Oddworld Soulstorm – how systems-driven graphics and gameplay deliver an unforgettable experience. – Eurogamer.net8 min read

https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2021-oddworld-soulstorm-how-systems-driven-graphics-and-gameplay-deliver-an-unforgettable-experience

The re-emergence of Oddworld continues with its most enthusiastic game yet. Having effectively rebooted the franchise with New n Tasty back in 2014, its taken 7 years for the next huge Oddworld game to show up and Soulstorm does not dissatisfy. It may have begun out life as a pseudo-remake of the PS1-era Abes Exoddus, however in truth this is the most remarkable improvement for the series given that Strangers Wrath. Its a systems-driven experience that makes the most of contemporary physics and materials systems to deliver distinct concepts while staying real to the Oddworld ethos. Its likewise a display for the Unity Engine. This effective tool has actually enabled many creators to deliver exceptional games however with the latest making methods enabled by the engine and a focus on physics and AI, it provides something rather unlike any other Unity-based video game weve played. Lets be clear: Soulstorm is not a video game for everybody. As ambitious and far-reaching as it remains in numerous aspects, theres still something old-school about it – not least its trouble level, which can be harsh, much like the older video games in the series. But for my money, its various and fresh and while the soft visual has actually caused problems for some, dig much deeper into the game and youll discover a really lovely experience, albeit one thats best dipped into 60fps on PS5 and PC. At its core, Soulstorm is still the very same kind of side-scrolling platformer as the very first two franchise entries on PS1 and of course, New n Tasty on the last-gen devices. You run, leap, climb ledges and lead Mudokons to flexibility – but theres much more to the video game now. What the team has provided is something I enjoy in video games: a true systems-driven playground. Each phase offers a progressively complex series of difficulties to conquer while your offered toolset slowly completes.
John Linneman provides the Oddworld Soulstorm Digital Foundry tech review.Without ruining too much, it begins simply sufficient – youre initially taught that water bottles put out fire, then this progresses to the gamer getting a brand-new bottle that does the opposite, propagating fire. In turn, this demonstrates that wood things can burn. Light a wood structure on fire and the inferno spreads, prior to surroundings eventually collapses in a screen of physics. After this, youll start to come across AI opponents and its at this point that the methods and tools start to increase. Much of the video game concentrates on dabbling the opponent AI, just like a great stealth video game. Like a great stealth game, enemy behaviour is clearly telegraphed and defined. In between UI aspects, sight cones and general behaviour, youll have a strong grasp on how opponents will respond and engage with the systems youve learned.This is where Soulstorm truly starts to vary from its predecessors. In the initial video games, you were mostly on the defense – concealing from enemies, slipping by. Now Abe has more offensive moves from using inventory objects versus his foes, to knocking out enemies by hand and tying them up. Youll obscure yourself from opponent look by hiding within steam, youll hide in lockers Metal Gear-style and possess your enemies to turn them on their allies. All of this is constructed from the original Oddworld principles but massively extended. When you pair this with the vastness of the stages and the robust physics simulation, the gameplay starts to becoming truly emergent. The more you experiment, the more youll see how all of the video games systems rationally communicate with one another – its a game that forces you to think laterally and to check out your theories. Where Soulstorm really comes together remains in how these systems integrate with some stunning set-pieces, delivering a noteworthy experience (the sky train in particular is an absolute treat). The game is simply constantly introducing new, enjoyable ideas with clear rules and plenty of difficulty. While not precisely holding your hand, Soulstorm takes discomforts to highlight the guidelines of engagement.Each level is comprised of several active landscapes layers behind the main one – and they often look spectacular.You also start to get more products and trinkets along the method which can eventually be used to craft brand-new items. Im not generally a fan of crafting however I discovered it really instant and enjoyable in this case. From developing smoke bombs that you can use to produce vibrant cover for stealth, to bouncing balls you make from rock sweet, and rubber bands which get opponents – your toolkit continues to broaden. And thats really what I imply by systems-driven: all of these tools, items and situations are always clearly specified by the player but the game has a great deal of company in terms of how to tackle them, particularly later on in the game.But what really offers all of this are the visuals. Soulstorm provides a stunning 3D world to check out: it senses that reminds me of a traditional Team ICO video game in some ways with towering architecture and vast open spaces. Much of the world is noticeable and active well into the distance, to the point where far-off structures are real destination points and where telescopes can be used to preview the trials ahead. Each map stage includes a large primary environment with numerous interiors. Expedition is entirely smooth and the phases are prolonged. The video game also manages to throw around a great deal of characters on-screen – often youll see what feels like numerous Mudokons scampering across the backgrounds and, in some scenes, youre charged with securing them as they make their escape. Youll spot constraints in these instanced designs if you look closely but its still really efficient at communicating big crowds.Its an interesting presentation then – the tone of the game implies that some locations can appear rather dull and the very first couple stages might not impress, but as you play, the more these information start to stand out. Its as large and detailed a world as weve seen in a side-scrolling video game like this. However, while I love the visual design, there are some limitations. Texture quality, while generally strong, can sometimes appear lower res than expected – some materials are noticeably blurrier. Then there are the cutscenes, where Oddworld depends on pre-recorded videos instead of in-game cinematics. A minimum of theyre 60fps on PS5, however regrettably, theyre locked to 30fps on PC, in line with the last-gen console variations. Cutscenes are well directed and look lovely – however they are pre-rendered videos. They perform at 60fps on PS5 but at 30fps on all other platforms, including PC.The overall presentation is outstanding however how excellent it looks depends on your platform of choice. PlayStation 5 renders at a native 1440p, however the anti-aliasing option is lacking and temporal stability is poor, resulting in great deals of shimmer and some jaggies. PC can run at a higher pixel-count however these artefacts are still present, even at native 4K. Both PS4 Pro and PS4 run at 1080p but shadow and lighting quality is cut down on the base machine, while frame-rate peak at 30fps up versus the primarily strong 60fps on PS5. PS4 Professional runs efficiently enough at its target 30fps for the most part but does have some noticeable dips. The vanilla PS4 Amateur has some extensive efficiency problems in the video games more difficult areas. A double-buffer v-sync service sees frame-rates drop as low as 20fps, maybe not unexpected when taking a look at the extremely difficult physics on display screen here. All versions (even PC!) Suffer from obvious checkpoint stutter, which is jarring.The PC version will not win you over with a comprehensive settings collection however it does permit for more customisation with selectable resolutions, but this has its limitations – ultra-wide monitor assistance is not available, but at least it does use higher frame-rate choices that are extremely useful. I just feel that we need a toggle to download and replace the 30fps video series. With that stated, there is the sense that while Soulstorm is a cross-gen title, the developers created this video game primarily with PlayStation 5 and PC in mind. The extra horse power is needed to actually let this title shine – and I definitely loved my time with the game. The emerging gameplay, the wise level style and the gorgeous art direction truly speak to me – but theres a distinctly old-school mindset to it that may not work for everybody. It likewise released with a fair few bugs which may have put some people off, but the majority of my significant problems with the code were resolved in a spot. However truthfully, I love this video game: its a perfect blend of retro and modern-day ideas that fit together into a remarkably cohesive whole. It has rough edges for sure however its a quality game. It likewise represents the very first brand-new Oddworld experience since 2005 – New n Tasty was exceptional however it was quite a remake. Soulstorm is motivated by Abes Exoddus however its efficiently a brand-new video game bringing a great deal of fresh concepts. Yes, its irritating at times, but eventually – its worth it.

Having effectively rebooted the franchise with New n Tasty back in 2014, its taken seven years for the next big Oddworld video game to get here and Soulstorm does not dissatisfy. Much of the game focuses on toying with the opponent AI, much like a good stealth video game. The more you experiment, the more youll see how all of the games systems realistically communicate with one another – its a video game that forces you to think laterally and to check out your theories. Soulstorm provides a stunning 3D world to explore: it has a feeling that advises me of a traditional Team ICO video game in some ways with towering architecture and huge open spaces. With that stated, there is the sense that while Soulstorm is a cross-gen title, the designers designed this video game mostly with PlayStation 5 and PC in mind.

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