How the Just Cause 4 DLC stays true and adds to the series’ formula

The Just Cause 4 DLC, Los Demonios, is out for everyone today. This second big downloadable content drop still stars Rico and his trusty parachute and grappling hook, but in a spookier setting. The island has been infected with some demons who have perverted the once-beautiful island of Solís. To coincide with the DLC’s launch, we sat down with Senior Producer Victoria Setian to not only speak about this new content but also the game as a whole and how Avalanche felt about its quiet launch.

Game Revolution: The Just Cause 4 DLC seems like a total tonal shift for the game. What is the impetus for doing something that isn’t quite in line with the main campaign?

Victoria Setian: For us, the DLC is an opportunity to explore the world of Just Cause and really keep pushing our own boundaries further. We tried to keep the core DNA of Just Cause 4. We’re exploring Javi, one of our characters from the main game, and following his story a little bit more and that is what is going to lead us to releasing this ancient infestation. As we follow this story, we find out what happens when you don’t respect history and artifacts. So that’s what led us to the amazing psychedelic demons you’re going to see in this DLC. We wanted to keep pushing our own boundaries but stay true to our core as well.

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GR: So how do you make this DLC behave like a Just Cause game when it looks so different? Grappling and the balloons are a big part of why Just Cause is so great and this seemed to be moving a little away from that, at least aesthetically.

VS: One of the other core things that I personally love other than the different mechanics you just mentioned is how explosive and over the top Just Cause is. Everything is about destruction. A thing we tried here is what happens when that destruction becomes organic? If it is made out of plant life, what does that explosion look like? You’re going to see some incredible VFX here for all of the different organic destruction objects that you are going to destroy in beautiful hyper color. It’s almost like colorful Grindhouse when you mix it all up.

So what we really thought about, from the destruction perspective which is so core to Just Cause, is how do we turn that into something that is interesting to players and make it an interesting part of the sandbox. We’re also going to be giving you a couple more tools and toys along the way that you can bring to [the main game].

We built this as a sandbox physics simulation so we want to give players as many choices [as we could] to run with their imagination as far as possible. So we added this crossbow that goes along with this ancient discovery theme along with other artifacts that Rico and Javi would come across. And then how do these things interplay across the entire sandbox? So you’re going to have more equipment and being able to manipulate the environment around you in brand-new ways.

And what will you do when that infestation can go anywhere? Anything these demons can possess, the organic destruction objects can possess too. It is terrifying to come across a tank that can get possessed by organic growth. You thought you knew every enemy was in the game but if these demons can possess different enemy types, what happens in that gameplay? And what happens if they possess a goat? There are all sorts of new ways that we are turning things on their head and pushing it further.

GR: So what is new stuff in this DLC?

VS: New enemies, a weapon, equipment, and the infestation zones are completely different. They are spread across the island of Solís but the idea is that you need to take your new demon crossbow and use it to deal with this infestation.

One of the things we brought back for Los Demonios are the liberation zones. We heard from the fans [that they liked] the liberation states from Just Cause 3. And a big part of any of our designs is reading the feedback. And we’re also fans of our series as well and this is a product that we worked on for a really long time and we put a lot of heart and soul into. So to see that the fans were really interested in JC3’s liberation, we thought this was a good opportunity to mix than in. So you’re going to see callbacks to JC3’s liberation zones.

It’s just something that fans have been clamoring for. I check Reddit a lot and that’s a big one that people are looking for.

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GR: Los Demonios is reminiscent of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Red Dead Undead Nightmare because it so different from the main campaign. What is it like working on something like that?

VS: It’s an opportunity for the team to just really collaborate and I think that you can see how well of a collaboration it is and how much joy the team had creating something as psychedelic as this. Not just the tone but the colors to the theme to this horror-esque vibe that somehow still keeps it light and fun and organic and pulsing with energy. I hope that the enjoyment of the team collaborating in this new way really comes across to players and I hope they all feel this creativity. I’m really excited to see what fans think of this direction for the DLC.

GR: I didn’t expect these new big updates to come to a game like this that isn’t a living game like Overwatch or Rainbow Six Siege. Why did you all want to add all this stuff over five to six months later?

VS: We have been doing patches here and there along the way. We worked on this game for several years and we put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into it and there’s always more that we’re going to want to do. And we did hear the feedback at launch and we want to strive to do better and give the fans the experience that they are asking for.

That’s why we’ve been doing the patches along the way and ultimately what led to the spring update. There were a couple of big things that we wanted to hit on and then we thought it would be cool if there were some big, fun gameplay elements we could introduce like the Black Hand statues or the roaming destruction objects and then bringing back destructible bridges.

The Just Cause series is so much about the fans and creating a sandbox for them to play in and have so much fun in. And we are fans of our own game and we want to keep doing more and deliver the best and most fun experience that we can.

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GR: Just Cause 4 was one of the more underappreciated games of 2018. Why do you think that is? What did you all think of the game’s reception after it came out?

VS: You work on these things for so long and you have really high hopes for them and you never really know what’s going to happen and what the reception will be. So I think that we delivered on the physics sandbox experience and I think there are a lot of cool toys to play with there but it’s always tough in the holiday season going against lots of other titles in a really competitive time.

And I think we saw a lot of different thoughts and feelings from the community of what they were looking for. Like we kept hearing about the Just Cause 3 liberation zones. We tried to iterate and push it further with the strike system. You never want to do the same thing over, right? The core fundamental of game design is how do you iterate and make something bigger, better, and more enjoyable for this current moment in time? So all of those things collected.

We focused a lot on performance. We looked at what happened for JC3 and the feedback there. We had a huge, huge, huge push for performance and optimization and making sure our load times were super fast. But if you’re spending time on one thing, that maybe means less time on another.

So you look at some of those tradeoffs. But I think we have to call it done at some point and so that’s where we landed. It’s really interesting to hear what the community thought. I’m hoping the spring update ties everything together for what all the fans have been asking. I’m hoping there is something for everyone here.

GR: I felt compelled to experiment in ways that almost no other has sparked in me before. It was a bit discouraging to not see that sentiment throughout the industry.

VS: I think people don’t sometimes see the depth of the physics simulation. It’s a world where if you poke it, it will react. That’s the beautiful discovery moment in this series. It’s super cool to hear because that’s what we are aiming for and the fact that you had that experience just feels amazing to hear.

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GR: I think my favorite discovery was putting a ton of balloons on a plane and setting them off so I could take off with limited runway. The game didn’t tell me that but I figured it out and it felt awesome.

VS: That’s exactly it, right? It’s the hardest thing of designing video games is making your players feel smart and good. Ultimately, it’s an interactive medium and you can only plan for so much on paper. So when players do feel that way, when they do figure it out and have that “Aha!” moment, it means everything.

GR: The best bits of Just Cause 4 were when it gave you an objective and let you use the tools to figure out your own solution. So what did the community take away from Just Cause 4?

VS: I think those are the sorts of things they enjoyed like “How do I set up this stunt? What ridiculous thing am I supposed to be doing here?” And then figuring out how to pull off that ridiculous thing. The explosions, the extreme weather, experimenting in the sandbox… I’ve seen so many videos of people throwing things into the tornado and seeing if they can pull it away from the tornado.

It is based off real-world physics. We want the player to have an expectation of what might happen in the game based on what they think would happen in real life. Being able to play around in that way has been the biggest thing for fans. Like what crazy shit can I pull off next?

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GR: How is Just Cause 4 going to expand after Los Demonios?

VS: We have a third DLC coming up and some smaller content drops coming along the way. We have the Black Market which will introduce new vehicles that you can purchase. Some are really cool. Some are just hilarious. Some are just ridiculous. When you see the Black Market and what we are doing with our third DLC, there is still some stuff on the horizon in terms of new content for players.