Series of games exists for over a few decades through a variety of genres. Whether it is a fantasy genre like Final Fantasy or a sci-fi genre like Call of Duty: Black Ops, they have proven to developers and players that they often are a tried and true method of making a solid game. However, there were a number of times when the developers thought it would be a good idea to put in some new elements in the latest title of the series and it had a mixed bag of results.
I write this because I’ve just finished playing Metro Exodus, the most recent entry of the Metro series. The first thing everyone that played it would notice is that there were a lot of differences compared to its predecessors. Open world areas, crafting and a very different environment gave the third instalment of the Metro series a fresh yet somewhat similar feeling of the series.
Despite the new elements that are a complete stranger to the series, I still enjoyed the game for what it is as part of the franchise and as a game itself. I won’t lie however, part of me wishes there were still old elements of the series to be back in the game, however, the developers made a good choice because of what the game required.
New Elements, why?
There are plenty of reasons why a new element could be introduced to a mainstream series. Some of them change the story, gameplay or general style of the game within reason. Let’s take a look at a longstanding series, Pokemon.
Starting from Pokemon Blue, Yellow and Red, it had introduced a huge amount of features over the years and turned into a small yet highly competitive scene for the franchise. Here is a brief list of some of the features introduced;
- Breeding, where two pokemon are put into facilities like the Daycare which produced a new pokemon. A number of mechanics such as stats, abilities and moves determine the new pokemon’s ability.
- Battle Tower and its equivalents. This is the end-game PVE for Pokemon that challenges a team in a standardised way. This puts your pokemon knowledge to the limits as you craft a team to reach as far as you can.
- Mega-evolution. This is a special mechanic that opens up new builds and strategies for a number of pokemon. Pokemon as minor as Beedrill received new capabilities that might even reach certain competitive levels.
- Abilities. Each Pokemon has an ability that acts like a passive or a trigger during battle. It may have effects such as increased damage to nullifying status effects. Some pokemon’s overall capabilities are determined along with their abilities, movesets and stats.
- Double/Triple Battles. New formats which demanded new strategies as each an every previous mechanic now has extra characteristics on how they work.
So why all these features? It could be a means of keeping Pokemon fresh every iteration as well as new strategies being introduced. In my opinion, it does keep new ways of optimising teams while at the same time provide new sources of content for the more casual audience. GameFreak and Nintendo had proven to understand that while they use the tried and true formula, they aren’t afraid to add in another number or two to make each game more interesting.
Story-wise, it also makes sense to add new elements as with any narrative, new developments occur giving the devs space to add in those elements. On top of that, we also have new technologies being introduced every once in a while and it isn’t strange for various series to take advantage of it.
Not always a welcome feature
This doesn’t mean that new elements are always a welcome feature, however. True that there are certain times where new mechanics and/or features that are introduced have either lukewarm or downright freezing receptions. Though I don’t speak for everyone, there is a particular franchise that suffered for it in my opinion.
Resident Evil 6 is a game that suffered in performance in my eyes. One of the key issues for me was the storytelling. Granted that in terms of narrative, everything relayed in the story makes sense on the timeline. More people will be aware of the issues in the Resident Evil Universe and what happened isn’t outside expectations.
Another reason is the more action-styled gameplay. Again, it makes sense in the narrative perspective as most of the protagonists are veterans, however, the disconnect between it and the earlier games of the series made it difficult for it to be related. In essence, the game becomes more of an arcade action game rather than a survival horror game.
The point here is that each game of a series (at least in the mainstream) needs to remain intact at its fundamentals. Pokemon remained all about collecting pokemon and battling each other while still adding elements even when elements are being added to the core of the series.
Keeping it fresh
At the end of the day, franchises will probably never stay constant. Developers will find new ways to introduce mechanics for a variety of reason. However, it is a tricky line to balance as a new element can easily create as much dissatisfaction as it can create satisfaction.
I reckon, that series should always look new ways to evolve while keeping to their core. As new things pop up, there will always be new ways for series to implement features in an exciting way.