Stingbot Games, a developer out of Lafayette, CA, is releasing their new action/platform title The Forbidden Arts onto Steam Early Access today. The Forbidden Arts is an action adventure platformer being developed for eventual release on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
This action packed side-scroller focuses on an orphan named Phoenix, who experiences an awakening and finds himself imbued with pyromancy powers. As the game progresses, Phoenix learns new spells and becomes more powerful in his ultimate mission to defeat an evil necromancer.
Many of the magical concepts in the game are based on ideas that originated in the Renaissance. The various schools of magic represented in the game are Pyromancy, Hydromancy, Geomancy, Aeromancy, Enchantment, Chiromancy, and Necromancy. Each school of magic has been given its own history and lore in The Forbidden Arts, giving the world a particularly rich backdrop for an action platformer. On Stingbot’s official development blog, CEO Sterling Selover writes: “I began searching the internet for information about Pyromancy and discovered it was a form of Renaissance magic. The more I read about Renaissance magic I became intrigued with the concept. I decided that I wanted to create a story based on the inclusion of all different types of Renaissance magic, however some of these forms of magic have been modified to fit the game better. For instance, scapulimancy had been changed to enchantment to suit the fantasy theme of the game, as divination by use of shoulder blades didn’t really fit the bill for what I was envisioning. The concept of The Forbidden Arts is merely inspired by true Renaissance magic.”
Stingbot granted me early-Early Access to The Forbidden Arts, and so far, I have enjoyed my time with it. Sure, it has its fair share of bugs, but this is an Early Access title. Bugs are part of the fun. Overall, I’ve gotten a kick out of the light tone and the surprisingly deep level design. The music is pretty great too. Levels in The Forbidden Arts are full of branching routes and hidden secrets. They encourage exploration, as collectables and alternate routes are scattered liberally about. The levels are also quite beautiful, and the artwork gives a modern look and sensibility to what might be considered a retro game.
While the core of the game is a 2D side-scroller, the world map/hub is rendered in 3D. This lends a nice sense of variety to the game as the player transitions between levels. “I wanted to change up the feel of The Forbidden Arts a little bit when you are on the world map,” writes Selover. “I like splitting the control style between 2d and 3d. Although the main emphasis is 2d and I absolutely love the work we’ve done in the levels, the 3D exploration on the world map does shake things up a bit and adds a level of depth to the game.”
What is ready to go for Early Access? According to the Steam game page: “The initial release in Early Access offers two overworlds for the player to explore, and all levels within these overworlds. The first overworld is The Green Vale and includes access to Korrath Village, Korrath Woods, and the first Spirit Challenge level. The second overworld is Black Fang Pass and includes access to the Abandoned Mines, the Geomancer's lair, the Hives, the Palace of the Hives, and the second and third Spirit Challenge levels.
You begin the game being able to dual wield a set of daggers. As you progress through the story, Phoenix will learn how to summon and control unique abilities of fire. In addition, you will battle a variety of enemies including assassins, bears, wolves, giant spiders, bixies, gnolls and more.
Access to the third overworld, The Northern Wastes, is blocked off during the initial release, but is planned to be opened in the first major content update.”
I have long been curious about the process that studios employ when putting a game into Early Access. How do they communicate with their community? What methods do studios use to cut through all the noise? How do the community’s suggestions and observations get taken into consideration when working though a game’s final form? How willing are studios to change key game elements when the community determines that they aren’t working out?
Stingbot Games has agreed to allow Gaming Nexus to follow along with the journey of The Forbidden Arts as the game and company move through the Early Access process. We will be touching base with them throughout the coming year to gain insight into what it is like to set a game free in the world before it is polished and finalized.
Stingbot is a great company to observe as they move through the Early Access program, as they have already taken a very transparent approach to game development. The blog on Stingbotgames.com reveals an openness that many companies do not have when developing a title. It is a rich resource, tracking the ideation of the game, the design process, the development of music and trailers, and even programming and animation tips for prospective game developers.
I hope that readers will join Gaming Nexus in tracking The Forbidden Arts through the next year as it approaches final release.