E3 did not disappoint when it came to showing off indie games and one in particular that stood out is Dark Deity. It didn’t just get one moment to shine, it actually got two standout moments during E3 over two days. The first during the Freedom Games Showcase and the second at the GameSpot Play For All closing event. Not bad for a creative team of five friends who got together to make a game.
As fans of all things fantasy it was one of the best looking fantasy games revealed at the event and we just had to learn more about Dark Deity and its development. So, we reached out to the team to find out more about its production.
Dark Deity launched as a huge surprise the final day of E3. It is a strategy RPG with 30 playable characters and 54 classes that is very much inspired by classic RPG games of the 90s and early 2000s. We sent our questions off to the team and here’s what Game Director Chip Moore had to say about Dark Deity.
For Sword and Axe having their first game featured at E3 multiple times was an exciting opportunity for the entire team. Dark Deity was made with five people including Game Director Charles “Chip” Moore, Business Manager Dylan Takeyama, Composer Sam Huss, Map Artist Jonathan Kinda, and Narrative Designer Nick Solari. But it all started with the desire to just create.
“Dylan and I [Chip] had dreamt of getting into game development together for years, so in large part it was a manifestation of that goal – we were both approaching the end of college and realized this may be our last good chance to give game development a real shot. Our love for games like Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics obviously played a huge role in the genre we chose to develop in, but the game also has influence from a wide variety of other genres.”
The inspiration from other games can certainly be felt and seen in the trailer and gameplay of Dark Deity. But developing the game, let alone any game, isn’t without it’s challenges. To ensure Dark Deity saw a release and was produced at all, the team put it on Kickstarter in August of 2020. That decision ended with the game being fully backed in just seven hours.
“Given that Dark Deity is our first game, there were a lot of bumps early on as we learned different skills and figured out our strengths and weaknesses. Reigning in scope and learning to know when something is out of our range was a tough lesson to take early on, and something we really focused on doing well.”
The crew taught themselves coding and learned to develop the game all their own using GameMaker Studio 2. Development was going rather well for Sword and Axe but they still needed a publisher. They struck a deal with Freedom Games in 2021, just three months before the games release.
Fallible Characters in a Living World
When it came time to design the world of Dark Deity building the land of Terrazael began with the characters. Since players would be spending a lot of time with them, the team wanted to make each one unique and realistic. This helped build one central theme to Dark Deity, that failure is normal and even characters fail.
“Overcoming adversity while staying true to your ideals was important to us to explore. We’ve found that many stories have an infallible hero or don’t touch on just how hard it is to deal with loss and fear.”
In creating heroes that may not succeed at everything, the game feels more realistic. It’s difficult to connect with a character that constantly overcomes all odds. Having characters who struggle to complete challenges imitates life. Players are able to establish a connection with them knowing that they too may have the same difficulties. That idea is something that can be found within the game’s conversations.
“Our bond system and the extensive conversations in it really allowed us to explore many of the characters and their relations to the events of the story on a deeper level. Having some of our characters showing vulnerability to their closest friends really allowed us to dig into their motivations in an authentic way.”
When it comes to the characters themselves.
“We spent a huge amount of time building out the world of Terrazael and trying to craft a place that feels real and caters to characters that have genuine motivations and backgrounds. Having an extensive framework for where characters are from, how they grew up, and how the culture of where they’re from shapes them was key to building our characters. We didn’t want to just take an archetype and make characters to fit a role – we really did start from the ground up and build a person first, character second.”
It’s an idea pulled from Fire Emblem: Three Houses. It’s a way to interact with the characters and adds way more detail and life to the game. Yes, it may be about fighting and defeating enemies but at its heart, Dark Deity is more than just 2D sprites on a stunning background. The characters are living and breathing and feel like people you’d come across in everyday life.
Dark Deity is also built specifically for fans of the RPG genre. The passion the development team have for nostalgic games of the past is alive and well in every aspect of Dark Deity. It’s designed for players with that same passion for turn-based strategy games and fantasy fans alike.
“We want players to feel powerful and like their choices matter – there is so much potential for amazing late game builds that allow the player to bring out their creativity and have fun with the systems we’ve created. Along with the randomizer and campaign customization, we’re hoping that getting to play it countless times while really having a different experience each time is going to bring out that creativity.”
Throughout it’s more than two dozen chapters, players can expect a lengthy story with hours of playtime and replayability.
“The game has 28 “chapters” and we’ve seen the average playthrough take between 20 – 30 hours over. Obviously once you get familiar with the game, you can plow through maps a bit faster, but if you want to consume every dialogue in our bonds system, you’ve got hundreds of conversations to listen to.
Dark Deity is a spiritual successor to popular SPRGs and feels every bit as exceptional as Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics. It’s got an adoring fan base and a passionate development team that understands how to create heroes players can connect with.
Dark Deity is available now on Steam.