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Gaming Is Better When Established Developers Try New Things

I love a good sequel, but nothing is more exciting to me than a studio following up a smash hit with something new.
Header courtesy of Klei Entertainment

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In my open thread last week, I wrote about how much I loved it when a well established series changes things up in its sequels. After reviewing Into the Breach, I've been thinking about something related: When a developer, especially a independent one, takes a big risk by following up a successful game with something different.


After all, while Into the Breach has some of the the same run-based structure as Subset Game's smash hit FTL, it has plenty of dissimilarities too. Sure, both are nails-hard games that you'll restart over and over, and both have special "challenges" you complete in order to unlock new starting loadouts, but FTL is, pretty firmly in my mind, a roguelike—with all the requisite unpredictability and character (well, ship) building—while Into the Breach is not.

More than that though, Into the Breach features a fundamentally different way to interact with the world than FTL did. I suspect a lot of folks heard "a game about mechs by the FTL devs" and imagined the same set up as Subset's last game, but with giant robots in place of the spaceships. And you know, I'm sure that game would be cool (and I bet someone else will make it one day), but this? Subset taking a risk and making complex, chess-like tactics game? Much, much more interesting.

I'm not sure why, exactly, this sort of divergence appeals to me so much. Maybe it's because it shows a team take what they learned and contribute their expertise to a new genre, like Supergiant did with Pyre. Maybe it's because I get bored easily, and I'm always excited about something that genuinely feels new, like Return of the Obra Dinn. Or… maybe it's just because it means there's a better chance for me to get cool, experimental tactics games like Into the Breach and it's gameplay-feel cousin, Invisible, Inc. (which was released after Klei hit paydirt with Don't Starve).

There's value in honing your ideas, too, of course. The similarities between Playdead's Limbo and their followup, Inside, aren't insignificant, but the latter feels like such an important evolution of the first game. And you know, my top 20 list of favorite games would probably include Far Cry 2, Knights of the Old Republic 2, Metal Gear Solid 2, and Dark Souls 2… So, I'm not saying that follow-ups need to be mechanically fresh every time. But there is something special in seeing a dev find success and then take a risk on their next project.

What's your favorite example of this sort of surprising release from a developer, indie or otherwise? Let me know over in the forums!