Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD Switch Review
We often talk about games being magically nostalgic in some way. That the experience of a particular game is reminiscent of something wonderful we remember from our past. With so many remakes and remasters in the last few years, some of them have proven to truly be ahead of their time while others struggle to swim in the tide of current gen gaming. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is 15 years old, and for its time it was incredibly innovative with a combination of easy to use first and third person mechanics, yet it didn’t catch the eye of enough gamers to become a hit. How well does the Stranger’s journey hold up after all this time? Better than you might think.
Bounty Hunting That Aged Like a Pristine Bear Trap
Originally releasing on January 25, 2005, Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath took the series in a brand new direction while leaving Abe behind as the protagonist. Giving it a gritty, Western theme, players now take on the role of the Stranger; a bounty hunter who needs a whole lot of money for a life-saving operation. While the early 2000s were a time of experimentation in gaming given the power of the latest console hardware, it was Stranger’s Wrath which stood out as a hidden gem in a sea of budding blockbuster franchises. Getting an updated remaster edition for Switch sounded great, but I was hesitant at first whether or not it had aged well after all these years. Giving it an HD update, the game looks and runs very crisp. None of the animations feel janky or dated in any way, with the only real sign of the game’s age falling in two places: the landscape and the dialogue. Much of the world is bare, with tall grass for stealth or a wall for cover existing for a purpose but no real extra flourishes, which makes sense given the time the game was initially made. The textures on walls, the ground, and the mountains do fall a bit flat and give the game a dated feeling but it is in no way detrimental to gameplay or how much I enjoyed it.
Stranger’s Wrath has the option to speak to the various NPCs you encounter, however, most of the time you’ll only get a handful of dialogue lines which repeat frequently. The Stranger will talk about whatever his next objective is, but he does it in such a way it’s like a poor exposition dump rather than feeling like natural conversation or a simple hint to the player. It’s a little off-putting and feels like the game is trying to speed you along rather than letting you enjoy it, but thankfully it doesn’t happen too often. Mechanically, my last problem comes with the menu – particularly when entering a shop. While the options are clearly laid out for you, the menu requires some awkward navigating to make a purchase. If I want to buy a particular upgrade and I hit a single wrong directional button while making my way to the purchase button, I have to start over. This isn’t a game-breaking issue, but it is jarring and an unfortunate blip in an otherwise fantastic experience.
Stranger’s Wrath lets you hunt how you want to hunt. Did you want to stealth in, lure enemies away and catch them for bigger bank? You can do that. Go in guns blazing into a root’in toot’in fire fight? Absolutely. The ammo available in the game is incredibly varied to suit your playstyle and easy to swap on the fly, and the ability to load two kinds of ammo into the crossbow at once is a small mechanic that makes a big difference, especially as you get surrounded by enemies. On the flip-side, you don’t want to go into Stranger’s Wrath thinking this is just another FPS. Much of the game takes place in third person, with a variety of action-adventure platforming segments, as well as puzzle-solving and RPG elements. Even in combat you’ll get a better view of the field if you swap to third person from cover. I did find aiming with the JoyCons to be a little touchy for my liking – the Switch joysticks simply aren’t optimized for FPS gaming – but using a pro controller easily made it much more enjoyable for me. The heart of Stranger’s Wrath is in its exploration and light-strategy elements, of which the game really does shine. It successfully blends the opposing styles of gaming into a clever and balanced experience.
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath is an enjoyable remaster which has managed to age with grace, bringing back a classic feeling that isn’t too dated and is just as easy to play now as it was back in 2005. With excellent controls and a smooth blend of FPS and third person platforming adventure gameplay, the game’s only real faults come from repetitive and lackluster dialogue, and a rather barren landscape that reveals its age a little too well, but overall left me with a great experience that newer gamers really ought to try.
*Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher*
- Great Controls
- Easy 1st-3rd Person Transitions
- Fun Gameplay
- Repetitive Dialogue
- Clunky Menus
- Simple Environments