As the Soulslike genre becomes increasingly crowded, it becomes progressively harder for games to stand out, especially those coming from smaller teams, though some do manage to catch the eye. One such game is Round Toast Studios’ Mortal Rite, which has not only impressed with the promise of fast-paced and challenging combat, but also because it’s going about things in a unique way, thanks to its combination of Soulslike mechanics and roguelike design. Combine that with the prospect of up to 5-player co-op, and what you get is a game that’s certainly piqued our curiosity. Hoping to learn more about what we can expect from Mortal Rite upon its early access launch in the future and beyond, we reached out to its development team at Round Toast Studios with a few of our questions. You can read the full interview below.
"Each character is made with a certain playstyle in mind, and while players can use each character in whatever way they see best, discovering a character’s strengths and coming up with your own strategies to best utilize those strengths will make the player much more successful."
How many playable characters will Mortal Rite feature once it launches in full? How significantly will the characters differ from each other in terms of their story and how they will play?
We plan on releasing Mortal Rite into Early Access and then continuing to work and provide free updates to the game until we get to our full game release. At this time we anticipate 4 characters being ready for Early Access launch, The Initiate, Shold, Dawksin, and Fia, and by the time we reach our full game release, we anticipate around 10.
Each character is made with a certain playstyle in mind, and while players can use each character in whatever way they see best, discovering a character’s strengths and coming up with your own strategies to best utilize those strengths will make the player much more successful.
Let me break this down more in a specific example, namely Dawksin, who is our take on an assassin character with “metal bending” abilities.
Dawksin has metal armor plates wrapping over his shoulders that he can use to form into swords, and then all of the attacks with those swords will leave bits of shrapnel in enemies. This shrapnel can then be ripped out of an enemy to do a bunch of damage. Now if you build up enough shrapnel in the enemies, ripping it out will cause the enemy to stagger, so you could time it to interrupt your opponent right before a big attack, save a bunch of shrapnel up to complete kill an enemy, or consistently stagger enemies slightly by ripping out the shrapnel after every hit, we leave this choice up to the player. After Dawksin recalls his shrapnel, he will use that new metal to form a fresh set of swords. If a pair of swords are “fresh” that first attack will be a bigger and more impressive attack that does more damage, has more range, and leaves more shrapnel.
The idea with Dawksin is that he is most effective by running in and doing some quick attacks, and then retreating back out. This idea is not only supported by the core fighting mechanics and animations of Dawksin, but also with his special abilities you can unlock. He has a grappling hook where you can fly right onto an enemy’s forehead, do an attack, and then backflip away. He’s also got a couple of different dash attacks, and an ability where he can shoot pieces of metal like a boomerang that do damage on the way out and on the way back. We are also working on new abilities where he can set metal traps for enemies that would be particularly useful in co-op runs where you could kite enemies with other character’s abilities like Shold’s Wall.
Each character is designed with this level of unique playstyle in mind. Our goal is that playing through a level with Shold and playing through a level with Fia would be a completely different experience that requires that player to focus on a new strategy to be successful.
Every character also has their own backstory and lore that gets revealed to the players as they progress through Mortal Rite.
Given Mortal Rite’s Soulslike combat and tone, there will be high expectations from the game’s enemies and their design, especially where the bosses are concerned. What should players expect from the game on that front?
Mortal Rite’s combat is at the heart of this game and obviously has been a massive focus for our team for the past few years. Our goal has always been to create intelligent enemies and that can’t just be hacked and slashed through by spamming button presses. All of our enemies have unique fighting styles and abilities that force the player to think strategically. We have enemies that can dodge, parry, move unpredictably, power themselves up if you leave them alone for too long, heavy attack, quick attack, sprint attack, and throw or shoot projectiles. They can even intelligently try to work together to not let you escape or interact with other objects in the world like exploding barrels.
All of the enemies have both a health bar and a poise bar that once depleted, will break their guard or knock the backwards (or in some cases completely over), allowing you to get some easy hits in. Every enemy provides a new challenge and an intentional strategy to defeat.
The boss fights are an even bigger example of this, enemies whose animations you have to learn so you can then predict how to successfully dodge and counterattack. While Mortal Rite’s combat will most definitely be difficult, our goal is to give players the creative freedom to have fun and be successful.
"Mortal Rite’s combat is at the heart of this game and obviously has been a massive focus for our team for the past few years. Our goal has always been to create intelligent enemies and that can’t just be hacked and slashed through by spamming button presses."
How much of an emphasis does the game put on exploration? Will the game’s levels and their design encourage people to tackle optional content and go off the beaten path?
While Mortal Rite is not an open world game, players are encouraged to travel off the beaten path of a level to find new items or unique unlocks. The typical open world exploration of the Breadth of the Wild or an Elden Ring is not what we are going for in Mortal Rite. Instead of massive fields, mountains, and other terrain that players can explore, we encourage our player to explore new characters, playstyle builds, item combinations, and team sizes. Being the Mortal Rite is also a roguelite game, our players can quickly switch up their experience and have fun trying to beat levels in a variety of ways.
How did the idea of combining Soulslike mechanics with roguelite elements first come about? How much will that blend add to the game’s replay value and staying power?
The idea for making a game with both Soulslike and roguelite mechanics came out of our love for games in both genres. Many members of our team love the difficult yet rewarding combat of Soulslike games like Bloodbourne, Elden Ring, and Dark Souls, while also having so much fun with crazy item combinations and quick character class switching of a Risk of Rain 2. Mixing all that in a bundle where you can also play in up to 5-player co-op has been a huge inspiration for our team.
As a 5 man indie studio making our first ever game, our goal has always been to punch way above our weight class and make a game that feels and looks like it was built by a much larger and more experienced team. This combining of these two genres allows us to do this as well because we can make a game with the stunning visuals of Soulslike while also having that fun and highly replayable experience of a roguelite game.
Progression in Mortal Rite is done in two ways, beating levels and upgrading/unlocking new characters. Like Risk of Rain 2, we want our players to have a fun time trying to beat different levels under new conditions with different characters and party sizes, which will be encouraged as that will be the only route to unlock certain abilities or new characters.
However, combining that with the traditional Soulslike combat where you die a lot and through trial and error, you learn how to beat the enemies, was initially a big challenge for us. But we believe we’ve come up with a great solution to this. If you start a level, the layout of the level will be randomly generated, but if you die and try again, that level will stay the same, allowing you to keep going back through to master that layout enough to beat the level. We also have checkpoint items that the players will be able to use strategically so they don’t have to replay entire levels after every death.
Now when you go back to the lobby to change your character, upgrade some stats, or party up with friends, when you go back into that level again, it will look and feel different with a whole new layout that your party will have to conquer.
Mortal Rite supports five player co-op as well, which sounds like quite the sizeable party of players. How is the game balanced to ensure that things don’t get too chaotic when five players are playing at the same time?
One of the cores of Mortal Rite has always been to make a game that is fun to play with friends, and making levels that suit both single player and 5 player runs has definitely been a challenge. Our solution is to fill the levels with more enemies and enemies that are more difficult depending on the situation. Larger spaces would be filled with more enemies and smaller spaces would then be filled with more difficult enemies (more HP, damage, and more intelligent AI).
When playing in a larger party size we still want our players to have to strategically work together, and not have the game become a hack and slash chaotic mess.
For those who want to play the game entirely solo, does the game permit that, or would you say it’s better as a co-op experience?
Mortal Rite can be progressed through exactly the same whether you are playing solo or in co-op. Our goal is to make both experiences rewarding and fun. And for those that want to constantly interchange playing solo, with friends, or even randoms, you aren’t punished for that and can still progress through the game just the same.
"The idea for making a game with both Soulslike and roguelite mechanics came out of our love for games in both genres. Many members of our team love the difficult yet rewarding combat of Soulslike games like Bloodbourne, Elden Ring, and Dark Souls, while also having so much fun with crazy item combinations and quick character class switching of a Risk of Rain 2."
What are your plans for supporting the game with new content both during its early access period and once it has launched in full?
After the initial Early Access launch we plan on frequently providing free updates to Mortal Rite every month or so with new characters, levels, items, and even new abilities for existing characters. Once we feel that the game has been built out to the scope we want, then we would announce that the game has been launched in full with one of those updates. After that full game launch, we plan on turning our focus to running more community events like speedrunning competitions and PvP game modes within Mortal Rite.
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of the game be?
It’s hard to say exactly at this moment as the length of a playthrough will most likely be very different at the Early Access launch from the full game launch. Roughly I would say at Early Access you can expect about 6 hours to beat all the levels one time with one character, and about 30 hours for “100% completion”. But our goal is that players would still have a fun time beyond that going back and doing runs with new builds and strategies. At full game launch we would hope for around 20 hours for a run through with one character, with likely 100+ hours to 100% the game.
Do you have any plans to eventually bring the game to consoles as well?
Absolutely! We are definitely releasing Mortal Rite on Steam, but we are working to release on Xbox, PlayStation, and the Epic Games Store! We are also working to have Mortal Rite running on the Steam Deck, and while we would love to get onto the Switch, we are not very optimistic about our chances of getting the Switch to efficiently handle Mortal Rite.