March 16 marked the next installment in the beloved Oddworld franchise. Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Oddworld inhabitants about their recent project title called Soulstorm. Since the late 90s, Oddworld has been critically acclaimed for its unique take on storytelling as well as the complex characters that fill the narrative with a plethora of metaphorical and symbolical content. After the success of their recent game called New ‘N’ Tasty (2014) as well as carrying the benefits of a strong business model, their new game Soulstorm aims to weave a more darker narrative.
With the success of New n’ Tasty, fans have been eagerly awaiting the next project from the team at Oddworld Inhabitants and Just Add Water. How was it decided that Soulstorm was the next game to work on?
We’ve partnered with Frima Studio in Quebec for Oddworld: Soulstorm. They’ve got a large studio, are a little bit closer to our HQ in California and we felt they were able to assemble a great team of experts in some key areas that we want to develop and improve upon for Soulstorm.
We constantly monitor fan feedback when deciding what to do next and, after New ‘n’ Tasty was finished, we started to see an expectation from fans that they would see the same ground-up remake treatment given to Abe’s Exoddus. At the same time, we saw a proportion of people who wanted something brand new, something on a grander scale, from Oddworld. The idea formed that we could do both: revisit Exoddus‘ story while also creating something new and fresh.
So Oddworld: Soulstorm is the best of both worlds, because it will explore the same broad, potentially familiar, narrative framework that our long-time fans will feel a connection to while expanding upon it with entirely new gameplay elements and much deeper, more fleshed-out plotlines.
The Oddworld series has been well known for its many symbolic and metaphorical storytelling elements that create a truly unique experience. What can fans expect from Soulstorm in terms of the overall tone of the narrative?
One of the things we occasionally heard in reaction to New ‘n’ Tasty was that it seemed brighter and not as dark or creepy as some of the Oddworld games had in the past. Much of that is probably due to modern lighting techniques and some nostalgia on the part of long-time fans but we could definitely identify with that point of view, to a degree.
For Soulstorm, we hope our initial reveals have been a strong indication that we’re fully aware that fans expect Oddworld to be a dark and dangerous place that has its sinister side. That doesn’t mean we’re losing the humor that has always been present in our games. Abe is still a bit of a klutz and the unlikeliest of heroes, but he’s also had a really difficult time escaping Rupture Farms and guiding his emancipated brothers out of their enslavement. That struggle has got to take a toll on him as a character and he’s now faced with so many more hardships to overcome that have got to feel dangerous and troubling for the player to navigate alongside him. That journey, even for a lovable goofball like Abe, is going to be hard and troubling.
Oddworld is a series that isn’t afraid to experiment. With titles in the past such as Stranger’s Wrath, what can fans expect from the series in the future?
We like to do things that aren’t in other games. Way back when it all started, we could have simply emulated popular platform games that had defined the genre. Abe could have simply been our take on Mario or Sonic, a super powered hero in a story where the fun comes from demonstrating those heroic abilities. Instead, we made it much more about becoming a hero than simply being a hero. We thought that there was fun to be had in defining that journey from regular guy to savior of a species and we thought the most fun could be derived from taking the journey with a most unlikely candidate for heroics. That concept, and idea of Gamespeak, were really the two defining elements of Abe’s games.
With Stranger’s Wrath, we could have simply made a first person shooter or a third person action game. But we thought about how to make those genres in the most Oddworld way possible. What about a shooter where the main character doesn’t like guns? So that idea gives birth to the whole live ammo concept which is a defining element of Stranger’s Wrath and still quite unique.
With Soulstorm, we’re obviously working within the constraints of making a 2.5D platform. So we have the big concepts in place but that doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty of space for innovations that we want to squeeze in. Unfortunately, I can’t talk too much about what we’re planning because it’s still so early in production but you can rest assured that our willingness to experiment with new gameplay concepts remains intact and we’ll have a lot more to show you in a few months…
Not only has the series grown exponentially in the past few years, the fine folks at Oddworld Inhabitants are set on delivering a quality experience to the industry. Throughout clever use of marketing through social media after the initial reveal of Soulstorm, fans can expect that Abe’s journey is about to take a dip in the dark side. Keep an eye out for more information when Soulstorm releases. The current date is slated to be in the latter half of 2017.