From Far Cry to Hitman, I Love When a Series Reinvents Itself


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Danielle don’t read this

Easily the best reinvention of a series I have ever played is Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, although I do qualify that it didn’t really need to be a B-K game in the first place. It certainly wouldn’t have caught as much flak from a dedicated fanbase, that’s for sure. But what’s there is a sublime exercise in creative problem solving that I think everyone should play. Plus, if you’re not precious about the B-K cannon, the story and dialogue can be quite funny and enjoyable!


Now I want to know what shoes Austin had back in 2012…

On topic though, a series reinventing itself has gone bad more than it has gone well. Most reinventions though always seem to just follow whatever the mainstream games are doing those days. Assassin’s Creed goes from a more bespoke, linear experience (atlhough it was still open-world, it was barely anything compared to the newer games) to a vast open-world game with weird mission structure like an RPG. Note: I have no played AC:Origins yet. Far Cry goes from an admittedly bad shooter to a hardcore, difficult game and then back to a standard fare open-world game like every other AAA game that came out around Far Cry 3/4/Primal’s time.

Hitman has gone through the gutter and come out on the other side when IO realized that for a more niche series, reinvention is more about realizing the strengths of the older games and adding a little more quality-of-life. Absolution was a mess. As a long-time Hitman fan, Absolution was a reinviention that missed everything that was good with Hitman. There was no preparation, no fun creative outlets. It just felt like your bog-standard AAA game. And then HITMAN 2016 comes out, and it’s a reinvention on a reinvention that’s actually just bringing it back to its roots and it’s wonderful. It has everything that the older games had in terms of the actual fun mechanics, but it’s changed enough that it doesn’t feel like trying to go back to how unapproachable those older games were.

Doom also went through the same path that HITMAN did. First it was a mind-blowing FPS, then it becomes an average horror FPS, has some issues, and finally comes back as what it originally was; a fun romp with excessive gore and shooting. Not that I particularly enjoyed the newest DOOM, but many people did and I can understand why.

Resident Evil’s move to more action-oriented games also brought the series down. And then it comes back around by going back to what Resident Evil was originally known for, the horror. Again, much like Doom, I didn’t enjoy the most recent Resident Evil game. I love the first, but I also - and I know this is a guilty pleasure - love Resident Evil 5. I played it cooperatively, and while I will never revisit that game I enjoyed every second of getting 100% achievements on that game.

As for a reinvention that went terrible, look no further than Orcs Must Die. That series went from a really interesting third-person tower defense game, to a really interesting third-person tower defense game with fun cooperative multiplayer, to a MOBA. And Orcs Must Die: Unchained is not even really a fun MOBA. It feels lifeless.

Red Faction Guerrilla also changed that series up into a bog-standard action game, which was a huge change to what Guerrilla brought to the table.


I really, really wanted to play BKNaB and never got around to it! Seems fantastic.

And @Octopodes: It was a pair of Bostonian Pavillions:


Do you like it when a series switches it up?

It depends on the reasons for switching, but usually, yes. There’s generally a big difference between a series switching it up to avoid becoming too stale or taking a new approach to the core elements of a series vs following market trends or trying to cater to larger audiences and sanding down the interesting bits in the process. Occasionally those things go hand in hand though, like XCOM: Enemy Unknown streamlining a lot of the series elements, which is nice for everyone!

What’s your favorite (or least favorite) example of this happening?


  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild feels obvious, but for real, it’s a really good example of a developer reexamining a series to figure out what experience they want to capture again, and going all in on it.
  • Civilization V! Firaxis should be consulted for all strategy games in need of a shakeup. That is not to say they nail it every time, but they are always tinkering with their games and trying to find what they can change without losing too much.
  • Does Prey count?

Least Favorites:

  • So I never played Jak II but at the time it came out my parents were still very strict about game ratings, so for that solely selfish reason alone I’m upset at the series reinvention. I later played Jak 3, it was fine, but I’m still waiting for a proper sequel to the Precursor Legacy.
  • Fucking Mass Effect: Andromeda is another obvious answer, but the open world approach did no favor for a series that was always at its strongest when it was more tightly focused.


It’s a shame that it’s platform exclusive. Otherwise, it would make for an excellent Waypoint 101 text.


Nuts and Bolts is so worth taking the time to play! I’m pretty sure it’s in that Rare Replay collection.

The Kirby games.
They’ve never changed the main theme significantly, but creatively the series has gone in some interesting directions. Like Epic Yarn for the Wii where the whole universe is made of yarn and craft materials, or Mass Attack for the DS where you control a pack of tiny Kirbies.
The series has always been a mix of experimentation and sticking to fundamental themes.


I have never strayed far from sneakers, but those looks pretty comfy. Thanks for responding!


I really liked Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. While LoS2 was pretty inconsistent from a gameplay perspective, and Mirror of Fate was straight up bad, I really liked seeing Mercury Steam’s reinvention of the Castlevania lore. Lore that I know much more of than any normal person should, having listened to all of Austin’s insightful commentary during Vinnyvania.


I think the new Wolfenstein games are the first franchise reinventions that spring to mind for me. (I should preface this by saying I never played the 2009 Wolfenstein, so I’m not sure how much of the modern series is an extension of that one.) Maybe not so much mechanically, outside of a wider array of options to tackle a situation like stealth, as the moment to moment gameplay is still going through corridors and engaging in gratuitous amounts of Nazi slaughter. But instead of that sort of mindless shooter formula, the new Wolfensteins are thoughtful, character-driven games where the story is the main draw, which is such a wild shift to think about when considering the franchise’s history.


This might be a weird one, but I’m going with Elder Scrolls Online. Each entry of the Elder Scrolls franchise since Morrowind (hi Jonny) has felt weaker than the last, providing smaller possibility spaces with each incarnation. ESO on the other hand feels like its own thing entirely, and is probably the most fun I’ve had with the series since the third game. I like that it features places, cultures and events that have only been hinted at in previous games.

Oh, and also Halo: ODST. More of that please.


Where’s Metal Gear AC!D 3, Konami?


Hey guys, did you know Dwarf Fortress was a sequel to another game? Did you know that?? ??? ?

Also, I’m just gonna say it: Metroid Prime is a flawless restructuring of what made games like Super Metroid so damn good. They had a lot of hurdles to jump over by making it a 3D FPS but by golly, Retro made it work.

Hey, I’ve never played it, but hey: Frog Fractions 2. I have a weird adoration for is games that develop a bizarre esoteric reinvention. There’s something so exciting to me about art that digs its heels deep into its strangeness, and in series, this usually results in really unique lore and design. Case in point, Frog Fractions 2. What started as a weird joke game became a complex text-based ARG adventure game found within an unrelated game. Like…?? ? ?? ?? Brilliant


Toki Tori 2. The first game was a level based puzzle/platforming game that was fine. But the sequel was very different and super cool and there hasn’t been much like it since. It’s a puzzle metroidvania. Instead of collecting powerups and new abilities you just learn about how the world and mechanics work and that opens up previously inaccessible areas. You only really have two things your character can do. Tweet and stomp. No jumping or rolling or anything else.

This video shows off just how well thought out those systems work in regards to being able to sequence break the game. It might spoil some of the puzzle solutions though!

Unfortunately, the game was pretty much a commercial failure and bankrupted Two Tribes.

BUT it’s on Steam, PS4, and apparently coming out on the Switch in a couple of days, and I imagine that the Switch would be such a fantastic way to play the game! I’ll always appreciate a combat-free metroidvania, they’re far and few between.


I think the transition between Fallout 2 to fallout 3 and new vegas is a good example of this. Some might complain about the “casualization” of the franchise or whatever, but going from a top down isometric rpg to a first-person rpg is one hell of a leap, and it worked wonders.


I’m not sure if Watch_Dogs 2 counts, but that game took a step back, refocused and threw out a lot of what was in Watch_Dogs to put the series in another direction.

Original Watch_Dogs’ trying to be this dark, gritty take on a city under constant surveillance, attaching one of the most unpleasant video game protagonists to the story, a largely forgettable supporting cast, bland aesthetics and mechanics and, of course, its heavy handed take on social issues made for a really bad experience on a technically fine video game. I also remember shooting more people than actually hacking in that game.

Watch_Dogs 2 isn’t without its faults (I had major issues with a specific event in the middle of that game, which Cameron and Austin talked about at length here), but it felt so detached from WD1 that I’d have forgotten this was a sequel if they hadn’t put in that mission where you ‘teamed up’ with the protagonist of the first one.

The tone is more upbeat and charming, the cast becomes endearing as the story progresses, they’re a little better at handling social issues (I still really like that Google mission) and the gameplay focus on ‘Hacking around things’ rather than ‘shooting everyone and the problem is solved’ makes it a lot more enjoyable.


I am all about series reinventing themselves even when it is to make the game more “mainstream”. Those tend to be the most interesting to watch play out from a video & news perspective. Even if the game lacks, I’m always curious what they decided to keep and what they decided to toss out in favor of being more approachable.

Jak II being GTA inspired and Jak III being Mad Max, the game, before Mad Max was good.

Hope they one day make that God of War tactical RPG


Titanfall as a Clash Royale knockoff was disappointing


I think my attitude to a series reinventing itself depends a lot on whether or not that reinvention feels like an organic extension of what the series was in the past. In general I don’t have a huge attachment to IPs - at worst a new game in the series that I don’t care for makes me want to play the older ones instead. But a new game that feels completely unrelated to past entries can feel very cynical (e.g., 2012’s Syndicate, or X-Com Declassified).

Having said that, it’s important to at least try to innovate every now and then, and when it feels organic, it should be encouraged. I thought MGS: Peace Walker was a really interesting experiment, even though the end result was… less than stellar, to be diplomatic. At the very least, it was a natural evolution of the gameplay of past MGS games, even if this one really shouldn’t have made it past natural selection.

But I think my favorite example of a series reinventing itself is Deus Ex: Invisible War. It’s certainly the worst game in the series, but I think an action-focused Deus Ex felt refreshing after the original, which, timeless classic that it is, can at times be very slow, especially if you’re trying to be stealthy. And while not as good as the others, Invisible War was still a very good game, and I really, really don’t get why it gets dunked on so much.


I liked when they reinvented Dark Souls as Bloodborne and it became a much more compelling game.

In all seriousness, though, that Doom reboot was fantastic. I mean, sure, it wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t necessarily doing anything TOO terribly different, but damn. What a beautiful, gory, and unexpected surprise.