Hands-On With The Behemoth’s Time And Dimension Shifting New Game
The Behemoth, makers of Castle Crashers and BattleBlock Theatre’s latest game may departs from the studio’s established action roots in favor of hex-based strategy. However, its absurdist humor and impressive art is unchanged.
Behemoth’s Game 4 (which is not the final name) begins when a gigantic space bear crashes into a planet, forcing basically every aspect of the world to go insane. Elements from alternate time periods and dimensions are starting merging in bizarre ways. I got the chance to sit down with the game’s artist and designer Dan Paladin, as he walked me through what is in store for his latest title.
In my demo, my hero is a father with a wife and child in front of their house when a group of cannibals come by saying they want to eat them. The child and mother run inside and combat begins. It’s a simple matter of placing your hero where they will be most effective. Starting out, I had a shield and a sword. The shield is great for blocking arrows, meaning I am safe from the archers. I focus my attention on those without long-range weaponry. I place my hero in front of them and let the combat happen. In Game 4, you don’t select from a series of attacks, or even select who you want to fight. It’s all about making sure everyone is placed appropriately. If there are two enemies connected to your grid space for example, you don’t pick which one to attack. Your hero just attacks maybe one of them, maybe both. It’s random.
For its PAX showing, The Behemoth constructed these giant arcade controllers. Pulling the lever shaped like a Y confirmed the end of your turn.
The battle raged on, and suddenly green bear blood poured from the sky, destroying my home and family, as well as the majority of cannibals. When the remaining enemies saw they were going to lose the battle, they start saying they were just kidding about eating me. It's too late though, I killed them.
It sounds like a dreary way to open a game, but any tone of seriousness was quickly washed away when narrator Will Stamper began describing what was happening. Paladin’s friend and former roommate, Stamper, voiced the narrator in BattleBlock Theatre, and he serves a similar role here by adding strange, comedic commentary to everything happening.
Stamper’s voice is the only one in English. The voices of the characters come through as gibberish. When Stamper began saying my hero quickly got over the death of his family and the destruction of his home, it was clear my hero disagreed, even if I didn’t understand what he was saying. Stamper’s voice shouted back saying this is how the story goes regardless of what the hero thinks.
As I made my way along the open map, obscured by the fog of war, I found a button that let me poop. Paladin said the pooping is so you can prevent yourself from getting lost and mark previously visited positions. Paladin said they considered bread crumbs, but that wouldn’t make sense because they would get eaten by wildlife. Plus, wouldn’t you want to follow in the footsteps of someone who is clearly eating well and having regular bowel movements?
I found a town and met a woman who joined my party as a fighter. The narrator insinuates that the hero is attracted to her, even though the hero continues to argue that he is not over the death of his family.
For more on The Behemoth's new game and Paladin's history with Xbox Live, head to page two.
The bear blood in the world makes everything screwy and strange. Game 4 has a medieval setting, but I saw things from all eras of time. I saw fighters with guns, and even a space shuttle. It’s all absurd, but Paladin says they’ve thought about the game’s narrative aspects a lot, and tried to give some kind of context for everything. The hero you start with in the game (your party can be shifted around as you please later) is part cyclops. In cyclops lore, Paladin explains, the single-eyed monsters are able to see their own death. Since he’s only part cyclops, he can’t see his own death, but he can see his own health, which is why your life meter appears on screen.
Paladin expressed some concern over bringing in players who don’t traditionally like strategy, especially when you consider the studio’s history is typically of the action variety. Paladin says he has always been fascinated by the genre even if they aren’t typically his favorite types of games, but that he wanted to try and make a game within the strategy genre because he wants to try to make every genre he can.
I personally don’t consider myself a fan of strategy or tactics, but I had a good time with the game. It’s simplified in such a way that I was not intimidated by the hex-grid. I was able to focus simply on where to place my team, and they’re assorted abilities, strengths, and weaknesses were clearly defined and uncomplicated. As someone who rarely enjoys the genre, I found myself very compelled by the gameplay.
Paladin proudly points to the game he created. Either that, or he is giving a half-hearted thumbs-up.
Aside from his latest game, Paladin and I also spoke about his time with Microsoft and what dictates the studios’ decision of where to release its games. It’s less about money and more about reach for The Behemoth. It wants to release its games where it will reach the most players, and the answer has been Xbox Live since the release of Alien Hominid. PC has proven to be a powerful player, as well, which is why the game will be releasing on Xbox One and PC first.
The Behemoth was one of the first indie studios to release a game outside of the world of PC with Alien Homonid on PlayStation 2 and GameCube, but the game didn’t do well on those platforms. The release of Alien Homonid on Xbox Live saved the studio when it was knocking on death’s door.
That isn’t to say the studio is opposed to release on other platforms. Paladin considers himself and the studio console agnostic. In response to this, I asked about the large gap of time between the release of Castle Crashers on other platforms and he said it wasn’t a matter of contracts or even loyalty – it was a matter of resources. The studio is small, and was even smaller when Castle Crashers released, and it simply didn’t have the resources to rush the game to every platform it wanted to see it on.
Game 4 has been in development for about a year, which is atypical for The Behemoth. Usually the studio likes to show off its games about four months into development, but it decided to wait longer to unveil this title. “I basically don’t know what I am doing,” Paladin jokes when asked about how far along development is. If the game were a genre he had worked on before, he could tell exactly what percentage the development is at, but since the genre is all new to him, he’s not ready to even guess when the game will be done.