With Spark Unlimited's new WWII title Turning Point: Fall of Liberty nearly out (you know, the alternative history game in which Churchill is killed by the taxi and Europe does succumb to the Nazi hordes), the independent developer which began life working on Call of Duty are now beginning to show a little more of their forthcoming FPS, "Legendary".
Taking on board the studio's experience with the gritty FPS war genre, the new game will feature real-world armed forces style combat, but involving an altogether different foe. Mythological beasts. Thousands of them, in fact.
Spark CEO Craig Allen is clearly inspired by his firm's new creation, and he thinks they might just have created something new: an FPS based on traditional shooter weaponry and mechanics, which sees you taking on all manner of unusual creatures, unleashed from Pandora's Box, which has kept them in check until the present day.
Allen notes that the game was originally called Legendary: The Box, but this has now become just Legendary, as his team work hard to hone the title and its image. An epic tussle between man and myth is promised, the CEO talking of a world beset with monsters as a teaser trailer informs us that "some boxes should never be opened". We couldn't agree more.
While we're to expect griffin, werewolfs, minotaurs and a plethora of other mythological creatures, this is no fantasy game - conventional weapons (handguns, machine guns, rocket launchers, et al) will be used.
Plot will be key in making these seemingly disparate game elements sit happily side by side, then, players assuming the role of Charles Deckard, a master criminal of questionable morals employed by the mysterious Professor Lefey to capture the contents of a bizarre box held deep within a New York Museum. Deckard reaches the box, and is branded with a mysterious insignia, while the contents of the box rush fourth, the museum cracking and crumbling a hellish red as our hero and the attraction's visitors dash for safety.
The box's strange and terrifying inhabitants immediately set-about destroying New York - reverting the world to the anarchic state it was in before their capture in the box. Allen tells us that Deckard is now connected to the fate of these monsters - the branding a curse which says he must re-capture the minions, righting the world. Suddenly our selfish hero must be held accountable for his actions, and what commences is a quest to beat monsters back into Pandora's Box and save humanity.
In an interesting gameplay twist, the branding on Deckard's wrist from the box also enables him to capture the animus of slain beasts, giving him health and occasional bursts of energy which can be crucial in tight battles - according to Spark's big cheese. As Deckard battles his way out of New York (under attack from hordes of griffin), he'll use standard weapons to take down the beasts - already laying waste to the Big Apple. The environmental destruction is already impressive in this opening segment, the ground cracking, the landscape falling away as the hideous bird attack, throwing police cars across the streets like toys.
As players do-battle with the myriad evils from the box, they'll be introduced to two mysterious world powers: the Council of 98, and the Black Order. The Council were responsible for the box originally, capturing the enemies of mankind in order to allow civilization to flourish. The Black Order, meanwhile, hope to harness the unleashed hordes for their own ends: global domination described as "progress".
You'll need to use both the Council and the Black Order to make your way through the game, with different paths available at key instances as you look to save the world - and create a new box of some kind. Along the way we'll meet a love interest, the lovely Vivian Carter, and Alexander Lexington, a good guy who is from the Council who will aid you in your quest.
While choices are available progress through the game will generally be linear, Spark opting for a focussed, tight experienced, driven heavily by set-pieces and the overall story - rather than anything you might describe as "free form" or "sandbox". Again, this is all about battling amazing beasts in epic locales, not to mention a solid storyline.
Combat is likely to be enhanced by some beastly AI Allen describes as among the very best the genre has witnessed. For example, we were demonstrated what a werewolf can do, the creature avoiding gunfire, using both walls and ceilings to attack our hero. Attacks can come from all sides, we're told, and a palpable sense of being hunted is promised. Creatures may not choose to attack Deckard immediately, either, our foolhardy protagonist at the heart of a three way tussle - as the forces of the Black Order and the Council also attempt to right the world and seize control.
Allen also introduces to us a Fire Drake, a fire-breathing toad-like monster that will literally set the world ablaze; the creature showing off a unique fire system that could make for some interesting set-pieces and level design, if well-implimented by Spark. Overall, the sense of epic destruction, of world's colliding, is very impressive, and while environments may not be as detailed as other FPS offerings - the scale is vast, the interactivity of the world (especially as the griffin destroy buildings, the minotaurs smashing through stone walls) notable.
The game's plot will take us from the US, to London where we'll seek information to help us create a new "box" before journeying to historic Durham in order to battle the nasties through the cobbled streets, and in the ruins of the huge cathedral. A few twists will lead us back to New York, where we'll need to face yet more moral 'issues' before finally looking to end the creatures' reign of terror over mankind.
Allen reveals that our faith, resolve and morality will be tested throughout the game, and a mix of horror, suspense, and good old fashioned action is promised - the game taking in spooky graveyards and the like as well as the overrun city streets.
We're also told of a rather unique spin on multiplayer that will be included in Legendary. The beasts themselves will be included in multiplayer bouts, which will see Council and Black Order forces battling for control. These creatures will be used as a "tipping point" in the action, although the epic titan creatures will not be included for obvious reasons (one such beast is a gollum, a creature composed of real world structures, brought to huge life) from the outset (DLC is planned, however). Another multiplayer mode might also offer a Safari experience, players competing for the most kills.
As our preview draws to a close Spark's chief reminds us that Legendary is still in development, with lashings more polish still to come. Even so, it is looking like an interesting twist on the FPS genre, and if the beasts really are as much fun to battle as we're told, Spark might just deliver on their promise of something completely new, despite intense competition from bigger-name franchises.
A late summer release is promised.