A Look Inside Daedalic’s Future Lineup

Daedalic Entertainment is one of the ballsiest outfits in the game business. They took up the charge for adventure games when no other studio would touch them, and as the genre picked up steam again they began to gamble on weirder and weirder properties. They’ve kept 2D adventures alive at a time when everyone but small indie studios with retro sensibilities is moving into cinematic 3D. Recently they’ve been dabbling in new genres, and their first experiment was a full-fledged RPG. Over the next year they’re looking to expand their scope even further with several games that differ vastly in tone and design sensibilities.

Anna’s Quest is a dark fairy tale about a girl whose journey to fix her grandfather’s ailing health lands her in the clutches of a wicked witch. Through insidious experiments the witch imbues Anna with telekinetic powers, but Anna manages to escape with the help of a young man trapped inside a teddy bear and begins a long journey home. That journey is rendered in a charming 2D art style that makes it feel like an old children’s cartoon – though most kids’ shows I remember were a little lighter on torture and murder.

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Even by the standards of Daedalic, Anna’s Quest has a dark, twisted sense of humor – in fact, it might be the most macabre game they’ve ever cooked up. Anna has to blend melons with the whirling blades of a torture machine, reschedule a man to be hanged so that she can use his guillotine, and mix disgusting cocktails for goblins – and that’s just one puzzle. Of course, this game is being developed by the Australia-based Krams Design, and this is how Australia advertises its colleges, so perhaps the black comedy shouldn’t come as a surprise. Regardless, Anna’s Quest looks to make you laugh and feel awful about it in the same breath.

The things Daedalic is working on in-house are just as dark, but in a quieter, more pensive sort of way. The Whispered World, the game that put Daedalic on the map with its breathtaking hand-drawn visuals and touching storyline, is finally getting a sequel in Silence. At first glance Silence seems like a recipe for disappointment – the lush cel animation of the first game has been replaced by CGI, and Daedalic has cribbed more than a few pages from Telltale’s games with their dialogue system and quick time events (not that Telltale’s games are bad, they’re just very different from traditional adventures). Once you see it in motion, though, all doubts will slip out of your head.

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Silence
uses a projection-mapping technique similar to The Book of Unwritten Tales 2, but instead of being pre-rendered, all of the backgrounds here are painted in striking detail. Character textures are similarly hand-made, allowing models to blend seamlessly with the gorgeous sets. The result is an oil-painting come to life. This style is an even better fit for the series’ depressing yet oddly nostalgic tone than the first game’s traditional animation, and I’m eager to take in the sights that Daedalic’s talented artists have cooked up. I’m even more excited to see where they go with the story, which I won’t spoil here in case any of you missed out on the first game.

AER is perhaps the biggest departure that the company has taken thus far from their standard output. It’s still technically an adventure game, but it’s an exploration-driven action-adventure that plays like a cross between Zelda and Journey. You play as Auk, a young girl with the rare ability to turn into a bird who is sent out into the world (a flying archipelago) to find “memories of the past” and save her people. Auk will scale immense mountains and delve into ancient ruins to uncover the secrets of her world, a beautiful place rendered in a flat, colorful, tessellated style reminiscent of Secrets of Raetikon.

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AER
is going to get a lot of (rightfully deserved) attention for how beautiful its world is, but what impresses me most is how good it feels to explore. Any game developer will tell you that flight is incredibly difficult to get right (just look at Raetikon), and the development team at Forgotten Key has absolutely nailed it. Auk transforms at the touch of a button and swoops through the air with grace, allowing for some utterly spectacular acrobatics. Assuming the team can match the quality of their core mechanic in their writing and level design, AER could be an adventure for the ages.

With traditional adventures pushing technical and artistic boundaries and a new game unlike anything they’ve made before, the next year is set to be Daedalic Entertainment’s most ambitious yet.