The sting of sea salt burns your eyes, adding insult to injury as an endless storm rages on. The memory of countless ships dashed upon jagged shores is fresh in your mind as a streak of lighting cracks across the sky, briefly illuminating the dense forest that surrounds you. The heavy scent of pine and sodden earth is interrupted by the sickly sweet note of decay, and a thousand flickering eyes in the distance serve as warning—if the madness of Greyhollow Island does not take you first, the beasts surely will.
Miles off the coast of Westmarch lies an island that many believe to be little more than legend. Cut off from the rest of Sanctuary’s developed civilizations, Greyhollow was once the center of a grand empire. Often times, such isolated societies grow and advance at incredible rates, and Greyhollow was no different. Its citizens devoted their cause to a mysterious and, as is often the case in Sanctuary, completely evil being. For reasons still unknown to this day, this unimaginably advanced society collapsed, leaving ruin, chaos, and a lingering curse behind.
Over the years, inquisitive adventurers would catch glimpses of this land off in the distance, though many presumed it to be an illusion, perhaps even a trap devised by the many evils that inhabit the world. Those who found their curiosity insatiable attempted to travel to and explore the land, dreaming of notoriety or wealth. Instead, each journey ended in tragedy, as those foolish enough to pursue this myth were never to be seen again.
The enigma behind the events of Greyhollow Island took careful crafting, and several themes were at play. There’s an overall creepy ambiance to this thoroughly supernatural slice of nature, and we wanted to make sure that vibe was prevalent in each aspect of the zone, extending from art and visuals to gameplay and creature design.
Putting this island forest together came quickly and fiercely, as our artists and designers were so eager to breathe reality into this zone that ideation and conception were completed more organically than traditionally. This means that few sketches or style guides were needed; Greyhollow was so clear and composed that it took little effort to jump straight into producing its components in our tools.
It became clear that to deliver the man-versus-nature feeling, it was necessary to avoid as many humanoid creatures as possible. Senior Game Designer Joe Shely explains this conscious decision in a succinct way: “Greyhollow Island is about being alone in the woods at night. It’s an untamed island filled with natural and supernatural dangers.” The monsters of the island reflect this, with natural enemies like the Primeval Hunter and Glowing Death to the more fantastical Hive Mother and Silverback.
Inspiration for the zone came from a variety of places, but Technical Artist Neal Wojahn’s personal experience of the Pacific Northwest played a key role in bringing the deadly marine elements to bear. Born and raised in the region, Neal recalls a section of coastline called “The Graveyard of the Pacific,” an area known for the highest number of shipwrecks than anywhere else in the ocean.
“Greyhollow is supposed to be set in a similarly treacherous area. As a child, I have vivid memories of driving with my family to the Oregon coast and seeing shipwrecks sinking out into the sand, being beaten by the grey fury of nature.”
These notes are visible all over Greyhollow Island, and it takes only a moment of observing the crash of the waves or churn of the ocean to feel the raw power of the elements that the team wished to convey.
With the addition of new zones into Adventure Mode that were not present in Campaign Mode, the development team decided to experiment with new methods of storytelling. “There was really no way for us to just drop this into the middle of the story,” shares Senior Level Designer Matthew Berger. “This presented some unique challenges because Adventure Mode is meant to be story light; it is the place where players go to replay content again and again.”
Grasping the story of Greyhollow is a more complex endeavor than a jaunt through the zone. As you explore the island, you’ll begin to unravel the mystery that’s threaded through each journal entry and event you stumble upon. Not every player will experience the story in quite the same way and may not even draw the same conclusions as a result; it’s truly the choice of each adventurer how much they want to focus on what’s unfolding or just blitz through and check a bounty off their list.
It was also a great opportunity to explore the world of Sanctuary outside of the events of The Eternal Conflict. Senior World Designer Leonard Boyarsky explains that the storytelling method of Greyhollow Island is more driven by exploration than exposition. “We focused on less of a main narrative, and more on mystery and side story and having the player piece together what was actually happening.” This approach makes Sanctuary feel a lot larger and more alive than ever, where events beyond the machinations of angels, demons, or adventurers can transpire.
The atmosphere, enemies, and gameplay of Greyhollow Island all deliver a creepy, lonely sensation designed to instill desperation in those lost among the boughs of its broken tree line. Both flora and fauna can be described as bloodthirsty, and only the most stalwart explorers will discover the secrets buried within. We’re excited for players to dive in and piece together the legend left behind by Greyhollow’s mysterious denizens. Be wary, adventurers, lest you become yet another forgotten victim crushed beneath this ancient evil.