23 October 2023
The 2.0 release of Revita, the best twin-stick roguelike you’ve never heard of, has had a busy couple of weeks. Tragically cancelled earlier this month, publisher Dear Villagers is reportedly revisiting the decision after an outpouring of community support.
Functionally complete, the title had been suddenly axed just prior to its scheduled release window. The news came as a shock to a small but dedicated fanbase, with some offering to help get the project over the finish line.
Now, the game may see release after all, according to lead developer Benjamin “Benstar” Kiefer (he/they) and Stéphanie Beaudoin (she/her), communications manager for Dear Villagers.
Its ultimate fate is still unknown, but the news offers a sliver of hope to fans determined to see it succeed.
Revita first released on Steam in April of 2022.
The game, which tasks players with climbing an ever-shifting tower themed after the stages of grief, reviewed well despite receiving very little press coverage. According to its review base, players were drawn to its unique blend of twitch-combat, varied builds, and emotional stakes. By April 2023, the developer reported it had sold over 100 thousand copies on the platform, and is currently rated Very Positive (with 1,435 reviews).
Originally slated to launch in Fall of 2023, Revita Refocused would have added multiple new levels, bosses, weapon modifiers, and NPCs, and completely overhauled the game’s progression.
The expansive update had been in self-funded development for two years; in a July 6th post, Benstar claimed it was “starting to feel more like a sequel”, a sentiment shared by community members testing the playable Steam beta branch (released and maintained since September 26th, 2022).
A formal reveal trailer (now unlisted) was released on April 23rd, 2023.
The full release was hotly anticipated. As the date approached without word of release, however, fans began to express concern. Their fears were confirmed on October 4th, when Benstar broke the silence to reveal that it had been scrapped.
In an announcement published to the game’s Steam listing titled “The Current and Future State of Revita”, Benstar elaborated on the circumstances behind its cancelation; financial complications arising from last-mile costs of QA, localization, and cross-platform porting by external partners.
“…After nearly 2 years of hard work, time invested and money spent on the 2.0 update, I sadly have to announce that it and further work on Revita will come to a halt.
After long discussions with our publisher, Dear Villagers, we reluctantly have come to the realisation that continuing work on Revita and its 2.0 update would be too costly, from both sides, to be worth pursuing further. The costs of porting, QA and localization alone would vastly outweigh any revenue gained from this update, even if we charged for it. ..
…It’s an upsetting turn of events and ruefully one that is completely out of my hands. However, I’ll be holding onto the update files and assets very closely, and who knows, hopefully the opportunity will show itself in the future and we will be able to release it in some form, just not any time soon. But trust me, if there is any way to make it happen, I’ll try my darndest!
Thank you all for your support over the last few years. Revita and it’s community truly mean the world to me and again I am devastated and upset that we couldn’t deliver what everyone was eagerly waiting for.”
Benstar later added on the community Discord:
“I’ll also continue fighting the fight to make this update happen in some shape or form, even if it’s not viable right now or anytime soon. I’d hate for Revita to end on such a sour note and with a basically, functionally complete update just catching dust on my harddrive :(“
The beta branch of Refocused, containing roughly half of the update’s total content, would remain available on Steam, but would not be finished or ported to other platforms. They also clarified that the physical release of the original, 1.0 version of Revita would not be impacted and is still slated for Q4 of this year on PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch.
The Revita community first responded to the news with disappointment, but also sympathy for the development team.
“When I read that, I just wanted to hug Ben…” says one user in the official development Discord.
A second adds, “I’m really sorry for your situation…..all that work…^^ I hope you will find a satisfying solution for yourself first of all”.
Other members of the community jumped in with offers to support and release the game themselves, ranging from providing localization labor, to launching and contributing to a Kickstarter. A few members bargained for a partial release with or without publisher consent, with one in particular offering, “Just release the change log and we’ll mod it in ;P”.
Ultimately, Benstar responded that they would not be comfortable releasing an incomplete product, adding that while they couldn’t “talk publicly about business stuff whether good or bad”, that they had explored every available option and their “hands were bound”.
Meanwhile, pockets of the community expressed disappointment in the publisher directly.
“They still let him do months of work to ultimately scrap it and not let him do any more”, says one Discord user.
Another adds, “It is incredibly sad to hear the news about 2.0 :( hidden gem getting publisher cucked feels so ass”.
This sentiment quickly began to spring up in Steam reviews, too.
“paid 17 euros for this game and i’ve been waiting for new content AGES,” reads one, “Now the devs stopped working on the game??????”
Another edited their previous review to add: “There appears to of been ALOT of publisher interferance this time around…It’s a bit tragic. I only hope this gets resolved eventually.”
Reached for comment, community manager Stéphanie Beaudoin disagrees with the framing that Benstar’s work was scrapped without warning. “Untrue,” she says, “as we alerted Ben to the risks right from the start.”
She also clarified that there was no contractual reason that the content could not be released; according to Stéphanie, the decision was purely financial.
On the topic of future investment in the project, she continues: “Investment is on both sides. As these kinds of expenses are recoupable. The decision not to re-invest on this “last mile” was mutual… It was not an easy decision to make but something we all agreed. Hope that will help players to understand better the situation.”
I reached out to Dear Villagers for clarification on that last point, seeking to understand when that warning of risk had been given and which market factors had changed since.
I was also curious to know the details of their agreement; what options were evaluated, who had final ownership of the decision, what additional investment was required, and from which parties?
Although Dear Villagers declined to provide those specific details, they did provide a response which suggests some good news for the future of Revita Refocused: thanks to community interest, the developer and publishers are once again actively exploring potential release options. Their full statement, provided exclusively to Haste Makes Waste, is enclosed below:
“We very much appreciate all your questions (By we, I mean Ben and the Publisher) but we are unable to provide some answers as they require a lot more explanation that neither the Developer nor the Publisher are comfortable with answering.
However, you’ll be happy to hear that after your email and the community outpour, the Dev and the Publisher have picked up conversations regarding a potential release again, so there might be a positive surprise waiting in the future. Both the Developer and the Publisher only want the best for the game, the teams involved and its community, but at the end of the day it is also a business and since the project involves a lot of parties with various required and non required involvement which can become very complex, very quickly. We have listened intently to the vast outpour and support of the community and are trying our best to make something happen, though we hope it is understandable, that we can’t make any promises as of now, since the original issues mentioned in the original post haven’t vanished and things need to be properly figured out first.
Ben and Dear Villagers”
It’s no guarantee, the team emphasizes, but the renewed negotiation is a promising sign.
And even if Revita Refocused doesn’t pan out, the development team has expressed that they are excited for the development of their next game, currently unannounced.
This saga is befitting, given that Revita is, at its core, a game about loss.
The protagonist known only as “the Revita kid” begins each day by disembarking from the same train, filled with ominous and shadowy figures. Trapped in a time loop, the player must persevere through bitterly difficult early runs, slowly building relationships and resources across attempts, until they are able to reach the peak of the tower and (maybe) solve its mystery. You will fail many times, but much like hollowing in a Souls title, you only really lose if you quit.
In a way, the game’s community is playing out this loop in real life, refusing to give up on the chance for a happy ending.
I found Revita entirely by chance, in the brief window its developer posted screenshots to Mastodon. I took a chance on it sight unseen; it instantly blew me away. I think it is genuinely criminal that nobody else seems to have played it.
The Revita Kid is silent; the story is mostly inferred from quiet, contemplative cutscenes, dialogue with NPC’s in the central hub, and a few secret notes scattered throughout the levels. It explores subjects like death, grief, and mental health with nuance and an optimistic determination.
And in between, the game itself just slaps. Fast paced twin stick shooting, slick animations, catchy music, item / weapon combos that make for interesting runs, frenetic bosses, and secrets abound. Its use of health as currency is especially innovative for the genre, and it has an undeniably addictive “just one more run” quality.
Revita is, in my opinion, second only to Hades and The Binding of Isaac in terms of quality rougelikes. It’s that good.
With its cancellation, the elements of loss in Revita took on renewed meaning for me. It broke my heart to know that this ambitious update, a labor of love inches from an encore, might never see the light of day. I’m relieved to learn it still has a shot, however remote.
In the meantime, I inevitably find myself disembarking the train again. Just one more run. Just one more run…