When Alan Miranda, the CEO of Ossian Studios, contacted us about a new 3D Western RPG his company is working on, we were intrigued immediately. First of all, Mr. Miranda has impressive game-making credentials: Ossian Studios put out expansion packs for the classic PC series Neverwinter Nights, and Miranda himself used to be a producer for BioWare. Secondly, the iPhone game he’s working on, The Shadow Sun, draws inspiration from sources like Zelda, Fable, and H. P. Lovecraft.
From the look and sound of it, The Shadow Sun is an extremely ambitious RPG, and we’re excited to get our hands on the game when it hits the App Store later this year. We spoke with Mr. Miranda over e-mail to get the details.
What’s the basic story of The Shadow Sun?
A demonic evil has arisen and now commands its horde of dark minions to sweep across the land in a wave of destruction that only you, the Chosen One, can stop… Okay, just kidding. 😉 That’s definitely NOT what our story is about. What we’re doing is getting away from clichÃ© and drawing inspiration from both the roots of fantasy and modern fantasy literature, to create something unique and engrossing.
The world of The Shadow Sun (TSS) is one where humanity has slowly recovered after a natural cataclysm almost a millennium ago, which could have easily led to its extinction. Now, looking up into the sky, people have come to recognize that their sun has become diseased in some mysterious way. A fringe of shadow can be seen along one edge of the fiery disc but there is no explanation as to why. This is what has come to be known as the Shadow Sun.
The player hails from the Northern Kingdoms and has traveled south on a mission to the desert city of Shar, capital of the Sharian Empire and the decadent trade gateway between the North and South. Diplomatic relations between the two powers have always been strained, however, Shar has become seized in the grip of a crippling plague and has all but cut itself off from the rest of the world. It is at the massive golden gates of the imperial city that your adventure starts.
Do you have a party, or do you play as a single character?
Much of Ossian’s background with our previous games (Neverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate and Neverwinter Nights: Darkness over Daggerford) includes creating colorful companions to adventure with you, so this was something we will continue in The Shadow Sun. Over the course of the game, you will encounter four companions that can accompany you, each with their own unique personalities and motivations. However, we wanted to keep controlling them in gameplay manageable on the small screen of the iPhone/iPod touch, so you can only travel with one companion at a time. The rest of your companions will wait for you back at your hideout until you need them.
Can you give me an idea of how big the gameworld is? How many hours of gameplay can we expect from the game?
With the game taking place in the city of Shar, players will be able to explore a few of the different districts of the metropolis, including many interior areas of buildings and houses and even places beneath the city. They will also get to go outside the city walls and travel to several dangerous rural areas. There will definitely be plenty of space to explore, interact, fight, discover secrets, and role-play. We aren’t announcing an official gameplay time just yet.
Are there side-quests in the game? If so, can you give me one example?
The game will have plenty of sidequests. In fact, deep, intriguing, and surprising sidequests have been a hallmark of Ossian’s previous games, because we believe that filling out the world with engaging side content only enriches the feeling that you’re actually part of a living world. I’ll have to keep the actual sidequests under wraps for now, but suffice it to say that role-players won’t be disappointed.
Since you compared the fighting to Zelda and Fable, I take it the fighting occurs in real time?
The fighting definitely happens in real time. We took the cue from those games, as well as The Witcher, to have fast and dynamic-looking combat, where battles include multiple attacks, parrying, shield blocking, knockdowns, and more. There are still combat stat calculations going on under the hood during fights, but these aren’t visible to the player.
Can you use magic in combat?
Absolutely! We have several magic spells that the player can cast and they are all geared towards combat. For example, the Ice Blast spell can freeze an enemy for a period of time and opens up the opportunity to shatter them if the player or companion are equipped with a blunt weapon.
Using a skill point system, a player can specialize in melee or ranged weapons, magic, or other non-combat skills– the choice is theirs on how they want to grow their character. If they specialize in magic, then with each additional skill point they assign to a spell, the power of that spell grows.
Will there be lots of items, armor, and weapons to collect in the game?
We will be having many kinds of weapons, armors, potions, gems, jewelry, and miscellaneous items that the player can find during their adventure. These can all be easily kept track of on the inventory screen, which is similar to Oblivion or Dragon Age, where items are organized in a long list that can be sorted into the above-mentioned categories by tapping different tabs.
What is one example of an enemy you’ll face in The Shadow Sun?
There will be a wide assortment of human enemies and monsters for the player to fight against. One of the most feared desert monsters in the sandy dunes around Shar is the Sandmaw, an armored worm of enormous size that can burrow through the soft sand. When hunting, it quietly waits for the sound of movement on the surface before bursting forth to chomp at its prey’s legs with gigantic mandibles in order to prevent it from fleeing. If that initial surprise attack proves unsuccessful, it will use a sandblast attack (from sand it sucks into a sac while digging) to temporarily stun its prey with blindness.
You mentioned you took some inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft. Is this a horror game, or is it more fantasy oriented?
This is definitely a fantasy game. The creatures and mythos of Lovecraft inspired us when we were building our world because we wanted a unique kind of atmosphere that embodied the fear of a horrible unknown. We’ve drawn inspiration from other sources as well, but this is one of the more prominent. Our goal with The Shadow Sun is to create a brand new, non-generic fantasy world of sword and sorcery that feels somewhat familiar but has a flavor all its own.