cases the place the background parts come into the fore, and whereas that is not precisely a brand new trick, the speedy, easy animation of an oncoming practice hurtling towards you from out of the blue stays spectacular.Gallery
At the identical time, Soulstorm’s clear penchant for spectacle additionally regularly will get the higher of it. There are a handful of set-piece sequences sprinkled all through the journey, most of which have distinctive technical issues and/or design flaws. In the sport’s third stage, mortar hearth rains down, creating random explosions as you progress. The explosions are solely semi-randomized, although: If you stand nonetheless for various seconds (which is not unlikely in a stealth sport) the explosions will discover you and goal you. There’s no crosshair or indicator that try to be fearful concerning the explosions following you, and there are only a few locations to cover. A collection of sequences the place you will need to defend a lot of escaping Mudokon dispense with stealth altogether, pushing you to defeat the guards as rapidly as you possibly can. In each circumstances, Soulstorm performs towards sort: Abe’s actions are honed for stealth and platforming, and the sport by no means does properly when it deviates from these two core competencies.Those core concepts, stealth and puzzle-platforming, work properly in Soulstorm, however solely a number of the time. Though plodding and slow-paced relative to fashionable stealth video games, there’s something satisfying to its puzzle-like method. Unfortunately, it is exhausting to see the great via points with the AI, irritating checkpointing, and technical troubles. Oddworld is an fascinating world and I hope we get to see the remainder of Abe’s saga, however the collection wants greater than a brand new coat of paint to breathe new life into the collection.
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