Arkane Studios has moved beyond the need for linear level design

Arkane Studios campaign director Dana Nightingale said in a recent interview that he will likely never make another game based on linear level design. That means older games like Dishonored that often separate their campaigns with distinct locations and settings are left behind, with more experimental titles like Deathloop and Redfall set to set the path forward.

Some reacted to this statement with disappointment, perhaps hoping that the renowned fantasy world-building studio would stay focused on creating environments that we can get lost in for hours on end and move forward at our own pace instead of allowing multiplayer mechanisms or emerging open games. global gameplay dictates the proceedings. I understand that apprehension, but it also seems to misunderstand that Arkane’s design philosophy has never wavered, even as it moves to new pastures under Microsoft ownership.

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Arkane has evolved since the release of Dishonored, Deathloop and Redfall acting as a natural evolution of its core values ​​that never once give up what makes its games so damn special. Sure, I’d still love to see the studio create immersive untethered sims like Prey that cast us as lone protagonists taking on the world with unprecedented freedom to explore, but to see that formula translated into new genres with so much refreshing ideas and mechanics is equally exciting, even if it’s not for everyone.

Take Deathloop, for example. This time-loop shooter tasks the player with taking out a large number of targets in one consistent run, with two errors returning you to the start. But your progress is never in vain. Each failure brings with it vital lessons and increased knowledge of the world around you that can be applied over and over again until you finally achieve victory. Each part of Blackreef Island begins as a mystery that you slowly but surely unravel before becoming a master of the landscape.


Although the opening hours can be frustrating, I think that’s the whole point. This mirrors Colt’s own disposition, with the protagonist becoming more confident as he learns the nature of time manipulation and how he can afford to die again and again if it allows him to become a better killer. Nothing is more satisfying than learning enemy positions and dancing through a fortress that once seemed impossible to conquer.

You can tackle all of these targets in your own way, but digging up objectives through exploration and engaging with specific sets can help match the aura of discovery found in Prey or Dishonored, albeit on a scale. much more kinetic. The quietly apocalyptic beauty of Prey is traded for an art deco bloodbath of vibrant rage, but the gameplay adapts to this shift in tone to help create something masterful. Arkane may have changed when it started making games unlike anything we’ve seen before, but that creativity hasn’t gone away and we should embrace the future instead of mourning the past.


This brings us to Redfall, which is yet another huge change. Gone are the time-consuming co-op shenanigans, and comes a larger multiplayer shooter focused on vampire hunting and looks damn good doing it. You can now team up with three friends as separate characters, each with unique skills and abilities. On the surface, it appears to be a much more traditional shooter, but even in recent gameplay clips, it’s clear that Arkane’s signature flair lurks beneath the surface.

It can be played on its own, and it looks like the whole city will be explorable as you fight enemies, uncover secrets, and gather valuable nuggets of knowledge. It’s Left 4 Dead but with real substance, and a reason to abandon the beaten path in favor of hidden secrets. Yes, I know it’s not a linear immersive sim and leans even further in a direction that many of us feared, but it’s important not to judge a book by its cover, or downplay the level of talent that this studio has exuded from time to time again as it subverts our expectations.


I miss the old Arkane and would give anything for Dishonored 3 or Prey 2 if they sought to build on the immersive simulation roots of which this development house has become the undisputed master. But I also look forward to more experimental games, and how he’s given the resources to create them on such a large scale without compromise. It worked with Deathloop despite my initial doubts, and I’d be foolish to waste the chance for another surprise with the same level of brilliance. Arkane is changing, but it’s still one of the best studios working today and we’d be fools to overlook them because we’re afraid to move on.

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Helen L. Cuellar