Greetings readers, and welcome to the final Indie Highlight Reel of 2017. This entry brings discussions with the developers of an action-RPG based in a fantasy version of feudal Japan and a first-person shooter featuring big guns, huge enemies, and massive ambitions.
Mixing historical fiction with Japanese mythology, Shogun no Kamigami casts players as a warrior in the mid-16th century, tasked with battling kami (elemental spirits) to protect a small village. Despite the fantastic trappings, the game will have the main character crossing paths with such real-world figures as daimyō Oda Nobunaga, samurai Hattori Hanzo, and swordsmith Muramasa. Although the protagonist is a custom character, Oda is the main actor of the piece, with players left to determine whether he is a good or evil man.
Despite the strong Japanese influence in the setting and story, the developer, ShiniGames, is based in France, and the team is taking care to ensure that its portrayal of a foreign place and time is as respectful as possible. The game’s creative director, Florien Jouy, says that French people, as a collective, bear a strong appreciation for Japanese culture and media products, but his personal interests are deeper. “As a young boy, I grew up with Disney and Miyazaki movies. And since this time, I’m a huge fan of Fantastic, folklore, myths and legends of all countries,” he said. As time passed, he found a love of the heroic fantasy model thanks to The Lord of the Rings and “discovered that ‘true’ history is plentiful [with] myths, monster, and heroes. Especially in the old religions, Greek, Nordic, Japanese, and during the feudal era.”
These inspirations led to a desire to create a game that would blend real-world history with folkloric fantasy. While myths and legends are rife in Slavic and European cultures, Jouy says that “the main difference between Japan and [the] West is that folklore is part of [Japanese] history,” which makes “Feudal Japan… a perfect playground… So we decided to [set] our game during Sengoku Jidai, speaking about Kami, Yokai, and historical legends [such] as Oda Nobunaga and many others.” As such, ShiniGames has approached Shogun no Kamigami with two core tenets in mind: “First, to have great historical sources, so we carry out research. My wife is an historian, [which] helps a lot! And Sengoku Jidai has few historical sources so we can play with its ‘grey area’. Second, we want to make a game that will speak for [Western] people. So we merge… Heroic Fantasy code with the Japanese philosophy. For example, Samurai and Knight have almost the same code: Be strong, defend the weak, obey and be heroic. For that, we carry out research again and take time with a professor of Japanese culture to never misinterpret their codes. For example, at first we wanted to name our Wind Kami ‘Kamikaze’, ‘Great Spirit of Wind’, but since [World War II], it’s a very bad idea.”
ShiniGames has put forth considerable effort in creating a world that feels unique, and that will be matched with a similar gameplay depth. Although players start off as a fighter, three combat styles will be available in the game: samurai, shinobi, and karakuri, each of which has unique skill trees and is capable of wielding different weapons and armour. Supporting the melee systems is elemental magic that will react to the world. Six primary magic types are available—fire, water, wind, earth, void, and light—and these elements can be combined together for a grand total of 21. An example of how the environment affects gameplay is that standing in rain or rivers will provide a massive boost to the strength of water-based spells. An extra point of complexity stems from the village, which grows as players progress through the story, providing access to stronger weapons and armour.
Shogun no Kamigami features a strong single-player core, but the developers are also incorporating a co-operative aspect because fighting the kami “should be easier and fun with friends.” To facilitate that spirit of fun, ShiniGames is providing to options for online play. The first will be for players interested in the story, allowing them to fight alongside friends while progressing through the narrative. The other option is an arcade-like experience that has players entering a dojo alongside others to do battle against high-level enemies without any ties to the story.
The project has already been in development for more than two years as a side effort, but work continues to stretch ahead for ShiniGames. The team is dedicated to making Shogun no Kamigami a full-time affair and, as such, is currently planning a crowdfunding campaign “for early 2018, probably near to March.” Even with the securing of funding, the game will be a long way off, with Jouy estimating at least an additional 18 months before it will be ready for release on PC, with console versions an option if the initial launch is successful.
Announced earlier this year, MOTHERGUNSHIP is the follow-up to 2014’s Tower of Guns, and the core elements of the game are as ridiculous as those titles suggest. Developed by Terrible Posture Games in partnership with Grip Digital, the project casts players as a soldier tasked with using an array of obnoxiously large and overpowered weapons to defend the Earth against a robotic alien armada.
Tower of Guns is strongly regarded for its fluid gameplay and fast pace, and these core aspects are also at the heart of MOTHERGUNSHIP. The game’s director, Joe Mirabello, says the the intention is to make “something that feels like a progression of Tower of Guns, while also being something fresh and exciting for us to build.” The primary focus of the new ideas comes in the robust crafting system, which allows users to create almost any gun that can be imagined. With players capable of cobbling together a twelve-barrel rocket launcher, the game threatens to be rife with balancing issues, but Mirabello is embracing those difficulties. “We are really hesitant to ever directly say “no, you can’t do that” to the player,” he said, “so… concerns about balance are certainly valid. We’ve got a few different mechanics in place, like the gun’s ‘battery/overheat’ meter, to ensure that the guns don’t lead to challenge-less gameplay, but we also want to balance it with ALLOWING the player to feel overpowered. Feeling overpowered, in short bursts, can be thrilling if it doesn’t overstay its welcome. However, getting the right mix is certainly tricky, and we’ll be heavily refining this throughout development.”
The crafting system is just one of the areas whereby MOTHERGUNSHIP outstrips the ambitions of Tower of Guns, and Mirabello attributes this leap in quality and complexity to the involvement of Grip. “Working closely with Grip has, in a nutshell, let me build something much more ambitious than I could have done on my own… to the point where I absolutely cannot call MOTHERGUNSHIP ‘my project’. It’s a Grip and Terrible Posture project. That doesn’t mean I don’t have my hands everywhere still. I spend every day juggling between design, level art, FX, biz dev, tech art, marketing, etc…however unlike Tower of Guns, now I can do that for a much more focused spread of tasks, and I know I can trust my colleagues at Grip to deliver on other elements.” The partnership between the two studios began with the publisher helping Terrible Posture bring Tower of Guns to consoles, and both parties found the experience enjoyable enough to work together on a new game. Rather than simply acting as publisher the second time around, Grip has been hands-on in providing developmental assistance. The collaboration has resulted in a far stronger core product, as Mirabello’s design vision has been “tempered and improved in every way by the input and feedback of [his] colleagues.”
MOTHERGUNSHIP has the single-player experience at its core, but will also feature a full co-operative mode. Playing alongside friends may prove to be the best way to hope to clear the game, thanks to the bullet-hell/FPS hybrid gameplay, the overwhelming number of enemies, and the presence of some of the largest and most daunting bosses ever included in a first-person shooter.
Although the developers are not yet ready to reveal a release window for the game, Mirabello says that he “can promise you we have our heads down and we’re working diligently to make the best game possible.” A demo of the title will be available at the PlayStation Experience event in Anaheim, California next month. Meanwhile, the full launch is expected at some point in 2018.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the myriad games we’ve included in the Indie Highlight Reel this year. We’re planning on bringing the segment back in 2018 with a slightly different format and focus, but we’ll provide more details on those plans in the next few weeks. In the meantime, if your interest has been piqued by either Shogun no Kamigami or MOTHERGUNSHIP, be sure to let us know in the comments below!