Members of the Age of Resistance Tactics development team speak with GamingBolt about the RPG.
The Dark Crystal saw an unlikely revival last year with Netflix’s Age of Resistance series, bringing the beloved franchise back into the limelight. To go alongside that, BonusXP recently put out a companion game, set in the same universe and designed as a classic tactical RPG (you can read our review through here). Shortly before its release, we sent across some of our questions about the game to its developers, and received answers from various members of the development team. You can check out the full interview below.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the game’s launch.
"When Netflix let us know they were toying with the idea of releasing a companion game to their yet unreleased, super-secret Dark Crystal project, we jumped straight into it."
How did the idea to develop a tactical RPG based on The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance first come up?
Andy Cotnam (Senior Concept Artist): There were a number of people at the studio who loved the tactical RPG genre, myself included, and were dying for an opportunity to make that type of game. When Netflix let us know they were toying with the idea of releasing a companion game to their yet unreleased, super-secret Dark Crystal project, we jumped straight into it. Once we learned ‘Age of Resistance’ would be more of a group journey, with multiple main characters and storylines, a team-based tactics game seemed like a perfect fit.
For those who have watched the Netflix series, how much can we expect the game to tie into that?
Thonny Namuonglo (Art Lead): We definitely represent the show in the game by following the characters and events. Also, because part of the game is gathering a party of allies, we allow you to bring characters that weren’t there for certain events in the show to fight with you during those events in the game. During the game we visit areas that weren’t shown on the show such as the Drenchen, Spriton, or Sifa clan areas. Along with characters from the show we’ve added a few new ones just for the game to join your party too.
What sort of a balance are you looking to strike between adapting material and creating new and original stories?
William Lemons (Designer): We wanted a fairly even balance of adapted and original content. There were some great moments in the series we wanted to capture in the game, like when the Arathim attacked Domrak, and when the Hunter ambushed Rian. But, there were also several new stories and parts of Thra we wanted to explore; What do the Drenchen swamps look like? What were Naia, Kylen, and Gurjin doing while the others went to the Circle of the Suns? Thra is a big world and we wanted to show players places they’ve never seen before.
"We think the average player will take 20 to 25 hours to play through the main story levels the first time through."
How long will an average playthrough of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics be?
Dave Pottinger (Game Director): That’s a great question. The answer depends on how much you dig into as you play through the game. We think the average player will take 20 to 25 hours to play through the main story levels the first time through. Savvy tactics veterans may finish faster. Folks playing on the harder difficulties will probably take longer. If you do every last optional mission and collect all the gear, it could take a LOT longer to finish. And then there’s the New Game+ mode that unlocks once you finish the story the first time… that’s a whole other experience. Our goal is always to put a lot of content and depth into our games. In that sense, strategy games like DCAORT are fantastic for appealing to lots of different players. Everyone can find a fun game to play inside of all the options, characters, and different party build-outs.
Are you looking into next-gen versions of the game as well, especially as get closer to next-gen console releases?
Pottinger: Immediately, no, we’re focused on releasing the game on all the consoles (Xbox One, PS4, and Switch) alongside the PC and Mac releases. Releasing five versions on one day is the first task! We’re already working on updates and improvements, though. Players should start seeing those updates roll out quickly after launch. Beyond that, we will evaluate future development once we see how fans are playing through the game. If everything is great and they just want more content, we’ll focus on that. If the best thing is to be reactive to requests for interface changes or more features, then we’ll try to get those knocked out. We are supposed to get some dev kits for the new consoles soon, though. It would be fun to see what we can do with the FX and look of the game on those devices!
Age of Resistance Tactics’ combat shares a lot of similarities with Final Fantasy Tactics– to what extent has that game served as an inspiration?
Jacob Naasz (Designer): As a game lots of people in our studio love, FFT served as a big inspiration for us when we were designing Age of Resistance Tactics. One example is our job system which takes cues from FFT’s jobs that allow a player’s ability to mix and match different sets of skills on units to create a party that’s uniquely your own. We worked hard to get that same feeling with our jobs by giving you the ability to mix in a second set of skills with your primary one. We really liked where this ended up because there are several obvious combinations that work really well together, but there are also some pretty powerful combos if you start getting creative with your choices. When you combine that with your unit’s job, equipment, and even the unit’s clan these all come together to make for some great depth that allow you to approach combat and take on different challenges in many different ways.
"Players can combine two jobs to create their own custom selection of abilities. There are some insanely powerful combinations out there."
How do dynamic events work during combat, and what sort of impact do they have on battles?
Joe Gillum (Designer): We have two different dynamic events in the game, sandstorms and flooding waters. We also have some other battlefield altering mechanics like tall grass, poison water, and Gobbles. The goal of all of these systems is to add more tactical complexity making the battles more interesting and fun.
Sandstorms arrive and push units across the map. You can see them on the timeline, giving you time to prepare. Arrange your units against obstructions so they are protected, or push enemies into the path of the storm to manipulate them into advantageous positions.
Flooding waters reveal and hide parts of the map as you progress, opening up new areas to traverse or hidden objectives. Timing is key here, because units caught in the waters when they rise can drown and be lost.
Tall grass, poisoned water, and Gobbles act more like areas to avoid or use in the battle. Push enemies into poisoned water or the Gobbles to damage them. Tall grass makes a unit only targetable by melee attacks, this is a great way to sneak up on ranged casters.
Can you talk about the Jobs system and how that functions within combat?
TJ Huckabee (Designer): Jobs grant Gelfling, Podlings, and Fizzgig strengths and skills. Choosing a character’s job is more than just choosing their role, as each job has a selection of abilities that further define how you’ll use them in a fight. I might want to take a Fizzgig Herder that’s great at weakening and slowing down enemies, while you could bring one that’s better at shrugging off hits and dealing damage.
There’s even more customization for Gelflings and Podlings, who have access to secondary jobs. That means that players can combine two jobs to create their own custom selection of abilities. There are some insanely powerful combinations out there. One of my favorite character builds is a Gelfling Strategist primary and Paladin secondary stacked with as many passive abilities as possible.
Looking at the game’s progression mechanics, it seems like there’s a lot of emphasis on build variety and player choice- how much of a focus was that during development?
Alex Swaim (Design Lead): It was a huge focus! One of the best parts of tactical RPGs is that relationship between getting to make clever decisions with how you build your characters between battles and watching those decisions pay off (or sometimes backfire on you) during the next battle. That feeling – where it’s not just Deet, Brea, Rian, and company saving the Gelflings but your Deet, Brea, Rian, and company saving the Gelflings – was a major reason why we loved the fit of a tactical RPG with the Dark Crystal world. In order to make that work you have to be able to make meaningful decisions with how you build out your heroes. It helps that different players like playing differently, and having a variety in builds lets players choose the style they feel most comfortable with and then get to work out how to adapt to the challenges the game throws at them.
"You have the freedom to choose and level up dozens of different job combinations in Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics. Even if you start a whole new game, you can develop your party in different ways and end up with a totally different feeling team by the time you reach the end."
Can you talk about what Age of Resistance Tactics does to encourage replayability?
Clare Valesh (Lead Producer): You have the freedom to choose and level up dozens of different job combinations in Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics. Even if you start a whole new game, you can develop your party in different ways and end up with a totally different feeling team by the time you reach the end. There are literally hundreds of possible team and job combinations. We also have New Game+, which allows you to take your high-level characters through the game again using their existing jobs and abilities, while learning more along the way. You’re also able to access more powerful gear in New Game+, which, combined with the higher-level characters, allows a different experience the next time around. Having the campaign replayable in New Game+ mode gives you more time with the characters you’ve spent time with, and allows you to spend more time with the advanced classes, combining abilities in new and interesting ways.