There’s a scarcity these days for games that truly live up to the action-adventure moniker. While genre blending is common, seeing a game that delves deep into adventure elements all while providing compelling action isn’t as common anymore.
The market has seemingly moved on past classic action-adventure games such as Legacy of Kain despite the popularity they once had. In the case of Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King, players are finally getting a modern game that lives up to the action-adventure genre.
The genesis behind Shattered is rather different than other projects, not just in how it started, but in how long the property been around. Shattered was initially conceived as a series of stories and role-playing campaigns created by Max Rene. These stories then became animated with the assistance and creative input of Alric Giordani and Laureline Denis-Venuat. After establishing the lore of Shattered for ten years, Max created Redlock Studio with the goal of bringing Shattered to life as a video game.
“Seeing those stories turned into a proper video game was like a childhood dream,” said Laureline in an interview with Two Left Sticks. “Max built up a team to make it all come true and we shaped this dark and poetic world. We really want the player to feel like we used to feel during our role play sessions: surrounded by incredible places to explore, strange creatures to fight and a deep story to discover.”
Seeing Shattered realized as a video game makes one thing clear immediately – the game has a style unlike any other. A goal that is sometimes missed within video games is fully transporting the player to someplace they haven’t been before. So it’s rare to see a stylistic vision that encapsulates originality as much as Shattered does.
The unique foreign world of Shattered and the entities that occupy it is one which has familiar inspirations. “We have several inspirations in the gaming area: Journey, Dark Souls, Shadow of the Colossus, and Legacy of Kain,” said Laureline of the artistic inspirations behind Shattered. Redlock was also inspired by the works of animation legend Hayao Miyazaki, Tite Kubo, and Peter Mohrbacher. These are apparent in the dense and often angular design that composes of the characters and world in Shattered.
Inspirations such as those have a clear purpose within how Redlock is crafting the world of Shattered. Speaking further on the topic Laureline said, “We wanted to offer refined oneiric visuals, quite childish for some creatures. That style tries to express a certain melancholy while ambiguously emphasizing the very dark topic we’re dealing with and the progressive evolution of the narrative maturity.”
THE LASTING LEGACY OF KAIN
A pinnacle of the action-adventure genre for some players was the Legacy of Kain series. Soul Reaver, in particular, was a highlight thanks to the brooding style, powerful narrative, and adventure gameplay. Still unmatched for some players, Legacy of Kain has had a huge impact on how Redlock conceived the video game adaptation of Shattered.
“Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver was not technically perfect. But Soul Reaver managed to create a feeling of vastness with the scores, narrative, and capacity to evoke references without any words. We believe the atmosphere was the result of a lot of components mixed together. From visuals and sound design to dialogues and storyline. We’re really trying to make the player’s imagination work by silently summoning universal references. This is accomplished through the mythology elements, architectural styles or even psychological features, especially with the masks.”
A MIXTURE OF STYLES
Whereas Soul Reaver was a traditional, for that time, 3rd person action-adventure game, Shattered is going in a different direction. Split between 3rd person and side-scrolling action/exploration segments, players will have a different action-adventure experience as they go through Shattered. This may sound like an odd split to do, though Redlock does have a logical reason behind it.
“Combining 2.5D and 3D were planned since the beginning,” Laureline said of Shattered’s gameplay basis. “Shattered’s story is a lot about interpretation. This is a way to make the player change their point of view from inside the gameplay, not just metaphorically. It helps to emphasize the boss combats as well, giving a real feeling of littleness facing huge entities.
The mixture of game design elements may worry players since such a thing can lead to muddled results. “Our main concern is that everything must have a utility: the different core gameplay styles must be necessary for the others to function well.”
An integral component of any action-adventure game is having combat that’s compelling. Occasionally players will tolerate combat that is weak if other elements are superior. Though ultimately, players want the best out of a game. Shattered is striving to deliver combat scenarios which will please players accustomed to games such as the Souls series.
This may seem like an odd inspiration, though it speaks to the evolution the market, in general, has undergone. While excellent for the era, the combos and bosses of Soul Reaver are simple by today’s standards. Players now expect a level of complexity, difficulty, and sometimes damning challenge within combat.
“Dark Souls is one of our main inspirations. So you can expect pretty hard and brutal combat phases,” said Laureline. Shattered just won’t be trying to evoke the feel of Dark Souls within the combat. Instead, Redlock is also aiming to provide a level of freedom as well. Further speaking of the combat Laureline said, “You can go smart and find your adversaries’ weaknesses to use against them. The bosses all have different patterns and it’ll be hard to defeat them at first. Depending on your playstyle and how much you figure out about the lore, bosses can be defeated in different ways.”
Shattered will, of course, have an emphasis on combat, but that doesn’t mean it’ll forego its adventure based roots. Of the split between combat and platforming/exploration, Laureline said, “It’s balanced throughout the entire game. But some levels will have more exploration or more combat sections. We give a lot of importance to the rhythm. It has to serve the feeling of the game and the narrative.”
Rather than telling a linear story, Shattered’s narrative is split between three distinct voices. These include the Whisperer, the companion that follows the player, the Geodesian Book, and Eibon fragments. The latter two are elements that players will find scattered around the environments of Shattered, and it’s up to them to find locate these fragments and literally piece together what transpired.
“Your goal as the Wanderer is to discover what really happened in the world of Hypnos before you woke up in it. You’ll soon realize that every information source gives a different version of the events. The more lore elements you’ll find, the more precise your interpretation should be. In any case, you’re the only one who can decide who/what you want to trust more and bring back the truth by combining all the lore components you gathered.”
AN UNCERTAIN, BUT HOPEFUL FATE
After a successful campaign on Square Enix Collective, Redlock has moved to Kickstarter to make Shattered a reality. The Redlock team are of course cognizant of the potential if the Kickstarter proves unsuccessful. Laureline stated that Shattered’s development would pause if the Kickstarter fails, but it would only be momentary. Redlock is dedicated to finishing Shattered no matter how long it’ll take or what way it may require.
LONG LIVE THE KING
Bringing back a true sense of the action-adventure genre which has fallen aside, Shattered aims to deliver a unique experience to players. “We like to think of Shattered as a complex game,” said Laureline. “Perspectives, gameplay, and narrative are all key elements. None of them being less important than the others. I think we are doing well to make the player deeply feel this.” Thanks to some beautiful art, Shattered is immediately gripping, and Redlock Studio is approaching things with a unique perspective unlike anything else.