Rock Band 4 isn’t just about music – it’s about story, too.
That’s what Harmonix designer Ali Thresher says, anyway. “When we started looking at all the new features we have in the game, mechanically, it just made sense for us to build this epic, branching story instead of taking one rise to fame path through the world.”
As such, Rock Band 4 will come with a fully-fledged campaign mode, which allows players to chart their own journeys from struggling garage band to worldwide superstar. That’s a big change for the peripheral-based rhythm series; while previous Rock Band games had a progression system, it was incredibly basic, and didn’t offer any meaningful choices.
Similar to popular role-playing games like The Witcher or Mass Effect, Rock Band 4 will force players to make important, binding decisions about how to manage their band. As Thresher explains, “You can take corporate gigs and make a lot of money as a band, [or] you can take a path to pursue your artistic integrity.”
Players’ decisions will affect the rest of the game, sometimes in unexpected ways. Thresher offers one example:
So, you might take a gig where you decide you are the spokesperson for off-brand salted meats and start your every gig by warming up the crowd telling them how much you like salted meats. And the crowd is not into it and booing and stuff, and you have to play really, really well to get them over it.
Where players choose to perform makes a big difference, too. In past Rock Band games, different venues were really just ways to deliver different set lists. This time, much like the well-received interactive fiction game 80 Days, in Rock Band 4, the route that players take across the country (or the world) changes the story. Fans accumulate by region, and players who rack up large followings in specific locations might unlock hidden bonuses.
Ultimately, Rock Band 4’s campaign mimics an RPG-like structure in which gigs are quests and the rewards – money which can be used to buy better instruments, clothing, and gear – function like loot. And, like past Rock Band games, Rock Band 4 is designed as a social experience; that means that, just like a real band, everyone is going to have to agree on the direction their fictional group will take. If the real-life music industry is any examples, expect broken friendships, lifelong fueds, and many, many fights to follow.
Rock Band 4 is out this fall for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.