First came Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011. Then Dawn of the Planet of the Apes arrived in cinemas three years later, followed by the explosive trilogy finale War for the Planet of the Apes just last month. What connects these three blockbusters, aside from their intelligent simian protagonists or the largely universal applause with which each met? Why, their hideously elongated names, of course.
But performance capture studio The Division are making a bold move this year, proposing that new Apes entries don’t need seven-word epithets to craft compelling expansions of the prequel saga’s canon. Of greater significance than syntactical semantics is the medium through which they – and first-time developer Imaginati – will convey the next instalment; prepare for the first licensed spin-off since Fox Interactive and Ubisoft’s PS1 tie-in to the loathed 2001 Tim Burton reboot.
- Not unlike Telltale Games’ various episodic sagas, Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier will place a greater emphasis on storytelling than gameplay mechanics. Players make narrative-altering decisions – both physical and verbal – every 15-20 seconds, but relieve control of characters’ movements and the camera to allow director Steve Knoiebihly to guide the visual action with big-screen-esque aplomb and the same dazzling mo-cap facial technology as the movies.
- The storyline in question won’t directly adapt the events of the trilogy, instead set between its latter two chapters’ narratives and focusing on a hitherto forgotten conflict between a rebel band of apes who’ve separated from Caesar’s war-torn tribe and a similarly wearied crew of misfortunate humans.
- Both groups are depicted as wayward “families” in Last Frontier’s debut trailer (below), suggesting we’re in for another intimate, personal drama akin to Matt Reeves’ heart-wrenching Dawn and War, as opposed to a mindless FPS (First Primate Shooter) eschewing everything series devotees have come to know and love about the brand since its 2011 revival.
- Speaking to IGN, Imaginati founder Martin Alltimes branded this cinematic narrative as “super-intense” in its pacing, with the characters and emotional set-pieces at its core. “There’s no opening and closing draws, no searching through inventories,” he said. “It’s all about you making choices that affect relationships with other characters and, in the long-term, how these relationships play out, and how the story plays out.”
Will Imaginiti’s “creative risk” pay off? Given the support of The Division, the performance-capture studio who helped Andy Serkis bring Caesar to life, we’re optimistic. But if their estimates of a 2-3 hour runtime prove accurate, then the largely hands-off narrative will have to captivate at every turn – as will the multiple endings on offer – so as to justify a similar price-tag to AAA rivals like Battlefront II and Assassin’s Creed: Origins boasting 10-20 hour storylines at the time of the project’s release.
Speaking of which, look out for Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier on PS4, Xbox One and PC this autumn, as well as for D-pad Joy’s coverage of all the latest news on the spin-off outing’s development in the interim.