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Don't think of Avowed as Obsidian's Skyrim but as a Fallout: New Vegas and Outer Worlds-style take on first-person fantasy, says the studio

 Avowed — the player character faces a plague-ridden bear in combat, pointing their longsword towards the bear as it roars.
Avowed — the player character faces a plague-ridden bear in combat, pointing their longsword towards the bear as it roars.

You've gotta feel for Avowed, Obsidian's upcoming first-person fantasy RPG. As soon as the studio started talking about it, people (including, ah, me) began to look for pigeonholes to slot it into. A quick shorthand that would let us call the game "Obsidian's take on X".

The easiest reference point, of course, is Skyrim (Starfield without guns), to which Avowed's fantasy setting, first-person combat, and classless character system have all invited comparison. But the studio doesn't think it's the right comparison, telling PCGamesN that you're better off thinking of Avowed as an Outer Worlds-like, or even—be still my heart—something like Fallout: New Vegas.

Game director Carrie Patel said that, although it's hard to escape Skyrim comparisons, "The model we've looked to internally is building Avowed as our fantasy take on The Outer Worlds, not with the same tone, but a similar structure to the world and in terms of scope." If you didn't play it, The Outer Worlds had a lot of distinct, relatively small but still open areas in contrast to Skyrim's single large map, and clocked in at a comparatively bitesize 35ish hours vs Skyrim's basically infinite nature.

I suspect some people might be a bit put out by that, as there always seems to be a practically inexhaustible appetite for massive Bethesda-style RPGs, but in Starfield's enormous, bland wake I think it makes perfect sense for Obsidian not to spread itself thin. Regardless, perhaps even more interesting to me is Patel's other point of comparison, Fallout: New Vegas.

Calling Avowed a "​​middle ground between sandbox and something that’s more curated," gameplay director Gabe Paramo explained "there are creatures you might stumble upon in Avowed that you’re maybe not ready for, but perhaps you’ve found an ability that helps you manipulate that creature, and then you get an item," noting that "New Vegas is also full of those moments where we don’t want to handhold the player, but still, if players have the skills, they can still defeat these moments."

I feel like Paramo is referencing New Vegas' legendary deathclaw quarry, which prevents you from making a beeline directly to Vegas at the game's beginning by, well, sticking a load of ultra-powerful deathclaws in your way. The game generally intends for you to follow a circuitous route to its titular city through towns like Primm, Nipton, and Novac, but there are plenty of canny players who managed to get through the quarry by crafty means. Sounds like you'll be able to do similar kinds of things in Avowed.

It sounds like Avowed will take some narrative cues from New Vegas, too. Patel told PCGN that "New Vegas does a wonderful job of building the player experience not just through the critical plan but the side quests and secrets you can discover in the world," and that Obsidian wants to create the same "cohesive experience" with Avowed's quests.

It's fairly daring to bring up New Vegas, which has long been regarded as a classic in the RPG pantheon. I feel like the fact that The Outer Worlds wasn't New Vegas goes some way to explaining why people were so lukewarm on it, and I'm surprised to see Obsidian willingly invite the comparison one more time. But honestly? It's the most personally exciting thing I've heard about Avowed so far. I absolutely love how well New Vegas's myriad side quests and DLCs all build up to paint a broad picture of its central conflict over the Hoover Dam—rather than existing in their own, self-contained narrative vacuums as side quests often do—and if Avowed has a coherent enough vision to make that work, consider me intrigued.