There are few bands around that can match the deep mythos that has been created around the music of Iron Maiden. A mythos so deep is the perfect basis for a video game and that’s exactly what they’ve done.
Working closely with the band’s Vancouver-based developers and self professed Maiden fans Roadhouse Interactive have come up with one of the most forward-thinking licensed video games around – a free-to-play deep RPG game focused on Maiden’s long-running mascot Eddie and set in a universe very much inspired by the themes and the artwork of Maiden’s 30 years of albums and singles.
We caught up with Roadhouse Interactive boss James Hursthouse and Interactive Director of Phantom Music Management Maiden’s management company Llexi Leon to have a chat about bringing the Iron Maiden mythology to life in video game form on iOS and Android platforms.
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One of the main things Roadhouse focused on was bringing the music to life and doing more than just jamming in Iron Maiden songs over the game’s action. To do this they worked closely with Maiden’s chief songwriter, bassist and co-founder Steve Harris to get the game’s music pitch perfect, picking the very best tracks from their studio and live libraries and reworking and remastering them to provide a cracking backdrop for Eddie’s adventures.
“Some of the older music when they were recorded in the heyday the technology didn’t exist to create them in forms that could be brought into the game,” Hursthouse explained. “Steve had this amazing idea, because you know how tight Maiden are live, he said, ‘Why don’t you use recordings from the live desk?’ So when you hear this version of Revelations in the game, it’s been mixed to sound like a studio version but it’s got three guitars wailing away on it and it is just spine-tinglingly good.”
He went on, “There’s a lot of those pieces throughout the game. If you’re a Maiden fan it’s just amazing because you get to hear versions of the songs that haven’t been heard before.”
“All the music in the game has been, whether we got it from live desk sources and reworked it or we went back to the original masters of albums recorded in the last decade or so, remastered and produced especially for this game,” added Leon. “We had Steve cherry-pick the performances when it came down the line so we basically had Maiden themselves saying, ‘We had that one show where we played a really rocking version of Hallowed Be Thy Name. Let’s lift that.’ And no-one’s ever heard this recording from 20 years ago.”
But it’s not all about music. Roadhouse have created a campaign that follows Eddie though a universe that is all linked together by the imagery that Maiden has crafted through the music and accompanying artwork.
“Whether you’re a Maiden fan or not it’s a compelling narrative with some really compelling characters,” Leon enthused. “For the Maiden fan that may be on the fence, bringing all these worlds together and actually creating a cohesive universe out of the various worlds that have been depicted on the album and single covers has been the most awesome experience.”
“To put a cohesive narrative together that you go on this odyssey with Eddie and there’s a reason why there’s all of these different versions of Eddie and yet there’s still actually only one Eddie, which we explain throughout the game and creating new mechanics from this Maiden mythology and this new story. We’ve got a quick-change armour system similar to Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns where you go into battle and pick three aspects of Eddie that you want. Then during battle you can swap out in real time. So you could be Wicker Man Eddie and change to Carriage Rider Eddie then Somewhere In Time Eddie instantly and access different abilities.”
Leon continued, “Then there’s things like time travel that are so fundamental to the mythology of Maiden both in the lyrics and the song titles and the album covers. Going from ancient Egypt to the far future and fighting space monsters is fundamental to the Iron Maiden pantheon. We couldn’t make a Maiden game without time travel.”
Hursthouse expands, “There’s things like deju vu and the ability to look into the future and maybe you may not get the full picture but there’s a lot of stuff about clairvoyance and the ability to predict what’s going to happen. The idea to take a peek back a couple of moments in time and deja vu have become innovations that we’ve able to bring into the gameplay which really enhance it. Being a turn-based strategy the ability to take a peek at what the enemies are going to do have come through in a very satisfying way.”
The teams are also keen to emphasis that unlike most licensed games Legacy of the Beast is more than just the kind of cynical cash-in that games fans have become all too familiar with.
“That’s always been the challenge,” Leon explained. “There’s a benchmark of quality that comes with anything Iron Maiden related and we’re really concerned about that. Beyond that we’re concerned about the availability to fans and the barrier to entry.
He went on, “We have such a huge global fanbase – millions and millions of fans in South America as well as in Europe and North America – and we wanted to be sure that if we created a game experience now that it would do justice to the album art and the stories and this visceral action-packed world. And it’s a challenge because it’s a world that encompasses ancient lands and the distant future and sci-fi fantasy so there’s a lot we want to get in. And so we need to realise that both visually and functionally and then we need to do it in such a way that every Maiden fan can play it and not be penalised for being in a country where a Playstation costs $2000.”
“That’s one of the reasons we started to look more seriously at mobile,” he said.“Over the years there have been all sorts of proposals about making a Maiden game and we wanted our return to games to be something that was the first definitive Maiden game in 20 years.”