Downton Abbey and resurgent racism inspirations for Herald

Herald is a game about diversity, which draws inspiration from the political upheavals of 19th century empire-builders, and from the class divisions portrayed in shows like Downton Abbey.

It’s a costume drama that is set aboard a trading ship, in an alternative world where a single pan-European power dominates the rest of the world. The game takes a look at colonial issues that are still with us today.

It’s made by Dutch developer¬†Wispfire. “We live and work in the Netherlands, which is known for its diverse and tolerant politics,” explains business director Roy van der Schilden. “Nevertheless, issues surrounding a holiday character known as ‘Black Pete,’ harsh immigration laws, and the popularity of far right-wing politicians, have brought this multicultural society under scrutiny. To find out what it means for a society to be diverse, we are making a game that tells an involving tale about the issues surrounding multiculturalism.”

The game will explore these issues in a gameplay style reminiscent of Telltale’s episodic adventures, with an eye towards the sumptuous visuals of British costume dramas. “We believe an interactive story can be a powerful tool to let players respond to difficult dilemmas,” added van der Schilden. “We draw inspiration from games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead for its character driven dialogue choices, TV series like Downton Abbey for its style, and our own background in theater to deliver a unique experience.”

The microcosm of the ship tells the story of intolerance and bias. “While doing research on multiculturalism, we found the 19th century to be a very interesting and unique time period. This is why we chose to let the game take place on board The Herald, a 19th century trading ship. Not only was the 19th century an era that greatly influenced society through mass migration of cultures, a ship also serves as a great metaphor for the multicultural society itself.”

Herald is being developed for Windows PC, with a release date to be announced.