Oddworld Soulstorm | Review

Oddworld Soulstorm | Review

Telling the story behind the rise, decline and recent return to the scene of the boys of Oddworld Inhabitants would be a gargantuan enterprise that deserves a dedicated editorial. What matters right now is that after the success of Oddworld New 'n' Tasty, the famous remake of the historic Abe's Odyssey, the iconic development team has taken back its most beloved character to create a direct sequel: Oddworld Soulstorm.

After 7 years from Abe's last appearance on the videogame scene, false starts of the project, delays in development and a constant desire to renew itself to propose the bluish Mudokon to a new generation of gamers, Oddworld Soulstorm is finally here ... and it turned out to be the sequel fans have been waiting for almost fifteen years.

Abe's New Exodus

Oddworld Soulstorm is not a 1: 1 remake of Abe's Exoddus but it is a project that takes up only some details with which to enrich an unpublished story, deep and designed to connect directly to the ending of the previous Oddworld New 'n' Tasty. It is therefore not a project similar to that of 2014 as much as the "sequel that Abe's Exoddus was not".

Oddworld Soulstorm has a very simple opening: Abe cannot accept his new role as "Messiah of the Mudokon", thinking that the peace obtained by a part of his people is more than enough to guarantee a peaceful life to what remains of its people. The fearsome Molluck, however, intends to take revenge on Abe and, after tracing the refuge of the Mudokon, launches his offensive that thwarts all the efforts made by Abe.

Finding himself on the run again, and with an entire people to protect, the young Mudokon embarks on a long journey that will lead him to a renewed awareness of his purpose in the existence of his species. The narrative sector of Oddworld Soustorm will touch current themes, dramatic moments and a plethora of references to the historical past of the series, in a story that is generally well written, albeit with some parts treated in an excessively hasty manner.

If we have to find a flaw in the management of the plot of Oddworld Soulstorm, we can certainly point out how the rhythm of the narrative is not always constant, alternating dynamic moments full of frenzy with phases in which the need to more compassionate the game action creates redundant situations. too dilated and similar to each other, risking to generate excessive boredom in the central part of the adventure.

It seems absurd to associate the character of Abe with distinctly action moments, but one of the novelties that Oddworld Soulstorm brings with it is precisely the willingness on the part of the developers to evolve the formula made famous by the chapters of the mid-90s, making it more dynamic and in line with today's productions. An undoubtedly difficult task and one that constantly reveals itself in balance between a conservative spirit of an important past and some gameplay solutions that work, fully hitting the target… albeit with some small slips.

A Mudokon agile as a tank

Before analyzing the innovations introduced in Oddworld Soulstorm it is right to explain to those who have never had the opportunity to approach a title starring Abe that it is a platform in two dimensions (or better in 2.5 D in this specific case), permeated by constant puzzle-solving elements. The player will not only have to bring Abe to the end of the level by overcoming numerous pitfalls, but also take care to save the various Mudokons located in the levels, communicating with them and giving directions to prevent them from falling into certain death.

A very staid formula that thanks to the eccentricity of the game universe and the unprecedented possibility, at least for the years in which it was released, to communicate through simple sentences with non-player characters, defined a genre in itself given that it has become iconic in the videogame panorama. The developers of Oddworld Soulstorm, however, strongly wanted to evolve the gameplay of the original titles, and of the 2014 remake in all possible directions, adding a series of innovations ranging from the most basic introduction of a life bar for Abe to the possibility of make double jumps, delight in simple crafting dynamics up to a wider management of the Mudokons that we are going to save.

News that have been implemented wisely for almost all the situations that arise in Oddworld Soulstorm, but which unfortunately screech when faced with the conservative spirit that this title wants to have and the excessive will of the developers to surprise players with some highly scenic moments.

To make you understand better what we mean, we need to give some practical examples. When we talk about moments when old and new clash, we refer to those game situations in which the obligation to keep Abe's movements heavy, to balance the various situations proposed in Oddworld Soustorm, does not match the level design proposed by the developers. For example, the need for the player to make a series of quick and precise jumps during a chase, or the uncertainty of the Mudokons in receiving the various commands, collide with moments in which the speed of execution is essential for the success of a rescue operation. Likewise, in some situations the camera seems to forget that it has to follow the game action to offer us a glance of sure impact, which however makes it impractical to perform a jump or a specific action.

What is most surprising, while playing Oddworld Soulstorm, is the constant feeling that even the developers have become aware of these flaws, and have compensated with some of the many innovations introduced in the gameplay, as if to make it less punitive some errors not strictly due to the player's inability. The life bar will prove to tolerate a few small mistakes, allowing you to take a couple of bullets before you die or survive when you fall from a not excessive height.

The Mudokons that will be discovered by the guards, if not following Abe, they will be immobilized instead of being executed on the spot, allowing the player to save the day with a minimum of additional effort. The general feeling is that of being faced with small tricks designed not to make a production devoted to sustained difficulty less punitive, but more to avoid moments of frustration for the player due to situations that are not directly manageable.

With the exception of these small smudges, all the innovations introduced by Oddworld Soulstorm fully hit the target, succeeding in the complicated operation of evolving a gameplay that has entered by arrogance in videogame history. The renewed management of the Mudokon offers the player a series of truly substantial possibilities, allowing them to opt for a classic style of play, where Abe will take care of paving the way for his followers, or devising real strategies by providing the various Mudokons with objects that they can use to create diversions.

Voice commands, as well as the famous flatulence, have been reduced to only two very specific indications ("follow me" and "wait"), but the possibility of having Abe take on , and to the Mudokons who will follow him, different types of attitude to interact in completely new ways. Similarly, the new crafting mechanics are also interesting and able to push the player to get lost in short exploratory phases in order to find the materials useful to create a whole series of objects that can simplify the resolution of the most difficult parts.

Instead, the possibility of possessing enemies remains through Abe's iconic song, which is now managed in a more interactive way, with the player called to direct a luminous sphere towards the enemy he wants to possess or the object with which will want to interact. These are just some of the many innovations introduced with Oddworld Soulstorm which, net of some friction with the mechanics of the past, shows itself as a perfect evolution of what New 'n' Tasty had re-proposed in 2014.

Honor for Former Employee of the Month goes to ...

The original Abe chapters, as well as the more recent New 'n' Tasty, have always been known for their complexity and highly punitive, unable to feel pity towards the player's mistakes, preventing him from remedying a mistake that caused the death of some Mudokon if not by repeating substantial portions of the game. Oddworld Soulstorm maintains the complex nature of the previous chapters but proves more compassionate, dividing Abe's long adventure into a large number of levels, each with its own objectives, optional and not, to complete.

Each level can be completed either by going straight ahead to its conclusion, or by opting to complete a series of always different objectives. These completely optional requests will require the player to: rescue a specific number of Mudokons, render enemies harmless in a non-lethal way, find collectibles, discover secret areas and so on.

Based on the actions that will take place, the Quarma will define the value of Abe's morale, slightly modifying some situations that will occur during the adventure, until it leads to one of the four available endings. Furthermore, the division into levels will allow you to replay only certain parts of the adventure to recover previously lost secrets or save all the Mudokons in a certain game area.

In terms of level design there is very little to point out: Oddworld Soulstorm is a concentrate of good ideas that in very few occasions, all concentrated in the central part of the adventure, slips a little into redundancy and excessive repetition, but which, with the exception of these sparse moments, manages to keep the player glued, introducing game mechanics and situations that are always varied and fun.

A bug… it's not forever

In the weeks leading up to the release of Oddworld Soulstorm we had the honor of keeping in touch with the developers, who constantly updated us on all the improvements and the fixes they were applying to the game's final code. A long process but managed in a crystalline way, with a constant dialogue to update us on the past, present and future developments of the game and, above all, inform us in advance about the technical flaws they were aware of and on which they were already working to eliminate them.

An operation that in its honesty has left us with bittersweet sensations, as Oddworld Soulstorm, at least at the time of writing, is not a title without technical defects, and needs a "polish" vigorous to be able to shine as it deserves. A process that we are sure will be completed in the coming weeks, with a view to the release of the physical version of the game next July.

At present, however, Oddworld Soulstorm is plagued by frequent bugs which, while not generating irreparable situations, in the long run could make the overall experience less enjoyable. In the approximately 20 hours spent in Abe's company, we found a couple of noteworthy bugs: the first means that poor Mudokon finds himself falling for an infinite time outside the limits of the map, due to side effects generated by interpenetration with the game environments; the second occurred randomly when we took possession of the body of a Slig, preventing us from moving the enemy correctly and forcing us, for a total block of the game action or for an unsolicited death, to restart the game from the last checkpoint.

The remaining bugs are to be considered more as minor technical flaws, but in any case the possibility of starting from a control point very quickly and the cleaning work that the development team is carrying out do not make us condemn the current state of the game. It is important, however, for anyone who approaches it in the days immediately following the launch, to know that he may run into a series of small accidents of a technical nature.

Oddworld Soulstorm on PlayStation 5

Oddworld Soulstorm on PlayStation 5 comes with a resolution of 1440p and a frame rate anchored at 60 fps. Immediately resolved any doubts regarding the performances we can tell you that artistically the title is a feast for the eyes, both in its version for PC and in that for PS5, where it enjoys a shy but convincing support of the features offered by DualSense. Convincing panoramas, highly detailed polygonal character models, a plethora of little quotes placed here and there, and a well-crafted soundtrack are sure to delight fans of the franchise.

Here and there, however, Oddworld Soulstorm still betrays its nature as a "low budget production" with some obvious interpenetrations, some imperfections in the cutscenes moved by the game engine and a localization of the dialogues in Italian that betrays some obvious translation errors. For those interested in learning about the performance on PlayStation 4, Oddworld Soulstorm comes with a resolution of 1080p and a frame rate locked at 30 fps, a compromise apparently indispensable in order to guarantee the same richness of detail offered by the PC version and next generation console.

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