Throughout thousands of years of history, Japan has developed an incredibly rich culture based around, among many things, food, family, travel, and tradition. The Japanese mythologies and folktales largely embrace the Shinto and Buddhist traditions. They tell the tales of the many different Kami (Japanese Gods) and their exploits interacting with actual humans.
It was these mythologies that first caught the attention a young Eric M. Lang. As a kid, he would visit family in Germany. During these visits, he would often sit with his grandmother and look at picture books from different cultures. He remembers, even at a young age, being inspired by old Japanese folktales. Even though he couldn’t read the stories themselves, the aesthetics, emotion, and imagery of those tales have stayed with him all his life.
This fascination with Japanese mythology is what influenced his latest design: Rising Sun. Set in feudal Japan, players control hostile clans, struggling over territory. It is a war game, but one with a decidedly social and political feel to it. Players will go into battle, but in a very diplomatic fashion.
“Players are the leader of their clan and they’re trying to, not just conquer Japan, but to re-civilize it,” explains Lang. “The game is about the machinations of war, as much as the war itself.”
Politics plays a huge role in the game, with players getting the chance to form and break alliances. Finding the right time to join forces with another clan and determining when that partnership has run its course will be a big factor in a game of Rising Sun. Lang was going for almost a Cold War type of feel, where positioning, politics, and timing are all crucial factors in determining how to proceed.
“You have to make a conscious choice whether you want to go by yourself or you want to choose a player to share bonuses with.”
A game of Rising Sun is played over the course of four seasons. The first step of each season is the Tea Ceremony. This is where a lot of the social element of the game is played out. During the Tea Ceremony, players are able to form alliances for the upcoming season. There are advantages to teaming up, but you can’t attack someone you have an alliance with. So players must be careful not to ally with someone going after the same territories.
As polite and civilized as Rising Sun is, there will inevitably be battles. Lang has developed a combat system that is almost as political as the rest of the game. Because war is expensive, players have to save money. Before a battle takes place, players secretly invest their money. There are four different options, and players can try to win as many or few as they want. Once the bids are made, they are revealed and resolved. The forces at the start of the battle may change dramatically as players remove figures through seppuku, take hostages, or hire Ronin to join their army. After all of the bids have been resolved, the player with the most forces wipes everyone else off the board, and then it’s on to the next battle.
A game like Rising Sun, with its rich theme, incredible miniatures, and battle mechanics, will definitely draw comparisons to another title by Eric M. Lang, Blood Rage. In a way, that makes sense. Working on Rising Sun was a little like “getting the band back together.” Lang was rejoined by the same artist, in Adrian Smith, and Studio McVey, the team responsible for the memorable figures from Blood Rage. While there are similarities, both games have a very different feel.
“I envisioned Blood Rage as being part of a very loose series of games based on the folktales I loved growing up,” said Lang, who saw Rising Sun as the natural choice for a second game in the series. While he’s inspired by many different cultures, Lang doesn’t envision the series containing a huge number of games.
“Each one takes a long time to perfect, and I leave a piece of myself behind in every one of these big games that I do,” he explains.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be revealing more about how Rising Sun works, including a deeper examination of the innovative battle system, looking at the role diplomacy plays in the game, and how the art and aesthetics come together to create an immersive experience like never before. Rising Sun is one of the most personal games of Eric M. Lang’s career, and fans of his work are in for an exploration of the stories and culture of Feudal Japan that will stay will them long after the last season has ended.
The Rising Sun Kickstarter campaign launches on March 7th at 3 PM EST.