Proteus creator Ed Key has teamed up with a group of other talented creators to bring us a new game, called Forest of Sleep. Based on Russian fairytales, the game aims to take a new look at narrative, storytelling, and adventure games.
The art, by artist Nicolai Troshinsky, is what makes Forest of Sleep immediately stand out, and helps tie it into its Russian and Eastern European folkloric influences. And the art is truly stunning, a mix of strong ink figures mixed with watercolours. But what really makes Forest of Sleep interesting to me is its promises of a new kind of videogame storytelling. The story itself is familiar to anyone who has ever read a fairytale (or a fantasy RPG): you play as a trio of children travling through a forest, visiting new kingdoms and solving unusual requests.There’s no text, so the game relies on cinematic language to tell the story and convey character relationships. (I’m guessing it will be similar to UbiArt’s Valiant Hearts, one of my favourite games from last year.) Interactions with characters, objects, and locations will determine the story, which is reactively generated. That means everything you do will have some impact on how the story unfolds.
The devs also promise a simple resource management system which is used to travel around the map, but promise that it’s not entirely intregal to how you can complete the game. It’s “more about creating a rhythm to the journeys and steering you through the possibility space of the story.” What they seem to be describing is a system where you need to keep the children fed so they can move around the map – they need the energy after all. But not fulfilling this isn’t necessarily a fail state. In fact, sometimes a fail state in Forest of Sleep is necessary to progress the story. So having the children pass out from hunger might not be a bad thing after all.
The game’s story system is obviously still at an early stage, but what they hope to achieve with Forest of Sleep is to create “dynamically improvised” short stories with recurring characters and themes. That means that much of the story telling is left up to the player to fill in the blanks, rather than telling you outright what it is. (Hmm, maybe not so different from Proteus after all.)
A firm release date has not yet been confirmed, but the devs at Twisted Tree Games hope to release Forest of Sleep on PC and tablets in late 2016. Fore more information or to sign up for a newsletter about the game’s progress, check out the game’s website.