Top-tier RPG developer BioWare is making a Sonic game. We know - it doesn't seem possible. But it's probably the best shot the Sonic franchise has had at greatness in a long time. So how did it all come together? BioWare heads Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka are longtime friends with Sega of America president Simon Jeffery. "I think it just kind of came up at one point in a conversation," Zeschuk said.
Zeschuk and self-professed Sonic fanboy Muzyka jumped at the chance to work on a Sonic title. "Our feeling is that it's still a pretty compelling property," Zeschuk said. "Obviously, there have been some games that haven't been as good as some of the classics, but we think it's still ripe for being really successful."
The game begins as Sonic is on vacation, kicking back after Dr. Eggman's latest trouncing. But it's not long before our hero is summoned back to investigate Knuckles' kidnapping at the hands of a group called the Marauders. Players will undertake a sprawling adventure that spans 10 chapters, several classic locales, and an ominous alternate dimension.
"This is dark for a Sonic game," said Chronicles producer Mark Darrah.
The environments are all hand painted by BioWare artists from a similar isometric perspective as Sonic 3D Blast. Chock-full of loop de loops and bounce pads, these settings will still put Sonic through his paces.
"The big important thing is to evoke Sonic's speed without being a platformer game," Darrah said. But Sonic's speed can't handle every obstacle. Players will have to toggle in characters like Amy to smash away boulders or Tails to fly over large gaps. More complex puzzles will require the skills of all four party members to work in tandem.
Combat takes on a traditional turn-based approach, with "Elite Beat Agents"-style shrinking rings and object tracking for using or defending against special attacks. Characters can also team up for moves like Sonic and Tails' Blue Bomber. "Mass Effect" fans will recognize classes like engineer, though they won't work quite the same. Instead of turning synthetics against each other, Tails' Tinker ability debuffs robots' attacks, speed and accuracy.
Leveling-up is again based on a points system, though casual players can choose to automate distribution if they wish. More hands-on players will have to choose whether to throw points into speed, attack power, luck or defense. Or you can save them up for the 10 different special abilities per character. With 10 different party members to recruit, that adds up to 100 total specials. Like with "Mass Effect," BioWare has set up experience distribution so players won't be able to max out their characters upon the first playthrough.
BioWare's trademark active conversation system will return, albeit in a simpler form. For example, there won't be any Paragon or Renegade meters to fill.
"Sonic's ultimately the good guy at heart," Darrah said.
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