New Video Game ‘Dawn of the Monsters’ Lets You Go HAM on Downtown Toronto

In the new video game Dawn of the Monsters, users get to play as giant monsters destroying every piece of downtown Toronto, including TTC streetcars.

Monsters destroying Toronto in Dawn of the Monsters

Image via Publicist

Monsters destroying Toronto in Dawn of the Monsters

In the immortal words of Limp Bizkit, “It’s just one of those days/Where you don’t want to wake up/Everything is fucked/Everybody sucks/You don’t really know why/But you want to justify/Rippin’ someone’s head off.”

Maybe it’s the fact that we’re rapidly barreling towards two full years of COVID-related lockdowns, piled on top of a seemingly never-ending string of racial and social injustices, a housing bubble that refuses to pop, not to mention the impending holiday season and all the stresses that come with it, but it sure seems like people’s fuses are shorter than ever these days.

Which likely helps explain why, earlier this month, a video game trailer released by a local Toronto indie developer ended up striking such a chord with Torontonians.

In Dawn of the Monsters, an upcoming co-operative beat-‘em-up from Toronto’s 13AM Games and U.S.-based publisher WayForward, players can tear it up with giant monsters in the shell of a destroyed downtown Toronto like something out of a Godzilla movie. An old-school 2.5D side-scroller that calls back to the arcade classic Rampage, Dawn is scheduled to release on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC in early 2022.

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“In the future, downtown Toronto gets taken over by these giant monsters called the Nephilim,” 13AM’s CEO and creative director Alex Rushdy told me earlier this week. From there, he said, the 6ix gets walled off from High Park to the DVP and Eglinton to the water, leaving the rest behind to the monsters, with Mississauga and Etobicoke becoming “New Toronto.” (So, in other words, exactly the same exodus the city’s seeing now, only with people escaping hordes of kaiju as opposed to out-of-control housing prices.)

“People really latched onto it. At first it was just a couple of people on Twitter that we noticed, saying, ‘Oh, it’s in Toronto. I would love to smash the Gardiner, so this is great.’”

The game then takes players to South America, Egypt, and Tokyo over the course of 35 missions and an estimated eight total hours of playtime (not counting unlocking all the Easter Eggs and rewards). But it’s the Toronto call-out in the trailer that got the whole city talking, something Rushdy said the team was a bit surprised by, calling the mention just a “throwaway line.”

“People really latched onto it,” he said of the reaction to the trailer release. “At first it was just a couple of people on Twitter that we noticed, saying, ‘Oh, it’s in Toronto. I would love to smash the Gardiner, so this is great.’”

Thanks for the shout out @22_Minutes! But the game is actually called Dawn of the Monsters! 😉

— 13AM GAMES (🦖) (@13amgames) November 19, 2021

Rushdy thinks part of the reason the trailer connected with folks from the 6ix so much is due to the fact that the city rarely gets to play itself in pop culture. (Case in point: back in 2013, Pacific Rim, the most successful piece of original kaiju IP since Cloverfield, used Toronto to stand in for Tokyo.) That’s definitely not happening in Dawn, he promised. “For us, it’s like, no, this is Toronto. Here’s the CN Tower, here’s City Hall.”

“There’s a bunch of little Easter eggs we’ve put in the game through billboards and whatnot, like Tom Norton’s,” he teased, sharing some exclusive shots from Dawn’s Toronto levels with Complex Canada. You’ll even be able to pick up TTC streetcars and beat the ever-living shit out of other monsters with them. (Attention: anyone who’s ever fantasized about doing the same while riding the 504 King during rush hour.)

When it comes to the look and feel of the game, Rushdy said they tried to do something a little more stylized, to make Dawn feel like it was ripped out of the pages of a comic: “When you perform certain attacks or blow stuff up, you’ll actually see Japanese characters, Japanese onomatopoeias, like comic book onomatopoeias, pop out.”

He described the art as a mashup of manga and Mike Mignola, best known for creating the Hellboy series: “He’s got such a unique style, and such a distinct and colorful and bold look that once we decided we wanted to go with a stylized route, but still aimed at an older audience, that was a pretty easy decision to make.”

Gameplay from Dawn of the Monsters.

Most of all though, the 13AM team wanted to ensure Dawn had what Rushdy called “kaiju cred.” That meant reaching out to folks like legendary Godzilla character designer Shinji Nishikawa, Godzilla comic book artist Matt Frank, and Transformers and Ultraman illustrator EJ Su to contribute artwork and monster designs.

That cred, plus the fact that it’s a fun giant monster beat-‘em-up in a video game landscape that’s been largely devoid of that kind of thing, has made Dawn pretty highly anticipated outside of Toronto as well—an early limited-edition run of soft vinyl toys made by Seismic Toys (which Rushdy co-owns) quickly sold out. “We’ve already got a couple of offers about graphic novels and stuff,” he revealed. “I think it has a lot of potential.”

As for why there haven’t really been many great giant monster games since the OG Rampage, Rushdy thinks they either go too realistic, making the monsters too slow and not all that fun, “or they try to make them like strategy games,” he explained. “Manage units, defend cities. But I think everyone who wants a giant monster game, they just want to smash the shit out of a city, and rip off other monsters’ heads and just go nuts.”

Which is exactly what 13AM hopes to deliver with Dawn. “I think that the most successful giant monster games are the ones that focus on being a fun game first with a giant monster aesthetic. And that was definitely something we took to heart,” said Rushdy. “You can juggle enemies like it’s a Tekken game. The over-the-top feel of destruction was important.”

Monsters destroying Toronto in Dawn of the Monsters

“If you can walk up to it, you can smash it,” he promised. “You can pick up buildings and you can smash them over guys. You can smash guys through buildings.”

The prospect of which has both Torontonians and kaiju fans alike doing the Predator handshake meme at the prospect of getting to live out their giant monster fantasies in downtown Toronto.

“When they were making some of the earlier Godzilla movies, initially a lot of cities were like, ‘Hey, don’t destroy our city. Don’t destroy our buildings. Don’t destroy our brands,’ ” Rushdy recalled. “Then the movies brought so much tourism to those areas that afterwards they were begging Toho, like, ‘Please destroy our city, we’ll put a big Bandai sign there, have them destroy that. Have ‘em destroy the Toyota factory, please!’ ” he laughed. “So this is our way to show a little love to Toronto.”

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