Dark Fairy Tale Platformer Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries Arrives on Kickstarter
At the end of June, Belgian studio GRIN unveiled the first look at its upcoming 2.5D side-scrolling platformer, Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries. As the name subtly suggests, Woolfe uses the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood as its backdrop, but adds a dark fantasy twist. "Following the death of her father, Red dons a cape, picks up an axe and faces her worst fears in a bloody vendetta against the evil B.B. Woolfe, CEO of Woolfe Industries." No, this is most certainly not the Little Red Riding Hood story you grew up with.
As announced back during that June unveil, Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries will be playable for the first time publicly at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany from August 13-17. In fact, according to GRIN, "the core gameplay is already in place," so why the need to turn to crowdfunding? The answer is cliche, but important nonetheless: to make it even better.
While at this point much of the core gameplay is in place and with the current funding at our disposal, we could continue through development as-is. But, we want Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries to be something truly special. Kickstarter gives us the opportunity to include some excellent features that would otherwise have to be sacrificed and the opportunity for our supporters to (quite literally) be a part of the game.
Before we get into what the Kickstarter funding will allow the studio to accomplish, let's first delve into what the game entails. GRIN broke the game down to five core features: 2.5D action-platforming; fast, axe-wielding combat with skillfully executed combos (mindless hack-'n'-slash this is not); deranged fairy tale bosses, such as The Pied Piper, a monstrous Pinocchio, and a Creeping Beauty; a rich, visual experience inspired by Tim Burton and Dutch painter Anton Pieck; and a twisted fairy tale story. Over the course of the adventure, players will navigate across four main environments: The City, The Forest, The Mines, and The Factory. Each locale will not only offer a unique aesthetic, but of course unique enemies to overcome, like scary fairies or evil dwarves.
A successful Kickstarter campaign will allow GRIN to add two additional key features. The first is having Red Riding Hood harness magical abilities, "blessed with superhuman skills that help her overcome opponents" instead of simply having her relying on her axe. Four such abilities GRIN would like to include are: Animal Instinct, providing heightened senses, such as vision and smell, that help you detect environmental clues; Shadow Trance, which allows you to submerge in your surroundings and become almost invisible; Smoke Teleport, which allows you to disappear and reappear at a different location, even moving through objects and closed doors; and Wolf Power, containing a set of attack modes using a mystical shadow wolf. Most importantly, GRIN doesn't want to just tack these powers on, but rather seamlessly integrate them into the game, "ensur[ing] that magic is incorporated into level designs, enemy encounters, puzzles and the story in ways that feel natural and exciting to the player." This means extra challenges and workload for the writing department, programming and level design, and of course the concept art and 3D modelling department.
The second major feature GRIN plans on adding is one of the coolest things I've ever seen a Kickstarter campaign promise – every single backer actually having a personalized part in the game. If you watched the trailer, you probably noticed that Red Riding Hood has to fight her way past thousands of Toy Soldiers in the game. At the moment, each Toy Soldier has the same generic stats; rather boring. Instead of GRIN tweaking or randomizing each Toy Soldier on its own, the studio is going to put that power in the hands of every single backer. Everyone backing the game will receive access to the Online Toy Soldier Editor, providing each backer with his or her own "in-game enemy to pimp and personalize." Not only is your creation guaranteed to be encountered somewhere within your game, but every other Toy Soldier you encounter will be some other backer's creation. "Every time your soldier is victorious against Little Red Riding Hood or gets killed the stats will be logged. Your soldier will receive skill points for every battle he fights and a bonus for every battle he wins." You'll then be able to log into the Editor and spend your skill points to buff up health, strength, speed, aggression, evasion, and armor. As such, every time you do so, you're strengthening the Woolfe Army and thus gradually making the game harder for everyone playing, including yourself. If that's not worth the minimum $15 pledge, I don't know what is!
While those two additional features are certainly reason enough for the Kickstarter campaign, the extra funding will of course also be used to improve the quality of the game. The two main areas of attention will be combat and animation – creating "smarter AI and more realistic and challenging combat/combo experiences" and hiring a talented professional to rework the in-game animations and cut-scenes. GRIN provided a pie chart that breaks down where the money would go, with nearly half focused on some aspect of magic and a quarter going toward the "quality upgrade."
While GRIN plans to eventually bring the game to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the initial launch platform for Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries is PC via Steam. The game was greenlit after just five days, so Steam is already a guarantee, and that is the key backers will receive. The studio still has to figure out the logistics of console download keys, but stated that, "if it is possible, you will receive a console version too (when released)." Only Windows support is guaranteed, but the studio will look into supporting Mac as well, if it doesn't prove too difficult; Linux is out of the question though, due to the use of Unreal Engine 3. The current time table is that Woolfe enters Closed Beta this September, with the full PC Steam release planned for Q1 2015. The console release would then follow in Q2 2015.
As stated earlier, the minimum pledge is $15 ($10 via early bird), which grants you a copy of the game upon release and the Toy Soldier Editor. If you'd like Closed Beta access, that starts at $50 and up, while Alpha access starts at $100 and up. There are of course a lot of other tiers in between and after, so take a look to see which one appeals to you the most. If you're on the fence, set a reminder and come back to it after we get some impressions from gamers at Gamescom next week. I'm certainly looking forward to learning more!
Source: Press Release and Kickstarter