Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Sum of All Parts

I was recently catching up on Extra Credits videos and happened to watch one episode in particular that got me thinking.  It's entitled "In Service of the Brand."  If you haven't seen it here it is:

I'm going to assume you watched it so without further explanation time to jump into the main topic of this article; video game series that shifted genres.

Dune II is probably one of the earliest examples.  The first Dune was an action adventure game modeled after the David Lynch film, which in turn was based on the Frank Herbert novel.  Granted, if you played far enough in Dune you would get to some real-time strategy bits of gameplay.  However, Dune II decide to forgo story in lieu of what is essentially the first Command and Conquer style game.  Unsurprising, when you consider the developer was Westwood Studios.  Halo Wars is another somewhat similar example, taking the well known FPS and converting it into a top down RTS spin-off.

Game titles with the word "tactics" in them usually mark an RPG which has been transformed into a turn based strategy game.  Final Fantasy: Tactics and Fallout: Tactics being the two biggest that come to mind.  For better or worse none of the reworkings I've mentioned thus far were terribly successful aside from one outrageously profitable venture called World of Warcraft.  Although different than the above examples, it was not a huge leap considering that RTS Warcraft games had RPG elements as early as Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal.

There's also an entirely different kind of overhaul worth mentioning.  Zelda II, Duke Nukem 3D, and King's Quest 8 are all examples of series sticking to the same genre, but changing up gameplay dramatically either because of improvements in hardware performance or game design.  Then we have Might and Magic.  Originally a long running series of RPGs which morphed into Heroes of Might and Magic, iconic turn based strategy games that got re-imagined as a puzzler (which I reviewed here).  Personally, I think all these conversations were for the better, both commercially and artistically.  So, I guess that lends credence to Extra Credits' opinion that Bioshock: Infinite would have been better off breaking with brand conventions.

Actually, I have one exception I want to mention that represents a radical shift in genres despite being a direct sequel made by the same team as the original.  There's a lot I want to say about this game though so I'm going to dedicate a full blog post to it for the next update.  Until then...

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