Just a month before Deathloop’s scheduled May release, developer Arkane Studios revealed that it would not release the title until September 2021 at the earliest. The game has been in development for over four years, but fans of the studio will have to wait a little longer.

It’s time to go through the history of Arkane and remember that although many associate the studio exclusively with the Dishonored line, in fact, the French-American developers participated in the creation of a large number of projects, each of which helped them cement the immersive sim genre.

Arkane Studios

Fatal Fire (2002)

The first project of Rafael Colantonio, the founder of Arkane Studios, has become an exemplary game for any future strong studio. Arx Fatalis, developed by a tiny team of four, had a lot of great ideas, but as it turned out, the main goal of the title was to demonstrate the potential of emerging developers.

“We wanted to create a cool Ultima Underworld RPG that would not be inferior to its American counterparts. We were smart, but very naive,” recalled Colantonio.

Arkane Studios

Arkane Studios

As in the game designer’s favorite game, in Arx Fatalis the action developed in a dungeon, where the main character learned spells and stealth, moving along the story and completing side quests along the way. A separate achievement of Arkane was the non-linear gameplay and the performance of spells with specific mouse movements.

Arx Fatalis was received fairly positively, but sales were not affected by strong reviews. It didn’t help that the title was released almost simultaneously with such role-playing giants as Neverwinter Nights and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.

Arkane Studios

Arkane Studios

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic (2006)

Although Arx Fatalis didn’t make any money for the publisher, Colantonio and company were eager to work on a sequel, fixing the debut’s mistakes and capitalizing on the lessons learned. However, no one was interested in the ambitions of the developers, and Arkane was already on the verge of closing when Colantonio received an offer from Ubisoft to implement Arx Fatalis 2 as a spin-off to the Might and Magic series.

As the game designer later said, literally the next day Todd Vaughn from Electronic Arts wrote to him, offering a contract according to which they could implement the game in its original form, but it was too late.

Arkane Studios

Arkane Studios

One way or another, Arkane had to redesign the title to fit the atmosphere of Might and Magic, but although the game has lost some personality, it is still considered by many to be one of the best action RPGs in history.

Critics liked the visuals of the title and the intuitive combat system, in which the player from the first person fought in hand-to-hand combat with enemies, kicking them into the abyss or on deadly spikes, not to mention battles with melee weapons and magic.

However, many did not like the monotony of Dark Messiah, and even relatively non-linear levels did not save the situation. In addition, the Xbox 360 version was simplified, which also did not please the critics.

Arkane Studios

Arkane Studios

Canceled projects

From the release of Dark Messiah in 2006 to the start of development for Dishonored in 2010, things weren’t going well for the studio. Not only because Arkane was constantly under the stress of a possible bankruptcy, but also because during this period the developers managed to work on three canceled games that many had never heard of.

Ravenholm

As soon as Valve released the Source engine and its biggest hit Half-Life 2, it began experimenting with the episodic format. In addition to the fact that the company itself developed two parts of the continuation of Half-Life, it also turned to other studios so that they would replenish the universe of the game with spin-offs, as Blue Shift and Opposing Force once did.

Initially, Valve turned to the company of the legendary game designer Warren Spector, namely Junction Point Studios. His team came up with a lot of interesting ideas, setting the events of the episode in the city of Ravenholm, through which Gordon Freeman once passed, bringing back the charismatic Father Gregory, and coming up with a new weapon called the «magnet gun».

Arkane Studios

Arkane Studios

As a result, cooperation with Spector came to naught, the game designer himself went to make Epic Mickey, and his work was transferred to Arkane. The studio chose Adrian Shepard from Opposing Force as the main character, who will end up in Ravenholm, where Father George experiments with headcrab juice, first gaining immunity and then turning into a monster.

Arkane managed to collect a dozen levels, in which, in addition to the magnetic gun, the studio experimented with various enemies, puzzles, gloomy locations, like a children’s hospital with toys scattered on the floor, as well as new types of weapons, such as an electric nail gun and a blower.

Unfortunately, perhaps for all Half-Life fans, at some point Valve decided to cancel Ravenholm. Colantonio believes that it was a decision based solely on numbers, but in any case, Arkane loved the project so much that they worried about canceling it for a long time.

Arkane Studios

Arkane Studios

The Crossing

While Ravenholm was a collection of ideas on someone else’s foundation, The Crossing was supposed to be Arkane’s next signature project. In it, the developers wanted to implement a mixture of multiplayer and single player, in which the player went through a story campaign, periodically getting into the thick of deathmatch sessions, the live participants of which had to either protect or stop the main player. All this was placed in the setting of France in two parallel universes and seasoned with exciting mechanics.

Arkane Studios

Arkane Studios

The main problem was that, despite the entertaining concept and its successful implementation, only one publisher agreed to deal with this project. Colantonio refuses to give up the name of the offender, but he says the company tortured Arkane endlessly, repeatedly worsening the terms of the contract and giving little or no feedback.

The publisher so exhausted the studio that when she was unexpectedly offered to participate in another project, Colantonio gladly said his final “no”, and still remembers that day as one of the most joyful in the history of the studio.

Arkane Studios

Arkane Studios

LMNO

The rescue project was one of the games that director Steven Spielberg wanted to produce, in addition to making a film on the same topic. The main developer of the LMNO was EA Los Angels, who brought in designers Doug Church (Ultima Underworld, System Shock) and Randy Smith (Thief: Deadly Shadows), special effects specialist Habib Zargapur, and, of course, Arkane Studios as first-person game specialists with a combat system and competent levels.

Spielberg wrote the script for LMNO, where the protagonist helps the alien girl Eve escape from prison and must now transport her from the east coast of the United States to the west.

Arkane Studios

Arkane Studios

Arkane was engaged in the creation of one of the levels, namely a roadside gas station and a cafe in which the heroes of the title briefly stopped. The gameplay was largely tied to the relationship between the protagonist and Eve, and her character could be set before the game began.

Spielberg also demanded that there be no shootouts in the game, but there were acrobatic elements and parkour, which at that time the industry did not meet so often.

Then, without explanation, to the great regret of the studio, the development of the game was unexpectedly canceled. Fortunately, Colantonio had already met Harvey Smith, who was involved in the development of such titles as Deus Ex and Thief: Deadly Shadows, by that time, and managed to lure him into Arkane. Together they will lead the development of Dishonored, which will begin a new, much more successful chapter in the life of the studio.

Arkane Studios

Arkane Studios

Prey (2017)

After working together on Dishonored, Colantanio and Smith found it difficult to manage projects together and decided that Arkane should try to develop two projects at the same time. Smith went to Lyon to create Dishonored 2, and Colantonio led the development of the spiritual successor to System Shock and Arx Fatalis, which later fit well into the concept of the 3d Realms remake of Prey.

“The idea was to move away from level-specific missions and return to the style of Arx Fatalis, where the player roams around a large non-linear location, which in Prey was a spaceship,” said Prey creative director Ricardo Baer.

Arkane Studios

Arkane Studios

As a result, the main character will have to look for various weapons and resources in order to resist the Typhon alien creatures that have captured the space station. Over time, the player has the opportunity to learn from enemies almost all of their superpowers, including the ability to change shape.

Stylish setting, interesting game design, and multiple endings have done their job, and Prey has become one of the most entertaining sci-fi horror games in the industry. Although the plot seemed rather weak to some critics, the game still turned out to be one of the best titles of 2017 according to many portals.

Arkane Studios

Arkane Studios

Wolfenstein: Youngblood и Cyberpilot (2019)

Youngblood and Cyberpilot are spin-offs to a new wave of titles in the Wolfenstein series. Both games were developed by MachineGames, the studio responsible for the 2014 relaunch of the line, and the French branch of Arkane Studios.

If Youngblood is a full-fledged title that tells the story of the two daughters of the protagonist of the previous parts, Jess and Sophie Blaskowitz, then Cyberpilot is aimed exclusively at owners of VR helmets.

The games came out on the same day and received quite a bit of attention from critics and gamers anticipating Wolfenstein III.

Arkane Studios

Arkane Studios

***

In addition to the titles listed above, Arkane’s portfolio also includes other games that the studio has helped make larger developers. For example, Arkane is known to have helped create maps for Call of Duty: World at War and art for Bioshock 2.

Colantonio himself left the studio back in 2018, shortly after the release of Prey, tired of the stress and stress of AAA title development. He now leads a small company WolfEye Studios, sings in the synth-pop duo WeirdWolves, and is preparing to release an isometric action RPG Weird West.

As for Deathloop, we are promised another unusual adventure, this time from the face of a hired killer Colt, stuck in a time loop. Colt will have to start again over and over again, gradually studying the tactics of enemies and getting close to the cherished goals.

Arkane Studios

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