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What do sequels to games almost always promise? To be "bigger". They promise this idea in a variety of ways; larger worlds, more options in combat, additional game modes...you get the idea. Sometimes, this promise ends up coming true, and the result is a fantastic title that trumps the original. One such example is Borderlands 2; there were some dissenters, but I personally believe the second game on Pandora annihilated the first; the world felt larger, and the more-diverse classes felt better as well. However, making a "bigger" sequel doesn't always end up working out. Sometimes, promises are made that aren't realized, or the direction that the developer takes ends up moving away from the spirit of a franchise. This idea has been gestating in my head for a little while, and I think it's a relevant discussion to have, considering how the new generation of consoles is promising developers the ability to do things they couldn't before.
Dear God no.
The most blatant example of a developer failing with a "bigger" sequel has been the change of the Resident Evil series. While Resident Evil 4 contains some elements that can tie it back to the original games, the most recent numbered entries have diverged greatly from the original horror focus of the series. To be fair, I did like Resident Evil 5 a ton-I love that game, actually. It isn't too much of a horror game, but it was a fun shooter that did end the Wesker saga pretty well. Resident Evil 6, though? Not at all. I beat Leon's campaign last year, and have only tried to go back to my playthrough of Chris's once since then. Resident Evil 5 at least was still a great game; Resident Evil 6 broke off several good things the series had going, and introduced new mechanics that made the game too...not Resident Evil.
Let's take a step back, and put ourselves in a developer's shoes. You've just shipped a game that your studio has talked about having future installments, and the reviews are generally positive. As a studio, your team is going to talk about ideas that didn't make into the first game, as well as expanding the scope of the title; what could make the experience you created in the first game better? Now that the groundwork of the series has been laid, how can it be expanded to offer a deeper, "bigger", experience? Not all developers think with that mindset, but I would be surprised if a good many did not. Fans of a series most likely want to see your ideas refined, and have more opportunities to see/use them. Thus, we have an environment where sequels are expected to always be larger...and, again, "bigger".
To be fair, that is a perfectly fine mindset to have. Again, Borderlands 2 trumps its predecessor in my eyes. Also, Uncharted 2 is a globe-trotting adventure instead of the "stay on these dumb islands" adventure that Drake's Fortune was. Also, as time has gone on, the Grand Theft Auto series has taken place in larger and larger environments, with more to do in them as well. X, the next game from Monolith Soft, is aiming to create a large, open-world, with "seamless exploration", unlike Xenoblade's more separate areas.
Why, then, am I asking this question of why series only seem to grow over time? Because not every franchise out there needs to "grow" in the same way as series like Uncharted and Borderlands. Dishonored was an amazing stealth game, and each mission was set in a level that was closed off except for when you embarked on that mission. Should that be changed in a possible sequel? Not at all, I think. Do shooters need to be completely non-linear? Of course not, linearity can still work perfectly fine in games today.
Well I totally expected Metal Gear to go open-world. Not.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has been making headlines since its before it was announced, when it was known only as The Phantom Pain, being made by the nonexistent Moby Dick Studios. The most surprising element of the game is that it's going to be a huge, huge game, which is why it's still far off from being released. I like Metal Gear's story and characters, but I've never been good at the games. Snake Eater was amazing, but I don't know if I'll truly ever get into the other entries. We don't know exactly what playing MGSV will feel like in conjunction with the open-world aspect, but I think it's safe to say that it won't be like the other games in really any regard. It remains to be seen if that works in Kojima Production's favor, but right now I get the feeling that I (and the internet) feel apprehensive at this direction.
The point of all this is that I hope that some developers take the time to realize that sequels don't need to be "all or nothing"; they can have new mechanics, but if the game goes in a completely new direction to appeal to a larger audience...that's a problem. Resident Evil 6 demonstrates this, and Metal Gear Solid V may as well. I hope that developers take note of Capcom's misstep, and hopefully Kojima Productions did as well.