Pirates may or may not be in for the majority of our world’s culture but after the success of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, they’re commercially viable in video games to say the least. Reality Pump’s Raven’s Cry isn’t your typical swash-buckling adventure though – it takes a darker turn and focuses on revenge as protagonist Christopher Raven looks to sate his angered soul. It was also announced before Assassin’s Creed IV and has enough of its unique mechanics. But what makes the game so special?
GamingBolt spoke CEO of Reality Pump Tadeusz Zuber about the experience, ranging from the inspiration and development of the game to its morality system and combat.
Ravi Sinha: What motivated you to develop Raven’s Cry, especially to make it a pirate game since not many of these titles have really taken off in the past (with the exception of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag)?
Tadeusz Zuber: The short answer is our main character, Christopher Raven. Is there anything cooler than playing as a badass who answers to no one, and cares only about himself? Whether he’s on a motorcycle, a UFO or a pirate ship, we knew that players would understand and relate to the motivations of Christopher, even though he’s far from the traditional lovable hero. Christopher Raven has a tragic past, and he’s on a quest to find his revenge, and maybe even some kind of peace for his tormented soul.
That core storyline could be set against any backdrop; outer space, the wild west, wherever, but we found our inspiration in the world of pirates. Exotic locations and lawless seas contribute to a feeling of real freedom that we, as gamers, wanted to explore with Christopher Raven. We felt the best recent pirate games have opted for a more light-hearted, family oriented tone, but with Raven’s Cry we wanted to go back to the classic roots of pirate lore in literature and film, giving Christopher Raven a truly brutal and cold hearted world to live in.
"Actually, Raven's Cry was announced well before AC4. Some production obstacles arose and had to be overcome, but Raven’s Cry is ready to set sail. We went for a very realistic tone in our title; from having a stripped down HUD to aiming canons without the help of trajectory beams or auto aim."
Ravi Sinha: Raven’s Cry, while taking a darker route towards pirate culture and 17th century events in the Caribbean, bears a very interesting resemblance to Assassin’s Creed in some ways. Did the game serve as an inspiration and if so, in what ways?
Tadeusz Zuber: Actually, Raven’s Cry was announced well before AC4. Some production obstacles arose and had to be overcome, but Raven’s Cry is ready to set sail. We went for a very realistic tone in our title; from having a stripped down HUD to aiming canons without the help of trajectory beams or auto aim.
I think it’s important to hammer home that this is a pirate game, not just a game that takes place in a pirate setting. You enter a gritty, cutthroat world where shiny, infallible heroes don’t exist. Christopher Raven has his own motivations, and like the protagonists in the best Westerns, he’s on a path of destruction that may ultimately lead to redemption.
Ravi Sinha: How did you go about recreating famous places and events from the 17th century Caribbean in Raven’s Cry, and how accurate would they be to their real-life counterparts? What differences can we look forward to seeing?
Tadeusz Zuber: We have passionate people on our team who do nothing other than analyze historical papers, paintings, maps and books. We don’t have them chained to a radiator in a library somewhere either; we’ve got some bona fide history buffs and hardcore pirate enthusiasts on our team. We didn’t want to look at the Caribbean today, and then reimagine how it might have looked hundreds of years ago; we wanted authenticity.
And you wouldn’t believe how much effort members of the Caribbean community contributed to our project. They sent us research papers that covered nearly every aspect of these locations, and their input went directly into the game. We got everything as historically accurate as we could while still making an entertaining video game. We want to give a big thank you to all the “pirate-loving-historical-gamers” out there who have helped!
Ravi Sinha: Raven’s Cry features a very complex morality system in that you can use Fear to frighten enemies but at the cost of civility. Along with Notoriety, how does it serve to change and warp the world around you?
Tadeusz Zuber: When we were making Two Worlds II we implemented more story variables, and the result was that gamers were immersed in a richer world. We’ve done the same type of thing here, with the different factions in the game. If you commit a crime, you don’t just get arrested or attacked by “the army”. You can commit specific crimes in specific waters, and your actions will be noticed and dealt with in different ways depending on where you are in the Caribbean.
Also, as Christopher gains a reputation, he can leverage that notoriety against the different factions during trading, combat, or accessing new missions. On the other hand, he may find himself blocked from certain harbors for committing too many crimes in those waters, which will require adjustments in gameplay and how you approach missions as well. There are advantages to be had when you are a known threat, and Christopher will need to utilize his reputation more and more as his enemies grow stronger throughout the game.
And then there is his hook… which Christopher uses to scare his foes to death in the truest sense of the phrase.
"The close combat is a mix of different approaches. We needed a system in which Christopher can face off against multiple enemies at a time, because this is pivotal to the story. Combat in similar games in the past could be disappointing; we didn’t want a blocking stance that was too powerful, for example."
Ravi Sinha: Is there more than one ending for Raven’s Cry, depending on the player’s moral actions?
Tadeusz Zuber: You’ll have to find out for yourself! It wouldn’t be any fun if we told you everything! Let’s just say there are a few different ways for Christopher to get the one thing he wants above all else.
Ravi Sinha: How does the combat work in the game? Will there be options for parrying and racking up combos, or will there be a simple block/attack, hack-and-slash style of combat?
Tadeusz Zuber: The close combat is a mix of different approaches. We needed a system in which Christopher can face off against multiple enemies at a time, because this is pivotal to the story. Combat in similar games in the past could be disappointing; we didn’t want a blocking stance that was too powerful, for example. It’s boring to be surrounded by attacking enemies, just holding your block button, followed by countering all those enemies with a flurry of sword swings.
Raven’s Cry has a more dynamic, hack-and-slash approach combined with well known elements of free-floating-combat systems. Christopher Raven has a sword and hook, and he knows how to use them. Combos and blocking are still very important, but this character has the ability to tear through enemies at will. Sometimes throwing yourself into the middle of a battle is the best way to win!
Ravi Sinha: Are there certain ways to dispose of enemies in the game that lessen the suffering aspect? Can the game be played in a non-violent or at least non-murderous fashion?
Tadeusz Zuber: Christopher Raven is the scarred, flawed product of a beautiful, but brutal world. You can choose the way he travels down his path, but his reality is that sometimes there is no “good” option. Raven’s Cry is an action game that stays true to its violent environment. Honestly, who wants to see Conan the Barbarian without any sword fighting or violence? The core storytelling is derived from the suffering in Christopher’s life. He isn’t a sneaking assassin, or a reluctant hero; he’s a young man with a past and a destiny that have forged him into a pirate-hunting pirate.
"We have opened much of the Caribbean Sea and the Spanish Main to players, from Greater to Lesser Antilles, along with the coast of South America. This world is accessible from the moment players hoist their sails, while other locations must be unlocked. Entering a city where pirates are not welcome may require making certain alliances. "
Ravi Sinha: What can you tell us about the Pirate charms? What kind of magic will the players have access to?
Tadeusz Zuber: Most magical elements, including charms, were scrapped a long time ago. We didn’t want to create a pirate sorcerer who finds a crystal that allows him to disintegrate his enemies, or shoot fireballs out of his eyes… Raven’s Cry will contain some very small voodoo elements, but nothing more than that.
We cannot really reveal too much in that regard without spoiling some of the experience, but we can offer a hint; don’t think of voodoo as being in the realm of black magic, spells or demons, but more in terms of the unknown, the misunderstood and the terrifying – yet physical and strictly grounded in reality.
Take voodoo powders for example, a fabled staple of horror movies; the powders are real objects that exist in our world, but of course they have no magic in them. What they do have is the still under-analyzed composition that allows them to exert certain uncommon effects on their users – or on their hapless victims. That their effects may seem like dark magic to those who fear them… well, that’s what makes them genuinely powerful.
Ravi Sinha: How big of a world will the game have? Will it be an open world and how is the mission structure shaping up?
Tadeusz Zuber: We have opened much of the Caribbean Sea and the Spanish Main to players, from Greater to Lesser Antilles, along with the coast of South America. This world is accessible from the moment players hoist their sails, while other locations must be unlocked. Entering a city where pirates are not welcome may require making certain alliances.
Accessing a dock where pirates are not only unwelcome but hanged on sight will require some clever planning. As the plot develops and more missions become available, players will also keep learning of new places to visit (not all islands have been charted, after all; at least not on the official maps) to collect new rewards and to face new dangers.
Ravi Sinha: Naval battles are confirmed to be in the game. What kind of gameplay mechanics have you employed to make it unique?
Tadeusz Zuber: Again our approach was to make these battles as realistic as possible, without sacrificing fun. Don’t expect any helpful light beams showing you your canon ball trajectories; we want players to feel the heat of these sea-battles. As the captain of a ship, players can do a variety of things, including jumping behind the cannons and making adjustments in order to ensure an accurate shot. Each ship has its own feel as well. The small and swift schooner might be perfect for a fast getaway, whereas the heavily armored war galleon is a challenge to steer, but exactly what you need for all-out battles.
"The experience points needed to build up skills will be awarded for completing tasks, discovering new islands and forgotten treasures, eliminating enemies on land, winning sea battles and more."
Ravi Sinha: Will Raven’s Cry have different kinds of activities related to exploration and collectible hunting?
Tadeusz Zuber: Christopher Raven has a single-minded purpose when it comes to righting the wrongs done to him. He is hell-bent on revenge, and will do whatever it takes, including collecting leads and information through torture and violence as he hunts down the men who destroyed his life. He will have tasks to complete, but they will all serve Christopher’s ultimate goal. Can you imagine this type of character hunting rabbits and collecting flowers?
Ravi Sinha: Will the game have any type of skill tree system and leveling up?
Tadeusz Zuber: Absolutely. The skill tree is a tried-and-true concept. The experience points needed to build up skills will be awarded for completing tasks, discovering new islands and forgotten treasures, eliminating enemies on land, winning sea battles and more. Certain skills will only become available if other skills have already been learned. Some three dozen skills will be accessible, and they come in five types – General Skills, the Landlubber’s Skills, the Sea Wolf’s Skills, the Captain’s Skills, and last but not certainly not least, the Raven’s Skills, possessed by our antihero’s trusted companion – his black raven.
While we are, of course, setting a maximum available level for the skills, it will actually be possible to go beyond that level on some occasions – all thanks to experienced officers who can be hired as part of the crew. Since the officers are unique characters with their own traits, they will add their knowledge and strength to the player’s crew, thereby letting some skills grow even higher than theoretically possible.