Any heist game would have to stand up to Payday, the gold standard of its genre. Den of Wolves faces similar scrutiny, but with an aggravating circumstance: It’s spearheaded by Ulf Andersson and Simon Viklund—key players in the first installments of the Payday franchise.
Andersson and Viklund—former creative director and composer for the first two Payday games—co-founded Swedish studio 10 Chambers in 2015. After releasing its unforgiving debut title GTFO, the company went back to heist territory by presenting Den of Wolves.
While Viklund doesn’t mind comparisons between Den of Wolves and Payday, the commonalities can be “a double-edged sword,” he told Dot Esports during a 10 Chambers press tour, with the studio paying for travel expenses.
“We can’t get away from that [comparison], of course, because we worked on Payday: The Heist and Payday 2,” Viklund said. “So it’s just something we have to accept.”
Despite that shared DNA, 10 Chambers is “certainly not making, like, a spiritual successor to Payday,” he said. The studio is making something different and “sort of breaking the mold a little bit” by creating a new environment from scratch, without the need to adhere to storylines, tenets, or conventions from preexisting franchises or universes.
Den of Wolves introduces a fictional, futuristic setting, slashing some of its limitations by having to exist within the confines of established IPs, locations, and even technology. It’s a different universe, with a lot more freedom to roam and the liberty to focus on other aspects—for instance, corporate rivalries, technology, rampant technology, industrial espionage, and how these can help redefine what a heist is.
It will also bring a different pacing, experimenting with the waxing and waning action that’s already seen in GTFO. The hardcore shooter gives you a frantic firefight in one room and reverts to stealth in the next one, giving players room to catch their breaths and letting emotions ebb and flow throughout a mission.
Ultimately, Den of Wolves is tailored for people who like co-op FPS games, whether they played Payday or not—though Viklund thinks Payday fans will enjoy the new game.
The studio isn’t shying away from drawing on its past experience with the famed heist franchise, though. Quite the contrary: the developer has used “Back on that heist shit” as a catchphrase in the build-up to Den of Wolves’ release. The quote stems from an NME interview in 2022, and it’s become part of the 10 Chambers uniform—figuratively and literally—since.
“We’re baiting for the comparison, really, when we’re doing stuff like this,” he said in our interview, wearing a shirt that had the motto embroidered on its pocket. Drawing back to their work in the Payday franchise works as its own “seal of approval or a proof that we can handle that type of a game,” according to Viklund, “so maybe you should be interested in whatever we have to do.”
The similarities and differences between the two titles don’t mean they will exist separately or in a vacuum. Viklund thinks Starbreeze has been doing a good job by giving players more of Payday with the newest game on the franchise—and that can lead to some competition down the road.
Payday 3 will be “alive and kicking” by the time Den of Wolves releases, he acknowledged. “If they’re good, we need to be as good or better, and it’s good competition”—even though there are plenty of differences between the two.
“We just hope that [difference] appeals to people, regardless of obviously whether they play Payday or not. But it is gonna be a game for people who play first-person shooter co-op games,” he added.
Though it premiered at The Game Awards last night, Den of Wolves doesn’t have a set release date yet, and the team is cautious about announcing any timetables. Unlike its predecessor, 10 Chambers’ next game will launch on consoles, but only after the team nails the PC version.