Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus was revealed at E3 this year and is the second major instalment in the rebooted franchise, and it stars BJ Blazkowicz once again attempting to overthrow the Nazi regime. We had a chat with lead narrative designer Tommy Tordsson Björk about his experience creating the Nazi-infested version of the United States, whether they considered adding multiplayer to the game, and more.
Wolfenstein is all about the high octane gunplay and the thrill of blowing up Nazi noggins, but Björk explains how they still manage to deliver such a cinematic and deeply emotive story. "I think it sort of boils down to our interests as game developers that we're really interested in telling stories," Björk explained via Skype. "We love these kind of visceral 'through the gun' experiences and telling a rich, emotional story shouldn't be incompatible with having a fun time."
Robotic and mech-like Nazis have become synonymous with the franchise, despite Nazis obviously not utilising them in real life. When designing them, he explained that the team wanted to look past the bog-standard war scenario. "When we got the chance to do a new take on the Wolfenstein IP, we wanted to move beyond the war setting, so this idea of having it set in an alternate 1960s, it carried on the sci-fi tradition of Wolfenstein and the craziness of it, but it created something new. I guess it stems from that."
While The New Order was mainly set in Germany following the Nazi victory in the second world war, The New Colossus sees BJ and the gang attempting to overthrow the regime in North America. In the '60s, the US and Canada were typically seen as the land of the free whereas Nazi Germany is considered to be one of the worst periods in recent history to have lived, especially if you weren't of their idealistic racial background. Merging the two vastly different cultures was no doubt an interesting endeavour that sprung up some challenges.
"They don't just take over the country and abolish everything, but try to ease people into it, make them feel comfortable living under tyranny. They don't pull the rug under people immediately, they try to subvert different cultural areas, they try to ease them into the oppression." The Man in the High Castle is a recent TV show that explores a similar concept, where the Nazis won the war and took over the USA along with the Japanese, but Björk explained that the team have purposefully avoided watching the show, along with anything else that may be considered similar to the series. "We try to get influences that are beyond the genre that we're working in, hoping that will inject some new blood into it."
It doesn't look like The New Colossus will be the end for Blazkowicz and co. either. Björk explained that from the very beginning, before they developed The New Order, they envisioned their Wolfenstein endeavours as a trilogy. "We always had this vision of going to America, as that was sort of the birthplace for the '60s counter-culture movements, the rise of the human rights activists, stuff like that. We were hoping we could go there and explore the subversion of these cultural elements. That was the plan, and it turned out that people loved it. So then we could really cash in on all of those story setups that we were implanting into The New Order, hoping that we could develop the characters and the story from there."