Action RPG

Dragon (Eclipse Entertainment) [PC – Cancelled]

Dragon is a cancelled action RPG that was in development around 1998 – 1999 by Eclipse Entertainment, planned to be published on PC by Microsoft. The game was based on the chinese mythology, somehow similar to another Microsoft published RPG: Jade Empire. The game was quite hyped at the time and it was featured on Eclipse’s old website and on their 3D Engine page:

“Step into a 3D world more beautiful, more dangerous, and more amazing than any you have ever seen. Explore an ancient Chinese temple, teeming with evil. Play as one of 6 champions, alone, with, or against friends. Bone crunching martial arts, sizzling spell effects, and richly detailed world make Dragon a Grandmaster among games.”

Some more details about the game were published in a preview by Next Generation magazine (issue 51, march 1999):

“Although start-up Eclipse has only one game under its belt (last year’s Jack Nicholas for Accolade), its employees have experience in the game industry everywhere from Infocom to EA to 3D0 to Origin. And Eclipse has already built the engine on which the game will be based, the impressive Genesis 3D, which supports such features as realtime light detraction, true mirrors, vertex morphing, and soft-skin polygon characters.”

“The story is based largely on Chinese mythology. You take the role of either the grandson (slower but stronger) or granddaughter (faster but weaker) of a martial arts master, who has been kidnapped and placed in the dungeons of Quinggong by your father. Quinggong is the Teetering Palace, a temple that borders the mountains, the ocean, and the spirit world. Your job? Infiltrate the temple, defeat your father’s army of supernatural beings, and rescue your grandfather.”

“Although play balancing has yet to begin (which may change things dramatically), the game is about 50% combat and 50% exploration and puzzle solving. The puzzles, thankfully, look to be more than just the “find the switch” dreck that has come to characterize too many action/adventures. In one room, for instance, players are confronted with a river of lava they must cross. Too wide to jump, the solution is to smash a huge clay pot in the room, causing water to flow onto the lava, cooling it.”

“Players fight by using a combination of martial arts and supernatural powers (spells) and grow in skill (by learning new fighting moves and spells) as the game progresses, and separate bars will measure physical and spiritual health.”

Unfortunately Dragon quietly vanished and was never released: today it seems no traces remain online of its existence, but this page on Unseen64. We don’t know what happened to the project, but in late 1999 WildTangent acquired the team: maybe their new owners were not interested in continuing such an ambitious game or Microsoft was not happy with how it was shaping up, deciding to cancel their collaboration.

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Reprisal (Power Infused) [PC, Xbox – Cancelled]

Reprisal is a cancelled first person shooter / RPG that was in development from 2001 to 2004 by Power Infused Productions for PC and the original Xbox. The team conceived it as a hybrid between Quake, Thief and Deus Ex, featuring 3 different playable races, each one with their own gameplay mechanics, weapons and abilities. For example you would use stealth to play as humans, direct assaults to play as a cyborg, and manage resources to play as an Alien.

In august 2004 the team was searching for more developers on the CGSociety forum:

“Reprisal is the story of conflict between three races over a space station (Joshua 20) at the edge of our solar system Humans have kept their CAT battle machines stationed there in case of conflict for centuries. The invading alien army, guided by a Prince who seeks to prove himself, struck the station first, seeking to turn these weapons against their masters. The plan goes awry, causing the CATs to turn against both human and alien, and trapping all three races together in a desperate struggle for survival.”

As the game progresses, players would have taken control of the three sides and learn to use their unique powers. These races were:

  • Cyborg Assault Tanks (CATs) – Vicious and overwhelmingly powerful, these killing machines were once used to fight wars for humans. In Reprisal, they have turned against their masters and gone into a killing frenzy.
  • Humans – Weak and devoid of natural armaments, humans are the most adaptable of the three races. They are also able to squeeze into areas of the space station the others can’t access.
  • Aliens – Masters of genetic engineering, aliens are capable of altering their own bodies to suit their needs. While not as overwhelming in force as the CATs, aliens have the distinct advantage of being able to retreat from battle only to return more powerful than before.

“Playing each race requires a different skill set. For example, while CATs can charge into battle, wildly firing at everything, Humans need to sneak around conflicts, searching for a safe place to attack from.

While the game is set entirely on a space station, it has been designed to contain a large enough variety of environments to satisfy even the most hard-core gamer. During the course of the game, the player will venture through enormous mechanical devices, simulations of alien worlds, zoos filled with genetically engineered monsters, infested hallways that come alive, and even venture out onto the hull of the station itself.”

Reprisal would have offered some interesting features for its time:

  • Adaptive characters – The player will be able to adapt the look and abilities of the characters they play. In some cases, these changes will be minor and other cases will be major (replacing the lower torso with wheels).
  • Destructible weaponry and environments – Certain weapons will become available that allow the player to knock holes in some walls and destroy some weaponry (to keep it out of the “wrong hands”).
  • Body specific targeting and damage – over forty different spots on the body where the player can cause damage to the opponents.
  • Overlapping storylines – Players will encounter themselves in previous and future incarnations as they play through the scenario.

Unfortunately the team was not able to find a publisher interested in Reprisal and the project had to be canned in late 2004.

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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Demon Isle (Sierra) [PC – Cancelled]

Demon Isle is a cancelled online-focused action RPG that was in development by Cat Daddy Games around 1996 / 1997, planned to be published by Sierra Entertainment for PC. For its time it was graphically impressive, promising a huge 3D island to explore, full of dungeons you could tackle in 16-players online multiplayer. While the game was previewed in a few gaming magazines (such as Next Generation June 1997 and Inter Action Summer 1997), soon it quietly vanished and was never completed.

“The game is set in the world of Magincia, which has been invaded by armies of evil creatures swarming off Demon Isle. The military, unable to destroy the island’s seven Temples to Evil, recruits mercenaries and adventurers to complete the job, which is where the players come in.”

“Set in a dangerous, medieval time. Demon Isle features a state-of-the-art 3-D engine with a first person perspective to tempt your waking hours. It incorporates Fantasy Role-Playing elements into an action-oriented environment that is not for the weak of heart”

“Explore the surface of an entire island and battle the evil that lurks in temples, caves, and the caverns below. Improve your skills and build up your character, and you may just find yourself in an all-out demonic war.  And if you thought demons were enough to keep you up at night your on-line warriors will keep you goin’ until breakfast Play head-to-head or cooperatively with up to 16 players over a LAN  or the Internet and battle for fame and glory.”

“Demon Isle has been built from the ground up as a multiplayer game. It runs either on a LAN or over the Internet, using the same client-server model as Blizzard’s Diablo on battle.net: players connect through their own provider, the game contacts Cat Daddy, and a session is launched with one player’s machine as the server. However, unlike Diablo, which limits games to four players, Demon Isle handles literally dozens of players, depending on the capabilities of the server’s hardware.”

We can also still find Sierra’s original press release for the game:

“Enter the land of Magincia where hordes of evil creatures have been driven off the main continents, and pushed back to their apparent source, Demon Isle. The ruling powers of Magincia are willing to pay a handsome bounty to anyone brave and strong enough to venture to Demon Isle and destroy the seven temples of evil, obtaining the missing pieces of the magic relic, and obliterate the root of all evil itself – the Demon Zorax.

In this first person, action-oriented, fantasy role-playing game, players will face numerous exhilarating predicaments and intense combat as they battle a motley bunch of nasty creatures. Demon Isle is designed from the ground up as a single and multi-player game, promising to set new standards by allowing up to 16 players to play head-to-head or cooperatively via LAN, modem or Internet. In addition, Demon Isle boasts a revolutionary proprietary 3D engine, creating fractally enhanced terrain and polygon-based objects for unprecedented level of detail, and features custom MMX support and Direct3D support for acceleration on 3D cards.”

If you know someone who worked on this lost project and could help us finding out why it was canned, please let us know!

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The Wall (Burut) [Cancelled – PS3, PC]

The Wall is a cancelled immersive sim that was in development between 2005 and 2008 by Burut Creative Team and Play Ten, planned to be released on Playstation 3 and PC. Gameplay would have been similar to Deus Ex, with players helping one of three major factions in a dystopian future: The Government, The Environmentalists, and The Church. NPCs would react dynamically to your actions in sand-box levels you could freely explore to choose how to resolve missions, using customizable weapons, vehicles and special powers.

We can read some details about the game in interviews published at the time by PS3Land and FiringSquad:

“I believe the concept of “The Wall” world is a grotesque reflection of the modern world. We want to show all the avarice and ambition of transnational corporations, who pursue their business targets regardless of the consequences. In their quest for profit often the great treasures of the past, the cultural heritage of Humanity is sacrificed. Trying to improve the world, some greedy corporate giants are destroying it in fact, without paying any attention to this sad truth and firmly believing in the righteousness of their ways. They continue to push the deadly balance wheel, which is poised to crush them in the end. Also we want to show religious fanaticism with it’s terrible bigotry and superstition. Often the fundamentalist zealots are ready to devastate the existing world, just to create an ideal one they imagine in its place.”

“The game’s concept went through many iterations. Our efforts finally bore fruit, and we’ve invented around a dozen of features that are unique to the genre, and should be very interesting to the gamers. Among them are the totally destructible environment, intense development of the character’s relations with the outside world, the team and rankings which change during the course of events.”

The Wall was previewed by some gaming websites, such as CheatCC, Ixbt, and IGN:

“Various super-human abilities will be revealed throughout the course of the game, no doubt proving useful for overcoming certain obstacles and defeating enemies. Developers claim that personality points and actions will affect the plot and how characters react to the player, ala Deus Ex. Which side you choose also affects the game content, including weapons. For example the Government rifles are very industrial, while the Environmentalist firearms are handcrafted with leather and groovy characters etched into them. Weapons are customizable and there are vehicles to drive”

“Players will become Adam – a young man genetically modified by the scientists of the Church. Waking up after suspended animation, Adam must go to fulfill the mission entrusted to him, but the deep freeze slightly affected his brain. As a result of amnesia, Adam remains on his own, and is free to choose his own destiny.”

“The Wall will offer non-linear gameplay and it is up to you to choose whether to strengthen the power of the Government by eradicating the dissatisfied, help an environmentalist or become the God of a New religion. Not only the style of the game depends on the choices you make, but also its endings.”

“About 25 missions are planned, taking place in a wide variety of places – from the skyscrapers of the Government to the underwater levels of poor neighborhoods.”

“One of the more noticeable elements includes highly-destructible environments with numerous break points. Objects, parts of buildings, entire buildings, and other sections of the play area can be gradually and fully destroyed. The amount of destruction is entirely dependent on the type of weapon being used to create it too. An example that Play Ten uses to illustrate this is that a tree won’t be seriously damaged by a pistol, but a rocket launcher will take care of it quite nicely. This sort of destruction isn’t just for looks, though — use can do things like destroy catwalk supports to knock enemies down from snipe points as well. “

“The addition of squad members with specific personalities is one such inclusion, as its RPG-like ranking system affects how people react to the hero. Missions are nonlinear too and like other open-ended games before it, The Wall will give users the option to take on primary and bonus missions that affect the ultimate outcome of the story.”

As far as we know the game was last seen at the Leipzig Convention 2008, then quietly vanished, forgotten by everyone. Play Ten was bought by Bestway Group in October 2008 and merged alongside two other big Russian publishers: Russobit-M and Game Factory Interactive. We assume the new company was not interested in publishing the game, and without a publisher Burut switched their resources to other projects (such as Cannon Fodder 3).

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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Rites of Acerbus (Crest of Dharim) [PC – Cancelled]

Rites of Acerbus (AKA Crest of Dharim) is a cancelled Action RPG that was in development in the late ‘90s / early ‘00s by OMG-Games, a small, forgotten studio founded in 1998. The project started as an Unreal mod, changing the popular FPS into a role-playing game. Soon the mod evolved into a full-fledged game with some interesting features for its time:

“You are Jordan – the son of Eldric, King of Arzaron. Your birthday is a shamble as you are arrested for the murder of your father, rushed through a mockery of a trial and thrust headlong into prison – forever. You’ll be seeing more of your world than you ever wanted as you follow the effects of the rituals of a dark, ancient prophecy bent on the destruction of life on your planet. Step through the political intrigue, militaristic maneuverings, and just plain treachery in search of your father’s killer and the answers you need to stop Acerbus Caelestis from engulfing the world in darkness. You’ll be stepping in style, too, disguising yourself as anyone you can to get the information you need; from a soldier in an enemy army to a priest behind the confessional lattice. You won’t be stepping alone either – several people will find it necessary to join your cause along the way, be it for their own reasons or the noblest cause of all.”

  • Third-person 3D Action/Adventure/RPG
  • Dramatic and compelling storyline and characters, with in-game cinematics
  • Puzzle-based and action-based challenges
  • Ability to disguise yourself as the enemy and other characters
  • Up to three AI characters in your party
  • Multipath dialogue tree-based interaction with all NPCs
  • Real-time combat system based on unique weapon skills
  • Unique magic system
  • “Beast of Burden” for travel and inventory storage
  • Vast game world covering 4 different kingdoms
  • All unique races
  • 70+ hours of gameplay

According to the developers you could meet hundreds of NPCs in this world, each one with its own side quests. They planned an action-combat system against crowds of enemies, and it would have been possible to climb rocks to freely explore the land (just like what Zelda: Breath of the Wild did 17 years later).

The plot followed the misadventures of a certain prince, sent to jail after being accused of killing his father. After escaping the protagonist would try to find out who set him up:

“Once a world of magic and beauty, the Kingdom of Arzaron has fallen into Darkness. You are Jordan, First Prince and sole heir to the throne of Eldric, King of Arzaron. Your father led his nation honorably and fairly, and you have followed closely in his footsteps. It is the eve of your twentieth birthday when the King dies mysteriously in his sleep, of poisoning, says the royal physician; a vial of poison is found in your bedchambers the next day. By law, a prince is old enough to govern the nation without the supervision of the Council on his twentieth birthday. According to the law, a prince must be raised to the crown the day after the king dies.

The coronation proceeds directly after the funeral, which is cut short by the magistrate and a number of guards who accuse you of murdering your father and arrest you. You are shuffled through a mockery of a trial, branded as a slave (tattooed on the inside of your left forearm), and nearly dragged behind a horse across your nation’s borders to a slave camp where five years pass.

You must travel through distant, foreign, not-always-friendly lands in order to gain support and learn about the conspiracy against you in any way you can. You’ll disguise yourself as anyone you can to get the information you need. What follows is a quest into the depths of evil as you discover that your fathe’rs murder was but a small part of a much larger chain of events. Ancient prophecy speaks of the six Rites that would bring about the return of Acerbus, the Ruler of the Dark. “

Development of Rites of Acerbus continued until 2002, but as it often happens with cancelled games by small teams, it was probably too ambitious for their skills and resources. With no publisher backing the project, the game was canned after four years of development.

Thanks to Josef for the contribution!

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