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In The Finals, a new squad shooter from Battlefield alumni, everything is destructible

Nexon-backed Embark Studios shows its first game, a Running Man-style game show

A contestant in The Finals brandishes a submachine gun, with her white mask pushed up over the top of her head, as several backlit spectators look on Image: Embark Studios
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Four years ago, Electronic Arts’ chief design officer left to co-found his own studio, created with Nexon’s backing. On Monday, Patrick Söderlund’s studio showed off its first game: The Finals, a squad-based, free-to-play multiplayer shooter inspired by sci-fi bloodsport narratives like Squid Game and The Running Man, where pretty much everything on the game’s maps can be destroyed.

The Finals, said Embark Studios creative director Gustav Tilleby, is “a hero builder, not a hero shooter.” As shown in a debut trailer, players will have access to a variety of weapons and their tactical uses, from a katana and other melee weapons, to rocket launchers, and even a foam gun that can reinforce crumbling walls or build a bridge to higher ground.

“We want to build a game that provides players with the tools to meaningfully interact, change, and use their world,” Tilleby said. “So, this is a shooter; it’s a game where aiming and shooting is important. But it’s also a game where the players can use the environment, and adapt to changes in the environment.”

“We want The Finals to be a game about intuitiveness; wherever you think something should work, it probably will,” Tilleby said. Hence the comprehensive destruction players can wreak all over the map. A standard match in The Finals will feature four teams of three players each. It is “not a battle royale, it’s not a military sim,” Tilleby emphasized.

Stockholm-based Embark Studios was co-founded in 2018 by Söderlund and Rob Runnesson, who is also Embark’s chief creative officer. Originally, Embark’s first game was to have been ARC Raiders, a free-to-play, third-person sci-fi shooter that was announced in December at The Game Awards 2021. In August, Embark announced ARC Raiders was delayed into 2023; but something codenamed “Project Discovery” — which is The Finals — “has progressed faster than we first imagined,” Söderlund said, moving its development and launch planning up on the schedule.

The Finals’ fully destructible environments “means there’s plenty of chaos to go around,” Tilleby said. He called the maps “hyper-realistic virtual playgrounds,” that are “based on iconic real world locations.” One shown Monday was based on the Hotel Monaco in Monte-Carlo, for example (though Embark wasn’t giving out any details on where else the game will be heading).

The environments will have changing weather and time of day to further differentiate each match. Players can destroy furniture and scenery, or entire buildings themselves, by blowing out a load-bearing wall and watching the rest of the structure come pancaking down. “You can interact with physical objects, you can pick them up and throw them, set things on fire,” Tilleby said.

The key innovation behind all of this destruction, Tilleby said, is that all of it runs on The Finals’ servers, as opposed to their clients’ hardware. This is what makes collapsing a whole building possible, Tilleby said. “Server-side movements and destruction is another thing we’ve been chasing for a long time,” he added. “In a multiplayer space, it opens up so many possibilities. It’s kind of like a holy grail.”

Player avatars will, of course, be endlessly customizable both in appearance and performance. “You can be nimble, kind of [like a] ninja, go up onto the rooftops and take down enemies with a katana, or you can be a heavy, a tank, with a rocket launcher. It’s really up to you.” Yes, the game “will definitely have a form of battle pass,” Tilleby said. In Monday’s briefing, we saw players dressed in ballerina tutus and samurai armor, among many other outfits.

The Finals will stage a closed alpha beginning Thursday, Sept. 29 and running until 3 a.m. EDT on Monday, Oct. 3. Embark is taking registrations for the PC alpha (via Steam) right now, but says the player population will be limited and not everyone will be admitted. (When The Finals launches in full, it will also come to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X). Players can expect to play a game that has bugs and balance issues, and they’re being asked not to stream their play (although sharing written impressions is fine). The alpha will run in Europe and North America.

The Finals does not yet have a launch date or window; Embark is planning larger-scale alpha and beta tests after the one this coming weekend.

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