As games like Unpacking, Animal Crossing, and Stardew Valley find a home among players looking to snuggle up with cozy experiences, the UK-based Polygon Treehouse has entered the ring with its own warm vacation getaway: Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island. This recently revealed “friend ‘em up” puzzle adventure sees players shipwrecked on a mystic island populated by Greek gods who have lost their way. Mythwrecked will be Polygon Treehouse’s second project after releasing the charming-but-creepy Röki back in 2020. We had the opportunity to interview Polygon co-founder Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou to learn about how the team has grown since then, Mythwrecked gameplay, and whether or not we’ll be able to romance Poseidon.
The Escapist: Who are you, and what is your role at Polygon Treehouse? Can you shed some light on how the idea for Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island first came about?
Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou: Hello, I’m Alex and I’m the lead developer and co-founder of Polygon Treehouse. We’re a teenie-tiny but multi-award-winning indie studio from the UK. At a high level, we wanted our next project to feel like an adventurous vacation, a welcoming magical place the player could escape to and yearn to return to. At its heart, Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island is about people. It’s a narrative game about bringing together a community, connecting with new friends, and also (importantly) getting reacquainted with yourself.
Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on exactly where themes emerge from, but in this case, there’s a clear knee-jerk response to lockdown life and the social restrictions that impacted everyone in the early stages of the pandemic. Then came the gods! As a studio, we’re fascinated by myth and folklore (see our previous game, the double BAFTA-nominated Scandinavian-set Röki) and instantly got really excited about centering a non-violent game around a modern take on the Greek pantheon and the mystery about where the hell they’ve been hiding!
How long have you been working on Mythwrecked?
Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou: The initial spark of the idea occurred immediately after we released Röki, so about two years ago. We were thinking about what to do next, about how to evolve and learn from that experience but still retain the Polygon Treehouse DNA and successes of our first title. The emotional storytelling, distinctive art style, memorable characters, and evoking a strong sense of place were all key elements of our creative identity we wanted to retain and build upon. Then after a period of bashing the concept into shape, we started to assemble our small team of collaborators about a year ago. People are always shocked at how small our team is, but we like to punch above our weight!
What did the team learn from their work on Röki that prepared them to make Mythwrecked?
Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou: Röki was a massive leap of faith into the unknown for us. We’d been developing games professionally (at PlayStation) for over 14 years, but our debut indie title was the first time we’d been solely responsible for designing a whole game and crafting its narrative. So a major takeaway from that was confidence in our ability to deliver a game and story that people would not only enjoy, but impact them on an emotional level.
Obviously, the point of Mythwrecked is for us to locate and befriend Greek gods, but what will players do in-between all of that? What else is there to do on Ambrosia Island?
Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou: Island exploration is a key part of the game, and it was essential to us that the island feels vibrant and alive with things to interact with. A central thread of the game is helping the gods recover their memories. After meeting them, their special signature gets added to your Ambrosidex device (a bit of ancient magical tech that the player gets after being shipwrecked on the island). You can then track down their treasured mementos using the Ambrosidex’s radar. These evocative items can then be used to rekindle the lost memories of the gods, uncover the mystery of the island, and strengthen your friendship with them if you can work out who they belong to!
The second layer of island activities comes in the form of favors you undertake to help the gods out, which in turn return the island to its former glory, things like guiding wayward ghosts back to the underworld, uncovering lost mosaics, feeding the wildlife, and translating cryptic engravings found on around the island. The final layer is the collection of golden ambrosia fruit, which grows around the island. The gods find the unique fruit irresistible, and it can be swapped with each of them for key items. So in short, there’s lots to do!
How big is Ambrosia Island? How will the more adventurous players be rewarded?
Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou: The island is compact but intricate. Off the top of my head, I’m going to say it’s a touch over 1 km square. We wanted to have the island feel like an anthill, packed with secrets and riddled with pathways. Essentially the island is a puzzle in itself. It was important to us that it had that sense of depth and be packed with secrets and surprises but also feel quite intimate and a place you can really get to know and become familiar with. Obviously, the game has no combat, but we often think of the island as a “Micro-vania” in terms of how the player unlocks new paths and discovers new areas they have previously seen from afar.
Can you open up about Mythwrecked’s puzzles? I’d love to learn more about the kinds of puzzles we can solve and how difficult they might be.
Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou: At a high level, it’s important for us that the game is accessible and engaging to players of all abilities. The puzzles in Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island are quite a departure from our previous game Röki but retain the emotional impact of their narrative design. In Mythwrecked there are no point-and-click-style item puzzles. Instead, it’s about finding the lost mementos, working out which treasured item belongs to which islander, and awakening their slumbering identities. The island itself is also a giant intricate puzzle box to solve and unlock too!
How would you describe Mythwrecked’s tone?
Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou: The tonal mantra we come back to time and time again is “modern Saturday morning cartoon.” By that we mean TV shows like Centaurworld, ND Stevenson’s She-Ra, Steven Universe, or Final Space, the kind of cartoons enjoyed by adults and kids alike. We want the game to be entertaining, exciting, and to delight and surprise the player at every turn. However, like those shows, it’s also a game with the human condition at its core and touches upon more serious issues at times.
Can you talk more about how dialogue works in Mythwrecked? Does it fall in line with systems seen in other games, or is it something we’ve maybe never seen before?
Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou: We’re really excited about the story-sandbox system we’re creating for Mythwrecked. A big part of this is how we’re creating a much stronger link between exploration and narrative, two key parts of the game, but elements that are often not interwoven. In Mythwrecked, when you explore the world and interact with the new things you discover, you’ll unlock a “topic.” This “topic” could be anything from a mysterious tower, to a new character you encounter, or even a strange feeling you get in a certain location. You can then ask the islanders about that “topic” to see what they know about it and help you on your adventure.
This linking of exploration and narrative is what creates the “story sandbox.” New topics can also come from conversions with the Gods, which is also added into the mix. We’re very excited about it. It feels really natural; it’s kinda how stuff works in real life, and it gives the power firmly to the player to uncover and evolve the game’s story.
Can you give us more insight into how each god has been given a unique personality, in how they act and also their design? I can only imagine how these characters have been made to fit in with Mythwrecked, so I’d love to hear the process behind what it was like to transform legendary Greek gods into friendly islanders.
Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou: For us, it was essential to consider the characters not as individuals but as an ensemble cast. When selecting which gods we wanted to include, (There are a lot of gods in Greek mythology so we had to be picky.) we first considered which ones would contrast well with each other, and which might have interesting aspects of their personality to explore under a modern lens. We wanted to explore issues that people can relate to today, like work/life balance, toxic masculinity, mental well-being, societal expectations, and so on. So even though they’re the gods, their stories are very human, which is critical for the story we wanted to tell.
In terms of their visual design, we just went to town! We wanted them to be a version of the gods you’d never seen before, for them to be playful and pop off the screen but, as before, that they made a distinctive contrasting cast for the player to meet and get to know.
We’ve never seen Greek gods like this. So, of course, there is one question I’ve seen floating around that I have to ask: Will players be able to “romance” any of the gods?
Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou: Ha, yes the characters received some thirsty reactions when the game was first revealed. Hades in particular seems to be a favorite! Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island is focused on friendship with the gods and the mystery of their lost identities, so romance isn’t a part of the game. Saying that, the world of Mythwrecked has been conceived to have the potential to tell many stories, all over the world, and there are many different areas and experiences we’d like to explore in future projects.
Mythwrecked is coming to PC, but what about Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox? Can we expect to befriend the gods on consoles, too?
Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou: (checks earpiece) You can, we can confirm the game is coming to PC and consoles. Exact details will become clear in time, but we’re excited to welcome folks to the island and to shipwreck them in a world of mythology.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about Mythwrecked or Polygon Treehouse?
Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou: I’d just like to say thanks for reading, and if you’re excited or intrigued about the game at all, then you can wishlist it now on Steam, follow our Twitter account, or sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with all the latest Mythwrecked news.
Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island will launch for PC and consoles sometime in the future.
This interview about Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island has been edited for clarity.