Wales Interactive’s Soul Axiom seems like your typical first adventure game that deals with exploring a virtual universe created from various information fragments, except of course that it’s not. Like The Talos Principle, Soul Axiom is taking a more philosophical approach to its adventuring, except it approaches spiritualism and immortality against the backdrop of a highly advanced society. The boundaries between the real and unreal begin to uncomfortably merge but really, you have to play Soul Axiom to learn more.
GamingBolt had a chance to speak Wales Interactive’s Ben Tester on the game, including the various influences that dictated its direction. We were also curious to learn how Soul Axiom differentiated itself from other psychological adventure games in recent memory. Thankfully, there seems to be more to this otherworldly trip than meets the mind.
"It’s very important for us to give the player respect to find their own way as there is more player satisfaction when you feel that you have solved a puzzle or found out a key bit of information about the story. It’s then up to the player to go on journey of discovery and puzzle solving in order to find out who they are and why they are there."
Rashid K. Sayed: Soul Axiom is unorthodox to say the least. What influenced the ideas of spiritualism, immortality and sci-fi that form the core concepts of the game?
Ben Tester: It certainly is, we tend to come up with concepts that don’t restrict our creativity and imagination. We’re always experimenting as a team and exploring new ideas between different gaming genres. Our thoughts are that in the future it would be science fact rather than science fiction that we would be able save our personalities, consciousness and memories digitally.
We took the premise and visualized it, which led to the development of Master Reboot. Now, with Soul Axiom, we feel we had some unfinished business with the whole idea. We’ve evolved the unique visual style that we’re known for in the previous title to create beautifully simplistic emphasis on striking shapes, strong colors, and shader effects. Our aim is to be surreal rather than real and the bold art direction is deliberate to elicit a variety of emotions for the player.
Rashid K. Sayed: There are many first person adventure games, especially psychological ones, in the market these days. Did that inspire the need to be different with Soul Axiom’s premise or was the perspective a natural fit for the story?
Ben Tester: Soul Axiom is a first person sci-fi adventure game but we also like to class it as a thriller. That’s not a genre that we normally have a tick box for in the game industry, even though it’s an established one in the film industry, but the themes, story and gameplay in Soul Axiom really suit that tag. We’re are always striving to find originality in the games we create and we purposely try to fit between genres in order not to be directly compared to existing titles with similar themes.
The game is set in the not too distant future inside the latest state of the art Digital Soul Provider, Elysia. When you start the game you are literally dropped into the action with no idea who or where you are. We give you no guidance, but the levels are intuitive and you have to find your own way through the game puzzle solving in order to piece together the story as you go along.
It’s very important for us to give the player respect to find their own way as there is more player satisfaction when you feel that you have solved a puzzle or found out a key bit of information about the story. It’s then up to the player to go on journey of discovery and puzzle solving in order to find out who they are and why they are there.
Rashid K. Sayed: Many adventure games tend to top out at a handful of hours but Soul Axiom will offer roughly 8 to 12 hours of gameplay when it releases. How does this work out in terms of pacing and gameplay content?
Ben Tester: This amount of content is a big step up for us and we’re finding some gamers are already clocking around 8 hours of gameplay, and we’re only half way through. The game, which is out on Steam Early Access, is chapter based, with only the first introductory chapter following a linear path.
Once the player reaches the Hub, they will have the opportunity to complete various puzzles to gain new powers which can be used to unlock the next chapter. Then, the player can choose whatever level they wish to within that chapter. As the game is currently in Early Access, players can experience Chapters 1, 2 and 3 with 4, 5 and 6 coming soon.
"Players will get the chance to unlock four different powers, all very unique to each other. The first power is something we call the “Phase” power, which can best be described as materializing and de-materializing objects or parts of the environment."
Rashid K. Sayed: What kind of replayability will Soul Axiom offer its players? The universe seems too compelling to only run through once and forget about.
Ben Tester: We’re offering the player the chance to do as much or as little exploration as they like in this game. Alongside completing puzzles, players can explore the levels to find what we call PEMO’s which are essentially personal messages and stories from outside of the world of Elysia.
These bits of information, which takes the form of a little monkey pickup, guides the player through their journey and helps them piece together the story. Players can see what PEMO’s they have collected and re-visit areas to find any they may have missed, which could change how they interpret what is going on around them in the strange world they are in.
Rashid K. Sayed: How has Early Access benefited the development of Soul Axiom? What kind of features are you adding as a result of fan feedback?
Ben Tester: This is our first Early Access game and we set out with a clear goal in mind and that was to listen to our fan’s feedback and be prepared to change or tweak certain areas of the game that the players have reacted to. So far, the reaction has been extremely positive, and we are being praised for releasing updates that are well polished with only minor bugs every now and then.
This is something we are quite proud of actually. We set up idea and suggestion threads and have even promised a shout out in the games credits for the top contributors of the development, this seems to have gone down well with our fans and likewise, we appreciate the support these guys and girls give us.
Rashid K. Sayed: What kind of powers will players have to aid them on their journey in Elysia?
Ben Tester: Players will get the chance to unlock four different powers, all very unique to each other. The first power is something we call the “Phase” power, which can best be described as materializing and de-materializing objects or parts of the environment. The second power, being the “Play” power, animates objects with one hand and pauses them in time with the other.
Recently, we released the third “Destroy” power and the fourth… well… you’ll have to wait and see when it’s unlocked later in the game! You’ll use these powers to help you solve puzzles and manipulate your surrounding environment which is what we like to call our “Dynamic Adaptive Environments”. As games designers these new game mechanics we’ve developed give us much more scope for a creating a wider variety of puzzles by combining powers to problem solve.
"The console development is going great and in fact, Microsoft exhibited a demo of the Xbox One game at the GDC and EGX Rezzed this year. We were privileged to have been one of just a few UK indie devs chosen to exhibit on heir stands."
Rashid K. Sayed: Are there plans for any post-release content in Soul Axiom? We’d love to know more about and explore the universe after the main quest is finished.
Ben Tester: There aren’t any plans for that as of yet, but it’s something we would definitely consider, especially if there is a request for it. As with all our games, we will certainly be releasing an art book and soundtrack DLC with the game.
Rashid K. Sayed: How are the PS4 and Xbox One versions shaping up? Are they going to run at 1080p and 60fps?
Ben Tester: The console development is going great and in fact, Microsoft exhibited a demo of the Xbox One game at the GDC and EGX Rezzed this year. We were privileged to have been one of just a few UK indie devs chosen to exhibit on heir stands. The final version will be running at 1080p 60fps and this is something we achieved with our PS4/XB1 title, Infinity Runner, which released on April 22nd this year.
Rashid K. Sayed: When is the launch happening for the PS4 and Xbox One versions?
Ben Tester: Soul Axiom will have its 1.0 release on PC, Mac and Linux in Q3 with the PS4, Xbox One and Wii U version set for Q4 2015.
Rashid K. Sayed: Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
Ben Tester: We would like to thank Gaming Bolt for giving us this opportunity and also to our fans that have supported us throughout the development of the game. It is available to buy now on Steam Early Access for PC, Mac and Linux for $14.99/$19.99.