Wanted Dead wants to make hack-and-slash games accessible
Wanted Dead aims to bring challenging hack-and-slash action to PS5 and PS4, but the game’s creative director claims there’s plenty in Wanted Dead’s design for newcomers and seasoned action game pros alike.
Wanted Dead may carry on the legacy of the Ninja Gaiden series with its brutal hack-and-slash action and a platinum trophy that only clicks when you beat its “Japanese Hard” difficulty – yet according to the game’s creative director Sergei Kolobashkin, there’s a lot to love even for newcomers to the genre. In fact, the developer suggests it fans of third-person shooters and beat-em-ups “will feel right at home” with Wanted Dead.
Wanted Dead and tightrope walk to make hard games accessible
Speaking with Kolobashkin and 110 Industries after the Wanted Dead preview at Gamescom 2022, we wanted to know how the developers dealt with implementation difficulties in their game. With the great success of a challenging game like Elden Ring, it feels like the way is cleared for any generally challenging game to just go wild and increase the difficulty – but despite the unlockable Japanese difficulty, Wanted Dead apparently be a little more reasonable.
“Wanted Dead is a challenging game,” Kolobashkin said, “but at the same time it’s beatable, it’s doable; it doesn’t have that big of a learning curve to get into. So if you’ve played other third-person shooters, beat-em-ups, things like that things, you will feel at home.”
Making the hack-and-slash genre accessible is no easy feat – you either risk missing out on your core audience, as many would note about the mixed Ninja Gaiden 3, or you find yourself changing enough of the genre to find your game no longer really feels like a hack-and-slash, which is arguably the path God of War took to get to God of War Ragnarok.
Kolobashkin reiterated that “the combat is incredibly challenging, but accessible enough that anyone can pick it up” when we talked about drawing the wider audience into a hack-and-slash like Wanted Dead. That said, Kolobashkin also stressed that there was more going on in Wanted Dead than just the combat, and it was in those details that he hoped the game would feel most accessible. For example, regarding the game’s story, Kolobashkin said, “It can start off really clunky until you actually get into it and see—oh, there’s actual depth there. So it’s not a paper-thin novel, there’s actual depth to the story. [It’s just] not on the surface; on the surface we wanted to make a great action game backed by a good story.”
“And on top of that, we have a lot of visual variety,” Kolobashkin continued. “So you want anime flashbacks, you want full-motion video clips with a cooking show — we have our own in-universe cooking show, we have five episodes of it. You have all your CG clips on top of that.” This ties into our discussion of Wanted Dead’s Cassettepunk/Cyberpunk aesthetic and how distinct a vibe it gives the game next to its peers.
Finally, Kolobashkin turned to more game modes and mini-games, the variety and depth of which TT news team editor Kes compared favorably to the Yakuza series. “You’ve got all the mini-games you’ve got the tap game, you’ve got the karaoke mini-game, and my personal favorite, Space Runaway – it’s a 16-bit arcade game. Seven levels, seven bosses, and it’s completely true to the arcade experience I had when I was a kid and played these coin games and we didn’t compromise the design. So it’s not thrown in there just to say ‘oh yeah, we just made one level’ so we can say hello and wink at the camera and stuff. No, no , no – this is the real deal.”
Still, it sounds like it’s going to be a pretty tricky balance for Wanted Dead, and while Kes had a blast exploring Space Runaway in the playthrough, he noted that his primary concern was “110 Industries can make it all feel cohesive and not just as an action game with shiny bits on it.So we asked Kolobashkin about finding that balance, and whether the challenge of the hack-and-slash mold can somehow, for better or for worse, define Wanted Dead.
“Personally, I think if the game is fun, it doesn’t matter if it’s hard or not. I mean, I had a lot of fun with games like Sekiro or Bloodborne. And at the same time, just recently I finished The Quarry It has barely some learning curve and yet it’s really fun and I had a lot of fun playing it. So yeah, as long as it’s fun it doesn’t matter if it’s hard or not. If it’s games that are basically made hard just because it’s a trend, I’m not sure it’s the right way to go. Wanted Dead is challenging because it comes from a team that’s been making challenging games since the 80s.”
Wanted Dead is currently slated for release on Valentine’s Day 2023 – we hope it continues to strike that balance between challenging and fun, and that audiences find that balance too. Let us know your thoughts on the hack-and-slash genre in the comments, and we hope it makes our list of best PS5 games when it lands.