[dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]e all love Team Fortress, Battlefield’s conquest mode, and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. If I told you there was a game that took the class based combat from Team Fortress, the push and pull combat from Battlefield, and the combat from Chivalry, but it also added interesting lore and class based Ki powers I’m sure you jump for joy so hard you would crack your head on the ceiling. Before you have to call a new roofer let me tell you why this mixing of game ideas might not be as good as it seems.
First let me talk about the game in question. Hanako – Soul of the Samurai is an artistic 3rd person online strategic hack and slash battle game that takes place in feudal Japan, now that’s a mouth full. Which leads me to a key problem about this Kickstarter: It is spread thinner than the last spoon full of peanut butter on a mile long piece of bread.
Let’s talk about gameplay. Hanako hopes to mix 3rd person class based hack and slash with push and pull combat flow with a dash of tactical combat. I love the idea of skillfully slicing through my enemies to capture a statue but then all of a sudden a ninja jumps down from a nearby roof and springs his clever fire trap on me. The problem with that is clever traps usually never have the desired effect in gameplay because a clever trap is only clever when the other player doesn’t know they are there and in the gameplay trailer the trap they used, dried tall grass set on fire by a flaming arrow, is obvious and easily avoidable. And if the trap is easily hidden then it becomes too powerful and players over use it. The push and pull mechanic (that’s when both teams push and pull each other toward and away from their bases on a semi-linear map) of Hanako sounds pretty solid though, and with the swords, arrows, and ninjas it could be cool if done properly. Next there is the 3rd person camera angle and this will neither save nor condemn the game. A 3rd person camera angle is good because it lets the player see their surroundings without having to turn their character to do so, but in Hanako the 3rd person camera is a double edged sword. While it lets the players see the beautiful aesthetics of the game it also lets them see traps which are supposed to be hard to see. This brings me the game’s biggest flaw: It is being pulled in too many directions.
Hanako has a ton of amazing ideas – cool strategy, beautiful graphics, and semi-linear competitive maps – but because it promises all those things I don’t think it’ll have the ability to do any of those things incredibly well. For instance let’s take the strategy. As I said earlier, the trap in the gameplay trailer was tall dried grass and while it worked in the trailer it wouldn’t work in an online game because players can see it easily and avoid it easily. This could be fixed or other environmental traps could be put in its place, but then what about balancing the traps and balancing each classes ability to use the traps? In online games balancing is everything, and when developers have to endlessly balance classes it could become a time drain that takes away their ability to work on other aspects of the game like art or lore; aspects the developers say they want to expand on. For a game with a relatively modest budget this may be too much to take on.
With classes, long semi-linear maps, traps, balancing, art, and lore it seems plain to see that Hanako is being pulled in many directions and has fallen for a trap many Kickstarter developers fall for: they have promised the world, but will likely only be able to deliver an island.
Update 4/4 : I received a note from Matt Canei, creative director of Hanako concerning some concerns with the article. Here are the points he makes regarding a number of my call-outs:
The push-pull is not a combat style for our game. Our campaign refers to a conditional map cycle. If Team A wins, Map X loads next, if Team B wins Map Y loads next. Our game has 4 game modes which are derivitives of TDM, CTF, Siege, Capture. The campaign is designed with a central battlefield map, with 3 maps on either side to even out the above scenario.
Our maps are more open and designed with messaging to steer players towards objectives or areas designed for larger fights, with secondary areas like the falling petals/shrine areas for healing, they’re not designed to be linear.
If game comparisons have to be used, with the above clarifications, really our game is like the combat of a Jedi Knight 2 w/ the class-based of TF2. It draws Chivalry comparisons a lot because its Feudal theme so I get that.
Traps aren’t as much of a primary mechanic nor do we describe them this way. Combat is incredibly more primary. The video shows rough examples of how it might be used. From the gameplay side, flammable cover and concealing in foliage (which in the video we had the character stand outside so you could see, you can conceal within, in-game). With it being so secondary, its an odd focus for most of the article.
The game has been through 7 years of design revisions (started as a college project) and has been scanned for scope and re-scaled a few times, we know we can deliver the current design.
Our Kickstarter page is full of current screenshots/imagery, most of the screens in the article are 6 months old or older, some aspects of the game look drastically better presently, the first image is a joke image for example. I’d hope this was a result of time limitations..
Because the game is pre-alpha some of the design just isn’t there, there’s no way to show it, so in areas we had to prototype it or set design it for video.