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Balete City is a third person, quest-based, RPG.

Balete City: Exploring the familiar unknown

By Noela Camille Bonilla Tumesa Published Jul 17, 2020 12:00 am

There’s a new, Filipino-made video game that promises to bring you to a strange but familiar world where supernatural creatures like Tikbalangs, Mangmangkits, and Diwatas can be found mingling with ordinary humans in malls, wet markets and even your neighborhood sari-sari store.

Balete City: The Video Game aims to transport players into a world that is easily recognizable with familiar Philippine landmarks, but also full of mysterious surprises steeped in Filipino mythology, folklore, and urban legends.

Balete City is a third person, quest-based, RPG, giving players a chance to traverse maps, fulfill quests, and meet different characters throughout its storyline.

Players will follow the story of a high school senior named Aki who lives in Balete City, a municipality found in rural Philippines. Aki’s adventures will bring the player to various settings and locations in the city, including forests, rice fields, cemeteries, plazas, the town square, and other local landmarks.

His main goal is to become a fully-fledged male Babaylan, also known as Asog, and to uncover the mysteries surrounding his brethren. Aki will be imbued with supernatural powers and skills in creating potions, fighting monsters, and speaking to ancient gods.

Players will also be able to meet other characters aside from Aki who have their own unique traits and powers from spellcasting, astral projection, controlling water, and harnessing a familiar.

Getting into the video game

While a senior in high school, creator Niley Bacolcol came upon the idea as he was working on his undergrad thesis, of a game world where characters, settings, maps, quests, and designs are all based on Philippine mythology.

Niley had fallen in love with the idea as he delved deeper into studying the world of spirits, based on the beliefs and rituals of the T’boli people.

“As I was working on my dissertation, I stumbled upon the works of Kael Molo’s Agla, Mervin Malonzo’s Tabi Po, and Julius Villanuevas’ Ella Archangel... I am just really inspired at how they use their talents to tell a story as they promote our very own culture,” Niley explained.

He and his development team chose the name, Balete City, to highlight the location’s mysterious and magical existence, because of the Balete tree which looks terrifying, mystical and preternatural. There are only two towns in the Philippines named after Balete, and the city within the game is modelled after Niley’s own hometown in Alaminos, Pangasinan.

The Team Behind Balete City

Niley’s burning vision for a locally made video game based on Philippine mythology attracted many Filipinos – professional artists, game developers, and voice actors – to join the team.

Their mission: Create a world-class video game that will definitely showcase the Philippines’ best and brightest, promoting our culture, mythology, and country in the best light.

“We are talking about people with intense backgrounds, amazing portfolios, and a wide range of experiences. We are accepting the challenge of blending and mixing this amazing talent force and showcasing them in our project,” Niley shared.

At this time, Niley has been working as a creative designer in a small company in the United Arab Emirates for the past several years. His development team of 50 is also engaged in different day jobs and professions because their work for the game is purely voluntary.

Niley and his team also shared that what they have planned right now is a semi-open world beyond Balete City, with inventory systems, character progression, and quest, companion, and craft systems. They are aware that, as they delve further into development, they’ll encounter new tech and systems that they will incorporate in the actual game in a continuous quest for improvement.

Filipino pride in the global gaming arena

Balete City will take some time before it hits retail release because they’re working on gathering support from government agencies such as the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Tourism, and Commission on Higher Education.

They believe that Balete City will provide an immersive platform that will promote local culture, and a gaming experience comparable to The Elder Scrolls, The Witcher, and Assassin’s Creed series. Players will be able to enjoy tribal designs, motifs, fiestas, and tourist attractions that can only be found in the Philippines.

Balete City is slated to be released in English and Filipino, and available for PC on Steam and major consoles like Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo Switch.

When asked about when gamers can expect Balete City to come out, Niley said, “It pains me to say but it will be a long journey of two to three years. This is the projected time of development. We want something that is made with love as well as something that is legit. But rest assured, we are going to post regular updates along the way. In the next few months, we are aiming to release videos of UI (user interface), gameplay, systems, and the under-the-hood processes. After a year, our goal is to release a workable demo gameplay that game streamers can have their hands on.”

Show some love and support to the developers by following Balete City’s Facebook page. Throw some funding their way via Patreon which has goodies and sneak previews of the game development for investors.