When talking about his character-driven RPG Vidar, developer Dean Razavi paints a picture of a village of real people with real problems, the biggest of these forming the basis of the game, “Every night a random one of them is killed by a beast, and your goal is to try to stop the beast before everyone in town is dead.” While Vidar tasks the player with a relatively straightforward mission, it sets itself apart by putting more emphasis on the journey than the goal. Every aspect of Vidar: from the story, to the quests and so on, changes with each playthrough. The branching storylines in Vidar, Razavi says, all tie back to the characters. “Because these people have their own personalities, they have their own quests to give the player, what ultimately ends up happening is… it creates new plots, new stories as the game goes forward.” Vidar approaches this feature from the other side, having the player react to the characters.
The way Razavi describes it, Vidar sound frighteningly close to real life, sans the murderous beast. “Because the story changes… people will have different needs which will change the different quests you get, which will ultimately change the quest rewards that you get. And those things are designed to be big and impactful as to how you play the game.” This really sounds like the reverse of what we’re used to in games with multiple storylines. What you get by the end of a game like Skyrim, where almost everything is decided by the player, is a world more or less tweaked to your liking. In Vidar, you can’t choose who the beast kills, and therefore must make the most out of which paths those deaths open or close.
From the graphics style to the fantasy setting, Vidar looks like a classic RPG straight out of the mid-90’s. When it comes to gameplay, though, don’t expect any of the turn-based combat or tactical RPG elements common to the era. In fact, Razavi has opted out of combat altogether, deciding instead to focus on puzzle solving and, of course, the everchanging story. Really, it makes sense. A huge part of RPGs that feature combat is grinding, spending hours upon hours fighting sewer rat after sewer rat so you’ll be strong enough to defeat the boss. It’s a tedious task, and may make some lose track of a game’s story. Whether that was Razavi’s mindset, the absence of this tedious feature will certainly allow players to keep track of the game’s story.
In designing Vidar’s gameplay, Razavi looked to one of the all-time classics, “I think especially with puzzle inspiration: Zelda was a huge inspiration for that, especially the old school SNES one.” Razavi certainly has a ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach to gameplay.Vidar will feature several familiar puzzle mechanics, such as frictionless ice, which is still being used in the current Pokemon games. It’s clear, too that Razavi doesn’t just see these classic puzzles as obstacles to be conquered, but also as something to study and perfect, “You would have these puzzle dungeons that I think really perfected the idea of having certain mechanics that you could latch onto and then become the expert on.”
Vidar’s website promises the feel of a classic RPG “with new twists.” Aside from the absence of combat, Razavi says that he’s added a few other elements to make Vidar his own, “The first thing is that because there’s no combat, the puzzles are necessarily… harder… and that’s by design.” Aside from those classic puzzle mechanics, Vidar will feature its own unique challenges, “But the added mechanics will be something like: You have to control two different people coming from different sides.”
For those who like the sound of Vidar, and are interested in supporting it farther, Razavi is currently running an Epocu campaign, “Basically it’s like crowdfunding, but instead of pledging money you pledge a tweet.” Anyone interested can check out Vidar’s Epocu page here. Updates on Vidar’s development can be found on the game’s twitter, along with information on where the game is being shown, and even a picture of Razavi’s pre-Thanksgiving duck.