Storytelling in video games is just as essential as the gameplay. Without a proper narrative to guide and drive the player towards a goal, there is no gameplay. There is no sense of achievement and accomplishment. No function of progression. But to stand out, bold and tall in terms of narrative, is something not many are able to accomplish these days. Not all devs seek the same level of detail, and in some places, there is no need for it.
Yet there are those who built their entire world and its core around it. Naughty Dog seemed like a disputed king of storytelling, and it held the title for a long while. Others came shortly after and stood shoulder to shoulder next to the likes of The Last of Us and Uncharted. But it was never about the studio, but about a specific writer in their ranks.
History in The Making
Amy Hennig is a master at what she does. Yet her contribution to video games came at a much earlier age. The age of primitive polygon graphics and 8-bit bloops instead of voice acting. And then came Legacy of Kain. A rogue-like action-adventure title with gothic horror at its heart.
Amy wasn’t the only contributing factor. She was joined by Silicon Knights’ own Denis Dyack, the director of the first installment in the franchise. Yet both Hennig and Dyack moved on from Legacy of Kain and the game remained on a cliffhanger, one that nobody would resolve. The potential was always there but never was it realized.
Dyack, however, gave it a chance. After the first Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, Dyack worked with Silicon Knights on other projects. It gave us one astonishing psychological horror with Eternal Darkness and a significant flop with Too Human. Dyack and his company went south, but a chance to revisit his first franchise was always in the back of his mind.
Dead Sun was an ambitious project, one that never saw the light of day, due to the incompetent writing, which was not done by Hennig. So the vampire drama calmed down, and Dyack went silent. Until 2019.
Dyack’s New IP
Deadhaus Sonata is an ambitious project, much like Dead Sun. A chance to revisit the gothic horror atmosphere. Just by looking at it, many could see that this is an exact duplicate of the Legacy of Kain franchise. While Dyack’s homage to his past work is noted, he should lean more towards creating a new experience rather than relying on an old one. With each passing week, he reveals more about his ambitious project. Taking in feedback with a positive attitude to polish his work, which is a very kind gesture. However, early gameplay footage of the new IP is nothing to brag about.
Instead of making it a more narrative-focused experience, Deadhaus Sonata relies a lot on online multiplayer. Sharing the narrative between players like this is no easy feat, and while it can be done, it also has a massive chance of failure.
Players will have free reign to choose from different classes, all attributed to his Blood Omen work. Such types include Vampires, Banshees, Revenants, Wraiths, Liches, and so on. Each class possessing different variants and skills depending on the player’s choice.
Its most concerning detail is the actual in-game currency. Microtransactions are always a bad omen when mentioned and usually lead to a negative result in the end. Here, players will earn in-game currency known as bones, which can be used to buy valuable upgrades, items, and other knick knacks. However, how much of this will be just and in-game currency instead of actual real-life cash-grabbing remains to be seen.
One positive thing is that those who wish to try out this experience and not pay for it can so do. Dyack announced that the game will be free to play for all those willing to give it a try. After that, you can unlock the full experience or give it a pass, depending on whether you like his work.
As a massive fan of the original Legacy of Kain series, I must say I’m not impressed. In an age where innovation is the key in the video game market, relying heavily on the past can lead to disappointment for many. Cashing in on a cliffhanger nostalgia is never an easy route, and hardly profitable. But I’m being too harsh on Dyack. And I’m glad that he gets to work on his take of the gothic horror genre in the way he imagined it.
If it turns out okay in the end, I will gladly admit that I was wrong, but until then, I have a right to voice my concerns. That being said, Deadhaus Sonata, the spiritual successor to the LoK franchise has a planned release in October of 2020, on the PC, Xbox One, and PS4.