One of the most exciting games of the year: parts of Weta Digita, creators of The Lord of the Rings, work with CGI experts from Godzilla and Planet of the Apes, as well as game developers from Ashen and Medal of Honor, on an immersive adventure in which we take on cannons , muskets and flintlock pistols with armies of the 18th century in battles against the gods. Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn Mega Preview.
Created by veteran Weta Digital, creators of The Lord of the Rings and Souls-like Ashen, Flintlock mesmerizes us with its combination of swordplay, muskets and cannons, and magic in a New Zealand-inspired world.
© A44 Games
A coalition human army is approaching the gates of the City of Dawn, the urban stronghold of the old gods, with all its rings of walls that remind us a bit of Minas Tirith. The closer we get, the louder the whispering of the divine becomes in the wind and the music plays with an epic quality, one already thinks one is in The Lord of the Rings. The battle ensues, cannons are fired, muskets are loaded, soldiers struggle through the mud. They wear high helmets, noble white uniforms reminiscent of the Napoleonic Wars. You advance in rank and file. Flintlock: A Siege of Dawn is based on a very specific genre that most have probably never heard of: the flintlock fantasy. „Flintlock Fantasy is a genre that blends black powder and 18th-century technology with black magic and the ancient gods that rule this world,“ said Derek Bradle, creative director at studio A44 Games, which is adjacent to WETA Digital reside. Many here have worked on some of the greatest films of all time: the Planet of the Apes trilogy, starring Matt Reeves, and the greatest epic of our time, The Lord of the Rings 1-3, starring Peter Jackson.
Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn is an open-world adventure in the vein of The Witcher 4, but aims to have a more guided feel and the architecture is much more reminiscent of Mesopotamian or Egyptian architecture mixed with 18th-century battles.
© A44 Games
They know how to draw breathtaking battles and black magic, that is, zombies and armored skeleton warriors like those of the Uruk-Hais that we fight on battlefields where cannons are constantly roaring, their massive bullets digging up the terrain. These game scenes are reminiscent of a trailer from Assassin’s Creed 3, which drew exactly the 20212, but could not yet implement it in its gameplay. And we ourselves play a lady named Nor, whose outfit is somewhere between a New Zealand native and an army officer – white war paint over her eyes meets an 18th-century officer’s uniform. She fights with a boarding axe, muskets and planting bombs, which allows for an exciting gameplay loop: we jump in the air, hit with the axe, spin in circles and take turns firing the eponymous flintlock – a flintlock pistol like those used in the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries.
A44 Games is the studio behind Ashen and they have shown how dense the atmosphere they can create. But Ashen was visually very reduced, very indie. Much of that vibe, that love of design, is evident in Flintlock: A Siege of Dawn, albeit in modern Unreal Engine with lifelike faces rendered with MetaHuman, a new technology from Epic Games that allows for photorealistic people. Memorable characters are important to great adventures and atmosphere. This is also accompanied by the fantastic soundtrack. New Zealanders love music and love to play with it. Ashen already had this impressive rhythm and now it’s used in Flintlock as a gameplay mechanic: „I’ve always loved the Guitar Hero feel of Soulslikes when you really get into it. You learn the rhythm and you dance with your opponents You’re immersed in that zen rhythm as you move through the game.“
Purely thematically, A44 Games works with a very wild mix of a world that is more reminiscent of antiquity in terms of its culture and architecture with these tent camps, which we associate more with the Napoleonic wars. Also see the uniforms of the soldiers
© A44 Games
The fights are based on a bar structure like an interactive sheet music, with hit animations landing on a beat. A bit like Beat Saber for VR, transformed into an open-world adventure with the charm of the old Assassin’s Creeds, especially Assassin’s Creed 3. Where we pirouette with the boarding ax like a Connor, who is also of native descent, but in flintlock too Can plant bombs, command cannon fire on positions, but also work with a kind of flying fox that knows all sorts of magic – it can keep enemies in stasis and lift them into the air, giving us more time to reload muskets and flintlock pistols. It’s an exciting mix that’s technically excellent, for example because every shot from the pistol causes a trail of smoke.
A world like The Witcher 4 in New Zealand, but a little more guided by its authors
Does this massive fortified city with its many rings of walls remind you a bit of Minas Tirith? Many of the A44 Games employees come from Weta Digital, Peter Jackson’s CGI studio and worked on The Lord of the Rings 1-3.
© A44 Games
Ashen already had this diverse world that kept surprising us – such as a fat dragon buddy who could blow up entire rock formations. Featuring deep, gloomy, dimly lit dungeons and monster bosses reminiscent of God of War. In Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn we fight against gods, which can be something like majestic golden eagle beings with a gilded head that is almost reminiscent of Egyptian sarcophagi. It is such a unique mix of cultures, styles, architecture and mythology that fascinates us. And that in turn is embedded in an open world that doesn’t throw us into a huge landscape with a thousand icons on the map like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, but rather should be a little more orchestrated. The developers themselves talk about „developer authored but player driven storytelling.“ Excitingly, Ubisoft is also pursuing the same approach with Assassin’s Creed Rift, where we should again be able to experience a more classic stealth AC as Basin in Baghdad. Flintlock drives a very large one world, divided into three zones, inspired by her native New Zealand, which we are very excited about.
Because we owe New Zealand the charm of The Lord of the Rings – the Shire, the fields of Pennelor off Minas Tirith or the port city of Númenor with its huge statues in Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. But everything with its own look and feel – Ionic columns, for example, which trace temples that once stood here and feel more like the Roman Empire or Greek antiquity. Cities with an idiosyncratic architecture, in which stately palaces rise into the sky like obelisks. A world with a lot of history too, where we see wooden forts built by the armies that camp here. But also large medieval fortresses in which factions reside that are more medieval-oriented with crown rooms flanked by suits of armor. „Each of the three areas should feel completely different, from its style, its culture, its architecture,“ reveals environment artist Steven Chen. We see cities reminiscent of Mesopotamia or the splendor of Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt.
Punches land on a musical beat, so the studio wants to create a fight rhythm reminiscent of Guitar Hero. That also sounds enormously innovative, we want to play it.
© A44 Games
In a very readable cover story by the colleagues from EDGE, the developers also tell that this fox-like creature Enki with its sticking out ears and black fur, which ends in a kind of bird’s tail, is also inspired by Mesopotanian deities. Enki was the Sumerian god of creation, intelligence, water and magic. He serves as Nor’s companion, but less like a puppy and more like a comrade that reminds us a bit of Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy. He definitely has his own idiosyncrasies, likes to fib and the two form an interesting contrast: Nor is very military, her father was a commander in the armed forces. She is very dedicated and loyal, Enki describes A44 Games more as a lovable but greedy little crook who, according to the creative director, maybe we shouldn’t just believe everything…
Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn will be released in 2022 for PC, Xbox Series X/One and PS5/PS4.
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