In-depth look at the art style of Dark Alliance

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In-depth look at the art style of Dark Alliance

Bringing Dungeons & Dragons to life with a metal-inspired art style.

Before working on Dark Alliance – the action RPG set in the world of Dungeons & Dragons – I was a game cinematics director at a few major gaming studios. My time before Tuque taught me to not just care about the look of a world.

The “vibe” and the characterization of a world is what brings it to life. That’s what I’m here to talk about today with Dark Alliance. Plus, I want to share a lot of concept art from our artists Vincent, Stanimir, Victor, Dimitri, Fred, Jorge, and Even.

Finding Dark Alliance’s Art Core

The concept of Dark Alliance is simple. It’s you and your friends versus this alliance between legions of monsters. The monsters really started to take on a life of their own as we developed the game. In a way, they’re the stars of the show. They’re what you are going to remember when you talk about Dark Alliance with your friends.

I was interested in exploring the various cultures of these monsters. To me, the best way to showcase a culture is through its music and dance.

This is what drove the game’s style, music, and tone. But it also needs to feel fresh in the high fantasy genre. So, one day I was asked to sum up the game’s art style in two words.

We’re heavy metal.

Heavy Metal Inspiration

When I say heavy metal think art style, not music. The game’s music is fully orchestral. Think of the look of heavy metal album covers, or Mad Max, or Apocalypto. Or even one of the original masters of metal – Mozart.

We also obviously take a lot of inspiration from Dungeons & Dragon art that has come before us. The cool thing about D&D is there have been so many unique interpretations of its art over the decades. There is no one set style. But it all still looks high fantasy at the end of the day.

Dark Alliance is that too. When you put everything together, we still look like the fantasy of D&D. The team took care to bring D&D to life in a way fans will get excited about. Our journey there started with heavy metal inspirations, though, to create our own unique flavor.

The Companions of the Hall

The next challenge was bringing four of the most iconic characters in D&D lore to life. We wanted to stay true to R.A. Salvatore’s descriptions of Drizzt, Bruenor, Catti-brie, and Wulfgar in his books. Here is their early concept art.

From there, tweaks were made throughout the development process to make each character more readable in game. Here is the final art of the companions in Dark Alliance.

Where we got to have our own fun is with the various gear each companion can collect and equip. Here is Drizzt wearing an outfit in-game that you won’t be seeing anytime soon in the novels.

Creating the Monsters

There are more than 30 different enemy types in Dark Alliance. Each main faction of monsters gets its own mission structure that explores their architecture, culture, and even a bit of their daily practices. By centering each three-act mission around a faction, it helps us build a cohesive visual design that brings our world to life and makes our enemies more memorable.

I want to talk about two of my favorite monster designs today.

The Duergar

The duergar in Dark Alliance best represent our metal theme. Duergar are cousins to dwarves, typically living deeper in the Underdark. In our game they’re dressed in leather, fur, armor, spikes, mohawks, skull, and bones. They look like a gang of magic-wielding bikers.

The Verbeeg

These giants are probably my favorite character in the game. The verbeeg in D&D are a smaller and more cunning sub-race of giants. The verbeeg in our game are a faction of sadistic hillbillies. They like to wear the skin of their victims on their faces as trophies and have a specific taste for dwarf flesh. But they also like to gather round the campfire and sing about their meals.

 

We’ll have more to share on Dark Alliance between now and our launch on PlayStation 4 and 5 on June 22.

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10 Comments

  • Looking forward to June 22!

  • How about that online co-op you promised and back tracked on and said you couldn’t make available for launch? Throw a few engineers on that task and get it done. It’s a true shame you would even think about launching this game without that at launch.

    • This. How disappointing is it, that a game with a name so evocative as this one, can’t bring what many would consider the single most important feature at launch? I’m not much of a multiplayer, but for games like this, it’s practically essential, IMHO.

    • Where exactly did you read this?

  • Loved reading the crystal shard book back in the day, probably going to buy this on release day, looks pretty good.

  • Is this anything to do with the PS2 Dark Alliance games?

    Because the DA2 disk came with a trailer for DA3 and it’s been quite a long time.. 😛

    (also the best way to play that game was local co op, basically ALL games like this need that as a basic option)

    • Is this a spiritual successor to those PS2 games? Cuz I played the heck out of them back in the day. This better have local co-op. I remember many hours on the couch playing with my brother, friends, and even my future wife. Good times.

    • I guess as it’s based the same franchise with some of the same characters in the same genre it can’t be too far off.

      From the Store listing this is online co op only. Which is a shame, as local is always the best and most fun way to play these titles!

      I guess they might patch it in at some point like some games have. Hopefully.

  • Nice! I have to admit, the game wasn’t high on my list until I saw the 20 minute trailer you released!! Looking forward to June 22 now!

    I can’t even draw a decent looking stickman, so I applaud your talent! 👏🏼

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