Skyward Collapse Interview with Erik Johnson

Skyward Collapse has just been released on Steam. Made by the developers of A Valley Without Wind, and AI War Fleet Command, Skyward Collapse is a turn-based strategy game that puts you in the role of a creator god who must keep two tribes alive on a floating continent until the timer runs out. 

I caught up with Erik Johnson of Arcen Games to talk about the title and its launch. 

skyward collapse

1. indulge my ignorance! Tell us about Skyward Collapse.

Skyward Collapse is a turn-based strategic god game that has you overseeing a war-torn floating continent called Luminith.

You create, but have very little control over, two warring factions (the Greeks and the Norse). You build up each side from scratch with various units (men, creatures, artifacts, subordinate gods) and buildings. The trick is that you don't want either side to win — they really want to kill each other, and there are independent bandits out there that want to kill both factions. Oh, and Woes: things like guild strikes, the black death, floods, and other things that befall your poor land.  

Ultimately you want to make it a certain number of turns without either side getting wiped out by all of the above threats. And if that wasn't enough, you have a quote of a certain amount of warfare that needs to happen in order to appease your celestial Master (despite this being a god game, you have a mostly-absentee boss). You can tune the difficulty a variety of ways, to please grognards or the midcore — it's a pretty straightforward game to get into for low level play. It's one of our more accessible titles yet, but we've also been going out of our way to make sure it retains the hallmark depth we're known for in the strategy genre. 

skyward collapse

2. Your previous games drew from the Metroidvania titles of yore. What influences does Skyward Collapse draw from? 

The game draws from board games with emphasis on strategy. Our love of ancient mythology is also a major influence. Also, bacon. Bacon was a huge influence in its own special way.

3. 4X games typically have factions or leaders—like in Master of Magic and Age of Wonders. Could you tell us a little bit about how you'll be handling the ones in Skyward Collapse? 

It's a simulation god game, so your units have a mind of their own and will do what they please. But since you control the circumstances of the board, and what buildings and resources they have access to, you can effect the outcome in an indirect game. That's actually the crux of the game: tricking your little dudes into doing what you want despite their free will.  

As you pass into the Age of Monsters and the Age of Man, each faction also gets a Lesser and a Greater god to mix things up even further. These all have passive abilities that affect things heavily, as well as some very powerful active abilities that you can deploy. Some of these look a little insane if you're playing on an easier difficulty (things like "kill everyone on the board"), but they're definitely needed at a high level of play. The trick is knowing when to use them, because you can only use them so frequently.

The diplomacy and trade options in the game — usually pretty central to the 4X genre — are here, but are understated. There's a bit of a scorched-earth situation going on with many of the towns you construct for each faction, and this means your resource chains are always in jeopardy (again, don't let this scare you off: difficulty settings!). Diplomacy is something you can encourage with the placement of embassies and diplomats, and when enough of that has happened, the towns involved "reach enlightenment." This means they no longer fight or can be attacked, which is actually super useful: enlightenment is really hard to reach, and is risky to attempt, but if you can manage it then you have at least one or two core towns producing goods without further risk.

skyward collapse

4. There was a beta planned for the end of May. How long did you plan to run it? 

Actually, Skyward is officially launching this week, not heading into beta! There was a bit of confusion on that, because we had originally planned an open beta for it that would have started a few weeks ago. But instead we've kept the beta closed, because we were already getting such awesome feedback and we wanted as many people as possible to come to the finished product fresh.

5. Tell us about the game's release.

It's out May 23 on Steam and our site for $5, and will likely be out on other digital distributors on that day as well as shortly after. I didn't get a chance to mention it before, but the game also has cooperative play for up to 8 players.  Bring friends.