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The blood, beauty and magic of Mirage: Arcane Warfare

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Now you can blast an arm off with steel-encased fireballs

The next game from the makers of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is a surprisingly colorful, almost painterly game. And it's not just spouts of blood that provide the color this time around. Mirage: Arcane Warfare is a medieval and magic game with an Arabian and Persian inspiration stylized with bold contrasting colors.

The opposing teams wear orange or purple, the landscape is also awash in tinges of those colors, and the cities are vibrant too. Characters, setting, everything also has a touch of an outline, giving the entire game a bit of a drawn look.

And, yes, there is also plenty of blood.

"We wanted to create a peaceful, calm setting, so we have these pristine areas that are then overshadowed with violence," said Steve Piggott, founder of Torn Banner Studios and game designer of Mirage.

"We want you to paint these beautiful landscapes with blood and gore," added Alex Hayter, senior brand manager for the studio.

The inspiration for this spiritual successor to Chivalry was the idea of extending the precise, back-and-forth hand-to-hand combat of that original game to ranged combat.

"Magic seemed to be the best way to approach that," Piggott said.

In the original Chivalry, which started out as a Half-Life 2 mod before being recreated and improved using Unreal Engine 3, players warred against one another in a medieval setting using swords, polearms, battleaxes and other weapons of the era. What helped to set the game apart was the precise controls needed to succeed in the game … and the ultra-violence that often ended a clash with lopped off limbs and geysers of blood.

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Mirage, created with Unreal Engine 4 for Windows PC, will feature the same level of violence, but this time it won't just be the result of melee combat. All six classes in the game use both magic and weapons in battles.

Each of the classes has its own style, spells and weapons. The team didn't show off everything available to each class, but this is what we learned so far:

  • Alchemancer: Has no melee and can't block, but has more powerful spells like the ability to summon a bird attack or cast a big blast.
  • Vypress: An assassin that can deliver devastating backstabs and can phase through attacks or turn invisible.
  • Taurant: A melee-centric class that can dominate in close combat with a grand mace. He can also create a controllable bounder that can flatten enemies.
  • Tinker: Defensive trap class that can lay magic mines.
  • Vigilist: A support class that can throw a shield spell and launch a ground slam. Also the only class with a shield.
  • Entropist: A balanced class with a magic carpet and a mix of offensive and defensive spells.

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Magic is designed to have weight to it in the game. Fireballs, for instance, come wrapped in straps of steel.

"That kind of shows they are harnessing the magic," Piggott said. "It doesn't feel like pixie dust magic, it has real weight and force. So we added a cage around the fire, for instance."

All of the spells seem to take have some sort of wind-up. This gives opposing players a chance to block or stop those spells, it also adds to the back-and-forth nature of the game.

For instance, the heal spell creates a fixed area for healing, but takes three to five seconds to activate. If friendly players aren't within the area when the spell activates, they're not healed.

This, Piggott said, turns every heal spell into a skirmish between the teams as they fight to retain control of the spot or force the other team away from it.

The gameplay currently relies on six-versus-six matches with teams trying to achieve different objectives or prevent them from being achieved.

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In one map, players had to capture an area which then unlocked a door, expanding the map. Once in the new area, players had to escort an object to the other team's tower.

While the game is multiplayer only, that doesn't mean it's completely devoid of plot.

There is a light story being told between matches and a backstory exists as well.

The orange team are known as the Azar Cabal and the purple team is the Bashrani Emirate.

The Cabal are outcast rebels who have scarred themselves with runes used to capture magic, while the Emirate is the standing empire made up of people with runes tattooed on their skin.

The six classes can all be customized with clothing, tattoos and scarring, Hayter said.

The game's maps will each have its own mode, though no word yet on the total map count when the game launches later this year.

While I didn't have a chance to play the game at GDC, the team said that it will be playable at PAX East.

Until then, they continue their work building in hooks to keep players playing.

"That's what we're doing with the game design, playing with their egos," Hayter said. "Giving them big kills and then taking it away from them. Everyone feels powerful and vulnerable at the same time."

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