With nothing but a reveal trailer out in the wild, ExeKiller has managed to impress many unsuspecting players hungry for a futuristic western FPS, thanks to its heavy atmosphere, open world, and promising gameplay. Developer Paradark Studio has been happy to see the enthusiastic online response, even if expectations may need to be readjusted ever so slightly. We caught up with Paradark Studio co-founders Kasia Widmańska and Amadeusz Wróbel to talk about ExeKiller and what fans should expect from their ambitious first outing.
The Escapist: Tell us about Paradark Studio and why it’s confident in ExeKiller as its first game.
Kasia Widmańska & Amadeusz Wróbel: We are Kasia and Amadeusz, owners and founders of Paradark Studio. We love challenges and we love playing games! One day, a few years back we just thought, “Why don’t we try to create our own game?” At first it was our “after-hours job” just for fun, but last year we decided to make it official. Currently we are also working on our first movie.
I saw there are currently four people working on the game. Is there any desire to expand the team?
Widmańska & Wróbel: Of course! And we are working on it and hopefully in the near future with the publisher’s support, we will be able to enlarge it even more.
What previous experience is the Paradark team bringing to ExeKiller?
Widmańska & Wróbel: First and foremost, in our games we want to tell good stories. We are both visual creators, (We bring our experience in such fields as photography, graphic design, and film.) so it is very important to us that the game looks its best. It’s not about the best models and the sharpest textures. It’s about building the right mood and atmosphere. About creating the world, you want to come back to and explore it, but also have fun at the same time.
There were a lot of references to classic movies in ExeKiller’s first trailer. What are some of the other ways this game is made for fans of the western and sci-fi genres?
Widmańska & Wróbel: Yes, as we said before we are also filmmakers and we love cinema, especially classic but also art house. We like playing with conventions of genres, blending them, mixing to create something new, so it seemed natural for us to bring it here as well. For fans of western or sci-fi… the setting, background story, job of main character, some of the quests, gadgets, guns etc. (will be appealing).
Can you talk more about how properties like Fallout, Blade Runner, and Red Dead Redemption helped inspire ExeKiller’s development? How have these titles impacted gameplay specifically?
Widmańska & Wróbel: We are huge fans of Fallout, Red Dead, and also both Blade Runner movies and also Deus Ex. We spent many hours watching the film and playing these games having awesome fun but also a lot of aesthetic or emotional experience. To mention more inspirations, we are also fans of cyberpunk literature like Philip K. Dick and William Gibson. All of it had a huge impact on us, so it’s hard to point out exact gameplay mechanics or systems.
Can you explain ExeKiller’s core gameplay loop?
Widmańska & Wróbel: You get the commission and information where the fugitive was last seen. You go there and look for tracks, search the place for clues, question witnesses, talk to people, bribe someone, or lie to someone. If you manage to finally find the fugitive, it is up to you what you do. You can go get him with a gun blazing, or sneak past your enemies. Why not both? After you catch him, you can do whatever you want — set him free, kill him, or put him to jail.
How can players impact the narrative? I’m interested to hear how unique each player’s story can be.
Widmańska & Wróbel: There will be key moments in the game that will have an impact on the plot. Your decisions will affect some of the missions. That’s why you won’t be able to see all quests in one playthrough. Similarly, each ending will be the result of all decisions that were made during the whole game. There won’t be any final decisions five minutes before ending.
I’ve seen that ExeKiller will feature a small open world with a main quest and “a few side quests.” Can you give us a more detailed idea of what to expect in terms of scope?
Widmańska & Wróbel: The world of the exekiller will be large enough to feel the distance and scale, traveling in your vehicle. We want the player to feel sometimes lost, lonely, irrelevant. Exploration is very important to us; the locations we encounter on our way will be small but full of details, telling their own story.
One of the most exciting features I’ve seen is ExeKiller’s “ever-changing environment.” Could you talk more about how the environment plays a role in the gameplay?
Widmańska & Wróbel: First of all, we have electromagnetic storms and radioactive solar storms that are deadly threats to us. When one of them is coming towards us we have to find a safe place as soon as possible. It can be a city, a cave, a canyon, an abandoned building, anything that will provide us with a minimum of protection. Additionally, temperature will play an important role in the exploration of the world; there will be regions on the map so hot that access to them will be possible only at night.
Can you elaborate a bit on the weapons, gadgets, and abilities we’ll have at our disposal? How futuristic are these weapons and abilities?
Widmańska & Wróbel: For example, there will be a dash that we showed in the trailer. There will also be bullet time, the ability to see through walls, and much more. We want every style of game to be appealing. That’s why some of the abilities and gadgets will help you with fighting and some with sneaking and hacking.
(As for what to expect from vehicular combat,) Mad Max from Avalanche Studios is a good example.
Will ExeKiller feature any music to listen to when exploring its open world?
Widmańska & Wróbel: It would be great to travel through the post-apocalyptic world of ExeKiller while listening to Johnny Cash, but this is rather beyond our reach. Surely, we will have a great soundtrack to accompany us; a sample of it is already in our trailer. You can also expect a lot of dialogue in the car.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about ExeKiller, Paradark Studio, or indie game development?
Widmańska & Wróbel: We would like to cool down the enthusiasm of some people, especially those who compare us to Cyberpunk 2077. We are creating an ambitious game, but we are far from the scale, financing, and momentum of CDPR. We are a small team aware of our limitations; that’s why we create something we will be able to handle. Besides, our game has nothing to do with that cyberpunk game, more with the genre itself. We do retro futuristic western with cyber elements.
ExeKiller is in development for PC via Steam and GOG, and “if all goes well,” it will also come to consoles.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.