If you’ve seen the trailer or played the demo for Cris Tales, then you know how gorgeous the upcoming fantasy role-playing game looks. But did you know the fantasy kingdoms and cathedrals in the game are inspired by real Colombian landmarks? Check out how two-man development team Dreams Uncorporated instilled their love for their home country into Cris Tale’s magical world.
The love for one’s country can be a powerful force. Dreams Uncorporated and Syck CEO Carlos Rocha Silva, and art director Sebastian Villareal, both hail from Colombia, a country known by many in the U.S. as where people get the drugs on our police procedural television shows. Living in the country, Silva and Villareal experience a side of Colombia we rarely get to see here in the States. Their country is one of stunning architecture and gorgeous vistas. For instance, check out the Puerta del Reloj, the city gate of Cartagena de Indias on the northern coast of Colombia.
It’s striking and bold. The yellow might as well be gold. The clock tower looming over the gate looks like something pulled straight from a fantasy video game. And so the developers turned it into just that.
The Cris Tales location is more stylised, of course, but the real-world location and fantasy setting share a similar beauty that shines through no matter which image you’re looking at. As CEO Carlos Rocha Silva explains it, it’s Magical Realism in reverse.
“In general, we really wanted to romanticize what we call the magic from Colombia, so much so that many wonderful books such as Hundred Years of Solitude from our Literature Nobel, Gabriel García Marquez, wrote so much about with the Magical Realism, a concept that takes magical elements and shows them as everyday things, but with Cris Tales, we wanted to turn this concept on its head,” said Silva in an email interview with Kotaku. “(We) used something we called Endemic Fantasy, which is turning everyday elements from our country, and transforming them into a magical version of themselves that can enter this world.”
And so the developers take a location like the Las Lajas Shrine, a basilica church built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River and art director Sebastian Villareal’s favourite location …
… and transform it into a magical castle.
There is so much magic in the real-world location.
Turning it into a magical palace almost seems easy.
One of my favourite transformations involves the Tequendama Falls Museum. Formerly an abandoned hotel, the museum overlooks Tequendama Falls on the Bogotá River. In the real world it’s something of a tourist attraction.
In the world of Cris Tales, it’s something else entirely.
Though it’s gone through many changes in the journey from real world to in-game, the Tequendama Falls Museum is still in there, instantly recognisable to someone familiar with the location.
It’s not just about bringing buildings into the game, either. Here we see artwork from the pre-Colombian Quimbaya civilisation. See how the Dreams Uncorporated team incorporates that unique style into Cris Tales.
See this cartoony frog guy?
Even he’s got a real world counterpart.
Cris Tales, as well as being a love letter to classic Japanese RPGs, is a celebration of Colombian heritage from a couple of guys who’ve been immersed in it all of their lives. Even the game’s name references a place of Colombian beauty, the Caño Cristales, a gorgeous multicolor river that transforms into the game’s Rainbow Lake.
“It is incredibly important for us to show Colombia in a positive light,” said Silva. “We’re thrilled to see creations such as [upcoming Disney movie] Encanto being created, but we really wanted this representation to be done by us, for us to use the culture we grew up in, and showing it to the world in this particular way, but more importantly, for it to have an impact as huge as it has, that is the most wonderful things to us, having people from all over the world talking about us, it would be wonderful.
Between these lush real-world locations …
… and their fantasy counterparts …
I’m not sure if I want to play a game or plan a trip. Maybe both. Cris Tales comes out on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Switch on July 20.