Ex­tinc­tion

Iron Galaxy’s fight­ing ex­perts are hunt­ing big­ger game

EDGE - - GAMES -

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

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