During a conference with Sierra this afternoon at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., we got a chance to catch up with Ben Haas, vice president of Click Entertainment, who was demonstrating his studio's upcoming action-RPG, Throne of Darkness.
Much of Throne of Darkness' development team is composed of ex-employees of Blizzard Entertainment, the developers of the popular Diablo series. After seeing Throne, it's easy to see that the team in very much in tune with the gameplay style popularized by Diablo, and is taking steps to reinvigorate it by expanding upon its basic premise.
Haas' demo began in one of the game's four starting castles. Throne of Darkness' main deviation from the traditional action-RPG formula lies in its decision to allow the player to control a squad of warriors, rather than just a single character. The team used by Haas in the demo consisted of three swordsmen of varying attributes, who in short order proceeded to engage a horde of undead creatures in battle. Most of the action took place within the starting fortress, and its immediate environs. As such, much of the action consisted of close-quarters combat, in which the attacking enemies would continually flanking Haas' party.
Haas gave us an in-depth look at the game's tactical elements. Aside from allowing players to toggle between playable characters on the fly, the game features options that allows them to precisely alter their parties' formations. Colored dots represent the characters' placement on the field, and via the mouse, players can adjust their placing in any sort of configuration imaginable. A number of pre-made formations are also available, however, for players wishing to immediately get into the fray. Over a dozen in number, the formations were named after animals--the centipede, the spider, and the monkey were immediately noticeable. Further, the system featured options that allows players to shift the combat-tendencies of their party members, making them as aggressive or defensive as they desire. After a few tweaks, at any rate, Haas' party was ready to go.
The ensuing action was suitably impressive. The AI-controlled party members seemed very eager to engage the enemies, and seemed to support the player-controlled character well. One thing immediately notable about Throne of Darkness are its dramatic character animations--they're emphasized particularly violently, almost accenting the game's already fast pace. The animations for archer characters, for instance, is particularly impressive--the rate of fire is already fast, but the wide range of animations used in the process do much to deepen the effect.
We managed to shoot some footage of the game in action, in any case, so you'll be able to see it running first hand very soon. Sierra is set to release Throne of Darkness this May. For more information on the game, check out our in depth preview.