During the development of Darktide we’ve gone through several iterations on the world of Aeloria and its inhabitants. So I wanted to take the time to explain our process and inspiration, how decisions have been made, and some of our lore and gameplay ideas.
The world of Aeloria had to be different. Our mantra from day one was to stay away from the standard fantasy tropes and races, and create our own world from the ground up.
We didn’t want a black and white setting. We didn’t want good vs evil. We didn’t want humans vs orcs. Those things had already been done, and quite well I might add.
Allowing the player to make choices that impact both the campaign and the world itself, in both minor and major ways, is an important part of our design. An example would be the death of a main character because your clan lost a battle trying to save them, or distrust being sewn between allied factions due to your choices and actions.
This would have been much harder for us, as well as limiting, if we had gone with a standard high fantasy design. There are many tropes and stereotypes that we wanted to completely avoid, such as elves and dwarves being allies, but not on the best of terms, or humans being the shining example of power and nobility.
We wanted to let the player decide which races and factions have views they align with, as our plan for the campaign has always been to offer the ability to play through from the perspective of either faction. During a campaign you could fight alongside the Aduro and Dvergar, or raid their cities as the Shade or Az’modai. The choice is completely up to you.
Another main objective for us was to create an art style that really defined the dark world we had envisioned, and in doing so we wanted to fill the world with unique inhabitants from a visual standpoint. At the same time, we didn’t want to completely alienate the player, so we included some races that people are a little more accustomed to seeing, but with our own take on them. An example would be the Dvergar, who combine a mix of dwarven and viking style and culture.
The races evolved over time. In the beginning some of the races were generic fill-ins that we wanted to flesh out down the road. A great example of this would be the Shade, which we had penciled in as being some type of undead race, with the assumption of using more common spirits and skeletal creatures. During production this was completely changed.
They were once humans; exiled by the Aduro for refusing the edict of Pyros, and continuing to practice necromancy. Their experiments with the dark facet of the Mägi twisted them, as they bound the spirits of the fallen to disparate mortal remains. Now the horrific creatures known as the Shade are all that exist.
The world is currently comprised of two loosely-knit factions, with each race having an ever-changing view of their enemies, as well as allies. Throughout the campaign as your reputation increases some allies will become closer, based on your choices and the outcomes of battle, although failing to provide help makes the opposite occur.
If you choose to defend the Dvergar stronghold of Icewatch, rather than heading into the swamps with the Caelum to push back the Reptilis, your reputation will change accordingly. If you repel the attackers from Icewatch the Dvergar will see you as a hero, and on the other hand if the Cealum were to lose their battle you would be seen as the cause, or at least a factor. Also if you were to fail in achieving the goal of the scenario Icewatch may fall, or the Reptilis may push you back into the forest, but your reputation will still increase slightly.
The Mystic Covenant is comprised of the Aduro, Dvergar, Sylvan, and Caelum. The Aduro and Dvergar have been allies since The Culling, the period of time when the Aduro came into power and banished those who would not swear fealty to the order. Originally they were seen as a threat, by the Sylvan and their allies the Caelum, as they continued to expand their borders further south into the woodlands.
This was known as the Age of Expansion, and many battles were fought between the two groups. During this time various races began appearing, and both groups were now being attacked and pillaged by many others denizens across Aeloria. This resulted in the creation of an alliance, with compromises being made on both sides, in order to protect their people and interests from a greater peril.
The Shadowlord Pact. Comprised of the Shade, Lithos, Reptilis, and Az’modai; the pact joined together to ravage the land, steal precious resources, and exact revenge on ancient enemies. Some of them, such as the Az’modai, were creatures of legend who had never been seen by a living soul.
The Shade were originally humans banished from the Aduro nation, and through necromancy have transformed themselves into powerful beasts. This occurred during their exile, when they ventured into the ruins of the old world, as they continued to study the dark facets of the Mägi. Their experiments have led them to weaving the elemental and death aspects of the Mägi, once thought by scholars to be impossible.
The Lithos are mortal beings carved from solid stone, with corruption and dark magic coursing through their bodies, rumored to have been created by the Shade. Originally they were thought to be creatures summoned from another world in order to battle the Aduro, but over time they showed they were much more than simple summons or pets. They began to rise in numbers, and form strategic attacks on both Aduro and Dvergar strongholds, wielding unprecedented strength and dominion over the elemental forces of the Mägi.
The emergence of the Az’modai had been told in prophecies. Archaic texts have described them as wild beasts wielding great power, emerging from the barren wastes of Bak’nael to wreak havoc on the world. They were once enemies of the Reptilis, but for reasons unknown they joined together and began raiding villages and ransacking the forest.
These two groups warred between each other, even while attacking the same enemies, until the great battle where they encountered an allied front. The members of the Mystic Covenant slaughtered them in droves, and pushed them back from the New World, the term used to describe the shared territory of the Covenant.
The Shade saw this as an opportunity. They approached the leaders of each race offering a pact, in which each member would obtain exactly what they wanted before disbanding the accord. The Shade would have revenge on the Aduro, the Lithos would gain control of the mines and mountain regions, the Reptilis would destroy their ancient enemy the Caelum, and the Az’modai would burn the woodlands to expand their territory, along with bringing sacrificial prisoners to their desert lairs.
Clans and kingdoms began to war over the precious resource auralite, rare crystals that have been infused with the power of the Mägi, in order to gain power and achieve the goals of their alliance. The mines are being raided, trade between allies has been disrupted, and the balance of power is constantly moving back and forth between the factions.
This is where the campaign begins. The player can join either faction, and fight alongside them in order to gain power and change the course of history. You can play through a second time as the opposite faction, and various stories and outcomes from your previous campaign will exist throughout the storyline.
This post has barely scratched the surface on our world and gameplay design. There are still a ton of components that I haven’t gone over, as I didn’t want a single article to drag on or become a novel, but I’ll be following this up with more articles as a monthly series.
The Mägi is a magical force in Aeloria, but what is the system and how does it work?
What is auralite and why are the kingdoms fighting over it?
What are the major deities and what role do they play in the world?
How did we come up with the design of the environment?
We've talked about races, but what about the actual classes?
I hope I’ve given a little more insight into our project and how it is being created. In the next article I’ll be talking about the magic system, how the Mägi came to be, and how it is used by the various magic users in Aeloria.
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