Witches, atmospheric guitar tunes, terrifying ghoulish creations to hunt, possum familiars... Yeah, I'm in. What I'm exactly signing up for, I don't know, but South of Midnight certainly had an alluring vibe during its cinematic trailer over at the Xbox Games Showcase.
The trailer only set the stage for the eventual game, focusing on a couple of supernatural characters in what appears to be a fantastical American South. But that's not all we have to go on. I can also tell you this is a third-person action-adventure from Compulsion Games, the studio behind We Happy Few.
"As Hazel, you will explore the mythos and encounter creatures of Southern folklore in a macabre and fantastical world," the game's Steam page notes. "When disaster strikes her hometown, Hazel is called to become a Weaver: a magical mender of broken bonds and spirits. Imbued with these new abilities, Hazel will confront and subdue dangerous creatures, untangle the webs of her own family's shared past and—if she's lucky—find her way to a place that feels like home."
The only images on the Steam page are ripped right out of that initial trailer—no sight of the actual gameplay just yet. However, the game's creative director, David Sears, has spoken to Xbox on what we can expect from the game.
"Magic Realism is, is one of the calling cards of Southern Gothic. It’s a licence to actually put magic in the modern world, and to have creatures there that are just accepted," Sears says.
Sears says this gamer is a love letter to the South, a place that he describes as "a sultry, sexy, mysterious place that has not been in a lot of games."
So, a magical version of a modern-day (or modern-ish) American South. As a fan of Hunt: Showdown, I could certainly get on board with a game showing that world a little more love.
The protagonist, Hazel, will take centre stage, and Sears notes "she’s trying to learn to be a hero. But she’s unstoppable. And it’s about her finding her footing and going out into the world to make it a better place." The studio also says it's ensured Black women and women of colour into the narrative team to get Hazel's personality and story just right.
As we saw a glimpse of in the trailer, Hazel wields a form of magic called 'Weaving', and it's not your usual RPG-style sorcerer stuff.
"Essentially, you take the strands that make up the universe and weave or spin them into useful forms for the player to use," Sears says.
The other character we caught in the trailer was actually "Shakin' Bones", who's said to be inspired by the man that made a deal with the Devil at the crossroads. Also a little bit Charon, ferryman to the dead, from Greek mythology. Also a little handy with the acoustic guitar. That deft touch for the music of the region will apparently filter through into the rest of the game.
"This is the first game I’ve gotten to work on where we are treating the music design as seriously as the game design and the art direction."
I'm still not sure what to expect from South of Midnight, but if it'll see me weaving magic in a richly-crafted Southern setting with ghouls and guitars, I'm keen to see the next steps as this game's development unfolds. For now, all we know is this game will someday arrive on Steam, Game Pass on PC, and Xbox Series X|S.