Back in 1997 Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee was released to bring us a rather... unique platforming adventure that set itself apart from the competition. It was absurd, bleak, but also weirdly comic despite dealing with heavy themes of consumerism. This weird concoction earned the game not only a spot in the hearts of many but also a sequel called Abe's Exoddus.
Oddworld: Soulstorm is the latest game in the series, due to arrive next year, and will actually be a remake of sorts for Exoddus. It is with this in mind that we went into the E3 demo for Oddworld: Soulstorm very intrigued, as it's looking to bring a concept that's over two decades old into the modern day, while still retaining all of the flavour that we've come to expect from the weird and wonderful franchise.
We were first shown an early level in the game by a developer, before later getting our hands on the same level, and the first thing we noticed was the graphics, unsurprisingly. A lot has been made thus far of the game's partnership with Unity, and it's evident from the large sprawling factory that we were thrown into, one that we worked our way through. You see, it's a 2.5D platformer, so while you still move from left to right, you're also moving in and out of the environment through various means, and everything is rendered and created in three dimensions as well.
Unity also allows for technological advances in many other areas too. A big part of the game is recruiting other Mudokons (Abe's race) to help your cause, and the amount of followers you can have with you has been increased exponentially, meaning multiple hundreds, as we were told. What's more is that the team has been working hard on liquid fire technologies as well, meaning that the Soulstorm brew sets on fire in realistic ways, and even surges when extra liquid is thrown on the blaze as well. We saw this in action during our demo, and it looks very impressive.
Those who remember the original PlayStation games will remember the platforming being a bit slow and clunky, but this has been made a lot smoother for this modern retelling. It's fluid to move and jump, and you can still roll, jump, and climb as you used to back in the old days. Other areas can also be opened up as well, like floors that can be destroyed with fire damage or gunfire.
The Sligs return too, and you can possess them once more to make use of their guns or to just explode them and get them out of your way. If you can't possess them though, there are a number of other tools at your disposal for diverting, neutralising, or killing them. One of these is a jawbreaker that knocks them out, for example, or you could go all-out and assemble a Molotov to really deal some damage.
Already in our brief time with the game, we've seen plenty of options, such as rubber bands that can be applied to all throwables to make them bounce and reach places that are further away, and you can modify a jawbreaker to wrap enemies up for good one they're hit. This is all done via the crafting menu, at which point you can assign items for selection via an easy-to-use wheel on the UI. You can even craft a flamethrower as well, so there are plenty of avenues to go down.
A Quarma (Karma) system is also in play, which goes up and down depending on how safe or lethal you're being. Burn Stigs to the ground and get your followers splattered on the walls and you'll see your Quarma rating plummet, putting you at risk of a bad ending, and for the good ending you'll need to be as non-lethal as possible, saving all of your Mudokon mates. This works in more practical ways too, as saving your pals will also get you in-game currency to spend on goodies.
Speaking of followers, they can help you in more constructive ways. Sure, they're not warriors, but they're not shackles attached to your ankles either - they can contribute in a number of ways. Set them to aggressive and equip them with tools and they can deal with some of the bad guys, but they're more than just an army, as they'll put each other out if they're on fire... providing they're equipped with enough water.
What we came away most impressed by, however, is the personality that Oddworld Inhabitants has retained, as it's the same bizarrely funny adventure that we remember. The voices are still there, from Sligs to Mudokons and Abe himself, and these voiced lines really add to the comedy as you walk around this bleak world where your people are being subjugated. Even the splattering of body parts over the screen is bleakly comic, and all of this comes unharmed from the first two games, Exoddus especially.
All-in-all our brief look at Soulstorm was an entirely positive one, and as fans of the first two games, we're pleased to see that the balance has been struck between modernising the gameplay and retaining what made Exoddus unique. It's still hitting the same themes (which are more relevant in 2019, one might argue) but more importantly, it's still a ton of fun trying to liberate your Mudokon brothers and keep them alive in this harsh world.