Oddworld Inhabitants are the brains behind Abe and his odysseys. Certainly a legend of the PS1 era, his spirit has endured with the release of New ‘n’ Tasty in 2014. After a long hiatus, this reboot of their first game was an exciting return for a company of great integrity. After all, their preceding outing was Stranger’s Wrath in 2005; a game which knocked them out financially. While it did cement their legacy critically, a few shady practices by Microsoft would leave the humble studio disenfranchised. This seems to make sense too, when you consider the philosophical thrust of their work.
Throughout their catalogue, Oddworld Inhabitants have always stood up for the little guy. In many ways, that’s what made Abe and Munch such endearing protagonists. Their enemies and oppressors have always been the greedy and affluent. It’s not just a plot device either, but something propping up the work of principle creative, Lorne Lanning, across his career. He’s lived what he preaches admirably for a long time. Indeed, his team are back largely due to his own funding and an enormous reverence for their fan community. Here he is explaining why he’s a badass (probably):
For example, Abe’s Exoddus has never quite sat right with Lanning. Personally, I see it as the best game in the series. Despite its brilliance, he still feels like he could have given us more. Although expanding it over two discs (a practice usually saved for humongous RPGs), adding reams of fresh mechanics and expanding the universe tenfold, Lanning still believes he somehow short-changed his audience with its release in 1998. He didn’t. However, there’s a spiritual remake looming in the wings of 2017. Perhaps, with its release, he’ll feel somewhat vindicated in his enduring dedication.
Soulstorm, as it’s been titled, can be expected before the year is out. We know this for a couple of reasons. First off, that’s what Oddworld‘s own website says – so that’s what i’ll report here and damn the consequences. Secondly, they’ve just embarked on an alternate reality game, or “ARG” for the acronymically minded. To help the uninitiated, an ARG is usually a community-driven marketing exercise. Admittedly, on paper, that sounds kind of cynical. In practice it’s often very engaging. It can be a wonderful way of interacting with an audience.
In actuality, this is something Oddworld have been doing for some time. They were ahead of the game with their long-running Dear Alf feature. I’ve even had a question of my own answered. When put alongside the personal replies I’ve received off them on Facebook, a clear picture is painted of a company who cares. Seemingly launching a re-design of sorts, their Soulstorm ARG campaign has been working wonders on this front. Comprised mostly of image and story fragments, it’s been the fan’s job to decipher them and bring them all together. In the end, this resulted in a full image, along with some titbits of information about the “Spirit of 1029” (an apparently important plot element).
The image itself is pretty impressive. It’s dark and disturbing. The keen eyes of a Glukkon keeping watch are searing. Just this one picture reeks of fresh intrigue. Although already a fan, I can’t wait to see the direction they’re going in. I always loved their humour, but the look of this gritty and uncompromising world has a deeper allure. Even the face of the Mudokon is more realistically rendered, bringing the horror of their servile existence an extra weight. Oddworld Inhabitants may have a few more games to play with us before Soulstorm hits the shelves but, from the looks of it, that’s a good thing. I, for one, was on-board without an ARG. God-knows i’m even more interested with it.