Looking at the yearly sequel formula in a different light.
There is a perspective one puts on a game like Dark Souls II. Considering that its predecessor was the game that helped the hardcore dungeon crawler RPG genre to finally break out – with Demon’s Souls getting the ball rolling – you really have to ask where the game could go from here. Of course, we’ve seen the footage for the game. We’ve seen how it looks, how much more improved the engine is, how the animation is more detailed and realistic. But more importantly, developer From Software has committed to giving it the time it needs to properly succeed.
In this age of multi-million dollar franchises, yearly sequels and rehashed mechanics, it’s amazing to see a game like Dark Souls II. Which is why we believe there are two ways it could go: It could either lead to a new renaissance of dungeon crawler RPGs, or establish yet another yearly sequel franchise.
The first point is somewhat debatable. After all, with games like Dragon’s Dogma from Capcom and Etrian Odyssey from Atlus doing good business, some could argue that the dungeon crawler RPG is already very much in resurgence. Coupled with the upcoming The Elder Scrolls Online and it’s hard to argue that a game like Dark Souls II could impact the trend even more.
However, when we look back at military shooters, there were several of them prior to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The momentous success of the game prompted the infamous sequel Modern Warfare 2, and the success of that helped propel an influx in yearly sequels and “contemporary” military shooters.
Suddenly everyone wanted their game to be set in the present rather than during World War II. Set pieces became the new gameplay. It was insane. It still is, if games like Black Ops 2 and the upcoming Battlefield 4 are any indication.
If Dark Souls II achieved that level of success – moving even higher than the original – than there’s very little doubt that a fair number of pretenders will follow. It’s how From Software handles the transition from then onwards – will it stick to being the modest dungeon crawling RPG that fans know and love? Or will the developer – maybe even the publisher Namco Bandai – whore it out for the benefit of making it rain?
As it stands, even if Dark Souls did become a yearly franchise, would that be a bad thing? Already plenty of people are talking about how the combat for the original is perfect and shouldn’t be altered. Even if From Software made only minor changes, this would allow them to spend more time concentrating on creating new content such as quests, settings, enemies and other new features.
Even if it expanded into several other areas aside from the dungeon crawler genre, it would prove beneficial. After all, even the cult-classic Persona series had a very successful fighting game off-shoot with Persona 4 Arena.
The overall success of a yearly Dark Souls would actually hold two benefits: One, by prompting more independent and smaller developers to step up and offer their own take on the RPG genre, providing some freshness and unique gameplay. Two, by simple virtue of the fact that it will allow bigger companies to take notice and work to create better games.
A genre like this isn’t easy to game and caters to a very specific kind of gamers. That being said, that market would expand if Dark Souls II became the smash hit or lead up to the so-called smash hit that would cement the franchise’s yearly push and spin-offs. However, it’s a specific gameplay style that even in the worse circumstances of dumbing down is still quite fun to play.
Of course, this all boils down to the success of the sequel. It could very well sell millions of units and From Software would just hunker down and take another few years to deliver a sequel. Nonetheless, if the franchise indeed becomes bigger, it does offer a unique point of discussion on the whole practice of yearly sequels.
After all, if done competently, who wouldn’t love to play a new Dark Souls each year?