By way of introduction to Aderyn’s Cradle, an adventure game in development by Mojo Game Studios, I’d like to talk a little about a couple of other games, one you may have missed and one you’ll definitely recognize. Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, though well-received for the most part, didn’t make a huge impact when it was released in 2006, while Skyrim, the latest instalment in the now-venerable and beloved Elder Scrolls series, did huge business when it was unleashed in 2011. The former brought kinetic and satisfying first-person melee combat to a somewhat bland and limited world, and the latter dropped players into a beautiful and massive landmass with weak combat mechanisms. I loved both, so a game aiming to offer terrific combat in a narratively-dense environment doesn’t need to work much to attract my attention. If I know the gaming zeitgeist, and I think I do (being a hip and happening individual), plenty of people would want to play something like that, so by all means join me in taking a look at Aderyn’s Cradle.
Laying the Foundations
There’s a veritable buffet of information provided on the Kickstarter page upon which we can feast, but we’ll start by setting out the core ethos of the game. The premise is a mechanically-refreshing take on typical fantasy tropes, with tried-and-tested RPG classes reworked to function uniquely in a manner more reminiscent of FPS titles. Fairly recently, the critically-acclaimed Far Cry 3 made for a good example of how something like that can work, giving players some deep character-building elements tied to map exploration (though nothing of its off-the-beaten-path gameplay pertained in any way to the story.)
I can think of no better hook than to say that Aderyn’s Cradle strikes me as something that would probably cause my fragile grasp of reality to completely shatter if I ever got a chance to play it through a Rift or Glyph headset (and they do intend to support the Rift, at least.) As long as the associated tasks aren’t horribly clunky, challenging a player to dig around for survival items (instead of, for instance, simply hurling endless vials of mysterious healing fluid at them) can really help immersion and make a virtual reality feel more reactive.
Crafting an Intuitive Fighting System
Dark Messiah was so fun to play because it managed to feel almost tactile. Physics were punchy, sword strokes reverberated, and the reliable kick made it feel like you were really hitting someone. Aderyn’s Cradle’s combat system, while obviously early in its development, sounds a lot like it, with directional swings and solidity to close-quarter clashes. Where it should stand out is in its targeting system whereby players can slice up specific body parts with appropriate animations and even queue their attacks to some extent. It’s unclear how detailed the damage system will be, or whether set attack patterns will confer benefits as combos, but—given the information currently available—I think we can expect something fairly sophisticated.
On top of that, we can expect customization options for weapons and pieces of armor and a dynamic progression system that draws information from NPCs and the environment alike, meaning the action should be varied and conducive to a freeform style. I’m eager to see what they can show us in the next set of previews, especially to see how broad the range of vertical movement will be and how stealth options will be dealt with.
Drawing from Great Influences
The description of the player having to rely on testimony from insane characters brings to mind not only the madness of Sheogorath from the Elder Scrolls series but also the delightfully bizarre Psychonauts. Hopefully the player will be frequently challenged to make tough decisions about how to proceed, with each choice carrying a risk of some kind, whether it be the possibility that a piece of second-hand narrative information is inaccurate or that a desirable hidden weapon is heavily guarded.
I’ve mentioned various games already, and while I could go on for a while, I think it’s an excellent sign that I’m only reminded of titles I really enjoyed. Besides, being reliant on generic tropes isn’t itself a bad thing; it’s all down to the execution, and the Aderyn’s Cradle concept is immensely attractive and something I’m definitely interested in seeing come to fruition in a big way.
Getting down to brass tacks, the Kickstarter campaign runs until around the 21st of this month, with PC and Linux versions planned for a summer 2016 release but console ports a strong possibility down the line. Right now they’ve attracted nearly $90k, but there’s a long way to go, so get out your wallets and show them you mean business by doling out the Benjamins. If I don’t get to play Aderyn’s Cradle, I’m holding you personally responsible. You’ve been warned.