The Xbox Games Showcase for 2023 had plenty of exciting reveals throughout its duration. Starfield got its deep dive direct, we got to see Fable, and a newcomer in South of Midnight really interested me for its dark environment and stop motion-like animation. Of all the surprises, nothing stood out to me more than inXile’s Clockwork Revolution. A first-person RPG that gave me strong Bioshock Infinite vibes that I’ve been desperate to see again..
Time travel vs. the multiverse
Clockwork Revolution occurs in a steampunk city called Avalon, where everything seems to be running fine. It appears that the ruler of this city, Lady Ironwood, might be a bit corrupt. To fight back against her, you travel back in time and change certain aspects of her rule and the state of the city. Who knows how often we will be time traveling and if we can choose when we do, but Clockwork Revolution looks to bring back the feeling of Bioshock Infinite — minus the flying city and companion character. The corrupt head of the city and early looks at mechanical enemies has been screaming Bioshock Infinite to me since that reveal.
When Bioshock Infinite came out in 2013, it immediately became one of my favorite games ever. I was already in love with the series after the first two games, but Infinite began my love for the multiverse theory and its implementation in many forms of media today. With Elizabeth’s multiversal tear ability, you could travel through different versions of Columbia, which was always an intriguing concept. Of course, looking back at it now, the idea was a little underutilized. This was most likely due to the technical limitations of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but I always appreciated that story and environment.
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Whether it is multiversal travel or hopping back in time, both games look to capture rather unique areas that we don’t see in gaming much. Steampunk on its own would be an interesting aesthetic to see more of among all the modern warzones and forests and other harsh environments we currently see for shooters and survival games. If inXile can make Clockwork Revolution stand toe-to-toe with Bioshock Infinite by delivering an engaging story and great feeling first-person controls on top of a fully detailed and unique world, I will be incredibly happy. Add on more RPG elements for upgrades and new powers, and we could have something truly special on our hands.
Something great can be built from this
Of course, Clockwork Revolution has no release in sight, so I should take this optimism with a pinch of salt. We have had games in the past that we thought would give Bioshock vibes only to be let down. We Happy Few, a game by fellow Xbox first-party Compulsion, had me excited at its reveal until I got to play it. That said, that game’s reveal only allowed us to see an office environment. Clockwork Revolution has immediately shown us a larger scope of its world. There is definitely room to be skeptical, but when I see those mechanical enemies appear and the little snippets of gameplay, including electrical blasts and rewinding time on a fallen bridge, I immediately want to jump in to experience them myself. Not just because it has an interesting world.
One of the things I wanted to do the most in Bioshock Infinite was explore Columbia more. The switch from a shining city in the sky to dystopian wreckage happens fast. With such a big focus on timeline changing, Avalon could be something I would be glad to get lost in for hours on end. I want to know how much freedom we have to change this city between timelines. If this ends up being a pretty linear affair, with just small changes based on your choices, I will be disappointed. If I can repeatedly make significant changes that affect things like the enemies I see or the routes available in the city, that excites me.
The best thing about summer showcases is the excitement that comes from surprise reveals like Clockwork Revolution and Bioshock Infinite. There is no doubt that I am setting myself up for disappointment by comparing this game to one of my favorite adventures of all time. Fully aware of that, I can’t help myself. The environment, the potential powers and abilities, and the successful track record of RPGs from inXile make me expect big things from this title. This is the first fully produced game the company has released since being acquired by Microsoft, and they are making a big impression on me in the early going. All that’s left is to see if they can deliver the Bioshock Infinite experience of my dreams.