There is a lot wrong with When the Freedom Slips Away and This Wreckage, so I’ve decided that I need to scrap it all and start again. Today, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to present to you the franchise reboot you have all been secretly yearning for: the new beginning I call simply freeDom.
How does one begin to redesign their lovechild? WtFSA was one of the first big projects I ever embarked upon, and, well, I guess it shows. It has an immature attitude that just doesn’t fit in the world of today; the dialogue is whimsical and the world is full of childish bold colours. It’s time to clean the slate and bring out something much more mature.
The Empire has filled its borders. Bloated, overcrowded cities offer no respite from famine, disease or crime. On all sides, it strains against the bounds of the Great Waste, vast swathes of desolate dust and sand that seem to go on forever. Nobody has ever crossed the Great Waste and returned to tell the tale…
With the Empire’s cities almost at breaking point, the Emperor commands that this last frontier must finally be conquered. He pours the wealth of the nation into a mighty Expedition, a self-sustaining invasion force that will cross the desert and find the promised frontiers beyond the blasted landscape; fresh, clean, new frontiers that the beleaguered population can colonise. They don’t believe it can be done. They call it a death sentence. A suicide mission.
Given the dubious honour of joining this Expedition is Death Knight Henrik. A master of Blood Magic, an ancient and dark power forgotten by most that makes him an object of fear to the people of the Empire, the Emperor feels it would be better to get this unpleasant character out of the way… But he’s got his own reasons for joining the Expedition anyway, and he has as little desire to stay in the Empire as rest of the people have for him to stay. For his command of Blood Magic exacts an unholy toll on his body… and his soul.
Striking out into the Great Waste, the Expedition travels for interminable weeks until they come upon a tainted oasis…
(All screenshots are early concept boards: the final project will be built using Born²Modificate’s HD pack as its basis.)
The big setting shift is that the Expedition is no longer crossing an ocean — rather, they will be crossing a terrible, blasted wasteland of a desert. The mix of greys and browns should give the game a much more subdued look than the bright greens and browns and blues of the original tropical island, reflective of the troubled world we live in rather than some unattainable fantasy-land utopia.
The architecture of the Ancients will also be overhauled. The Mayan/Incan stone blocks of the Sunken Ruins tileset don’t lend themselves to having a lot of fine detail as is required for projects to compete in today’s market, so the ruins around the island will instead be more gothic in style — decayed flying buttresses, broken gargoyles and other grotesque statuary should convey just how evil the Ancients were/are, and go well with the dreary wasteland surrounding the area.
The modern inhabitants of the island will also be a bit different. They’re malnourished, living in rude shacks, clinging to existence in this tainted oasis at the heart of a hostile desert — the clean spring in Errsbruck is instead a fouled watering hole, both the only source of hydration and the font of all the ill health among the populace.
The gnolls that lived in peace with the residents of Thirlmir are subjugated slaves rather than willing partners, lending even more layers of tension to the fragile world the Expedition finds itself approaching. Should Henrik free the gnolls, and so alienate Thirlmir, or leave them alone and risk having to deal with an armed uprising?
Henrik was a significantly flawed character too, being rather too goody-goody and knight-in-shining-armour to be convincing, and borrowing a little too much from light-hearted 80s action movies with his quips and jibes.
The Henrik of freeDom will not be a Guard Captain. Rather, he is a Death Knight who has joined the Expedition not for adventure, but to run from his dark past in the Empire. His magical traits are naturally going to be a lot more powerful, but each will come with a cost to his health, or the health of those around him — he taps into the dark and seductive power of Blood Magic.
Henrik will not only have to struggle with the demons of the Beyond, but also against the inner demons that plague his thoughts.
Overall, it’s about staying true to the core, the essence of WtFSA while transforming it into something much more meaningful to, and resonant with, the audience of today. The same mix of gameplays will be present, but amped up, and cinematics will contain quick-time events to keep you immersed in the game.
Naturally, once this is done I’ll move on to wreKage and eventually shatTer.