Introducing Druidstone

All is dark. Your mind is floating in the endless reaches of the great void. Barely visible, mist and dim fading stars in the far distance are the only things you can discern. Then, suddenly something in the darkness stirs… “Your time has not yet come” a deep resonating voice booms. A bright light flashes so intensely that it pierces your mind!

You hear the rustling of autumn leaves. You open your eyes and see an ancient pillar of stone covered in pulsating runes. You are standing in the center of a stone circle in the middle of a clearing somewhere in the Menhir Forest. A woman with skin of purest white steps forward and smiles at you. Her eyes glow blue, like distant galaxies. “What took you so long?”

Welcome to the Druidstone dev blog! This blog is about the development of a fantasy roleplaying game called “Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest” which we have been working on since fall 2016.

In the world of Druidstone, the druids of the Menhir Forest possess a great power: the power of reincarnation. When a druid passes on, through some mysterious process his spirit is able to return from the great void back into the world of living and to his former self.

But with every reincarnation the world itself seems to change: where there was only a thicket of bushes in the forest before, there may be a trail or a shrine of stones now. The ancient ruins in the forest change place and the tunnels and their inhabitants beneath the ground are all different. Even stranger, the denizens of the forest do not seem to notice this at all.

Druidstone is set in a vast procedurally generated forest filled with exciting locations to explore and of course encounters, the meat of every RPG. You will meet interesting non-player characters such as the insane Red Priests who worship a being called Oghmu and the mysterious Traveller. You fight deadly bosses and explore ruins and dungeons in an open-world single-player game. Some of the encounters are friendly but many can lead into conflicts which are resolved using a tactical, turn-based battle system on a two-dimensional grid. The game features roguelike elements, so that when you die the game begins anew with different levels and encounters. Some of the encounters even react to you being reincarnated, so even by dying you can gain deeper understanding to the mysteries of the Menhir Forest.

Even though there are random elements in the game, at the heart of Druidstone is an overarching storyline and key encounters which give structure to the game and avoid it being just a gauntlet with random monsters to kill. In fact, we can’t wait to tell you the epic story we have in our mind! In addition, there are the stories you create as you explore the almost infinite space of procedurally generated content.

In the beginning there is an idea

Who were the druids? Did they build the Stonehenge, and why? These were the questions we asked ourselves when we started the design process for this game. After researching the subject we realized that even today relatively little is known about the druids. Apparently they were (are?) a group of mysterious men and women who had a special relationship with the nature and performed rituals at the sites of standing stones. Who knows, maybe they even possessed some magical powers?

This idea really stuck in our minds and began to evolve. We started seeing glimpses of the imaginary world of Druidstone, a world of ancient forests, massive standing stones, mist-clad shrines, and of a darkness that was coming. And of course of the druids, caretakers of the ancient stone spirits of the forest. The world began feeling more than imaginary to us… And thus the world of Druidstone and also the idea for this game was born.

In Druidstone you are one of the druids and you have just been reincarnated in front of the stone pillar with its pulsating runes. Who are you? How did you die? Your mind is foggy. The rustling of the leaves and the wind carries ominous whispers. The darkness is coming…

The game will be released on Windows but the release date has not been set yet. But that is getting ahead of ourselves. The road is long and there is so much to do and so many ideas to explore. Better get hammering that keyboard!

P.S. You can also follow the development of the game on Facebook and Twitter.

Petri Häkkinen

Developer

31 Comments:

  1. Oh man, can’t wait to see what you guys are going to cook for us.
    It might not be another Grimrock game, but I have faith you’ll make something just as good with this one.

  2. >procedurally generated

    great, so you take one of your best skills from your previous games and threw them out the window. That’s a shame. I really liked what you guys did with Grimrock, but I’ve completely lost interest in this one before it’s even out the door.

    • Well… depends.

      You can still have the open world procedurally generated but any main dungeons or places related to the main story could be designed and handcrafted.

  3. Maybe it wasn’t clear in blog post (sorry, I’m getting a bit rusty without having written a single blog post in ages). The idea is to mix and match procedurally generated content with scripted encounters and possible other things like level pieces or maybe even entire custom levels. We are still early in development and we’re open to ideas, so please keep the discussions going! We are listening.

  4. great stuff – maybe a touch of FAIRY TALE ADVENTURE

    • Fairy Tale was one of my favorite games on the Amiga! I never got that far in the game but the game world felt it was full of mystery and adventure. Definitely trying to get that same mood with Druidstone.

      • 🙂 one of the best game on the best machine ever……. so fights will be Amberstar / Ambermoon Style?

        if yes and you need beta testers – HERE!!!!!

  5. Hi,
    I’m very happy that you are working on a new RPG. I’m a big fan of the Grimrock-Series.
    I’m also an old school RPG player – so maybe some thougths:
    -turn-based combat sounds great – I recently played Blackguards. They did also a fine job regarding combat. There were trees to hide, slippery grounds or exploding barrels. It was not required to beat all enemys. Sometimes it was sufficient to survive 10 rounds or to rescue somebody during the combat.
    -class system – one of the best class system was used by Wizardry 8. But you did also a good job with Grimrock 2. Every new level should improve the character and should be noticable by the player.
    -atmosphere – there were a german RPG-series – Amberstar and Ambermoon. They had a very good story developing. You did start alone but you would meet NPCs which would join your party. They had also interessting side quests.

    Just some thoughts,
    Andreas

  6. Hi,
    Huge fan of Grimrock, so when I heard you were making a new game I was excited. That was until I heard Rouge-like and zero consequence for death. To be frank I’ve played some games that pulled it off: Nuclear Throne, Enter the Gungeon. I’ve also played many more that just were casualized garbage with my desire to finish being the only compelling reason to keep playing.

    This game sounds like the latter rather than the former. While rouge-like can work, not for games like this. Imagine asking someone this: Hey you want to play a turnbased RPG where you can’t die?” The first thought is “umm no, what’s the point.” While completing either Grimrock game felt like a true accomplishment, rouge-likes make their satisfaction come from achieving something many will not.

    In Enter the Gungeon it is killing a past, and then killing the Liche. In Nuclear Throne it is reaching the Nuclear Throne and then destroying it. Through blood, sweat and trial and error you plunge through over and over again till you succeed and you feel great about it. With RPGs you get to the ending and it feels like a participation trophy. Yay, I guess I’m a winner, not that it actually means anything since you can’t die so anyone willing to sacrifice the time (not effort, not learn skills, not anything other than time) can achieve the same thing.

    With all due respect, your game, your vision, but if it’s going to be rouge like I’ll probably just ignore it. I’ll keep my eye on the project since I’ve seen you claim it’s early in development and more things may come out to change my mind or you may change up the design a bit. Right now I don’t really have high hopes for it, but I hope you put together another amazing experience.

    Also Merlin built Stonehenge and these places are built where energy is abundant for energy work and to mark them.

    • Thanks for your feedback. I think you may have misunderstood us or we have failed to communicate the current design not clear enough. Even though our main character can reincarnate, that doesn’t mean you can’t die.

      • Thanks for the reply.

        That would be a fantastic idea, if the world was persistent and time passed after your death. Problem with rouge likes is that yeah you die, but you just respawn and sure you have to go back through newly randomized levels from scratch, but it’s a trivial death that goes back to what I was saying. It’s a matter of investing time rather than skill.

        Other Rouge-likes work when there is a certain skill to it. The more you get better the further you get. With RPGs it doesn’t mesh as well, since progression isn’t tied purely to skill and the whims of RNGesus, but instead stats and how the level will generate it often is either A) Tedious Grind, B) Cheap Death galore, and/or C) overly easy to the point of why bother.

        Control Alt Ninja’s could be the ones to do it right and be the example I point to and judge other games by, but I hope you understand my skepticism toward the potential this will end as anything other than mediocre.

        I’ve never been wowed by Permadeath. It’s great you are starting development with it instead of tacking it on, but more often than not it is a buzz word to suggest difficulty where there is only harsher consequences for same rather broken game play. Take Van Helsing for example. They added Ironman mode which brought permadeath, game was still poorly balanced, relied on swarming or high health enemies, except now when you got overwhelmed you lost everything.

        Some like that, but I prefer a traditional save system. Where a half an hour can be kissed goodbye, but some semblance of progress is saved. Where you aren’t mad at the game, but mad at yourself for not returning to a save point. Persona 5 may have more casualized combat, but I often find myself dreading my decision to push forward over returning to a save point to record my hard earned progress. Far Cry 2 is another good example where you could kiss progress goodbye if you opted not to save.

        My question is this: What is the point of continuing my journey through another randomized level? Why should I want to play an RPG where I can kiss my progress goodbye on a small mistake or rotten luck? How much depth can I expect out of an RPG whose entire point is to reset frequently?

        Often developers seem to think randomizing the levels adds replay ability to the game, but most of the time it just means bland forgettable level design. I like Rouge-likes, but never for their level design. Even Xcom series, xenonauts, and others of the genre have forgettable levels.

        I want to say positive, especially given your track record, but there is little in the design that inspire enthusiasm. If you can offer some more clarity then perhaps my opinion will change, I want it to change.

        • We’re still very early in development and save system, perma death, etc. are all still under consideration. Especially after we have added more story elements to the game we will see how all this works out. It’s not out of the question that the game could have different play modes. That said, right now the we do have a permadeath system and it seems to be fitting the game quite well. But it does not mean this will be the only option in the final game. As said in the blog post, there’s a long way ahead of us.

          (btw. bigger studios don’t usually announce their game at this early pre-pre-pre-alpha stage because of this reason, because many things may change. But with Grimrock we found out that being transparent and honest about the development was a useful thing to do, because we got so much valuable feedback and also many people were interested in the design and development process.)

          What people probably do not realize is that when developing a game, game design is a constantly evolving thing and new ideas are all the time being tried (and very often discarded). With many ideas you don’t know how well they work before you have tried them in practice.

  7. TL:DR – Do not make the beginning combat difficult to grasp and understand. Keep the initial combat simple and add complexity to the combat as the game progresses.

    The problem i have had with many turn based semi open/fully open world games is the combat is both clunky and/or hard to grasp making the initial playing a chore and not fun.

    Add complexity to the game as it progresses not all at once. Keep stats simple (small numbers, clear stat types). Ensure the combat plays smoothly. Ensure the beginning is enjoyable and good enough for a non gamer to understand. Use simple to understand combat mechanics initially and quickly ramp it up with breathers in between introducing new mechanics so the players can master previous ones.

    Looking at Grimrock it seems you guys already understand this so I am not too worried but i have seen this problem in games with turn based combat over and over.

    • We’re trying to do just what you described. We already have tutorial in the beginning of the game where a lovely Dryad is helping you with your first steps after the reincarnation. It starts simple and over time builds up complexity.

  8. Steingrímur Óskarsson

    Great news, I for one will be looking forward to this.

    Turned base combat done well is the best kind of combat, and given that reincarnation and start over is an integral part of the plot I fully embrace they procedurally generated world. Dynamic world with some pre-generated parts is a formula well tested in the hack and slash genre of games and it works.

    I wish you all the very best going forward with this project.

    kind regards.
    Skuggasveinn.

  9. Maybe I missed it or what not, but will the PC, be a defined character? How much emphasis will be placed on the narrative? And the PC’s personal story? As a fan of CRPGs I’ll be watching this game but, my interest really depends on my ability to ugh… roleplay.

  10. At first I was a bit disappointed because I was hoping for a new Grimrock game, but as I read your vision I got more and more excited. I love turn-based RPG games and if you can pull this off, and I am sure you can based on your previous games, this is going to be a launch-day purchase for me. And as sad as I am that this is not a Grimrock, the mood, athmosphere and aesthetics are all still there. I’ll be following this one closely. 🙂

    • Thanks Oliver! We know many people were waiting for another Grimrock game, so it was not an easy decision for us. But after making two dungeon crawlers we decided it was time for a new kind of game. We have a soft spot in our hearts for oldschool tactical turn-based games, so it was a natural pick for the next project.

  11. Finally, another daring attempt to revitalise the Rogue-like genre! If it is a real Rogue-Like game that is strategic and full of micro management and risk mitigation, like Stone Soup and ADOM, then I am all on board. Hopefully you guys can avoid the problems of DragonFin Soup (i personally love it but many complained abt poor UI), and not give us some silly Rogue-Lite like Dredmor (i hate it to the core of the earth, how can a title call itself Rogue-like w/o diagonal attacks/interactions!). All the best!

    • Thanks for the feedback Jorge! Druidstone is not exactly a traditional roguelike but it has some elements from roguelikes like procedural level generation. The battle system is more tactical than in most roguelikes and story/encounters is more integral part of the game. If big CRPGs are in one end of the spectrum and roguelikes in the other end, Druidstone would be somewhere in the middle.

  12. What happened to Grimrock? Will we ever see a open-world Legend of Grimrock like Might & Magic?

    • A new Grimrock game is not currently being made. After two Grimrock games we wanted to make something different for a change. That said, it’s possible that we return to Grimrock one day but at the moment we are fully focused on Druidstone.

  13. 1) Will game have branching dialogues like in Planescape Torment or Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn?

    2) Is game lore inspired by Celtic mythology and old locations like Stonehenge, Avalon, Slievenamon, Tír na nÓg, Ys … ?

    3) Will there be dungeon crawling like in Grimrock?

    • 1. There may be some options in the dialogues when they make sense (when there are consequences). Druidstone won’t be as text heavy as the games you mentioned.

      2. The world of Druidstone is a fantasy world with only loose connections to earth. There are some things borrowed from the Celtic lore, but even they are our interpretation of them. We like to let our imagination/subconcious run free and see where that leads us (and allright it leads to some crazy things!).

      3. There will be dungeons with dungeony things in them, yes. 🙂

  14. I am glad to know that the Grimrock team are back to the game development!

    About DruidStone: The idea to mixing a random overworld with some Grimrock elements like hand made dungeons and puzzles seens awesome to me .
    Maybe you can create a system that integrates the dungeons and the map exploration too. Something like aquiring new itens or powers after finding a hiding place or clearing a dungeon that makes possible you explore new areas in the map. Eg. Cutting grasses to open wild areas in a forest, lifting or destroying stones, being capable of seeing in the dark or seeing invisible platforms and enemies.. I dont’t know exactly.. But I think it would be great to the gameplay integrates dungeons and map exploration.

    P.S. Sorry for my bad english

  15. will there be a grimrock 3? and when will druidstone be available? are there any hints for grimrock 1 getting across the floor on torch level to press the button to keep from falling into the pit below me? thank you! David R. Craft

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