Happy New Year everyone! Hope everyone has had a good start to their 2023. So far it’s looking like the year is going to be pretty great when it comes to games! We’ve got things like Spider-Man 2, the Breath of the Wild sequel, Final Fantasy XVI and so much more. But before we get into talking about all that I’d like to take a step back and talk about one of last year’s biggest games. That game being God of War Ragnarök and how it brings an end to the series at the perfect time.
If you’ve been following the blog, you probably noticed that I didn’t really talk much about Ragnarök when it first released if you don’t include me singing it’s praises on the podcast here and there. That was mainly because I wasn’t really sure what I could say that wouldn’t have just been echoing what everyone else was saying at the time. The game is amazing, truly a must play gaming experience. The story, the performances, the game play… All of it was done so well and gave us a great final to this new era of God of War. But that last part came as a bit of a surprise for me. When they first announced they were doing a new God of War series I honestly believed that it would be like the original series with three mainline games. But it turns out we were only getting two games this time around. I was actually kind of upset about that when it was first announced mainly because I really enjoyed the first game in the new series so obviously I’d like to get some more! But having now played through Ragnarök, getting the Platinum and 100%ing the game, I think cutting it off at this second game couldn’t have been a better choice.
The team at Sony Santa Monica could have easily made this series into a trilogy just like the original series. They could have easily stretched it out if they wanted to, they had plenty of content to do it. But it’s clear they understood that would have negatively affected Ragnarök and the game that would have followed it. Ragnarök is a big game with lots to do in it, much bigger than the game before it! It is jam packed with lots of content and story, Sony Santa Monica didn’t leave anything out and managed to address almost all concerns people had with the first game. There doesn’t feel like there’s any padding to stretch out that play time. Sure there are things like collectibles and whatnot but those are optional. I’m talking about the kind of padding you can’t avoid like when a game makes you do a quest or story line that doesn’t have anything to do with the main plot or throws in some random mini game section you have to do in order to continue. The game is long but it doesn’t ever feel tedious, everything has a reason for being included. I was worried the story might be kind of rushed in Ragnarök but just like everything else, it didn’t feel like anything was cut out or added for padding. Sony Santa Monica knew exactly what they wanted to do with this series and how to present it perfectly, and that is extremely rare!
Some series just go on too long. They either become something entirely different from what they originally were or they just become boring and repetitive. The former isn’t always so bad to be honest. Some series thrive on the fact that each entry is different. Some good examples would be the Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. Both series have been going on for ages but continue to change and evolve over time with each entry. This can be a good and bad thing depending on the perspective. While this approach can keep the series fresh it also can lose a lot of long time fans that may have enjoyed earlier entries and not the new ones. But again when it comes to long time series continuing I think this is the best approach, it keeps the series relatively fresh and you normally don’t need to play the older entries to get into the newer ones. But these aren’t the kinds of series I want to talk about in this post, I want to talk about the ones that don’t know when to quit. The ones that try to keep going despite the dip in quality that just paints the entire series in a bad light. Series that should have known when to stop.
Ironically, a pretty good series to look at for example would be God of War! More specifically the original series that started on the PS2. These games were much more hack and slash or character action focused. They were basically nothing but combat with some platforming and puzzle solving in between without too much story besides explaining why Kratos was mad this particular time. And despite that, they were pretty good! I wouldn’t go so far as to say the series really ruined itself but it got pretty close before they pumped the breaks. The dip in quality really started to show when it came to God of War: Ascension, a prequel to the entire series that was released after the third and, at the time, final game in the series. The best way to describe Ascension would probably be forgettable and unnecessary. It very much just felt like a cash grab and a way to make some extra money off the series in the final year of the PS3 before the PS4 would launch. I mean, anytime a single player focused series starts adding in multiplayer modes that no one asked for it’s generally a pretty bad sign. After Ascension we didn’t get any new God of War games until the one released in 2018 which completely changed things, and for the better I’d say. Sony Santa Monica should really count themselves lucky that they stopped with Ascension before the series really took a nose dive from there. Who knows if we would have even gotten the new games if it had. Sadly, not every developer has that kind of restraint and have ruined some amazing series as a result. Honestly there are too many to count but let’s at least discuss one other series.
The first series that comes to mind for me personally when thinking about this topic is for sure Silent Hill. It’s funny, I like to say that I am a big fan of the Silent Hill series, someone who really loves it, but when I look at all the games I realize I barely enjoy half of them and I feel like that’s the case with most fans of the series too. Most big fans of the series got hooked on it in the early days with Silent Hill 1 through 4 with 2 and 3 probably being the favorite of most. However after the subpar reception of Silent Hill 4: The Room, Konami decided to break up the original team developing the games and go in a new direction. From here the series was passed off from developer to developer. This started the era of “western” Silent Hill games as they were no longer being handled by Japanese developers. Rather than giving the series a rest or simply letting it die Konami continued to try and milk it with worse results each time. The “western” Silent Hill games are Silent Hill: Origins, Shattered Memories, Homecoming, and Downpour. You could probably also include Book of Memories but that was always suppose to be a spin off. Of these new games Shattered Memories probably received the warmest reception with most people considering it to be a good game but a bad Silent Hill game. Origins is another that people generally don’t feel too strongly about either way and is normally seen as a good attempt. However, Homecoming and Downpour are truly the lowest points of the series. Not including when they canceled Silent Hills. At the point Downpour and Homecoming released, it was clear that the developers assigned to the games just had no idea what it meant to make a Silent Hill game. And worse it wasn’t even like Shattered Memories where that was still a good game even if it didn’t feel like a Silent Hill game. Homecoming and Downpour were just bad games at the end of the day. It took the low sales of these games to finally get Konami to stop making more Silent Hill until they were going to let Hideo Kojima try his hand at the series but we all know how that went. Recently Konami has been trying to bring back the series with a remake of the second game and a few new games as well. We’ll just have to wait and see how this goes but I don’t think I’m the only one that feels they should just let this series rest…
When a series continues to exist because of the name alone, because people recognize and have fond memories of the series, that’s when you know you should stop. You could easily argue the fact that because a series is doing well people will want more of it so why stop, but at some point you’re going to simply taint the legacy of a once beloved series. If God of War had continued down the path they were following with Ascension rather than reinvent so much about the series with the 2018 release, not only would we not have the amazing games we do now but we also would be looking at God of War as yet another series ruined. I certainly understand what publishers are thinking when it comes to series like this though. It’s much easier to sell people on a series they are familiar with than something completely new. But in this day and age, consumers are getting much wiser and skipping out on games that are clearly going to be bad regardless of names. In fact, I think most people now are willing to give new series chances from publishers they like than jump on to the next entry in a long running series!
Back in the PS3/360 era sequels were the thing. You got a franchise that people seemed to like and stuck with it. I’m talking about series like Uncharted, Halo, Gears of War, Killzone, and God of War. These series have either stopped while they were ahead, completely reinvented themselves, or simply continued to trudge on while generating less excitement with each new entry. And lets not even get started on yearly released games like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed. Series that really do need a break here and there. Assassin’s Creed is a completely different series from what it use to be and even Call of Duty was starting to see a dip in sales until the most recent entry. The gaming landscape is changing now. People don’t always want sequels, a lot of times they want something completely new or at the very least want a break in a big series. There would be a lot less franchise fatigue if more publishers and developers followed God of War‘s lead on this and just took a break. And with how successful the new God of War series has been, maybe now they’ll actually take the hint.
But those are just my thoughts! What are some of yours? Do you think more big series should take breaks between entries? Are there any series you loved that got ruined because publishers just wouldn’t stop? I’d love to hear your thoughts so don’t be shy!
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