We face many monsters on the Xbox. So many, in fact, that they can begin to look like one another and lose the fear factor. Once you’ve seen a zombie or tentacled horror, you’ve seen them all.
Bramble: The Mountain King has a plan to resolve this problem, and the solution comes from storybooks. Nordic storybooks, in fact, as the developers, Dimfrost, mine these lesser known tales to create a hazardous world for their protagonist to survive.
The result is a game that’s bringing something fresh to the narrative adventure. It’s a fruitful approach that deserves more scrutiny, which is exactly why we jumped at the chance to interview two of the creative minds behind it.
Hi, could you please introduce yourself and your role on Bramble: The Mountain King?
My name is Fredrik Selldén and I am the Lead writer and CEO of Dimfrost, and we also have Josua Mannebäck, the Producer at Dimfrost Studio.
Could you give us a quick rundown of the game?
Bramble The Mountain King is a grim adventure set in a world inspired by dark, Nordic fables. You will take on the role of Olle, a young boy setting off to rescue his sister, kidnapped by a dreaded troll. And as you go off on your adventure, you will come across creatures both big and small, good and evil.
Nordic folklore doesn’t seem like the most obvious subject for a video game, but – looking at the creatures you face – it’s clearly a fantastic source for unsettling creatures! What made you choose it as the focus of Bramble: The Mountain King?
Well, back in the very early days when we first started talking about what game we would like to make, we all agreed that we wanted to create a story that’s unique from what audiences are “used” to. We started to talk to each other about the stories that we liked ourselves, and it soon became apparent that the stories that made impression on us were the ones that we were told when we were young. When we started to share these Nordic tales, we started to become excited – we could feel an energy in the room! We started to bounce the stories between us, and it soon became apparent that the most unique story we could tell the world is our own. And that’s how the idea for Bramble came to light. We decided to share the stories on which we grew up on.
While Bramble: The Mountain King looks unlike anything we played, we wonder whether there is a little bit of Little Nightmares, Limbo and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons in there. What were your inspirations, in gaming and otherwise?
Bramble is a mixture of our childhood stories, our Swedish upbringing, and the media that we engage with now that we’re adults. All the above games you mentioned have been an influence on Bramble. If you’re a creator, it’s hard not to be influenced by the media and culture that you consume yourself. Stories from your past, stories that are new, games that you play, movies you watch, shows that you binge, and content that you see online. All of them shaped our tastes and inadvertently shaped what Bramble is and will be.
What does it feel like to play Bramble: The Mountain King? Is it mostly combat, platforming, adventuring?
There is a little bit of all three, and a bit more. As Olle, you will go on an adventure and explore the world around you. Sometimes you will need to show your dexterity to get from one place to another, other times you will need to use your wits to figure out a way forward. There will be moments in which your stealth skills will be put to the test so you can stay away from the keen eye of foes. And there will be moments in which you will need to face and fight them directly. And there will be times where you will have to run for your life.
We want the gameplay to be an extension of the story, of the narrative. We want the gameplay to help people get immersed in the world and be in the shoes of our main hero.
What is the key to creating a fantastic horror moment in video games?
By involving the scenery and setup with suspense and tension. Making the environment a creature in of itself, hostile and with intent, like when you’re a kid in the dark and you imagine dangers lurking behind what the eye can see. Translating that into the player suspecting danger and being on the edge. We also play with the contrast with light, so these moments can come when the player least expects it eg. In a flowery field on a bright and sunny day. It’s all about toying with the player’s expectation making it a cat and mouse game between us developers and our prey, the player!
We’re smitten with the tiny gnomes. What role do they play? Are they friend or foe?
Really glad you like them! We love them too 🙂 They are one of the friendly beings that you will meet in the forest of Bramble. And without spoiling too much of the story, they will put their trust in your hands. Will they regret it? Well, that will be all up to you…
Are there any issues or lines you chose not to cross when making such a tense game with a young character in the main role?
The main thing that we wanted to make sure of is that we remain as authentic to the old tales and stories that inspired our game. Those old tales that we were told when we were younger have their own laws and atmosphere that we felt we needed to respect in order to remain authentic. This allowed us to make sure that we don’t get into discussion or decisions on “should we do this” or “should we take that out?”. Our game is dark and grim, but it’s not filled with gore and violence for the sake of being disturbing and horror. Our main goal is to tell a great tale – not to create violence for the sake of shock headlines.
Audio seems to play a huge part in the trailers so far. What has been the approach in constructing Bramble: The Mountain King’s soundtrack?
Synergy and authenticity. We want the audio track to embrace the Nordic heritage and feel. Music is such a strong, yet subtle, force in helping people get lost in the world and in the scene that they’re taking part in. We also wanted the music to reflect the duality of the world of Bramble. Sure, it can get dark and grim in this land, but there are also moments of beauty, friendship, wonder, and joy. We wanted the music to reflect that too.
You have been releasing art diaries, concept artwork and other regular information about the game. What role has your community played in crafting the game?
Seeing people’s positive feedback on our game gives us the drive to keep going! It gives us a feeling that it was a good decision to go with our gut instinct and bring a piece of our Swedish upbringing and culture to the rest of the world. Seeing their comments and feedback is certainly invaluable.
There’s been a few public conversations recently about whether single-player video gaming is dying. What’s your take?
I think that’s far from it! Single-player games are here to stay. Look at Stray, that game is dominating conversation right now, and it’s a single-player narrative-driven adventure. And there are so many great single-player experiences coming too that people are hyped for. Starfield, The Callisto Protocol, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, and loads loads more! I think that spending time with a story just by yourself is such an intimate experience. Sure, multiplayer games are fun and they also create fun memories. But experiencing a tale just by yourself can also be quite personal and magical.
When can we expect Bramble: The Mountain King to arrive? So far, we only know that it’s coming in roughly 2023. We can’t wait!
At the moment we don’t have any new details on our release date, but do stay tuned to our social media channels. We always share all the latest info right there!
And finally, which of Bramble: The Mountain King’s creatures are you most looking forward to players encountering?
There are a lot! We want players to see both the “bad” ones and also the good! Personally, I can’t wait until players see the gnomes and their village. Our artists put so much love and detail into it – the little houses have little chimneys with little smoke coming out of them! And they ride hedgehogs too. At the same time, I can’t wait for people to experience the first time they’ll encounter Nacken. I hope that this encounter will make their hands sweat and toes curl!
As you have read, there is no further news on a release date for Bramble: The Mountain King. We’re just going to have to file it away in a cabinet with ‘Promising Upcoming Games’ written on the front. But you can be sure, as soon as we have a release date or more information on this indie starlet, we will let you know.