Smash art history with big boulders in Rock of Ages

Jaz McDougall at

rock thumnbail

In the new game from the people who brought you Zeno Clash, you attack your enemy’s base by rolling a giant smiling boulder at flimsy cardboard defences. That earns you cash to build your own flimsy cardboard defences.

It’s not all cardboard, mind: you’ll find your 2D armies clustered around more solid fortifications. You’ve got to split your attention between building a suitably deterring obstacle course for your enemy’s boulder, and smashing through his forces with yours. Your enemy will usually be a human player, but there’ll also be a large singleplayer campaign that walks you through several ages of art history, bowling through ancient Greek, medieval, and Italian renaissance themes.

They’re aiming for lots of light humour, and they won’t have a hard time hitting the mark: did you see the boulder whacking that guy in the nuts?

Carlos Bordeu, co-founder and game designer at ACE Team with his brothers Andres and Edmundo, elaborates: “The game starts with ancient Greek art after Sisyphus – the man condemned to push a boulder up a mountain for eternity – runs away from Hades with his trusty companion boulder.” The Greek world will act both as a tutorial and an introduction to the story and characters of Rock of Ages – but Carlos isn’t saying who or what those characters will be.

I’ve seen some glimpses of big silly boss fights. In one, I saw the Rock rolling into a cannon and getting shot into the underpants region of Michaelangelo’s David. There’s also a large arena where you face a big lizard, and another recurring character: a giant animated carving of a bull with a bearded human face. It’s seen in a few of the released shots and videos charging at the Rock directly.

Zeno Clash was a first-person fist fight set in a world of bizarre prehistoric humanoids. It was entirely singleplayer, and very story driven. At what point did they say, “Let’s make our next game about rolling a giant ball into a castle”?

According to Carlos, the first design document was just a doodle on notepaper (David being cracked in the balls by a smiley boulder?) that built up interest among the team. “Once we recognised in that a strong concept full of potential, we moved on to decide the visual style and other design specifics. Despite us being a very art-driven studio, we feel videogames are about gameplay first and about how they look second.”

Andres cites Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python animations as an inspiration. “What Gilliam did was take very ‘serious’ fine art and present it in a ridiculous way. We decided very early that we wanted this to be a funny game... the concept is a bit nonsensical. So, we will poke fun at epic war games and also at traditional art.”