Saber Interactive’s asymmetrical multiplayer horror game Evil Dead The Game has been out a whole year now – that’s a whole year of players going toe-to-toe with Deadites and Kandarian Demons as the iconic Ash Willaims and his pals. Now, though, after a handful of content updates, a new Castle Kandar map, and the introduction of Splatter Royale, fans of this cult classic franchise can enjoy a bloody good time that bundles all of the game’s content into one neat GOTY-labelled package. But, how did we actually get to this point? Where did it all start? How did one of the best PS5 horror games and best Xbox horror games – if you’re looking to play with your friends – end up where it is today? Well, we spoke exclusively to Saber Interactive to find out just that – and probe into where Evil Dead The Game is headed next.
Kicking things off, we asked Saber Interactive about the actual decision to develop Evil Dead The Game as an asymmetrical multiplayer horror game – something Evil Dead games have avoided in the past – and the challenges of making an impact on a genre largely dominated by one title: Behaviour Interactive’s Dead By Daylight.
In response to that, detailing why Saber Interactive felt that the asymmetrical multiplayer game format “would fit best” when it came to the Evil Dead franchise, chief creative officer Tim Willits explained that “when [Saber] looked at starting this game, there [were] obviously different ways to go about it.” But, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the hardest decision for the developers to make. For example, as Willits continues, “it could have been a single player game” or “it could have been strictly PvE”. However, “the Kandarian Demon is such an iconic, crazy, over-the-top demon that we felt that we wanted to bring that experience [to players] on the demonic side as well as the survivor side.”
When you think about how it’s “fun playing as Ash as his buddies”, but you can also “just wreak havoc on the characters” as the demon, Willits is certainly right in saying that the asymmetrical multiplayer game approach to Evil Dead The Game “really made for the best possible experience” – something that “captures the spirit of the franchise the best”.
Adding that “it was very important to all of us as fans of the franchise to get it right”, chief narrative officer Craig Sherman highlighted that – genre aside – the “challenge on the narrative side was ‘how do you really make this feel like it’s part of the Evil Dead universe?”
Well, looking at the list of the Evil Dead The Game voice actors that were assembled for the project, it certainly helps to have almost all the original actors come back to reprise their roles. Sherman made it clear that this “helped a lot” when it came to adding “credibility and authenticity to the game”. However, Saber Interactive took things one step further – creating a narrative that makes this an unmissable experience for Evil Dead fans.
“We tried to create another level – a story level – where we thought ‘okay, this is not your typical movie licence game, but this is not a typical movie franchise either’”, Sherman explained. “How do we fit in the timeline? The Evil Dead timeline is all over the place – it’s very complicated”.
Well, as you may already know, Saber Interactive found a way to cement this game in the Evil Dead franchise’s lore through the unlockable Knowby Tapes. We won’t go into the details of the story being told here, but Sherman was clear in saying that these explain how Saber Interactive was able to bring all the characters together in a way that’s in-keeping with the lore. Was this a challenge for Sherman and the narrative team? Well, he seemed to suggest that Saber Interactive had – almost – free reign when it came to the franchise.
“Luckily for us,” Sherman explained, “the timeline of Evil Dead is very flexible and there’s lots of room to play – and we had the participation of the people who’ve made the films to get approvals. So, that was very helpful. In almost any other franchise, it would have been impossible to combine these two things. But, in Evil Dead, it works because they do whatever they have to do in that franchise to have fun and make the story work at the same time. So, we got to play in their playground and it made it a lot easier”.
While, of course, the story is an important part of Evil Dead The Game, it was continually made clear – throughout our conversation – that getting the gameplay right was always at the forefront of Saber Interactive’s mind. So, with Splatter Royale’s introduction being quite an interesting step away from the asymmetrical multiplayer experience at the core of Evil Dead The Game, we asked whether Saber Interactive was able to tick all the boxes it had for the title – whether what we have now is true to the original vision.
“You know, I think we did pretty well with our original vision,” Willits shared. “We tested the crap out of it before we shipped it, but the main experience is what people gravitate towards… I do think that if you are an Evil Dead fan and you want to [kind of] be in this universe, there’s something for everybody.”
Willits added to this by highlighting that Evil Dead The Game is now available on Steam – which means “all 120 million Steam users will be able to play” with cross-compatible matchmaking to grow the player pool across the board. While it hasn’t seen the uptick of players we can imagine he was hoping for, it’s a clear sign that Saber Interactive are committed to trying to improve the experience for players. We also managed to ask Willits about the long-awaited Nintendo Switch port for Evil Dead The Game, to which he replied that Evil Dead The Game’s Switch version “could pop up” like a Kandarian Demon. Although, he couldn’t confirm – or deny – whether that was the case.
One thing he could confirm, though, was that the release of Evil Dead The Game’s GOTY Edition isn’t necessarily the end for this asymmetrical horror game – even though it might feel that way. Why? Well, aside from the obvious, it’s clear that the development team behind this game are quite-simply very passionate about it – perhaps no one more so than music director Steve Molitz, who we were also fortunate enough to speak to during this exclusive interview.
When we asked Molitz about his experience working on Evil Dead The Game, he was quick to express that it “feels great to be a year in and, as the game’s composer, to still be so inspired and creatively engaged.” With four new “hybrid orchestral horde tracks” and a new original song included in the Game Of The Year Edition, it’s clear to see that Molitz still has so much more to offer this experience – and, to be honest, we’re here for it.
If you want to listen to Molitz’ new original rock song, which was created exclusively for the new “Stalking in a Winter Wonderland” single-player mission, you can below:
If you’re wondering what sort of thing inspired Molitz to throw together such a banger, he answered quite candidly with the following:
“For me, it’s the music that I would want to hear if I was firing up a chainsaw, or grabbing a Boomstick, and going to hunt some Deadites. It’s like ‘alright, this music gets me energised and hyped up’.”
With Molitz acknowledging that it was vital to make Evil Dead The Game both fun and an experience that honored the franchise as a whole, we can’t think of a track better-suited to taking on Kandarian demons. However, Molitz was also keenly aware of the fact that players could actually play as Kandarian demons, too. So, that’s why he “decided to make two separate soundtracks – so, when you play the game as a demon, the music you hear is more menacing, and darker, and heavier” than when you play a survivor. It’s a little detail that might go unnoticed, but an important one when it comes to creating the right atmosphere on both sides of the game. That, and the fact that Molitz strived to ensure that the music was always “evolving” as you played.
“I think a big part of the inspiration with the music for me was the fact that I wanted it to constantly be evolving. I never wanted it to settle in one place for too long, because the game itself is so unpredictable. You have Deadites spawning [and] things are constantly changing while you’re playing. So, I wanted the music to be this living, breathing, evolving entity within the game itself.”
“I feel like that authenticity and all that extra effort”, Molitz added, “hopefully can be felt by the fans when they play the game. I think you can tell ‘wow, the people that made this game really care about Evil Dead and care about the game’ and really tried to go the extra distance to put all those little nuggets in there’. One “nugget” would, of course, be the Plaguebringer boss battle – another epic moment scored by an original rock song. However, this is something that came from the “left field” during development – an example that shows how Saber Interactive were always looking to take full advantage of Molitz’ music in-game.
However, when you also think about the fact that Molitz worked with the Evil Dead trilogy’s original composer, Joe LoDuca – a “great experience” for Molitz – and a talented team of assistant composers, it’s clear to see that a lot of work has gone into making sure the right tone is being set by Evil Dead The Game’s music – whichever side you’re on.
Another important part, we feel, in setting the right tone for the experience is the camera controls for the Kandarian Demon. These can be erratic and unpredictable at the best of times, so we asked Willits about how challenging it was to incorporate Sam Raimi’s iconic camerawork into this part of the game.
“The first iteration [of the ‘demon gameplay’] kind of made you sick. So, the team refined that look. But, that signature skewed FOV, fast moving, just puts you right into [it]. You are the demon, you are hunting in the woods, you are chasing those survivors. Even when you possess a Deadite, or you have the camerawork when you have your glory kills, [it’s] definitely inspired by the movies – it kind of makes you feel like you’re in the movie. But, it did take the team a while to perfect that and make it so it’s fun and exciting – and, [so] you don’t throw up while you’re playing”.
Continuing from this, we asked Willits about the development team’s process when it came to settling on the core gameplay loop – something this ‘demon gameplay’ is quite an important part of. Praising the development team’s ability to “iterate, prototype, iterate” and then “be flexible enough to change direction when needed”, he explained that “it’s very simple game mechanics” when you boil it down – but, then they “Evil Dead-ified” those mechanics to create the experience we’re met with today.
“One of the great things about the game is [that] crazy stuff happens all the time”, Willits commented. “Like, when we’re playing the game, someone will get a car and do some crazy stuff, or when you’re trying to find the Dagger [and] all hell breaks loose. It’s very unpredictable, but it’s unpredictable in an exciting over-the-top way.”
We certainly agree with the sentiment that Willits is conveying, that this game can be fantastically chaotic at times when you’re in the thick of it. And, then a possessed car runs you down. And, then you run out of ammunition. And, then you yourself get possessed. Just, you know, as an example.
However, there is method to the madness and it sounds like – at least when it comes to Willits, Sherman, and Molitz – that everyone was on the same page when it came to delivering a high-action experience that embraces the fun, frantic chaos of the Evil Dead trilogy.
Of course, though, the Evil Dead franchise is more than just Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness – especially now with Evil Dead Rise out in the world. So, before I wrapped up, I asked all three developers if they had any bucket list items for Evil Dead The Game.
Molitz rather humbly said that he feels “very fortunate that [he] can say no to that question”, explaining that he feels he was able to bring all of his ideas to fruition in Evil Dead The Game.
“There’s nothing I wanted to do that I didn’t get to do. But, I love the fact that we’re the type of company who really pays attention to people, our fans post-launch. So, what I’ve enjoyed doing post-launch has been reacting to the players and seeing what interests them, and giving them more of that”.
Willits, however, then added that he thinks it would be un to explore the post-apocalyptic world from the end of Ash vs Evil Dead – the Starz series. You can check that out below. This is something Sherman agreed with; however, he also added that “just being able to work on this game was kind of a bucket list item”. He, like Willitz, and Molitz, sounded very hopeful about what the future might bring for this game.
Ultimately, though, as Sherman expressed, “anything [Saber Interactive] can do to continue the excitement of the fans is what’s on [its’] list.”
What does that all entail? Well, we don’t know just yet – and there’s no telling when we will find out about it. However, what we do know is this: if, and when, we get more content for Evil Dead The Game, it’s going to be made by individuals passionate about delivering a fantastic and authentic experience for the fans. This might not be considered as one of the best games of all time, but it’s hard to argue with that.