Remember the sense of accomplishment that beating The Legend of Zelda provided? Remember the thrill a few moments later of learning about Second Quest, and being faced with a fresh playthrough of the game, providing new challenges and discoveries with items, dungeons, and enemies being in new locations? Nathaniel Weiss remembers, which is why he's been working on, and is putting the finishing touches on, Songbringer, and was ready to show it off at this year's E3.
Inspired by the original Zelda's second go-around, Songbringer features a procedurally generated world of exploration, combat, and discovery that pays homage to the game that inspired it in many ways. Few gamers alive won't feel immediately at home when the game opens with a top-down perspective, showing the protagonist on a screen with a cave entrance. Inside the cave he'll get — you guessed it — a sword. Though the game forges its own path a little more from this point forth, this less-than-subtle nod sets a very definite tone.
Before actually seeing the game's starting screen, players must enter a seed of up to six characters; it can be a word or acronym, or a random string of letters. This seed determines everything about the game world: the map layout, placement of items, order of dungeons, and more. A different seed will produce a different world, sixteen tiles long and eight tiles wide, and reusing the same seed will send players back to the same world. In this way, different playthroughs will offer distinct experiences, but players will be able to share particularly interesting generated worlds with others.
While Roc, Songbringer's hero, does indeed wield a sword, he is far from the silent, green tunic-wearing type. Aboard the titular spaceship Songbringer, Roc and his crewmates are in the business of surveying alien planets for profit. The very sword Roc picks up at the game's outset awakens an evil force on this planet, which will challenge Roc's ability to survive and make it off the planet alive. By his side is his faithful robot companion Jib, who serves many functions including scanning enemies and items and can be controlled by a second player in local couch co-op.
Discovering all of Songbringer's secrets is part of the game's charm, but some of the things that make it a unique experience include Roc's top hat that doubles as a projectile weapon, edible mushrooms that bestow helpful abilities, and the five elements of fire, ice, lightning, acid, and fear that can be combined with items to create a host of powerful effects, like a sword that freezes bodies of water to cross them, a fiery top hat, or a Fear Sword that grows stronger the more damage Roc takes.
During my hands-on time with Songbringer, I barely scratched the surface of what secrets the overworld holds, and managed to find my way to (and be quickly defeated by) one dungeon's final boss. Players will get a chance to search for all ten dungeons themselves sometime this summer, when the game releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Linux.