Paradox Development Studio is pretty much synonomous with the grand-strategy genre. Sure others dabble in it, but with Europa Universalis, Hearts of Iron, Crusader Kings and Victoria - this is a rather significant niche these days that Paradox commands. But there has always been that itch to stretch outside of the comfort zone and do something different. They've tried in the past, but perhaps the less said of Valhalla Chronicles (2003) the better.
"When I grew up back in the old days, hundreds of years ago, I wanted to make three different computer games," says studio manager Johan Andersson. "I wanted to make a football manager game. I wanted to make an awesome strategy game played on maps, which I may have succeeded with a few times I guess. And I also wanted to make a cool RPG. And I wanted an RPG that you could replay, and replay and replay."
The team is staying away from calling the sides of the conflict good and evil - opting for the more ambigious conservative and radical.
"There are three races that are conservative and three races that are radicial," says Andersson. "And notice that we're not saying good or evil. But there are the three races that are humans, dwarves and light elves. They want to keep the current order and they want to stop Ragnarok from happening. Then you have three other races - trolls, giants and dark elves. And they want to see change. They want to remove the current Gods and usher in Ragnarok and make a fresh plate for everyone with them in more power."
It's your choice to side with either Thor and try to imprison Loki once more, or side with Loki and take on Thor. You will play as one of three classes - Skald ("a bit like a healer archetype, but with buffing as well"), Berserker ("name implies a warrior heritage") and Runemaster ("mage").
Replayability being a key focus ties in with the emergent storytelling and the quests that string you along the story will be custom to your adventure.
"Every playthough is different, because while you have the main story arch quest that arrive, all quests in between that lead back and forth are slightly procedurally generated or drawing from a huge database of what fits according to how you are playing. So we really want it to feel like different stories each time you play."
Norse mythology is something that a lot of games have approached, and in some cases severly mangled, but predictably Paradox are taking a serious approach to the subject matter.
"We really want to make a game that has a proper take on mythology," explains Johan Andersson. "Of course, it's not really history... well, actually that depends on your point of view. For some people this actually is the true history of the world. But we view it as our cultural heritage and there hasn't really been any Norse mythology games made that haven't been slightly... offensive in some ways."
Combat is something Paradox Development Studio are keeping secret for now. It will be turn-based with hexagons to traverse, but the exact nature remains a mystery. There is a lot of interest in role playing games in the team and development started as early as spring 2011 on the game.
It's a different Paradox Development Studio not only by name these days, the success of Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV, has not only meant massive growth of the team, but also confidence. You might be surprised to learn this new game is making use of the same engine as Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV - the internally developed Clausewitz Engine ("one of the best engines in the world, we have really, really good programmers here"). It looks pretty in a topdown, old school sort of way.
The office space of Paradox Development Studio is extremely crowded nowadays, as they sit in one of the handful of tall buildings that tower over downtown Stockholm (formerly the building housed the Swedish tax authority), in addition to maps the walls are now also adorned with printouts of fantasy creatures that will appear in Runemaster. It's set for release next winter.