Interview

Art Director Jens Mathies talks-up The Darkness

Paul investigates Starbreeze's darker side

Noting the pedigree of Riddick-crafters Starbreeze, and the ambitious uniqueness of their new title, The Darkness, Paul Newcombe puts all talk of the hammy English mock-group of the same name to the back of his mind, and has a good old chin-wag with Art Director Jens Mathies.

First off, give us the hype, why should we all be getting excited about The Darkness?

We are trying a lot of new things with this game. In my opinion there is nothing out there that offers this kind of strange blend of truly unique action oriented game play and super-immersive story telling. Art Director Jens Mathies talks-up The Darkness

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was a huge critical success, has its imposing shadow been a blessing or a curse during the development of The Darkness?

Certainly not a curse during development. We learned a lot from Riddick that we have put to good use in The Darkness. How the critics will react this time around I cannot predict, but I feel confident that The Darkness is an extraordinary experience for the player.

This is your second game in a row based around an existing licence, do you prefer that way of working?

We take whatever opportunity is given to us and turn it into something we really like. We would love to develop an original IP, but we've also found that there is always room to turn almost any kind of source material into a very strong video game with a unique identity. It's more of a financial issue really. The day we get a proper offer to develop an original IP for the right platforms is the day we'll do it. Art Director Jens Mathies talks-up The Darkness

What drew you to 'The Darkness' comic books?

The comic books have a very good core setup (hit-man possessed by demon). We saw many opportunities for really cool game play and ways to tell a very dark story in a more complex and interesting way than ever before.

How involved have Marc Silvestri and the people at Top Cow been in the development?

Top Cow was mainly represented by writer Paul Jenkins whom we've worked very closely with when developing the story and the characters. We have been given an unusual amount of freedom by Top Cow during the development, quite frankly they've been a dream to work with. Art Director Jens Mathies talks-up The Darkness

How does the game tie into the continuity of the comic?

The game borrows from some of the story lines of the comic book, but the game is a separate entity with a beginning, middle and end. Essentially the game exists in parallel to the comic and is not part of the continuity of the comic.

The darkness powers and the use of the huge black tendrils promise to add something different to the FPS experience; can you tell us how they work in practice?

The darkness powers are there to expand your options as a player. We've found that different players will utilize the darkness powers in vastly different ways. The gameplay is very open in the way it allows the player to attack a situation. Players will use combinations of darkness powers and weapons to overcome obstacles in ways we never even thought about. This is exactly the kind of variation we were hoping for and I think it will give different players completely unique experiences despite playing the same game. Art Director Jens Mathies talks-up The Darkness

Having full films and TV shows running on the in-game television sets is a novel idea, other than using up space on the disk what's the thinking behind this and is the same content available on all formats?

Fundamentally this feature is a consequence of trying to create a living, breathing game world. In addition to films and TV-shows we also have music channels, but more importantly the TV's offer ways to enhance the story of the game in various scenarios. The PS3 will have some more in-game TV content than the 360 due to the difference in disk space.

There are rumours that the entire run of the comics will be unlockable extras somehow too, care to comment?

We do indeed have a lot of extra content supplied by Top Cow that can be unlocked when playing the game. Art Director Jens Mathies talks-up The Darkness

The ability to play as a Darkling in multiplayer sounds like fun, did it prove hard to keep a balance between playing as a darkling and a human?

Balancing is always very tricky, but I think we've worked out these issues rather nicely. Time will tell I'm sure.

What are you most proud of in The Darkness?

Personally I think we've really pushed the envelope in terms of interactive, immersive storytelling. It is quite a ride. Art Director Jens Mathies talks-up The Darkness

Thanks Jens, best of luck with completing The Darkness, which is due out on the PS3 and Xbox 360 later this month.

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