Iron Galaxy’s fighting experts are hunting bigger game
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Developer Iron Galaxy Publisher Maximum Games Format PC, PS4, Xbox One Origin US Release TBA
We spend a while wrestling with the idea of Iron Galaxy’s latest project. It sounds like the studio itself has, too. Some things are easily grasped: it’s definitely a thirdperson action-adventure game. It’s also a monster-battler influenced by the likes of Team Ico’s Shadow Of The Colossus and popular anime series Attack On Titan. Beyond that, things get more complicated. “I’ve worked on a bunch of games,” game director Kraig Kujawa tells us, “and this has been one of the most ambitious things that I have worked on.”
That’s quite the statement from a man with credits on series such as Killer Instinct, Dead Rising and Resident Evil, yet Extinction contains more moving parts than its simple, painterly art style suggests. Combat is writ large and fantastical: you play a Sentinel named Avil who must resist humanity’s aggressors, an ogre-race called Ravenii. “We’ve been balancing combat with all sorts of crazy characters on Killer Instinct,” Kujawa says (Iron Galaxy is now lead developer on the formerly Rare-made fighting game). “So when it came to, ‘How do you make a ‘David versus Goliath’ fight work?’ that was a challenge we wanted to take on.” But the desire for fresh blood pushed the team further. “Then Derek [Neal, executive producer at publisher Maximum Games] said, ‘OK, why don’t we do some procedural worlds too?’ and we’re like, ‘Uh, OK, sure, we can do that,’ Kujawa says. “‘Oh, and just to make it a little bit harder, make the ogres random every single time.’”
It’s certainly a lot of different elements – the question is how well they all fit together. “It’s almost like a combat puzzle-box, in a way,” Kujawa says. The saturated sprawl of urban and forest locales is not strictly an open world: it’s a series of procedurally generated, fully destructible sandbox mission areas, in
an effort to keep the action more focused. “I think of the map like a 3D Carcassonne,” Kujawa says. “Every tile gets procedurally slotted in before you play it. You take the Carcassonne tiles out, you spill them out, and you arrange them. And we have rulesets under the hood to make sure that the tiles fit together logically.” Once the map clicks into place, other elements – enemy AI, lighting, NPCs and items – are layered on, with tempting power-ups or endangered citizens influencing which route you’re likely to take.
The next part
of Extinction’s puzzle box is its protagonist: Avil is gymnastic enough to give Ezio Auditore a complex at 20 paces, capable of horizontal and vertical wallrunning on – we’re promised in breathy tones – “literally anything”; is proficient in airdashes and whip-enabled grappling; and can also slow down time during combat. The idea is that the combination of Avil’s generous skillset and the game’s carefully coded environments will balance your fight against the enemy: huge, procedurally generated ogres that’ll kill you in one hit. It’s less of a DNA lucky dip than ‘procedurally generated’ suggests, however. There are really only three types of Ravenii (muscular but slow; slender and agile; your common-or-garden maneating humanoid). Instead, Iron Galaxy is seeking to introduce tactical variety through the different kinds of armour ogres wear.
Gear pieces are made of wood, iron, bone, gold or have spikes, dictating how you approach fights. Only some can be destroyed. Others can be knocked off, but may have clasps that need loosening first. Gold features grapple points, so you can clamber upwards towards an ogre’s head, a decapitation and victory. If the code throws up trickier armour sets – “You might have an ogre that has two gold pieces on his arms but iron on his legs,” Kujawa says – you’ll scale tall cliffs or multistorey buildings to spring onto shoulders. Provided your platform doesn’t get punched to smithereens in the process, anyway.
The armour system helps set Extinction apart from the usual hit-the-weak-point boss battle, intended to prompt more improvisational and tactical assassinations. If the world really is full and reactive enough, it could make for truly creative clashes – although from what we’ve seen, Iron Galaxy’s brave new world is looking a little bare. Why risk tackling a much broader game like this? “We know combat,” Kujawa says. “How can you possibly make that more challenging for the team? As it turns out, the answer is, ‘Apply it to a 3,000-foot ogre.’”
“This is a beast that hasn’t been done before,” he continues, unconsciously setting up that ‘David versus Goliath’ dynamic once again – only this time, in the context of the game’s development. “We’re really excited about taking a swing at it.”
Protagonist Avil is gymnastic enough to give Ezio Auditore a complex at 20 paces
Each of the three types of ogre will attack in different ways. Some might favour sweeping arm attacks, for example – you can strategically nullify those by chopping off limbs
Game director Kraig Kujawa (top) and Maximum Games executive producer Derek Neal
ABOVE Dodge rolls won’t save you. If you’re in the way of a direct hit, you’re done. It’s about realistic-feeling fights, we’re told, though there’s clear artistic licence in the time-slowing abilities
TOP LEFT Art director Chad Newhouse tells us the team designed the world to look “timeless”, though there’s a clear medieval feel to the town and Avil’s plate armour.
LEFT Comboing the Ravenii’s smaller fry is a means for Avil to get to higher ground when nearby buildings are scarce; flying minions can be grappled onto by using the whip
Protagonist super-soldier Avil is the last of the Sentinels, a group of legendary fighters that fought the Ravenii hordes long ago, and humanity’s final hope. No pressure, then