Preview: BioWare/EA’s ‘Shadow Realms’

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After a few conference panels of scant information regarding the future of the Mass Effect franchise (I’ll avoid discussion of Dragon Age: Inquisition as it’s well on its way), BioWare surprised us last week with a pair of videos that assure us that “[WE’VE] BEEN CHOSEN.”  We can’t know exactly toward what these teasers are leading us, but the first one, “Nightmare,” suggests that it shouldn’t be less than a harrowing experience:

The second, called “Spark,” seems less terrifying than its predecessor in that all of the characters have traditional heads, and the seeming presence of powers might suggest that the transhuman themes that made the Mass Effect franchise so engaging have a place in this new imaginative world:

Along with a handful of viral sites–most notably www.seekinghenna.com–interest in this new project from BioWare should steadily increase, as it is likely the oft-mentioned new IP that has been referred to around the web as Shadow Realms thanks to scuttlebutt out of ComicCon.  The Edmonton, Alberta studio hasn’t done much with live-action marketing in the past, but their Shepard/FemShep ad campaign was one of the most empowering aspects of the hype leading up to the launch of Mass Effect 3.

It would seem that the date of 8.13.14, assigned to the second video and corresponding to Gamescom 2014 in Cologne, Germany, bears significance.  I’ll decline to speculate about an announcement or a release date after this summer’s dearth of information from the studio at E3 and ComicCon regarding new projects, but this unexpected chance to get involved with something brand new from BioWare is something in which players long familiar with the studio have not had the chance to participate in over a half-decade.

The interactivity of this new IP’s first viral content seems another step forward for the developer, whose mid-November release of Dragon Age: Inquisition will end a 32-month publishing hiatus, the longest such interval for BioWare.  We know they are watching, but thanks to such an intriguing viral marketing schema, so are we.

–  Vandal

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2 thoughts on “Preview: BioWare/EA’s ‘Shadow Realms’

  1. Bioware has upped the ante here again in the way they know best: By telling an excellent story

    Bioware attempts to use an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) method to setup “Shadow Realms” one of its new IP. The story of the Shadow Realms based ARG is about a guy named Blake seeking his online friend Henna who disappeared two years ago. While they never met in person, they spent a lot of time online in reddit/r/puzzles leaving coded messages and puzzles for the other to break. You can read the full story at http://www.seekinghenna.com. In fact, you can see a flier for “Seeking Henna” in the Spark trailer. It’s on the pole outside the restaurant on the right side of the frame.

    What originally starts out as a missing persons case becomes weird when Blake receives Henna’s heavily redacted missing persons police report (also posted at the seekinghenna site). Most useful information has been blacked out except for one website for the Woods-Watson Institute.

    On first glance, the Institute looks like a normal college or college prep school. Digging deeper, there are course listings for the Biology of Mythological Creatures, Traversing the Past: A Look at History Through Memories which is describes itself as “.. looks at the broad timeline of history through the minds of the people who lived it. By navigating through the web of memories, we hope to create a larger understanding of important events that have lead us to the present.”. One of the Elective classes is “Martial Tactics Versus Incorporeal Entities”!

    Clearly, not your standard College fair!

    Then, at midnight Eastern time, the Woods Watson Institute website is changed to a “dark” version. The eyes of every picture are scratched out, the links to class schedules, events and faculty are replaced with 404 Not Found messages which say things like “You don’t belong here” and “You’ll never find her”. While the text of the website itself is not changed, once the website becomes “dark” certain words are bolded. When put together, the bolded text reads “Power is one of our many strengths. No student will harness their greatest aptitude”

    To make matters weirder, there is no contact information for the school. No phone, no email, no address. Nothing.

    Why is this page linked on Henna’s police report?
    What is going on at this school?
    How does it relate to Henna?
    How does it relate to Bioware’s new IP?

    To help find his friend, Blake created a subreddit called /r/SeekingHenna. In discussions there, the users noticed other oddities on both http://www.seekinghenna.com and http://www.woodswatsoninstitute.info. Cryptograms, number puzzles, ciphers and more

    There have been other “games” like this in the past (Cloverfield, for example) but nothing this detailed. Bioware has a reputation for telling outstanding stories. It looks like they’re about to add to that legend.

    Liked by 1 person

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