As a lover of the Redwall books growing up, I’ve always had a penchant for fantastical stories featuring animal warfare. So when I first laid eyes on Odd Bug Studio’s Tails of Iron, I was instantly hooked. Not only is the hand-drawn art style incredibly beautiful but the game tells a story about a kingdom of rats, lead by King Rattus and his heir Redgi, defending what is theirs against an invading army of frogs, as well as featuring punishing Souls-inspired combat. We had the opportunity to sit down with Odd Bug Studio Producer and Designer Jack Bennett to talk about the game’s inspirations, features and mechanics ahead of its release on September 17.
WellPlayed: The game’s premise looks heavily inspired by the Redwall book series. Was this a source of inspiration at all?
Jack Bennett: Yeah of course! Things like Redwall, Mouse Guard and Wind in the Willows were all inspirations for us. The main thing they really highlighted to us was that people really seem to enjoy the idea of an anthropomorphised creature in a ‘civilised’ society. This was a really fun idea to explore and to build a world and story around. It was entertaining to create this world and explore the conflicts between its different factions.
WP: What else inspired the idea for the game’s premise?
JB: There were other indirect inspirations for Tails of Iron. Games like Hollow Knight, Salt and Sanctuary and The Witcher showed us that people really enjoy a dark, detailed story set in a world filled with interesting and charming characters.
WP: Tails of Iron features a beautiful art style. What was the inspiration for this?
JB: Our art director Martin is from the Czech Republic so this obviously plays a big role in his environments. The thick black lines that are present on both the environments and the characters is something that’s heavily inspired by Eastern European wood carvings. In addition to this, the dark moody atmosphere we like to create in our levels is inspired by the tones of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. We really enjoy the way in which those stories appear cute on the outside but have these creepy dark undertones which we try to replicate.
WP: Combining both the story and art style, Tails of Iron feels somewhat like a dark fairy tale. Is this something the team was aiming for?
JB: Yes, 100% this was by design. Like I was saying, Grimm’s Fairy Tales are big inspirations for us. That cute but creepy feeling is something we try to replicate in all our games. It’s a good way to get the player to actually think about the game they’re playing. The cuteness often draws the player into the world and the story but they then start to get this uneasy feeling and begin to question everything, which is a good way to keep the player intrigued and enjoying the game.
WP: Your recent trailer revealed that Doug Cockle (Geralt) will be narrating the game. How did that come about and how big of a role does the narrator play in the game?
JB: It’s amazing to be working with Doug. The whole studio are big fans of The Witcher series of games so working with Doug is an absolute career highlight for us! When we were first thinking of having a narrator in Tails of Iron, Doug was our first choice and luckily, United Label (our publisher) was able to arrange that for us! In terms of his role as the narrator, he is describing everything that’s going on in Redgi’s story throughout the game – he really helps to bring the world to life!
WP: The combat in Tails of Iron is touted as being inspired by the Souls genre and “punishingly brutal”. Can you explain how combat will work? What about it makes it brutal?
JB: I would point you towards God of War as an example of how the combat will work in Tails of Iron. All attacks have different coloured combat markers that will require the player to react differently. For example, red attacks will require you to dodge to evade the attack whilst yellow attacks will require you to parry it with your trusty shield. In terms of its brutality – that comes in two ways. Firstly, it has that soulslike difficulty to it, so you really have to focus and learn the enemies’ attack patterns to overcome them. Secondly, combat also has very visually brutal executions. Every boss for example has its own unique execution animation based on the weapon you’re using. I think that’s why we got that M rating!
WP: Accessibility is an important feature of any game these days. Will Tails of Iron include any difficulty options for players who want to experience the game without the challenge? What other accessibility options will the game feature?
JB: No, we don’t have any difficulty options. When we first started out making the game, we knew we wanted it to be tough – not just because we like difficult games, but because it ties directly into the narrative. The difficulty mirrors Redgi’s journey as his kingdom is destroyed, and this small rat has to stand against the onslaught of the United Frog Clans. One of the main things we do though to combat these concerns is have the early-game combat tutorial accessible throughout the game, so that if you are struggling, you’re able to practice until you feel comfortable to continue. We do have some other accessibility options as well such as turning off camera shake and removing rumble.
Frogs aren’t the only dangerous creatures Redgi needs to watch out for
WP: How important is the narrative in Tails of Iron? Would you say it’s a narrative-driven experience or is it more of a backdrop to the world and combat?
JB: The narrative is very important, it’s the whole driving force behind the game! The whole game focuses around Redgi’s story and his battle against the Frog Clans to rescue his brothers and rebuild his kingdom. However, we do really love environmental storytelling, so there is a whole other story going on in the background that you’ll get if you really pay attention whilst playing the game.
WP: What sort of RPG elements will the game feature?
JB: Tails of Iron has lots of RPG elements, so from a combat point of view, the main factor is your loadout. Every weapon and set of armour has stats based around damage and weight as well as enemy resistance. You’ll need to experiment with different loadouts to find one that works for you. For example, you might like to play as a quick nimble rogue so you’ll most likely want to use light armour and shields as well as spears and bows. However, other players might like the defence of heavy armour and slow hammers so they’ll play with a more tanky loadout. It’s really down to player choice. As well as this, we have other RPG elements like a Smithy where you can take blueprints to craft new weapons and armour, and a chef where you can use ingredients to craft health upgrades.
WP: How long will the game take to finish?
JB: To complete the main game I’d say probably around 10 hours, but if you’re looking to complete all achievements and discover everything the game has to offer, this will be considerably longer. It’s also very dependent on your level of skill.
WP: You’re releasing Tails of Iron on almost every platform on the market. As a relatively new and small studio, how much of a challenge was this?
JB: It was a big task, but absolutely the best decision. It’s really awesome to see the game on every platform and with a physical copy too! Luckily, we developed the game initially for Switch as we knew that if it worked on the least powerful platform then it would be a much easier task to put it on the more powerful platforms.
WP: In Australia we also have a very famous rat named Rattus who had his own kingdom of sorts (reference). Is there any relation to Rattus from the game?
JB: I have never seen the Australian Rattus before! I’m not sure he’s strong enough to wield a sword and shield but he definitely looks creepy enough to give the frogs nightmares!
WP: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck with the game’s launch, we can’t wait to play it.
Tails of Iron will release on September 17 on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X&S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.