Oddworld: Abe’s Origins — An Art Book at Heart with Lore and History for Fans

Oddworld: Abe’s Origins is, at its heart, a book specifically about the art with lore and history trickling through its pages.

I remember when I was growing up in the 1990s as a child with a PlayStation 1, I spent weeks — probably months — trying to play Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee in 1997. I was only a nipper under the age of 10 and quite honestly, found the game a bit scary. But one thing was certain: I was hooked on the gloomy world that protagonist, Abe was a part of. I kept booting the game up to progress in small fractions then shutting it down like a coward in the next area.

As the years went on I became a braver and bigger fan of the world. Friends and I would mimic Abe’s “Hello” when we’d meet at school, and we’d discuss moments from Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, Abe’s Exodus, and laugh at Munch’s Oddysee — we never did like that game. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath launched in 2005 and despite not getting it until a year later, I fell in love with the western-theme. It’s also a world I’ve recently re-experienced with the Nintendo Switch port.

Thanks to Indie by Design, the artwork and lore of the industrialized world have now been preserved in a wonderful hardcover art book. The book was originally Kickstarted back in 2018 and was successfully funded within 48 hours. £154.778 was pledged out of 2,935 backers.

The cover itself is a plain white hardcover with a hand-drawn portrait of Abe himself on the cover. The spine has the name of the book and Indie by Design in golden foil. Overall, it looks stunning and aesthetically pleasing. However, it’s a shame that there’s no slipcase provided to keep the white cover from getting dirty from the environment.

Within the first few pages, the book throws you into an interview conducted by Indie by Design with Oddworld Inhabitants co-founder Lorne Lanning. The interview itself is personal, in-depth, and goes into details surrounding the creation of the Oddworld universe, Abe’s place amongst the other Oddworld characters, and much more including how the GameSpeak feature came to be.

There’s a deep dive into Lorne’s personal journey to game development, including how being high on weed one night was what inspired him to jump into video games. It also goes through information about Oddworld Inhabitants’ journey and explains some of Abe’s characteristics and the world surrounding him. Though, as much as it would have been nice to read, not much was mentioned regarding the upcoming Oddworld: Soulstorm and its development.

After the interview, the book begins to delve more into the characters and the lore of the environments. The pages mostly consist of artwork spread across the pages with nicely laid out snippets of text providing information in a way that doesn’t detract from viewing the art. In fact, the art blends into the page, not ruined by borders and edges with environment concepts taking up blocks of the page in a uniformed fashion.

And really, Oddworld: Abe’s Origins feels like it was trying to achieve a uniformed layout that brings focus to the art rather than harrowing walls of text that ramble on about the history of the universe. It’s focused on having you divulge into its visuals rather than text, similar to the way the games have you taking in the world through the visuals of the gameplay rather than being told about the world.

There are full-page spreads to divide up the plethora of white pages, some featuring full-page art, while some bring a vibrant green that introduces a new section. Really, if you’re a fan of the Oddworld titles, you’ll enjoy reading up on Abe, Steef’s, the Sligs, and even more. But really, at its heart, this is a book about the art and not about the lore.

Perhaps my favorite part of Oddworld: Abe’s Origins are the pages that show the different styles for the logo of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee and the PS1 cover art drawings. I used to spend hours of my time designing fake logos with goals to get somewhere in the digital art world, so it was inspiring to see so many concepts before they chose a final design.

I do feel as if the book would have benefitted from some boxouts containing key, or interesting facts to break up the formality of the pages. While it’s a lovely book, the text portions feel too formal which is contradicted by Lorne’s playful and whimsical interview towards the start.

Oddworld: Abe’s Origins is a fantastic book that I’ve enjoyed reading through and inspecting the high-quality pencil work on the concept art. It’s also a book I’d recommend for not only fans of the universe, but if you’re pursuing a career as an artist of some type in the games industry. Through and through, this is an inspirational read and a must-have for your collection.

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Ben Bayliss

Based in the UK and adores venturing through FPS horrors and taking photos in pretty much anything with a functioning photo mode. Also likes car games.

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