Darkborn [PC, Xbox One, PS4 – Cancelled]

Darkborn, previously known as Archenemy and Project Wight, is a canceled medieval fantasy First-Person Role-Playing Game developed by The Outsiders from 2015 to 2020, and published by Private Division, for the PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.

Darkborn was set in the medieval time where vikings shared the world with a forgotten species of creatures. Player embodied one of these creatures named Darkborn, whose purpose was revenge against a band of vikings marauders known as The Pale Enemy, after the latter have slaughtered its species for blood rituals. Over the course of the game, you would play multiple generations of these Darkborn as you learn the motivations for their bloodshed.

First information regarding this game were hinted in February 2015 during the announcement of the creation of The Outsiders:

Former Battlefield developers David Goldfarb and Benjamin Cousins today announced a new game studio, The Outsiders, which is working on a PC role-playing game. (…)

(…) In a separate interview, he told Eurogamer that the company’s first game will be an RPG. “I’ve loved RPGs all my life and have been shoehorning elements of them into games I’ve made over the years with lesser or more success,” he said. “I’m interested in systemic story stuff. I know Ken Levine has recently been talking about this. I have another way I want to try and do it. But I think it won’t be a game of cut scenes.”

It wasn’t until November 2016 that Project Wight was officially unveiled by its developers, showing a short gameplay video of the game:

“There are currently 12 people working at The Outsiders,” says co-founder David Goldfarb. “Our background is a pretty broad mixture of experience. Ben Cousins (co-founder) and I come from DICE, as do the other two founders.

Wight is a low fantasy RPG set in the Dark Ages, and the twist is that you play as a creature that would usually be the enemy in another game. “The player will experience life on the other side of the sword as a creature attempting to survive the extermination of its species by humanity,” says Goldfarb. “The creature starts out young and extremely vulnerable, but will eventually grow strong enough to turn the tables on its persecutors.”

One of Wight’s biggest inspirations is a book by John Gardner called Grendel. “I read it a long time ago,” says Goldfarb. “It’s Beowulf, but written from the perspective of the villain. That inversion was interesting, but it also meant something. I was always siding with the outcast.”

“There was some kind of dislocation in me it spoke to, I guess. That feeling of not understanding the world you were in, why you were there, or why things were cruel in it. And as time wore on it became clearer and clearer that there was a game there, and maybe the time had come to make it. So we did.”

Project Wight, which doesn’t even have a name yet, has a long way to go. But I’m already sold on the idea. As for what the moment-to-moment play will be like, Goldfarb stresses that team is still working hard to figure this out. “It’s too early to say, but we are definitely not making a linear experience. But how exactly that takes shape is still years away.”

Thereafter, the project became more silent. In December 2017, we learned that it would be published by Private Division, a new label from Take-Two Interactive, supposed to fund independent titles from small studios made up of industry veterans:

“We didn’t want to cede control of this thing, essentially,” says The Outsiders co-founder David Goldfarb, whose studio is publishing its first game with Private Division. “You always hope for the best, but maybe in some cases, and I know from talking to friends of mine, you lose control of the thing that you spend an enormous amount of energy and time on.” For The Outsiders, controlling its IP is essential for its other business endeavors.

After being silent throughout the entire 2018 year, the game resurfaced as Darkborn in April 2019. Gameinformer wrote a preview about it:

(…) The Darkborn may not deserve persecution, but judging by their bloodthirsty battle skills, you can see why the humans fear them. In the few fights we see in this demo, the Darkborn exact revenge on The Pale by eye-gouging, severing limbs, grisly decapitations, and even a ripping a still-beating heart from the ribcage of one unfortunate grunt. Many of these gruesome attacks are earned via Darkborn’s “death gift” system.

No matter which age your Darkborn may be, you can earn new death gifts by interacting with the dying kin you encounter in the world. In this demo, we see a few of them in action. Deep Sight operates like an investigative mode that highlights your path forward and any enemies in the vicinity. Stealth Bite gives the whelp a powerful stealth takedown. Thorn Throw gives the Darkborn a ranged attack, and the Whip Attack is an effective tool for stunning enemies before going in for the kill. (…)

However, troubles occured for the game as we learned from Gamespot in July 2019, that Private Division parted ways with The Outsiders in the end of 2018:

The game, which was re-revealed as Darkborn in April this year, is now moving ahead with a different publisher. Private Division confirmed to GameSpot that it ended its publishing arrangement with The Outsiders in 2018.

“Private Division ended our publishing agreement with The Outsiders at the end of last year,” reads a line from Private Division’s statement. “We supported the studio financially for several months after ending the deal, and we wish David Goldfarb and the rest of the talented team the very best with the game and their future endeavors.”

It is not immediately clear why Private Division and The Outsiders split up, or what financial considerations might have been in place related to the business separation. Private Division declined to share further insight on the matter, while The Outsiders CEO Anders Pettersson tells GameSpot that the Swedish studio plans to share more details “after the summer.” Also unknown is if The Outsiders will or already is seeking a new publishing arrangement, or if the studio will self-publish Darkborn.

Unfortunately, Darkborn was officially canceled in April 2020 as stated by The Outsiders on their official Twitter account:

Over the past four years we have been working on a game property we loved very much. This was once called Archenemy, became Project Wight, and finally, Darkborn.

Last April we released a gameplay trailer for Darkborn, knowing that it might be our final release. In spite of our best efforts to continue, ultimately we had to make the difficult decision to halt development on the project. Perhaps one day we will return to it: we all hope so and genuinely appreciate the support of everyone who followed us over the years.

But one door closes and another opens.

We have been working on something else.

On something new. Something awesome. Something we really love.

We look forward to being able to share it all with you.

That new project was Metal: Hellsinger released in September 2022. The Outsiders was acquired in June 2021 by Funcom. In August 2022, David Goldfarb explained a bit what went wrong during the development of Darkborn:

Speaking to NME in a recent Boss Level profile, Goldfarb said that Darkborn – which was cancelled by The Outsiders in 2020 – suffered some major issues in the development cycle, including a big change to the game’s structure.

“It didn’t start as an open world game,” shared Goldfarb. “It became one, and that’s why we got fucked. If we had done it another way, maybe we would have been okay.”

Goldfarb added that Darkborn was cancelled due to publisher Take-Two deciding to part with The Outsiders, which “couldn’t get anyone to pay what it would have cost to continue, because of a lot of complicated legality around IP ownership and the publishing rights to the game.”

“A lot of people think we made this decision to abandon that project. That’s not true, okay. We really wanted to make that game,” added Goldfarb.

Beyond publishing issues, Goldfarb said the team “never really cracked” first-person melee combat, and described it as “probably the hardest thing in the industry.”


Unknown Heroes (Mindware Studios) [PC – Cancelled]

Unknown Heroes is a canceled World War II Role-Playing Game developed by Mindware Studios, around 2005-2006, for the PC.

Very few information are currently available for this game. It was first mentionned in September 2008, on the Czech website Visiongame during an interview of Mindware’s lead designer Nikola Matoušková while talking about another cancelled project, Voodoo Nights:

V.G.: Not so long ago, Voodoo Nights was remembered in an article about canceled projects. No one really showed interest in such an interesting game?

N.M.: Many people showed interest, many publishers were even enthusiastic. But as I said before, pushing a new IP address is nearly impossible these days. Especially for a small business in the East. There were a lot of negotiations going on, but in the end, it all kind of fell apart. After a while, one of our main stakeholders came up with the game Army of Two, which had an almost identical concept. Interesting coincidence. And we had more of those irons in the fire, for example the very promising WWII epic RPG Unknown Heroes. There, too, all the negotiations kind of burned out in a weird way. Now I’m still waiting for another big publisher to unexpectedly release this game.

Years later, a low resolution gameplay video was published by one of the folks from Visiongame, showing what looked like a tactical squad based Third-Person Shooter:

During their existence, Mindware had another project that got canceled with their MMOFPS Mindhack.

If you know someone who worked on Unknown Heroes and could help us preserve more screenshots, footage or details, please let us know! 

Vatan (Fy Software) [PC – Cancelled]

Vatan is a cancelled futuristic First-Person Shooter/Role-Playing Game developed by Portuguese studio Fy Software from 2003 to 2005, exclusively for PC. Inspired by titles such as System Shock and Deus Ex, the game was set in the 23rd century after humanity colonized numerous parts of the galaxy. The player took the role of a Republic legionnaire brought to fight a rebel faction seeking independence.

Revealed in October 2004, we learned more about its features and background in December of the same year thanks to an interview led by Warcry:

“A couple hundred years from now, in this part of the galaxy…” Okay, so it’s not Star Wars. But it does have a Republic, and rebels, and a massive galactic conflict between the forces of tyranny and the champions of freedom. And personally, I’ve always been down with blowing up stuff in space.

In the dark future of 2234,” Bruno Cesteiro, of FY Software, intones in his most Lorne Greene-esque voice, “the known universe is split into two factions. On one side, there’s the Republic, a powerful economic group that wants to subjugate all the known colonies. On the other side, there’s a small group of people that we call the Rebels, that fight for freedom from the claws of the Republic.”

While it may not be the most creative backdrop for a game we’ve ever seen, it does offer an intriguing premise that promises both a strong FPS and RPG experience. Certainly not an easy task, as Cesteiro confirms. “We want to get both game types in the game,” he said, “but that’s a very hard thing to do. I’ll have to say that primarily the game is an FPS. However, the player does evolve, and does have the ability to evolve in a direction, either as a strong fighter, a computer expert, etc.” While creating a game that operates on a level comparable to System Shock or Deus Ex is bound to be difficult in myriad ways.

Technologically, Vatan will be middle of the pack. “We’re not trying to compete with million-dollar budget titles,” Cesteiro says. “Doom 3 technology using stencil shadows, per-pixel lighting, etc., won’t be in Vatan. That kind of technology doesn’t work in outdoor environments.” And while it may not be the cutting edge graphically, Vatan isn’t pulling any punches with its physics engine. “We are putting a great effort into physics. Physics in Vatan are real physics,” he went on, “with real friction and mass, and not fakes like many games do.”

The game experience is the real focus of Vatan, and it makes some pretty big promises. “The player has the ability to choose which direction his character will go,” Cesteiro says as he describes the gameplay to us. “His choices will affect the gameplay and how he completes his missions. If you are a good fighter, you can go into a room full of soldiers, kill all of them and get access to a certain location. If you are a computer expert, maybe it’s wise to avoid those folks, hack into a terminal, and open a door from there.”

FY Software is hoping to have Vatan ready to release in the first quarter of 2005, but nothing–including the publisher–is carved in stone at this point.

During the following months, communication around Vatan was essentially based on the publication of screenshots. In September 2005, Bruno Cesteiro was interviewed by Planet 3D Games:

P3G: As the project is unknown to many of our readers, could you please present your work in brief words?

B.C.: (…)The game is divided into several missions, and each mission has it’s own type, the player can be in a mission in where he doesn’t need to take a single shot, or he can be in a mission with lots of action.

P3G: Thanks for this introduction. As we know the game takes place in a futuristic 23rd century environment. Can you give us further information about the game world?

B.C.: The game world, as you know is in a distant future. Many worlds are being colonized by either the Union or by the Rebel faction.

Usually worlds that have Rebel presence are poor and under developed, structures and other facilities are constructed with raw materials that are at hand, so, there’s a mix of really old-tech with high-tech in the constructions.

Usually worlds that have a Union presence look more advanced, but it depends on the proximity of central planets.

P3G: Will the game world be level based or world based where the player has the possibility to explore a big world without have to follow a certain path?

B.C.: The game world is level based, however everything that is picked up, skills gained, etc, are transported from level to level.

P3G: What locations await the player? Can you give our readers some examples?

B.C.: We try to create a rich mix of different environments so that the player doesn’t get bored and always wanders through the same types of landscapes. Currently the game includes various tropical locations, desert regions, swamps and two different city types.

P3G: Let’s talk about the protagonist: The player will assume the role of a legionnaire who serves in a special infantry unit. How important has story design been in your development process so far, and can you tell us a bit more about the core plot? What will be the player’s primary goal and how did you come up with this idea?

B.C.: The whole plot was worked out before we actually started developing the game. All the levels have been built around this story, so it has to be said that it has played a very important role in our development work so far. The player’s task is relatively easy to describe at the beginning of the game: complete the mission that your superiors have given you. But that will change as the game progresses.

P3G: What kinds of tasks will there be to solve?

B.C.: There are basically two different types of missions: First, we have the FPS missions, where there will be a lot of action and the game will play like a shooter. The second mission type are the so-called RPG missions, in which the player is given the task of exploring an undiscovered area or solving various problems.

P3G: Can you tell us something about the actual gameplay? What things will the player be able to do in the world?

B.C.: There is a wide spectrum of challenges for the player: e.g. it will happen that he will be assigned to a whole platoon, so he is not always alone. He will be able to decide whether he prefers a frontal attack on the enemy troops, or prefers to proceed slowly and undetected. The latter option in particular offers some nice gimmicks: For example, it will be possible to throw picked up stones into a room to distract individual enemy forces in order to distract them and slowly sneak around them.

You will also be able to use vehicles or hack into computers to open bridges, for example. Many objects found throughout the game can be taken away. What is special about our object system is that each object is assigned its own physical properties. For example, it is possible to pick up a cartridge magazine, take it with you, drop it again, e.g. throw it into the water or if it is on the ground, kick it.

P3G: Apart from the inventory, what specific RPG elements will be included in the finished game and will they affect the gameplay?

B.C.: There will be several elements that may change as development progresses. As of this writing, the skills are: Hacking, Charisma, Strength, Agility, Sneak, Vehicles, and Weapons. Each of these skills has an impact on how the player can solve a mission.

For example, he may find a vehicle in a mission but his vehicle skill is not yet high enough to use it. As a result, he cannot use it and must complete the mission on foot. If he finds a weapon extension and the player mounts it on one of his weapons, it is also possible that his weapon skill is still relatively low and the extension is not bringing the maximum possible benefit.

P3G: What types of weapons will the player be able to use?

B.C.: There are different weapon systems that the player can use. Each weapon can also be improved with various upgrades such as a telescope, an improved aiming chip or a grenade launcher. Of course, the same applies here as in the previous example: In order to be able to assemble such objects, a certain skill is required. Speaking of items, it should be mentioned that there are also a large number of other types: e.g. repair kits to repair the weapons, binoculars or various explosives.

Unfortunately, the project vanished after this, as it was clear that its developer didn’t manage to secure a publisher. Vatan was quietly cancelled and Fy Software shutted down not so long after its cancellation.

Bruno Cesteiro, alongside his brother Ricardo, founded in 2009 Camel 101 and are still active in the video game industry to this day. In 2010, while promoting their next game, Gemini Wars, Destructoid spoke to them about their journey. Vatan was briefly mentionned:

The three core team members started out years ago by working on an FPS game, which later evolved into a creating an engine called the ‘Vatan game engine’ from scratch. Together they managed to get the Vatan engine to win a games competition in Portugal back in 2006, and it inspired them to become more serious about game development.




Worlds of Ultima III: Arthurian Legends (Origin Systems) [PC – Cancelled]

The Worlds of Ultima series (an offshoot of the main series Ultima) died after the first two parts – Savage Empire (1990) and Martian Dreams (1991) – fell short of their expectations. However, the idea of independent stories still attracted Origin, which resulted in the emergence of Arthurian Legends. The project, in general, was doomed from the very beginning – it was not possible to find a publisher for it after the failure of “Worlds …”.

Nevertheless, the Origin staff continued to work on it. First, the work was supervised by Richard Garriott, then by Warren Spector. Unlike most other Camelot games, the Arthurian Legends strictly followed the writings of Thomas Malory and Chrétien de Troyes (medieval writers, authors of books about King Arthur). But the game formally had nothing to do with the Worlds of Ultima.

From wiki.ultimacodex.com:

Arthurian Legends was to be set in ancient England, in a world based on the actual legends about King Arthur. Some of the sources used included Knight of the Cart by Chretien de Troyes, and Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. The player would be in charge of trying to find the missing King Arthur and to fix the problems currently plaguing Camelot. Though the initial idea was for the player’s alter ego to be one of the twelve knights of the Round Table, this was eventually changed for the player to create his own avatar. Several well-known characters were going to make appearances, including Sir Pelenor, Sir Gawain, Melora, Sir Mordred, Morgana, Lancelot, Guinevere and Arthur.

The game was going to include some of the bloodier elements from the legends, such as a giant cannibal that was praying on the children from a local village. However, the search for the Grail was not to be included, as the team felt it had already been played out too many times. Other quests included curing Sir Pellinore from a blindness inflicted to him by an evil mage, and a maze of moving thorn hedges.

What is funny, after the end of the series, the Origin staff jokingly drew a silhouette in front of the office with chalk on the ground, as they do with corpses, and hung a sign “The King is Dead” next to it. The next day, flowers appeared under it.

Information is taken from «Игромания» magazine, 03 (114) 2007 

Magic Shop Tycoon 2 (Gameneo) [Nintendo DS – Cancelled]

Magic Shop Tycoon 2 is a cancelled RPG / simulation that was in development by Gameneo around 2005, planned to be released on Nintendo DS. By looking at the available screenshot we assume gameplay would have been similar to “Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale”, with players taking the role of a shopkeeper selling magic and other items to adventurers. It seems you could create new magic spells and test them against monsters before selling them to the heroes.

We are not sure about what happened to this lost project and by searching online we cannot find any info about the first “Magic Shop Tycoon” nor Gameneo. As the language in these screenshots looks Korean, could they have been an obscure Korean game studio? If you could find something more about Magic Shop Tycoon 2 or its creators, please let us know in the comments below!