In a conversation with Eurogamer’s Bertie Purchie, game director Carrie Patel and gameplay director Gabe Paramo drilled down into some details on Obsidian’s upcoming first-person fantasy RPG Avowed. Part of the Pillars Of Eternity universe, Avowed is set in a place called the Living Lands, an island continent with, I infer, very sedate night life, because Patel confirms you can’t romance your companions.
Patel says, regarding putting romances in your game, “to pay them off, you really have to invest a lot in doing them well. And you also want to balance whatever you’re putting into romantic relationships with ensuring that players who don’t choose the romance path still have a fulfilling and complete experience with those companions.” Avowed will, apparently, tie companions tightly into the story, and the devs wanted to hit the necessary story beats – and didn’t feel “ready” to do romances on top of that. Patel points out that “it gets kind of awkward if you’re trying to save the world together and then you’ve broken up, but this person is still travelling with you.” Reasonable. The Dragon Age series has, in the past, dealt with this particular issue by having companions just storm off.
News Editorwin brought this story to me as, quote, “our resident ‘BG3 is horny‘ correspondent”. Which, like, accurate, but also my interest in RPGs being horny is purely academic (your honour). I find the synthetic recreation of sex and romance in RPGs fascinating both in concept and execution, but also I’m sort of relieved that Obsidian have decided not to do it this time. It feels like romances have become an assumed check box on RPG development – “and of course, the players will want to shag the companions, that’s a given” – or I wouldn’t even be writing this post, right? But we don’t have to, it’s fine. I’m especially on board if it means other bits of the game can be done betterer. And there’s potential for developing characters in other ways, so we won’t really be missing much. Like how Donna Noble is a lot of people’s favourite modern Doctor Who companion because she’s just their best mate.
The rest of the interview delves a bit more into what was and was not shown at the Xbox Developer Direct (they have less developers now, though). Companions might not follow you into bed, but they’ll follow you into battle, of course, and they have some species of context sensitive combat abilities you can trigger yourself somehow, though Patel and Paramo held back on the details. The showcase was combat heavy in general, partly because, Patel says, “what the team has been doing really is going to show up as best in class”, for a first-person, melee-focused RPG, and partly because Patel is aware that “long dialogue trees tend not to make for the best video reveals”. Also reasonable.
The Developer Direct also revealed a release window for Avowed (this autumn). You can watch the whole 25 minutes for yourself to get a look at the alpha footage. It feels a bit The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim x Outer Worlds to me.