Soulslikes are like, so in right now. Truthfully I don't remember when they weren't in, so it's nice when one comes along that has a slightly different vibe than just doom, gloom and big swords. Tails Of Iron has doom, gloom, big-ish swords and a rat kingdom that's been overthrown by frogs. Lead designer at developers Odd Bug Studio, Jack Bennett, tells me the frogs are the bad guys because "obviously frogs have this innate evil-ness to them", which is a statement and a half to say to someone who quite likes frogs.
Bennett also told me a bit about what it was like working with Doug Cockle (voice actor of Geralt in The Witcher series) who narrates this game, their plans for more stories in the Tails Of Iron world, and why he thinks the genre is so popular. But honestly, I'm a little hung up on why he thinks frogs are evil, so we'll get to all that in a bit.
"We wanted a goblin-like creature, and obviously frogs have this innate evil-ness to them hiding in swamps and jumping out on you," Bennett tells me. I bet he wouldn't say that to Kermit's face, but here we are.
Bennet describes Tails Of Iron as "Redwall meets Game Of Thrones". It's set in a dark fantasy world where rats and frogs are at each other's throats, and if you'd like to hear about how it plays, Alice Bee has some good things to say about it in her Tails Of Iron preview.
"We like the juxtaposition of this cutesy world with this darkness to it, like a Grimms fairytale," Bennett says. "We want people to be drawn in by the rat with the little sword because he's quite cute, and then he's cutting a frog's head off."
Odd Bug's plan with Tails Of Iron is to create a number of games set in the same world, following different characters and different stories. But this one follows Redgi, a rat who's fighting to get his kingdom and family back, and taking part in some tough and bloody combat on the way. The team decided on the "brutal" soulslike style because they like the idea of giving players a level of challenge that drives them to continue.
"That feeling of learning an enemy's attack patterns, studying the enemy and understanding how you can react to it is rewarding," Bennett says. "We're really inspired by things like The Witcher, God Of War and Dark Souls, and we want you to feel like you're immersed in the world, so if you really understand the mechanics you're really going to enjoy more of it."
Most of the game is set in medieval European-inspired castles, dungeons, wilderness and the like, though Bennet tells me there are places and factions that haven't been shown off quite so much.
"There's an area underground with another little faction in it that... you can probably guess from it being underground," he says. "I think players aren't gonna expect that, once they get there and see the version of civilization they have, I think they'll be quite surprised."
Or, er, less surprised now, maybe. Hey, they might not be what we all think it's gonna be! Maybe it's those aliens that live underground in Pitch Black. Now that would be a surprise.
As well as exploration, darkness and difficult duels, Tails Of Iron will have you cooking and smithing, amongst other things, all the while listening to the dulcet tones of the one true Geralt Of Rivia, Doug Cockle, narrating your tale.
"We'd like our game to have as few words as possible, so we want everyone to be able to understand it through the visuals rather than try to read loads of text," Bennett tells me. "The thing with Doug's voice is as soon as you hear it in the game you instantly recognise you're in for this dark fairytale story.
"It was funny because he's so good at what he does that a lot of the time he would smash through his lines and we'd end up sat there chatting with him and asking questions about The Witcher, which I'm sure he found very annoying, but he's really nice."
Bennett adds that they'd like to get another cool voice actor for future games in the Tails Of Iron world, though it's a little too soon to talk about those just yet. He says they have stories and characters ready to go, and they've already signed another contract, though it'll likely be a while before we hear about that one.
He does tell me about one boss character we might see in the future, who unfortunately didn't quite make the cut for Tails Of Iron due to time restraints getting the AI to work properly.
"His name was Boggy Smalls," Bennett tells me. "He was this big toad with a little toad riding on his back. It might get moved into another game, hopefully. There's definitely lots of bits that have been cut that we'd like to bring back in the future."
All that will be a ways away yet though, because Tails Of Iron isn't even out yet. It's set to release on September 17th, and you can find it on Steam.