The studio behind Tropico 3 is poised to tackle a new genre with The First Templar, a third-person hack-and-slash title set in the rolling 1200s. It's a rough time period, but while the team will be attempting to maintain a sense of historical authenticity with the environments and the religious brouhaha, do expect some flavorful supernatural twists. The narrative revolves around, after all, finding the golden cup-thing that King Arthur can never keep tabs on--and that's in addition to Haemimont's Da Vinci Code-esque approach to the Knights Templar.
Adventure is in order. A man will not find the Holy Grail without strife, or in The First Templar's case, without cutting dudes up with sharp stabby things. Working with this popular notion, Haemimont Games' are building a game that will utilize tech trees, experience points, and will offer co-op play in addition to hack-and-slash action.
== TEASER == Moving from Tropico 3 to The First Templar seems like a jarring shift, both in tone and fundamentals. The games are radically different. Was it hard moving from your last project to this one? Can you walk me through the process?
Haemimont Games: The First Templar is indeed a big step for us and we encountered quite a few new challenges along the way. While we do miss the lighthearted humor and atmosphere of Tropico 3, The First Templar allows us to create a story driven game, with a more serious and darker tone. Something we wanted to do for quite some time now.
There were many difficulties we had to overcome during the transition between projects. From the fact that art had to be authored in a very different level of detail, to the creation of new tools that allow us to script the heroes' movements and attacks, as well as the opponents AI.
Haemimont Games specializes in RTS games. I'll assume that's fair to say for the moment, at least. What does The First Templar represent for you? Will we see less RTS games from you guys from now on?
Haemimont Games: It is pretty safe to say we are a company known for our RTS titles, but we hope to change that with The First Templar. We've had plans to move into other genres for several years and The First Templar is the realization of these plans. Developing a new title always presents difficulties and switching genres only adds to the problems at hand, but it is always fun and exciting to tackle new challenges.
As for the RTS games, we have not said our last word in that genre. In fact we improved our existing tools and further developed our technological know-how for The First Templar which we can now use for future projects, including RTS titles.
The First Templar is based in an interesting historical period with some pretty complex happenings. Why the 13th century? What is it about the Templars and the Church that drew you to the period?
Haemimont Games: Many games, even in the fantasy genre focus on medieval tales of chivalry and the ideals of knighthood. The setting may be different, but the prevalent idea is the same. Usually we have brave knights on a noble quest and evil, scheming adversaries who try to thwart them.
We chose the 13th century as a setting, because it was a stage of unmatched dramatic events and turmoil. We have the rise of the Inquisition and the beginning of what later became known as "witch hunts". We have a final epic showdown at the Holy Land between two religions for control of what both of them regard as sacred. And finally we witness the rise and the fall of the most prominent, powerful and enigmatic Order in the history of mankind.
What games, books, or art had an influence on The First Templar's design?
Haemimont Games: Our development team is used to finding inspiration everywhere--comic books, movies, historical novels, pulp fiction, art and music. In The First Templar you'll discover nods to many cult flicks and we're sure that you'll be able to recognize most of them.
The books of Umberto Eco and its movie adaptations (The Name of the Rose) gave us great insights about the medieval world, the church, the Holy Inquisition and secret societies. The rich and exuberant vision of Ridley Scott in Kingdom of Heaven was the period piece that helped us shape our visual idea of the Holy Land during the Crusades. And our Templars, who are bad-ass righteous bastards, are not entirely dissimilar to The Boondock Saints.
How will the combat work? Are there combos or magic spells?
Haemimont Games: The First Templar is all about up-close and personal melee combat. When the players find themselves confronted by enemy soldiers they will have to hack and slash their opponents until only the heroes remain standing on the battlefield. In addition to the basic attacks and combos the heroes can learn new powers and special moves as they gain experience. Many of these new abilities can be combined for devastating results. All special moves represent a feat of strength, agility or pure willpower.
There will be no magic spells in The First Templar--there are too many such games already and we chose to be different.
What kind of enemies will we see in the game?
Haemimont Games: The opponents in The First Templar range from simple soldiers and mercenaries to inquisition executioners and powerful knights. Each opponent has a special behavior and attacks which distinguishes him from other enemies. Opponents with shields are tougher and can push the heroes back, protecting the enemy archers which fire arrows with deadly precision from the second line. Knights can parry all but the most powerful attacks, while pikemen can knock you down and have long reach.
There are a few surprises along the way, one of which can be seen in the recently released screenshots.
Who is this "noble lady," and what specific abilities will she have? Why would people want use her?
Haemimont Games: The "noble lady" is the protagonist's companion and one of our playable characters. She is an Arabian princess from European heritage and is a skilled acrobat and knife fighter. She is more sneaky and cunning than her Templar companion, although she is also a bit more fragile.
The lady uses her daggers with deadly efficiency, her attacks and combos are faster and she can inflict great damage to enemies who turn their backs on her. She is also very agile and mobile and can use acrobatics to traverse the battlefield quickly and with ease.
The French Templar seems like a burly kind of dude. What can he do, and what is he the best at?
Haemimont Games: The Templar is a tough and powerful knight. His shield can protect him from all but the heaviest enemy attacks. He uses slower but stronger attacks and combos. A single bash from his shield can knockdown or stun even the toughest opponents. He is an experienced soldier and commander, and his presence on the battlefield can both inspire his allies and strike fear in the hearts of his enemies. He can taunt enemies into attacking him and use battle cries to frighten enemies or give renewed strength to his companion and ally.
Who would win in a fight between the lady and the Templar?
Haemimont Games: That is an interesting question. In a hypothetical encounter I would say that the lady would be my favorite. Even though the Templar is tougher and basically the medieval equivalent of a tank, the lady has quite a few nasty tricks up her sleeve which might turn the tide.
Most cooperative action games have cover-based mechanics, others joint attacks between the two characters. Will The First Templar have any of these?
Haemimont Games: One of our design goals is to give the players a lot of co-op actions and options in combat. The actions range from the most basic examples such as reviving a fallen ally to more complex options. For example the Templar can grab an enemy and pin him in place preventing him from acting for several seconds. The second hero can move close to the grabbed enemy and attack him for massive damage which instantly kills most opponents.
The RPG character development: how will it work? Will we gain experience points after each level completed? How else might we? Will the game use a skill tree interface?
Haemimont Games: When the heroes defeat enemies they will receive experience points. They can then spend these experience points to learn new skills. The twist here is that to learn a new skill the heroes must first find skill tomes which "unlock" the skill. Some of the skills have several levels and can be expanded. For example the first level of "Zealot Strike" skill unlocks a new combo for the Templar. The second level increases the damage it deals and the third level modifies the final hit in the combo to knock down all enemies around the hero.
Perhaps it's just me, but when I think "adventure" games, I instantly conjure images of point-and-click titles or an epic open-world map rife with caves, hollows, and places to explore. Is there a hub world in The First Templar? How big will each of the 20 levels be and how much will there be to find in each?
Haemimont Games: We all grew up adoring the classic point-and-click adventures, but the action-adventure genre was the one that made the quantum leap at establishing video games as dominant in mainstream entertainment, sometimes even superior to movies. At the very beginning we started toying with the idea of a Sandbox game with a Hub level which can be revisited. In the process we discovered that this isn't working for us. We want to deliver a straight forward action-adventure experience. On average, each level will offer approximately 30 minutes of gameplay although some levels may be significantly longer.
We added secret locations and other bonuses that you'll be able to find across the levels, so exploration will be rewarded. Thus, everyone will be able to choose if they want to dig in deeper and discover more about the world, or just enjoy some good old fashioned sword-fighting action.
What makes the levels "historically accurate?"
Haemimont Games: We carefully researched the time period of the Crusades, from architecture to costumes, weapons and armor. Reading lots of books and watching movies gave us a good idea what we want to recreate in The First Templar. People with some background knowledge will certainly recognize specific details from the period and find more layers, but all others won't find it hard to relate to the conflict. So, even if you are completely unfamiliar with medieval history, you'll get your royal share of thrills.
Despite the accuracy in the levels, the game has quite the supernatural twist. We'll be looking for the Holy Grail, uncovering a conspiracy, and discovering mysteries behind the Templar order. How will you keep these story elements from detracting from the history? Or am I thinking about the game all wrong?
Haemimont Games: We've built the whole premise around a classic tale of lust for power, greed, ambition and betrayal. The supernatural elements in the game are presented through the perception of the medieval mindset and the religious beliefs propagated by the Church. What some characters may perceive as supernatural may actually have a different explanation. These elements complement the atmosphere of the game and give depth to the overall plot and the characters involved in it.
Why The Holy Grail?
Haemimont Games: The Holy Grail captures the imagination like no other object in human history. It has a powerful, potent mythology and its promise of life eternal and the ultimate prize relates to every human being on a very deep level. The Knights Templar are often associated with finding and safe-guarding this Holy Relic with miraculous powers, so it was only natural to send our heroes on this ultimate quest.
The search for a seemingly obtainable artifact or treasure is inspiring for everyone. That's basically the "meat" behind most great adventures stories, from Indiana Jones and Romancing the Stone to the more recent National Treasure.
What will we be saying about this game five years from now?
Haemimont Games: I certainly hope that our title will introduce and establish the Knights Templar to the current generation of video gamers the same way the Dan Brown novels like The Da Vinci Code did for popular culture.
As dedicated gamers, we still talk and play titles from five (and more) years ago and we can only hope that our game will also stand the test of time.
What do you hope players will get out of it?
Haemimont Games: We hope that players will like the story we intend to tell with The First Templar and that they will find the gameplay fun and entertaining. I personally love co-op games and believe that players will have a great time playing through the story together.
Lastly, if The First Templar was a sandwich, what kind of sandwich would it be?
Haemimont Games: The bread will be soft and crusty, the fresh topping will delight your gourmet senses and the meat will be raw and bloody as hell, Tabasco included. Like every good "sandwich", it will leave you satisfied, with a good aftertaste and you'll be coming back for more.
We'd like to thank Boyan Ivanov and Nikola Konomov for their time.