6 Video Game Themes that Need More Love

I am pretty easy to predict as far as my taste in games. My local GameStop folks know me by name and they know exactly what to recommend when I come in to browse. Sometimes I pop in with nothing in mind simply because I know that the folks behind the counter will have their ear to the ground as far as new releases and will be able to tip me off if something is coming down the pipe that’s to my liking. Most of the time, they’ve been spot on. Thanks to them, I got my feet wet with the Lords of Shadows series, the Tales series, and a few other random titles here and there. I’m always looking for something new and exciting, but I will admit that I often catch myself grabbing something obscure in hopes of finding something…different.
Sadly, there’s a lot of unexplored in the realm of game content. Successful formulas are great, don’t get me wrong, and games that have become giants among gaming should cling to what made them great in the first place. However, there are some mechanics, themes, and story lines that I would kill to see more of—or see at all. Here’s a short list of things that would personally love to see in gaming. These are in no particular order, but the final one is one that I think would make the greatest impact on any franchise that picked up on it in general.

A Monster Taming Mechanic

…I would rather be your friend than murder you.

Okay, yes, there’s a lot of “monster collecting” games. I mean we have Pokémon, Digimon, Monster Rancher, and even the more obscure Dragon Quest monster games. Those are all well and good but that’s not exactly what I’m talking about. This thought came to me while playing the not-so-grand game “Dragon’s Dogma.” Here we have a massive world with no fast travel at all. Surely, there’s a mount of some kind, right? I mean maybe that gryphon that you can jump on or that chimera can be tamed?
No. You get to walk. Forever. And ever. Back and forth, rinse and repeat. Augh… what a waste!

Yes, yes… Monster Hunter Stories is coming out in September, but still. MORE OF THIS. PLEASE.

And then there’s games like Monster Hunter, where you are faced with massive, beautiful creatures that you have to track down, trap, and/or kill. Mind, I love these games to death and honestly their locational maps aren’t too much of a grind to cross, but it seems like a shame that you can’t tame the monsters that you encounter. Granted, there are several games where you can catch and tame wild horses or have a predetermined mount to get you across the world map, but I have always wanted to see a game where anything is fair game. Even in Horizon Zero Dawn, you are limited in what you can ride, and not all of the creatures that you charm are your allies; the charm effect eventually wears off on the most dangerous machines.
Imagine a game where you can capture that gryphon, befriend it, bond with it, and have it not only bear you but serve as a member of your party? Imagine having a game where in order to access another area, you had to capture, train, and ride something that could carry you across a great ocean. Imagine if you were able to tame falcons to command or even have a plot of land where you can keep your beasts, tame them, break them in, and even breed them for better attributes. I would shove my money at that game so fast! I feel like this mechanic is just out of reach—a lot of games have almost done it, almost brushed on the idea, but have fallen just short. It’s a nice option as a “side quest” sort of deal and it would force the player to find creative ways to progress in the story. It would also open up many different fields of gameplay and the replay value would be off the charts—not to mention you’d have a freaking chimera as a party member. Who doesn’t want that?

Animal Games

There are plenty of indi-games like Wolfquest but they’re largely lackluster, linear, and limited in scope.

With book series like Warriors, Firebringer, and all the love for wolves-,one would think that someone, somewhere would create an epic action/adventure game with a beastly protagonist trying to survive in a world of animals. Whether the world is more fantastic in design or more down to earth, I honestly think that there’s a market for these kind of games. Franchises like Spyro the Dragon are a lot of fun but that franchisehasn’t seen a new game in years, and they’re mostly bound to a linear formula. Spryo games are glorified platformers with limited flight mechanics. Dawn of the Dragon was a freaking fantastic set up to a new story, world, and mechanics that could have been expanded upon; it gathered a strong fan base but when the studio dropped the ball and went on to Skylanders, all hope of a genuine continuation of the Spyro games died. I get the business side of it, but there’s a hole left in the market.
I’ve played the Ga’hoole game that came out to try to ride the tails of the Guardians of Ga’hoole movie that came out…and unfortunately , it flopped. While I personally enjoyed it, the game was short and suffocating in many regards. If a true Ga’hoole game came out with all the owl kingdoms, an open world, a great plot, and customization, I think that it would capture the nostalgia that my generation has for the books, and introduce something unique to the gaming world. Alas, movie-inspired games rarely sell well enough to provoke anything great.

And there is Tokyo Jungle for the PS3 but, again, it’s very linear, limited, and falls short of the game’s potential.

An animal kingdom game would offer a very unique experience to gamers. Even as a survival game, or a game based off of any one of the currently popular young adult book series, would be something fresh on the market. Imagine a game with a map as large as Skyrim but instead of playing a dragonborn, you’re playing a deer trying to survive against wolves, protect his herd, expand his territory, and face whatever animal-magic threat’s going on. It’s a thought, but I genuinely think that if done well this kind of game would have a pretty decent market and gain a following…especially if it revolved around wolves. Sorry, internet, the wolfaboos would likely be the goal demographic here. Regardless, it would be a fun experience. Okami did extremely well, after all, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is to this day one of the most popular Zelda games simply because Link transformed into a beast. Heck, I would shell out all the money to play something where fantastic creatures such as gryphons and unicorns were fighting to survive in a world that was hunting them to extinction.

An Honest to Goodness Dragon Rider Game

This little example in “you tried” was released on the Dreamcast. The source material isn’t exactly… erm… good and the game didn’t impress anyone.

Okay, yes, this kind of falls in line with the first entry on this list, but given that “Dragoon” class is the most popular class in all of RPG history, we need a game that focuses on them. There was a horrible failed attempt at bringing Dragonriders of Pern to life on the Dreamcast; the game performed poorly, and given the source material I’m not entirely shocked. I thought for sure that we would see an increase in popularity in the idea of dragon riders with book series such as Temeraire and Eragon coming to fruition, but alas, all we got in that timeframe was the abomination Drakengard 3.
Yes, Drakengard exists, but let’s be honest: those games really don’t carry the fandom weight needed to expand out. Drakengard 3 very well may have nailed the coffin on that series shut and tossed it into a flaming lake for good measure, so I won’t hold my breath.

YOU ARE FRIEND-ZONED FOR LIFE, UBISOFT. I wanted this so bad….

With all the flight simulation games getting better and better along with game development technology, I’m surprised that I’ve not seen some kind of dragon riding game yet. It would be easy enough to get the mechanics down, allow for customization, breeding, training, and level ups, but there’s so much potential beyond just the mechanic. A game that had a massive war being waged between nations and their own unique breeds of dragons would be a blast. Picking a side, a culture, a species of dragon, and pitting it against other airborne fire breathers would definitely turn a few heads. There’d be massive potential for online PVP battles and scoreboards, there’d be a market for DLC content (as much as we hate them), and an entire series to come from it. Why this hasn’t been done is beyond me.
Well.. okay, I’ll have to make a correction. There was an attempt being made in Scalebound but that project has been confirmed to have been canceled so yet again, we dragon-riding enthusiasts are left wanting.

A Game with a Freaking Consistent Timeline, Recurring Characters and Locations.

….this isn’t even official. This is a cross-dimensional, multiverse…what the heck what what what…!?

One of my favorite game franchises of all time is the Suikoden series. These games are hidden gems of the RPG genre, but their narratives, stories, and world are so engaging that I would even dare to say that they exceed anything that Final Fantasy has ever done. One of the biggest strengths of the series is the fact that all the games take place in the same world, they occur on a very clear timeline, and characters that would reasonably be alive, and have some reason to be involved, appear in multiple titles. You can return to old locations, or hear tales of them, and even read about the wars that you personally participated in as a player in books and archives that you find through the game. It’s an element in storytelling that keeps me invested because the games are so long that you build a sincere connection with the characters that you recruit and fight beside. To see those characters, even the former protagonists, living their lives beyond the conflicts from games prior is an element that more games need to consider. It’s rewarding to see the land healing, the people picking up their lives, and the heroes carrying on in the new world that they helped to create.

And then there’s this mess…

A lot of games these days have timelines that are about as straightforward as a bowl of pasta. You have the Zelda timeline, for example, that is so confused that it created a decade-long debate. When it was officially settled, it required an entire book produced by Nintendo to explain the timeline, the split, and the three realities that it created. Games like Final Fantasy rarely take place in the same world from game to game and you hardly see characters return unless you get a direct sequel…which isn’t Square’s strong point in the slightest. At least games like the Tales series all take place in their own little worlds with their own heroes and conflicts. Castlevania games (with exception to the Lords of Shadows series) are even more confusing because they re-work characters. In the end, you get a confused bowl of word salad and timelines that tangle up, trip over themselves, and throw the fan base into a rage-fest in the forums, or you just get a series of epic stories completely severed from each another under the same game title.
What if while Noctis and the boys were traveling to Hammerhead and picked up Zidane as he wandered along the side of the road? What if

Sadly, Dissidia is one of the rare we get to see our beloved heroes interact.

Cloud and Lightning went to blows over ideals? What if the good guy in one game became the villain in the next? What if we saw the offspring of our heroes, heard about how their sacrifice paid off…or didn’t? Mind, the Golden Sun games did make an attempt at all this, but they’ve not even whispered a hint of continuing their games in years so there’s little hope of seeing another entry into the series.
Overall, it would be an element that could be injected into any current series or be the foundation of a new series entirely. It would continue to reward loyal players and provoke newcomers to go back and pick up the games they missed as the games continue forward.

Bards

Yes, yes this is available on Steam but it’s one game. One game. …and it’s kind of urm… adult themed?

Yes, I know that The Bard’s Tale was a thing… in 2004. I do know that there are bards dotted through games and that some games will even have a bard as a main character, but that’s about all the love this class gets. The last “important” bard in gaming came in the form of Edward from Final Fantasy 4. Final. Fantasy. Four. [Editor’s Note: our writer might not have had the opportunity to enjoy Haer’Dalis from Baldur’s Gate 2 or Leilana from the Dragon Age series.For those living under a rock, we’re on fifteen. It’s been a darn long time—and no the MMO doesn’t count. No one pays attention to FF Online after Square had to formally apologize and dump more money into revamping their disaster of a game the first time around.
What games need are active bards, a hardcore bard class, or a clever game featuring a bard protagonist. We have come a very long way in technology and a lot of games are starting to feature full orchestrated pieces for scores. A game featuring a bard would not only work hand in hand with this progress, but it would introduce something fresh. For those out of the know (all nine of you), a bard is a class of character who specializes in charisma and song. Their abilities vary from universe to universe, but generally their songs can offer buffs to their party, call on spells, or work as their method of magical casting. Most RPGs rely on a fighter as the protagonist, making a lot of the game’s confrontations and resolutions pretty straightforward—the pointy end of the over-sized sword goes into the bad guy.

Gieve was a playable character in a knock-off Dynasty Warriors game, but with a lute in one hand and a sword in the other- I need more of this in my life. As of yesterday.

A game that featured a bard could take advantage of the advancements in the capabilities of a game’s soundtrack and force the player to think outside of the box when it comes to confrontations. Bards are known as silver tongues that could very easily talk their way out of a lion’s den and have the lions pay them for doing so. They don’t have to be bound to the lute either. A noteworthy bard is Kvothe from the Kingkiller Chronicles. He’s a bard that could play the sound of leaves falling perfectly, wow a tavern filled with schooled musicians even as the strings on his lute snap off, and he’s a mage. And a skilled swordsmen. The beauty of the bard is that they’re extremely clever, flexible, and adaptable. Another great example is Gieve from The Heroic Tales of Arslan. He can sing any lady into …well a situation but he can also hold his own in combat. He’s clever, entertaining, and you’re never really sure where he stands. A game with such a character would offer a good deal of flexibility in narrative, ability, and builds.
Needless to say, the bard needs more love, and it’s a shame we’ve not had any developer show them the respect they deserve.

Straightforward Endings

….this ending was so bad, square released a sequel that was twice as bad and four times as insulting to the fan base.

Let’s face it—not everyone is a fan of M. Night Shyamalan or his “what a twist!” flavored endings. For whatever reason there has been a trend in gaming to deliver confusing, “Zomg so DHEEP,” or just… nonsense endings. FFX? It was all a dream! :finger wiggles: Everything you did was pointless because you didn’t exist! Drakengard? What the actual heck in all your endings!? Mass Effect? Your fan base is this close from burning things to the ground. The list could go on forever. In my opinion, this is the producer’s attempt to be clever. For the most part, these kind of endings often leave the fans of the series feeling cheated, insulted, or just outright infuriated. There’s nothing like pouring 100+ hours into a game and having the ending kick you in the teeth, pour lemon juice in your eyes, and stand laughing as you writhe in pain on the floor.
It’s okay to end a game the way “that’s expected.” It often isn’t the destination, but the journey that matters. A lot of modern games offer a fantastic journey, deep characters, narratives that are thought provoking, and worlds that feel genuine, but then they light it all on fire at the end. If the destination is a steaming pile of you-know-what so to speak, it makes the journey feel…empty.

YES. THIS. MORE OF THIS. HAPPY ENDINGS ARE STILL A GOOD THING, SQUARE.

Calling back to my favorite games, Suikoden ends its stories in a masterful fashion. You can accomplish multiple endings by making bad decisions or missing out on recruits but the true endings offer the players closure while still leaving the story open enough for another installment or player interpretation. Final Fantasy 9 is still, to this day, my favorite in the series because for all the wonder and shine that the newer games of FF12 and FF15 have added to the universe—it exceeds them in how it ends. FF9 doesn’t leave you clutching your chest asking why, it doesn’t leave you with a headache, and it certainly doesn’t tell you that the character that you just spent 60 hours playing is a figment of someone’s imagination. It tells a straightforward story with a straightforward ending. YES! I want to see the hero get the girl! I want to see that everything that my character has suffered through paid off in the end! I dearly love FF15, but it left far too much unsaid and undone. Even Pokémon offers the player the satisfaction of a conclusive ending that doesn’t require a Master’s Degree in Philosophy or a bottle of antidepressants to get through. Sometimes the most obvious answer is the correct one: there’s no need to overthink it.

I Could Go On

But these are things that present themselves to the forefront of my mind when I play a game that falls just short of perfection or even repayable. There’s some titles that I will go back to simply to wrap myself in the world again, but if a game falls short, I find that it just becomes another collectible on the shelf. On the other side of the coin, games are trying to compete with innovation and storytelling while sadly repeating the same formulas that are trending in the market right now. It would be refreshing to see even one of these elements pushed into the market to stimulate the creativity of other producers.

Kelly

I was born and raised in a traditional Christian household, educated privately, and brought up with a passion for Christ. The works of CS Lewis and Tolkien were my greatest influences. I aspire to become a published fictional author, hopefully illustrating my own work as well. Christ is the center of my universe and my faith is the lens in which I look through in regards to everything. As far as games go I am swayed best towards fantasy/action/rpg's.

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