Open-worlds and fantasy games are almost inextricably linked. They are about world-building in their fullest sense; literally, from the ground up – from a concept to its realization. Cradle looks to tap-in to that seam, but also promises to bring new imaginations and ideas to a familiar genre. Mojo Game Studios, the developers behind Cradle, have been successfully raising supporters through their Kickstarter campaign in order to bring this ambitious and cutting-edge game to life. If Skyrim left us wanting new lands to explore and new adventures to find, Cradle looks like it might have what we’ve been waiting for.
Cradle follows the story of an outcast, an exiled traveler fleeing from the wrath of the god of hunger. Eventually you will seek refuge in a temple – known as the Cradle – an entrance to the realm of the defeated god of free will, Aderyn. In this land you will take up arms for the cause of Aderyn and begin a journey from the Cradle to his forgotten realm – a realm that has degraded and become twisted in its eons of isolation. This is the realm in which you will explore, fight and interact, working both with and against the survivors in this land – a land which, as your ultimate objective, you will seek to restore. There are, in the story of a twisted and forgotten realm, echoes with the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion expansion DLC, the Shivering Isles. An exciting prospect.
Because of its Kickstarter fundraising platform, there is a lot of information available about what Cradle will be as a game, of how the player will explore and fight and survive in Anora and the Cradle. The developers are promising a combat system where “player agency” is at the core. This looks like a form of flexible, fast-paced melee combat based on skill rather than chance. A system that will reward learning and practice. Pre-alpha footage of the combat system gives just a flavour of how this might work in the final game.
The team have suggested that the inspiration for this “Realfight” Combat System are the fluid firefights of first-person shooters mixed with more conventional melee-combat, explaining that where you aim to attack on the body of your opponent will influence which attack your character performs. This will also mean that certain attacks will follow determinedly from those that preceding them. Added to this is the promise for the weapons to be much more ‘physical’ in terms of their weight, balance and effectiveness. It’s shaping up to be a much more exciting, and tricky to master, concept than the seemingly non-physical, generic “bashing” that some melee games have been guilty of in the past. At the moment it’s not clear exactly whom the player will be fighting, however, and whether there will be leveled enemies and “bosses”, or even a primary antagonist.
The world and story itself will consist of five major areas interlinked both through narrative and space, designed explicitly to appeal to our wanderlust; featuring dynamic weather and coherent ecosystems. Each area will be its own “open world”, though it is not clear exactly how the player will transition between them.
The game is built around a class system in which the player can choose from five stock types – including Arcanist, Paladin and Druid – with each character able to use unique weapons exclusive to that class. Getting hold of these new weapons sounds like it will be an important quest mechanic in the game. Each class will influence and even determine the style of play and combat that the player chooses. It’s not clear whether you’ll be able to switch or mix classes at this stage. While this isn’t as open a system as – say – Skyrim (where you can potentially level up evenly across your attributes), it presents an interesting focus on developing core, specialized skills. A lot of gamers will welcome this specificity, especially where many chose to specialize even within open systems.
In terms of questing and progression, Cradle has promised less of a “check list” than a more fluid journal, giving emphasis to exploration and curiosity, where the primary quest – to restore Aderyn’s lost lands – is “only part” of your overall adventure. This will stem from the big (quests) to the routine (foraging for herbs and plants for potions and salves). During the course of your explorations you will receive quests from NPCs – survivors of the land – but you will also encounter items and scrolls which will provide emergent clues to quests, new items and adventures. You’ll have to pay close and thoughtful attention to the world around you. It’s not just a pretty picture.
These new items will also include the ability to “augment” your weapons and armour to new and more powerful versions. Each class-unique weapon will be able to be augmented five times with elements – life, light, fire, fluid and stone. Or, alternatively, these can be stacked up with a particular element to produce compound damage and effects. The player will need a capacity for “Manna” to use these augments, which will play an important role both here, and in using magic. Manna will also be useful for enhancing the player’s other characteristics.
This will become particularly important for solving the world’s promised environmental puzzles, which the developers explain will cover a variety of different forms. Some of these will require using the world around the player to defeat enemies, or else will require dexterously navigating the environment to get to hard-to-reach locations. Other puzzles will require the player to play at archaeologist, using lore and scrolls to uncover what had happened in the past that so ruined the land. This aspect sounds particularly engaging, meaning that getting from A to B won’t be as simple as simply pointing your character in that direction and walking. The team say this will require thoughtfulness as well as violence. These puzzles have received a lot of focus on the game’s Kickstarter profile, so we can expect that this is going to be a big part of the final game.
Taken as a whole, Mojo Games seem to be taking a familiar genre – the open-world fantasy – and refining it toward new and exciting gameplay mechanics and styles, many of which look to appeal to “core” gamers motivated by more nuanced combat systems and complex environments than are available elsewhere. Focus, at the moment, is very much on an immersive and intuitive single player experience.
Cradle will be available on PC initially, though additional funds – the team note – will enable them to transfer the game to other platforms. This will be some ways away, however, with a current release date of Summer 2016. At Only Single Player we will keep you up to date with news and emerging details as the game draws closer to release.