Hellion Mystery of the Inquisition: interview

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Maciej Kowalski, producer at Polish developer Flying Fish Works, gave us a great interview. Patrick G went into town alone afterwards, and arrived at the CG offices several hours later seemingly speaking in tongues and being violently sick. At first, we thought he was possessed by a medieval demon; but we soon realised he was just drunk on an epic scale.

CG: Very little is known about the game so far; the official site doesn’t even make it clear which perspective the player will be using. We’ve heard it will use a first person perspective, is this true? If so, are you confident you can make this work for melee combat?

MK: That’s right, Hellion is a first person perspective game. And we are pretty sure that melee combat will look and work really nice. As a matter of fact we have already presented the swordfight to the audience at GamesCom in Cologne this year and have received really positive feedback. Our confidence also relies upon an innovative combat system that we brought to life within our game. The idea was to create as realistic melees as it gets. We didn’t want the player to rush through dozens of enemies waving his sword around like a superhero. As Godric of Glastonbury you will really have to pay more attention to what your enemy is doing at the moment. You have to block, parry and counterattack, and each move must be done at precise moments. Furthermore, you cannot just block the opponent’s attack just holding the block button all the time and walk through the level unharmed. We have constructed a swordfight system that demands reasonable attitude of the player. It means that when you’re being attacked, you better block the attack, and you must block it precisely. If you’ll block too fast, your enemy will have time to attack the unprotected part of your body. If you will block too late, you will be hit, as well. To put it just in a few words, you must think, and learn when to attack and when to block in order to defeat your enemy not getting chopped to pieces. No mindless sword slashing allowed in Hellion. But the most important thing is that the combat system is really easy to acquire, it is very intuitive, so just after a few hits with the sword you will know how to act and what to do. The swordfight system with basic attacks, power strikes, thrust stabbing and finishing moves looks and works really impressively, and we’re sure it will change gamers’ attitude to melee combat.

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CG: Why did you choose a medieval setting for the game?

MK: The answer is very simple – this historical period is extremely interesting and not many games did attempt to fully exploit it, especially when it comes for FPP action games. That kind of historical background, with European religious civil wars, heresy, sects rising against the church, Inquisition  and crusades – it’s not only very absorbing, but simply gives us a fantastic main theme for the game.

CG: Is Hellion a combat – centric game, or are there other elements?

MK: Although the combat with sword, dagger or crossbow defines a major part of what Hellion game is, there is still a huge share of supernatural issues within. The main character is an inquisitor, an exorcist, and he will use the power of God to interact with the possesed and demons. Just like in the “Exorcist” or “Constantine” movies, he will have the power of using the exorcisms in order to expel demons from the bodies of the possesed, to send demons back to hell and to perform some other “supernatural” actions that will let him learn the spiritual character of people or places he will see.

CG: With Templars and the Inquisition being involved, does this mean religion and the crusades will play major parts in the story? Are you worried about the criticism this may evoke from Muslim and Christian quarters?

MK: Religion is very important for the plot, especially that we’re telling the story of 13th century world, in which the weakened catholic church is facing the growing plague of heresy, in which its policy is a series of failures. We are aware of the controversy, especially that the main character is a member of the organisation that is rather infamous. But, on the other hand, we are also preparing many surprises for those who think with stereotypes. The “religious” message that comes with Hellion should amaze everyone who expected us duplicating common schemes. That is also one of the strongest points of our game. The plot tells a fantastic story of man and faith.

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CG: You’ve hinted previously that we may see some famous 13th century figures portrayed in the game, as well as accurately depicted locations. Does this mean you’re aiming for a fairly historically accurate game with mystical elements, or are you going for a more of an alternate reality approach?

MK: Hellion: Mystery of the Inquisition is a historical fiction game. It means we’re placing a fictional story on a historical background; we have a fictional plot put in the real settings, among historical characters and events. Although we will have some supernatural characters, like demons, you still have to remember that in these times they were considered as real as any living creature. Medieval times were full of that kind of beliefs, and the faith that demons exist wasn’t anything strange. Putting the demons into our game we also wanted to present the construction of the world seen by people who lived in these times.

CG: You’re keen to promote the ‘brutality’ of the combat. Do you worry people might think you’re trying to hide sloppy mechanics with gratuitous blood and gore?

MK: We’re presenting the brutality of Hellion’s world in order to keep the world realistic, so all the violence and blood isn’t gratuitous, but essential! We’re showing extremely brutal times, the times, when human life meant nothing. The only goal of two knights standing on a field of battle was to eliminate the opponent as fast as it’s possible. We had to put away all these Hollywood-like gallant jousts, if we wanted to be reliable. A knight was a person trained for killing, not for delivering picturesque scenes for the ladies. Ever since he was a kid,  his only toy was a sword, that is why we wanted to show a knight as a killing machine, uncompromisingly brutal and rough. But we also want to present how amazingly he handled his favourite weapon. And these are the only reasons for showing the brutality in our game.

CG: What kind of arsenal of weapons can we look forward to? Any chance of the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch making an appearance?

MK: Unfortunately, our main character perfectly handles counting to three, so there would be no fun using the Holy Grenade of Antioch. No killer rabbits in Hellion, as well. But I can tell you that probably there will be a coconut laden sparrow appearing, as soon as we reach agreement on whether it should be European or African one 😉

Regarding more rational weapons, Godric will use a dagger, sword, crossbow and vessels with Greek flames (a substance that once set on fire can’t be extinguished with water – that will give us some extra gameplay features). We designed these weapons to be not only handy, but also innovative – for example you can attach blades to your crossbow and when you’re surprised by an enemy I.e. when reloading, you can stab the poor fellow.

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CG: With games like the Witcher making it big on the international stage recently, how has this affected the Polish games industry?

MK: The Witcher had probably paved the way for many Polish projects. CD Project’s game shows that Polish gamedev is capable of creating very interesting titles that can conquer the hearts of gamers all over the world. As a consequence, the Polish game industry is observed with the interest of international gamers and publishers. This fact affects local developers, and creates a number of opportunities for Polish game industry.

CG: The Polish sense of humour is very similar to the British one, as seen in movies such as ‘Job’ and ‘Killer’ (neither of which, however, are available in English). Would you consider making a comedy game, to possibly make your studio more visible?

MK: But we’d love to! I’m curious and frightened at the same time imaging the effect… But we’re totally devoted to an extremely different project now and all of our ideas are directed toward another way of thinking, the more brutal one. It would be hard to re-orientate 😉

CG: Piracy is an absolutely huge problem in Poland. How has this affected the Polish games industry in general, and your company specifically?

MK: You’re right, it is a problem, especially in this part of Europe, and it affects the industry a lot, lowering the sales and being a real trouble for game developers, as it happens all over the world, anyway. Fortunately, we as Flying Fish Works didn’t have to face this issue yet, and hopefully when the game is finished, all the pirates will repent – being aware of God’s wrath waiting for anyone who steals games. Especially the Inquisition-based ones 😉

Great interview, right? The least you can do is check out www.hellion-game.com and have a poke around.

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Written by Patrick G

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