This is the distant past. Things are different here. In the days of July, you may find it difficult to imagine how people lived in such a primitive time. For example, while you write "July" in your calendar, the people of this dark age write "August". They looked forward to a possible summer, while you know that summer's already over. And while in these modern days, Eurogamer writers spend their time typing desperately through midnight fatigue, then they were in Paris seeing the first public showing of Beowulf, the game of the forthcoming film, and then had to sign an non-disclosure agreement to promise they won't write any more until the film's properly revealed to the world in late July at the glorious NerdProm of San Diego ComicCon.
Beowulf is, as any English Lit teacher will tell you, one of the founding pieces of Anglo-Saxon literature from which we derive most of our fantasy tradition. Well, they probably will. Beowulf's rise towards kingdom, and the confrontation with Grendel and - eventually - Grendel's Mother is a poem full of everything required to make a startling post-Lord-of-the-Rings epic.
And from the snippets we were shown, the film will certainly garner much attention. Based around comic-writer/novelist/leather-jacket-wearer Neil Gaiman's script, and directed by arch-populist Zemeckis, it boasts a cast studded with stars (Angelina Jolie as Grendel's Mother. Ying!) and features Ray Winstone SHOUTING IN A LOUD VOICE as the eponymous Beowulf. Which is always a plus. It's fully computer animated (essentially the next generation from the Polar Express technology) so will at least look spectacular as it tumbles down the uncanny alley.
But we're interested in a game right now. While it's got everything that's required for a film, it's perhaps even more perfect for a videogame. Hell - with Grendel and Mom, it's got a pair of the original end of level Big Bosses.
"One of the reasons we took a mature direction on it was...if you take everything away from the licence, in terms of a game it lends itself to a game naturally," explains Ubisoft's affable international games manager Adrian Lacey. "The story, the mysticality, the barbarianism. We don't have to force it. It's a natural fit."
There's lots of things you can do with that. Of course, what you do has to tie in with the mother licence. "That's the first question we asked Robert Zemeckis," says Gilles Matouba, the creative director on Beowulf.
"There are many interpretations of the poem - what's yours? We tried to show him we were really entering the poem and myth following his interpretation...but hey! You can't make a movie in the same way you make a game. Once he understood that, everything went well from there."
The main change from the film version is they're drastically expanding the middle section of thirty years where Beowulf changes from a young to old man, ruling his kingdom. You start at a similar place, and dovetail back into the narrative in its third act, but have plenty of adventures in between. "We weren't sure if it was going to go down, but one of the cool things was they really appreciated that - as long as we kept the same sort of palette and visual palette - they're fine with taking it further," explains Lacey about the film-maker's reaction, "In fact, they wanted us to take it further."
The thirty years are essentially a gaming metaphor for the lead's inner torment. "It's basically his struggle with the Monster within," says Lacey. "There's a series of Titans and leaders from Norse mythology he battles and encounters. It's the transition from where he's a young headstrong warrior - where it's very much button-bashing no-brainer crushing...but it's the first stage, and he realises there's more to life than this. He has to look after his men, his thanes. He has to grow up."
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