Mixed Realms is a Singapore-based developer that started its journey in the video game industry with just four people working on their very first title Sairento VR. Sairento VR is a VR ninja game, and it went on to be a massive success for the VR platform setting the standard for all future VR games to come. The studio is currently working on its third game, Hellsweeper VR, which is slated for release later this year however this interview is all about Mixed Realms and its latest release, Gordian Quest. Gordian Quest is a deck-building RPG inspired by old-school classics.
GH: Tell us a little bit about Mixed Realms, the studio behind Gordian Quest.
MR: We are a Singapore-based indie studio with about 20 people. We were born in June 2016 with just 4 people and launched our first game called Sairento VR on Early Access later in December in the same year. Sairento went on to become a hit and was one of the top-selling VR games for 3 years straight on Steam. It was also one of the first 50 games to be launched on the Oculus Quest. And lastly, we are about to launch our 3rd game later this year. It’s called Hellsweeper VR.
GH: What is Gordian Quest all about? We would like to know it straight from the development team.
MR: I think our store blurb says it best: Gordian Quest is an epic deck-building RPG inspired by old-school classics like Ultima and D&D, using modern gaming concepts like roguelite elements and turn-based strategic combat. We want players to discover the joy of discovering and piecing together crazy builds and synergies between heroes in the party, supported by an extensive upgrade and itemization system. With over 700 cards to mix and match between, it’s a game that rewards exploration and curiosity, with many layers of customization that reveal itself as one gets more invested in the game.
GH: Deck-building RPG is a huge genre for the PC. If you would like to describe Gordian Quest to newcomers, what are the unique aspects of Gordian Quest that sets it apart from the traditional deck-building RPGs?
MR: Gordian Quest aims to blend the micro decision-making of RPGs like equipment and leveling with the strategic play and luck elements that feature more strongly in deckbuilding and roguelite games. If you’re already an existing fan of action RPGs or deck-builders, you’ll definitely find something to like in GQ as the core gameplay is a blend of the addictive parts of the genres.
GH: What was the biggest challenge for the development team during the development of Gordian Quest?
MR: The biggest challenge during development was to nail down a set of mechanics that could bridge multiple genres. We had an idea of how the game would look from a top level, but as they say, the devil is in the details. For example, we knew that the combat itself would be the primary hook of the deckbuilding, but that the character’s progression itself would be done in a more RPG aspect. There was then a ton of experimentation to find out which made the most sense and felt the most rewarding.
GH: Would you say that the pre-Early Access release was more critical for the game or the development work during the Early Access phase was more critical for the success of the title?
MR: It is difficult to say. We would give it equal weightage honestly. Without the pre-EA work, we would not have anything to showcase or sell at the EA stage. And without the EA phase, we would not be able to collect feedback from the gamers to finetune our game. So in their own ways, both are equally critical for the success of Gordian Quest.
GH: What aspect of Gordian Quest is the team most proud of? This could be any element of the title that turned out exactly like the developers intended or it could be something that the overall development team is just excited to make part of the game.
MR: We would have to say that it is the artwork. The art direction of Gordian Quest evolved a few times pre and post early access because our team wanted to be able to accurately portray the theme of the game while staying true to the unique art styles of our individual artists. We’re glad it turned out well and that the art of Gordian Quest received recognition from both critics and gamers.
GH: Deckbuilding RPGs are usually difficult, and newcomers are always hesitant in jumping in them. When compared to other deckbuilding RPGs currently available, how would you rate the difficulty level of Gordian Quest? How hard is it for newcomers to jump in Gordian Quest and start having fun?
MR: We consider the base difficulty in Gordian Quest very welcoming to newcomers to the genre. Players can also choose how hardcore they want to be when it comes to deaths, ranging from a minor setback to permadeath. This applies to both the campaign and Realm mode, which have very different game lengths. With that said, we also allow players to tune it all the way up to the maximum difficulty, which greatly emphasizes positioning and defensive plays to avoid taking damage and gives veteran players the challenge they are looking for.
GH: What made Mixed Realms add a roguelite mode to the game as well? Was it something that the studio always wanted or was it more of a last-minute decision it is certainly one of the highlights of the title.
MR: The roguelite mode or “Realm Mode” was something planned to be a kind of sister game mode to the campaign. Completing the campaign will also reveal the backstory behind this mode as well. On a more functional note, it is our answer to players who much prefer the frantic and faster-paced kind of gameplay that typical roguelite deck-builders evoke. Here, they are free to experiment and discard build ideas quickly, as the gameplay is more transient.
GH: At this point, controller support is in development for Gordian Quest, and it is one of the most requested features by fans of the game as well. What are the biggest challenges for the development team in incorporating controller support for the title?
MR: We wouldn’t call it a challenge, but more of a time-consuming process. As our game is heavy on UI elements and text, the team is currently reviewing the UI and flow to see how the user experience can be improved. It’s also our first time working on controller support for our titles, so we want to get it right!
GH: Gordian Quest is a deckbuilding RPG, and it is best played with a mouse and keyboard so how much impact will playing the game with a controller have on the overall gameplay experience?
MR: It’s a good question. We don’t think the two have to be mutually exclusive – in some areas we are also changing the UI to better match a controller paradigm. There are many other action RPGs and deck-building games that exist on Switch and the consoles, so with these references in mind, our goal would be to adjust the experience to be as comfortable and intuitive as possible for controllers.
GH: Is there a feature that Mixed Realms wanted to include in the game, but it could not find its way into the game due to any reason?
MR: Gordian Quest is a very ambitious game, and there are many features that did not make the cut. One of the more prominent ones would be having the hero appearance reflect the exact weapon and armor they were wearing, as well as changing the hero’s pose to match. As a smaller studio with ultimately limited time and resources, this feature had to be dropped. Instead, we spent the time expanding on the library of legendary items you could discover.
GH: What sort of expansions and DLC can we expect from the game in the future? Are you guys inclined towards releasing bigger expansions with new cards, maps, and heroes in one go or would it be more along the lines of smaller DLCs like new heroes in one DLC and then a new card deck in another DLC?
MR: In terms of upcoming expansions, we’re looking more at smaller-scale updates, to begin with. As our community is important to us, we do structure our plans around addressing feedback and suggestions and keeping an ear to the ground. The updates would focus on side additions or improvements to the current game in the form of a better quality of life features, a commonly requested cosmetics system (a nod to the customization system in the above question, but in the form of skins), and a new explorable region.
GH: When can we expect console ports for Gordian Quest? Since the PC version will be getting controller support as well, I think it is safe for me to assume that Gordian Quest is indeed coming to consoles soon as well.
MR: We are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to gauge demand for console ports! We are using this to help us decide if we should bring it to the console. If it happens, we should have digital versions of the game on the Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4 and 5 sometime between April to June next year.
GH: What was the biggest inspiration behind Gordian Quest?
MR: Our inspiration comes from a variety of games which we really enjoy. Diablo, Path of Exile, and Slay the Spire, to name a few. These modern titles aside, our inspiration is also drawn from tabletop RPGs and their CRPG counterparts. Ultima and the Gold Box games were commonly brought up during the conceptualization phase.
GH: Who is the biggest DnD fan at Mixed Realms?
MR: It would be a toss up between our game director and our community manager. They both have an unhealthy obsession with dice. Their favorite classes are the Sorcerer and Bard respectively.
GH: What can we expect from Mixed Realms in the future? Will the studio stick with the DnD formula, or can we expect something completely different as well?
MR: Being a small studio and independent from investors’ influence, we still enjoy a certain level of fluidity and flexibility in the kinds of games we choose to do. We suspect that some aspects of the DnD formula will probably always surface in them regardless, due to how its games and stories have been such a huge part of our growing up. For our fourth game, we are going back to our action roots and developing a stylish 3rd person action game that is playable across PC and VR.