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PlaySide Publishing announced it will launch Zugalu Entertainment‘s strategy game Thrive: Heavy Lies the Crown into early access in 2024.
The complex medieval city-building game with a real-time strategy twist is set to debut on PC/Steam next year following a beta release in 2023.
Thrive: Heavy Lies the Crown puts players in the role of a ruler whose decisions will have a profound impact on the kingdom. With an extensive narrative event system, the fate of the kingdom hangs in the balance, determined by the choices made by the player.
Core gameplay focus
Branden Sloane, CEO at Zugalu Entertainment, said in an interview with GamesBeat that your decisions will determine if the society around perceives you as kind or cruel.
“Thrive: Heavy Lies the Crown is a fantasy medieval city builder with RTS-style combat, where you really discover what type of ruler you’ll become,” said Sloane. “You start out neutral and, as you progress through your choices, you either become a benevolent or tyrannical ruler. And the fantasy element of the Waelgrim is always pushing you forward.”
As a ruler, players will have the option to lead with benevolence or tyranny, shaping the type of leader they become. The game offers exploration of mysterious lands, the establishment of a formidable military force, and engaging real-time combat to defend or expand the rule. Whether playing solo or with up to four friends, the kingdom’s destiny will be molded by the player’s will.
Thrive: Heavy Lies the Crown will have both a fully realized single-player experience and the opportunity for multiplayer gameplay. This unique feature allows players to build their kingdoms alongside or against their friends, offering a new dimension to the genre.
You pick up after your previous kingdom lies in ruins and you have picked up the mantle to start a new civilization.
“It’s your responsibility to take care of your people and the Waelgrim is a constant threat. And as you manage that threat and deal with it, you’re behind the scenes getting benevolent or tyrannical leanings that eventually will change your kingdom both visually and via your people’s wants and needs,” said Sloane.
This marriage of a narrative-based game full of choices as well as real-time strategy makes the game pretty unique.
“Thrive: Heavy Lies the Crown is very much aligned with the type of content we’re looking to sign,” said Harley Homewood, global head of publishing at PlaySide Studios, in an interview with GamesBeat. “It has deep strategies, city building, civilization building and really targets a core audience. “
One of PlaySide’s biggest hits is Age of Darkness: Final Stand, a dark fantasy survival game developed by PlaySide and released by Team17 in 2021.
“We wanted to bring to market a portfolio that has a core game audience as its target,” Homewood said. “We’re looking at serious games that have a lot of depth and lots of replayability with deep systems.”
In addition to contending with AI and human forces, players will face the enigmatic Waelgrim, a mystical and unpredictable entity that roams the magical lands of Nysamor.
Community engagement is a priority for Zugalu Entertainment, and the team invited players to join the community on Discord, where fans can provide valuable feedback and contribute to the game’s ongoing development. Thrive: Heavy Lies the Crown was selected for Canada Media Fund Production Funding, a testament.
Players can wishlist Thrive: Heavy Lies the Crown on Steam and connect with the community on Discord to stay updated on the upcoming beta.
“It’s interesting, just seeing the different ways that people build their colonies,” Sloane said.
Based in Melbourne, Australia, PlaySide Publishing is focused on double-A PC and console games. It is Australia’s largest publicly listed game developer. PlaySide has published dozens of titles and worked on numerous movie-based games.
Gerry Sakkas, a former Electronic Arts developer, started PlaySide in 2011, and the team has more than 275 people now. The company has been making games on the mobile, virtual reality, augmented reality, and PC platforms. Only in the past year has it turned to indie game publishing.
PlaySide Publishing has a lot of passion games as an indie publisher, as you have to be in a market crowded with indie game publishers these days. The company is making its own intellectual properties as well as signing up third-party developers like Zugalu. The goal is to sign different types of games.
“We believe that if we put that passion that we put into making our games, as a publisher, we could do a do a fantastic job,” said Homewood. “That was the genesis of our idea, and we had previous experience in the indie publishing space. That’s important as you rightly say there are a hell of a lot of publishers out there at the moment.”
Big game publishers like Take-Two Interactive and Electronic Arts have indie game publishing labels too, but those companies and others like Warner Bros. are increasingly focused on franchise games, or those based on existing intellectual properties.
But indie games are thriving in part because there is more funding from game venture capital firms pouring into the games business.
Founded in 2014, Zugalu Entertainment is an indie game development studio based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The studio, led by game designers Sloane and Greg Forsyth, is dedicated to creating innovative and immersive games.
Sloane has been making games in Calgary since he was creating StarCraft map editor games at the age of 12.
“It was a great way to get started doing work-for-hire projects,” he said. “This is our debut title, and prior to this we did game jam games.”
The funding from Canada came in 2021 and that is when Thrive development got off the ground. Zugalu has about 22 people.
“A big inspiration for has been city-building games,” Sloane said. “We are adding multiplayer and AI towns and things like that. It’s like a big 4X strategy map where multiple cities are set up to collect resources from various areas and protect them from the Waelgrim. You are not just living in your own corner of a world but in this big living world.”
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