2014's The Evil Within was directed by legendary horror figure Shinji Mikami, directing some of the most iconic Resident Evil games, but with the recent sequel a new director has come on board - John Johanas. We recently caught up with the director to talk a bit about the game, and his approach to the sequel.
The Evil Within was a success, but also a gamble, considering straight horror games in AAA gaming have lessened in numbers because of its niche nature. How did you approach developing a sequel to that?
We wanted to bring the genre to a larger audience but also work closer to bring some of the original ideas from the first game to life. The Evil Within 1 touched upon having some larger levels that focused on exploration, but we always try to go a bit bigger in scale. This time we made the effort and some of our levels are much larger than even whole chunks of the first game. From our point of view, it was a sort of throwback to the feeling of the old survival horror games when you are in a large environment and exploring every nook and cranny trying to piece the world together.
What thoughts went into using player knowledge of the events of the first game in the sequel? Did you want to deliberately involve events from the original, and what do you think of new players who have yet to try it out?
Those who played the game probably understand better what I'm saying, but we wanted the game to stand on its own without the original, but for those who did play the original many of the events have a deeper meaning behind it.
Some of the sequences were designed with players of the original in mind, but even if they weren't you could still understand the context. Hopefully we will get players who haven't played the original and are intrigued enough to go back and play The Evil Within 1!
One of the major new additions in the sequel is the more open spaces. Why did you want to include this freedom?
As I mentioned before, having those larger areas goes back to early concepts from the original game. It was something we wanted to finally realize!
But when looking at the whole game in context we thought they could serve as a unique experience for players while also helping us with the pacing of the game, allowing things to slow down a little and allow the player to incentivise how much they want to explore. It's not something you see too often in this genre so it was a challenge we wanted to tackle.
The monsters are truly horrifying - can you describe the process of coming up with the designs?
We always start high concept, whether it be talking about enemy relationships to villains, the world, and what type of encounters we want the player to experience or what type of emotion we want players to feel. From there we start narrowing things down and finding a place with enemies in the game as well as designs that stand out. Our art team does a fantastic job so we try to let them have as much freedom and then work from there.
Kidman was a meaningful, involved character in the original, but in the sequel she takes a more laid-back approach. What's the reason behind this?
For those who played the original game and its DLCs, Kidman was an integral parts to the events of the first game. Based off the setting we wanted her to be there to continue her story as well as showcase how her relationship has changed with Sebastian. But we always wanted Sebastian's journey to be the main event.
But for those who play to the end, Kidman's role in the game is quite bigger than it seems...
Well, Johanas certainly didn't hold back with teasing us about the sequel, and if you have yet to play it or just want to find out more, be sure to check out our review.