Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus – level design vs atmosphere

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Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus is getting a remake of sorts in Oddworld:Soulstorm, and a trailer just “dropped” yesterday. The original Abe’s Exoddus is my favourite of the Oddworld games, but I think that in taking a step back and looking at it, there’s something of a step down from the original Abe’s Oddysee in a few crucial ways.

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee has a sense of place that’s largely missing from Exoddus and I put this down to the more regimented, “gamey” level design of the follow-up. Abe’s Oddysee has a fairly natural flow to its stages and while I’d be a fool to say it transcends its form, I feel very much drawn into the atmosphere. There’s a tangible sense of danger and fear around the Stockyards, the mysterious, eerie Monsaic Awakenings, uneasy isolation of Paramonia, the sense of oppression in Scrabania, etc, etc. It’s all there and it all feels right, it envelopes you in its world.

Exoddus doesn’t do as good a job of this. From the off, you’re in a much “gamier” world, with much more overt, linear tutorials. Necrum Mines acts as one huge tutorial and while there are plenty of secrets to find and it’s definitely a lot of fun, it’s characterised by a very straightforward “do this exactly or die” mentality. Furthermore, the segregation of each area of the mines lends it much more of a “level one, level two, level three” traditional feel that Oddysee evaded almost completely – the return to Rupture Farms is divided into “Zulags”, but I think we can forgive that seeing as it’s the very end of the game.

Moving through Exoddus again recently, I couldn’t help but notice how often it relied on extremely transparent “challenge rooms”, with both the Mudomo and Mudanchee vaults, as well as Bonewerx, the Slig Barracks and Soulstorm Brewery all consisting of, basically, a series of doors that lead to smaller-scale challenges/puzzles. There’s nothing wrong with this – Oddysee uses it to good effect in its Temple stages – but when it happens so frequently it begins to feel like markedly less effort was put into how the game fits together.

I still prefer Abe’s Exoddus overall – the myriad new elements add a lot to the game (there’s a reason they added “All o’ ya” to Oddysee’s 2014 remake, Oddworld: New N’ Tasty) and the individual bite-sized challenges are certainly a lot of fun. But I can’t deny that it does feel a little more rushed than the original. Probably because it was, I don’t know. It wasn’t supposed to be a mainline Oddworld Quintology game. Apparently the upcoming remake changes that, effectively striking Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee from the canon.

And nothing of value, etc.

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