Strange Brigade, the latest co-op/single-player shooter from Rebellion, is almost here! We've already taken a good look at the game's new Cut-Throat Caverns pirate level, and now we've sat down with Ben Fisher, Studio Design Lead at Rebellion to chat everything Strange Brigade.
We talked traps, DLC, replay value, death, gigantic bosses, puzzles, getting the rhythm, and the role of Radiant Worlds on the game! Check it out below.
GameWatcher: Greetings Ben! Now, what does Strange Brigade bring to co-op games, than no other co-op games do?
Ben Fisher: I think it’s the tongue-in-cheek light-hearted sense of humour. And the ability to punch a mummy in the face, what’s not to love about that? In particular that 1930s atmosphere, it’s not something you see in games. You see games inspired by Indiana Jones, but you don’t see anyone go back to the source material - the 1930s adventure serials. That’s what stands out to me.
GameWatcher: You’ve teased gigantic bosses in the trailers. Are they on every level?
Ben: It varies from level to level. The giant bosses aren’t the ending of every stage - sometimes it’s be a horde of enemies, other times it might be some sort of combat puzzles. There’s always some climactic battle but each is different.
GameWatcher: How many different types of trap are in the game?
Ben: No idea exactly! There’s traps that can catch other players, there’s flame traps, spike traps, spinning blade traps, swinging blades, dart traps… a lot of the ‘classic’ traps you’d expect to see in this type of serial adventure!
GameWatcher: Any giant boulders?
Ben: Not sure, I’d have to check....
GameWatcher: We’d be shocked if there wasn’t! Now, there are lots of different things in Strange Brigade’s levels, such as playing it in both single-player and co-op, traps, puzzles, etc. What’s the most difficult part of developing them?
Ben: I can give you two answers to that. The first is finding a rhythm that works nicely, because there are just so many options. That took a lot of time and experimentation to find a pace that works, and a structure you can replicate on different levels.
Once we had that rhythm down, the most challenging thing became keeping players together and focused on the same objective. We discovered that two main playstyles emerged. One type wants to steamroller through and the other wants to explore thoroughly to find all the puzzles and treasures. The main thing we had to do to make those two work together was checkpoints, to make sure players couldn’t get too far from each other. There’s a relatively straightforward ‘core path’ with simple puzzles, and the harder puzzles are off that path but it’s easy to get back to.
GameWatcher: Are the puzzles in particular difficult to get right for single-player and multiplayer?
Ben: The real challenge was choosing things that work regardless of how many players you have. For the most part, that means the puzzles are based on understanding what’s in front of you, observing things, looking around, or maybe in co-op someone shouting the answer. The answer could be split over the environment.
We had to find a variety of puzzles that were interesting but didn’t break co-op. A classic puzzle that involves pressing a button and another door opening, you can’t do that because players can get caught. Finding ways to work around those restrictions and making puzzles that actually work was a meaty design challenge. You really need to take it one puzzle at a time.
GameWatcher: How do levels differ on replays, if they do at all?
Ben: There are elements such as, the characters have different properties and abilities which change the rhythm of gameplay. Archimedes de Quincey, the archaeologist, for example has the ability to spot hidden doors that no other character does. As you gather gold you can optimise your playstyle and buy more weapons, and we score you as you go. Some of the puzzles are slightly randomised as well, like with some Pipe-Mania-style puzzles where the answer is different each time. The core route is essentially the same, but because there are so many extras you can never keep it under control.
GameWatcher: When we played co-op last time players came back to life immediately. How does death work now?
Ben: We’ve added a mechanic now that when a player’s killed, they can be re-spawned from a sarcophagus nearby. There will be an indicator on screen letting people know that someone needs help, and someone can go and release them. So if you’re in the middle of a fight, or the sarcophagus is surrounded by enemies, you’ve got a new tactical decision to make.
GameWatcher: And in single-player it’s checkpoint-based?
GameWatcher: How many Amulet powers are in the game, and how many will be added as DLC?
Ben: I don’t have an exact number, but there’s a range per character, and we’re adding new characters as part of the DLC, so there will be loads to choose from. You unlock them over the course of the game. There’s a good selection for each character.
GameWatcher: You’ve announced new character coming as DLC, how will these change-up the game?
Ben: The game really comes into its own when you’re trying to manage numerous tactical options simultaneously. Grenades, amulet powers, weapons, super-powerful prototype weapons, traps, you’ve got all these options available. Given that you’ve got these hordes of bad guys to take care of, changing these options really changes how the game plays. Different amulet powers, different weapons, these really change your strategic options when playing.
GameWatcher: What free content is planned?
Ben: We haven’t announced it yet, but if you look at Sniper Elite it’s a good indicator of the scale of this game and the sort of content that Rebellion releases!
GameWatcher: Rebellion bought Radiant Worlds at the beginning of the year, have they had any hand in this or are they on their own projects?
Ben: I worked at Radiant Worlds, so I can describe their role pretty well! I won’t get too specific, but they’ve been helping out on weapon balancing, the feel of the core game, and the season pass DLC content. A lot of people from Rebellion used to work at the company that Radiant Worlds came from (Blitz Games we presume), so we very quickly found a rhythm working together. That’s all we can announce right now!
GameWatcher: To finish us off for the day, anything exciting we haven’t seen?
Ben: There’s a couple of other game modes we haven’t really shown off. We’ve got a Horde Mode in arenas where waves of bad guys constantly attack, and the goal is to unlock new areas and new weapons. That works really well in co-op, it’s an intense experience.
We’ve also got Score Attack, which takes areas of the campaign missions and remixes them. Players play against the clock and face huge amounts of enemies, with traps and super-powered weapons. It’s kind of like finding the race line in a racing game, the perfect playthrough - triggering the traps at exactly the right time, picking up the right weapon, taking out the enemies. That mode works best when you think you’ve got a right idea of what the answer is and you never stop moving and firing!
GameWatcher: Thank you very much for talking with us Ben!
Thanks again to Ben Fisher for chatting with us and to Rebellion for organizing this little sit-down and play.
Strange Brigade is out August 28, in just a few weeks, and we can't wait to play it again. Check out our hands-on impressions of the new pirate level, or view our exclusive gameplay video of Cut-Throat Caverns below if you want to see it for yourself!