Today, Japanese mobile games company DeNA annonces a new game in partnership with PlatinumGames. It's called World of Demons, and it's billed as a hardcore hack-n-slash game no different from any other Platinum game. Well, aside from the fact that it's on mobile.
At this year's GDC I got a chance to see a hands-off demo of World of Demons with project owner and producer Andrew Szymanski at DeNA. You might know DeNA as the mobile partner on Nintendo's own mobile games. One of the things he wanted to show me early on was how much of a true Platinum, hack-n-slash experience this was even on a mobile device. "It's not good for a mobile game," said Szymanski. "We don't want any qualifiers or compromises."
World of Demons is influenced by traditional Japanese folklore and the demonic yokai. The art style is heavily influenced by the Yokai encyclopedias of Japanese artist Toriyama Sekien way back from the 18th century. In that vein, the art style is reminiscent of the traditional Japanese ink-brush art not that dissimilar to Okami, albeit with a darker aesthetic.
The demo was unfortunately hands-off. Instead, Szymanski played the game in real-time. Based on what I saw, the combat seemed fluid and fast, though without having actually had any hands-on time I can't tell you how the controls feel. I know that the controls feature a full 360-degree freedom of movement, and I'm told that the controls were engineered from the ground-up for touch devices. "No compromises, and no dumbing down due to the platform," according to DeNA.
The combat appeared to be centered in enclosed stages rather than an open-world. Players can choose one of the several characters available to them, each with a unique weapon and playstyle, and basically engage in arena combat with waves.
Seeing Szymanski play World of Demons in front of me I can get the sense that the game is, at first-glance, more in-depth than your typical mobile game. There are combos, alternate weapons that players can switch out mid-combat, and it looks actually pretty hard. Szymanski died a couple of times during the demo, but from what I saw it was due to the actual enemy strength rather than flubbing up on the controls.
One of the strategic elements in the game involves elemental weakness. Some Yokai are weak to specific elements like fire, water, air, etc. and players will need to switch between the various equipped elemental powers to deal any kind of effective damage. Juggling between the elements looked more challenging than it was worth however, but I have to admit it spiced up the gameplay.
What's more, I noticed that the enemies weren't formulaic. The same combo doesn't work on every enemy, and one of the big features of the game is the variation in enemy sizes. Some monsters are small and rely on mobbing the player, while bosses can take up the whole screen and still move around a 360-degree axis.
World of Demons is being developed to support a long shelf life. To that end, there are RPG-elements in the game including weapon crafting, stat upgrades for your customizable samurai characters, and a yokai collecting mechanic.
Szymanski made it clear that DeNA and PlatinumGames wants this to be a fully-fleshed game. World of Demons avoids some common mobile mechanics like stamina meters that lock out players after a certain period until it can recharge. "We've removed most of the mechanics that a lot of Japanese mobile games use that we feel are either obtuse or just not well-known," something Szymanski says plays to the game's global audience-first approach to marketing.
Interestingly enough, Szymanski couldn't comment on whether this game will be the first one Platinum releases suggesting that we might see more from the developer in the mobile space. However, that still makes World of Demons one of Platinum's first mobile forays.
World of Demons is scheduled for release sometime in 2018 with iOS devices getting the game first.