By Joseph Leray
Another day, another interesting game with a Kickstarter campaign. Today, it’s “Death, Inc.,” a real-time-strategy-meets-business-management-sim about giving poor people the Bubonic Plague in 17th century Europe.
There are several eye-catching parts of the project. The art direction is lush and colorful. The paintbrush-like control scheme purports to solve a lot of troop movement AI and pathfinding problems that hamper other strategy games. And the team at the newly-founded Ambient Studios has quite the pedigree, made up of devs formerly of Media Molecule, Lionhead, and Criterion, or, the people that made “LittleBigPlanet,” “Fable,” and “Need for Speed.”
So, “Death, Inc.” — you play as Grim T. Livingstone, a business manager for Death, Inc., which is in the business of soul harvesting. To this end, Grim roams through medieval England scything, plaguing, and reaping souls, raising profits the whole time. Every harvested soul will add to his growing undead legion, but as Grim’s armies grow, so do his challenges. Grim starts off killing livestock but will eventually have to move into new markets to keep profit margins high — these markets tend to be guarded by castle walls, knights, and catapults.
In between battles, “Death, Inc.” becomes a business management game. From his underworld office, Grim will need to buy upgrade for his soldiers, hire assistants, and expand his company.
“Death, Inc.” is still early in development, which is why the team at Ambient are asking for a hefty £300,000 from Kickstarter. They’re also pushing to be Greenlit for Steam, which seems to be an increasingly common strategy for indie startups like Ambient.
It seems to clear to me that Ambient also have a savvy media strategy already laid out: there’s an online comic showcasing the team’s modern, somewhat cynical narrative style and plans to release detailed development diaries once a week until the Kickstarter wraps up, the first of which highlights the game’s controls and combat.
Assuming “Death, Inc.” gets the funding it needs — that is to say, assuming the Kickstarter market isn’t over saturated with really interesting games — Ambient Studios plans to release it in October of this year for PC and Mac.