Empyre: Lords of the Sea Gates doesn’t star Kevin Costner, but it is set in a Neo-Victorian New York that’s under water from rising sea levels. It’s Coin Operated Games’ debut, and it launches this fall on Steam’s PC gaming store.
Set in the 1910s, the game takes its aesthetic cues from the Victorian era, which ended at the turn of the century. Creative director John Randall said that accomplishing that took a lot of research, as they wanted to not only create a Neo-Victorian look but also incorporate as many historical details as possible.
The team referred to books like Professional Criminals of America (Thomas Byrnes, 1886) and How the Other Half Lives (Jacob Riis, 1890), and also New York City survey maps from 1899. It’s an alternate version of a time period where gas automobiles and the theory of relativity are still new inventions, but technological advances have been stopped short by environmental disaster.
“The world that existed before the flood was one of technological wonder,” said Randall. “In the world after the flood, people are fighting to get back to that age of greatness.”
Water is a scarce commodity in Empyre and also the source of the main conflict. The flooding happened 12 years earlier, and now people are rebuilding and trying to survive in the new status quo. Your mission is to try to find fresh water, while also dealing with the day-to-day concerns of a citizen in the 1900s.
The isometric role-playing game utilizes a hybrid battle system that mashes up turn-based strategy and real-time combat. It also has a heavy focus on exploration and meeting characters as you traverse the different city-states.
“We wanted to create an interesting environment for the player to explore that tied in with current fears of global warming,” said Randall. “But at the same time we wanted to make it seem normal. The flood occurs 12 years before the game. Life has moved on.”