Interview

Metro Exodus Interview | Exploring Russia and the Future of 4A

During EGX 2018, OnlySP had the opportunity to sit down with Huw Beynon, the head of global brand management at Deep Silver. Along with developer 4A Games, Deep Silver has been working on the Metro series for almost a decade.

Deep Silver was attending the event to showcase the soon to be released Metro Exodus, the latest title in a much-beloved game series spanning the past eight years. The game will be the first in the franchise to exist outside of the original Metro novelisation created by Dmitry Glukhovsky in 2005.

The original Metro 2033 game was based on the novel by Glukhovsky of the same name. The series is set in a post-apocalyptic Russia following a nuclear war that occurred in 2013 where much of society is forced to live in the metro tunnels to avoid the radiation and mutants that lurk above ground. According to Beynon, the team has also drawn inspiration from material such as Stalker, Roadside Picnic, and possibly some other European and Russian literature.

Metro Exodus sees a departure from the novelisation but Glukhovsky remained as a writer and collaborator as the game series continued. Glukhovsky even presented the outline for the second game, Metro: Last Light which takes place following the novel’s original ending despite the multiple choice at the end of the first game. Now, during the events of Metro Exodus, the studio wanted to explore the idea of journeying across Russia. At the same time, Glukhovsky was also writing the book Metro 2035 which led to the two projects interweaving with several parallels between them, so audiences can experience a fresh story from either the book or game but have small nods toward the interlocking elements.

Metro Exodus screenshot

The most drastic change from the series in Metro Exodus is the decision to change to a more open world with a heavier focus on the above-ground world. Beynon explains that the largest challenge of developing such an expansive project was balancing their ambitions of including more player freedom and exploration while still making Exodus feel like a Metro game. To combat the balancing, the team spent a long time in pre-production prototyping, and then iterating those larger open levels that keep the familiar Metro-style but in a sandbox environment. Initial prototypes of these sandbox levels were far too open which proved to be an interesting experience but ultimately strayed too far from the Metro formula. The studio believes it has found a suitable balance that will allow returning fans to feel comfortable initially and then be gradually eased into the more open elements.

With larger locations, more enemies, and a dynamic weather system in the new title, Beynon states that his personal favourite new feature is the environment. He explains that the idea for a journey across Russia actually came from the studio’s art team, who had spent the past seven years designing tunnels underneath Moscow but felt the time was right to branch out and flex their creative muscles. One way in which the art team has branched out is through the changing seasons and various locations available in the new title.

“What we wanted to do is create this level of atmosphere and immersion in Metro, that’s always been the goal,” said Beynon. “These bigger levels where you’re dropped into this wilderness with the challenge to explore.”

Beynon expresses that, although the studio has created a larger map by Metro standards, the team is not claiming that the game is wholly open world. The main game revolves around a series of linear levels with some featuring much larger locations to navigate creating a larger sensation of survival. While the new map sizes will not be insanely greater than before, 4A Games wanted to focus more on the story content within those environments. By sacrificing on size, the studio has been able to put incredible amounts of detail to ensure that no two buildings will feel like cut and pastes of previous assets.

“This is not the biggest open world ever, it’s not even close,” Beynon elaborated. “It’s very small for an open world game but it’s big for a Metro game. What’s more important is the density of the content and the storytelling still shines through.”

With more extensive places to explore, the game will no doubt take players much longer to complete than previous titles. Beynon explains that the current estimates based on the company’s regular playtests vary depending on the type of player; for instance, a completionist will take substantially longer to achieve 100% over those who are simply seeking the core story experience. The developer has generally found that the average playthrough will be double the length of either game. As to not spoil too much of the main game, Beynon would not disclose exact locations that players will get to visit, such as St Petersburg. However, he did confirm that the story will venture beyond Moscow and he would find it “pretty cool” to see another city. In terms of how often the player will be above ground in comparison to the older games, 4A has switched attention to the outside world. Metro 2033 was split roughly 80/20 in terms of under and over ground with the majority set within the metro system underneath Moscow. With Metro Exodus, the ratio between above and below has been switched with roughly 80% of gameplay occurring outside. The shift has put slightly less emphasis on the gas mask mechanic that was a staple of the previous games. While the mask will still be present during several exterior and interior missions, it will have a much smaller presence than before.

Metro Exodus

One thing that Beynon insists will make a return is the inclusion of multiple endings. According to Beynon, the game is quietly judging the player for each action they take in order to reward each gamer with “the ending they deserve.” In order to incorporate the new, fairly hidden system, the team had to throw away what it believed was already a fairly elegant way of handling multiple endings.

Throughout the game, players will encounter numerous people and factions that can range between hostile, neutral, or friendly. How the player chooses to interact with these, however, is up to them; the option to play like an utter psychopath is definitely open as long as players accept the risks of receiving a less than desirable ending.

Deep Silver and 4A Games have clearly put a lot of time and love into Metro Exodus and have tackled the difficult task of re-invigorating the series while keeping it faithful to the originals. Now, alongside the development of Metro Exodus, 4A has been delving more into the VR aspect of gaming with the release of another Russian based title called Artica. Unlike the Metro series, Artica will be a truly original concept for the company and could spark a drastic change in the developer’s future releases.

Metro Exodus will be released on February 22, 2019, for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. To stay up to date with the latest in the world of single-player gaming, be sure to follow OnlySP on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

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