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Looking forward: Looking at established genres in new ways

Metroidvania golfing? Yes please.

Hello! We’re going to start the year off with a handful of pieces looking forward to 2022. Sometimes we’ll be looking at trends we’ve spotted or themes that will probably be continuing to define things in games for a while. Sometimes we’ll just be thinking about things we’ve enjoyed and where they could lead. Have a lovely new year all!

Video games always want to innovate. Developers both need to make something that stands out from a crowd, and want to engage us in new ways. 2021’s games had outstanding examples of this – Unpacking made us rethink the puzzle genre and the stories contained in our possessions, Wildermyth showed us the power of procedural storytelling. 2022 is set to build on that, daring us to see the genres we like in different ways, and gaming will only be better for it.

Take Marvel’s Midnight Suns by Firaxis. The bombast of superhero movies likely immediately spells action-adventure to most of us, but perhaps now that we’ve got our Hulk-smashing out of the way in Marvel’s Avengers and unleashed the power of teamwork in Guardians of the Galaxy, a tactical card game is the very thing we didn’t know we wanted. Midnight Suns is going to introduce a lot of Marvel fans to what Firaxis is particularly good at, so I reckon a lot of people will discover a new passion, even if they’re on the fence about this particular combination now. Other big franchises are set to reinvent themselves, too. Yakuza has become a turn-based RPG, now run-and-gun bedrock Metal Slug will make its debut as a tactics game, and Final Fantasy reimagines its own beginnings as a dark sci-fi action adventure. While Final Fantasy has tried to make satisfying action-adventure combat for years now, the fact that Square Enix would relinquish the reins on it to finally make that happen seemed unfathomable to me just a few years ago.

Marvel’s Midnight Suns gameplay reveal.

Genre fusion is another great way of rethinking established design, but it’s also a difficult thing to do. I was in awe of Video Games rethinking pinball into offensive actions in 2021’s Beast Breaker, and in 2022, Chuhai Labs will give us golfing metroidvania Cursed to Golf. Just the combination of the words ‘golfing’ and ‘metroidvania’ is enough to blow my mind, but honestly – think about how much effort it takes to interlink the design of two gaming genres that almost feel opposed to each other in order to make a cohesive game. I’m excited for the end result.

Beautiful genre blends! Cursed to Golf, Stranger of Paradise, Stray.

Sometimes it only takes a different setting or narrative context to make a genre appear brand new, a category of game I like to call “how has no one thought of this before?” The echo at the reveals of for BlueTwelve’s Stray and Double Dagger Studio’s Small Kitty, Big City was so large because honestly, who wouldn’t want to explore the world as a cat. Stray in particular stands out to me because after all the gritty post-apocalyptic/Cyberpunk worlds we’ve seen over the years, I’m ready to find one that’s (mostly) nice to me. Meanwhile, Jump Over The Age’s Citizen Sleeper is going to satisfy a more personal hankering of mine – dice rolling in space. Tabletop roleplaying mechanics in video games are nothing new but somehow, they remain underused in a sci-fi context. From the looks of it, Citizen Sleeper will have me roll so many dice that I may rethink that specific desire by the end of it.

This trend shows new, fascinating glimpses into the world of design, and I look forward to learning more about it with every game I play. 2022 looks to be another fantastic year to do just that.

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