Winterheart's Guild
Platform: PC
Publisher: Zelian Games
Developer: Zelian Games
Genre: Action RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Release: US TBA
Europe TBA

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Those wolves must be freezing their tails off.
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Graveyards look even creepier in a northern wasteland.
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Thanks for giving me a hand.
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How many people read those "Fragile" tags anyway?
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Neal Chandran
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Neal Chandran

Power metal is a subgenre of the metal music genre typically characterized by soaring instrument and vocal melodies, songs with a sweeping epic style, and often lyrics about dragons, knights, epic quests, and the like. In other words, this genre of music is one that contains elements near and dear to the hearts of RPG fans. Some examples of power metal bands include DragonForce, Kamelot, Blind Guardian, and Sonata Arctica just to name a few. It should come as no surprise then that many power metal musicians are also avid gamers.

Since there is a connection between RPGs and power metal, it comes as no shock that the Finland-based power metal band Sonata Arctica is part of the creative process behind Winterheart's Guild (an RPG named after Sonata Arctica's 2003 album). It will feature storylines and characters from lyrical content culled from Sonata Arctica's entire song catalog. Many of Sonata Arctica's songs tell stories. For example, "The Boy Who Wanted to be a Real Puppet" tells a twisted reverse-Pinnochio tale. "Fullmoon" depicts a story about a werewolf (one song many Sonata Arctica fans are hoping is portrayed in the game). Other tracks, such as "Letter to Dana," weave tales about relationships. In a nutshell, Zelian games believe there is enough material within Sonata Arctica's catalog of songs to create an epic RPG experience. Sonata Arctica is also working on some in-game music and new songs for the game. Here's hoping for a rip-roaring, power metal soundtrack with guitar and keyboard lines as only guitarist Jani Liimatainen and keyboardist Henrik "Lance" Klingenberg can deliver.

The Winterheart's Guild game is a single player, third-person, action RPG for the PC platform with a possibility of an Xbox 360 version. This is strictly a single-player RPG and there are no plans for any online play components. The gameplay promises a wide variety of weapons "from basic clubs to high-powered futuristic energy weapons" as stated on the game's official site. This is fitting with Sonata Arctica's music where some songs are very fantasy oriented and others are about more modern subjects like the Internet. There is also a promise of dynamic exploration via the Ageia PhysX engine. The example given on the official website is that if you do not have a key to open a particular door, you can bust it down if your weapon and strength are up to par. As with any RPG, there are items to buy, trade, and sell, people to talk to, and vast environments to explore. Early screenshots do indicate, though, that this is not an RPG for the kids, because some kills can be quite bloody and leave severed body parts. In addition, since the game takes place in a winter "wonderland," players not only need to keep tabs on normal RPG stats like HP but also make sure their character stays warm and doesn't freeze.

The setting of the game is a wintery post-apocalyptic world that resembles the band's home country of Finland. The screenshots available portray primarily outdoor locales, especially some very detailed forests. The most recent news update on the official website mentions an upgrade to the game engine that will make the lush forests come to life even more. Players can choose to explore this winter wonderland as one of the Sonata Arctica band members or choose from a selection of other characters. Plot direction is said to dynamically differ based on which character you play as.

The game has been in development since early 2005 and updates to the official site are scarce. It is therefore very difficult, even now, to find out what lyrical content from Sonata Arctica's song catalog will be featured in the game's plotline. Any guess, at this point, is still pure speculation. Although Zelian would like to release the game at the end of this year, they stress that the game will not be released until it is thoroughly done and meets the satisfaction of all involved. The list of countries the game will be released in has also not been finalized, but Zelian aims to release the game in multiple languages including English, Russian, Japanese, and hopefully more. Will power metal and RPGs go together like peanut butter and chocolate in Winterheart's Guild? We'll have to wait a while to find out.

If you wish to check out Sonata Arctica and their music, you may visit their official website at http://www.sonataarctica.info or their official MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/sonataarctica.


© 2007 Zelian Games. All Rights Reserved.

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