"Watch Dogs" bears a few resemblances to the Grand Theft Auto franchise: both involve urban crime, open worlds, and gritty stories. However, "Watch Dogs" is distancing itself from the often whacked-out violence of Grand Theft Auto with nuanced mechanics that let players engage the environment and NPCs in new ways. As a hacker, the player can manipulate electronics such as street lights and cell phones to control the flow of traffic and gather emergent information. Instead of pick-pocketing nameless people on the street, players may access every single individual's profile and learn who they are. Rather than smashing through lanes of traffic to escape the police on a five star crime rating, players can create traffic jams to stall squad cars. "Watch Dogs" is utilizing the concept of wireless, mobile hacking to provide players with unprecedented methods of engaging the environment, and that not only distinguishes their brand but may positively influence future open-world games.
"Metal Gear Solid V" is delivering plenty of departures from the main Metal Gear formula, namely that it features an open world. To get players used to the idea, "Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes" features a small campaign with most of the mechanics players can expect in the feature title, "Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain." According to Max Scoville of Destructoid, "Ground Zeroes" is a satisfying prologue which will let Metal Gear fans determine whether the new format is for them or not. Although the open world provides greater powers of decision making, gone are quirks such as hiding in lockers, smoking cigars, and hiding in boxes. That's right, the iconic Metal Gear Solid cardboard box is no longer with us.
The Batman "Arkham" games have ramped up tactical and strategic freedom with each title. What started as a slug-fest in a single building has expanded into a large portion of Gotham City. So big, in fact, is this segment that players will now be able to control a slick new Batmobile. Not much is currently known about gameplay changes aside from the new ride, but "Arkham Knight" will feature villains such as Scarecrow, Penguin, Two-Face, and Harley-Quinn. According to Sefton Hill, the game's director, "This is the natural end for the story. We really want to go out in style."
"Dragon Age: Origins" was a commercial and critical success, but its sequel, "Dragon Age 2," didn't hold up as well. In order to recoup the Dragon Age brand, Bioware isn't pulling any punches with the third installment: "Dragon Age: Inquisition." Rather than stick to their usual formula, Bioware is building a free-roaming world with emergent populations. Rather than facing random encounters, players will be faced with threats that are the result of their actions.
According to a recent Bioware blog post: "The world's population is based on an emergent system that adjusts what you'll encounter based on how your actions tip the balance in the area. You'll see towns attacked by bandits, deer fleeing from wolves, giants feeding on bears, and countless other scenarios."
With such a severe departure from the traditional Bioware formula, fans may be worried about whether or not the company can make a successful transition. However, Bioware remains confident that with next-gen technology, they can provide an experience that maintains their standards of quality.
Video games have been lauded as vehicles for social change just as much as they've been criticized for inherent racism, sexism, and treading on anyone who isn't a straight white male. While some big studios attempt to provide a more varied picture of humanity, most companies steer clear of any characters that don't fit the typical image of a protagonist. Lucien Soulban, a writer for Ubisoft Montreal, recently commented that the reason for this phobia may be more economic than spiteful in nature.
"When are we going to see that gay protagonist in a AAA game? Not for a while, I suspect, because of fears that it'll impact sales," wrote Soulban.
While the knee-jerk reaction may be to call big studios money-hungry and soulless, it's important to remember that a single poorly received title, even for a large company, can ruin them. So much is invested in each game that a loss in sales might mean permanent closure. Hopefully, larger studios will continuously introduce increasingly diverse casts, and in doing so change the expectations of the market so that a homosexual protagonist may exist in a successful big budget game.