Taking on the responsibility of modernizing a franchise as etched into video game legend as Deus Ex was no easy task, but in Human Revolution, Square Enix Montreal absolutely did it justice. Effectively a reboot of the series, Human Revolution earned critical acclaim for pushing the franchise in a new direction while simultaneously capturing the essence of the original. Four years on, last year’s sequel, Mankind Divided, looked set to add further polish to the role-playing systems, gameplay and fascinating cyberpunk narrative that had sat so well with its fanbase.
Unfortunately, Mankind Divided fell short of expectations both critically and commercially. Although reception to its refined gameplay mechanics was mostly positive, Mankind Divided’s story largely felt stifled and incomplete — a sentiment compounded by its abrupt ending. These frustrations were further aggravated by the inclusion of a slightly nonsensical minigame, which was later released as a microtransaction-heavy standalone minigame.
Rumors circled that publishing decisions from Square Enix had caused a mismanagement of resources and the reduced overall scope of the game (Deus Ex was originally set to become one of the publisher’s hallmark franchise). What we know for certain is that, following underwhelming sales, the Montreal team has been reallocated to other projects and the franchise has been indefinitely put on ice.
Mass Effect Andromeda’s impending release was a source of great excitement. The series had forged a reputation as one of the RPG genre’s greatest and it held iconic status as developer BioWare’s most accomplished achievements. Who could possibly have predicted that rather than talking about the series bright new direction, 12 months down the line we would instead be questioning the franchise’s very existence?
Launching to mediocre critical reception, exacerbated by wonky facial animations that caught the attention of the gaming community, Andromeda caused a stir for all the wrong reasons. Even beyond those somewhat exaggerated graphical shortcomings, though, Andromeda failed to replicate the narrative nuances and character development of the predecessor titles. Much of Andromeda felt like retreading familiar ground rather than constructing the brave new direction its storyline would suggest.
It seems EA has not been impressed with Andromeda’s performance from a business perspective, either. Whether due to sales falling below forecasted expectation or to give the IP some breathing room after its unpopular reception, EA has opted not to greenlight a new Mass Effect title. While we doubt that this means waving goodbye to Mass Effect forever, BioWare Montreal’s recent reduction to a support studio means there won’t likely be another game in the series for quite some time. Considering the lengthy production time of Andromeda, it is unlikely we will see the Mass Effect franchise until at least the next console generation.
Scalebound’s blend of action role-playing, a dragon companion, and a unique headphone-wearing protagonist certainly peaked the interest of the gaming community. Quite apart from the promise of its gameplay, Scalebound was seen as adding an all-new string to the Xbox One’s bow; a Japanese-developed RPG adding a new flavor to its repertoire. Indeed, the prospect of a Hideki Kamiya Platinum Games developer title held such great promise, which made its recent cancelation all the more crushing.
In a statement made by Platinum Games, the studio confirmed that their relationship with Microsoft had been terminated. Issues with Scalebound’s engine and a failure to meet development deadlines had led to the decision to cease production on the game.
Recent news that Microsoft had retained the trademark for Scalebound sent sparks flying about it potential renewal, but sources later confirmed the game was not back in development. While it isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility that Scalebound could see a miraculous comeback in the future, it seems highly unlikely.
Peter Molyneux’s Fable series is one of Xbox’s most beloved exclusive IPs, best known for its captivating fantasy setting, brought to life by endearing characters and witty British humor. Its innovative open world setting played fantastically as an RPG, too. As a result, the series remained popular throughout its trilogy, even if the last of the games took a slight dip in form. Yet, even the most passionate of fans might well have raised an eyebrow when it was decided Fable would be used as a basis for a free-to-play multiplayer spin-off.
After a lengthy delay, it was to all end in disaster back in 2015 when Fable Legends was canceled and Microsoft closed down the studio developing the game, Lionhead Studios. An early access beta was also closed and players who had taken part were issued full refunds for in-game purchases.
Although reasons for the cancelation were not officially stipulated, in an interview with IGN, Peter Molyneux, former co-founder of Lionhead Studios, commented that Fable’s universe and lore were not suitable for a multiplayer adaption.
Certainly, Fable’s success was built on story, characters, and open world role-playing, but we still can’t help but bemoan such a sad end to an iconic IP and wonder what could have been for Fable Legends.
RIGS: Mechanized Combat League
Sony’s PSVR unit launched with an impressive resume of over 50 games, yet many of those titles were short experiences that felt more like technical demos. RIGS was not one of them, touting online multiplayer combat that seemed as though it held great potential in attracting a competitive player base. Guerrilla Cambridge pledged continual support of the game with DLC and updates to help foster an online community of VR-shooter players. Of all the VR experiences, RIGS held the greatest promise as a VR game that could become a thriving scene, but Guerrilla Cambridge’s sudden closure brought that crashing down.
Speaking with Eurogamer, former Guerrilla Cambridge Art Director Alex Kanaris stated his disappointment that RIGS never got the chance to grow into the game the studio envisioned. It did, at least, give us a glimmer into what a competitive VR shooter might look like.
RIGS is the among one of the only competitive VR shooters, and now that Guerrilla Cambridge has been shut down, it seems like a step backward for the peripheral hardware. In fact, Sony’s decision not to continue supporting one its VR studios also raises more question marks over PSVR’s future in general.
Driveclub’s entire development and release were marred by frustration. It missed the PS4’s launch window by a whole 12 months and then released to middling review scores that lamented server issues and design oversights. That, and the fact that the entire club premise that comprised much of Evolution Studio’s vision for the game never really materialized properly.
Despite those shortcomings, Driveclub still recorded an impressive two million units sold — a decent return, but not enough to prevent Sony from putting the kibosh on Evolution Studios in 2016 and effectively killing the franchise for good.
Ironically, for all Driveclub’s faults, it actually played very well from a purely racing simulation standpoint. The game’s demise was a shame because, following several updates, Driveclub ended up as a decent package. The later introduction of a motorbike expansion and a VR component gave it an attractive scope (even if the VR experience was a little sick-making, depending on your VR sea legs).
The talent at Evolution Studios was clearly evident, but sadly it seems unlikely we’ll ever see the Driveclub franchise again.