Video games are one of the most powerful vicarious mediums around, allowing people to teleport from the trials and tribulations of daily life into fictitious worlds where in most cases they are the hero. Whether it is saving the president’s daughter and stopping the Las Plagas in Resident Evil 4, crusading around the Empire on the continent of Tamriel in Skyrim, or slaying 150-foot ogres in Extinction, video games can provide a means of catharsis, or simply elicit feelings of gratification (or rage if you play FIFA).
Extinction is a game that can provide that larger than life feeling, thanks to its epic battles between man and 150-foot beast. This notion was further reinforced when I recently went hands-on with a preview build of Extinction, which showcased the first eight levels of the campaign and additional modes (you can read the preview here) and was a ton of fun to play.
I was lucky enough to sit down and chat with Derek Neal, the game’s Executive Producer to discuss all things Extinction, including its origins, art style and how the Iron Galaxy’s background helped shaped the game’s combat mechanics.
DYEGB: What is Extinction and how did the world become overrun with 150-foot ogres, or the Ravenii as they’re known?
DN: At its core, Extinction is a game about two things: slaying giant monsters, and protecting as many people as possible. The Ravenii have entered this world through trans-dimensional portals, a technology which is alien to everyone on this planet, and they brought with them an army of smaller enemies from races they’ve subjugated.
DYEGB: Players won’t just be fighting 150-foot ogres, what other threats will Avil face?
DN: The Ravenii’s armies are packed with a variety of smaller foes, including several different varieties of small, goblin-like enemies called Jackals. There are also flying monsters called Vultures, and large, bulky enemies with armored properties on their attacks.
DYEGB: How long has Extinction been in development for?
DN: Roughly 18 months.
DYEGB: How did the concept for Extinction come about?
DN: We wanted to make a game where you really got to fight against monsters, in a meaningful way. When you dodge their attacks, it’s because you get out of the way. When you damage them, it’s because you hack part of them off. You can climb all over them, lure them away from civilian centers, and so forth. Everything else about the game was a natural progression from that premise.
The Ravenii are more than big giant ogres
DYEGB: Tell us about the world of Extinction. Is it open-world? Will there be side-quests for players to complete?
DN: The game is not open world. The campaign takes places across a series of missions, each of which happens on its own map. However, the maps are very large, and there is a lot of freedom in how to go about completing each of the missions.
DYEGB: What time period is the game set in?
DN: It’s a fictional world, but it’s roughly equivalent to our Middle Ages.
DYEGB: The world of Extinction is fully destructible. How taxing is this on the game’s performance and what pros and cons does this aspect provide?
DN: The fully destructible environments certainly created a lot of challenges, especially around things like mission structure and performance. But having it done, it adds so much to the world, and to the sense of heroism the game provides. If you don’t play well, you might actually watch an entire city be destroyed in front of your eyes, and all the people you were trying to protect die.
DYEGB: Avil, the lead protagonist, is the last remaining member of an ancient order known as The Sentinels. Who are The Sentinels and how did Avil become the last remaining member?
DN: The Sentinels are a legendary order that drove off the Ravenii once before, in the distant past. Avil is a soldier, whose forces are defeated in battle and gets taken as a slave. When the Ravenii attack Avil is freed, and he is saved from the Ravenii by one of the last remaining Sentinels, who indoctrinate him into the order.
The fate of Dolorum rests on Avil’s shoulders
DYEGB: Your development background is mostly in the fighting genre. How did this experience help with Extinction’s combat mechanics?
DN: Our background in fighting games is what made us confident that we could pull off this somewhat ambitious project in the first place. If anyone was going to get real-time combat right, it was a group of fighting game developers!
DYEGB: What has been the game’s biggest inspiration when it comes to the gameplay?
DN: The gameplay is very unique and quite different from most. Avil’s ability to move around the environment, run on walls, bounce off objects, and pull himself around his whip is somewhat reminiscent of games like Mirror’s Edge and Sunset Overdrive. The combat against the minions has parallels to games like Devil May Cry and God of War, where you can batter enemies around, launch them into the air, and execute wicked combos. The combat against the Ravenii is a combination of the two systems.
DYEGB: Tell us more about the combat. It looks incredibly fast-paced, what special moves will Avil be able to pull off?
DN: Avil has a variety of ground-based combos, Area of Effect (AoE) attacks, launchers, overheads, ground slams, and more. The moves are executed with a timing-based system, which allows Avil to transition into pretty much anything he wants at any point. He can also cancel his attacks into things like dodges, jumps, and his Rune Strike special attack.
DYEGB: Your website mentions that no two battles will be the same. How have you ensured that each battle is different?
DN: There are two ways this is accomplished. First, each of the mission maps is actually very large, and the player has a lot of agency to decide how they want to approach completing the objectives. Each mission can be tackled in a variety of different ways. Also, some of the missions are generated dynamically, and will literally be different maps every time you play.
Our background in fighting games is what made us confident that we could pull off this somewhat ambitious project in the first place
– Derek Neal, Extinction Executive Producer
DYEGB: Will players be able to upgrade Avil’s skills? How will this work?
DN: Yes, there is a skill tree, which allows players to choose new abilities to unlock and/or upgrade existing ones, by gaining Skill Points during missions (SP).
DYEGB: Will players be able to customise Avil, such as his look or his equipment/armour?
DN: Avil’s armor and weapons aren’t customizable, but depending on how you go through the skill tree there are a lot of different ways to build him. You can focus on power, maneuverability, or even more esoteric things like enhancing his ability slow down time.
DYEGB: Extinction is the biggest project you’ve ever worked on. How much more challenging has this project been compared to your previous ones?
DN: We set out to solve a lot of difficult and ambitious problems with this game. Real-time combat against enormous foes, fully destructible environments, the ability to run and climb on anything and everything…all of it had to be figured out from scratch, which took months of iteration. But we’re really happy with the way everything has come together!
DYEGB: The game has an impressive looking and distinct art style. What made you go with this type of art style?
DN: We did a lot of exploration into the art style right at the beginning, and one of the things we quickly decided on was that the world should be vibrant, bright, and obviously full of life. This is because the story is very dark and heavy, and it provides meaningful contrast. It’s somehow more impactful when you see this vibrant, bright world being catastrophically destroyed.
Dolorum and its inhabitants are full of bright vibrant colours
DYEGB: Is Extinction’s world and premise built for more than one story? Or is it a one-off tale?
DN: We haven’t announced any plans for a sequel, but we have plenty of ideas on where we could go with one.
DYEGB: Extinction will feature a Skirmish Mode and an Extinction Mode. Tell us a bit about these modes.
DN: Extinction mode is a so-called “Endless Horde” mode – monsters keep coming, and you have to hold out for as long as possible. Skirmish mode allows you to generate one of the dynamic battlefields, and play it as a one-off experience.
DYEGB: Your recent Features Trailer made it quite clear that Extinction won’t feature microtransactions. As a developer, what is your opinion on the microtransaction practice? Do they have a place in games?
DN: I think the industry is still figuring it out. As systems get more powerful and games become higher and higher end, they also get more and more expensive. In order to keep making games of this nature, many developers are basically priced into finding alternate ways to monetize their content. It’s not going away, but there is definitely a balance that can be struck that gamers will be happy with, and I think we’ll slowly settle towards a series of best practices that are acceptable to consumers.
DYEGB: From the gameplay videos that we’ve seen Extinction looks well-suited as a co-op experience. Did you ever explore the possibility of adding co-op?
DN: We did! And, it’s a common feature request. Unfortunately, some of the ways we had to solve some of the challenges facing this kind of game aren’t very co-op friendly. For example, one major reason Avil can keep up with the Ravenii is because of his ability to slow down time whenever he wants. But it’s not clear how that would work in a 2-player scenario – do you just randomly slow down whenever your buddy is trying to dodge an attack?
That’s not to say that it’s impossible, just that it’s more difficult with this kind of game than it might have seemed. Hopefully we’ll be able to do something like this in the future.
DYEGB: In terms of technical performance, what resolutions and framerates are you aiming for?
DN: On console, the game supports resolutions up to 1080p. On PC, it’ll run at just about whatever your monitor supports.
DYEGB: Will PS4 Pro or Xbox One X owners receive any further console enhancements?
DN: Our focus has been making the experience as good as possible for all users, so there are no special differences that you’ll see on different kinds of hardware.
DYEGB: What goodies can players expect from the game’s Day of Dolorum season pass?
DN: More information on our DLC plans is forthcoming.
DYEGB: Who do you think would win in a fight, a 150-foot ogre or a 150-foot kangaroo?
DN: Depends on what’s in that pouch!
DYEGB: Thank you for your time. Good luck with the rest of the development, we look forward to playing Extinction on April 10.
Extinction releases on April 10 for PS4, Xbox One and PC. In the meantime check out our gameplay video of the game’s Extinction Mode: