Interview: Dark Envoy Director’s Cut Update Focused On Players’ Feedback To Revamp Campaign

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Dark Envoy Director's Cut - via Event Horizon

After much approval and feedback, Event Horizon returns with Dark Envoy Director’s Cut with unique RPG mechanics and an exhilarating story. The new update focuses on revamping the campaign with improvements across the board for boss items and more. The game allows characters to pick from four unique classes to pursue an ideal play style. 

The third-person action shines with tactical decisions and strategy, thus giving players complete control over the campaign progression. On top of that, you can also enjoy the unique challenges of Dark Envoy with Co-Op gameplay to enjoy with friends. To expand more on the latest released Dark Envoy Director’s Cut, we interviewed Łukasz, Design Lead on Dark Envoy, over an email. 

Dark Envoy Director's Cut - via Event Horizon
Dark Envoy Director’s Cut – via Event Horizon
Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role on Dark Envoy Director’s Cut.

Łukasz: My name’s Łukasz and I’m the Design Lead on Dark Envoy. My job was to plan the update in cooperation with our Game Director as well as oversee the production and implementation of its features.

What inspired you to make significant narrative changes and rework the main cutscenes?

Łukasz: As with most updates made since the game’s release, these changes were mainly motivated by our community. We are truly humbled and grateful to our players for their continuous activity on our Discord channel. We’ve read all the reviews, comments, and suggestions and drew up a plan to make the game even more tailored to the wants and needs of our target audience.

Thanks to all this feedback we realized that the story was missing some marks. We took another close look at it and decided to recut it and improve its overall flow. Our main focus was to draw more attention to its most crucial points using new cinematics, while at the same time cutting down on lengthy dialogue sequences where we felt that the pacing wasn’t great. 

The story is overall very much the same but we feel that after the update it delivers its point in a much more cohesive way.

Cutscene in Dark Envoy
Dark Envoy Director’s Cut – via Event Horizon

Could you explain the importance of the connection with the Tower of Time universe and how it is more integrated in this update?

Łukasz: Very early in Dark Envoy’s development, we decided that we wanted it to be a standalone experience, one that would not require playing Tower of Time to fully comprehend its story.

At the same time, we wanted to add subtle nods and references for the players coming into Dark Envoy from our previous title. Judging by the players’ feedback, we realized that the links between those games turned out to be too obscure to appeal to the players coming in from Tower of Time while being completely overlooked by newcomers to this universe.

In the update, we’re putting more emphasis on Dark Envoy being a sequel to Tower of Time. It’s still a standalone experience that requires no previous knowledge of the game’s universe, but there are a few more hints as to how the events of this game fit into the grander narrative.

In what ways does the narrative overhaul influence player choices and the perception of moral dichotomies within the game?

Łukasz: It mainly concerns one of the most crucial and impactful decisions – the choice between the main factions: the Empire and the League and how working with them fits into the main protagonists’ goals. We moved around some pieces of the narrative to delve deeper into the conflict and its roots at a later point of the story when the player is already invested in their struggle.

We also further highlighted the fact that regardless of the choice, the protagonists’ are not followers of any of the main radical factions. Aligning with them is a means to their own ends – protecting their home from an evil greater than the war itself.

Dark Envoy Director's Cut - via Event Horizon
Dark Envoy Director’s Cut – via Event Horizon

What was the thought process behind the design inspiration for new minibosses, Imperial Elite Assassin and League Winter’s Breath, and what more value they aim to bring to the gameplay?

Łukasz: Our main goal was to keep the new units as different as possible from the minibosses added to corresponding families in previous updates while also giving them some unique features that feel coherent with the overall themes of those factions.

The Elite Assassin is the complete opposite of the other Empire miniboss: Elite Marksman. While the Marksman relies on powerful ranged attacks and summoning drones to keep the party busy, the Assassin fights in close quarters, applying pressure through a mix of high mobility, powerful close-range attacks, and silencing abilities – a set of features fitting for a trained professional specialized in fighting League’s magic users.

As for the Winter’s Breath, we wanted to focus on the League’s elemental attunement. The other League miniboss, the Phoenix Turret, is a stationary unit that’s all about fire-themed skills and damage over time, so it felt natural to go in the exact opposite direction with the cold-wielding druid.

The Winter’s Breath tries to keep his distance from enemy combatants using his Glacial Blink ability while inflicting debilitating statuses such as frostbite and freeze.

Both of these units build up on the idea of opposed factions that constantly adjust their tactics and equipment to counter each other. While designing Empire and League units we like to consider how they’d fight if they met on the battlefield and reflect it in their skill sets. These two new additions are great examples of this design approach.

Faced with the Winter’s Breath, the Elite Assassin would likely try to get up close and personal to quickly silence the druid and disable his magic, while the Winter’s Breath would surely attempt to freeze his opponent to combat her mobility. We feel that combining storytelling with gameplay mechanics is the best way to create a believable and immersive world.

Can you shed light on how the community's feedback influenced the changes made in the Director’s Cut?

Łukasz: Ever since the game’s original release, we have been closely following our community’s feedback. Most of the major changes we introduced, such as the option to switch specializations, balance reworks, and recut opening sequence adjusted for multiplayer, were all suggested by our players.

Reading player reviews and opinions made us aware of certain issues with the game’s narrative but changing it required more time and effort than we were able to spare for a regular patch. That’s why it became our primary focus for this larger content update.

Items in Dark Envoy
Dark Envoy Director’s Cut – via Event Horizon

What strategies are you employing to compete for visibility in the competitive AAA market as a small indie studio?

Łukasz: We are aware that our marketing resources are much smaller compared to large AAA studios. However, as a small studio, we are very flexible and able to react quickly to player feedback.

That is why we’ve always focused so much on the comments and requests of our community, even in our first updates. It is precisely this continuous dialogue with the players, along with transparency about our current and upcoming work, that we feel distinguishes us from other larger studios.

Given the renewal of interest in isometric RPGs, how does Dark Envoy appeal to both classic RPG fans and players new to the genre?

Łukasz: It draws inspiration from classic party-based RPGs but also remains approachable and easy to get into. There are plenty of skills, enchantments, stats, and items to sink your teeth into in search of the perfect build, but there is no need to read through a long list of available features and game mechanics with each level up.

We try to always operate on simple terms and gameplay solutions that are easy to grasp even if you’re not a hardcore RPG player while leaving ample space to experiment and tinker with character builds at higher difficulty settings if the challenge is what you’re looking for.

We applied the same approach to playtime – Dark Envoy is a complete and condensed RPG experience that can be played from start to finish in ~30 hours. We feel that it’s enough time for a game of this size to show its best features and immerse players in the story without overstaying its welcome.

Dark Envoy Director's Cut - via Event Horizon
Dark Envoy Director’s Cut – via Event Horizon

How many developers actively worked on the update?

Łukasz: Mostly 10 people with the occasional support from other members of the team.

What were some of the major challenges you faced during the six months of development for the Director’s Cut?

Łukasz: One of the greatest challenges was redesigning the story and implementing new narrative bits. Working on a story of a released game is very different from a draft in which we could easily move whole sections around and iterate on them. Even the smallest changes could compromise not only the story’s integrity but even the stability of the game itself.

Therefore, we needed to be sure that the changes we decided to make were thoroughly planned and executed. Instead of extensive rewrites, we focused on small changes that would have the greatest impact on the overall feeling and flow of the narrative, just like the new cinematics.

We had similar issues with our balancing efforts. We knew that certain character builds were performing much better than others but we felt like nerfing them too hard would seem like punishing players for finding powerful combinations.

We didn’t want them to come back to the game only to find out that their once favorite characters are now terrible and need to be geared and developed from scratch. We chose to keep nerfs to the minimum and instead focus on creating new exciting options through boosting the least popular items and abilities.

Dark Envoy Director's Cut - via Event Horizon
Dark Envoy Director’s Cut – via Event Horizon

What are your future plans for Dark Envoy following the release of the Director’s Cut?

Łukasz: The Director’s Cut was our largest planned content update. We’re always tempted to upgrade and expand Dark Envoy but we also need to shift our focus to other upcoming projects. We’re currently working on the final polishes and fixing any remaining issues with the Director’s Cut and will likely release at least one more patch, although probably a significantly smaller one.

Currently, there are no plans for any other updates but that may still change.

Anything else you would like to share with the readers?

Łukasz: Thank you for being here! Keep playing great games and feel free to join us on our community Discord. Your voice is what helps indie studios like ours grow and create the best possible experiences.

Dark Envoy Director’s Cut is the latest update to the Steampunk cRPG, developed and published by Even Horizon. The game was released on October 24, 2023 for PC. You can follow for more updates directly from developers on Discord

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