Knights of Light is an open-world action role-playing game developed by Rumbling Games, a studio based in Egypt. The game is set in Iraq in 636 AD, and follows the events of the real Battle of al-Qadisiyyah. It has you playing one of several figures involved in the actual battle. Set in a massive game world that covers 400 kilometres of what was Iraq during the seventh century, pre-release videos of the game show off a mix of deserts, forests, and snowcapped peaks. It’s more impressive when you realise that Knights of Light has been made by a small team of around 20 developers. Gadgets 360 spoke to Ahmed Mousa, Co-Founder at Rumbling Games to find out more.
Prior to Knights of Light, Rumbling Games released mobile apps for local customers. These included a racing game and an AR educational title. Knights of Light is its first major project and Mousa considers it to be an “indie AAA” affair, not too dissimilar to Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
“The video game industry in Egypt is still in its infancy and lacks the talents and resources to grow," he says. "We have managed through two years of heavy R&D to assemble a talented core team members. Those talented individuals were provided guidance and training to reach worldwide standards. We consider our project an indie AAA that will offer high quality gaming with a reasonable price.”
This is also partly made possible because the studio is in Egypt, where hiring and other costs are much lower than the global game development market. Mousa says that this “allows funding triple A titles with less than a million US dollars.” As of now, Knight of Light is self-funded, but Mousa adds that there are plans for a Kickstarter soon.
While the setting of the game might be unusual, the trailers show a more familiar side that's inspired by many contemporary open-world titles, something Mousa also confirms. “The game's story is inspired by our history in the Middle East which is quite rich and diverse," he says. "The game genre is inspired by both The Witcher and Shadow of War. It has its differences as well, since it is an authentic historical medieval game, unlike them."
"The characters and bosses are based on actual historical figures, while the world and setting is more realistic much like Assassin’s Creed franchise,” Mousa explains. It’s also planned as a franchise akin to Ubisoft’s historical series. “The theme and setting of the whole franchise will feature the Middle Eastern culture from the story to the gameplay elements,” says Mousa. “Even a simple cooking mechanic based on Middle Eastern recipes will be very interesting to the gaming community.”
Despite having many inspirations, Mousa stresses on player choice playing a role in the proceedings giving them control despite the grounded setting. “Player choices in the main and side missions that can affect his motivation and interaction with NPCs and bosses,” he says. “Along with gear and weapon customisation so players feel more connected to the character.”
This isn’t all. Mousa says the team plans to introduce player depth in gameplay. Levelling up and progressing through the game isn’t just limited to combat, much like the Mass Effect series or Kingdom Come: Deliverance. “The basic levelling up through fighting of course but we plan to incorporate some kind of ranking system through commanding troops and allies,” he tells us.
With player choice, different ways to progress and having a small team, does procedural generation play a role? It's a process where content in the game is randomly generated. Titles like Elite: Dangerous and Minecraft make use of this to create less predictable gameplay as well as save time in the development process. Mousa confirmed that the game uses both procedural generation as well as handcrafted elements.
“The main world layout is procedurally generated and is divided to several sections,” he says. “However, every section will be handcrafted according to the quest and level design requirements.” On the topic of gameplay, previously Rumbling Games has talked about a “hidden fantasy path” in Knights of Light. Mousa divulged what this would entail.
“The game is set in a historical medieval setting and based on actual characters and event which is even more authentic than Kingdom Come: Deliverance," says Mousa. "But to avoid the boredom and introduce more variety the story will feature a twist for the player to enter a fantasy mode. This mode will completely change the world theme and enemies to be more fictional. But unlike Dark Souls, the elements of fantasy will be based on the historical myths of this period and location.”
As for how you can play Knights of Light, the game will be hitting the PS4 first as the studio is self-publishing the game on Sony’s platform. It might be a timed exclusive to the PS4 “for a few months” though Mousa says it’s “not yet confirmed”. No surprise considering Sony’s dominance in the region with over one million PS4s sold two years ago, and the console quickly tracking to hit two million units, insiders say. A PC version is in the works as well with the team releasing a video of Knights of Light featuring Nvidia’s bespoke tech — Gameworks.
As for other consoles, Mousa was hesitant. “Currently triple A projects require many optimisations for each platform and this will require a lot of time,” he explains. “Nintendo Switch is very unlikely to be considered.”
Considering that most big budget games lack representation of historical battles aside from World War 2, it’s refreshing to see a studio attempt something different. While sporting impressive visuals, it will be interesting to see how Knights of Light comes together and if it has more to hold our attention aside from a fresh setting.
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