In the past year or so, more and more details have gradually made their way to me via trusted and proven sources familiar with Microsoft's plans for the future of Xbox. First, we detailed Contraband, previously known as Project Typhoon, which is set to be a co-op smuggler's paradise. Then, we detailed Project Dragon, which looks to be an online RPG from the creators of Hitman, IO Interactive. We also recently offered some details on InXile's Project Cobalt, which is a steampunk-style FPS RPG, alongside Project Indus, which we believe is a 4X strategy game from the team behind Ashes of the Singularity.
There are mountains of known games on the horizon too, from Hellblade II to Perfect Dark, and other rumors, such as Kojima's reported cloud-oriented game project with Microsoft.
Now, there's Avowed. I've got a small update on this project making its way to Xbox, and details on why I'm more excited for it than ever.
The World of Eternity gains a new dimension
Sources familiar with internal plans have reached out to us in recent months offering details on Avowed, moving through pre-production towards a playable alpha state. Indeed, Obsidian is likely close to having a working early version of the game, with many mechanics and core gameplay pillars already implemented. I can't be sure how old some of the footage I've seen is, and there's a good chance it's far further along.
For those who don't know, we've only seen Avowed in a pre-rendered CGI trailer thus far. The game is set in the Pillars of Eternity universe, known as the World of Eternity, and utilizes a first-person viewpoint similar to Obsidian's The Outer Worlds.
The Outer Worlds fans already have plenty of reasons to be excited about Obsidian's upcoming slate, given that The Outer Worlds 2 has been confirmed. Avowed seems to be based on a similar, albeit enhanced engine from The Outer Worlds, complete with action-oriented first-person combat and deep RPG exploration and narrative systems. We were told Avowed will feature multiple class playstyles and borrow from Skyrim's two-handed combat system. You could wield two daggers and be a stealthy rogue, or dive into archery with a two-handed bow. You could use a combination of swords and magic, or go full two-handed magic, which is required to wield some of the game's more potent spells and abilities.
Avowed will feature many elements Pillars of Eternity fans will be familiar with. Wizard spells like Jolting Touch, which can fry enemies with forks of lightning, will be present. Two-handed spells like Fireball are conjured using complex-looking hand gestures, but decimate enemies in a storm of magma and fire. I also saw status effect spells like Fetid Caress, imbuing enemies with corrosive poison. Weapon enchantments seem to be a big feature too, with magically enchanted swords and frozen arrows, as examples. Pillars-style guns may also appear in the game, similar to the muskets and arquebuses found in the original two titles. Familiar creatures such as the lizard-like Xaurips will appear, alongside much larger and deadlier threats, all the way up to wyverns and drakes.
The combat seems to be more loadout-based than The Elder Scrolls, which gives you mountains of spells in a gigantic list. Warriors will get access to more physical attacks like swordplay, powerful kicks, and shield bashes, while casters will be given a range of spellbook options to customize and tailor their combat style, with attacks bound to specific buttons.
I am a huge Pillars of Eternity fan and seeing stills of Avowed's early builds filled me with a ton of excitement. As much as I love the tactical combat of Pillars, seeing the classic CRPG add new dimensions with action-oriented combat is undoubtedly going to bring in a whole legion of new fans to the franchise. I think fans of The Outer Worlds should be particularly excited, too.
The Outer Worlds meets Pillars of Eternity
If The Outer Worlds was Obsidian's take on a Fallout-style game, Avowed is undoubtedly Obsidian's take on The Elder Scrolls. The two-handed, first-person combat style is unmistakable, but there are obvious differences in early documentation.
At least directly compared to the likes of Skyrim and Oblivion, Avowed seems to be a far more colorful game, reminding me far more of The Outer Worlds. Luminescent cave mushrooms, verdant forests awash with gigantic flora, and hulking sunlit temples complete with skeleton-infested depths and tombs are plentiful. It came as a bit of a surprise given the game's original trailer, which seemed like it was trying to strike a much darker tone, save for the neon spell effects.
Pillars of Eternity does seem to take environmental interactivity a bit further than The Outer Worlds too, complete with swimming capabilities. We've even heard of destructible aspects of environments, using lit torches and fire spells to burn down blocked entryways, for example. Fire spells leave areas coated in flames too, which cascade against walls and floors.
The content I saw does represent a pre-alpha state with certain aspects like lighting and textures not fully implemented, which is one reason I'm not sharing the documentation I've been shown. The finished art style is expected to elevate what we saw in The Outer Worlds, though, with a brighter, more lively color palette, although it could end up looking a bit darker akin to the debut trailer. I only saw a couple of areas, although it could represent the diversity of locale styles Obsidian aims to deliver.
As for the story and layout, I can only speculate. I'm not sure whether it will go full-blown open world like the modern Elder Scrolls games or utilize something more like The Outer Worlds' hub system, which connects large areas with an overworld map, complete with interior areas and dungeons. I'd expected it to be the latter, as it gives Obsidian greater control over the pacing of the narrative, which is one of the studio's biggest strengths. There is some evidence that it may go fully open world though, given previous job listings (thanks for the tip, Camonna Tong).
Even in its pre-alpha state, Avowed looks like it plays extremely well, with refined action RPG combat set in a vibrant, medieval fantasy world I cannot wait to explore.
Avowed fan of Avowed
I feel like there's a good chance we'll see Avowed in a playable state by E3 2022 at the latest given the quality of the content I've seen, which may even be several months old at this point. Perhaps there's even a small chance we'd see it at The Game Awards at the end of the year. I teased on my podcast recently that I'd bet money that we'd see another Xbox exclusive, Hellblade II, at The Game Awards this year — since I've indeed heard that it was in the plan to show more of the game by the end of the year. Perhaps we could get a two-for-one deal and see Avowed show up there too, but it may be too early just yet.
Either way, Avowed went from relative obscurity in my list of most anticipated Xbox games to sitting near the top, especially as a big fan of The Outer Worlds. Obsidian's excellent character writing and penchant for branching narratives, combined with the rich World of Eternity gives Avowed some seriously huge potential, and I can't wait to see the game fully revealed.
While you're waiting, if you haven't already, I recommend giving The Outer Worlds on Xbox Game Pass a try to get an idea for how Obsidian can pull together a modern action RPG. If you're a fan of classic-style tactical CRPGs, I also cannot recommend Pillars of Eternity enough too. It's hard to get into if you're unfamiliar with the gameplay style, but if you can get to grips with it, it's one of the most rewarding RPGs I've ever played.
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Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!
I absolutely love The Outer Worlds. I'll have to download and play Pillars of Eternity as I haven't played that yet
Saying this is like Outer Worlds killed any enthusiasm I had for this game. I can't even put my finger on the reason I didn't care for Outer Worlds... it might be the "hub" system. I played that game for a few hours and then never went back.
My thing with the outer worlds was it felt like it took everything fallout was doing but only to a skin deep level. It felt like a very casual RPG. Even more casual than fallout 4 and skyrim. In my opinion. That's the complete wrong direction for the genre as a whole.
I understand your point, but sometimes a game doesn't need to be 3000 hours long to be good or enjoyable. Outer world for me was great once but not much replay value. Hopefully Avowed has more replay value, but I would be fine with a shorter game
I do agree, at first I did feel I expected too much from the game. I wanted it to be New Vegas 2, but it just wasnt. Once I learned it wasn't going to be, I learned to appreciate it for what it was. I still want it to be more, and I hope that 2 gives us that.
Dear Jez , genuine question. If you're not into the more hardcore RPGs like The Outer Worlds, Pillars of Eternity do you think Avowed would still appeal to a more casual RPG audience like Skyrim/Fable/Witcher 3 ? Thanks for another great article. Xbox has a lot of great exclusives on the way, but I wonder how they will appeal to the more casual audiences as it seems like most of their exclusives that are on their way are tailored towards the more hardcore gamers and I'm not sure if that is the right approach if you're goal is to appeal to 3 billion gamers, 90%+ of those players are casuals at most. The hardcore audience is very niche. I look at Avowed, Starfield, Redfall, Deathloop, Hellblade 2, Gears, Diablo like game from IOI, 4x Strategy game, Inxile's Steampunk RPG maybe I'm forgetting some more this is off the top of my head. Whereas Sony is executing the goal MS has, they make high quality games that cater towards casuals with TLOU2, Spiderman 2, Wolverine, God of war, Horizon etc. Just something I noticed. Maybe worth talking about on your next podcast ?
My personal viewpoint is that these franchises as a whole could easily draw more people in. I don't think it's a 'casual' thing as you say. Skyrim has sold over 30 million copies. Sea of thieves and Forza Horizon 4 have both shown over 20 million players if im not mistaken. Which in terms of sales these games are in the same league as, or outselling playststion exclusives. Fallout also sold very well. It seems as though people want to play RPGs, and I don't think Microsofts goal is to make more games casual, but instead show people that 'hardcore' games aren't a scary proposition.
Modern games don't have to be either hardcore or casual: look at the better RPGs from BioWare, with multiple gameplay modes ranging from "Story" to "insanity", with a couple added levels in between. Or look at MS FLIGHT SIMULATOR with both an arcade-like touristy mode alongside the full blown simulator mode. Or the various Crystal Dynamics action games. There *are* some games that pride themselves on their difficulty while others focus on accessibility and short sessions. But it isn't mandatory, merely a developer choice. Apropos of AVOWED, Obsidian has a track record of making many (most?) of their games accessible to the broadest audience possible. This makes perfect sense as games get more and more expensive to make so they need to bring in as many players as possible for *as long* as possible. Which is yet another reason why GAMEPASS makes so much sense for *developers* as well as gamers.
Xbox games appeal to a very wide variety of people. The games vary across half a dozen or more different genres. Sony's games are one genre with slight variation in how that genre is represented.
Sony's games might appeal to the lowest common casual denominator but Xbox games appeal across the larger spectrum of gamers.
Xbox also releasing on PC day one means that these games despite being more 'hardcore' actually appeal to more people as PC gamers generally play a wider variety of games.
Another RPG that people who get motionsick from first person camera can't play. "Great".
Me and my wife was extremely sad that we weren't able to play Outer Worlds, but after Grounded came with a third person camera, we held out hope that Avowed would have third person too.
That hope, dashed. :-(
I used to have that problem.
(It is related to the Common VR sickness problem that results because the visual input is misaligned with the vestibular system.)
Then I found that if I play reclined so that my line of sight is aligned with the centerline of the TV the motion problem went away. It worked for a couple of friends. It may or not work for you.
Quick "correction" Jez (if I'm correct)
But I've never heard the term "World of Eternity" in PoE's Lore, I believe what you're referencing
is the world itself : Eora ?
Anyway, still a long time to wait, for the game I wait the most xD
But I'm pumped af, like mayo on french fries !
I'm really looking forward to Avowed. I'm expecting a much better game than Outer Worlds though. I liked Outer Worlds but it was too short, I didn't like the post-apocalyptic setting and for me it didn't not have replayability.
Thanks Jez! This game looks absolutely amazing! But one thought and this occupied me ever since the acquisition of Bethesda: will Xbox be able to differentiate enough between Avowed and Elder Scrolls 6? Because the images shown could come directly from Skyrim imho...
Do they *have* to differentiate, though?
With Elder Scrolls games coming once a decade there is room in the XBOX studios for something else that appeals to the same epic fantasy RPG audience. There is also the FALLOUT experience that saw FALLOUT 3 and FALLOUT NEW VEGAS come out relatively close together (as opposed to OBLIVION SKYRIM ES6) using the same engine and world and both games did very well and are still well regarded.
It's not as if they're going to be doing an epic fantasy RPG every single years. That said, the Pillars of Eternity mythos is already different enough from Elder Scrolls that even if the gameplay were identical (we just heard it won't be) the experience would be diffent enough. If you look to the source of the genre--Epic Fantasy novels--you'll find the same tropes over and over: good vs evil, long journeys, massive armies at war, humble protagonists thrust into world saving roles, etc. Tolkien casts a long shadow. Nobody gripes because the interest in the field exceeds the production capacity. The mantra of corporate fiction publishers is "the same as xxxx but different enough to avoid a lawsuit". 😆 With both Bethesda and Obsidian in the same corporate family there is no reason to go out of their way to be different just to be different and the developers can simply go with what makes the most sense. (The same applies to FALLOUT and WASTELAND when the latter goes first person as is inevitable.) As is, the real trick is going to be in scheduling the release of the XBOX WRPG bounty: ELDER SCROLLS, FALLOUT, OUTER WORLDS, STARFIELD, WASTELAND, FABLE, ETERNITY, the unannounced ones, along with the BIOWARE staples. Essentially they can establish a decade long rotation (3 epic fantasies, 3 space operas, 2 post-apocalyptic, and whatever you want to call FABLE.😄) that gives the XBOX a new top rank RPG every year without incurring the kind of franchise fatigue some are seeing in the shooter markets. A golden age of RPG gaming is upon us. Let's enjoy it.
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