Explore the world, take quests, sell out.
Rock Band 4’s campaign is all about touring the world, amassing fans, and selling out — if you’re into that sort of thing. This is the first time we’re seeing meaningful narrative choices in a Rock Band game, and the direction you take your band dictates the shows you’ll play, the places you’ll visit, the gear you unlock, and the money you earn.
“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 where instead of taking one rise to fame path through the world,” said Designer Alli Thresher. “You know, you go from your hometown to being the biggest band in the world, you choose…what kind of band you are.”
Rock Band 4 is a straight-up role-playing game that has more in common with the superb 80 Days than any previous Rock Band campaign — and it’s the first one I’ll play for any meaningful amount of time.
“It really deepens the band fantasy, and it really gives us the opportunity to answer some things we’ve been hearing from fans over the last five years and really, really amp up that feeling and the fantasy and dynamics of being in a band,” said Designer Alli Thresher. “Making decisions together, charting a path through your careers, building your story as a musician, and figuring out who you are.”
This means making tough choices about the kind of band you’re trying to build. “You can take corporate gigs and make a lot of money as a band, you can take a path to pursue your artistic integrity, and along the way, as you make these choices, the game kind of responds to you,” Thresher explained. “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.”
That sort of crowd hostility plays into your career regardless. Not everyone likes every band, so you may end up playing a show for a crowd that isn’t into you. Winning them over takes skill. Failing out of a song is easier when the crowd already has a notion about you, so playing well is necessary to staying in it as well as winning those haters as fans.
On the other side of the coin, Thresher said, “you could take a path where maybe you decide you just want to, like, couch surf around the country, use social media to meet people and sleep on their floors. So, you’re not really making a lot of money, but maybe meeting enthusiastic crowds – maybe too enthusiastic – maybe meeting super fans and trying to navigate dealing with them.”
Less money means fewer guitars and character customization gear, but potentially better renown. It’s a series of risks, with each gig serving as your quest. Complete it, get loot for each member of your party, and move on better than you were before. You may encounter interesting challenges along the way, and the payout is worth the struggle.
Previously, Thresher admitted, fans meant very little. Their capital carried little weight. In Rock Band 4, “you accumulate fans per geographic location across the world, and fans gain you access to new opportunities that unlock special, cool – we’re still working on it – but special Easter Eggs and that kind of thing. So, if you have fans in a certain region, you might be able to have a cool metal gig, you might have a big set list, you might see avenues you haven’t seen before.”
You start in your hometown, but grow into a worldwide phenomenon, whether through intense commitment to your band or your label and sponsors. Your global tour could take you to entirely different continents from one play through to the next, and that’s really exciting. I replayed 80 Days to see what mysteries awaited in cities I skipped last time. To have similar structure in a cooperative Rock Band setting, where bandmates can bicker about the sort of story we want to tell for ourselves, the sort of legacy we want to leave, gives Rock Band 4’s story mode meaning for the first time.
I’m going to buy so many leather jackets and spikey boots…
For more, check out Everything You Need to Know About Rock Band 4.