We've just spent the last half hour or so in front of PC and Xbox 360 action-RPG Elveon and we're still picking our jaws up off the floor after bearing witness to one of the most beautiful in-game environments we've ever clapped eyes on.
A forest, with gorgeously rendered trees bending gently in the breeze and rays of sunlight filtering through leaves and branches, a lone wolf perched atop a rocky outcrop, ground so realistic it feels like we can almost reach out and touch it - it was simply incredible. We could probably write a thousand words on it and still not do it justice - check out some of the screenshots we've uploaded to get an idea of the visual glories.
Granted, what stunned us was leaning toward a tech demo, a 'fly-through' of the environment - no in-game action was involved - but it's clear that Elveon developer 10Tacle Studios is putting Epic's Unreal Engine 3 to very good use. And if the forest scene is indicative of outdoor environments in the final product... Well, let's just say if Oblivion's outdoor world impressed the pants off you, Elveon's will blast your underwear into orbit.
In contrast, what we saw of structures in Elveon was a stone-grey world of walls, pillars and roofs, rather bland in comparison to the beauty of its great outdoors. Still, with a year of development remaining there's enough time to spruce things up and anyway, we stepped inside to get a brief taste of the game's combat rather than gawp at the scenery. Combat turned out to be a surprisingly cagey and strategic affair, normal strikes, blocks that have to be well-timed and beat-'em-up-style combo attacks coupled with a stamina bar meaning a bit of thought has to go into fighting.
As luck would have it, combat was just one of many topics we queried Elveon mastermind Slavo Hazucha about during a recent interview in which he spilled plenty of details on the game. Read on to find out what he had to say...
Elveon tells the story of the ascendance of Elvish culture. What can you tell us about the storyline behind the game? Have you been influenced by mythology or Tolkien or is it an original take on creating an Elvish backstory?
Hazucha: To tell you the whole story would be too long for this interview and perhaps also for one game. We took the challenge and developed an entirely new Elvish universe. The world and story development took us four years. So there really is a massive background behind Elveon. Our game and our fantasy universe depict an ancient era where the Elves still are a cunning and dynamic race on their rise to power, with great deeds not the fairy-like fading culture that is known from most other fantasy stories.
So this is the story in three sentences... The gods have left the world of Naon in a rush, it is the place they had wanted to transform into their paradise. The Neamas, the Elves of the ancient times and fellows of the gods have remained there all alone. A smouldering conflict is gaining more and more importance and a new era starts which is marked by envy, malevolence and relentless wars that prevent the gods' descendants from entering upon their inheritance. You are the hero of this epic and your mission is to achieve your objective, the fulfilment of the prophecy - namely the liberation of the city of Nimathar - as the mightiest warrior of Naon because this task is normally made for a god.
We see Tolkien and his world as a great inspiration and a reference that cannot be entirely neglected, but we try to do our own thing. In our world and story we focus on something every genre-fan has heard of but had no opportunity to see or play it - the magnificent history of a fantasy world in the age when the Gods and the Elves were the only ruling powers. This is what we want to depict with Elveon. If I should put it into Tolkien language, our story is definitely Silmarilion and not LoTR. But in making the world and story, we were strongly inspired by ancient mythologies, particularly in the Greek heroic epics.