Thanks to the Game Awards there’s been a flood of video game related news coming out lately. I’ve been as enthralled with the new AAA trailers and announcements as the next guy, but the one I’m most excited about is much smaller and was probably overlooked by many: Campo Santo has officially announced their next title, “In the Valley of Gods”.
Some of you may not know Campo Santo by name, but you might know them by reputation: they’re the studio responsible for creating “Firewatch”, the indie walking simulator that won critical acclaim when it launched early in 2016. Despite having a controversial ending the game (where you assume the role of middle-aged firewatcher “Henry” as he protects a patch of forest and deals with personal drama) ended up being quite popular in indie and Let’s Play circles. Full disclosure here: Firewatch is one of my favorite games, so I may be a bit biased in its favor. That bias is the main reason I’m so stoked about this new announcement.
So what does the announcement actually reveal? Sadly, not much. We know that In the Valley of Gods is set in the 1920’s and that you and your partner are explorers and filmmakers attempting to explore ancient Egyptian ruins in the hope of creating some kind of movie. The game is a first person adventure, but it’s unclear if it’s another “environmental narrative” story like Firewatch or if it’s going to include more traditional and interactive gameplay elements. The studio has also declared an estimated release date for PC to be some time in 2019 and claims they “haven’t ruled out” a console launch.
The announcement also included a trailer. In it we seem the same gorgeous cartoony TF2-ish art style that made everyone fall in love with Firewatch, this time applied to a sparse but beautiful desert setting. The trailer seems to heavily emphasize working closely with your partner (more on her in a minute) by helping each other climb obstacles and carry equipment. Speaking of equipment, the trailer also seemed oddly preoccupied with the leather satchel you carry your movie camera in, showing it being handled with care in several shots. In my opinion this seems to imply the camera and its bag will be involved in a key gameplay mechanic somehow, but it’s hard to tell these things from a single teaser trailer.
Let’s move back to your partner for a second. During Firewatch’s development, the studio went on record saying that they were uncomfortable animating something as complex as a human being, and that was the chief reason why you almost never see another person in the game. (Of course, for Firewatch that worked highly to their advantage, since isolation was a core theme of the story.) But now with In the Valley of Gods, we see a fully animated character that seems to feature *very* heavily in the gameplay. Looking at the character in the trailer it’s hard to see what Campo Santo was afraid of: the model is animated wonderfully and has a very “Pixar”-like style which fits perfectly with the rest of the environment. Did the studio hire a new artist for the game with more experience with human models, or do they simply just have more confidence now?
Either way, she and the rest of the game look fantastic. I’ll be watching this title closely over the coming year or so and can’t wait to hear more details.