Teslagrad demo impressions – developer Interview
During my trip to the Eurogamer Expo, I had the immense pleasure of meeting the team behind ‘Teslagrad’, a metroidvania style, 2D puzzle-platformer. I was also given the chance to play quite a lengthy demo as well as ask a few questions about the game and its development.
I’ll start off with my hands-on experience with the title.
What really stands out, straight from the start, is the beautiful, hand-drawn art style. It does a wonderful job of pulling you into the beautiful game world but also manages to convey a sense of looming dread and despair. Another aspect of the game worth mentioning is the pacing. The story-move-story-kill scheme makes way for seamless, charming scenes that are directly intertwined with your adventure.
The demo had no proper introduction but then again, it wasn’t necessary. The game’s story revolves around a mysterious, young boy. We don’t know his name, we don’t know where he came from and we certainly don’t know his role in the story. Like Braid and Bastion before it, Teslagrad is a complete mystery, a mystery that can only be solved by playing.
(Yes, you read right. Teslagrad has unbelievable potential and could be as great, or even greater, than the aforementioned titles).
On to the most important bit, gameplay! As I previously said, I was instantly drawn into the steampunk-ish world of Teslagrad and quickly became rather nervous about how the game would handle. After only a few minutes with the demo, though, every keyboard stroke felt incredibly natural. The game controls (almost) perfectly with the occasional hiccup… which might have been my fault most of the time. Controller support is also available although I didn’t get the chance to test it out.
The main theme of the game revolves around electromagnetism. Opposites attract, similar polarities repel and so on. This brilliant, fully functional concept can only be described in one word: electrifying… (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). Needless to say, the boy is able to alter polarities throughout the game, solving puzzles and defeating enemies & bosses in the process.
Blink boots. Who wouldn’t want teleportation boots?! These boots are yet another gadget that the boy will be able to utilise in his adventure. They are extremely fun to use and are very likely to become players’ favourites.
As the charming “Sorry, end of demo.” sign came into sight, I realised how long I had been playing for. The demo managed to do something that every little demo out there should strive for. It left me wanting more… It left me wondering what the boy’s significance is, what the tower is hiding and (maybe) more importantly, how the story will ultimately unfold.
As the demo ended, Mr. Magnus Holm, creator and level designer of Teslagrad, was kind enough to talk to me about the game and its future.
I began by asking about the inspiration behind Teslagrad. What shaped it into the game it is today? The answer I received actually surprised me. Minute Mayhem, another game by Rain Games, is supposed to act as an introduction to a steampunk version of Europe. Teslagrad, inspired by Scandinavian and Russian locales and more specifically Stalingrad, acts as an origin story of sorts, a little insight into the history of all these great nations.
With the demo in mind, I then went on to ask about the game’s overall feel. I asked about further gameplay elements, bosses and balance. Mr. Holm started by saying that the aim is to “show, not tell”. This becomes clear, once you start playing, through murals painted across walls and collectible tarot cards that help piece the story together.
He then went on to talk about the game’s structure. It’s not linear in the complete sense of the word. You will still need to get from point A to point B, but when you do, you’ll be able to go back to point F, Z, 24K and other places you might have missed. Teslagrad relies heavily on exploration. Every room holds either a hidden piece of the mental puzzle or a ridiculously tough platforming section. Secret areas are also cleverly scattered.
That’s something else we touched upon. Mr. Holm explained that they didn’t want players to feel too frustrated with particular puzzles or rooms. There had to be an overall balance that allowed for challenging gameplay without affecting the fun factor. That balance comes in the form of simplicity. There are no traditional ‘lives’ or ‘hearts’ in Teslagrad. You die once, that’s it – but you only restart from the room you most recently visited. This eradicates most competitive elements and allows for challenge & satisfaction as well as pure, enjoyable storytelling.
Nearing the end of our discussion, I hesitantly asked Mr. Holm about the length of Teslagrad, knowing that indie games aren’t known for their longevity. Pausing to think about it, he heartily replied “It’s a good afternoon’s play,” which doesn’t sound too bad. This is, of course, without considering all the time that exploration and collectibles will add to the total.
Finally, eager to know when I would be able to get my hands on Teslagrad, I asked about release dates. He assured me that the game is in its final stages and that we would be seeing a release in Q4 2013 or Q1 2014. As I quietly hoped for the former, I also asked if we would be seeing Teslagrad on any other platforms. Mr. Holm mentioned a Playstation version (which would be fitting) but did not elaborate any further.
Although he all but confirmed it, Mr. Holm also hinted towards possible sequels.
I would like to give out a very big thank you to Mr. Magnus Holm, who took the time to guide me through the demo and answer a few questions. Teslagrad looks like a game that is truly worthy of the ‘indie’ name. With more gadgets to play with, more environments to discover and gruesome enemies to overcome, I can see why anyone would be excited for Teslagrad. It is evident that Rain Games have put so much love, affection and enthusiasm into the game, which makes it that much more appealing.
The demo is now available for download, make sure to check out Rain Games’ website and Teslagrad’s indie database page for more information.
We’ll have further news on Teslagrad in the coming months so make sure to check back for updates.