Action RPG

Hired Guns (Devil’s Thumb, VR-1) [PC – Cancelled]

The original Hired Guns was a First Person sci-fi tactical RPG developed by DMA Design (the team that created GTA and later became Rockstar North) and published in 1993 by Psygnosis for Amiga and PC. Hired Guns was quite ambitious for its time, players were able to use 4 different characters at the same time, each one had their own view and the game was played using a 4 windows split screen, also allowing up to 4 players to play together in coop.

The team behind this “reboot” of Hired Guns was Devil’s Thumb Entertainment, a small DMA division started in 1995 by David Jones and led by Tony Harman. Only a year later Devil’s Thumb was cut off from DMA and became an independent studio, working on Mike Piazza’s Strike Zone (released in 1998 for Nintendo 64) and Tides of War (released on PC in 1999). Sometime between the release of these two games, Devil’s Thumb also pitched this new Hired Guns to Psygnosis, that soon greenlighted the project to be developed using Unreal engine.

As recalled by a former Devil’s Thumb member who worked on the game:

“All of our levels had a maximum on-screen limit of 80 polygons using the old Unreal 1 engine.  Our art direction was to use a lot of color, since the first person shooter at the time was Quake and it was very brown.  Our marketing was going to include:  “There are millions of colors, we used them all…. except brown.”

A few previews for Hired Guns were published back in the day by Gamestop and IGN:

“Whereas most shooters are pretty simple run and gun affairs, Hired Guns is a complex game of tactics and teammates, more along the lines of X-COM Alliance or System Shock 2 than a Quake or Unreal. “

“Here’s the basic story. In the not so distant future, those who could afford it left the now poisoned Earth to travel to different off-world colonies that had been established by three different corporations. The first colony was in the Luyten system 10.8 light years from Earth and was reached by the mammoth Tesseract Corporation using a brand-new interstellar drive. Later colonies were started not only by Tesseract, but by the Betelov and Grenworld Corporations as well. With these new colonies in place, humans began to flourish again with huge new stores of resources to tap and trade. Sadly, human nature began to kick in and the three companies began fighting over consumer wealth and loyalty.”

“In the beginning of these battles, war was fought more or less in the conventional fashion, with huge armies taking each other on in space and on the colonies, wiping each other (and often the colonies) out in the process. As colonies wised up and began to create their own militias and as the corporations began to loose the ability to fund huge armies, they started to hire small mercenary groups to commit acts of espionage and sabotage for them. It was during this time that the Hired Guns, a crack team led by a man named Kircher appeared. Considered by some to be the finest data espionage agents ever assembled and by others to be absolutely insane, this ruthless group started to play each of the companies against the others in an attempt to bring themselves massive profit and power.”

“Using the Unreal engine, Hired Guns will allow gamers to control a four person mercenary squad as they go off on a series of missions. What pushes Hired Guns outside the genre is that you actually control all four members of team in a multi-windowed interface. One large window accommodates the character you’re currently controlling with three smaller windows that depict what your other team members are seeing. When you’re not controlling them directly, a control panel allows you to tweak their AI for the task at hand. If you need to clear room quickly, you could turn up their aggression and see what ensues. Or you could have one soldier run into a room to battle several enemies and retreat when its health goes below 50 percent. During gameplay, you can take control of any of the players as they combat evil corporations.”

“Missions bring more strategy to the 3D shooter by forcing you to figure out which mercenary is best suited to a particular task in a mission. Kircher is a Rasta male with spiritual self-healing capabilities, Myriel is a 200-year-old who is mostly cyborg and has an advantage of being able to understand electronics, Rorian is a ex-soldier with zoom lens-like optical implants, and Osverger is the berzerker of the crew with a large soldier body and massive strength.”

In 2000 VR-1 Entertainment acquired Devil’s Thumb, while at the same time Psygnosis decided to leave the PC market to focus their resources on Playstation games. It’s not clear which company owned the Hired Guns IP, but unfortunately without its original publisher and with a new studio management the game had to be canned.

It seems Hired Guns was almost finished when cancelled, there’s even a leaked beta that you can download and play to check out what it could have been.This beta is labeled as a “pre-production version” and it includes all the levels, characters and weapons planned for the final game.

Thanks to Harri for the contribution!

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Hellion: Mystery of the Inquisition [Cancelled – PS3, Xbox 360, PC]

Hellion: Mystery of the Inquisition is a cancelled first person action RPG set in a medieval world, in development in 2009 by Flying Fish Studios, a small team composed of developers who previously worked on The Witcher and Two Worlds. The game was planned for Xbox 360, PC and PS3, set to be released sometime in 2011.

As we can read in a Gamespot hands-on preview:

“The demo we saw revolved heavily around swordplay, and we watched as the developer rang a bell to summon a procession of new opponents to hack through. The combat seems to emphasize defense, so if you can block an attack, it leaves your opponent vulnerable to a follow-up blow.

Once he had weakened his opponents, he performed gory finishing moves, hacking their heads off or stabbing them in the heart, and in the full version, you’ll be able to sever limbs as well.

There’s still a lot of work to be done on Hellion, but the developers have plans to include 10 different locations, including Italy, the UK, Spain, and Prussia, as well as lots of medieval weaponry, including daggers, crossbows, and grenades. You’ll also be able to manifest God’s power in the form of exorcisms, ripping demons from the bodies of the possessed enemies, but we’ll have to wait to find out more about this.”

By looking at the remaining footage Hellion looked quite impressive for its time, something like a more linear Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion set in the real historical age of the 13th century. As announced by Simon Grabowski (CEO at Flying Fish Works) to IGN:

“Hellion is an epic journey through different medieval cultures full of real-life characters, wild animals, rough warriors, powerful Templar knights, deadly assassins and, ultimately, horrifying demons. Our vision is to create a historical fiction game that will put the player in the center of the medieval world, full of its cruelty, intransigence and diversified beliefs. In this ruthless reality, the player will become an eyewitness of great political machinations, unseen brutality and betrayal. He will pave his way to the truth just to find that it is more horrible and dreadful than anyone could imagine.“

There is no official reason why the game was never released, it just vanished forever and forgotten as another unseen game from the 7th generation of consoles. We speculate it could have been canned because of the financial crisis that struck many gaming studios at the end of the ‘00s.

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Kyskrew (Call Of Destiny) [Dreamcast, PC – Cancelled]

Kyskrew (also known as “Call Of Destiny“) is a cancelled RPG for Dreamcast and PC, originally meant to be released sometime in fall / winter of 2001. Even if the game seems to have been mostly a fan-project in early concept stage, it’s quite interesting to learn about it because before this article there were not many evidences about its existence online: for sure it’s one of the most forgotten unseen games planned for Sega Dreamcast.

The graphic shown in these early screenshots (published in various French magazines such as “Gameplay RPG” #31 in july/august 2001, “Dreamzone” #25 in June/July 2001 and “Joypad” #113 in November 2001) was good for its time, but most of the models and environments were  pre-rendered and it’s currently unknown how much of the game was really in a playable state.

Kyskrew was in development by Dragonhydre (later renamed Crystal Dream), a small independent French team that was disbanded just after the cancellation of their project in mid 2002. It seems that Dragonhydre was composed of 12 members (with age ranging from 16 to 23 years-old) who meet in various French gaming forums and decided to organize a development team to create their own game.

In an interview published on Dream-Emu a former member of Dragonhydre said that their plan was to release the game for free on their website, to let people to download the ISO and play it on their Dreamcast and PC.

The plot of Kyskrew involved the Goddess of Love and Creation – Eloina – who imprisoned her arch-enemy, the God of Hate – Gainer. Unfortunately a fragment of Gainer’s tainted soul would escape from his prison and reincarnate in a human being to take revenge and destroy the world.

It seems Kyskrew would have featured different combat mechanics, they wanted to use real-time combat system to fight normal enemies through levels but then combat would became turn-based during boss fights. Several character classes were planned to play the game with, including knights, magicians, and thieves. There was also an internal clock system that alternated the game time between night and day, a feature that have since become a standard in many modern RPGs including Elder Scrolls and Fable.

The world of Kyskrew also appears to have been particularly large, with 5 continents that included a good number of cities and dungeons. It was reported by the project’s director that the game would have had over 40 hours of gameplay.

As the Dreamcast was near the end of its life-cycle, in late 2001 Dragonhydre decided to move the game to Playstation 2, plus adding a GBA version too. It’s hard to say how much work was really put into these consoles, as the team was soon disbanded.

In 2004 another former member of Dragonhydre wrote a few pots on the Yaronet forums, revealing that they had many internal problems: work done on the game was not very good, team members keep changing during development and even early deadlines continued to be postponed, until the cancellation of the project.

A few tech-demo videos were once available on their official website, but unfortunately it seems Archive.org doesn’t have the files anymore. If you know someone who worked on this game who could still have some footage saved, please let us know!

Article by Blake Lynch & monokoma, thanks to Isatis_Angel for the scans and contribution!

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Chronicles of Eden Vol I: Vangarde’s Tale [GBA – Cancelled]

Long title, short story. Chronicles of Eden Vol.I: Vangarde’s Tale was announced in 2004 by its developer Lightspire Studios as an upcoming Gameboy Advance title. The game was supposed to be a top down story driven action adventure/ role playing game. At the time of announcing the game no publisher was known yet and nor was a hint given on a final release date.

The game tells the story of Dyrvaine, an elite agent of the Elven Council of Tannale. The agent is sent out to investigate mysterious activities with a gate seal on a world called Elzian. The game was divided into four episodes and would give the player three characters to choose from, each wit an unique style of gameplay and each one with a different look on the storyline. A fourth character would become available after completing two of the four episodes. An interview with one of the makers of the game by Planet Gameboy can be read here.

After the announcement things became quiet on the game and it is assumed to be fully cancelled, most likely too hard to find a publisher for the game.

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Extra – Artwork, possible Box Cover & Lightsphere logo:

(note: I only picked 3 recognizable pictures shown in the promotional video.  more?) 

Djinn (Castaway Entertainment) [PC, Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Djinn (Castaway Entertainment) [PC, Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Djinn is a cancelled action RPG planned initially for PC and later also for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The project was in development by Castaway Entertainment, a talented team founded in 2003 by former developers who left Blizzard North, some of which were previously working on the cancelled version of Diablo 3. Djinn was quite hyped at the time because of its connection with the Diablo series and many RPG fans were eager to see more from the game, promising hundreds of hours of adventure, exploration and rare loot. Unfortunately before its cancellation not much was ever revealed about Djinn, its gameplay mechanics or plot, but thanks to the finding of its pitch document we can now learn more about this ambitious project.

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Castaway wanted to create an innovative role playing game with a story told in real time, while players were actively exploring its world and listening to the protagonist’s comrates. This team of characters following the protagonist could have been similar to the “pawn” system used many years later in Dragon’s Dogma, but with heavy interconnections with the main storyline:

“The idea of a next-generation, greatly upgraded Diablo II on console forms the basis of the concept and marketing strategy for our newest game, Djinn. Djinn is a real-time 3D action roleplaying game of heroic risks in an island world of ancient mythical beings and forbidden magic. With non-stop pacing unfettered by text dialog choices, and featuring larger than life ruins, temples, and legendary creatures, Djinn reveals a real time story told not by signpost NPCs but by your very traveling companions”

“Our unique twist on companions is the Crew concept. The crew members are intriguing, multi-purpose characters who are also lesser heroes in their own right, much like the Argonauts (the Greek heroes who made up the crew of Jason’s ship Argo). They can be added or removed at any time to the questing party, and each one has unique powers that the player will enjoy experimenting with. In combination, crew members may reveal additional abilities.”

Djinn’s gameplay would have been inspired by many more games other than the popular Diablo 2, adding physics-based combat and environment interaction, plus a series of “cards” that could change the game’s world and how players could interact and fight in this world. We could imagine it as an ambitious mix between Psi-Ops, Phantom Dust, Baten Kaitos and Hand of Fate:

“Djinn combines Diablo II quality, item collection, tactical equipment and skill choices, and dynamic, user-friendly combat; Phantom Dust playfield interaction and destruction; Psi-Ops physics-based combat; Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal’s varied attacks and situational awareness; and Magic: The Gathering’s highly addictive collectible and customizable booster packs.”

“We will be showing off our combat moves, interactive environments and highly vertical levels using advanced physics. Players will be able to do many things with our physics engine, including: Push victims off ledges or slam them into spikes; Drop objects onto targets far below; Knock over pillars and break platforms, in order to damage opponents; Knock back enemies who fall down with rag doll physics; Create “domino” effects where one object knocks into another.”

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“Djinn is designed to be a modular system that allows the player to make significant changes to their own game play experience. A player may alter their character’s skills, reconfigure their quests, select their companions, and even make changes to the world itself. These modifiers are contained in virtual “cards” that the player may collect, trade, buy, or sell with other players. “Cards” are currently being used as a metaphor for a system of tokens that can be applied within the game. The final game pieces will most likely take the form of artifacts or scrolls, not tarot or playing cards. Regardless of how the player wishes to manage their cards, everyone begins with a basic set (a virtual deck) that contains five types of cards: Skill Cards, Hero Cards, Quest Cards, World Cards, and Crew Cards. By playing combinations of these five types, the player is able to explore different locales over and over with very different experiences.”

 

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