School is a haven for some and hell for others; there’s no arguing about that. We’ll venture that no one person’s experience is going to be as bad as Cordy’s, though–the student protagonist of Our Darker Purpose, a game currently up for funding on Kickstarter with two weeks to go. Being developed by Avidly Wild Games, Our Darker Purpose is described by the team as a “fiendishly difficult action RPG” and is a wonderful marriage between beautifully stylized artwork and challenging gameplay. This week on Press A to Kickstart, we’ll be looking into Our Darker Purpose’s intriguing story and design, the innovative gameplay features Avidly Wild is working on introducing, and having a chat with the team about their project and the experience Kickstarter has been for them so far.
Our Darker Purpose’s story revolves around a young girl, Cordy, who happens to be a student at the Edgewood Home for Lost Children. One day, her teacher steps out of her classroom, never to return–and that’s when everything, quite literally, goes to hell. Bringing new meaning to the term “student bodies”, Cordy’s classmates begin to turn on each other. Meanwhile, dangerous creatures slink around the school, turning it pretty much into the Edgewood Battle Royale for Lost Children. Cordy must discover what’s going on at the school, why the elders are disappearing, and the details of the plan the evil Administrators of the school are cooking up. So begins Cordy’s adventure, ascending the school through level after level of danger, horrors and cardboard dragons. It’s very Binding of Isaac, crossed with hints of Battle Royale and just a dash of Lord of the Flies.
There are several cool things that the top-down roguelike Our Darker Purpose is bringing to the table, including an innovative take on permadeath and an involved customization system for wee Cordy. On top of that, each playthrough will be different for the player due to the way levels are procedurally generated in game. All that mileage and replayability in the game– for what more could one ask?
The way that Our Darker Purpose handles permadeath, a sometimes frustrating feature of roguelike, is pretty special and one of the neat features about this game. Each time Cordy meets an untimely demise, instead of simply restarting, she goes to class. Yup–you heard that right. With the help of a scarecrow guidance counselor, she can study lessons and receive upgrades that will help her in her fight to reach the top of the school. You can also choose your own path through Edgewood, making each playthrough increasingly unique as some upgrade credits are only available on certain levels. Neat, right?
Between gorgeous-yet-spooky art assets and a new take on permadeath, Our Darker Purpose could easily make a name for itself in the genre.
For a more in-depth look at Our Darker Purpose, Pixelvolt had a talk to David Roth about the spooky game he’s working on.
Pixelvolt: What made your team want to develop a roguelike RPG?
David: The roguelike format is really cool because it increases the stakes of any given moment in a playthrough while still making the game rewarding to play. So you know that you can die, and that you’ll have to start over, which keeps the tension up. But you also feel really good for surviving as long as you have. It’s so cool that this genre is experiencing a resurgence right now.
Actually, one of the interesting challenges we’re facing is how to tell a broader story in a roguelike. Like, if the character is dying all the time, what does that mean for the narrative for a player? And we’re a tiny studio, so story is one of the few areas where we can still differentiate ourselves and stand out. So what we’ve hit on is discovering all these tiny little side plots and stories about the varied residents of the Edgewood manor. And that’s so much fun, telling stories about the weird objects and creatures in the game, all of which you come across in gameplay. And we can reward players who love that while still keeping it fun for those who just want to roll and dodge and blast enemies.
Pixelvolt: What sets Our Darker Purpose apart from other games in its genre and why do you think it stands out?
David: There’s so much awesome stuff already in this genre — from Binding of Isaac to Bastion to Diablo, and of course all the way back to the original Zelda games and Rogue itself. Each of these has its own pacing and style, as does Our Darker Purpose. The other thing that makes Our Darker Purpose a bit different is the theme and story it’s trying to tell, in a particular comic/gothic style. The true antagonist, the mysterious administrators who appear to still run the school after the other authority figures vanish, are definitely evil… but they’re also manipulative and petty and a little ridiculous. Our inspirations here were one part GLaDOS, one part Severus Snape, one part the kind of frenemy stuff you see actual kids do all the time. And they’re representative of the sort of dark but funny story we’re trying to tell. Horror with its heart in the right place.
Pixelvolt: Give us the low-down on Cordy’s character– what kind of girl will the gamers be playing as?
David: Cordy is an incredibly shy orphan who, to a certain extent, has been protected by the teachers. So when the teachers disappear and the students revert to a state of nature, she’s in a pretty bad place. So you’ve got these angry, desperate groups of students, only now the social hierarchy literally is life and death, and the students are turning to demon worship and makeshift weapons, and Cordy is uniquely unequipped to survive in that kind of environment. On the other hand, she’s quick and smart and she’s developed some magical capabilities of her own. We modeled her on Cordelia from King Lear, the daughter who wasn’t afraid to speak truth to power.
Pixelvolt: Briefly describe your experience with Kickstarter– how has the campaign been for you?
David: Intense. The toughest part is jumping back and forth between actually building the game versus managing the Kickstarter. But it’s also been amazing — I’m constantly humbled by the support we’ve received from our own personal communities and also from the hundreds of backers we’ve never met, who are constantly encouraging us. It’s scary putting yourself out there but also really affirming.
Pixelvolt: Do you have any advice for other indies heading into Kickstarters?
David: We’re still too new to this to feel comfortable advising others! But I would say Go For It. If it wasn’t for my friends and family, and also Will, my co-founder, I wouldn’t have had the courage to go on Kickstarter. And I’m really glad we’re there and we’re excited to complete the campaign and get this off the ground! I’d also say Thank You to our amazing amazing backers. You guys are awesome.
If Our Darker Purpose tickles your spooky roguelike fancy, check out their Kickstarter and take a look around! Our Darker Purpose is also competing on Steam Greenlight, so if you think it’s the type of jam you’d like to while away some time on, help them reach their goal. Avidly Wild Games and Our Darker Purpose can also be found on their Facebook if you want to follow their current and future endeavors.