Jehanne Rousseau Interview: Steelrising & Greedfall 2

What can you tell us about Greedfall 2 today?

Jehanne Rousseau: It’s not really a sequel of the first game. It’s a different story, though it’s set in the same universe. The story takes place three years before, but it’s not a prequel; it’s really about some other characters. And the idea is to show another point of view on the universe, and on the factions that were also present in the first one.

You’re playing as a native, so you begin the game directly on Teer Fradee. But it’s a kind of reverse story, because you will soon get captured by some people coming from the continent and be taken onto the continent as a prisoner, so you will have to be freed. You will meet several people that will probably join your team – at least some of them – and you will need to try to understand what happened there, and what the people that took you were planning for your island. Which is not good, I have to admit. So you, of course, have the idea to stop them.

But to be able to stop them, you will need to find allies, because you’re a lonesome native on a huge continent that is highly dying from the Malichor plague. I don’t know if you remember the Malichor from the first one. It will be probably a difficult and strange journey, but that’s how it is.

To create the same exploration fitting for the players, we decided to change the gameplay. We really wanted the game to be a little more slow-paced, because we had some feedback from the previous game players who were wanting to be able to take control of their companions during the fights. That was not possible back then, so we decided to change the gameplay to allow that. Now, during the combat, you will be able to switch from a character to another to be able to give them orders and directly act through them.

For example, if you want to use a healing spell that only one or two companions have, you can take control of them and use this spell to heal your team. It’s something that was probably known from the Bioware games, which is still our inspiration, because we really like those type of games. But we have a lot more lore and places to visit and discover on the continent. We create some new factions that the player will be able to discover and add more companions than in the first one.

It’s still in the very beginning of development, so I don’t want to reveal too much. But yeah, we hope it will be a very nice experience and adventure. And we are so happy to go back to this universe that we really love.

Outside of controlling the party members, what are the major gameplay elements introduced?

Jehanne Rousseau: Besides of control of the companions, there is also some changes of the skills. We want the player to be able to customize their progression. There will be some new set of skills, not only for combat, but also with all this social skills and interaction with environments. You were able to create, for example, a motion to destroy some walls or those type of things. This will be developed even more.

There will also be probably some more [opportunities] to interact with the environments, like the usual traps and probably some more stuff to do for more raw characters, I would say. The idea is really to to continue to grow towards RPGs that are really an inspiration to us.

What platforms will carry the game?

Jehanne Rousseau: Well, I couldn’t give you all the platforms for now because it’s still a work in progress. But of course, PC, PS5, and the Xbox series will be [included].

What were the biggest inspirations for Steelrising in terms of story and escape?

Jehanne Rousseau: Of course, in terms of story, there is the French Revolution. But we’re not historians, and we wanted to bring in a bit of fantasy and some strange things that will break a little from the very historical settings. So, there are all these historical characters, but there are also huge automatons that are completely crazy inside this type of universe.

But we try not to mix these two elements. We try to stay true to some real historical events and real historical practice, and to mix them with our incredible aspects. But also, there are plenty of alchemical things that you’ll be able to discover that can also be used even by the main character. You can use alchemy to infuse your weapons and use it in combat. Some of the enemies you will meet do the same, of course, so it’s bringing a little magic to this historical setting.

On the gameplay aspects, this game was really different than where we were before. Greedfall was into storytelling and into exploration, but because the team really wanted to try something of that kind of game, Steelrising is probably a little closer to a Soulslike game, so it’s more action-oriented. Each combat needs specific tools, where you need to learn the patterns; where you need to find the right way to avoid being killed, because you’re dying a lot most of the time.

I’m terrible at that kind of game as a player, but I do enjoy the setting and the lore that we create for the game. And I think that there is a kind of crazy touch into that world that is specific to what we’re developing in Spiders studios. It’s a different kind of game with more action, but we still findvthe DNA of Spiders through the universe and the lore with the game itself.

Steelrising stars a female robot. Was there ever any thought given to the player designing their own character or offering character customization options?

Jehanne Rousseau: Yeah, and you know that in our other games we always allow the players to create and customize the character. But in this case, it was a decision mostly connected to two different things.

First, the story itself. And I don’t want to spoil too much, but there is a reason why this is a female automaton and not a male or a completely customizable automaton.

The other reason is also connected to the style of gameplay we want to introduce through this character. The idea was really to have a very small and docile character, because she’s supposed to be a dancer. It’s not a real human, of course, but she was designed for that. Very thin and fragile in her aspects, compared to the very big creatures in front of her. It was also a way to create a contrast and feel like you were so small in front of huge characters. But you can still use your agility, all the skills you’ve learned, and your deadly weapons to be able to beat these huge monsters.

It was not only because the story was about this specific character, but also to reflect something in its type of gameplay. In most of these games, the look of the character is mostly like a cube. And we feel that you’re still dying all the time, and you’re still so fragile. So, maybe we should try to invent something else and create characters that make sense to die all the time.

Another aspect is that you can use these tools, like the grapple, that allow your character to reach a higher place. There is this very high jump, and the character is full of vertical gameplay that would make more sense, from our point of view, with this thinner and lighter character that will look like a dancer.

To follow-up: to what degree can the player customize each user’s appearance and activities in combat?

Jehanne Rousseau: At the beginning of the game, even if you can’t change the fact that it’s a female automaton, you can still customize your face, haircut and all this type of stuff. Also, as she’s made of material, you can also change the material of your character. You can choose between ivory or copper or different strange and funny metals to really customize the character. But this won’t have a real impact on the gameplay.

On the gameplay aspect, of course, there are also weapons that you can choose from. And all these weapons have many different versions inside the game. But depending on the gameplay, you will procure, whether you want a gameplay that will be faster and lighter, or if you want something more heavy. Choosing the weapons is already an important choice, and then there is also customization through the progression.

The skills that you will choose to improve or the attributes that you will also be able to improve if you make your character be more agile, or have more resistance or more strength. And there is also the modules, which is something that’s a bit specific, because she’s an automatic. You can add some different modules into her back spine, and this will bring her some improvements to some skills or to some resistance, so it will also impact the gameplay.

And of course, there is also the use of alchemy. You can infuse your weapons with different types of alchemical components that will alter the type of damage you can do. Depending on the type of enemies you meet – for example, if you fight enemies infused with ice alchemy, probably using fire alchemy would be a good choice. But it’s not always that obvious. There are honestly plenty of different ways to approach the game, which is not completely linear.

You can also decide to spend some time exploring through the different levels -past the first one, which I would say is a kind of introduction to the story. But as soon as you reach Paris – and your car, because there is a carriage that you can use to travel – then you’ll be able to choose where you want to go and if you want to do some side quests for the different characters you will meet. And it can also help you to customize this character.

The modules appear in the trailer and the menu, but can you explain them more in detail?

Jehanne Rousseai: They’re a kind of equipment, because you can remove them and change them, like any other equipment you can find like boots or hats and that type of thing. But they gave some strong passive bonuses – I can’t remember all different bonuses that they can bring, but it’s something a little different that isn’t dependent on your clothes.

It gives another lever to customize for the character, and to really choose what would be the best way to control one specific type of boss or one type of enemy in your exploration.

Steelrising is set during a very interesting part of French history, albeit in an alternate timeline. We know historical figures like Marie Antoinette will be part of the game, but what other historical figures will play a role?

Jehanne Rousseau: You will also meet Lafayette as an ally in the very beginning of the game. He will probably support you. But you will also meet some other very famous French Revolution characters, like Robespierre. He’s probably a bit different than what people are expecting from him, because it’s the young Robespierre, and not the one who is very famous for what happened later. He’s still an idealist, and he still wants you to do a good revolution at that moment.

We really try to use these historical characters and to stay true to them, even if of course our world is anachronous and it’s different than the real history. But you will probably be surprised by some of them. There is Marie Antoinette, and there is Julien Raimond, which is not that famous even in France. But he was one of the few coming from Haiti, who was really fighting to free the slaves. It was something that was not that famous, even in France, that this guy came from Haiti to try to fight for the rights of slaves.

We tried to use all these real historical figures and mix them into this strange and fantastical setting.

Some of the trailers so far have shown a very strong focus on melee combat and the main character being very agile. But there’s also a lot of firearms and explosives in the game. What are the challenges of balancing the gameplay around having such powerful range options and also the chance to get close?

Jehanne Rousseau: I would say that it’s a bit like the other Soulslike games, in the end. Each enemy needs a special approach: some of them have this high resistance to fire damage, some also have some shields or these type of things, and you will need to get closer and probably try to sneak between them to be able to reach them because it’s the only way that they can be killed. Some others will probably need a more direct approach; some are weaker to other types of damage.

In any of these types of games, you will need to learn the patterns and discover the weakness of these characters and all these enemies, and to try to find the best approach. But it’s the best approach for you, because it’s not the same as a friend of yours using another type of weapon. Maybe with a heavier setting, it will be a bit different. But each type of profile can find the right weapon and the right way to approach each combat.

Steelrising is skipping the PS4 and the Xbox One. What elements of the new consoles are you wanting to use in the game?

Jehanne Rousseau: Since the beginning, we decided that it would make more sense to be directly on the new gen consoles, because we were probably a bit too ambitious to just stay on the old one. We really want the game to be beautiful; to reflect the ambience of this terrible Paris that has been destroyed by the revolution with all these automatons. This was something that was important to us.

Of course, in the beginning, it was really kind of a dream. They would say, “It would be so cool to have this kind of render.” And because the new gen allowing it, we said it makes sense to go directly to that.

With the gameplay aspects, it’s also something that was important to us to have the 60 FPS. It’s a fast-paced game, and it’s very reactive. We knew that it was very difficult with the last gen to do, and we knew the new gen was something where it would be far more comfortable to do something really cool. But also, it was a very fast-paced rhythm, and the new consoles would be able to support all that.

What we’ve seen of Steelrising so far has only shown fighting against automatons. Does the player have the chance to face humans or different creatures? Or is it just different varieties of robots?

Jehanne Rousseau: There are only automations to fights. In fact, humans are manipulating the automatons, but you won’t fight them directly.

There was a recent playtest for Steelrising held in March. What changes have you implemented into the game based on player feedback?

Jehanne Rousseai: As you may have known, we’ve done a lot of play tests with a lot of different types of players. Being able to implement all that feedback, mostly in the balance aspect, was something very important to us. Once again, it’s a new kind of game for us.

It’s still an RPG, and we’re comfortable with that, but the action part is something a bit new. We really wanted to make sure that the game would be as satisfying and as fun as possible, so we really went through all the feedback from the players. That’s why we need more time.

And another point was that we created an assist mode, which was a bit strange for us, and this was also something where we need the feedback of the players to make sure that it was designed to assist and support and not wreck the experience. That’s why it needs time to be really well balanced and integrated.

Before we go, is there anything you’d like to say to people before they play Steelrising?

Jehanne Rousseau: I hope that they will really enjoy that experience as much as we enjoyed creating that world and all these strange species. Because you have not seen half of these completely crazy designs.

Steelrising will be released for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S on September 8, 2022. Greedfall 2: The Dying World is currently in development for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S,

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