For better or for worse...
There are video game franchises out there which often just stick to their original formula rather than change things up. Then there are franchises that decide to take that big leap into new territory. This is mostly for a few reasons, whether it be a change of developer, the previous games in the franchise were becoming a bit stale, or because it’s quick, easy money. With that in mind, here are five video game franchises that, for better or for worse, have changed its formula to become… something different entirely.
God of War
Although many players were absolutely ecstatic for a brand new God of War game, it was safe to assume some were a little sceptical of the 2018 game’s new direction. It had gone from a linear top down perspective hack and slash to an open world third person hack and slash. It may not sound like much of a big deal, but with the 2018 game, perspective meant everything; everything needed to be bigger.
In the 2019 documentary of the making of God of War 2018, Raising Kratos, it was explained why this change was necessary. Between 2005 and 2015, there were a total of 6 games which most consider mainline God of War titles. While many saw God of War III as one of the franchises best titles, it wasn’t until the release of God of War: Ascension that players started to find the franchise was going stale and started to become the same old same old; there just wasn’t anything new happening and was becoming a tired franchise. Santa Monica knew that if they wanted to keep the franchise relevant, they would have go to a whole new direction with it. This meant a change of everything: a change of scenery, perspective and scale. As far as everyone knew, the only thing that remained the same was Kratos, albeit a voice actor change, so it became one of the biggest gambles. Fortunately it paid off massively and, for a lot of people, became one of the best, if not, THE best God of War game ever created. Only time will tell on where the franchise goes next, but Santa Monica are now back in the game with a winning franchise, so to change it back to how it was might now be considered a mistake.
Would you believe it if I told you the whole Hideo Kojima and Konami fallout was almost 4 years ago now? When Kojima Productions managed to scrape itself away from Konami though, unfortunately they weren’t allowed to take the Metal Gear franchise with them, even if Kojima was the mastermind behind it all. Kojima himself though considers Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain as a fitting conclusion to the franchise. Unfortunately Konami had other ideas as in February 2018, they released Metal Gear Survive. Essentially they stripped away most assets from The Phantom Pain, threw zombies in there and called it a day.
Many players of course reacted negatively and saw this as a huge slap in the face to the franchise they had come to know and love since its first conception over 30 years ago. Nobody really knows what went through Konami’s mind when creating it, but with it being micro transaction heavy, many assume it was a quick and easy cash grab for them. In a way, I do feel sorry for Kojima; imagine spending 30 years building a franchise with a set theme in mind, only for it to be ripped to shreds with something that doesn’t at all fit with the canon of the franchise. Unless Kojima Productions somehow acquires the license from Konami, I think it’s safe to assume the franchise may now just be a shell of what it used to be.
The Legend of Zelda
Prior to the main subject at hand, the Legend of Zelda has seen some fair changes throughout its time. One of its earlier big changes was the jump from 2D to 3D gameplay, where phenomenal titles such as Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword were born. And while the franchise is still going to hold onto some of its roots, such as with the upcoming Links Awakening remake, it’s fair to say that Breath of the Wild gave the franchise a new lease of life.
Weirdly enough the way Breath of the Wild changed things is similar to God of War; it took a franchise which, for the most part, was more linear and had set gameplay and then increased its scope by an enormous amount. It took the world players were familiar with and expanded upon it, whilst also turning it into a shadow of what it once was. The series grew up. That’s not to say at all the previous games were just for children in anyway, nor is Breath of the Wild just for adults. But it matured to a point that made it easier for old and new fans to grasp, and in itself became a soft reboot. It challenged players to set their own path in the world rather than follow a pre-determined one. There was no denying while this was still a Zelda game, but this was something special, and something fresh; not that it was needed, as it’s not like the original formula was going stale exactly, but the game expanded on an already acclaimed franchise and showed the world it wouldn’t be going away any time soon.
While some of the other examples on this list talks more about changes to gameplay and the art direction, this one is a little bit different. While the original Mass Effect obviously helped create the franchise into what it was, it was Mass Effect 2 that seemed to give the franchise its stature in the gaming community. As far as people knew back then, there was no wrong BioWare could do. It wasn’t until the release of Dragon Age II that things were starting to go amiss, and although they somehow managed to bring the Dragon Age franchise back up to scratch with its third title, Inquisition, Mass Effect instead became the troubled franchise, what with the controversy of both the ending to Mass Effect 3 and the entirety of Mass Effect Andromeda.
While many see the reasoning for this as “it’s all EA’s fault, they’re trying to skimp on giving the development of the games any money and throw microtransactions into everything to make up for it”, I’d somewhat have to disagree. The first Mass Effect was released all the way back in November 2007, almost 12 years ago. Whilst I’m sure most of the team stuck around for Mass Effect 2’s development, I think it’s safe to say a lot of the big names who were around for the original two games just… aren’t at Bioware anymore. I guess the exception is Casey Hudson, but even he left at one time. The studio has changed a lot over the years, and the passion that might have been there back then just doesn’t seem to be there now, and with Anthem’s release all but confirming this theory, it’s a wonder if the next Dragon Age game can survive what seems to be a Bioware drought. Since Andromeda’s release, there has been nothing in regards to any new Mass Effect content, but I get this feeling that when we do see something, the franchise will be somewhat unrecognisable. Here’s hoping Bioware have an ace up their sleeves and it’s for the better though.
Tet- Tetris? Have you gone mad Charlie? Well believe it or not, but Tetris has not been the same for a very, very long time. At the time of its release in 1984, the rules were simple: blocks would fall, fit and adjust the blocks to make lines and clear said lines. Ever since then, there have been rehashes of the same old formula once in a while, but a lot of developers have become a lot more creative with the franchise, mostly taking the simplicity of Tetris and combining it with another genre. Some of the more recent examples are:
Puyo Puyo Tetris, which (you guessed it) combines the magic of Tetris and Puyo Puyo. If you’ve never heard of Puyo Puyo, the idea is to take coloured blobs and try to build up a chain of more than four of them. The more you can chain, the more points you earn. In this version however, you’re often trying to sabotage your opponent by being faster than they are in chaining these up. You could also be playing Tetris, while your opponent is playing Puyo Puyo, and they blend quite nicely.
Tetris Effect is one of the more beautiful adaptations, especially when you’re playing in VR. For the most part it runs and plays like normal Tetris, except this time you are treated to a vast array of wispy music, where your movements in the game affect how the music plays, whilst having gorgeous backgrounds come to life. The music doesn’t affect the gameplay exactly, but in some of the levels, it’s the intensity or majesty of the music that makes playing the game feel so much better than normal Tetris.
Tetris 99 is, without a doubt, one of the boldest decisions anyone has ever made to a franchise. If you dislike Battle Royale games, fair enough, I understand… but have you considered you maybe dislike them because they are usually shooters? Instead, try Tetris 99. In this version, you go up again 98 other live opponents from all around the world. The idea is to target other players and try to get them to fill up their board, all while you’re trying to keep yours clear. The last one standing of course wins the game. It’s utterly amazing how someone can take the most basic structure of Tetris and turn it into something that feels so fresh and new.