The Chinese Room is set to break away from the ‘walking simulator’ genre with a brand new RPG project.
The studio found widespread acclaim for the serene atmospheric gameplay of 2012’s Dear Esther and last year’s Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, but has previously explored more action-driven mechanics in the form of 2013’s horror release Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. However, one of its upcoming projects looks to take it a step further from its signature elements.
The developer announced that it was working on a new self-funded title called Total Dark back in March, adding that it would maintain an open development format about the tabletop RPG-inspired game.
Issuing a catch-up post on the Chinese Room blog, the studio’s creative director Dan Pinchbeck confirmed that work on Total Dark was continuing “but it’s slowed down a bit”.
“Total Dark is much more mechanically focused than anything we’ve done in the past, so those mechanics have to be really, really good or the game won’t be,” he explained. “That means as much time in iterative prototyping as we possibly can to get them absolutely honed before we start chucking lots of art and audio and story time at it all.”
Elaborating on the game’s gameplay, Pinchbeck said: “There’s a stripped-back third-person RPG-lite system that operates around five core stats.”
“The core gameplay loops around exploring areas to fulfil missions and goals whilst all of these stats are depreciated by dangers in the environment (and sometimes by your own actions),” he continued. “You can collect loot and items by cracking open containers – yes, we have made a game with button mashing in it – and by engaging with NPCs through a simple branching dialogue system, and there’s an inventory system to use, manage and combine the things you find.
“There’s also the special sauce bit of it which makes it a bit different, but I’m going to hold onto that for a while, until we’ve done a bit more working up on it and can stick some decent visualisations together.”
Pinchbeck also hinted at another future title from The Chinese Room, confirming: “We’re also doing another unannounced project that we’ll hopefully tell you all about in more detail in a few months’ time.
“Whilst that is happening (through until late spring/early summer next year), we’ll keep making and refining, and ripping up and starting again on Total Dark until it feels like the game it should be and we’ve got the lion’s share of the whole thing greyboxed and ready to have art and audio thrown at it.”