One of the comments made about Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath was that it’s basically just an FPS, despite its attempts not to be. There are some drastic differences between this and most FPS games, at least on the surface, but what does it amount to in the end?
You play as the Stranger. Use live (as in “alive”) ammo in your double-barreled crossbow to take down enemies. Collect bounties, dead or alive, it’s up to you.
The game is actually played in first- AND third-person. Just click the right analog to switch back and forth. I found this idea interesting, but figured I would end up playing the game mostly in first person. I was wrong. The game does a great job of not only forcing you to switch, but making you want to switch views. There are a couple differences between the two views. In first person you can shoot, and you move at a pretty normal pace. In third person you move faster, and also much faster on flat ground (if you run for a short distance without stopping, the Stranger will run on all fours at a high speed). You can melee attack, but not shoot. Climbing ropes will automatically jump you back into third person, and you can use the camera to look around corners in third person. Platforming can be done in first person, but is much better in third person. This way it really plays to the strengths of each view.
Another element that sets this game apart from others is that you have bounties to collect. You have some magical “bounty can” that lets you shrink-capture enemies (think GhostBusters), and trade them for cash later (more money if they’re alive). Basically each mission is the journey to the boss (with lots of enemies), and then the boss (who is worth a lot). Capturing enemies takes time, so you have to make sure everyone’s knocked out, or you’re behind cover. When you bounty someone it jumps back to third person.
There are no health packs in the game. You can regain health by “shaking the injuries off.” This depletes your stamina meter, which regenerates itself slowly. Why not just have the health regenerate? Because this way you actually have to stop and press a button, which means you’ll have to hide, or do it before getting hit. You essentially have unlimited health, but you have to be paying attention. It works really well, and it’s great not needing to look for health!
The way you get ammo is a bit different. There are some crates you can smash, but the main way is by hunting it. Yes, your ammo is alive. You search the environment for nests, and look for bugs crawling or flying around. Shoot them and you can collect them. This isn’t as annoying as it sounds, most creatures give you many “bullets,” so it doesn’t take long, and it’s interesting. Later on in the game, for reasons I will not spoil, capturing an enemy immediately gives you ammo (instead of money), so that adds to the strategy.
That’s all well and good, but we all know a huge part of an FPS is the weapons. Here is a table of the weapons (or ammo, actually, since they’re all shot by crossbow) and the “standard” weapons they’re similar to:
|Name||Similar to||Ammo Upgrade|
|Stunkz||Smoke/Flash bomb. Stuns them, makes everyone puke.||These are different. They suck enemies in. Not like any real weapon.|
|Bolamites||A net or web, which you really don’t see in many games (except Spider-Man). This really helps with collecting bounties. These break after a short period of time.||Hits three at once.|
|Chippunks||A rock (in some games). These yell insults at an enemy, causing them to come over to it. Great for setting traps.||Distracts three at once.|
|Zappflies||Nothing really. These lightning bugs are mostly used for activating switches (usually for traps), or hunting. Unlimited ammo.||None|
|Fuzzles||Sort of like mines, but better. These guys are awesome, you can shoot them on the ground and when an enemy gets close, they’ll attack. They attach and keep biting, so they’ll also distract the enemies.||More powerful|
|Thudslugs||Shotgun. Just a powerful shot, can knock guys down. Slow reload.||These break apart, so they’re really like a shotgun blast.|
|Boombats||Grenade launcher. These will stick, then blow up.||More of a missile launcher, they home in and blow up.|
|Stingbees||Machine Gun. Rapid-fire bees, large clip.||These home in, so they’re a bit different.|
As you can see, many of the ammo types are similar to standard FPS weapons, but not all. The whole bounty aspect really changes the way you play, regardless of the weapons (you can use the “shotgun” to stun enemies).
- No health packs
- As mentioned earlier, this system works great. Other FPSs have similar systems (Halo), but that’s fine with me, I love it.
- Very little backtracking
- After you defeat a boss, instead of being required to run back the way you came, a new door opens with a shortcut back to the town. It really keeps the game moving forward.
- No loading
- Not counting when you die or start a new game of course, there’s no loading. The environments are streamed seamlessly, and it really keeps you in the world. I believe the shortcuts back to the town are basically just disguised loading screens (they did the same thing in MDK, and others), but you really don’t notice it since you’re involved, and it makes sense that you’d have to run back. They’re very quick, and executed well.
- The story / setting
- It starts off in the (Oddworld) wild west, but eventually moves into some other locations with jungles, rivers, and snow. From the manual (and game) you learn that someone is stealing all the water, hence the dried up towns at the beginning. There are some plot twists and things that are pretty well done and interesting.
- Great characters / voices
- This is definitely an opinion, as some people may find their voices annoying, but most people seem to like them. Their quotes aren’t as funny in text since a large part of it is the voice, but…
You start off in a town full of Clakkerz, chicken-like creatures. They’ll talk to each other and have funny conversations, and talk to you. If you beat them up, they’ll all run inside and tell you to cool down. Eventually they’ll say something like, “Now we comin’ out, ’cause it’s too nice a day, and you don’t have to be such a punkass.” Their voices are really amusing, so it’s funny every time, I swear. Try it.
Another main race is the Grubbs. They’re these lizard creatures, who are adorable and talk like they just bit their tongues. They say “man,” “dude,” and “you know” a lot. They’re very stupid, and when you first meet them they run inside and say (loudly) things like, “I hope he doesn’t find all the money we hid on the roof!” Then later they give you some armor from their elders so you can go defeat a boss, and one of them says, “Wear it proudly, for them, for their memory! …and they’d be proud if you’d just beat his ass.” You just have to love them.
It’s great that the townfolk are animals rather than humans (obviously they wouldn’t be humans in Oddworld), because even if they all look alike, you don’t notice. It’s annoying when you see a town full of humans in a game and they’re all the same, but chickens and lizards? Can you tell them apart? “No no, that’s not the same one, see this one has a hat!”
- Not enough incentive to bounty alive
- You get more money to bounty the bosses alive, but the problem is that you really don’t need the money! It’s much easier to simply kill the boss and be done with it. I had more than enough money at all times, and I killed almost all of the bosses. Even when I tried to bounty alive, the bosses wouldn’t stay down long enough for me to get them, so I ended up killing them anyway. It’s a shame because bounties really set it apart from other games, and I wish they had been required on some bosses.
- Every objective is the same
- For the most part, you find the boss, and bounty him or her. There’s one mission where you have to rescue a Clakker, but that just means there’s no boss. I wish there had been some more interesting objectives.
- Switching between 1st and 3rd person can be disorienting
- This depends on your control setup, but I prefer 3rd person to have inverted controls, so pushing left makes you look right (it’s like you’re pushing the camera left or right). Since obviously 1st person has left = left, switching back and forth can be weird. You have the option to change it, but I didn’t want to. I pretty much got used to it, and you can skip this issue altogether if you choose.