With the launch of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds we have seen numerous games try and jump on the battle royal style band wagon. Fortnite was the first of the PUBG clones, and with the meteoric success they have found, they certainly weren’t the last. However following trends or trying to mimic popular games doesn’t always end in success. So let’s take a look at 5 games that tried to copy great games, but ended up disappointing.
Star Wars: Battlefront (2015)
EA had one hell of a year in 2017. From the tarnishing of the Mass Effect franchise, to the mediocre reception of Need for Speed: Payback, to the global catastrophe that was Battlefront 2’s launch. Surely if there is one franchise out there that you can’t mess up, it’s Star Wars. Yet EA yelled, “Hold my beer,” and managed to achieve it. Personally I don’t think Battlefront 2 is that bad, despite the fact that I wrote a piece about how it is a glorified tech demo, but I digress. Let’s go back to a time when we still had faith in EA. Star Wars: Battlefront (2015) was something for fans of the franchise to marvel over.
The visual and audio design is impeccably flawless. The game truly placed you into the world of the films, like no other game had before. Yet it wasn’t the GAME fans wanted. Instead of building upon the much beloved Star Wars: Battlefront 2 (2005), EA and DICE decided to reskin their Battlefield franchise. Sure there are some differences, but overall Battlefront (2015) felt too similar to DICE’s other FPS series. However unlike Battlefield, at launch Battlefront had a minuscule amount of content for the price EA offered and now 4 years after release it’s near impossible to find a match online. Even with the skeleton of one of the most prominent shooters and arguably one of the biggest movie brands in the world, you can still make a disappointing game.
Black the Fall
Limbo helped pave the way for the independent game. Along with a few others, it showed large publishers that smaller titles could also appeal to the public. So it’s no surprise that someone decided to mimic the charm, gameplay and pretty much everything else from Limbo. Square Enix helped produce the short 2D puzzle game, Black the Fall, in 2017. You’ll find Limbo’s unique, ‘die and learn,’ puzzle segments, the dreary 2D art style that relies heavily on blacks and shadows, and the mysterious setting that the game relies on for storytelling.
It isn’t inherently worse than Limbo. I’d argue it holds its own, but it does nothing to stand out from a game that released 7 years prior. Black the Fall does trade the eerie forest of Limbo for a dystopian future with strange machines and mass slavery, but sadly this is also very similar to the setting of Inside. A game which for all intents and purposes is a spiritual successor to Limbo (both are made by Playdead) and launched just a few weeks after Black the Fall. To say Black the Fall was overshadowed by Inside, would be putting it lightly.
Splatoon 2 is a lot less obvious knockoff than other games on this list. It does have a unique multiplayer mode, aimed at bringing competitive multiplayer to a younger, untapped audience. That’s not to say that multiplayer isn’t any fun for someone over the age of 9, but that’s irrelevant. Splatoon 2 however attempts to capture and emulate the charm of Nintendo’s previous franchises. The game has a style and Japanese uniqueness to it, much like Zelda or Mario, however unlike Nintendo’s older franchises, the Splatoon series hasn’t built up a long history of nostalgia or released a definitively excellent title.
If we look solely at the single player, you can see clear inspiration from the likes of Super Mario Galaxy. You move from floating area to floating area using your skill set to solve paint based puzzles, collect fish eggs and defeat enemies. Yes the charm is there, but the thoughtful design is not. Each mission feels like a chore, and the decision to force the player to use a specific weapon rather than one they have grown fond of, drills home the notion that this is an extended tutorial. Splatoon 2 might have the aesthetic of the games that inspired it, but not the quality.
It’s hard to emulate the quality and success of a popular game. It’s still hard to do that, even if your team includes many of the people who made that popular game in the first place. Yooka Laylee is a prime example of this. A spiritual successor to Rare’s Banjo Kazooie, Yooka Laylee was on many gamers most anticipated lists. The character platformer was massive back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. However as tastes changed and trends moved on, the genre slowly faded into obscurity. Several years ago, several veteran developers of the genre launched a Kickstarter for Yooka Laylee.
It was the closest we were ever going to get to Banjo Kazooie 3. A dynamic animal duo, platforming their way through colourful worlds, collecting…collectibles. The titular characters names were literally instruments just like the characters that inspired them. Surely they were going to be sued over the amount of similarities? In 2017 Yooka Laylee released…and it wasn’t quite what people expected. It was so faithful to the source material that it felt aged. It lacked many of the bells and whistles gamers had come to expect from modern games. Sometimes games that try and mimic great games aren’t as good, not because of a lack of quality but because the world has moved on.
Killing Floor 2
Just because a game is disappointing doesn’t mean it’s bad. A game that tries to ride off of the success of a great title can still end up being good, it just doesn’t surpass what inspired it. I wouldn’t say any game on this list is bad. They’re somewhere between mediocre and ok. The Killing Floor 2 on the other hand is a highly enjoyable game. What if you took Call of Duty, and stripped away everything except the zombie’s mode? I feel like that may be what Tripwire interactive was trying to achieve. There are several characters to choose from, a litany of perks and weapons to unlock and level up, complemented by solid wave based combat. I think this is a thoroughly enjoyable game, but it doesn’t have the polish that Call of Duty does. Movement and animations are janky, guns don’t feel quite as satisfying to fire and the environments seem a little drab. Still it’s unfair to compare the two. The Call of Duty team is far larger and backed by the marketing power and deep pockets of Activision. Killing Floor 2 doesn’t have the same luxuries as the game that likely inspired it… But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth playing.
All games are inspired by one another. We wouldn’t have Call of Duty without Doom, and we wouldn’t have Assassin’s Creed without Grand Theft Auto 3. That’s just the nature of the business. None the less, these were the five games we decided were too close to comfort when it came to their inspirations.