Earlier this month, the inaugural Xbox Developer Direct gave us our first proper look at gameplay from Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, which is coming to Xbox and PC later this year. Developed by MachineGames (Wolfenstein: The New Order), The Great Circle is a first-person action-adventure game boasting an original narrative set between the events of the first and third Indiana Jones movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Way back in January 2021, when it was first revealed that Bethesda had partnered with Lucasfilm Games to work on an Indiana Jones project, a short video teaser was released that I pored over on then-Twitter. I collated my findings into a trailer breakdown, and in the spirit of that investigation, I have returned – like Harrison Ford for the past 40 years – to recap what we know and speculate on the narrative. With all the new footage and my dust-gathering undergraduate degree in Archaeology at our disposal, let’s see what we can find out about Indiana Jones and the Great Circle.
17 Details From the Indiana Jones and The Great Circle Trailer
Here’s What We Know Already
The original 30-second teaser offered a surprising number of details about the plot of Indiana Jones and the Great Circle. First off, we learned that Indiana Jones is set to embark on an overnight service to Rome on October 21, 1937, and his entry has been approved on the basis of Research / Education. The enormous map indicates that Jones is headed to Vatican City in particular, even going so far as to place a cross on the official residence of the Pope.
A typewritten note in the teaser also suggests that a “Father [x]” has been helping him with his research and that Jones will be meeting the father’s contact when he arrives in Rome. Other than that, we can see that Indy has been researching myths, stones and circles (aha!), with specific references to Mesopotamia, Peru and Egypt.
Indiana Jones and The Great Circle is Set in 1937
Before we get into the trailers, the official Steam page for Indiana Jones and the Great Circle is a great place to firm up some details. First off, the description confirms that Indiana Jones and The Great Circle is set in 1937, at the height of his adventuring career. The description also notes that “sinister forces are scouring the globe for the secret to an ancient power connected to the Great Circle”. As is typical for the adventurer, Jones is in a worldwide race against time to stop evildoers from getting their hands on something powerful.
Indy’s Quest Begins with Separation and the Theft of an Artefact
In an interview with Lucasfilm.com, Game Director Jerk Gustafsson revealed some details about the opening of the game. As of the beginning of The Great Circle, Indiana Jones has separated from his fiance, Marion Ravenwood, and is “adrift in his own obsessions with his work,” Gustafsson says.
The Developer Direct revealed a little more about the events that set the game in motion. Professor Jones falls asleep at his desk at Marshall College but is woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of a break-in. He confronts the thief in the college museum and finds a “giant of a man,” stealing what Jones believes to be a historically insignificant artefact.
Tony Todd Plays a Villain Called Locus
The aforementioned monumental man is Locus, played by Tony Todd, who most recently gave his voice to Venom in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. You can see Locus in the trailer, looking menacing in the dead of night in the middle of an Egyptian exhibition. Indy wags his finger at him in his professor get-up.
Locus’ theft of the artefact prompts Jones to head to the Vatican to investigate why the piece was targeted. The Great Circle’s store page description suggests a “world-shattering secret” tied to this heist, which Jones will uncover throughout the globe-trotting adventure.
The Great Circle is a Circular Map Charting a Series of Connected Archaeological Sites
A ‘great circle’ is a geometrical term to describe a circle of latitude that can divide a sphere equally. The Earth’s equator is a useful example of a great circle. In Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, the titular ellipse is the game’s main mystery, concerning a great circle that appears to cover several important archaeological sites. This is a real theory that wasn’t invented for the game, and some of the locations on the real-life great circle align with the locations Indy visits in the trailer.
Troy Baker’s Indiana Jones explains it as such: “Mankind had built sites of great spiritual significance. If you were to draw a line through these ancient sites around the globe, you’d get a perfectly aligned circle.” In an interview with Lucasfilm.com, Game Director Jerk Gustafsson notes that MachineGames developed the story concept with executive producer Todd Howard, who had “long nurtured the idea of doing a story-based game on the mysterious Great Circle.”
Additionally, a scene near the end of the trailer suggests some kind of secret society or cult that boasts hidden knowledge about this unusual phenomenon. While reading what looks to be a stone tablet, Indy says, “Patron of the fallen angels, protector of the circuli magni… the great circle.
It would make sense that the “ancient power” that the game’s sinister forces are rushing to find is woven into all this. It’s also interesting that Tony Todd’s character is called Locus, given that a locus in geometry is defined as a set of points that satisfy a specific condition. Maybe Locus, or whatever he took from Marshall College, is the key to unlocking the secrets of The Great Circle.
Players will Visit Marshall College, Vatican City, Egypt, Thailand and the Himalayas
The Steam page description mentions that players will “travel from the halls of Marshall College to the heart of the Vatican, the pyramids of Egypt, the sunken temples of Sukhothai, and beyond,” which confirms at least four key locations that players will visit, probably connected to the plotted points on the coveted Great Circle.
All of the above can be easily cross-referenced with scenes in the gameplay trailer, too. You can see Nazis posted up at the Great Sphinx of Giza, a boat sailing towards sunken ruins, puzzle-solving in the jungle and some sneaky climbing around the Vatican. Outside those environments, a snowy scene is backed up by concept art in the Developer Direct, inferring that Indy will also visit the Himalayas during the events of the game.
It Looks Like China Could Also be a Playable Location
We can’t confirm this one outright, but the scene where Indy jumps between planes features Chinese characters in the lower left corner. A thread on Reddit suggests that this level could be set during the Battle of Shanghai, part of the Second Sino-Japanese War. This would line up with the game’s 1937 setting and the Japanese plane Indy leaps onto. There’s also a piece of concept art in the Developer Direct showing Indiana and his companion cowering away from a bombing run in an environment that features Chinese iconography.
You’ll be Hanging From a Biplane at Some Point
The cover art for Indiana Jones and the Great Circle provides a few extra details for the eagle-eyed. As well as showing us the Nazi-occupied temples in Egypt, you can spot Indy and Gina approaching what we assume to be the sunken temples of Sukhothai. However, the most intriguing detail is in the top corner, which shows Indy hanging by his whip from a biplane.
This may be connected to the aforementioned plane-jumping scene (which appears to be set in China) or another location entirely. In the Developer Direct, we see a motion capture sequence that looks like two actors falling from the sky and trying to hold onto each other, which could also be MachineGames recording part of this sequence.
Monkeys are Also Confirmed
In the Developer Direct, there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment where we get a glimpse over the shoulder of a MachineGames developer who is working on a scene from The Great Circle. If you look closely, you’ll see they’re pointing at a monkey, and the lower screen preview looks like a marketplace, perhaps a bazaar or a souk.
This could indicate another level location than what we’ve seen so far in the marketing materials and reveals that there will be at least one monkey in Indiana Jones and the Great Circle… as well as all the spiders and snakes. What a scoop! I will rest easy tonight.
Indy’s Companion is an Investigative Journalist Called Gina Lombardi
Indiana Jones is joined by an investigative journalist, Gina Lombardi (Alessandra Mastronardi), during the events of the game. It’s not clear whether you can play as Gina, but she is described as “the other main protagonist” during the Developer Direct.
According to MachineGames, Gina has “a personal stake” in the mystery of The Great Circle and encounters Jones while tracking a lead. The Developer Direct also adds that “their pasts are intertwined,” which is worth noting. The footage and concept art shown reveals that Gina will accompany Indy in Rome, The Himalayas, Sukhothai, and China (at least).
The Main Villain is Emmerich Voss, a Nazi Who Shares Jones’ Obsession with Mystery
The Great Circle’s trailer begins with Emmerich Voss (Marios Gavrilis) taunting Indiana Jones, who is buried in the middle of the desert. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Game Director Jerk Gustafsson said that Voss “is searching for those major mysteries and those things that are unknown to the rest of the world. That’s a big part of what’s driving him. So when it comes to that obsession, they are very much alike.”
In the Developer Direct, Voss is described as an intelligent man “obsessed with the human mind and manipulating it”. The spectacled devil boasts a bandage on his nose when we see him in the desert scene, which isn’t there on the game’s cover art. We all know that one of Indiana Jones’ favourite pastimes is punching Nazis, so it’s pretty easy to surmise what happens there…
Elsewhere on the villain front, The Great Circle’s store page copy mentions that players will be “forging new alliances and facing familiar enemies,” which could suggest that evildoers from the first two Indiana Jones movies could potentially pop up in The Great Circle. Familiar enemies to Indy could also just mean “fascists”, though, and there are plenty of those in the trailer.
Marcus Brody is Back
Marcus Brody is a British Archaeologist and dear friend to Indiana Jones who appears in Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade. Given that The Great Circle sits between those two movies, Brody is set to reappear in The Great Circle. In the gameplay trailer, Brody has a brief exchange with Jones, withholding his trademark hat to issue a prescient warning: “You can’t just run away from your problems, Indiana.”
Indy Has a Fixer in Rome Called Antonio
During the Developer Direct, one of the series’ famous map sequences details Indy instigating trip to Rome after Locus steals the artefact. Indy issues a telegram: “On next plane to Rome. Need help. Meet me in the Vatican.”
We can see the reply from a character called Antonio overlain on the screen. Antonio tells Indy that the Vatican isn’t safe and that he will wait for him at the “village steps,” noting that “subtlety is a virtue.” Perhaps this Antonio is the “Father” Indy was communicating with in the 2021 video teaser or, more likely, the contact he refers to in the typewritten message.
The IMDB page for Indiana Jones and The Great Circle lists Indiana Jones, Locus, Gina Lombardi, Emmerich Voss and a mystery character, Fiore, played by actor Giuseppe Russo. Maybe Fiore is the ‘Father’ character? Father Fiore would be a fitting name… but it’s truly anyone’s guess.
There’s a Lot Going on in Rome in 1937
Indiana’s trip to The Eternal City is a complicated one. This was a period in history when Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Italy was supporting Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany ahead of World War 2. Mussolini and Hitler formed the Rome-Berlin Axis in 1936, which led to the Pact of Steel alliance in 1939. The Great Circle is set in 1937, which is when Mussolini embarked on a state visit to meet Hitler in Germany, and also the year Italy left the League of Nations.
Due to the fasces emblems visible on their soon-to-be-knocked-off helmets, we can deduce that Indy’s visit to Rome will involve lots of scraps with Blackshirts, the paramilitary wing of Mussolini’s National Fascist Party.
The Castel Sant’Angelo Connection
During the Developer Direct, we get numerous evening shots looking out towards the Vatican from Rome. Thanks to some Google Earth sleuthing, I can tell you that they all appear to be taken from the perspective of Castel Sant’Angelo on the river Tiber, otherwise known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian (the Roman Emperor of Hadrian’s Wall fame).
We know this due to the in-game depiction of the castle’s famous Archangel Michael statue, which looks very similar to its real-life counterpart. You can see for yourself via the handy 3D model on the castle’s Google results page. Given Jones’ comment about the “patron of fallen angels” at the end of the trailer, the significance of the appearance of Archangel Michael is something to stew on.
At around 1:30 in The Great Circle’s gameplay trailer, you can also catch Indy swinging down into one of Castel Sant’Angelo’s bastions, so it’s fair to say this is a location we’re going to explore in some detail. You can also see Blackshirts walking around the grounds at night, suggesting the castle is occupied when Indy attempts infiltration. The castle was decommissioned in 1901 and is now a museum boasting a huge collection of art and artefacts, which explains why the famous adventurer might be snooping around there in 1937.
This could also be where the meeting between Gina and Indy from the trailer takes place, in the room full of (mostly religious) artefacts. A piece of concept art seen in the Developer Direct shows Gina dressed as a nun and Indy wearing a black cloak in a very similar room. If it isn’t the same location, the disguise suggests that the storehouse may, at the very least, be close to a religious site in Rome.
One final fact to note about the Castel Sant’Angelo is that it is the site of the Passetto di Borgo, a papal escape route that links the castle with the Vatican. Speaking of which…
A Zeppelin Over the Vatican
At some point during his trip to Rome, it looks like Indiana Jones is going to sneak his way into Vatican City. You can see the crossed keys of the Holy See emblazoned above a door as MachineGames demonstrated Indy’s third-person environmental traversal.
Later on, we also see Indy use his whip to climb onto a zeppelin hovering above the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. The zeppelin features the emblem of the Wehrmacht, suggesting that this is a Nazi-controlled airship. The cover art’s illustration of Egypt also shows us a zeppelin hovering over the Pyramids of Giza, so perhaps this is how Voss and his crew are “scouring the globe” for all the sites plotted on the Great Circle. Maybe Jones stows away on the ship to get to Egypt?
What’s Up With the Camera?
MachineGames offered plenty of details about Indiana Jones’ “fully simulated” whip and how it can damage, distract and disarm enemies while also serving as a traversal tool. However, one aspect of the presentation that I’m curious about is the camera Jones seems to be carrying around. Indy can be seen wielding the camera in Egypt and Sukhothai, so it’s clearly an important part of the game, perhaps something to do with puzzle-solving or record-keeping.
In an interview with Lucasfilm.com, Game Director Jerk Gustafsson notes that a third component of playing as Indy is “the discovery of all these historical moments hidden in the earth, or in the sand. Feeling like you are an expert archaeologist out on an adventure is perhaps the most important part of shaping the experience of being Indiana Jones.” If MachineGames is keen to explore Indiana Jones as an archaeologist, I’d love to see them attempt to gamify parts of the process, such as fieldwork, finds analysis and curation.
Capturing sites, artefacts, and text with analogue photography is important to the archaeological record, and The Great Circle is confirmed to feature “open-area maps” beyond its more linear set-piece gameplay. With that in mind, there’s definitely room for Indiana Jones to nurture his inner shutterbug while tackling all the traps, secrets and optional puzzles littered around the place.