The return of Oddworld is always a pleasant experience for us fans and those coming into the series anew. I’m an oldie fan, been that way since the first game, Abe’s Odyssey on the original Playstation back in 1997. I love the exploits of Abe, the world, lore, and strangeness this series holds. Seeing Soulstorm be revealed was a joyous moment and one many fans could not wait to play. This reimagining of the original sequel Exodus has felt me with plenty of mixed feelings. I’m happy to have played the best moments but feel let down by the worse ones.What is Oddworld: Soulstorm
Oddworld: Soulstorm is the remake of the original game Exodus. While this is a continuation of New n’ Tasty, the remake of Odyssey, this is a completely different beast. Director and Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning wanted to bring us his and the team’s original vision for Exodus. This meaning a complete overhaul of the story, new mechanics, and overall a major shift for gameplay and tone.
The game still sees Abe return and on an epic quest to freeing his people and ridding them of their addiction to the nasty brew Soulstorm. Abe will venture across Oddworld, from the safe haven ruins where he and so many others are forced out of. To hijacking a train and leading his people to the Nacrum mines and Soulstorm brewery for a might showdown that could mean freedom or death.
When I heard all of this, I was a little worried. As many Resident Evil fans, last year were disappointed by the RE3 remake, I had my doubts and fears. Yet I imagined it would keep many of the same story beats, which it does, and rework or improve upon those which did not.
There are some interesting results, to say the least.Story
Soulstorm does indeed keep many of the same story beats, even if they're in a different order. The beginning which sees Abe talking to his fellow survivors and hearing of his fate felt massively more organic than the dream sequence in the original. Abe’s adventure starts off strongly and throughout, feels much more structured with how he deals with certain events and threats.
One of the key problems in the original was the “Trials” section which felt like a rehash section from Odyssey and went on way too long. This has been completely cut and while I was happy for many of the changes in the story, I had wished that the end was a little more exciting and that the previously mentioned Trails, could’ve been reworked.
I was extremely impressed with how much heart went into the story and how Abe and his friends developed over the journey. Cementing the threat and uncertainly that was here throughout.
What I feel Lorne Lanning should have realised is that many elements of the original which he cut out, did have a lot of gravitas. The whole realisation of how the brew is made felt underwhelming and certain touches such as the Blind Mudokons which were not here was felt. Even new fans might acknowledge that there are some gaps or moments which feel a little repetitive as the story gives in some amazing moments but has plenty that just feels like filler.
There is plenty more heart in the story, but there is clearly a missing charm which the original games had. That dark satire gave the original an edge. While it was silly and a little disjointed, it had prime moments where the dark satire shook you to the core. Gameplay
Player’s will embark on an intense journey, filled with plenty of sleuthing, rescuing, puzzles and action. There is a healthy mixture of all of the above and indeed platforming just like in the old games. Abe will venture through each location, ranging from Mudokon ruins, a gigantic Phat Station (train station in Oddworld), Slig Barracks, Mines, and the Soulstorm brewery.
Each location will have a series of objectives to reach the goal. Whether this is reaching from one end of the level to the other, developing a special brew to cure sick Mudokons, hijacking a Phat train, or most importantly, saving your fellow Mudokons.
Well, this differs from player to player, saving Mudokons that is. It’s really up to you on whether or you want to spend time, resources, or risk your own skin by saving them. There’s a varied selection of mechanics here, as Abe can use his environment to sleuth around in, craft various gadgets and items to create smoke screens, explosive mines that knock out enemies, fizzy-pop cans that put enemies to sleep, and a few other cool things to aid you in saving, or not saving other Mudokons.
It is worthwhile saving other Mudokons as, one, it’s the nice thing to do and two, you get better endings if you save enough.
Those familiar with the Oddworld series, especially with Abe’s ventures, can also chant to create a magical essence that can take over the minds of certain enemies. Allowing Abe to use them and their weapons to kill others, complete small tasks or just blow them to bits! There is defiantly a huge deal of variety in gameplay and awesome moments throughout this 15-hour adventure.
But what works and what doesn’t?What works?
The platforming is pretty solid as never, with some amazingly designed environments which incorporate stealth segments, action set pieces and is generally fun to explore and wander around in. Abe’s primary goal really is to save his followers and those trapped within the many areas ruled by sligs and the baddies! He will speak with them, lead them and heal them when they’re sick. Leading them for the most part is fun and leading them past the many different obstacles, such as Slig patrols, dangerous machinery, and other death traps can be a great deal of fun.
Each encounter feels like a lengthy and intense lateral task, figuring out the right tools to keep you hidden, taking over enemies where possible (a lot of the time it can’t be don’t as there are defenses), and safely leading followers over gaps and through clouds of smoke before you're spotted.
I do love the implantation of dynamic particles, where you can set fire by spilling flammable liquids and igniting it with a flare or a naked flame. Setting up your own traps, destroying barricades, or simply putting a barrier between you and some nasty foes was utterly amazing. Setting up fires in caves also proved especially useful and I could not get enough of this.
The big set pieces where you need to avoid dangerous machinery and all that were some of the best moments in the game. One segment saw me having to crawl along a massive Phat train (a moment as a kid I wished was in the original game and super happy it was here) and having to deal with this Slig tank. While it was a little annoying due to the fire of the thing (more on that later), I did love figuring out the solution overall.
The biggest new feature would be the moments where you will need to protect a couple of hundred Mudokons as they make a break for freedom. As they climb up to freedom, you have to defend them from Sligs and other enemies who show up to stop them. Very intense, brutal, and compelling… if not a little unbalanced.What doesn’t work?
Okay, so I have to be honest here and say that at the time of writing this review, this game needed a couple more months in development to fix the bugs and tweak some things. I mean, there are lots and lots of small bugs which do become a little annoying after a while. Small things such as random invisible walls to something more serious like broken path-finding for enemies. Meaning you can randomly find yourself stuck when an enemy slig decides to just stop moving and you don’t have anything to distract him. While all these can be resolved (and the developer appears to be on the ball with these issues), there are some things that need a massive overhaul.
Follower AI can be downright bad at times, stopping at the worst moments or wondering the wrong way, causing massive problems. Thankfully Sligs will apprehend Abe’s followers first and then shoot the next time. But if it’s a more powerful Slig or a sniper, then they’ll just shoot any followers who decide to stand around as though they have a death wish. I think the worst moments come from when they need to hide in lockers …. It’s just broken if you have too many.
But it’s not helpful when there are some poorly designed areas that rely too heavily on players having one certain item in their inventory. Crafting itself is fine, and I can see it working well if scavenging was not so tedious. But oddly there are vending machines that allow you to buy or obtain for free some of these items. But if you don’t have any money or the bits to craft, then you can find yourself in a painful situation.
For most instances it’s fine, but if you’re playing on the harder difficulty, then you can start to see where things can fall apart.
Lastly, the epic moments where Mudokons climb for freedom can also be painfully tedious! Some are fine, the ones that allow you to take over sligs or have nice layouts so you can ef-fectively defend. The others just ram enemies into a small area and you with some hard candy against them with guns just becomes a repetitive grind of trial and error.Lastly …
While I respect Lorne Lanning for creating his ultimate vision, I do feel let down that some things have been completely cut out. While I get that the trials in the original game were added in to extend the overall playtime, they’ve been cut out. So no Paramites or Scrabs at all here and the blind Mudokons have been completely cut as well. Elements that could have been reworked and been amazing here!
Also, I don’t understand why Abe and the other Mudokons don’t have interesting exchanges now? In the original, you could make them laugh, hit them when they become hysterical, then say sorry when you hit them too many times, and overall their expressions were so much more lively than here …
Lastly, lastly …. The farting. I get it. Lorne doesn’t like farts. But do something with the idea or replace it with meaningful gameplay choices.
I feel people are either too kind or too cruel about Soulstorm. What is great, is amazing! I love the heartfelt story, beautiful art style, lore, and some solid gameplay mechanics. What I feel is a miss are the lackluster other components of the game, such as crafting and stealth, unbalanced difficulty at times, and the missing elements which made the original great. I understand Lorne wanted to create his true vision here, but surely that doesn’t mean cutting some amazing elements of the original and not re-work them or replace them with something else meaningful.
Soulstorm is a heart-felt return to Oddworld and one I can see has much love and passion behind it. And I respect this is a reimagining of a classic, determined to be new, yet something familiar. But what I feel has been cut could’ve been tweaked or re-worked for a new era, and just not replaced by various gadgets that might not get used throughout the adventure. But what works, works exceedingly well and there are plenty of fun moments here to play. Just expect for the time of this review to be a few bugs ...
I do recommend Soulstorm, immensely I do. It is a blast from the past that proves the style and format can still be relevant and fun in today’s gaming scene and the future.
++ Visually pleasing and some great environmental designs
+ Heartfelt story, with a deeper look into the Oddworld lore
+ Some very fun gameplay mechanics, set pieces, and lateral elements
-- Some iconic elements are missing and lack of dynamic feature
- Some serious balancing issues on harder difficulties
- Crafting and some other mechanics a little underwhelming
A copy of Oddworld: Soulstorm was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.