Updated: Aug 11
Welcome back everyone. In our previous article we asked you, our dear readers, to suggest other video game franchises that you felt had devolved or went downhill over time. The response was fantastic and we were inundated with excellent suggestions. So many suggestions in fact that we have created a two-part follow up article. And here it is 😊.
The following franchises are some of the most popular suggestions - based upon the feedback from the Exclusively Games website, and the various Facebook groups, sub Reddits and forums the article has been shared around.
Full disclosure - not all of the franchises suggested will appear in this article, for two reasons: Firstly, there were so many suggestions that they wouldn’t all fit without the article becoming way too long. Secondly, I have a policy of only writing about games and franchises that I have some personal experience with. Why? Because otherwise I would simply be re-stating what other people on the internet have said already, and you, dear reader, deserve better than that.
The remainder will likely be covered at a future date, either by myself once I have had some hands-on experience with those franchises, or possibly by one or more of Exclusively Games’ other talented writers. We will of course keep you all posted.
NB – most of the opinions stated in this article are not mine. I’m just the messenger, so don’t shoot me if you disagree with them.
With that out of the way, here are three of the “Six MORE Video Game Franchises that Devolved Over Time” - suggested by your good selves.
1. The Mass Effect Series
The Mass Effect games are some of the most popular sci-fi RPGs around, but their quality has not remained constant. There have been noticeable peaks and troughs as the franchise progressed, which we will investigate in turn below.
Bioware’s epic third-person RPG saga started off strong with 2007’s Mass Effect. The graphics, soundscape, music, lore-craft and characterisation were all highly praised by gamers and critics alike. There were a few slight criticisms of course, specifically the unsightly texture pop in at the start of levels, the tedious and unskippable elevator rides and a combat system that was less than ideal.
Despite these minor flaws, it was widely regarded as one of the greatest sci-fi RPGs around. Mass Effect allowed for semi-open world exploration of many of its planets, usually facilitated by driving (and jumping) around in the Mako, a wheeled all-terrain Armoured Fighting Vehicle. This was generally well received, especially when combat was involved, be it against Geth Armatures or Thresher Maws. However, some felt the Mako’s handling characteristics were a little ‘floaty’, and that many of the explorable planets were formulaic and repetitive.
Mass Effect 1: Thresher Maw Fight
Mass Effect 2
2010 saw Mass Effect 2 hit the shelves. Critical reception was positive, with most commentators asserting that it was a superior game to its predecessor. Improvements noted included the absence of Mass Effect’s unsightly texture pop in, and that the combat system had been greatly improved. There were however a number of criticisms levelled at it.
The semi-open world exploration in the Mako had been removed completely, only to be replaced by the much criticised ‘scanning’ mini-game. RPG elements were simplified, as were weapon upgrades, which now affected the whole squad. Some saw this as welcome streamlining, whilst detractors felt it had been ‘dumbed down’ to make it more ‘console friendly’.
Some criticised its story, stating that beyond completing missions to recruit your team there was little story progression until the final suicide mission. NB – the lack of semi-open world Mako exploration was solved (somewhat) by the introduction of the Hammerhead vehicle in the highly praised Overlord DLC. Unfortunately, neither the Hammerhead or the semi-open world exploration would appear outside of the Overlord missions.
Some players felt the story was less impactful than the original as the stakes were lower. The game’s main antagonists - the humanoid Collectors, (servants of the Reapers), were described as a less interesting and less threatening opponent than their Reaper masters, one of which - Sovereign - had already been defeated in Mass Effect 1.
Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 3
From a gameplay perspective, 2012’s Mass Effect 3 was arguably the high point of the trilogy. Combat and movement had been refined to a level that rivalled dedicated 3rd person cover shooters such as Gears of War. Visually it was the most advanced game in the series, and some would argue that its RPG elements and weapon customisation had struck the complexity ‘sweet spot’ between Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2.
Unfortunately, it suffered from a number of immersion wrecking glitches and bugs which pulled players ‘out of the moment.’ Sadly, these glitches were particularly noticeable during cutscenes - the sections of the game which are supposed to be the most emotive and immersive.
Mass Effect 3 Glitches
The quality of the writing and dialogue for much of the game was superb, as was the voice acting. These were artfully combined, and playing through Mass Effect 3 was an emotional roller coaster, which created genuine feelings of both anguish and joy.
Until THAT ending.
To say the ending of Mass Effect 3 was a controversial disappointment is an understatement. It was only partially corrected via the Extended Cut expansion which fleshed out the endings, but many fans still felt cheated and let down. Ending such an iconic franchise on such a low point left many gamers feeling bitterly disappointed.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
Considering the Mass Effect 3 ending debacle, 2015 ‘s reveal of Mass Effect: Andromeda was met with both excitement and trepidation. Many players were excited to dive back in to the world of Mass Effect, but were worried that they may be let down once again. As it transpired, their concerns were well grounded.
Soon after it hit the shelves in 2017, Mass Effect: Andromeda was subject to a torrent of ridicule and criticism. The game playing public’s bones of contention were legion. These criticisms included a cast of characters that was bland and boring, and that the superb facial detail and whole-body animation of the original trilogy had been replaced with a soulless buggy mess, which was made worse by sub-par dialogue and voice acting.
Mass Effect Andromeda
The story and characterisation were criticised for being an uninspired re-hash of the original trilogies’. The main antagonists, the humanoid Kett, were far less awe inspiring than the Lovecraftian Reapers. The ‘searching different planets for information left behind by an extinct spacefaring civilisation’ story arc felt like a re-run of the trilogies’ Protheans.
Gameplay was praised however. Its maps were both larger and more open than in previous instalments, which allowed players to make full use of their character’s much enhanced mobility. However, for many gamers this wasn’t enough, and many consider Andromeda to be the series’ low point to date.
2. The Deus Ex Franchise
The Deus Ex games are some of the most beloved cyberpunk infused RPGs, and for good reason. However, the quality of the games has been somewhat inconsistent, with some being great, some mediocre and one - Deus Ex: The Fall - that is regarded by some as simply terrible.
Ion Storm’s and Eidos Interactive’s cyberpunk infused RPG Deus Ex hit the shelves in the year 2000. Its deep conspiracy theory narrative was mixed with superb atmosphere, sophisticated RPG mechanics, and gameplay that granted the player a high degree of choice and agency. The decisions you made and the playstyle you used had a tangible impact on the game and its story progression. It was not surprising then that it won so many ‘Game of the Year’ awards, and is still considered by some to be among the best RPGs ever made.
Deus Ex: Invisible War
2003 saw the release of its sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War. Although it was by no means terrible, many felt that it couldn’t hold a candle to its illustrious predecessor. The maps and hub worlds were notably smaller and many of the RPG elements had been ‘streamlined’, a euphemism for ‘dumbed down’ that fooled no-one. XP (Experience Points) and the upgrade system tied to them were removed in favour of the simplified ‘collectable biomod upgrade’ mechanic. The inventory system was also ‘streamlined’ which limited player choice.
Deus Ex: Invisible War
Combat too had been simplified in three main ways. Firstly, the lean mechanic from Deus Ex had been removed. Secondly, all weapons now used a common ammunition type, with more powerful weapons using up more ammo per shot. Thirdly, the enemy A.I. was not going to pass any I.Q. tests. So dumb was the A.I. that the most effective tactic against most human NPCs was to simply hide around a corner with your “I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-a-light-saber” Energy Blade drawn and then hack away at anyone who comes around. For a game that is all about technology, robots and cyborgs, its NPC A.I. left a lot to be desired.
The general consensus among gamers at the time was that Invisible War had been ‘streamlined’ due to it being multi-platform, being released on both PC and the O.G. Xbox.
Thankfully the franchise redeemed itself with the Deus Ex prequels, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
3 The Dead Space Games
The Dead Space series has been widely regarded as one of the best, and most horrific, horror sci-fi video game franchises of all time, and for good reason. Body horror is the name of the game in Dead Space. When designing the Necromorphs the devs *allegedly* took inspiration from photos of mutilated car crash victims. Throw in body horror elements of The Thing, an animated splash screen background that is apparently a dead and decaying goat, and the setting of a poorly lit, industrial and isolated deep-space mining ship, and you have the perfect recipe for some truly unsettling horror.
Combating the Necromorph infestation aboard the good ship Ishimura was no easy task. Your character, Isaac, was not a cybernetically enhanced uber-soldier armed with superweapons. He was a miner who found himself trapped in a terrible situation, who’s weapons were only what he could find aboard a mining ship – i.e. mining tools. It turned out this was a good thing, as bullets were not especially effective against Necromorphs – even shooting them in the head would not put them down. To defeat them you needed to immobilize them by cutting off their limbs. This ‘dismemberment’ mechanic was one of the game’s stand out features, and would continue to play a key role in Dead Space 2.
Needless to say, it wasn’t in 4K when it was released.
Dead Space 2
If Dead Space was sci-fi survival horror par excellence, then Dead Space 2 was an object lesson in how to do sci-fi action. If Dead Space was akin to Alien, then Dead Space 2 is reminiscent of Aliens. It was not as terrifying as the original, but made up for it by its superb sci-fi action gameplay.
Dead Space 2
Dead Space 3
Then Dead Space 3 happened. The franchise’s signature horror elements were rendered ineffective by an overabundance of ammunition and O.P. weapon upgrades. In Dead Space 3 you were facing both Necromorphs and humans with guns. Firefights against human NPCs turned the iconic horror franchise into a poor-man’s Gears of War. The series’ signature dismemberment mechanic was less important as players could drown enemies in a hail storm of gunfire. The game was designed to be compatible with two player co-op, however this led to gameplay andcutscenee inconsistencies, as the levels for both single player and co-op were exactly the same.
By attempting to appeal to a wider audience, Dead Space 3 diluted the Dead Space core USP and ended up appealing to no one. It appeared that publisher interference had ruined yet another great franchise. Unfortunately, it looks like we will never see how Isaac’s story arc concludes, as it is looking doubtful that Dead Space 4 will ever be made.
Dead Space 3
Conclusion of Part One
Those were three of the six franchises that Exclusively Game’s readership felt had devolved over time. In the next article we will cover the other three. See you all then.
What are your thoughts on these three? Do you agree? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Iain is a 40+ author and gamer from England, who started his gaming journey on the Atari 2600 36 years ago. His specialities include obscure cult classics, retro games, mods and fan remakes. He hates all sports games and is allergic to on-line multi-player. Since he is British, his body is about 60% tea. He can be reached via Twitter at https://twitter.com/IainBaker17, and contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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