South of Midnight: How the First Gameplay Trailer Hints at the Magic to Come

Each new region will come with its own biome, a reflection of the South’s wildly varied landscapes. All of those biomes are inspired by real-world locations – Sears won’t go into detail about the later game yet, but tells me that the section we see here is set as you’re about to exit the flood and enter Mississippi Delta-like countryside. However, the magical realist approach allows Compulsion to play with expectation as you travel through its world.

Locations will feel deeply rooted in what we know of the real world – in fact, to help create this section of the game, the developers took a trip to a real Mississippi ghost town, itself infested with alligators (only one of them braved the trek across amphibian territory to get into an abandoned church and take reference shots). But as we travel, we’ll see how these areas have become overtaken by the game’s mythical creatures, bringing twisted change with them.

‘The world Hazel comes from is inspired by the contemporary Deep South” says Clayton, “but as you dive deeper into the world, things become more mystical and surreal. We wanted the feeling that you’re being pulled into a folktale, rather than, say, crossing a barrier like in Alice in Wonderland.”

The Song of Tom

Of course, most folktales need antagonists and in the trailer we meet one of them. Two-Toed Tom is based on real-life campfire tales of ancient, giant, seemingly unkillable alligators, and he will – as Clayton puts it – “haunt” this chapter in Hazel’s tale. What we’ve seen are the very edges of his hunting grounds, but Tom will repeatedly reappear as you explore his region, eventually leading us to a showdown. It allows not just for a “boss fight” that effectively spans a whole section of the game, but also allows the team to turn each creature into a full-blown character, rather than a simple mechanism for conflict.

“Tom is the only mythical creature in the game who was not a human being before transforming,” explains Sears. “People transformed Tom – he was an alligator born with the will to live, and the will to eat, and those things seemed to work really well. Because, like a lot of reptiles, he will continue growing as long as he can eat. And because he has a traumatic backstory and has become a creature of folklore and urban legend, he’s going to persist and continue getting bigger and bigger.”

The idea, like everything else here, doesn’t seem to be that Hazel will kill the creatures standing in her way, more that she’ll be curing them, removing the hurt that turned them into monsters in the first place. And in perhaps the most starkly unexpected part of the trailer, we even hear the game’s music reflecting the story that made Tom what he is.

[This article originally appeared on Xbox Wire]

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