Upon first arriving at the Sony booth this morning, there was only one title I
wanted to see: Rise of the Kasai, the sequel to The Mark Of Kri. I soon found it, and was instantly taken in by the gratifying gameplay, which is (surprise) very reminiscent of The Mark of Kri.
Later in the day, I was discussing the title with a colleague when he expressed that he had yet to see the demo. Rectifying the situation, I immediately led him to the four Kasai kiosks. Present was none other than Jonathon Beard, executive producer and president of BottleRocket Entertainment. After thanking him for the Mark of Kri (you have to understand, I really loved that game), he was kind enough to lead us through the E3 build of Kasai, highlighting the new features of the title.
But first, some back-story. Mark of Kri was done by Sony's San Diego studio. After completion, the entire Kri staff left to form BottleRocket Entertainment. Development for Kasai began in April of 2003. When asked if Sony had requested any changes for the sequel, Beard responded that Sony understood that the game had a cult following, and part of that is due to the game's artistic integrity – a concept very important to BottleRocket. In other words, Sony respects BottleRocket immensely and didn't ask them to change a thing.
As for why they didn't include Mark of Kri 2 in the title, Beard commented that they really want Kasai to stand on its own. The title is meant to show the incorporation of new elements, building upon Mark of Kri rather than just improving on the foundation.
It has been previously revealed that Kasai features Tati, Rau's sister, as a playable character in addition to Rau. Now, Tati had a rather miserable childhood, what with seeing her entire family (short of Rau) slaughtered. As such, she is a little disturbed. Upon the creation of Tati's look, the art team was told to imagine a screwed-up girl that goes to bars and sleeps around, who also happens to thoroughly enjoy fighting. What they delivered was a bouncy femme fatale that dresses rather conservatively, and also tends to wear a thong. While Rau's fighting style is modest, Tati's fighting style is superflourous and quite flashy. In other words, Rau just wants his opponents dead; Tati wants to kill her opponents while looking good.
The focus of Kasai is cooperative gameplay. Rau and Tati go on missions together, though with seperate-yet-intertwining goals. For example, Rau may have to infiltrate a fortress, while Tati runs support for him, clearing out certain obstacles. Here's how it works – you chose to play as either Tati or Rau. Rau's objectives tend to include more action, while Tati's objectives generally require more use of stealth. Your partner will either be controlled by AI or an online participant. The partner then sets about accomplishing the goals required of them, and at times your paths cross. In one area, an archer has Rau pinned down, unable to advance. As Tati, you must take out the archer so that Rau make continue. Alternatively, if you were playing as Rau, you would wait on your partner to take out the archer for you. While you can check on the status of your partner by pressing L2, it's not possible to switch control of the characters in-game. Your success is reliant upon your partner, be it AI or another human. The AI, even at this stage, is very impressive and should present no problems in the final version.
While playing as Tati, you'll have a variety of new options. Rau has his bird, Kuzo, to help him scout out areas; Tati is able to possess corpses, allowing her to see from the perspective of fallen foes. For the sake of clarification, you cannot control the corpse. Tati also has the ability to become invisible by flattening against a wall and remaining still.
In conjunction with her other stealth abilities, Tati is able to use Puffer Mushrooms. These mushrooms grow in a cave and explode into mist when exposed to sunlight. Kept in a bag at her waist, Tati can set the mushrooms as proxy mines to kill enemies. By utilizing her invisibility, Tati can place a mushroom on the back of patrolling soldiers. The mushrooms can also be used as a stun grenade by throwing them.
Stealth kills also return and maintain their grisly over-the-top stylings, such as pinning a foe to the wall via a sword through the head. After Rau's experiences with the undead, Tati cautiously looks at the new corpse, ensuring that they are, in fact, dead.
Relative to the first title, Kasai's level design is more open and also contains more of an urban setting, "almost as if they get closer to the city as they approach the bad guys," Beard commented.
Online multiplayer isn't just limited to coop, either. Beard revealed plans for additional modes, including "deathmatch and the like." The USB headset will also be supported.
Rise of Kasai is expected to be clock in at about three times the length of The Mark of Kri, and the unique approach to cooperative gameplay should extend the replay value significantly.
Building upon one of my favorite games in almost every way, Rise of Kasai is easily my favorite title at the Sony booth. We'll keep you updated as it approaches its Q1 2005 release.
I'd like to extend an special thanks to Jonathon Beard, for taking the time to show us some of the more exciting aspects of the demo.