Jehanne Rousseau, CEO of French developer Spiders, loves BioWare games. She, along with her development team, love BioWare games so much that Spiders’ informal mission is to make character-rich RPGs during a period when BioWare… just isn’t.
“We are all fans of these types of games, so I guess [the reason Spiders decided to make BioWare-style RPGs] was partly out of our frustration, because we couldn’t play these types of games again,” she says. “Because [BioWare] was a huge influence to us we really wanted to be able to develop those kinds of games.”
The results of that passion haven’t always been successful, but with each new game Spiders has honed its understanding of both BioWare DNA and its own house style. 2013’s Mars: War Logs was a ropey tribute to Mass Effect, but by 2019 Spiders had its own accomplished answer to Dragon Age in the form of GreedFall. Encouraged by its biggest success so far, Spiders is now hard at work on a sequel, the recently announced GreedFall 2: The Dying World.
The plan is for GreedFall 2 to feature seven companion characters (up from the original’s five), making for a roster that rivals (at least in raw numbers) the crew of the Normandy. “You will be able to take control of them,” promises Rousseau. “So we are getting closer and closer to our reference there. The idea is really to try to give players who love the type of BioWare games like Dragon Age [the ability to] travel in another world with a different type of setting.”
That different setting is what sets Spiders’ work apart from its gameplay design inspirations. GreedFall’s universe is a fantastical reimagining of the 17th century that explores the political and societal ramifications of plague and colonisation. The Dying World, a prequel to the original game’s story, will explore this through the eyes of a native of the magical isle of Teer Fradee visiting the Gacane continent, a Europe-like powerhouse that will one day invade their homeland.
“It’s a very complicated subject, to be honest with you, and we are really trying to be aware of all the sensibilities that can be hurt by it,” admits Rousseau. A lot of research has been done around the real, painful historical events that inspire GreedFall’s world, but Spiders is looking to discuss the issues of colonial politics more generally rather than replicate specific moments of the past dressed up in fantasy cosplay.
“Fantasy is really useful, it allows you to be able to talk about some very difficult subjects,” says Rousseau. She points to The Witcher as a good example, in which author Andrzej Sapkowski reflects on the suffering of Polish people at the hands of the Nazis during the 1930s and ’40s through a fantasy lens. “You can talk about these subjects without hurting people,” she says. “Being able to point to these events and say, ‘Okay, what have we done here? Shouldn’t we think about it, at least?’ So I hope that is what we will be able to do with GreedFall 2.”
Thanks to an increased budget for the sequel, Spiders is able to depict a larger, fuller vision of this conflicted world. That begins with location; where GreedFall was set almost entirely on the island of Teer Fradee during the colonisation effort, The Dying World will see players exploring the Continent instead. “It’s not only about complexity, it’s more to offer a wider view on the different forces that are involved in the struggles of the Continent,” Rousseau explains. “As it is bigger [than Teer Fradee], there are many more other factions, and also new countries.”
New factions and nations will hopefully lead to a deeper understanding of the many clashing viewpoints both within and outside the Continent. As is tradition with the BioWare RPG template, GreedFall explores the most prominent of these perspectives through its companion characters, and the increase in party size for GreedFall 2 will hopefully mean even more fascinating personal stories to explore.
“Of course, you will find all the romances, stories, and quests with the companions,” says Rousseau. “We really focused on them this time, even more than in the previous game, because it was clearly something that players loved. We’ve tried to develop that story more, to give even more content around [the companions] and to make sure that players will be able to develop a really real relationship with them through the game.”
Companions are not just delivery vehicles for story, though. They’re also your brothers and sisters in arms. Spiders is aiming for a higher level of tactical complexity for GreedFall 2, once again inspired by another shining star in BioWare’s library: “One of the references is the first Knights of the Old Republic,” reveals Rousseau.
The vision for GreedFall 2, at least at this early stage of development, is to replicate Knights of the Old Republic’s smart approach to real-time-with-pause combat. “[In KOTOR] you were able to select the next [combat] actions, but you were not obliged to pause for every action to make sure that your companions would do what you wanted them to,” explains Rousseau. She admits that GreedFall’s original companions were not as intelligent as she would have liked them to be, but hopes that with improved AI companions in the sequel will be able to handle their own business during regular scraps. When bosses or more complex encounters arrive, though, the pause system is intended as a powerful tool to help navigate swirling melees and volleys of pistol shots. It should enable you to consider new positions and synchronise abilities. “The idea is to create a fun experience where the player feels more in control,” Rousseau says.
With inspirations picked from BioWare’s golden years, you’d think that Spiders is aiming for the stars. Yet Rousseau is very humble about her ambitions for GreedFall 2 and her studio. “I won’t say the usual stuff like, ‘We want to become the best studio in RPGs, blah, blah,’” she says. “No, it can’t be true because there are far bigger studios over there. But we can deliver some amazing adventures to players and share with them this love for these types of games, for these types of stories, and this is what I’m aiming for today.”
The original GreedFall has sold two million copies. Its Steam and Metacritic pages are decorated with thousands of positive reviews from fans. Clearly Spiders has found an audience of likeminded people who just really want to play BioWare-style role playing games. GreedFall 2’s 2024 release window may put it close to the promised BioWare renaissance (Dragon Age 4 and a new Mass Effect are currently in production), but for anyone with a love of these character-rich RPGs, that just means there’s one more game to add to the wishlist.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Features Editor.
Source: IGN Video Games All