Joystick: The Clone of War — Are games lacking originality?

Published 11:33 am Thursday, March 14, 2013

“God of War: Ascension” came out this week, the latest title in one of the most controversial series in memory.

While hundreds of thousands of gamers will sink themselves into the game, critics will furrow their brows and cry foul over the game. Not because it’s graphically violent, nor because there are certain sexualized mini-games within the “God of War” series. Rather, “GoW” will be scorned by a subsection of gamer who believes the series has ruined action game development.

It’s almost criminally easy to describe recent action games as “God of War” clones. The “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow” series? You play as someone who uses a whip-like weapon, climb platforms, perform quick-time event kills, and experience over-the-top cinematics and violence.

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How about “Darksiders?” Same thing, says the critical gamer. Let’s not forget game series like “Ninja Gaiden,” or games like “DmC,” the latest in the “Devil May Cry” series, made by the same studio that created “Heavenly Creatures,” another supposed “God of War” clone.

I would argue these critics can’t see the action forest for the impressive “God of War” tree.

There’s no denying “God of War” was a seminal action experience when it was released in 2005, but it was good because it represented the evolution of many action game ideas that came before it. Sony developers found a winning formula and have stuck to it for the past eight years. There’s no point in denying “God of War” was a high-point for gaming, but it’s time to recognize other action games for doing things right, too.

“God of War” expounded upon the puzzles and 3-D action in games like the first “Devil May Cry,” which took elements from “Resident Evil” along with games like “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night,” which took elements from the “Metroid series,” and so on.

Yet action games continuously evolve, and third-person, fixed-camera action platformers deserve to be judged on their own merits. While Mario is the most recognizable platforming champion, many games have grown from Mario’s mechanics and earned their own reputation. It is tiresome and shallow to call the next big action game a “God of War” clone, which automatically gives it the stigma of being unoriginal.

Let’s look for better ways to describe the next big game, and see where developers next take the industry.