When you’ve made a few what people are calling walking simulators, usually pejoratively (but shut up I’m using it as a pleasant genre-tag) and some good ol’ terrifying horror, all from a first-person perspective, you’d definitely expect your next game to be an isometric RPG.
So of course that’s what the Chinese Room’s next game – Total Dark – is. Speaking with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, studio director Dan Pinchbeck explained the thinking behind the move; basically it’s something the team has wanted to do for a while:
“It’s a much more traditional game, an isometric adventure with a free-floating camera and lots of mechanics. That will make some people happy while other people are going to wonder if we have the right experience to make that sort of game. But we absolutely do.
“Because most people know us because of Dear Esther and now Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, it’s easy to assume that’s the kind of game we will always make and have always made. What they may not realise is that we were developing other mods alongside Dear Esther. One of them was Antlion Soccer.”
Total Dark came from boardgame/tabletop roots – in that it literally started off as one, and there’s the chance it could end up being one as well as a game:
“Total Dark actually started off as an RPG boardgame. A lot of the inspiration came from pen and paper and gamebook systems. Traveller, Paranoia, Twilight 2000. I’ve been looking at loads of paper-based RPGs and wargame systems.
“I love how those books retained a scrappy bedroom aesthetic. Modern stuff is so glossy, but with early RPG and wargame systems you can see that it’s just a couple of people in a bedroom scratching out line drawings. It’s very energetic.”
There are few details about Total Dark right now, but one thing Pinchbeck confirms to RPS – it’s not quite as dark as the studio’s previous titles:
“One thing I can say is that it has a lighter tone. We’ve made three very heavy games now and it’s time for something lighter. It’s no less weird but it’s not quite as bleak.”