In this new indie game from Unruly Heroes developer Magic Design Studios, players control a personification of Death who’s burnt out from being the CEO of Death Incorporated. It turns out that the underworld is run by a dreary corporation that drains the life out of its employees just as much as the ones on the mortal plane do. Overworked and underappreciated, players track down the Sorrows, which are Death Inc. executives ignoring their duties to cause chaos on Earth. Death has to show them who’s boss and possibly make their job a little more enjoyable.
In practice, Have a Nice Death is a side-scrolling action-roguelike that takes place in the various departments of Death Inc., which include addiction, pollution, and more. This game will grab players’ attention thanks to its wonderful animation and bombastic abilities, but has the potential to be much more relatable on a deeper level thanks to its setting and themes.
Envisioning the underworld isn’t exactly a new concept in games — Death’s Door and Hades both had a similar approach to portraying the afterlife — but the developers of Have a Nice Death made it clear that this is a game more about workplace struggles and burnout than dying. Death can’t actually die. To him, RIP actually means “rest in paperwork.”
To realize this vision, the developers at Magic Design Studios had to draw from their own experience and hope players will do the same. “We started to think about our own experiences as employees in corporations,” narrative designer Mérédith Alfroy tells Digital Trends. “Everybody knows what it is to work, so we can assume the player will understand what we want to talk about.”
Discussing the realities of the modern workplace can obviously get quite depressing, but there is one show is famous for addressing these topics in a funny and approachable way: The Office.
“We’re particularly big fans of The Office USA TV show,” Alfroy says. “We definitely wanted to go in that show’s direction with the humor.”
At a basic level, The Office is a show about feeling stuck in a dead-end job at a company that doesn’t matter, but it captivated audiences by mining the humor out of all of the quirky relationships that emerge from that misery.
While Have a Nice Death‘s premise might be uncomfortably relatable, its developers are learning from The Office and making something that might make the endless grind of working a little more bearable. The main way it can do this is by making the player feel powerful as they fight the Sorrows and their minions around Death Inc. Have a Nice Death‘s combat looks exhilarating, and the game was intentionally designed to be short but sweet.
“We focused on making an action game, and the roguelike genre really fit with our vision of making fast and short bursts of action condensed into a single-hour run,” Simon Dutertre, lead game designer, explains.
The American version of The Office did have to rebound from a first season that wasn’t super-popular and much more dour in tone. Thankfully, its creators focused on the elements people liked, such as Michael Scott’s loveable antics and the Jim and Pam’s romance, and the show really managed to come into its own throughout season two. With Have a Nice Death, Magic Design Studios has a clear vision for what it wants to do, but is also looking for player feedback through early access to truly give players what they want.
“We know where we want to finish this game’s story, but we really want to surprise players with the events in the game,” Alfroy said. “We can also use the feedback from the community during access and maybe go deeper into the short stories of some NPCs or go even deeper with the main. We want to adapt to feedback, even if we know where we’re going in the main story and want to surprise the player.”
This feedback will also be valuable for the gameplay of Have a Nice Death. It also looks fluid and satisfying, but Dutertre anticipates having to adjust the balancing and ensure that no two runs feel the same. “I want to avoid the players having any similar runs,” he says. “We have a certain number of enemies and weapons, and we want to see if it’s enough.”
Have a Nice Death will hopefully use this release format to its fullest and deliver a lighthearted but relatable roguelike experience that players will talk about as much as they do with Dead Cells or Hades. Have a Nice Death will be released in Steam Early Access on March 8, 2022.