Alex Thomas was the creative director on The Banner Saga, and by rights you'd think that would mean he'd be hard at work on The Banner Saga 2. But he is not. Instead, he's working on a brand new project called Killers and Thieves that charges players with running a full-fledged thieves guild in a pseudo-medieval city.
Thomas described in a February blog post how the idea for Killers and Thieves came into being, from an early concept for a game about fencing stolen goods to a broader theft simulator powered by the Banner Saga engine. The focus slowly shifted to the thieves themselves, and to the day-to-day minutiae of running a business, which in this case happens to be a thieves guild: Paying the rent, covering food and drink, giving Johnny Law his cut, and all the rest of it.
Stealth is obviously a central component of the game, but getting noisy is an option too: hence the name. "I like games that give the player an interesting series of choices, whether those choices are emergent or not. An all-stealth game is cool, but can be limiting and encourage lots of waiting… which is the opposite of fun," Thomas wrote. "The player should have the ability to sneak when it makes sense and fight when necessary. Or do both, or either, if they choose."
Gameplay will be divided into two sections, management and missions. In management mode, players will recruit new thieves, train them, send them on missions, upgrade and expand their base, and pay the bills. It sounds very reminiscent of the recruitment element in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. In the mission sections, thieves must be directed in real-time through locked and guarded rooms, grabbing as much loot as they can without getting busted. Murder is an option, but an expensive one, and you can't win a war of attrition.
"Raising an alarm will have the guards hunting you down, and your thieves aren't super-human: they will get caught and can permanently die," the FAQ explains. "Balance the risk vs reward of how much you try to get away with on each mission—play it too safe and you might not be able to pay your upkeep. When you get back, inspect your ill-gotten gains and fence the goods for gold. Each mission will cost you a day, so don't waste it."
Unlike many new games these days, including The Banner Saga, Killers and Thieves will not be crowdfunded, nor will it be free-to-play; Thomas said in the FAQ that he might opt for an Early Access release but otherwise it will be one-time purchase, single-player-only game for the PC. He also explained that while he's not working on The Banner Saga sequel, he's still with Stoic.
"I'm now heading up Killers and Thieves, while the Stoic team continue working on The Banner Saga sequels," he wrote. "Don't worry, they've got it well in hand! Both games will be published under Stoic. Pretty standard game dev stuff."
It's still very early in the process, but I really like what Thomas has going so far. A rogue-like Thief coupled with an overarching guild management in a pre-industrial city wracked by cutthroat politics? That's my kind of good time. Thomas said Killers and Thieves will almost definitely be out by 2016, probably.