Phantom Hellcat Dev Talks About Inspirations, Combat, Dualsense Edge and More

Among a lot of high-profile announcements at Gamescom 2022, there were some smaller surprises as well and Phantom Hellcat was one of them.

Game’s reveal trailer during Gamescom impressed a lot of people and like many other fans, we wanted to know more about Iron Bird Creations new title. If you have missed Phantom Hellcat and don’t know what it is, I will recommend that you watch the trailer below:

Now, you want to know more, right? Well, we had a little chat with the developers of Phantom Hellcat about different aspects of the game in an interview. They were able to share some interesting details about the game. The full interview is as following:

Q: Tell us a little about Iron Bird Creations. How many people are currently working on Phantom Hellcat and how long it has been in development?

Hello! So, currently there are around 20 people in the studio. To be honest, we started the first prototype of the game in the middle of 2020. We created several iterations of this prototype during the development process before we reached the final version. This was the starting point for the game you could see on the Gamescom. As developers, it’s something we are truly happy about.

Q: What was the prime inspiration/s behind the idea of Phantom Hellcat? Any games that motivated you to develop Phantom Hellcat?

It’s a big question, because there were many inspirations behind the general idea for the game. I think the easiest way to describe Phantom Hellcat would be “Devil May Cry meets Nier Automata with a twist”. The combat is heavily inspired by games like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising but the whole camera change system is something we truly loved in Nier Automata. These weren’t the only inspirations for us, for example – the whole balance of combat and platforming sections in the game has a strong reference to games like Hollow Knight which treats both of these gameplay aspects equally challenging. Our game isn’t as difficult as Hollow Knight but the philosophy behind this game is something we appreciate.

Q: Phantom Hellcat seems to have quite a flashy Hack-n-Slash combat. Any games you can quote with which Phantom Hellcat’s combat is inspired the most from or resemble with?

As I mentioned before, Devil May Cry was one of our major inspirations for the combat system. But of course, it wasn’t the only game. We were researching games which were a mainstream of Hack-n-Slash & dynamic action-adventure titles 2 console generations ago (around 2010). We even received a question from a Phantom Hellcat fan if the combat system was inspired by Kingdom Hearts and honestly speaking it was a big surprise for me. As an old-school Kingdom Hearts fan I cannot say it didn’t have any impact on the game because this type of gameplay is something I find really appealing in video games.

Q: Speaking of combat, how challenging the combat is going to be in the game? Or will it be, “Button mashing for the win”.

We do our best to avoid this type of button smashing experience. There is a score system which punishes you for smashing a button by giving you less points for repeating again and again the same attack combo. We want to make the game appealing for the wider audience that’s why there are difficulty levels which allow you to adjust the experience to your skill level.

Q: How will our protagonist, Jolene will evolve throughout the game? I mean, how will character progression work? Does Jolene have skills and abilities players will be able to upgrade? Will there be upgradable weapons and armor? Things like that.

The whole action takes place in a magical theater. If you look at the history of theaters, in most cultures it is strongly connected with masks. That’s why Jolene collects masks and these masks are a source of new powers. It’s a little bit more complicated but let’s just say every mask gives you a new secondary weapon (as an addition to the basic weapon which is a sword presented on the trailer). The mask is also a small skill tree which allows you to upgrade your character with passive and active skills. Passive upgrades accumulate in the character, active upgrades are strongly connected with the secondary weapon of the mask. Basically speaking, you collect points and spend them on mask upgrades to get new passive skills or attacks.

Q: Apart from an action game, Phantom Hellcat is a platformer as well. Does the game also have puzzles as most platformer usually do?

Most of the platforming sections are built around the agility challenges but I cannot say there aren’t any puzzles. But puzzles weren’t the focus for us. We wanted to build a fantasy of controlling a powerful, swift, speed-oriented character who moves quickly around levels. Placing too many puzzles on levels would probably kill this feeling.

Q: It seem like Jolene have a Walkman which indicates that soundtrack and music is going to play an important role in overall experience. Can you elaborate on that?

Music is a very important part of the gameplay feeling. I cannot tell more about it yet but for now I can tell you about the different use of a Walkman: you collect treasures during the gameplay, some of them are audio logs. You can listen to these audio logs with your Walkman. It’s about boosting the same thing I mentioned before – we don’t want to break the pacing of the experience with a wall of text on the screen.

Q: Are there different difficulty settings in the game or all players will play on the same difficulty?

I can confirm there will be different difficulty levels.

Q: What FPS and resolution Phantom Hellcat is targeting on PS5 and Xbox Series? Also, any plans to bring the game on Nintendo Switch?

Our goal is to achieve 4K 60 FPS experience on the current generation of consoles. The game was also announced for Xbox One and PS4. About Nintendo Switch – the final decision for this port hasn’t been made yet, after all, the game is still in development.

Q: I know it’s early but any idea or rough time window you can give the fans for the release date? Will we be seeing more of Phantom Hellcat in coming days?

Unfortunately it’s a little bit too early to talk about the release date but I can promise you we won’t stay silent for too long. You can expect new materials presenting the game to appear regularly.

Q: One of the official Phantom Hellcat descriptions read: “But in the world of plays and props, things are not always what they appear to be”. Is this referring to a specific feature of the game or it’s just describing the overall tone?

We do not treat the theater props or other theater features only as a visual background for our gameplay. They are strongly connected with the gameplay structure and can be used in various ways. For example, some props may be used in combat as a way to unleash the “environmental kill” (cut the rope to make something heavy fall on the enemy). Placing the game in the theater allows us to break the rule of place and time. Traveling through the world made of huge theater stages mixed with backstage narrative shortcuts turns Phantom Hellcat into a pretty unpredictable journey. It’s a linear but also original experience.

Q: Will you guys implement Dualsense specific features on the PS5 like adaptive triggers and haptic feedback?

We’re still working on features like that. I believe it’s a little bit too early to discuss it.

Q: Sony recently revealed its new PS5 controller Dualsense Edge. As a developer, what are your thoughts about it? Will it help developers make more immersive experiences?

I’ve seen the trailer of this new controller on the Opening Night Live. Honestly speaking, I cannot say it’s a game changer until I’ll try it. I need to test its features as a gamer before I’ll be able to give my honest opinion as a developer :). It’s a little bit of a different story but I still remember the hype for PS Move and Sharpshooter controller – many people expected it would be a revolution for FPS games on consoles but we all know how it ended. And the experience of using it was truly amazing. I remember the joy of playing Killzone 3 multiplayer with it. I know Dualsense Edge isn’t a revolution of this type and it’s more about building personalized controls but I’m not sure if it will become a standard controller for PlayStation users. I treat it more like an answer for various 3rd party “Elite” controllers. I’m also sure it will boost the accessibility for players who had various difficulties with standard controllers. But as I said, I need to test it first because these are my first impressions based on the trailer.

Q: Any message you want to give the fans specially the ones who are eager to play it after watching its reveal?
If you are a little bit tired of the market full of souls-likes or rogue-lites and you’d like to play a fast paced, old school, linear but unpredictable, gameplay driven hack-n-slash title – Phantom Hellcat is definitely a game for you.

The game seems still far off however, as the developer said, we will be seeing more of Phantom Hellcat soon. And if you want to ask anything else about Phantom Hellcat, you can shoot us an email and we will try to have it addressed by the developer. But since the game has just been announced, I don’t think they would be willing to share any specific details yet.

Contributor at SegmentNext.