Backlog Project: Oddworld – Stranger’s Wrath

Thanks to the current trend of remastering and re-releasing older games for current-generation consoles, I’ve had the opportunity to go back even further than the PlayStation 3 generation for some of my backlog games. I’ve been a fan of the Oddworld series from the bat, loving both Abe’s Oddysee and especially Abe’s Exoddus, but I wasn’t impressed by Munch’s Oddysee and for a number of reasons (like not having an Xbox), I never got around to playing Stranger’s Wrath. Happily, I managed to rectify that on the PlayStation Vita.

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  • Name: Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD
  • Genre: Action-adventure | First-person shooter
  • Released: 2011 (2005 initial release)
  • Developer: Oddworld Inhabitants (Just Add Water for the re-release)
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts (Oddworld Inhabitants for the re-release)
  • Platforms: PlayStation 3 | PlayStation Vita | Microsoft Windows | WiiU | Android | iOS

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath was somewhat notorious for what went on between publisher Electronic Arts and creator Lorne Lanning, as the two sides tossed around the blame for underwhelming sales. Being a PlayStation kid at the time of its original release, I never got to play it, so these rumblings that I might have read about from a game magazine was the only thing I could base my view on – in other words, I always had kind of a bad feeling about this game. This, however, was one of those cases where I really did myself a favor by ignoring that and actually playing the game when I got the chance.

Stranger’s Wrath has very little to do with the more popular Abe games, although it quite clearly takes place in the same universe, and likely somewhere relatively close by to Abe’s misadventures. The tone of the game is slightly different, although the message is essentially identical, and as you play the game further, the thematic similarities become more apparent. The setting initially has a darling “old west” style setting, loaded with crooked humor, but it eventually shifts into something more generic and less humorous.

The equestrian-inspired setting is fascinating; one of the many things I'd love to see explored more in a new game. Screenshot credit: http://www.mobygames.com

The equestrian-inspired setting is fascinating; one of the many things I’d love to see explored more in a new game.
Screenshot credit: http://www.mobygames.com

The protagonist is a bounty hunter called “Stranger”, who – despite his odd looks and unorthodox speech – is a pretty cool character, whom you’ll learn to root for pretty quickly. He starts off as your stereotypical Clint Eastwood type hunter of outlaws, but eventually gets caught up in something much bigger than what the premise initially lets on. For a game with such a light-hearted take on storytelling and seemingly very little emphasis on the narrative, Stranger’s Wrath‘s plot actually does gain a little bit of gravity at some point during the game.

The gameplay is a mix of third-person adventuring and platforming, and first-person shooter mechanics. Stranger’s crossbow – loaded with “live” ammo, as in small critters with different effects on targets – is used in first-person view, and while the novelty of hunting these weird insects and other animals wears off quickly, the tactical choices as well as player preferences regarding the different ammo types generally remain throughout the game.

Defeated enemies can be “bountied”, which awards money, or “moolah”. Catching enemies alive pays more, but it requires you to not only be careful about how to eliminate your foes, but also be quick about bagging them with your ludicrous “bounty vacuum cleaner” thingy. Killing enemies is much easier, but in the long run, the upgrades that you can purchase with the extra moolah will greatly aid you as you progress through the game. It’s very satisfying to catch outlaws alive, and the more you do it, the better you become at it.

Different ammo has distinctly different uses. Although the critters turn out to be little more than a gimmick, the tactical side works out very well. Screenshot credit: http://www.oddworld.com/

Different ammo has distinctly different uses. Although the critters turn out to be little more than a gimmick, the tactical side works out very well.
Screenshot credit: http://www.oddworld.com/

Stranger’s Wrath is one of those games that did 3D platforming before that was quite perfected, and although it’s much more refined than some of the original PlayStation era atrocities, it’s still pretty stiff to maneuver. Luckily, the game doesn’t lean too much on platforming, and much of traversal is just running between locations, with some climbing and jumping – most of the trickier platforming is saved for optional locations and secret areas. It’s also one of those things that you get used to, and eventually you won’t even mind the platforming anymore.

The latter half of the game becomes more action-oriented, as moolah becomes obsolete and you’re simply fighting through waves of enemies, trying to reach the next objective. If you do more than one playthrough, chances are this second half becomes slightly tedious, but fortunately the gameplay is satisfying enough to still make it feel fun. It makes you miss the bounty-hunting from the first half, but it’s still good gameplay.

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is a game that does so much so well, particularly considering when it was originally made, and a great many of its features make me feel like I would pay good money to have them implemented and improved upon in a new, modern-style game. The ammo gathering, accepting and hunting bounties, and developing combat tactics are but a few of the things I’d love to see in a sequel or a ground-up remake of Stranger’s Wrath. That hypothetical game would also be one of the precious few games that I’d love to see as an open world game.

This is a great game, one that’s definitely worth going back to whether or not you’ve played it before. It’s one of those few games that I’ve missed playing, even after completing the reasonably exhaustive Trophy list.

Trophy Hunt

I achieved the Platinum Trophy on July 5th 2016, and it took me about a week. I did two full playthroughs (excluding beating the final boss on my second run), and it probably took something like 20 hours.

I first played the game on Hard, and although there was no Trophy for it, I captured all of the bounty targets alive – and yes, some of them were pretty darn hard. I didn’t focus on anything except beating the game on this playthrough, although I did get Farmer Harmer for killing Farmer Beeks (I admit, I saw the description for how to do it in a guide), I found the Grubb Idol, found the Black Market for the Hidden What?! Trophy, and bountied the required number of outlaws alive for both Get ‘Em and Get ‘Em Goooooood!.

I then started a second run on Easy difficulty, and began the clean-up for all of the Trophies I missed. Those were Too Big for Your Bridges for jumping the bridge early on in the game, Finders, Filchers for finding 40 moolah chests, Crystal Mess for collecting 25 orange crystals, Mo Moolah for amassing 20,000 moolah by the halfway point in the game, Dirty Water for finding the hidden passage in the Wolvark Barracks, Go with the Flo… for finding the hidden medicine, and Free the Meat for breaking all of the hidden barrels.

Some of the collectibles and hidden items were actually pretty difficult to find, particularly because backtracking is usually not an option and most of them must be discovered at a very specific time or not at all. That was easily the most challenging part of the Trophy list. Aside from that, the Trophies were fair yet satisfying – although I really wish there had been one for catching all the Bounties alive on Hard. Because I bloody did that.

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