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Bringing Back Tenchu’s Old School Stealth With The Twin Souls Designer

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Barcelona-based studio Lince Works had a successful Kickstarter for its “old-school stealth” game Twin Souls: The Path of Shadows. Since then, the studio has slowly been revealing details of how the game is coming along.

 

But, call us impatient, we wanted to know more about Twin Souls right now. It’s one of the most promising stealth games of recent years, especially if you’re a fan of the Tenchu series – can you blame us for wanting to know more?

 

In any case, Siliconera was able to speak to Lince Works CEO and team lead David León to quench our thirst for information. In the interview below, León discusses what an “old-school stealth“ game really is, how Twin Souls compares to other modern stealth games such as Mark of the Ninja and Dishonored, and also how Twin Souls is designed to cater to two types of players: Ghosts and Hunters. Find out which one you are below.

 

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Twin Souls originates from a student game called Path of Shadows. How has it changed over time to what it is now?

 

David León, CEO: Path of Shadows was a student game created in 2013 at the Master in Game Design at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona. When we finished the course, half of the Path of Shadows team stayed together and founded Lince Works. We then started working on Twin Souls: The Path of Shadows, the spiritual successor to the student project.

 

Path of Shadows was mainly work for a portfolio. We wanted to show that we were capable of creating a high quality game in just a few months and with zero funds, and I think we accomplished that. We wanted Path of Shadows to stand out both visually and gameplay wise; for the art we found inspiration in Journey, Okami, and Sly Cooper, while on the gameplay we were looking for a blend between Tenchu and Mark of the Ninja. To set us apart from other stealth games we put all efforts on our killer feature: Shadow Control.

 

We experimented with the Shadow Creation and the Shadow Leap (teleportation) mechanics and found out there were some great synergies with traditional stealth mechanics. In Twin Souls: The Path of Shadows we’ve iterated over these game mechanics and improved them, adding new ways to use the shadows and new powers to play with. With some darker aesthetics, new characters and more focus on the story, Twin Souls also features new enemy types, better AI, new scenarios, verticality, a mission editor, and much more stuff.

 

How did the name Twin Souls come about? Is it related to the story, and if so, how?

 

‘Twin Souls’ is a reference to the two main characters: Aragami, an undead warrior; and Yamiko, his summoner and guide.

 

Yamiko is a noble girl from Kyuryu, a sacred city occupied by an invading army. Looking for help, Yamiko summons the soul of a forgotten dead warrior back to the world of the living, creating Aragami in the process.

 

As Aragami you will travel to the city of Kyuryu with Yamiko guiding you in spirit form. On your journey, you will discover the connection between Yamiko’s life and your past; thus, the Twin Souls in the title.

 

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You’ve got our hopes up by describing Twin Souls as being “old school stealth”, but what do you mean by this?

 

The term ‘old school stealth’ sounds a lot like a buzzword, but it’s the best way I’ve found to describe the difference between the ‘stealth’ found in games like Thief or Tenchu, and the ‘stealth’ of Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, or Shadow of Mordor.

 

When was the last time you’ve been afraid of getting caught in one of the newest “stealth” games? Stealth lacks any tension when you can fend off waves of orcs with your sword, shoot dead guards with your pistols, or counter any incoming attack with the press of a button. It’s not a matter of game difficulty, it’s the tone of the game.

 

We want Twin Souls to be a game in which stealth is not an option but a necessity. I want the player to feel tense when evading a guard patrol, cunning when they plan how to bring down their targets, and feel badass when achieving it. That’s what I’d call old school stealth.

 

There’s been a slight renaissance of stealth games recently, with Dishonored, Mark of the Ninja, and Alien: Isolation to name a few. How does Twin Souls fit in among these modern takes on the genre?

 

The renaissance of stealth games (and other genres) can be attributed to the maturity of a big sector of gamers who are looking for new types of experiences, and they’ve mostly found them in indie games and niche genres.

 

To create a good game you need a good gimmick or twist, and also a solid base of game mechanics. Dishonored had the blink ability, but it also had really good level design, script, and immersive environments. Mark of the Ninja had some remarkable visuals and ninja tools, but the player feedback, controls and AI were spot on. With Twin Souls, we have the Shadow Creation as our main gimmick, but we’ve put special care on the art direction, level design, AI, and the other stealth systems.

 

Twin Souls is not meant to compete with other stealth games in the genre. It’s fast paced and visceral, with a focus on movement, positioning and verticality.

 

You’ve mentioned that there’s room for various play styles within the format that Twin Souls takes—what do you mean by this? Could you give some examples of possible play styles?

 

We’ve differentiated two main play styles when it comes to stealth, it’s what I call Ghosts and Hunters.

 

Ghosts are those players that want to fulfil the role of a sneaky thief, entering a guarded place and leaving the place (probably with something valuable) without anyone noticing there was an intrusion in the first place. These are pacifist players that value the use of tools and distractions. Thief is the perfect example of game designed for this type of player.

 

Hunters are attracted to the fantasy of power that comes from being the stalker in the shadows. The player has different advantages over their targets and likes to hunt them one by one. An example of this would be the Predator from movies and games, the invisibility cloak on Crysis, or even the Sniper class in any war game. Verticality and silent offensive methods are very important for this type of player.

 

Recognizing these two variants, in Twin Souls you have a diverse array of Shadow Powers, like the ability to create decoys at a distance, temporal invisibility, explosive runes, a ranged attack.. all intended to interact with each other and give the player different tools to suit their purpose.

 

There are also different scenario achievements for any kind of play style. We are not awarding any play style above the other. You’ll be able to beat the whole game without killing anybody, as well as kill everybody with no penalties. Each player deserves to have fun in their own way.

 

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One of the more unusual features of Twin Souls is its light and shadow system. Could you explain how it works as a stealth element?

 

Aragami is a being made from shadows. When you are in the shadows, you blend with them, going unnoticed, but you also drain them to manipulate and mold into Shadow Powers. The runes on your character’s back represent your available Shadow Energy. You can spend Shadow Energy to create new shadows in the environment like a brush or portals. You can also ‘leap’ between any two shadows in the environment and use that to climb buildings, jump over obstacles or traverse fences, and there are also limited use special skills like the runes already mentioned.

 

You are strong in the shadows but the light is your enemy, as any strong light source will drain your energy and make you more visible to enemy guards. Your enemies, the Alliance, are skilled warriors and manipulators of light; they are capable of casting ranged attacks made of light, and illuminating places to hunt you down.

 

In the end, this causes the player to ‘gravitate’ to shadows in the scenario, and really feel like they’re a part of this ‘shadow world’, avoiding light at all costs and embracing the shadows.

 

Does this light and shadow system also have further implications in the game’s fantasy world? And what realm of fantasy is this that you’re working within?

 

I’d say we’ve spent months filling a document with details of the world of Twin Souls and its inhabitants. It’s a world inspired by Asian cultures and mythologies, where humans have acquired the ability to manipulate the Elemental Powers: Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Light, Darkness, and Life.

 

Humanity has turned Element manipulation into a discipline, building temples, schools and academies centered around the learning and mastery of each Element. These centers of knowledge are known as Brotherhoods. These are divided into three categories: Schools, where high level users gather to teach their secrets; Sects, congregations of followers and zealots of deities related to an Element; and Guilds, where arcane users sell their skills as a service.

 

In Twin Souls, there’s been a great war between Brotherhoods, and the winning army has occupied the sacred city of Kyuryu. I won’t spoil you the rest of the plot.

 

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Do you have a grander vision for Twin Souls beyond this single game? What are your future hopes for the game if everything goes according to plan?

 

There are plenty of different historical events already in place to create prequels or just bring the action to different times and places of our world. We’d love a possible “Twin Souls 2” to cover the years before the story told in Twin Souls: The Path of Shadows, expanding the game with new Shadow Powers, and more diverse scenarios and characters.

 

Another possibility for our second game would be to shift our focus on multiplayer, and make a game based on the creation of your custom Shadow Assassin, and the fulfilment of different missions in the company of three other friends, like some sort of Payday 2 mixed with Tenchu.

 

For the moment we’ll focus on creating a great game to make those other ideas possible one day.

 

Lastly, when and where will Twin Souls be released? Do you have any idea of how much it will cost to buy at the moment?

 

The game is being developed for PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. We are still discussing if we’ll launch the game on Steam Early Access or wait until the game’s done, so we could launch as soon as this summer (if we go the Early Access route) or as late as Spring 2016, but probably somewhere between those.

 

We’d probably put the game out for $15-$25. We still don’t know if we’ll launch with Early Access before the full release, but if we do go for that it would start at $15, and then go up to $25 on launch.

Chris Priestman