One of the new features presented during The Game Awards 2023, Den of Wolves It’s much more than what the few seconds of the trailer show. The new game is, at the same time, a return to its origins and also the biggest and most ambitious step taken by Swedish studio 10 Chambers. Created by the same team responsible for the series Paydaythe game wants to replicate the collaborative dynamics of heists, but taking it to a much larger world with more stories to tell.
The premise of the game is very interesting, working with concepts such as late capitalism, the ubiquity of artificial intelligence and the control of society by companies in the near future with a lot of ballast in our present. It is a science fiction like few that appear in the world of games and, for that very reason, so promising.
But, despite this heavy and dense narrative focus, Den of Wolves does not deny its multiplayer essence. As mentioned, the game is developed by the same team that helped create a genre — robbery simulators — and that has improved this style of interaction over the years. For this reason, the idea is to put all these sci-fi elements linked to this heist mechanic that 10 Chambers knows so well. And, this time, the idea is to release the game for both consoles and PC.
The trailer shown during TGA is just a brief demonstration of all this — and even a little superficial. O FreeGameGuide was in San Francisco at the invitation of the producer and took a closer look at a little more of the influences for the creation of the universe of Den of Wolves and how the studio intends to convey all of this to the gameplay. And, in fact, there’s no way not to be intrigued by what’s to come, even though it still doesn’t have a scheduled release date.
The story of Den of Wolves
The game takes place in 2097 and shows a reality in which artificial intelligence has become a ubiquitous tool, present in practically all human activities, controlling everything — especially the global economy.
In this new reality, the city of Midway becomes the only place free from this constant connection, using a type of isolated and unregulated network based on neurosystems. In short, a kind of network in which information is encrypted by the human body itself and which, in practice, becomes a great paradise for companies to rule and dismantle everything.
It is from this idea that Den of Wolves puts the player to work. After all, this crazy sci-fi concept makes industrial espionage the rule and the city of Midway is the scene of invasions, kidnappings and murders ordered by these big companies to gain access and steal information from their competitors. And that’s when the big robberies appear — and we’ll talk about them in a moment.
While the trailer shown at TGA 2023 is somewhat vague about the game’s proposal, the presentation video presented by 10 Chambers to journalists is much clearer about its intentions and inspirations for building this cyberpunk world. Works like Matrix, Ghost in the Shell e Black Mirror are clear references, although the team itself also cites works such as Philip K. Dick’s books and the film Inception.
Sci-fi with a purpose
In fact, it is noticeable how everyone in the studio expresses their excitement about the universe of Den of Wolves. Although they are still working on releasing the final season of GTFOyour current multiplayer survival shooter, just comment on the new project for the enthusiasm to appear.
This is the case of Simon Viklund, co-founder of 10 Chambers and who serves as narrative director on the new game. His main ideas for this futuristic universe are so familiar and, for this reason, it is natural to be excited when talking about the game. He says that the concept emerged almost a decade ago and that, since then, he has been developing the idea and that this time served for all the small details to be shaped and improved until what we will see in the final game.
So much so that he is proud to say that each element presented in Den of Wolves has a reason for being. From Midway’s design to the types of weapons and resources that players have at their disposal for their heists and invasions, everything has a reason to exist.
For this reason, Viklund highlights what he treats as the game’s main motto: being a sci-fi with a purpose. “We’re not making science fiction for the sake of it or because it’s based on a franchise or something like that,” he says. “Sci-fi becomes an explanation for what we want to put in the game. It’s something that gives us more creative freedom to add things we find interesting to the gameplay and, from there, create a background within this universe.”
For the narrative director, everything that will be present in the game is based on this logic. He shows us some concept art and justifies each element within this futuristic story. The colossal buildings represent the power of companies, but they also become maps large enough to be explored in matches. The highways are at the bottom of the screen to show a living city, but also to justify why the player cannot steal a car and drive around. As said, everything has an explanation.
“A narrative of Den of Wolves it’s built even for people who don’t care about history,” says Viklund. “They will still absorb the plot and understand the context of the universe, even if they can’t elaborate on it. Subconsciously, everything is clear even to them.”
For him, all this meant that the main effort and objective of 10 Chambers was to give Den of Wolves the same energy as an open world game, although the game has a different focus. “We want you to know that when you are on a map and look out the window or at the top of a building, the buildings around you have a history and that everything there has a reason for existing”, he points out. “Everything was done to open up possibilities and, from there, narrow it down to what the player can actually do and see.”
The best example of this is that Viklund and his team created more than 400 fictional brands to populate billboards, billboards, magazines and screens within the cyberpunk universe of Midway. And they all received the same treatment as a real company, with logos, visual identities and even past histories of their founders and CEOs — all to create the most cohesive and coherent experience possible.
It’s a world so rich and detailed that the narrative director doesn’t hide his enthusiasm for seeing these ideas take on a life of their own, whether with content created by the community itself, such as fanfics set in Midway, or with possible adaptations. “If Netflix calls us wanting to do a series, we will be totally open to it”, he confesses.
Back to the robberies
However, as stated at the beginning of this text, Den of Wolves it is also a return for 10 Chambers to its origins. While the entire narrative aspect is the boldest step the studio has taken so far, the mechanics and logic behind them are a return to what the team knows how to do so well, as shown so much in Payday as in the hardcore horror of GTFO.
It is no coincidence that one of the mottos surrounding the development of the new game is precisely this: “back to fucking heists” — a phrase that the team has printed on t-shirts, blouses and even licensed products. An internal joke that, in a way, translates very well what they want with the gameplay.
First of all, it’s important to be clear that we haven’t seen anything of the gameplay of Den of Wolves until now. During the presentation, they showed concepts and concept art, but nothing concrete about the playable part of the whole thing. Understandable for a game that isn’t even scheduled to be released.
Still, the punchline points to what we should see: more heists. After all, as Simon Viklund himself explains, all this hyper-detailed world building serves to support the action, placing the player as part of a group of mercenaries hired by these companies that dominate Midway to sabotage, invade and steal information from their rivals.
This will all happen in multiplayer matches in which teams of up to four players will have to face the challenges of the mission, which range from facing security forces to kidnapping and bio-hacking executives. An online FPS in the style of previous 10 Chambers games, but with all the load that the narrative adds.
“We want to elevate what a heist can be,” explains the director. “That’s one of the reasons we went into science fiction and the idea of sci-fi with purpose, because it allows us to be more creative and even abstract with ideas and possibilities, bringing all of that into gameplay.”
For that, Den of Wolves It should have some new features in the dynamics of the assaults, giving players more autonomy when it comes to developing action plans, deciding on directions before entering the maps, even to facilitate interaction with strangers on your team. “The design is all designed for you to find other players and stay with them for a long time”, explains the director.
The game that needed to be made
The main result of this is the promise of a greater balance between action and stealth. Viklund points out that although he is very proud of Payday, recognizes that they have some rhythm flaws. According to him, the player knows what will happen as soon as the alarm rings and, therefore, things tend to be more predictable. In Den of Wolvesthe goal is to make things more natural and unexpected.
The narrative director says that the idea is to hand the agency over to the player, that is, to give him total control over the pace of the match and events, but without being able to predict what comes next…