Forsaken Castle, which is in its closing hours on Kickstarter, has players controlling Lily, a paladin looking to prove herself in a castle filled with dangers, monsters, hidden passages, and a dash of cuteness.
Siliconera spoke with Clint Trahan of Duck Block Games to hear a little bit more about what they intended to do with the whipping & axe-throwing Castlevania formula, learning more of the nuances of monster-creation, sub weapons, and providing opportunities to sequence-break.
Forsaken Castle looks like a cute take on Castlevania. What drew you to create this style of game?
Clint Trahan, Lead Artist & Designer for Forsaken Castle – It is mostly inspired by Anime and JRPGs. When we decided to move to pixel art for this project, I looked to some of my favorite games from the SNES and GBA for ideas. I generally prefer lighter fantasy and avoid going too dark or bloody.
What is it about lighter fare that you like best?
I’m not really sure. It’s been a preference of mine for a long time with both anime and gaming, so it’s hard to pin it on one single thing.
Can you give a few examples of anime and RPGs that inspired Forsaken Castle?
I’d say anime like Record of Lodoss War, Rune Soldier Louie, and The Sacred Blacksmith helped spawn a few ideas for the story and characters. For RPGs, I’d say Ys III: Wanderers from Ys, Secret of Mana, Soul Blazer, Fire Emblem, and Ragnarok Online.
What new directions do you hope to take the monster-whipping, castle-exploring formula?
We really enjoy the ‘Metroidvania’ genre and thought it would be fun to use the classic Castlevania gameplay and setting, but focus the level design and upgrades more like Metroid. One example is the use of climbing and crawling to make some areas more complex to navigate.
What thoughts go into choosing and creating the kinds of areas you’ve created for Forsaken Castle? How do you feel out when a location fits the game, thematically?
I made a list of areas that a fantasy castle might have or areas I like from other games and narrowed it down to about 10 places that would give the most variety. I then sketched out where I felt they would fit thematically in 2D.
Same thing for monsters: what makes a monster "feel right" when placed in a location within the game’s world?
The easy part is deciding what kind of monster would even be in this castle – you won’t find any Orcs or Goblins – mostly Undead and Demons. Then, it’s deciding what areas certain monsters would hang out or survive in. Like how a dank cave will have slimes, bats, and a few zombies, but the top of the castle would be more secure with armored skeletons and vampires.
Whipping is an interesting form of attack. Have you added any interesting properties to how players can attack with it?
There will be a few upgrades for the whip – some just increase damage, but others allow you to attack certain enemies or objects that you couldn’t before. The whip will only attack forward so to emphasize the use of spells and sub-weapons.
Special weapons can be seen in some of the videos. What sort of other tools will players be using as weapons?
We have several abilities planned, one is a boomerang cross but will function more like the Windmill Star from Ninja Gaiden. We also have some for utility and mobility, like a spell that turns weak enemies to stone and allows Lily to jump on them.
How do you create challenges using the toolset you’ve given the player? How do you encourage them to work with the weapons they have, rather than just rely on one weapon?
You can either design an obstacle that requires an ability or is plainly obvious that it’s easier when using it. It’s easy to require an ability, such as a block that needs a certain weapon to break it, but we will also be creating areas that can be bypassed with enough skill and creativity to spot them. These are usually referred to as a sequence break.
For weapons, I think it comes down to utility and strengths against some monsters. For example, the Axe sub-weapon will have the highest damage but cost the most mana, while the Holy Water sub-weapon is weak, low mana, but briefly stun locks enemies. So, I could have monsters that are difficult to hit with the axe but easier to fight with the holy water.
Planning a sequence break seems like a challenge. How do you purposely equip players to go through these secret paths through your game? How do you plan for ways to take an out-of-the-ordinary route through the game?
Sometimes, you don’t have to. Many speedrunners will accomplish things that developers never plan for, but it’s important to not make everything outside of the intended route impossible. Part of it is knowing what the character can accomplish versus what we expect most players to do. The routes need to be possible, but for most players it needs to be obvious that they need to come back with a new ability to progress.
If I allow for one sequence break I just need to make sure it doesn’t lead to a dead end before they reach an upgrade there. If it’s possible to reach it, then that upgrade can lead to another sequence break and so on. It will be tricky, but if I can pull it off, it should be a lot of fun.
Can you hint at how players might reach new endings in Forsaken Castle?
The ‘better’ endings will require players to really explore the castle, find hidden areas, and face the toughest challenges in the game. There will also be journal notes found in the castle that offer insight to the story but also give clues to hidden secrets and how to possibly overcome some obstacles.