It's one of the most bizarre occurrences in video games: when a developer inexplicably ignores the fans and completely overhauls a new title in an established franchise. Usually, such an overhaul doesn't go over well with the fans…and duh , it's because the formula the gamers fell in love with has disappeared!
Why some designers choose to do this remains a mystery. There have been several such instances in this generation and assuredly, Final Fantasy XIII tops the list. I've said it many times and I'll say it again: the best way to explain FFXIII is to say it's a great game…it just isn't a great FF installment. I made it plain when reviewing the game that if it had been a new IP, it would've scored higher. Hell, most all critics would've scored it higher. It just abandoned much of what the fans adore. Now, one could make the argument that Final Fantasy XII featured a huge departure from past series iterations and yet, that one still worked. Ah, but the difference is that it felt exactly like an RPG; in fact, it felt like a more modern RPG with open-ended exploration and a turn-based/real-time hybrid form of combat. Every element of an RPG was still there and in some ways, each was even more prevalent.
In FFXIII, we got a confusing presentation. It felt less like an RPG and more like a flashy action/adventure that simply didn't resonate with a lot of fans. Still, it was a great game if one simply evaluates it on its merits alone. And yet, in comparison to the best of the best of the series, it falls short. Another example: Splinter Cell: Conviction . For the record, I'm a huge SC fan; the original hooked me over 8 years ago and I've played and loved every single entry since. But something happened in Conviction …something bad. The game that was purely stealth, that rewarded patience, planning and skill, had been replaced by a game that felt like a mad dash through the dark. I can't grab my enemies. I can't move bodies. I can't incapacitate; I can only kill. The new light/shadow system blows . There's little or no opportunity to hack, override cameras and other security barriers, and get the drop on unsuspecting guards.
Why? Because 90% of the time, all the guards are on alert and looking for you, and all my tools are only for combat. Where are my sticky shockers? Where's my all-purpose rifle that fires everything from sticky cameras to ring airfoil rounds? Now, I just throw a sticky camera at a wall and I've got a few mines and grenades. It feels nothing like SC. I can't imagine fans of past games enjoying this in the slightest; I for one couldn't even finish it. After coming upon yet another level where all the guards are instantly alerted from the start and remain alerted throughout, which only promotes constant firefights, I just had to quit. Hate it. Now, what prompts a developer to do this? Who stands up and says, "hey, let's change everything and see if the fans like it…" The question is- why ?! Why?
It's not a rhetorical question. I don't have an answer. Do you ?