A Little More Originality, Please

Hello reader. As many states are easing up restrictions on staying at home, remember it’s still important to not go around licking each other on the first day free of quarantine. As I have just now been set free to roam around my community harassing everyone within a six block radius who doesn’t think its “cool” to wear a mask, I had a thought about the amount of sequels we gamers see. It occurred after I binge watched a bunch of Zero Punctuation videos and remembered how many Assassin’s Creed games there are. Actually, I have no idea how many there are now. I lost count. Anyway, this got me thinking about how many of these sequels were actually warranted or even wanted by gamers.

It seems like there are many companies, with Ubisoft being king in this category, that pump out games with the same IP and gameplay, and just minor tweaks. FarCry is a great example. FarCry 4 was just like FarCry 3, but in India and with a less interesting villain. Assassin’s Creed has fallen into the “It’s your typical Assassin’s Creed but in (insert location and time period here)”. Sure, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was a winner, but then it has been garbage ever since. I feel like FarCry and Assassin’s Creed developers need to take time off to come up with some new ideas, or even, gasp, new IP. Instead of pumping out another installment every year or two, take a few years and look at developing a brand new game from top to bottom.

FarCry had three years between Instincts and FarCry 2 and four years between FarCry 2 and FarCry 3. Afterwards, they have been pumping out FarCry games every two years. While games like Call of Duty and Battlefield are exempt because most players play them for online multiplayer only, single player heavy games like FarCry and Assassin’s Creed need this rule to help give the players the best experience.

As an example of this, if the game takes longer to develop and the designers have more time to experiment, they can discover interesting mechanics that would not have been found using boilerplate templates. Fire Emblem: Three Houses did this with the school instructor mechanic as well as telling the story through three playable armies. BioShock Infinite came back with a unique take on an Orwellian utopia that hides deep darkness. These thoughtful outlooks are rarely achieved when a location is swapped and the story just rotates historical features and figures.

Or look at a game like Obsidian Entertainment’s The Outer Worlds. Sure, Obsidian could have made another Pillars of Eternity or something like that, but they decided instead to come up with something completely new. And the result was stunning, even winning the GameIndustry.com Overall Game of the Year based on the popular vote of thousands of GiN readers. And yes, they will probably make a sequel, but that is okay. The Outer Worlds was not perfect, and the sequel can introduce new gameplay mechanics and a better storyline for example. As long as it’s not the same game set on different planets, or set in Ancient Rome or something, a sequel will be welcomed.

Another good example is Jedi: Fallen Order. This is a title that came out of nowhere and introduced brand new gameplay mechanics to the Star Wars universe, along with a host of new characters, worlds and graphics that were hard to believe. And yes, they won a GiN Game of the Year award for having the most immersive environment. I wish there were a shockingly surprised category or something, because this would have been at the top of that list!

I know it seems like I am railing on Assassin’s Creed. Well, that’s mostly because I am. That series represents something I hate about the game industry, and that is how game companies treat gamers with contempt. Or a the very least, they underestimate us.

The thought that not a lot needs to be changed between games because people will buy the title anyways is a little insulting. It’s taking advantage of the fandom’s love of a series and turning it into a shameless cash grab. Fans of titles such as FarCry and Assassin’s Creed need to be rewarded for their loyalty with quality games, if not new original titles, and not looked at as a perpetual piggy banks.

I know that some sequels are good, and this column is not debating that. It is however calling out the simple fact there are a few game series that have taken their eyes off the ball so to speak. They have forgotten the fact that gamers want a great story and even wanderlust at being immersed in a new story that they have never experienced before. They don’t want to be given the same bowl of soup for the fifth night in a row, but with a brand new bay leaf floating on the surface.

Assassin's Creed: Origins

Gamers deserve better than having their favorite franchise become a soulless vessel that demands their money. Is there a solution to this issue? Probably not, as fans will buy their fandom favorites regardless. However, I think that even that will only last for so long. Perhaps fans will start passing on launch day for sequels that are just like the other nine games they have already played and instead pick it up later in a super sale on the platform of their choice. If that happens enough, perhaps developers and publishers will get the message.

Continue being safe everyone, and I hope it won’t be long before we can all safely get back to something that looks a little bit like normal, or at least the new normal that awaits us all.

Playing Now: Blackguards

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