Avowed Is Wisely Avoiding Skyrim Comparisons With A Smaller Open World

Bigger isn’t always better.

screenshot from Avowed
Obsidian Entertainment

Since a massively successful launch in 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has become an unavoidable comparison for open-world RPGs. Its sense of freedom and gigantic open world were the gold standard for the genre on release, but a lot has changed since then. Obsidian Entertainment, developer of the upcoming RPG Avowed, says it’s taking inspiration from a very different open-world game, and that may be a good sign for players who want a shorter, more focused RPG.

“The best comparison is The Outer Worlds,” director Carrie Patel told Game Informer when asked about Skyrim comparisons. “Like The Outer Worlds, Avowed has a series of open zones that are connected and unlock over the course of the game, rather than one giant map that you can walk through from beginning to end.”

Avowed translates the story and gameplay of Pillars of Eternity into a first-person RPG.

Obsidian Entertainment

The Outer Worlds, also developed by Obsidian, is a much more compact experience than Skyrim, one that can be completed in a dozen hours rather than in hundreds. Patel also says Avowed will have more of an influence from The Outer Worlds than Skyrim, again suggesting more of a focus on advancing the central story than on sending players on winding, self-directed paths.

While that may be disappointing for anyone hoping Avowed would be their next time-devouring gaming obsession, its smaller scope feels like the perfect choice for the RPG. Shorter, more manageable games are a blessing at a time with such a deluge of excellent new releases, and a scaled down structure could also help the RPG’s story shine.

While Avowed may look like a brand-new game series, it’s actually based on Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity games. These dense tactical RPGs take a very different approach from Avowed, delivering sprawling stories set in an enormous world, but their main draw is still their narrative. Like Avowed, the Pillars of Eternity games take place in a world of humans blessed (or cursed) by the gods, where decades of political and magical schemes have shaped the scenario players are walking into. Both Pillars games include an in-game encyclopedia just to keep track of the various nations, people, and concepts that drive its plot, and consulting the books regularly is an absolute necessity.

Pillars of Eternity fans will recognize a lot in the world of Avowed, but Obsidian is aiming to make it approachable for newcomers.

Obsidian Entertainment

Given that, a Skyrim-inspired approach would seem odd for Avowed. Sure, Skyrim had plenty of lore for dedicated players to make sense of, but it’s a game more about carving your own path than following an ongoing story. The Outer Worlds, on the other hand, sets its story against an ongoing political struggle while keeping its focus tight on the player’s character. That lets Obsidian flesh out its world through the ways the player’s character interacts with it, an approach that could also work well to immerse Avowed players in the game’s world without getting too overwhelmed with proper nouns and historical events.

One thing that Avowed won’t be borrowing from The Outer Worlds is the sense of humor. Obsidian’s sci-fi RPG is set in a bleak world ruled over by megacorporations, but rather than leaning into cyberpunk grittiness, it embraces a wild comedic tone not too far off from the humor in the Fallout series.

Pillars of Eternity is a very different game from Avowed, but its story should make for an interesting backdrop.

Obsidian Entertainment

“Tonally, the best comparison is going to be Deadfire, the second Pillars game where you have a very grounded and serious political story,” Patel told Game Informer. “A very kind of weird and esoteric, metaphysical, and divine story beneath that. A lot of moments of seriousness, but also moments of levity to kind of to kind of break that up, and a lot of those things are very character-based.”

That also makes sense coming from Pillars of Eternity. While the two Pillars games do have plenty of lighthearted interactions between party members, as Patel points out, they’re telling more serious stories at their core. That serious tone helps sell the urgency of the Pillars games plots, and could help get players invested in Avowed’s narrative as well.

The Pillars of Eternity games’ larger scope works well for the epic tales that unfold in them, but I’m glad to see Obsidian scale back for Avowed. As a Pillars fan, I’m looking forward to seeing how their stories translate into a much smaller first-person RPG, and hopefully it makes the world less intimidating for newcomers, too.

Avowed is expected to launch later in 2024.

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