Mulaka (left), Zelda: Breath of the Wild (right)
At this year's Tokyo Game Show 2018, the indie scene was just as well represented as the Triple-A titles that took over the venue. With lower budgets and smaller workforces, indie developers are given the harrowing task of creating a game interesting and different enough to steal a gamer's attention away from the Fifas and Call of Dutys of the world. Mulaka, developed by Mexican studio, Lienzo, is an indie game that is both fun to play, beautiful to look at and also educational all in one package. Based on the real-life mythos of Chihuahua, Mexico's indigenous Raramuri tribe, Mulaka takes the action-adventure aspects of The Legend of Zelda and puts a Mexican Cultural spin on it. We sat down with the Director of Lienzo, Edgar Serrano, and talked about the inspirations of the game and the future of the studio.
To start things off, I know the game is based on the myths of a real indigenous Mexican tribe known as the Raramuri. What about the culture inspired you or drew you in enough to make a video game based on it?
Mulaka was actually the game that got us money for the studio. We wanted to go into the industry with our own IP, so we started looking for funding for this game which came out of a conversation I had with my co-founder. As I told him, “What if we do a Zelda but based on a Mexican tribe?”. I was a Boy Scout for about 5 years, so I know a lot about camping areas around my state and the various tribes. I believe firmly that Mexican cultures have the same material and potential to be as cool as Vikings or Samurais or Ninjas. The thing is that no one has ever looked into them to make this kind of material, so that is why we got inspired by [the Raramuri] to make this game.
For the art or battle mechanics of the game did you draw from other games, anime, or any other medium?
It’s almost impossible to make an action-adventure game without referencing Zelda. That game is so deep into our DNA that it’s impossible not to do so. We didn’t know Breath of the Wild was doing this [art style] because it hadn’t been out yet when we started working on Mulaka. When it came out, a lot of people started comparing us to [Breath of the Wild] which is amazing. Any comparison to any Nintendo product is good news for us. We got a lot of inspiration from Zelda Ocarina of Time and I personally drew a lot from Dark Souls, Assassins Creed 2, a lot also from Darksiders. The programmers say it’s really similar to Mulaka in the gameplay aspect of it.
So the game looks great and sounds great and it plays great as well. But for people who have never heard of it before, can you tell us a little bit about the storyline of the game?
So in Mulaka you control Mulaka, the main character and you have to go through stages which are based in real places in my state, Chihuahua. You go through them and you have to prove yourself to the demigods. When you prove yourself to them they grant you their power in the form of transformations. So once you have all of them, you go and ask the gods not to destroy the earth. The Raramuri think that the earth has cyclical destructions. Every so often the moon god and the sun god get tired of humanity's corruption and eliminate it through flooding, burning or earthquakes and whatnot and then it starts anew. In this adventure, you have to ask the gods not to do so. Everything in the game we drew from the Rarumuri culture. We didn’t make anything up but simply interpreted it in this form.
The story is so important for me in terms of gaming. When I was young I grew up with games like Final Fantasy 8, Pokémon, Super Mario and these games inspired me to become a video games journalist. As a gamer yourself and a developer, what were some games of your childhood that inspired you to pursue a career in video games? What about them did you like so much?
The first game where I realized that games could be a whole experience was Punch-Out for the Nintendo Entertainment system because it was the first game that I finished. After that, of course, Zelda and of course Mario. Also, it really got ingrained in me with Onimusha, on how a culture can be represented in a game so well. Assassins Creed and Starcraft were also really big for me as well. All of them sort of make this mishmash of design which I put into the games.
Mulaka (left), Zelda: Breath of the Wild (right)
Talking about Assassins Creed which like Mulaka, is an action-adventure game, what about that game did you find so amazing?
I found it amazing how you finished Assassins Creed 2 I believe, and you knew about the Italian families and Da Vinci and experiments in history without really having it be an educational game. It was really important for us not to portray Mulaka—because it is not—as an educational game. But to have all the information there for the players that want to dive in.
Personally, I think video games changed my life and made me the person I am today. However, in the media sometimes people have said that video games are the cause of violence in children and young adults. I want to know: do you think video games are good or bad for children and why?
They’re amazing for children. They develop all sorts of abilities and cognitive aspects of your brain that you can develop only with games. I believe that if someone is disturbed enough to shoot somebody, he or she is going to do that regardless of whatever they play. I don’t believe that has any inference on whether or not you’re a violent person. That has more to do with your family and your upbringing and how you handle everything. Because if you go that far, I mean there’s always been fictional products that have violence like movies or cartoons or even books. Literature like The Odyssey or Dante’s Inferno, they’re really violent but those weren’t blamed before. With video games, it’s really easy for people who don’t know about them to blame them because they sometimes look really violent. I strongly believe that it’s really good for a child to experiment with video games because it’s an art form and in my opinion, it’s the best art form.
Lastly, what’s next for Lienzo? What can fans expect from you in the years to come, any future projects to tease us with?
We’re going to keep making videogames and we are already deep in the iterations of our next game. You can expect more Mexican culture from it. You can expect it to be also an action game, but when we have more details we’ll let you know. Please just follow us on social media: LienzoMX on Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter. On Youtube, there are short documentaries on the making of Mulaka and visiting the Raramuri tribes, so please check it out it’s really interesting.
Mulaka is already available in North America and will be available worldwide near the end of November on Steam, PSN, Switch and Xbox One.
Got a favorite indie-game or action adventure game of your own? Let us and our readers know what it is in the comments below.