Best Games – Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath
Games that try to do too many things are usually failures. It's the kitchen sink approach. The developers try to put a little of everything into the game and the whole thing collapses under the weight. Of course, there are times when that approach succeeds spectacularly.
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath is a third person action platformer, a first person shooter, a stealth action game, and a character adventure game. That is a list of way too many things. There is no way this game should work. Each of those elements are handled well, but not polished to the level of a game dedicated to any single one of those genres. If you put that list before a room of game designers, they would unconsciously start crossing off items before they realized what their hands were doing. Putting all of those requirements together in one place is a terrible idea. Still, Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath is on my list as one of the best games.
Imagine that there was a much loved animated series from your childhood. It combined a western backdrop with a Jim Henson-esque attitude to weirdness and subtle humour. Some years later, a game studio got hold of that license, and set out to make an homage to all the things you loved about that old series. All the characters, all the locations, all the inside jokes. Not only did they make that game, they did right by the material, and they did right by your nostalgia. Nothing less than a kitchen sink approach to game design would have worked. There was just too much material to cover.
Of course that show never existed. The stranger isn't an old beloved character. He exists only in the context of this one game, but he, and the world he occupies, feels like it springs straight from your fond memories.
There were other Oddworld games before Stranger's Wrath, and while they are all beautifully designed, and equally eccentric, they don't share they same sense of being part of a much larger world. Stranger's Wrath feels like a story started and finished during the second act of a much longer series.
Stranger's Wrath was first released on the original XBOX. Some of the textures and models are showing signs of age. I would say, that in terms of design, it still ranks up there as one of the more visually amazing games to ever be released. There isn't a density of detail on display, in fact some areas are so desolate and barren, that the feeling of loneliness is suffocating. As you play through the game, you realize that the loneliness is intentional. It is as much a choice as the lush and vibrant setting you eventually pass through.
The environment is an equal participant in this story. Just like it was in the source material. You remember that old show. You know, from when you were growing up. Yeah that one, with the magical creatures, and the old west, and the dark undertones. The one that is an allegory for growing up and the search for personal identity, while still being a solid adventure story full of silly humour and asides to the audience. Yeah, that one.
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath, one of the best games.