Playing as a teenager stuck inside a battle mech in the midst of an alien invasion sounds like an interesting premise, doesn’t it? Well, here’s the good news- Drakkar Dev’s upcoming Blackwind is a game built on that premise, on which it’s promising to build fast paced sci-fi action combined with platforming and exploration. What we’ve seen of the game so far definitely sounds conceptually promising, and to learn more about the game and what’s going to make it tick, we recently reached out to its developers with a few of our questions. Below, you can read our conversation with Manlio Greco, co-founder of Drakkar Dev and programmer on Blackwind.
"Blackwind’s core story is basically “war seen from a teenage perspective”."
Blackwind’s got an interesting premise that sees the protagonist, a teenager, being stuck inside of a mech suit and having to fight aliens. How does the game’s story and dialogue use that premise to its advantage?
James Hawkins is a teenager and this helps a lot during the game because of his natural approach to jokes and having fun.
Being a teenager, James thinks of the Battle Frame as an “expensive toy” at the very beginning. But when he faces the real threat of war, he’ll be forced to grow up quickly to make the right decisions. Blackwind’s core story is basically “war seen from a teenage perspective”. The most frequent dialogue happens between James and the Battle Frame AI. It’s a computer with no emotions but programmed to learn and evolve from its “symbiote” and it’s going to learn from a scared kid that only wants to find his father.
How much variety in mechanics does Blackwind’s combat offer with the abilities and weapons of the Battle Frame?
Blackwind features melee combat, ranged combat, auto aiming missiles, unlockable special attacks and the ability to deploy the Drone that is capable of ranged attacks and using mines and traps. The player can switch from the Battle Frame to the Drone at any moment so any fight can be faced with different approaches according to the player’s play style. Also there’s an additional power, called “Black Mode”, that allows time-warping action to deliver the most devastating attacks.
How extensive are the progression mechanics in Blackwind? How much variation can players expect in how to power up their Battle Frame as the game progresses?
Basically any of the above features I’ve mentioned can be upgraded. Many powers and features will be unlocked as the game story progresses and then they can be further upgraded. There are many progression branches the player can choose from so they will fit any play style. Just as an example: you can increase your defence skill with a shield, you can enhance the fighting capabilities of the Drone or you can turn your Battle Frame into a speed demon with enhanced dash attacks. It’s up to you.
Outside of combat, what should players expect from the game in terms of things such as exploration and optional content?
Exploration is a key point of the game. There are some “secret” areas that hide extra power ups, and a good number of alternative “skins” for the Battle Frame, hidden in the game’s levels.
"Exploration is a key point of the game. There are some “secret” areas that hide extra power ups, and a good number of alternative “skins” for the Battle Frame, hidden in the game’s levels."
What sort of platforming elements are there in Blackwind? Are they crucial to the experience, or more of an ancillary mechanic?
Platforming is an important aspect of Blackwind. For example: extended jump, gliding and ledge grabbing will allow the Battle Frame to reach for previously inaccessible areas.
How important is the story to the game? The central premise and the fact that James has some own personal stuff going on as well are interesting elements, but do they have a large role to play in the overall experience?
Actually, Blackwind’s story goes beyond what the premise says. We don’t want to spoil any of the plot twists in the game, let’s just say it’s going to be more complex than it looks at the very beginning. We also modelled the gameplay based on the game’s story to have the best mix of action, dialogue and narrative.
Can you talk to us about the game’s local co-op mode? One player plays as the Battle Frame, one plays as the drone- what can the Drone do in gameplay and combat in comparison with the Battle Frame?
At any time the Drone can be separated from the Battle Frame. The Drone can shoot, deploy mines and special traps, it’s much smaller than the Battle Frame so it can access areas where the Battle Frame can’t go.
When the two are separated, so are the powers. The Battle Frame can’t shoot when the Drone is detached, it can only perform melee attacks, it can’t double-jump (because double jumping is performed with a thruster that is part of the Drone). So when the Battle Frame and the Drone are separated they surely represent a fearsome attack force but they need each other to perform some actions. So in co-op mode the players must collaborate to progress through the game, even deciding when it’s time to rejoin as one and when to separate again.
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of Blackwind be?
The whole campaign takes about 12-15 hours. That’s our usual time but I can think that someone that approaches the game for the first time can even have a longer lasting experience.
Since the reveal of the PS5 and Xbox Series X’s specs, a lot of comparisons have been made between the GPU speeds of the two consoles, with the PS5 at 10.28 TFLOPS and the Xbox Series X at 12 TFLOPS- but how much of an impact on development do you think that difference will have?
Our goal is to have the best experience regardless of the underlying hardware. Developers that are working on exclusive games for those consoles will surely have the opportunity to exploit the hardware to the last drop of performance.
"Platforming is an important aspect of Blackwind."
The PS5 features an incredibly fast SSD with 5.5GB/s raw bandwidth. This is faster than anything that is available out there. How can developers take advantage of this, and how does this compare to Series X’s 2.4GB/s raw bandwidth?
Surely any game will benefit from such loading speed, considering consoles haven’t used SSD since last gen. Especially those games that need to stream large amounts of data will surely receive a good boost.
There is a difference in Zen 2 CPUs of both consoles. The Xbox Series X features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.8GHz whereas the PS5 features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz. Your thoughts on this difference?
We don’t know if such a small difference will be of relevance considering that the GPU, more so than the CPU plays a greater role in a game’s performance.
The Xbox Series S features lesser hardware compared to Xbox Series and Microsoft is pushing it as a 1440p/60fps console. Do you think it will be able to hold up for the graphically intensive next-gen games?
1440p is not 4k. GPU will have a much smaller job to perform so Xbox Series S could be a valid cheaper version if not targeting 4k.
Super Resolution is coming to PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. How do you think this will help game developers?
Our opinion on this is that shading is more important than resolution. If Super Resolution is going to handle that side, developers can focus on making better looking games.
What frame rate and resolution is the game targeting on PS5 and Xbox Series X and S?
We aim for 60 fps at native resolution (4k for PS5 and XBS/X).