Starbreeze is a studio that’s been making waves in the industry since its inception.The small Stockholm-based developer/publisher has built some memorable titles, but it was not until recently that they pushed forward by picking up other studios to publish or purchase to make a real impact on the gaming sphere. Now, 15 years after adopting the name Starbreeze, they are a major player in the modern gaming landscape, and with some smart moves, they are only destined to grow.
From the point I got my hands on The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay I knew the studio behind the game was something interesting. What looked like a simple movie tie-in quickly morphed into a very solid game in its own right. The look, design choices, and overall feel made people stop and look, and while it may not have set the world ablaze, it did manage to show the talent this studio had. This trend only persisted as the people at Starbreeze moved forward with future developments. From The Darkness and Syndicate all the way to massive hits like Payday and Payday 2, Starbreeze was on a roll with building quality products and releasing exciting IPs for people to stick their teeth into.
Four years after Payday 2 first hit PCs worldwide, Starbreeze shows no signs of slowing down. At Pax East 2017, they were on site to show off the latest titles under the Starbreeze umbrella. While these titles have a distinctive feel that matches the properties Starbreeze has had on offer in the past, they also have that special sauce that makes them unique and exciting. Starbreeze undoubtedly has a talent for seeing passion and innovation in the titles they choose to publish, as they have in the past with the games they have built internally, and this eye for ideas is on display in what they showed off.
First on display was Raid: World War II, from Lion Game Lion, built using the same game engine as Payday 2, the Diesel engine. This little Second World War team based shooter sets a team of four players against the Axis powers as they take on missions inspired by real life events. The player selects one of a series of roles, each with a unique backstory and reason for fighting. The team are working to ensure each mission does not get bogged and at its core, the game is fun to jump into and play.
It is so easy for a co-op shooter to get overwhelmed with the minutia, and not be an enjoyable experience. The core gameplay must be paramount, and always at the forefront of the experience. This is a concept that Lion Game Lion has taken to heart, and from the first minute I picked up the game on the Pax show floor it was easy to see what they were trying to do and how it all would work. I only managed to get my hands on one mission, but it was fun, intuitive and engaging. The mission to blow up a bridge, while not something brand new in games, kept me moving forward while building to a satisfying climax. It is not always possible to build a game that can be experienced in small chunks and have it staffing as a larger experience, yet with Raid: World War II Lion Game Lion have managed it. It is a game that has me excited to gather my team of people that used to play Left 4 Dead and jump into.
Speaking of Left 4 Dead, I would be remiss if I did not mention Dead by Daylight and what they have up their sleeve moving forward. On the Pax Show Floor, they were showing off the new console version of the game, along with the newest hunters. But what was also extremely exciting was the concept that the team at Behaviour Interactive are working on constantly dealing with gripes from the community and building a game that the fans want to play. To that end, they went into detail about the choice to include Bill from Left 4 Dead. The lore of something that fits the merging of Left 4 Dead perfectly, and one that gives new and old players alike that may be coming from Left 4 Dead at one point or another a familiar face. As the game moves forward, it is obvious the team at Behaviour Interactive cares about the product, they want to make it the best it can be and they are listening to their fans. Starbreeze saw something in this studio, and talking to them it is easy to see why. This is a team that loves games, loves what they do, and are thrilled to see the fans enjoy playing it as much as they enjoy making it.
Last game on display at Pax East 2017 was Deliver us the Moon. This was a game that felt truly special after seeing it and actually sitting down to play it. Developed by the small Dutch indie game studio KeokeN, Deliver us the Moon tasks the player with going to a moon base as a last ditch mission to save humanity. Along for the ride is a little robot that will help guide your progress as you try and uncover how to help the human race.
While the game sounds and looks simple at first, there was an ominous presence throughout everything. The story seemed like one with plenty of twists and turns, and if done well could be engaging from start to finish. The single stark sterile aesthetic worked on many levels and evoked such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Moon from director Duncan Jones. While the small demo only gave a quick taste of what players could expect with the final product, the puzzles, story and look all made for an engaging experience, and one I am happy to see has a publisher that can give it the support it deserves.
If that were not enough for Starbreeze, they are also taking on the publishing duties for such major titles as System Shock 3, and Psychonauts 2, a duty that I would have expected a publisher such as THQ to play in the past before their collapse. The team at Starbreeze clearly care about the gaming industry and are working to shine light on not only the work they do, but also the work of new and old developers worldwide. It is a company that has amazed me year after year, and moving forward I hope to see the same. From developer to publisher Starbreeze are making waves in this industry, and more people should take notice of the business model that puts creative ideas and the consumer at the forefront.