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Having Obsidian and Bethesda Game Studios in the same family of developers means that naturally comparisons are going to be made. Obsidian created what is widely considered the best game in Bethesda’s Fallout franchise with New Vegas. It then went on to make a space-based Fallout-like in The Outer Worlds. Now Obsidian is making a first-person fantasy RPG set in a magical world.
The comparisons to Skyrim aren’t simply fans putting two and two together and making five. When Avowed was first conceived in 2018, Obsidian envisioned it as its take on The Elder Scrolls V, however as the project progressed, the developer looked to refine its scope from what was once thought of as a massive open-world RPG into something more refined, showing off why Obisian is so incredibly well regarded.
That won’t stop the comparisons with BGS’s eternal seller. However, it does set up somewhat of a double-edged sword for Microsoft. On the bright side, having the exclusive services of a developer that is as consistently high quality as Obsidian practically guarantees the critically acclaimed releases that the company itself has admitted that it needs.
While not everyone’s cup of tea, Pentiment was an incredibly well-regarded and special game, the kind of thing you couldn’t picture as an Xbox exclusive during the last generation. Obsidian is Xbox’s Insomniac. Extremely high quality, and confidence from players. From a game quality perspective, it’s easily Microsoft’s best acquisition. The other side of that, of course, is that it’s managed to show up what should be Xbox’s showpiece RPG studio more than once.
Avowed itself returns to the world of Pillars of Eternity, Eora. A subtle sequel, the world that Obsidian built with Pillars of Eternity is incredibly rich and absolutely ripe for an action RPG set inside of it. Obsidian excels at lore, and we’d put money on Avowed making brand new fans of the Pillars of Eternity world that never played the original game.
Something that The Outer Worlds was excellent at was imparting lore and world-building as part of wider quests, as opposed to having you read screeds of backstory on random pieces of paper dotted around the world. We have no doubt that Avowed will do the same, for both the players who’re returning to the world of Eora and those who’ve never visited.
“Obsidian is Xbox’s Insomniac. Extremely high quality, and confidence from players. From a game quality perspective, it’s easily Microsoft’s best acquisition.”
One element of Avowed that has yet to be explored in great detail is the RPG elements of the game. What style of RPG will Avowed lean towards? Are we looking at something with the trappings of a Bethesda RPG, or will it be closer in style to Pillars of Eternity? From the trailer released in June, the game appears to be extremely combat-focused, so perhaps we could see a system similar to that of Skyrim, wherein the use of the skill improves the player’s ability in that field.
So example, if a player were to use a one-handed axe as their main weapon, their one-handed skill would improve, removing the need for traditional skill points and making the creation of a character feel more natural based on what the player is actually doing.
Of course, there were hilarious ways to completely break this system wherein players would stand next to a smithing station and make thousands and thousands of knives, quickly levelling themselves into the hundreds, but those quirks shouldn’t turn Obisidan off from what is an engaging and enjoyable leveling system.
Avowed has the opportunity to stand out in what appears on the surface to be a somewhat quiet year. It’s Xbox’s premier game and could easily be another feather in Microsoft’s ridiculous Game Pass hat.
Game of the Year nominations aren’t everything, but a big-budget Obsidian RPG could be the thing that Xbox has needed to break that barrier of having an exclusive considered in the best of the best for the year, we wouldn’t put it past the team behind New Vegas.
How the game will manifest outside of the combat we have seen thus far is the main unanswered question about Avowed, but the quality that Obsidian has demonstrated in all of the other games it’s developed over the last decade means that we’re extremely excited to see what the final version of Avowed has to offer.