inXile's next game is a bold gamble that asks what if Bioshock Infinite, but better?

inXile is a venerable studio with a long list of great games to its name, as well as series like The Bard's Tale and Wasteland. Its latest title, the first since 2020's Wasteland 3, is a whole new look for inXile, and a giant leap forwards for the studio in terms of the action focus and visuals. Wasteland is an isometric RPG. Clockwork Revolution, meanwhile, is a full, first-person immersive sim.

My instant reaction to the trailer was to think about Bioshock but, the more I've watched it, the more this suggests different directions from where that series went. An undoubted influence is Bioshock Infinite, many themes from which are present: rich vs. poor and a clear antagonist in control of the city, giant airships, clanking mechanoids, and time travel. But where Bioshock Infinite never did much gameplay-wise with the time travel, leaving it entirely for narrative set-pieces, Clockwork Revolution is built around the idea that you can travel back-and-forth and change the setting through your actions in different eras.

Just how in-depth this is, and how non-linear, remains to be seen. It's clear that certain actions in the past will drastically alter the city in the future, though just as interestingly it seems neither yourself or the protagonist will fully understand the consequences of such changes until you've gone back. Time manipulation is also shown being used in combat and in certain sections of the city, with a beautiful clip showing a collapsed bridge being un-collapsed.

The trailer certainly further suggests that as you change things in the past that affect the city's wealth and stability (albeit dictatorial stability), the city you're returning to is much more overtly brutal and authoritarian, with the same people largely in charge but now having invented many delightful new ways to oppress the populace.

There are reasons to be optimistic beyond the trailer. inXile refers to the setting as steampunk, and says the project is led by director Chad Moore and designer Jason Anderson, who certainly have form in this setting having worked on the beloved 2001 RPG Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. 

The game features "dynamic time-bending combat, deep interconnected roleplaying systems, and the ability to create your own unique character from the ground up", per inXile studio head Brian Fargo. The setting is called Avalon, and has been constructed into its present form by a time-traveller called Lady Ironwood, who rules over a place where wealthy industrialists and mechanical slaves live in opulence, while the poor are kept in slums and factories. Which is just how Lady Ironwood likes it.

Your character comes across their own time travel gizmo called the Chronometer, and then it's off to the races. "Through unprecedented and complex visual and narrative depth, the choices you make on your trips into the past will change the people, the stories, and the city of Avalon itself in extraordinary and (very often) unexpected ways," said Fargo. "In Clockwork Revolution we’re pushing roleplaying reactivity to new heights, infused with the unique texture and personality that you’ve come to expect from our games".

Clockwork Revolution is inXile's first game as part of Xbox Game Studios, and Fargo describes this as "our studio’s first AAA first-person action RPG". The bad news? It's still early in development and this trailer is described as pre-alpha footage. It ends by saying we'll see more from inXile… in due time.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."