Compulsion Games, a Canadian indie studio known for developing indie titles, has managed to successfully preserve its identity even as it grew from a modest team of 20 employees to a flourishing force of 90. At the heart of Compulsion Games’ success lies a steadfast commitment to their own distinctive vision.
Compulsion’s unique approach is well-established when examining their early titles, “Contrast” (2013) and “We Happy Few” (2018). Both games feature strange worlds based on alternate realities, embrace a stylish and moody art direction, and tell a rich narrative filled with eccentric characters that engage players on an emotional level.
Their upcoming title “South of Midnight” also builds upon these established pillars. The game is set in a fictional American Deep South, and as seen in the reveal teaser, it features a distinctive handcrafted art style reminiscent of the maquettes built for stop-motion animation. It is obvious that the team is looking to build an art direction that reinforces the identity of the game and its fantasy – and for “South of Midnight”, it’s the feeling of being in a folktale. The world combines realism and magic and draws inspiration from the diverse cultural and geological aspects of the South.
The game was inspired by Southern Gothic Fiction, where melodrama and supernatural intertwines. The main protagonist, Hazel, is called to become a Weaver, a magical mender of broken bonds and spirits. She will confront and subdue dangerous mythical creatures that have been afflicted by some sort of trauma. The Mythical Creatures encountered in the game are all inspired by real-life folklore from the Deep South.
Gameplay-wise, it’s a third-person action-adventure where Hazel uses a specific type of magic called Weaving. Every gameplay element in the game, from combat to navigation, is centered around the Weaving fantasy. David Sears, the Creative Directors explains “Weavers are born with the ability to see deeper and see the way the universe is really constructed by these energized, semi-autonomous strands. The universe has intention, but sometimes it breaks down. And that’s why we have Weavers – to repair tears in the grand tapestry that makes up every person, place and thing in existence.” Hazel’s objective is not simply to defeat the mythical creatures she encounters but to restore them and the world that has been torn apart.
In 2018, Compulsion transitioned from being an indie studio to becoming part of the larger Xbox Game Studio. While much has been revealed about “South of Midnight” yet, looking at the reveal teaser, it’s clear that’s unmistakably a Compulsion Games production, and Xbox supports the studio’s vision. Players can expect to encounter unconventional characters in a uniquely crafted world, from the southern music to the small animals bearing witness to Hazel’s journey. This attention to details is what makes the world believable and encourages players to continue exploring and uncovering how Hazel’s story unfolds.