The Souls-like genre has never been bigger following the release of Elden Ring, and yet it feels like only a select couple of games are primed and ready to capitalise on the increased interest now excitement surrounding the FromSoftware great has dropped off. Thymesia and Steelrising are two examples, and 2D title Moonscars looks ready to be next.
To learn more about the debut project, we caught up with Black Mermaid leads Andriy Moroz (game designer), Ștefan Semionov (art director), and Alexandru Romanciuc (lead programmer) ahead of its PS5, PS4 launch on 27th September 2022.
Push Square: For those who don't know, could you introduce Moonscars? What sort of game is it and what inspired you to make it?
Moonscars is a 2d non-linear souls-like Metroidvania game. It focuses on combat with fast-paced, responsive gameplay and smooth animations, set in a grim, dark, painterly world.
As the team's debut game, what were some of the challenges you faced? Did you encounter any unexpected problems during development?
As a newly formed team and a first game, we certainly encountered lots of challenges. I think one of the biggest was that we did not properly account for the time and iterations it would take us before we felt we had a solid foundation to continue building upon.
On the art side, the high-frame animations required lots of work and were a difficult part to get done.
Looking back, it was a wild ride not only because it was our very first game and we had to learn many things on the go, but also because taking on such a project was very ambitious for our small team, considering that, for the better part of the project, we were three full-time people developing it.
The game's most striking aspect is probably its art style. How did you settle upon this particular look, and did it go through many revisions?
Thanks! We actually didn’t have many iterations on the style. Visually, we took inspiration from the Dutch oil painting old masters like Rembrandt which led us to create a world using a muted palette of dark grays, with color accents. Early on in development, we landed on some very stylized mockups, and these evolved to include more realistic proportions with a darker palette, which also helped us be more efficient with the background painting process since we were a small team. It mostly remained the same for the rest of development.
The "painterly" look, that it is often described as, came from a passion for traditional oil painting but also from our limitations — for most of the project we were one, sometimes two artists and could not afford to create many very detailed assets. The final look resulted in an interesting and unique style that fans seem to enjoy.
Moonscars' latest trailer reveals some pretty promising combat clips too. How have you balanced enemy engagements? Do you expect the game to be as difficult as a Dark Souls, easier, or somewhere in between?
Every combat encounter in Moonscars is designed based on three main considerations. Firstly, the quantity of foes. We don’t use more than four at the same time. Secondly, the difficulty curve of a level. For instance, if the previous encounter was relatively hard, the next one should be a bit easier. Thirdly, world placement. This includes location specifics, geometry, environmental traps, etc.
In fact, our game is pretty different from Souls games’ combat and often more foes are engaged in a fight. Still, we hope it’s a pretty tough nut to crack, in its own way.
Why should Push Square readers be excited to play Moonscars at the end of this month?
For us, Moonscars is a labor of love, and we are certain that players won’t miss this feeling if they give our game a try. Also, it’s a game from fans of Souls games, to other fans. This genre is not just work for most of us, it’s our passion, so we hope Push Square readers who are also fans will have a great time with Moonscars.
What's your favourite FromSoftware title and why?
Andriy: Bloodborne, Sekiro, Dark Souls 1 and 3. Each of them is unique and fascinating in its own way.
Ștefan: My favourite would probably be Bloodborne, for its fast pace and how it encourages an aggressive style of play, as well as its Gothic, Victorian-inspired setting.
Thank you to Andriy, Stefan, and Alexandru for taking the time to answer our questions. Are you looking forward to Moonscars? Share your thoughts in the comments below.