Xbox ran through five different game features during Thursday’s Developer Direct, with the most positive discussion about Hellblade 2 and Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, it appears. But Avowed, the upcoming RPG from Fallout New Vegas/The Outer Worlds developer Obsidian is drawing quite polarizing takes.
I have seen a number of people, especially many Xbox fans, saying that Avowed looked amazing and they were really impressed with the showcase. But I find myself doing the Ryan Gosling award show meme face, and I’m not quite sure what everyone else watched here.
Something was just…off about that whole presentation and how the gameplay looked. In my initial first reaction take, I said that it looked like a VR game, which are usually first person games that look pretty dated, limited because of the tech, but they’re supposed to offset that with the novelty of VR itself. Avowed is…not that. It’s a normal PC/console game, and as such, the effect is very off-putting.
While the stylized color palate looks neat, combat itself in the demonstration looked extremely stiff. And adding to the VR effect, it felt like something was wrong with the FOV, with it being far too narrow and constraining the effective combat area.
It is kind of hard to make first person spellcasting and melee combat work effectively. We don’t see it all that often, or if we do, it’s in concert with more traditional gunplay. But here, this combat somehow looks more unnatural than even the 13 year old Skyrim. Not that I was expecting a game of that scope and depth, but something about this just didn’t sit right with me on a visceral level.
Obsidian’s best strength, its RPG storytelling, also seemed a bit odd in this demonstration. Its animation are again, very stiff, even more so than Bethesda’s Starfield, which was itself criticized for its somewhat awkward animations when many games have moved more into full performance capture. Here, most of the time it’s just a mouth and eyebrows moving like a puppet. The dialogue itself and its delivery also just didn’t seem to match the characters saying it.
Some have taken these complaints to mean that I just hate lower budgeted games and I am what’s wrong with the industry demanding AAA hyper-budgeted perfection. But I can name a million AA or indie games that are enjoyable or look good in different ways. And again, while no one should have expected Elder Scrolls 5.5 from this, in many ways it did felt stuttery, stiff and dated in a way that was not especially attractive or hype-inducing. For me, at least.
This is not a judgement of the final product. Combat could be a lot of fun when you get your hands on it. The story is far more than the two minutes of dialogue we’ve seen. But I’d argue this was a kind of bizarre presentation that did not make a great impression for one of Xbox’s most anticipated games. We’ll see how it turns out this year, supposedly.