Free League’s exploration of hope and dead gods in Coriolis: The Great Dark feels like coming home

Seven years after The Third Horizon, the Swedish publisher returns older and wiser but no less excited to delve into the dark.

Free League’s exploration of hope and dead gods in Coriolis: The Great Dark feels like coming home
Credit: Free League Publishing

There was a point where it seemed as though Free League might pivot to exclusively adapting well-known science fiction film and television projects into tabletop RPGs. Alien, Blade Runner and The Walking Dead—all excellent titles in their own right—signaled a possible new direction for the Swedish studio, trading in its goodwill with lovers of weird, sad, and Scandinavian RPGs (and those with ‘BORG’ in the name) for the consistency of licenced media.

Then, like the peal of thunder that heralds a cleansing storm, the small team of designers and artists announced Coriolis: The Great Dark, pitching the series as a reimagining of the tabletop setting that first introduced the world to Fria Ligan back in 2011. Smaller in scale without sacrificing narrative ambition, this new chapter would follow a tiny civilization of people fleeing an all-consuming war to the very edges of the known galaxy. Here, resources are thin, a foreboding blight lurks in the shadows, and a long-dead culture floats through void like the bones of a dead god.

I spoke with Nils Karlén and Kosta Kostulas, two of Free League’s co-founders and the majority of the creative team conceiving Coriolis' next era. They say you can’t orbit the same planet twice, but gravitational tug leaves a sense memory that these two found hard to shake. Speaking about licensed RPGs, Free League’s early history and the terror of polar expeditions, Karlén and Kostulas are more than excited to show players an altogether different slice of space. Out there in the empty expanse between stars, they felt a homecoming.

This interview was edited for clarity, length, and flow.

Coriolis: The Great Dark's Kickstarter campaign announcement

Charting the Lost Horizon

Chase Carter: How long has [Coriolis: The Great Dark] been in the works?

Nils Karlén: We've been talking about it for a long time. I think we started development on this in 2020. So it's been almost, what, three and a half years? But of that time, I think in active development more like one-and-a-half years. Before that, we did a lot of brainstorming.

Kosta Kostulas: We started planning when we knew we were reaching the end of The Third Horizon and the Mercy of the Icons saga. 

Karlén: For a while, we didn't own the intellectual property, the rights to the name. It was owned by Paradox Interactive. So, we bought it back in 2019. And when we did that, we had a plan that we would do a new edition in some way, but we didn't really know what. Coriolis as a game goes back to the roots of the company, so we've always had this kind of strange connection to this game.