Dungeons & Dragons will enjoy a big-budget video game experience crafted by the team of developers behind last year’s Dark Alliance. Except, they’re now operating under a new name.
The freshly rebranded Invoke Studios - previously Tuque Games - have been tasked by publisher and owner Wizards of the Coast with creating a AAA-quality, “original Dungeons & Dragons-inspired” video game, according to a press release. The game will be built on Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 5 - this technology is so new that the list of video games currently using it doesn’t reach much past Fortnite (also owned by Epic Games).
This is a similar edict to the one given to Austin, Texas-based Skeleton Key when it was founded by Wizards of the Coast earlier this year. Headed by ex-Bioware and EA developer Christian Dailey, Skeleton Key's AAA video game remains an unknown.
Wizards of the Coast purchased the Montreal-based studio in 2019 to develop the action RPG Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, which was released in June 2021. A flagship title for Wizards’ increased push into digital products, Dark Alliance met middling reviews, perhaps due to a constrained development timeline that allowed it to ship with serious bugs and missing core features, such as cooperative multiplayer.
Wizards and Invoke remain confident in this new project and their renewed partnership. Dominic Guay, Invoke’s vice president and general manager, boasted that the studio will “enjoy the autonomy of an independent studio” while also accessing Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro’s significant cache of resources - namely, money.
Guay joined invoke shortly before Dark Alliance’s release, coming from a stint at Ubisoft where he oversaw the development of several open-world RPG video games. The press release makes explicit mention of Guay’s work on Watch Dogs, which might hint at the scope and style of video game Invoke plans to develop using Dungeons & Dragons’ high fantasy setting.
Invoke also wants to considerably increase their staff, saying they plan to bolster their current roster of 80 employees to more than 200 members by 2025. A three-year development cycle would fit with Hasbro’s recent pitch to developers that the massive toy and entertainment company plans to increase its operating profits by 50% during the same time period. Dark Alliance was pushed out in roughly two years, though it’s not clear when then-Tuque Games began work on the video game.
That digital focus extends beyond the realm of video games. Wizards of the Coast unveiled its own virtual tabletop program, currently in-development, as part of the One D&D announcement. The Wizards-owned answer to popular platforms such as Roll20 and OneMoreMultiverse will feature high-quality 3D environments and plenty of tools for both DMs and players.
How Larian Studios and the Baldur’s Gate franchise fits into this plan remains an interesting question. The upcoming Baldur’s Gate 3 will be the biggest and most expensive use of Dungeons & Dragons setting in a video game, and Larian has managed to cultivate a solid reputation among players for its work on the Divinity series - even if it has a penchant for blowing past its own dates. Dicebreaker has reached out to Wizards and the new studio for more information.