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X-Wing dev’s long-lost Xbox fantasy shooter Knights of Decayden unearthed

A new report has detailed a long-lost title from Totally Games, the developer best remembered for its work on the X-Wing series. Known as Knights of Decayden, it was planned as an early exclusive for the original Xbox before its cancellation and subsequent fade into obscurity.

Totally Games was, of course, a big deal back in the 1990s, having made a name for itself with LucasArts’ hugely popular series of Star Wars space shooters, which included the likes of X-Wing, Tie Fighter, and X-Wing Alliance. Sadly, the studio closed in 2015, following a string of critically and commercially disappointing releases – but fans will likely get a kick out of a new Axios report detailing a fantasy flight combat game the developer was working on in partnership with Microsoft at the height of its success.

Knights of Decayden (other titles reportedly included alternative spelling Knights of Decadyn and Project Archipelago) was initially pitched to Sony under the name Knights of Utu for release on PS2, but eventually found its way under Microsoft’s wing, with the plan being to release it as an Xbox exclusive in the year following the fledgling console’s 2001 launch.

Footage of canceled Xbox game Archipelago (AKA Knights of Decayden).

According to Axios, Knights of Decayden – which has briefly surfaced once before in 2009, in a listing on cancelled games website Unseen64 – was to take Totally Games’ experience with space shooters and adapt the formula to suit a fantasy setting. It would see players – either in the single-player story campaign or multiplayer mode – controlling a knight on a flying seahorse, travelling “amid skyscraper-like islands soaring above a sparkling sea.” Action was to be a mix of ranged combat and slow-motion jousting against other knights and monsters, and would also incorporate underwater segments against sea creatures. You can get a taste of some of that in the now-released footage above.

As irresistible as a game built around flying seahorses might sound, Knights of Decayden was ultimately cancelled in 2002, with Totally Games founder Larry Holland admitting to Axios that the project was still rough when Microsoft pulled the plug, and that the studio “hadn’t ironed out all of the issues with regard to scale and speed and melee.” Part of the problem, Holland says, was that the game was “incredibly ambitious and sort of foolish in equal measures”, and that he’d agreed the studio could complete the project “to a very aggressive schedule”.

And here’s a bit of trivia for you: the Microsoft executive ultimately responsible for pulling the plug on Knights of Decayden, was none other that today’s head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, and that the cancellation was his first assignment when he joined the Xbox gaming team.

Axios’ full report is well worth a read, featuring various other fascinating little nuggets about the project’s development and eventual demise.

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