This April, Starbreeze Studios and Tigon Studios are readying up their massive release in the form of The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. Not only are they remaking the classic Xbox original (The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay), but they went above and beyond to include a whole new single-player campaign (Assault on Dark Athena) and are introducing multiplayer modes for the very first time to the franchise. Read on to find out what we discovered in our interview with Ian Stevens from Tigon Studios.
Strategy Informer: Could you briefly tell us your name?
Ian Stevens: My name is Ian Stevens and I’m the Head of Game Production at Tigon Studios, formerly Lead Designer at Starbreeze.
Strategy Informer: How would you describe the atmosphere for Riddick?
Ian Stevens: The Riddick universe is a pretty brutal environment, full of entrepreneurial mercenaries, corrupt prisons, and dangerous alien creatures. With Assault on Dark Athena we continue to move these themes forward and introduce new characters and worlds to the Riddick universe at large.
Strategy Informer: What graphical techniques have been applied to update Riddick to keep it one of the most beautiful titles on the market?
Ian Stevens: What you see in Assault on Dark Athena represents the bleeding edge of technology at Starbreeze, with some significant upgrades over what we were doing with The Darkness. In particular you’re likely to notice what we’re doing with depth-of-field, transition and focus, color correction, lighting, and character performance technologies – and that’s just a partial rundown of everything we’re doing to make this game look as good as it can possibly be!
Strategy Informer: Could you go in detail about the RPG elements that the Dark Athena add-on might have to change up the gameplay?
Ian Stevens: What we did with RPG elements in Escape from Butcher Bay is a great compass for what you might see in Assault on Dark Athena. We’ve certainly carried those elements over and then we’re doing some interesting new things that I just don’t want to spoil for you.
Strategy Informer: What makes the multiplayer an attraction to gamers who strictly play their games online only?
Ian Stevens: First of all, if you only ever play multiplayer, you owe it to yourself to make an exception for the single player experience's within Assault on Dark Athena. Don’t ignore the remake of an Xbox classic or our follow-up either.
Otherwise, we’re really excited about the multiplayer aspect of Assault on Dark Athena! It’s the first time we’ve brought multiplayer to the Riddick universe! We’ll offer classic modes like Deathmatch, CTF, Team Deathmatch, etc. But two modes that have us really excited are Pitch Black and Butcher Bay Riot.
Pitch Black places Riddick against six other players (Mercs) in an environment that’s completely dark – properly pitch black. The Riddick character is faster with more health and carries only melee weapons (Ulaks – the curved blades) – he can also use his eyeshine to see in the dark. The Mercs have big guns and flashlights. It’s kill or be killed and if you kill Riddick, you get to play as Riddick in the next round. The best part for me about this mode is the audio – since you can’t see, you can only hear the sound of a throat being slashed…but from where?
With Butcher Bay Riot, there are three teams of four players against each other. Prisoners, Mercs, and Guards. Each faction has an enemy with another faction: Prisoners hate Guards, Guards hate Mercs, and Mercs hate Prisoners. As a team you fight for a power cell (in the center of each map) to plant in your enemy’s base. It’s multiple rounds (best of three or five) and you have the chance to score UD money (Riddick currency). You can then use that money to buy better gear. This mode is surprisingly flexible; it can be very strategic or simply run and gun – all depends on you and the people you’re playing with.
Strategy Informer: Outside of Vin Diesel, can we expect any other known actors to lend their voices to the game?
Ian Stevens: There is major voice talent in Dark Athena – the title sees Lance Henriksen as Dacher, Michelle Forbes as Revas, and Wade Williams as Spinner. These are folks well known in sci-fi fantasy roles, and they’ve just done an amazing job getting into their characters in the Riddick universe. Fans are definitely going to be pleased.
Strategy Informer: Will there be a commentary track included on The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena to go over how development and what has been improved? Possibly included in a ‘Collector’s Edition’?
Ian Stevens: Ian Stevens: We’ll see.
Strategy Informer: How long will it take gamers to run through the new single-player campaign? Is there a possibility of multiple game endings?
Ian Stevens: Assault on Dark Athena is a brand new, fully-featured game that’s just as large as Escape from Butcher Bay was. In total it’s probably 10-12 hours of new gameplay depending on your skill level. We actually prefer not to do something like multiple endings because it can tend to fragment your focus and diminish the payoff. Instead, we try to pack a really powerful ending into that experience that everybody gets to experience.
Strategy Informer: Have you had a chance to play through any other first-person shooters as of late such as F.E.A.R. 2, Call of Duty: World at War, Left 4 Dead, etc? If so, how were your impressions from them and what could you take away to help benefit Riddick’s gameplay?
Ian Stevens: I’ve played all of those games and we have deep respect for our peers and their accomplishments. But really, when we’re creating games in the Riddick universe, we’re competing with ourselves and learning from our own mistakes and successes than we might from others. One thing is true though – playing great games is inspiring and if anything we get a lot of energy from the wonderful contributions of other game developers out there. Keep it up guys!
Strategy Informer: Lastly, what’s the one feature that gamers should purchase The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena for when it hits stores in April?
Ian Stevens: There is no one feature that sells this game, and in many ways one of the biggest things I think we’ve accomplished in creating Assault on Dark Athena is how we’ve brought so many different volumes of content and features together in one package – but you don’t necessarily put that on the back of a box!
Gamers want amazing experiences – games that they remember and that stay with them for years to come. You only have to look at the forum chatter around this game to see that people who never played Escape from Butcher Bay (but heard about it from friends and know it’s an Xbox classic) are looking forward to jumping into this universe for the first time.
For people that have already been there (beyond playing the amazing remake and getting achievements/trophies for it), there’s a whole new experience there for them to dig into. And then we add multiplayer on top of that! That’s a huge package and a tremendous value backed by a solid game that’s already a bit of a known quantity in that half of it has already been reviewed as one of the best movie-games ever. So I think there’s a lot to get excited about with Assault on Dark Athena and I hope gamers enjoy it!
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena will be released in April for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.