Imagine, if you will, a land of mystery. Actually, it’s Northern Canada in 1970 but there’s a fair bit of strangeness going on in Kona all the same. Developed by Parabole, Kona has you playing a detective who’s exploring a village at Atamipek Lake. Dealing with the harsh weather is only the beginning as bizarre occurrences seem to take hold of you. What’s going on? Well, we won’t spoil that much.
Kona started out as an Early Access title. As of March 17th, it’s now officially available for PC, Mac and Linux with the developer releasing its second major patch on May 18th. Kona has garnered a strong reaction from its fans but how did it all begin? GamingBolt spoke to Parabole community manager Jean-François Fiset about the game, it’s inspiration and what motivated the ending. If you’re curious about whether Kona is worth a look, then maybe this will help.
"I would say that for a first game, we are doing pretty well and we are very happy with the overall reception."
What inspired the concept behind Kona? What can you tell us about the story?
At first, we simply wanted to drive around a huge snowy map with an old-school yellow snowmobile. During our jumping sessions, we started to talk about what kind of game we could make that would include this beautiful machine. As a Quebec studio, we also noticed how big the industry is here, but almost no game actually take place in our beautiful lands. We contacted a writer friend of ours and with his help, we were able to build a story that would take place in our province with some cultural references and all.
We chose to set the game in 1970 because it was a really important time period in our history and we wanted to tell a little bit about it. However, we also wanted to add some supernatural elements to the experience, so we did some research about myths and legends. This is when we found out about the Wendigo legend from the Cree people, one of the largest First Nation community in Canada. Three years later, here we are with a full game that has a great story to enjoy!
How has the initial reception the game been since its release on PC and PS4?
So far, we received a lot of positive feedback about the game. On Steam, we were able to maintain our ~90% positive review score that we had during early access. Sure, the game has its issues and obviously (and it’s true for all games), not everyone likes Kona. However, I would say that for a first game, we are doing pretty well and we are very happy with the overall reception.
The game relies more on atmospheric horror as opposed to jump scares or tons of blood. How did you go about crafting the same?
We love horror games and movies. However, we believe jump scares are unnecessary to make a good horror experience. You can achieve so much with only ambient sounds and visuals. In the end, players will enjoy it more without having a heart attack every time they turn a corner.
How do the survival elements in Kona work?
There are a lot of great survival games out there and we wanted some elements in Kona. However, we felt it would remove focus from the story if we went full survival. We decided to balance things out to make sure players would explore and really enjoy the story.
"Considering that, we wanted the ending to be open, but also to be complete."
Basically, we limited survival to health (encounters), body temperature (cold weather), stress (affects aim and stamina) and inventory management. In Kona, there is no need to constantly eat, drink, sleep or craft equipment to survive.
When designing the setting, how did you balance between making them feel like “levels” and actual environments to make them seem realistic?
The fact that you drive a truck by yourself instead of a fast-travel feature really helps the player feel like he is in a “real” environment. Also, the fact that you can also go almost anywhere by foot really helps in making the setting as realistic as possible. You don’t feel like you go from a level to another, you are just visiting a village as you would if you were actually there.
Without giving any spoilers, what motivated the ending you ultimately went with?
As you probably know, there will be three other games set in the same universe as Kona. Each game will feature their own characters, game mechanics, designs, settings, etc.
Considering that, we wanted the ending to be open, but also to be complete. This way, for players who only want to play one, two or three of our games, they will still get one, two or three complete experiences. As for players who will play them all, they will easily feel a link between all titles somehow.
Given the number of horror, mystery and survival games on the market, how do you believe Kona stands out?
Kona blends the immersive atmosphere of a modern survival title with the deep storytelling and puzzle-solving aspects of a classic adventure game. By wrapping many gameplay mechanics around its story, Kona blurs the lines between today’s genres. Thanks to this blend and its unique 1970s Northern Canada setting, it truly stands out of the crowd!
"The way I see it is that even though the PS4 Pro is less powerful than the Scorpio, Sony still has a huge advantage."
How long is the overall experience for the player?
We estimate an average between 3 to 6 hours of gameplay to complete the game. However, it really depends on the player’s play-style. We’ve seen a lot of players play for more than 10 hours because they wanted to visit every inch of the map, find all items and unlock all achievements.
Will you ever bring Kona to VR at some point?
There are plans to bring Kona on VR by the end of the year, but at the moment, we still don’t know which VR platform will be supported at launch.
Do you think the iterative consoles (PS4 Pro/Scorpio) are just a one off thing for this generation?
Although Microsoft and Sony are making more powerful versions of their respective console, developers still have to make sure their games run on the regular version. This is why we believe it’s not a new console cycle.
Do you think the PS4 Pro should have been a more aggresive update like Xbox Scorpio?
The way I see it is that even though the PS4 Pro is less powerful than the Scorpio, Sony still has a huge advantage. They released their upgraded version of the PS4 approximately a year before the Scorpio. It means that they had a lot of time to earn more clients who in the end, just want to play a game on a console that answer their immediate needs.
"Obviously, the fact that the Nintendo Switch is not as powerful as a PS4/Xbox One is a challenge."
Do you think the lack of exclusives will hurt the Xbox Scorpio?
The lack of exclusives can hurt a little, but if the full VR support is there on release, it will most likely make up for it.
What is your take on Nintendo Switch’s processing hardware…do you think your studio has a future on it? If not, why?
Obviously, the fact that the Nintendo Switch is not as powerful as a PS4/Xbox One is a challenge. However, now that we know what it’s all about, it will be easier to prepare for it. We want our games to be available to as many players as possible, so we strongly believe that we have a future on the console.
Will the game ever receive any post-launch content like expansions or free updates?
We’d like to, but there is nothing confirmed at the moment.