Review Fix chats with Jeremy Spillman, Game Designer and Project Lead for Blindflug Studios for Airheart – Tales of Broken Wings, who lets us know what makes the Aerial Adventure a special one.
About the Game:
AIRHEART is a diesel-punk action game set in the beautiful, vibrant, floating city of Granaria. Players will step into the shoes of Amelia, a young pilot who dreams of one day reaching the world’s edge and capturing the legendary Sky Whale.
Amelia must take to the skies in her customizable plane – soaring higher and higher through a uniquely vertical environment as she explores vivid landscapes, partakes in a spot of sky-fishing and takes on rival aircraft in tight, blistering twin-stick combat.
A robust crafting system offers Amelia opportunities to upgrade her highly customizable plane, crafting new items from scrap obtained from fallen foes. Funds can also be earned from sky-fishing, but doing so might have a bigger impact on Granaria’s ecosystem than it first might seem.
Review Fix: How was this game born?
Jeremy Spillman: Airheart was designed as a sequel to one of our previous games called Cloud Chasers. In Cloud Chasers, a father and daughter travel through five deserts with the hope of making it to the land above the clouds. We really liked the world we built for this game and wanted to tell the story of Amelia, the daughter, ten years later. Now she is an ambitious pilot in the flying city of Granaria, dreaming of one day catching the whale in the land above the clouds.
Review Fix: What is an Aerial Adventure game?
Spillman: For us, an aerial adventure game is all about taking flight and exploring dangerous new areas in search of adventure. Your quest is to become the first one to cross the unknowns and reach the stratosphere. You tinker on your airplane, try to find the optimal combinations for your journey. The flight to the top is a dangerous one, taking you to new fishing grounds and perils along the way, including skypirates and menacing drones.
Review Fix: What was development like?
Spillman: Adventurous. While Airheart isn’t our first game by a long shot, it was our first console title and our first multi-platform release. There are only a handful of studios in Switzerland that have ever done this and were able to get it out on a simultaneous release. I’m incredibly proud that our team managed to do that. It’s an enormous step up for us.
Review Fix: What makes this game special?
Spillman: In Airheart, every level of the game is built on top of the last one. So while it’s simply playable like a twin-stick shooter, you ascend higher and higher up, with the city you came from always in your viewport, creating one giant three-dimensional world to explore. Then, when you decide it’s getting too dangerous, you nosedive back home through all the layers in between. Now, all the islands you harmlessly flew over become obstacles on your way back home. It should feel like one coherent world and a nice gameplay twist.
Review Fix: What games influenced this one the most?
Spillman: I guess games that also tried to show an adventurous world through flying vehicles. Galak-Z was amazing and Crimson Skies comes to mind. But there’s just not enough games of this type. That was one of the main reasons we wanted to do a dieselpunk-style game like this with old airplanes, but in a fantastical world.
Review Fix: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Spillman: Actually, as hard as it is now, the game was way, way harder when we first started development. So we made a demo of it with a challenge: if any streamer could beat our first three levels and the first boss, they would get access to the alpha version of the game. Of our whole team, only Frederic, the 3D artist, was able to even finish the challenge after trying for a solid two hours! So we released it, and the very first streamer who picked it up, BranLan, not only aced it first try with all three available weapons, he even beat it one-handed! We were in total panic that we’d have to give away hundreds of copies now. Lucky for us, he was a real prodigy it seemed.
Review Fix: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Spillman: I think there is a charm to older games letting you figure out their world and interactions. Today almost everything you can or should do is served on a silver platter. This sometimes robs the games of their wonder since it also very clearly tells you what the game can’t do. We tried to do that a bit in Airheart, and I still feel it is something to strive for further.
Review Fix: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Spillman: What kind of stuck with me the most is probably how engaged I used to be with my first Gameboy. My parents used to do these amazing road trips in the USA where I was able to come with them as a 9-year-old kid. We visited Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, the woods of Colorado… but I was mostly just sitting in the back of the car playing Super Mario Land. Today I wish I could redo those trips, knowing how amazing these places would have been, but back then the Gameboy was just so much more interesting.
Review Fix: Who will enjoy this game the most?
Spillman: Players who are up for a challenge. Reaching the stratosphere is a tall order and it will take many attempts to do so successfully. Also, players who would like to see a fresh take on the twin-stick genre, where not everything is solely explosions and particle effects.
Review Fix: Bottom Line, why must someone play this game?
Spillman: Airheart is beautiful, fun, novel and has a killer soundtrack! If you are into plane games, go for it!
Review Fix: How do you want this game to be remembered?
Spillman: As something fresh and unique. And as a game, someone played as a child and years later might remember as having subtle hints about taking care of the oceanic environment. I definitely feel that way about the movie “War Games” and it would be amazing if in 10 years, I meet someone we touched on a similar level with one of our games.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Spillman: We just had an internal game jam at our studio. I have no idea what will be next, but there are some amazing propositions. It’s a little too early to tell.