Game

Gladiators are back in early access roguelite We Who Are About To Die

The early access release is a month away and its development, largely led by one person, is still being finalized. But if I had to name the Most Inspiring Worker Love Game for 2022, it would be We Are the Deadby Jordy Lakiere.

What Lakiere calls the setting and theme “underused for crime” — Ancient Rome! gladiator fight! — found the perfect niche in a very popular genre, roguelike or roguelite, which has really attracted indie developers. What really makes it successful here is the Belgian developer’s tight focus on gaming systems, with the game’s setting and other aesthetic serving those systems rather than vice versa. again. This required Lakiere, who trained primarily as an artist and animator, to expand and grow as a game developer for seven years. We Are the Dead was made.

“Roguelikes are known for their difficulty,” Lakiere said in an email interview. “I think the ‘uncompromising gladiator game’ sounds good. The title sums up the sentiment perfectly — package, us who are about to died. When you’re put in the pit, you can try your best, but you’re basically dead.

Launching in early access on November 14, Steam user reviews are overwhelmingly positive, for good reason. Instead of a linear story of a single hero gliding through the lush landscape, We Are the Dead play for bets from the first match.

Of course, real gladiators play with permadeath turned on, and that’s what you face in We Are the Dead, too. Players must think tactically, disrupt the opponent’s position, keep moving and continue to defend. If you lose a match, you lose your character, no matter how long your run is. It’s a roguelite, after all.

“There is also something absolutely magical about permadeath,” says Lakiere. “It transforms the gameplay; Suddenly, there’s real stock. You are emotionally invested in this character, this story can only be experienced by you and you can lose it forever.”

Disclosure: I love and cherish Gladiator fighting as a kind of video game. Yes, I’ve got LucasArts’ globally acclaimed Gladius for Xbox previously; I also had Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance and Circus Maximus (fighter and race?! I’m fanning myself). Lakiere cut his game development teeth at the age of 14 to create mods for Mount & Blade, a series known for its melee combat fidelity. He takes it as inspiration, plus gladiator games I like, plus other games from Spartan: All-round Warrior arrive show off and its sequel.

Menu and screen showing a new character in We Who Are About to Die;  he carries a shield and sword and wears a blue hood.  The Colosseum in the distance.

fighter in We Are the Dead are “the aspirants.” And their fight is to the death. Lose, and start over with someone else
Photo: Jordy Lakiere

But it’s important that Lakeiere doesn’t start copying the games he already loves. His revised resume led him to enroll in college to pursue growth, primarily through an art track and animation. He spent six years working as a freelance artist to pay his bills, but he became creatively restless from not developing his own game.

“I asked myself, what is the simplest shell around for an interesting combat system that reduces range, so I can do it alone?” he say. He said: “I remember lying on the couch and brainstorming and really having one of those cliché ‘eureka’ moments. “The core loop is combat, the arena is limited in scope, ring combat. At the time, roguelikes and roguelites were hot, and I realized that — roguelite gladiator!”

Amplifying this inspiration is the fact that the gladiator genre has been mostly AWOL since mid-2013 Ryse: Son of Rome. “It’s a setting that is widely loved by gamers (at least I think),” Lakiere said, “and criminally abused, like many of its fans. WWAATD mentioned.”

We Are the Dead there are some rough edges, to be sure. Animations and reactions are noticeably repetitive and not always smooth. This is also a difficult game; players really need to focus on adding momentum to their attacks and those experienced in Mount & Blade will be quicker to catch the flow than others might expect a chop-slash. by button. All that said, We Are the Dead acknowledged as a work in progress, with an ambitious content roadmap.

It also had a strong enough launch to get Lakiere serious about setting up a development studio for the game. He hasn’t been on the full project in seven years so far — several contractors have helped with the game’s components — but WWAATDLakiere said his first month surpassed his expectations “by 20 times”. “And the drop in sales was much lower than expected – a really healthy tail so far.”

Lakiere continued: “So it made a lot of sense to dive in and eventually give up on solo development. “The immediate goals, besides the company’s behind-the-scenes work, are debugging, adding content, and some peripheral features. […] More randomness, more items, levels, plot [for the cast of Aspirants, as the gladiators are called].” Controller support is a big goal, as is game optimization for the Steam Deck. Lakiere hopes to have both completed by early 2023.

But We Are the Dead, at least, there seem to be fundamentals in place. There’s a rock-paper-scissor side to matchmaking: shield and spear fighters are all-around good, while two-handed ax fighters are slower but break through defenses faster. “They are a bit like glass cannons,” said Lakiere, “and smart players can make sure they have spears to get through. [them].”

We Are the Dead saw its first major title update on December 7, and it’s currently 20% off until January 5. It’s available from Steam for Windows PCs.



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