Obsidian made Fallout: New Vegas in 18 months, but Avowed has taken the studio five years: "It's been a long development cycle"

Avowed screenshot with Summer Preview 2024 branding
(Image credit: Obsidian)

Obsidian Entertainment, the studio behind some of the best RPGs of all time, is no stranger to tight turnarounds. Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic 2 infamously took just over a year to create, while post-apocalyptic darling Fallout: New Vegas was given 18 months to cook. Avowed, the developer's upcoming fantasy RPG set in the plague-ridden Living Lands, has taken five years – a whopper, in comparison to its radioactive predecessor. It's been a long stretch, game director Carrie Patel tells GamesRadar+, but the payoff is finally in sight.


Summer Games Preview
We're diving into the hottest upcoming games out of Summer Game Fest. To find all of our hands-on reports, visit GamesRadar's What's Hot 2024 hub.

"It's a really exciting time in development, because it's at the end when you really see everything come together," says Patel. Right now, the team is giving Avowed a polish – "turning it up to 11," in Patel's words – and looking for ways to improve the largely-finished RPG. "It's extraordinarily satisfying," adds art director Matt Hansen. "It's been a long development cycle for us – for Obsidian specifically – and we've learned so many lessons over that time." 

Choose your own adventure


(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

“Right now, we're so focused on experiential polish, rather than making sure we're, you know, under poly count and texture memory,” adds Hansen. “We're doing pretty good in that place, and it's allowed us to have a lot of freedom to improve things we didn't think we would get to improve. And that's been really, really liberating.”

The result of this is shaping up to be Obsidian's biggest game since 2019's sci-fi adventure The Outer Worlds. Though Avowed has been widely compared to Bethesda's first-person fantasy The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, in truth it looks much weirder. The Living Lands, though whimsically colorful, is overrun with victims of the mysterious Dreamscourge – think pustular spiders, shroomy soldiers, and restless dead. Combat is just as eclectic – a mix of firearms, medieval weapons, and magic – and Hansen says that even this is grounded in Obsidian's deep-rooted belief that players should be given as much control as possible. 

Avowed new screenshot xbox series x

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

"You don't want it to feel as if the player's role is inconsequential"

Carrie Patel, game director

"We don't just want to [make] a game where you can be a wizard, or a warrior, or a gunslinger," says Hanson. "We want it to feel like those choices are choices that you as the player are making, you're not being pigeonholed into one world or another. We've got a lot of mixing and matching of systems and styles for players. You can [have] a wizard's grimoire in one hand and a pistol in the other – I actually love playing that way, it's super fun – but allowing for that level of depth is super important."

However, this approach doesn't come without risk. "You don't want to feel as if the world ceases to exist when the player isn't present," Patel points out. "But you also don't want it to feel as if the player's role is inconsequential! For us, it's about finding balance that makes our world meaningful, but also makes the player's role feel central." 

Though we've not seen too much of Avowed, you can see glimpses of this approach in its latest trailers. As Hanson alludes to, players are free to bash, blast, and burn enemies in first-person combat, while this deep dive from Xbox showed glimpses of Obsidian's witty dialogue – which once let us "prank" a soldier by unpinning their grenade mid-conversation – in action. As with The Outer Worlds, companions will play a large part in Avowed. Hanson describes their involvement as "critical" to the game's story, and reveals that some areas won't be accessible without them. Besides serving as your allies in battle, these companions will act as a "sounding board" for your decisions, and can even get into disagreements between themselves. "They [also] act as a moral compass that you can choose to ignore if you want, which is always fun," adds Hanson, who grins like a devil on your shoulder.

Truth and consequence

Avowed new screenshot xbox series x

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

The topic of morality comes up again when we discuss Avowed's story. So far, plot details have been kept minimal: besides investigating the Dreamscourge, it sounds like we'll be exploring the Living Lands and determining the fate of its inhabitants, but it will once again come down to your choices. 

"The story of the game, to use a bit of a cliche, is very morally gray," says Hanson. "We don't spoon feed you the good or the bad approaches to things. We touch on a lot of topics that have a lot of real world complexity to them, and you as the player can kind of decide how you want to go through that and what you want your experience with those, those political tensions and local conflicts."

Patel says players will experience "a little bit of both" short and long-term consequences for their decisions, from choosing the fate of empires to much smaller results. "There are definitely some moments where your ability to persuade someone, or their reaction to you at a pivotal moment, is going to depend on how you've acted in situations before. They'll kind of call it out – like 'you want me to trust you now, but you did X, Y, and Z? I don't think so!'"

Even so, the staggering cultural impact of Skyrim means that any first-person fantasy game is inevitably judged beneath its long shadow. But the track record of Obsidian – the studio that made a 16th century murder mystery, drawn on medieval manuscripts, one of the most compelling games of this generation – suggests that at the very least, it should have no trouble turning Fus Ro Dah to flowers. At the very least? Expect things to get weird

Avowed is one of the most anticipated upcoming Xbox Series X games for the year, although its release date is still TBC

Features Editor

Andy Brown is the Features Editor of Gamesradar+, and joined the site in June 2024. Before arriving here, Andy earned a degree in Journalism and wrote about games and music at NME, all while trying (and failing) to hide a crippling obsession with strategy games. When he’s not bossing soldiers around in Total War, Andy can usually be found cleaning up after his chaotic husky Teemo, lost in a massive RPG, or diving into the latest soulslike – and writing about it for your amusement.