Are franchises spoiling gaming or helping it prosper?
The franchise is a staple of our gaming diet these days. A game is brought out, turns out to be wildly successful, gets rave reviews and everyone loves it. Fantastic. Then comes the notoriously tricky second album.
Sure, the mechanics might be different and there’s probably been a revamp of the combat system, but there’s still this nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you’ve already played this game before.
Of course Call of Duty stands out here as the biggest offender. Don’t get me wrong, I like CoD – I am one of those countless drones who buy it every November – but like the majority, I buy it for the multiplayer because of this consistency. The campaign however should be an entirely different beast, but it too falls into this trap of familiarity. Any of this sound familiar?
You alternate between two or three main characters with each character’s actions contributing to the overall story arc. The interlinking stories piece the plot together and it culminates in a massive ‘shock’ ending. Roll credits and insert cinematic to act as teaser for the next ‘innovative’ instalment. Naturally there’s also the obligatory vehicle missions, a sniper mission or two for good measure and, of course, countless escapades during which you fight against ridiculous odds. Rinse and repeat.
CoD is not the only offender however, Gears of War and Assassin’s Creed are two other franchises that immediately spring to mind. The latter was arguably the freshest and most innovative game to arise for a long time but then, sadly, it too became a victim of ‘franchisification’. Some of them felt and played like they were released for the money rather than actually advancing the storyline. I won’t even get started on their latest offering: ‘Assassin’s Creed: Curse of the Black Pearl‘.
More to the point, it was Assassin’s Creed that made me realise the fundamental problem; I was thinking to myself that perhaps I just wasn’t a big fan of linear games anymore, yet Assassin’s Creed is anything but linear.
Developers and publishers seem to find a formula that works well and then stick to it, rather than favouring trying something new. This is not a revolutionary observation, I accept.
Frankly, if developers and studios did stray from the beaten path they certainly wouldn’t be looking at bank accounts stuffed with quite such vast sums of money – but they wouldn’t exactly be hard up. I’m not expecting the entire industry to change, but it would be nice to maybe have more than a year between games to enable companies to step up and break the mould. Irrational Games did it with Bioshock: Infinite – and I know the amount of praise this game got was irritating, but frankly it was very much deserved.
Bioshock gives the illusion of being free roam, yet you are undeniably told where to go and what to do. But it was the storyline, the massive array of upgrades and weapons available, the endearing sidekick who was actually useful (possibly a first in gaming) and the way that you would not be able to tell that it was the third game in the series. It was pretty much the antithesis of the first two titles, most notably the setting; from underwater to a floating city in the sky. Give me this any day over yet another shoot-em-up where I am the world’s only hope at stopping a madman from [insert relevant politically unstable country here].
Maybe I’m just too fussy, maybe I’m the only one who thinks that paying £40-£50 to play through a slightly modified version of something I have already played is a bit more than pointless.
But to be honest, I very much doubt I am.
Featured Image: PhilipRood.com via Flickr