PlayStation Official Magazine – UK: Oddworld: Soulstorm [2020]

Date: February 2020

Source: PlayStation Official Magazine – UK, Issue 171, pp. 68-69

Hearts on fire… along with everything else

FORMAT PS4 / PLAYERS 1 / PUB TBC / DEV ODDWORLD INHABITANTS

Sitting down with Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning we discuss the ways in which your followers can be surprisingly useful in this reboot of Abe’s Exoddus, and our mutual penchant for pyromania, but we talk about much more besides. For example, Lanning has plenty to say about your followers beyond the fact that they are no longer simply “beasts of burden” and are far more vital to Abe’s journey beyond affecting the ending you get down the road, perhaps in the games yet to come.

“In previous games quarma was present but it was something in the background and only dictated […] the ending you would get based on [how many Mudokons you saved],” Lanning reflects. “But in Soulstorm quarma is living and dynamic and witnessable in so many more [ways] as real-time feedback. Your actions can be meaner than they needed to be, and we wanted that reflected in real-time […] and to accrue throughout the game in immediately noticeable, player-conscious ways.”

“Ultimately, a greater emotional connection [to your followers thanks to their expanded capabilities] makes success and loss more impactful and entertaining. You get more invested in saving as many as you can, or if you are good, all of them. Or if you’re really mean, none of them.” He elaborates before laughing, “But who would want that quarma?”

For our massive favourite games feature back in OPM #150, we witnessed first-hand our staff writer’s tendency to pull levers heedlessly without reading their accompanying warning text in Abe’s Exoddus. We’d argue that Jess’ disregard for the lives of her fellow Mudokons would make her the most likely candidate for just such a dodgy quarma rating and can’t wait to see how different her journey through Soulstorm may turn out compared to everyone else’s conscientious playthroughs.

THE LULL BEFORE

It’s inevitable that when creating Soulstorm Oddworld Inhabitants would look to the past as much as look to the future.

“It’s important to remember we released Exoddus in 1998, less than a year after Abe’s Oddysee, and we were working with an incredibly funky and temperamental homebrewed game engine,” Lanning reflects on Abe’s PS1 beginnings. “We were in a position where the game had to use mostly mechanics and characters that came from Oddysee if we were going to deliver in what little time we had to deliver. So, at that time we just had to squeeze super-hard creatively in getting any new game mechanics or characters. All things considered, it wasn’t a matter of choice that they were so similar, it was more out of necessity.”

He continues, “Meanwhile the difference in gaming technology and player consumption has dramatically evolved since then. With Soulstorm, we’re challenging ourselves to create a game that is true to the Oddworld franchise yet expands upon the gameplay in a way that feels natural to the player and makes narrative sense. […] In our strive to achieve that we believe that a continued focus on a balance of beauty, empathy, creativity, craftsmanship, and relevant mythically [proportionate] storytelling is the ticket to Abe sustaining a place in the increasingly expanding game space.”

Lanning had previously told us Abe’s arc would take place over five games because his transformation from just another Mudokon, working until the Glukkons grind him down into either food or energy drinks, into a revolutionary leader was one the developers didn’t want to rush.

“It would be a wonderful world if the common consensus could decide some justice needed to take place and it would happen overnight, but it just doesn’t work like that,” Lanning elaborates. “Changes start small and grow, and the forces against change fight every possible form of uprising in every way possible, from using tactics like brute force to media to trying to sway public opinion through propaganda.”

In short, Lanning describes the planned Oddworld quintology as “the epic of a pacifist, who needs to lead a revolution.” He also says, “We’ve known the A-Z storyline through this development, but all the letters in between are now becoming sharper and that is exciting.”

Speaking on returning to this second part of the series, Lanning tells us, “I have wanted to get back to the quintology since the release of our very first game, and that was always the plan. Sometimes you must take a longer road to achieve your dreams. And when we completed New ‘N’ Tasty it reinvigorated the creative process and we decided to channel that energy back into the quintology.”


We’re promised even more ways to create chaos in this game.


Evolution
Crafting
Revolution
Leadership
Puzzler
Movement


Your people are at the mercy of the awful Glukkons.


Crafting plays a bigger role, and your followers can wield weapons you create.


In over 20 years, graphics have improved a bit…