2012 was a rough year for those of us who like a little originality in our video games. Analysts claim that the changing of a generation means a smaller wave of new ideas, but it’s also the time for a few nice gems to fall through the cracks.
Anyone remember a nice little game called Okami? Ahhh..what a nice game. The Zelda inspired adventure quest was released during the same year as the Xbox 360, and still managed to find a solid fanbase even after the following generation had gotten underway.
Six years later, and here we are again. The Wii U has been launched. The eighth generation of games is upon us, and we have three fledgling series from the past year which, unlike Okami, have the potential to carry over into the new generation and become fully fledged franchises. The questions are “Do their publishers want them to?” and “Do we want them to?”
The obvious one of the group. Dishonored is the poster child for late generation original IPs. Arkane Studios’ marvelous first-person stealth assassination game is brimming with original mechanics and unique settings.
However, the true secret of the game’s success is that it doesn’t stray too far from most of our established conventions. First-person shooting, stealth, a hooded AND masked silent protagonist, dystopian cities on the rink of catastrophe. Dishonored is a huge success not only for its originality, but also in the brilliant reinterpretation of elements we often associate with video games.
It manages to walk that fine line between being inoffensive to the casual market , not scaring them off with bright graphics or radically different gameplay, while still providing enough new ideas for the hardcore crowd to drool over and get their dose of something special.
Will it happen?
Bethesda has expressed interest in following up Dishonored stating that it is “exceeding expectations.” They’re a company that obviously wants to make a jump into being a publishing force in the industry, and they need strong franchises like Dishonored to do it.
This isn’t the last time we’ll see this stealth series.
Do we want it?
Now’s the tricky part. Games like Dishonored are really difficult to follow up on. When I play it, I think of the splash BioShock had made a few years ago. Here was a wonderful self-contained game which wrapped up a clever story that destroyed its brilliant settings with one quick stroke. No franchise seemed like it could ever be born from it, but we enjoyed it so much, we didn’t need it to.
Of course, the world reacted with “WHY?” when BioShock 2 was announced and looked almost entirely like the same game. Despite a strong reception, many still dismiss it as an unrequested sequel.
Now we have Bioshock: Infinite, and gamers are reacting with “YES!” It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s a brand new take on the mechanics laid down by the original. If Bethesda wants to keep Dishonored critically successful, I think they’d have to avoid the tempting lure of annual releases and really put a decent amount of time and effort into making it something fans want. Otherwise, I don’t think it could survive or compete with the big boys, and I don’t think I would want it to either.
I would rather Dishonored be a wonderful one-and-done video game than turn into a throw away franchise left to be revived somewhere down the line by some nostalgic lunatic developing through Kickstarter funding. Take your time, Arkane. Take your time.
Sleeping Dogs started out as a new IP that was picked up by Activision to become a sequel in the True Crime line. Square Enix bought the scraps of True Crime: Hong Kong from Activision, and they quickly re-named the project to make it their own baby. It was a new IP once more. The result was a relatively popular success in a year where developers kind of grasped the idea that we are sick of open-city sandbox knock-offs, and all we want to play right now is Grand Theft Auto V.
As for Sleeping Dogs, the Hong Kong underworld storytelling and martial arts, similar to Batman‘s fighting style, gave it a unique edge over anything that had really come before it. There is plenty of room to expand on a potential series, but how does Square Enix feel about that?
Will it happen?
Ehhh…I’m thinking no. Remember, Square Enix purchased a partially completed game. A sequel would have to have to be built entirely from the ground-up, and judging by Square Enix’s loss of profits over this past year and blaming it on an “under-performing HD title,” I don’t see them following up Sleeping Dogs any time soon.
Besides, they have plenty of other series to pry from the minds at Eidos. Hitman, Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, Legacy of Kain, and Just Cause all have a lot more name recognition and solid legacy.
Sleeping Dogs was nothing more than a hold-over game designed to keep us happy until the big boys came out, and very rarely do these hold-over games become big franchises for themselves anymore. Dead Space was the only one that comes to mind.
*Editor’s note from Joey: I disagree. I think we’ll see a new Sleeping Dogs in the next four years.*
Do we want it?
As I said, the open-city sandbox is taking a break for now, but once Grand Theft Auto V gets released, you know all the copycats will come strolling along afterwards, looking to cash in on the hype surrounding the genre. That’s the only way I can see Square Enix ever making a new Sleeping Dogs. It’s kind of ironic because that’s what every Japanese RPG team has been doing to Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest for the last 25 years.
And yes, there are plenty of other option besides Sleeping Dogs. The Hong Kong setting is nice for those who like their cinema, but Grand Theft Auto V is going to change how we view things. Not to mention we’ve already had a look at Watch Dogs and what the future of urban sand-boxing has in store for us next generation. Do we really need two similar games titled “Dogs?”
Dragon’s Dogma was the sleeper hit of the summer, selling well over 1 million units worldwide and leading Capcom into one of their biggest financial seasons of all time.
The open world RPG leans much closer to the western approach to the genre, not unlike The Elder Scrolls, but it still retains a distinct Japanese feel thanks to its flashy combat and character design.
The director of Devil May Cry 2, 3, and 4 also developed this game, his first time working with an original IP. His influence on the game is obvious. It is hard, rock solid hard, and he also obviously has no idea how to make an open world game because it was rife with problems that left it as one of the most emotionally taxing titles in recent history.
Will it happen?
Absolutely. Capcom loves Dragon’s Dogma. Not only did it bring them in hundreds of millions of yen, but it was also developed in-house, a surprisingly rare thing for Capcom these days. The global homegrown success story has hopefully given Capcom the confidence they need to start making their own games again.
They not only love the product, but they loved the money it generated as well. I would suspect this could continue to be a strong summer franchise before the big games all come out. I wouldn’t expect them to push this into the holiday season, but then again, this is Capcom. They’ve never been one to wrap their heads around the idea of “too much of a good thing.”
Do we want it?
Absolutely! Dragon’s Dogma has the foundation of a really solid action RPG series. Great combat, excellent character customization, interesting multiplayer ideas, a feasible fantasy world to build upon. This game looks like it should work on paper, but once you get your hands on it, it becomes obvious why this wasn’t such a bigger hit.
Capcom’s inexperience with open world RPGs began to raise it’s head with a wide variety of questionable decisions. No fast-travel? The cumbersome menus? The confusing quest boards? The overly large armor selection? Not to mention, the game needs a driving force to push it forward. Often times I would play it and not want to do anything but screw around because I didn’t care what came next or what ability my pawn or I could learn.
Director Hideaki Itsuno needs to play a lot of Skyrim between now and Dragon’s Dogma 2‘s production to figure out what they did right and what they missed the mark on. Should he do that and turn the cumbersome journey into the amazing adventure it deserves to be, Capcom could become a leader in RPGs once again.