Obsidian (the studio behind Pillars of Eternity, Fallout: New Vegas, and The Outer Worlds) released an extended gameplay trailer diving into its first-person RPG Avowed last week. PC Gamer's own Ted Litchfield sat down with both the game's director Carrie Patel and the gameplay director Gabe Paramo to talk shop.
First-person melee combat is hard to design. In any third-person action game, you have all kinds of tools at your disposal—bespoke animations, the situational awareness of bird's-eye view, cool flips—things that are much harder to execute on when you're in your protagonist's skull. Especially the cool flips thing, that'll just get you motion sick.
Luckily, Obsidian is looking to a dev studio that's basically perfected it over the years: Fatshark, developer of Warhammer's Vermintide and 40k's Darktide.
"Our goal was to try to make it feel visceral, right?" Paramo explains. "To make the sense of hitting [enemies] feel impactful … like Vermintide. We're trying to get our inspiration from there, just that masterclass in having a sense of hitting and impact."
Honestly, fair play. If you want a great example of meaty first-person blade swinging, then both Vermintide and Darktide are great places to look. Fatshark took Left 4 Dead's formula of mowing down zombies with a frying pan and expanded on it—adding complex systems that sent enemies stumbling and ragdolling in certain directions based on both the weapon type and the angle of attack (as per this excellent video by Polygon's Patrick Gill).
"I'm definitely really proud of what the gameplay team has done … even our melee combat is feeling fantastic," says Patel. "I really do feel like it's going to stand head and shoulders above when it comes to fantasy first-person action RPG melee combat."
Honestly, I'm pretty stoked about this on paper. It's been a while since we've had a non-horde shooter game with properly meaty first-person combat—where are our Zeno Clashes? Our Dark Messiah of Might and Magic games? Likely locked behind the fact that first-person brawling's a pain in the rear to design, but still, here's hoping Obsidian pulls it off.