A Chat with Dark Point Games
I recently had the pleasure of playing the closed beta for Achilles: Legends Untold. I came away impressed. The game is obviously influenced by Dark Souls, as expected–it’s rare that an action RPG doesn’t have at least a pinch of Soulslike in the recipe. What worked for me was the feel of the combat and the balance of risk and reward. And it looks great, too.
Dark Point Games is a small studio located in Poland. Approximately twenty folks worked on Achilles, though they partnered with outside specialists, including The Witcher composer Adam Skorupa. I had the chance to talk to the team and find out a little more about the path that lead to Achilles: Legends Untold.
Of course, my first question was about the connection between Dark Souls and Achilles. I was told that “We’re all big fans of From Software games and that love goes back all the way from “Otogi: Myth of Demons” on the original Xbox.”
That’s an impressively deep dive, to be sure, but they went on. “Obviously [we’re fans of ] the Dark Souls series, but also the lesser known title Ninja Blade as it reminds us of Devil May Cry. Like everyone else, we also can’t wait for Elden Ring!”
Beyond Dark Souls to Something New
The team went on to talk about something more important: the key differences that make Achilles unique. “We wanted to make a Souls-like game, but also introduce something fresh to the genre, so instead of the traditional TPP view, we went with isometric. In addition, we wanted to take a different approach to the healing system. We ended up with a fun hybrid system where your healing resources are a lot more finite than most souls systems, without being overly punishing. Healing resource management will be very important for players. In addition, we added the Live or Die system where bosses can be killed or spared. We won’t reveal the consequences of these choices today, but it will definitely give the player something to think about.”
In Achilles–much like Bloodborne–you can pick up many healing items, but only carry a finite number with you.
It wasn’t a surprise to learn that the team considered but couldn’t afford to license a pre-existing property. “We realized Achilles would be the perfect choice for the souls-like genre. It gave us both a recognizable hero and a strong title that fires up the imagination of players on what kind of stories the game would tell. In addition, setting a souls-like in Ancient Greece seemed like a fresh approach while also giving us a lot of lore and reference material to work with.
Camera, Gameplay, Length and Other Decisions
The team also discussed Achilles’ isometric point of view and fixed camera. Most third-person ARPGs have free camera movement. The team explained that “the fixed camera allows us to show the game in the best way possible. We are a relatively small team. Not having to worry about the complexity of camera controls and the additional polish of ‘out of view’ assets that would have to be added with a free camera allows us to focus on the things that matter most.”
As I noted in my Achilles: Legends Untold preview, the fixed camera was not an obstacle.
The closed beta gave the impression that Achilles was a very linear game. The developers clarified that “the Troy level is very linear and functions as the opening segment of the game. The rest of the game will be a lot more open world with many paths to explore. In addition, the dungeon currently in the beta is a pre-made design. In the full game, these type of dungeons will be procedurally generated, giving players a different experience each time.”
FromSoftware Games are known for their challenging games. This design philosophy is obviously part of Achilles: Legends Untold as well. “We estimate the average gameplay in the full version will be around 25 hours. Of course, player skill is to be considered. There is definitely a learning curve for brand new players who might not be as familiar with the souls-like combat.”
The Challenges of Bringing Achilles to Life
Every game is the result of thousands of difficult choices. Even the biggest budget title contains compromises. It reminds me of a favorite inspirational quote: instead of complaining that the grass is greener elsewhere, water the grass you have. It’s clear that the small team at Dark Point used creativity to overcome the limits of size and budget.
“We wanted to make isometric combat a lot more fun and challenging, so we developed the GAIA system. You’ll see a few examples of this in the beta already, such as archers jumping off of their comrades to shoot at Achilles from above. Or the cyclops using a skeleton as a throwing weapon. Of course, creating a system like this comes with it’s own challenges.
‘An isometric view also comes with limitations such as enemy size, unit count and fighting distance. You have to put the camera close enough to show the details of the combat, but at the same time put it at a distance that allows you to show enough of the arena to make the battlefield dynamic and entertaining.
‘With Achilles: Legends Untold, we think we managed to create a good balance and we’re looking forward to seeing players take on whatever we throw at them in the full game.”
The team at Dark Points plans on opening the beta soon, with Achilles: Legends Untold entering Steam Early Access in the second quarter of 2022. They hope to roll out the finished game in early 2023.
Thanks to Paweł Waszak (CEO and Lead Game Designer), Daniel Mira (Co-founder and Lead Programmer), Marcin Kamiński (Co-founder and CTO) and Natalia Poltorak (COO) for their participation.