Spider-Man: Edge of Time Preview
Peter Parker is going to die. That’s the central conflict at the heart of Spider-Man: Edge of Time, the recently announced non-sequel to 2010′s Shattered Dimensions from developer Beenox. He’s going to die, and the only way he can survive is to accept the help of Spider-Man 2099 (Miguel O’Hara), a superhero from the future determined to correct a timeline gone wrong.
Peter David, Spider-Man 2099 creator and writer, is penning the story, a complicated time travel tale centered around the two Spideys. The Amazing Spider-Man (Josh Keaton, who voiced “Ultimate” in Shattered Dimensions–Neal Patrick Harris is not returning), and Spider-Man 2099 (Christopher Daniel Barnes, “Noir” in Shattered Dimensions), will need to work out their differences to save Parker’s life and crush the villain.
I recently had a chance to see a pre-alpha demo build of Spider-Man: Edge of Time in action, along with some Q&A with Producer Kevin Umbricht and Creative Director Gerard Lehiany. There’s a lot we still don’t know (for instance, who the villain is, exactly), but it was an informative demo that showed off the first level in the game. Below is everything we know about the game so far.
In the year 2099, an unnamed “evil scientist” travels back in time to the present day, and establishes the gigantic, super powerful Alchemax corporation. It’s a scientific mega-complex, a “city within a building…towering over Manhattan,” as Umbricht described it. The game’s adventures take place within Alchemax headquarters, which is enormous.
Our friendly neighbood Spider-Man Peter Parker, unaware his reality has unnaturally shifted, ends up becoming an employee at Alchemax. Lehiany emphasized that Parker is quite content in his alternate life. He has a good job, and he’s happy, which is rare for Parker.
That is, until Spider-Man 2099 (Miguel O’Hara) shows up with some disturbing news. O’Hara had chased the evil scientist through the portal back in time, and witnessed the creation of Alchemax. When O’Hara re-emerged in 2099, he was the only person alive who knew that the future has been altered for the worst. Not only that, but O’Hara knows that Peter Parker will meet an untimely death if the past goes unaltered.
So, Spider-Man 2099 contacts our present day Peter Parker through time, and warns him that things are not what they seem. If the timeline is not corrected, Parker will die. The two Spider-Men then enter into a sort of adverserial alliance, as they not only work to defeat the villian behind all of this, but also to defeat their own mistrust of each other and form a genuine bond and friendship. Parker particularly distrusts and sort of resents O’Hara initially, which leads to all sorts of verbal spats betwee the two.
Lehiany explained how their relationship will develop throughout the game:
We really wanted to push the relationship between the two Spider-Men. At the end of the game, we wanted them to become real friends. In order to get there, with Peter David we were really trying to think how can they not agree sometimes and even argue with each other, but still have to work together. It’s not just, “Hey, I’m Spider-Man. I’m Spider-Man, too. Let’s be friends!” No, not at all. We’ve been looking into how we can build a challenge for the two Spider-Men. How often can they disagree, but still have to work together, and then when and how can they finally accept one another. By the end of the game they became real friends.
Cause and Effect Gameplay:
In Edge of Time, the two timelines are linked together, enabling actions from the past (present day) to immediately impact 2099. Kevin Umbricht broke down how this will play out:
Since the timelines are essentially linked together, what you do as one Spider-Man immediately affects the other. If you’re playing as Amazing Spider-Man, if you were to destroy anything, it would immediately cease to exist in the future. What ever you cause here has that effect in the future. Then, when you’re playing as Spider-Man 2099 in the future, you’re reacting to things that happen around you. Changes are happening and you have to re-strategize based on objects appearing and disappearing.
We saw a couple examples of this mechanic in our demo. In one scenario, Spider-Man 2099 is threatened by vicious Terminator-like robots inside Alchemax. To assist his future Spidey bro Parker attacks the present day labratory in Alechmax where those same robots are still in prototype form. In essence, Parker attempts to destroy the robots before they even exist in O’Hara’s future, in order to save him.
In Spider-Man 2099′s world, the environment transforms right in front of the player as Peter Parker’s actions play out in real time. In one sequence of Spider-Man 2099 gameplay, an entire labratory area imploded in on itself and vanished into non-existance. Visually, it sort of resembled the way the house at the end of Poltergeist sucked up into itself and disintigrated. It was kind of awesome, actually.
When asked if all of these “cause and effect” sequences would be large scripted events, or if they would also include smaller, on-the-fly changes, Umbricht responded:
It’s a little of both. The major events are story beats, so those are a little bit more scripted, but then there are other little things you can do. We’re not getting too much into that right now. In terms of navigation: finding little hidden things, that stuff will have a cause-and-effect.
When O’Hara and Parker need to communicate, they do so through a little picture-in-picture window in the lower part of the screen, which allows them to speak across time to each other. Additionally, the picture-in-picture helps show the player when cause-and-effect is impacting the other timeline, and how. Lehiany explained:
We’re using a picture-in-picture tool to make it clear to the player when he’s actually playing Amazing, he can see all the interaction that his setting affects in the future. And the same thing with 2099. He can see Amazing is doing something, and then boom it changes what he’s doing for Miguel.
Earth 928 vs. Earth 616:
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions gave the player control of four different Spider-Men, all from different dimensions. The plot explained how and why dimension-traveling was possible, and off Spider-Man went, bringing his charmingly bad puns and zingers to other dimensions.
But the plot in Spider-Man: Edge of Time seems to purport that Amazing and 2099 are from the same dimension, and exist along the same timeline, which is debatable. Amazing Spider-Man is from Earth 616, while Spider-Man 2099 is from Earth 928. I asked Umbricht about this, and it was perhaps the geekiest question I’ve ever asked. If I wore glasses, I would have pushed them up on my nose as I was asking. Anyway, he said:
They are and they aren’t [from the same time]. It’s a ‘possible future,’ as Marvel puts it. It’s one possible future outcome. When the 2099 universe was first started, it was along that same timeline. We’ve been working with Marvel on that interpretation. The Earths have different numbers. They’re numbered, all the different universes. [Parker and O'Hara] don’t have the same number, but it’s still the same timeline.
I’m sure Peter David’s story will explain this, but we’ll have to wait and see how, exactly. *pushes invisible glasses up on nose*
The flow of the combat sequences we saw looked relatively similar to Shattered Dimensions, which is to say they looked pretty cool. Amazing Spider-Man’s style is very acrobatic, graceful, with a lot of emphasis on web-slinging. 2099 is a bit more of a beast, making use of his talons for some brutal, up close and personal brawling attacks.
The hook in Edge of Time is each Spider-Man has a unique ability. Amazing Spider-Man has a new evade move, which Lehiany described for us:
[With his new evade move], he can basically dodge any problem, and he can use it even when he’s attacking. It’s very useful in combat, and also navigationally and for exploration.
What we saw looked like a pretty basic evade move, but we were reminded that we were seeing the first level of the game, when the player has not yet upgraded the ability to unlock its true power.
O’Hara’s special ability is a deceptive hologram, which he can trigger to trick enemies. When activated, it draws enemy aggression to its location, leaving them vulnerable to a flanking attack. Its function and execution looked similar to the Halo: Reach hologram armor ability, as a comparison.
I’m intrigued by the cause-and-effect mechanic and the time-traveling story conceptually, but I’m curious to see how it actually plays. Even though there are only two Spideys this time, this seems complicated and ambitious, and I hope Beenox and Peter David can distill the experience down into a game that holds together, and (most of all) is fun to play.
One thing is clear. Compared to Shattered Dimensions (no, this is not a sequel), Beenox is placing much more emphasis on a compelling story, and crafting gameplay mechanics that support the main thrust of that story. It’s an interesting setup, that’s for sure.
Hopefully we’ll get a chance to take Edge of Time for a spin before it hits later this year. We’ll keep you up to date on that.
Spider-Man: Edge of Time swings into stores this fall. Systems have not yet been announced. Check out the trailer below, or head over and download a copy.
Love Marvel heroes? Check out our Thor: God of Thunder walkthrough