After applying the defibrillator to the Wolfenstein franchise with 2014’s The New Order, Swedish studio Machine Games is ready to unleash Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus on us. We spoke with senior game designer Andreas Öjerfors.
What important lessons did you take away from The New Order?
That we were going in the right direction, and that there was plenty of room to go further. In The New Colossus we have tried to dial everything up, in intensity and in quality.
Did you have complete creative carte blanche with The New Colossus?
Yeah. Bethesda trusts us. If we wrote a Wolfenstein story about a farmer boy on a desert planet that joins a rebellion to fight the evil space Empire, Bethesda would probably let us know we’ve lost the plot. But that hasn’t happened, and they have the wisdom to leave creatives alone to do their work as long as the work is solid.
I’m interested in how the story comes together for a game like Wolfenstein II. What’s the process? Do you hold a think tank for the concept and then the writers take over, or do the writers come forward with a collection of ideas and you go with one of those?
We have a balance where the story boss has the same clout as the gameplay boss. Creative director Jens Matthies started penning the story on day one of pre-production, together with lead narrative designer Tommy Tordsson Björk. Then they kept working on the themes, characters and story-arcs in great detail for a long time. During this process they try to weave in aspects of the gameplay systems into the story, so that the world we build is consistent and believable.
At the start of every new project the entire studio is asked to come up with location ideas. So in one sense, in addition to being character driven, the story is also location driven – we want to take the player to great, exciting and surprising places.
How does the world look in your alternate version of 1962?
In The New Colossus we focus on an America that has been occupied for so long that the oppression of the Nazi regime has started to become the new normal. A Nazi occupation is a terrifying concept, but I think it’s even more terrifying imagining a population that has started to accept and internalise their own oppression.
What does the Nazi-occupied America setting bring to the game?
A distorted mirror to everything that happened there in the 1960s. In our alternate history, the pop culture was corrupted by the Nazis, and the civil rights movement never happened. TV is propaganda, and KKK walk the streets.
Can you talk about the core gameplay changes you have introduced in Wolfenstein II?
Many of the bigger changes power our goal of letting players play the game the way they want. You can now dual-wield any combination of weapons, creating combos that work for your play style. All weapons can be upgraded in different ways. You’ll choose between contraptions that allow you to traverse the environment in new ways geared towards different play styles. And every enemy type can be taken out in multiple ways.