The 2 games I have on at the moment are The Division 2 and Dragon Quest XI, and both of these follow a classic formula that has been set; The Division 2 follows the set Ubisoft standard of ‘here is a map, you must unlock and build up bases’ and Dragon Quest XI is a classic turn based JRPG of old – The thing is, though, they’re both brilliant games, so the answer to my title is no… Not really.
…However sometimes a change in formula works, without a doubt; look at the last 2 entries in the Assassin’s Creed series for an example of a fantastic formula change that really paid off… But on the other hand you can look at Final Fantasy XV or Kingdom Hearts 3 for games that changed a fair bit, and both of those were disappointments for me. Sometimes I need some familiarity in a game for sure, especially when the draw of the game is it’s classic feel.
The game that’s really got me feeling this way is Dragon Quest XI, and yes, I know I’m exceptionally late to the party on this one. After putting 16 hours into it in 1 week, during a time when I thought I didn’t have any time for games, I realised there was a key reason for this; the game is a fucking joy to play and that’s mostly because it feels almost retro in the way it plays. It follows a classic JRPG formula of ‘boy in village has secret past, village gets destroyed, boy goes on adventure and meets friends’; not only this, but it also has a very old school combat system that has some very slight tweaks to bring it up to date. You have to explore the open world following a main storyline whilst picking up side quests and choosing if you want to fight in the wild to level up. As you progress new members will be added to your party that you can switch in and out, and everyone will learn new skills that you can adapt into your fight formula – You can’t really get more classic than this! Playing it feels so natural to me that I want to grind endlessly and enjoy the combat, even the music and sound effects have a very classic sound adding to that tried and tested formula which work extremely well, for one because it’s just great and two because it pulls on my nostalgic heart strings.
The other game which we’ve covered a fair bit is The Division 2. This slyly follows the classic Ubisoft formula of ‘here are some bases, you must take them over and improve them whilst increasing your area on the map’, and again, it REALLY works. Setting a game like this in Washington D.C. is perfect as you have this limited city area to explore and improve upon; it really works as it isn’t a humongous open world map. The other thing it has going for it is that the gameplay is pretty flawless, and I think a lot of that is due to the fact that they had this tried and tested map formula to rely on, so they could concentrate on getting the gameplay right (Such as armour points, individual skills and great gunplay). I won’t speak any more about The Division 2, but you can see why I think you should play it here.
Another fucking great example is FIFA… Although a lot of gamers don’t look at these games fondly, I really do, and still stand to think that these are the best couch games going. The gameplay tweaks slightly and the graphics do improve year to year, but the general way the game works and plays never really drastically changes, and that ain’t a bad thing. FIFA adds new features to keep it interesting, and so EA can make it look like the new one is worth all your money… But really it’s the same thing of ‘pick a team each and win a game’, and all these years later it’s still damn good fun and I really don’t want it to change too much (Although the brand new VS modes in 19 are great).
So looking at these games I’ve briefly covered, I don’t think games need to change their formula if it works; as the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Yes, new features need to be introduced so it’s not a carbon copy of the last 5 entries of the game, but if the general way a game plays works and goes out to thunderous applause, then don’t change your formula; just write a new story or add some new fighting skills.