Ever wanted to step into the shoes of the Grim Reaper during the Great Plague of the 1660s? No, neither have we. But Ambient Studios’ first Kickstarter concept promises just that. Death Inc promises a unique blend of the strategy genre and business-simulator which sets you on a mission to topple English civilisation. I spoke to the co-founder of Ambient Studios, Jonny Hopper, who helpfully summed Death Inc up in five simple words; ‘Rewrite history, spread plague. Cackle.’

Spreading the bubonic plague sound too macabre? The morbidity is alleviated through frequent humour injections which shine through from their Kickstarter trailer, where Jonny Hopper emerges from the bathroom to explain the idea behind Death Inc. This light-hearted approach is complemented by the playful art style; strongly influenced by tilt-shift photography and bursting with vibrant colour. Jonny also added that there would be ‘a lot of pink’.

Ambient’s aim is to provide a strategy experience which will appeal to both veterans and casual visitors to the genre. They hope to achieve this with a unique control style; players are able to ‘paint’ troop paths in fluid motions. You can literally swirl your soldiers around hazards such as boiling tar and split them into groups to draw fire from enemies, or to perform flanking manoeuvres. The effectiveness and abilities of your minions are also determined by the business-simulator aspects which make up the backbone of the game, allowing you to purchase upgrades which you can apply to your undead horde.

Ambient Studios’ family tree is anything but ambient. Co-founders Jonny Hopper and Daniel Leaver both moved on from a studio called Media Molecule, which helped work on a the first LittleBigPlanet prototype. The now 11-strong team of Ambient Studios is also made up of talent who previously worked on the Fable franchise, Need for Speed and Burnout. Jonny is positive that ‘the British humour and lightheartedness that can be found in [Fable and LBP ] is going to shape the game. Needless to say we can expect big things from this little indie studio!

Death Inc will only be realised with a pledge totalling £300,000 by March 6th through the crowd-sourcing Kickstarter. You can tell the guys over at Ambient are really dedicated to the campaign; the first backer of £5,000 or above will be rewarded with their in-game character being the prime target for the Grim Repear’s activities, as well as an oil-portrait of their 17th century likeness. Jonny told me that this was all part of the fun, and the studio is already ‘getting some great feedback’. Additionally, after just ten weeks in development, a free demo of the game is available to download from their Kickstarter website!

Only time will tell if this indie studio’s vision will become reality; this game’s future rests solely in the hands of the community!

Liam Ross

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