With Respawn Entertainment’s sale to Electronic Arts complete, the Titanfall franchise now belongs to such visionaries as Andrew Wilson and Blake Jorgensen. The increased resources that a publisher could offer are definitely worthwhile (though we’re not sure about studio security after what happened to Visceral Games). Unfortunately, EA has had a reputation for bungling several of its top properties to the point that it would take a miracle for Titanfall to emerge unscathed. So let’s take a look at five ways that EA can ruin the franchise.
Going Open World
Wouldn’t it be cool if Titanfall had a huge open world to explore? You can take on all these different side-quests, run different speed-running challenges, maybe test out different Titans in the field and participate in epic battles. If anything, it would be a bigger version of Titanfall 2’s campaign but with way less limits. Wouldn’t something like that be cool?
Unfortunately, I thought something like that would be great for the Mass Effect series. EA and Bioware took feedback and ultimately delivered Mass Effect: Andromeda. This continued numerous flaws with its quest and sub-quest design but also delivered a worse overall story and supporting cast because of it. Now granted, Bioware Montreal faced a number of issues with the game’s development – from failures with procedural generation and dealing with the horrid Frostbite Engine to creative differences and poor optimization – and the two are completely different games. A better example would be Mirror’s Edge Catalyst and the less said about that, the better.
However, I don’t put it past EA to want to get players to return and “monetize” Titanfall’s universe with some kind of triple A, “look at all this content!”, massive open world. Not only do I feel that Respawn couldn’t handle such an epic undertaking but that the ultimate result will water down the game’s core appeal, namely the fast movement, memorable moments and excellent pacing, to a terrible degree.
You just picked up the R-6P Softball in Titanfall 2. Under most circumstances, it’s a pretty niche weapon. I mean, you wouldn’t take it into Live Fire against highly skilled teams unless you were extremely sure of its potency. However, what if you unlocked a card that could make it better? Maybe increased explosion radius or explosive rounds that kind of track targets? Wouldn’t that make it so much better?
Heck, why not do that for everything in the game? Make a class system, restrict certain weapons to specific classes, make several of them drop from loot crates and then allow players to obtain different cards that would enhance their abilities and weapons. Ooh, let’s tie this into Titanfall somehow by making them Burn Cards aka one use only. That way players can burn through several cards in a match, thus incentivizing them to purchase more in loot boxes!
This RNG style of progression, unlocks and customization has already been introduced with Star Wars Battlefront 2. EA removed the ability to purchase loot crates outright but is there really any doubt it will return, much less not make an appearance in other games?
A “Hipper” Story
Titanfall’s universe wasn’t exactly all that great in the first game but that’s because there was barely any story. Titanfall 2 fixed that right up by not only contextualizing many of the events and settings of the first game but also by adding a deeply personal story with two likeable protagonists. The villains were memorable too, never over-staying their welcome but providing interesting enough fights. It was pretty fun.
But of course, this is an EA property now. We have to make Titanfall “cool”. Look at Destiny with all its stupid emotes. We need to implement that somehow (and you know that it’s going be in Anthem, just wait). More importantly, we need to make our characters in the inevitable Titanfall 3 more “hip”. They need to speak the “lingo” of today’s kids. They need to be hijacking mechs, dealing with corrupt cartels and just racing out there. Like pod racing in The Phantom Menace! Everyone loved that, right?
If nothing else, Need for Speed: Payback has proven that EA is completely behind the curve when it comes to relating with today’s youth culture. It’s like Fast and Furious but somehow stupider, viewed through the eyes of marketers who want that kitschy appeal without actually earning it over a number of years. I can only hope Titanfall doesn’t go down the route but let’s be honest – it may have already started. After all, a terrible story is something EA just can’t help but shoehorn into its releases these days.
Here’s one aspect I’m a little sceptical on. With Respawn Entertainment joining EA, I’ll bet that its future titles need to run on Frostbite, DICE’s proprietary game engine. A number of releases like Dragon Age: Inquisition, Mass Effect: Andromeda and so on have faced severe issues with Frostbite. However, there have been a number of non-FPS success stories like FIFA. That being said, Frostbite has been built for one purpose – high-end visuals in shooter games – and Titanfall seems like a perfect candidate for it.
The problem lies in why Titanfall’s use of the Source Engine is so much better for the game. Not only does it allow for better optimization but the developer has shown that it’s a great fit for the fast-paced, movement-based gameplay. Said gameplay is also highly scalable across a number of different PC configurations. Will Frostbite really allow for both of these things? I’m not really sure about the high-octane gameplay but it definitely won’t allow the game to support a wide range of hardware.
Less Skill-Based Gameplay
Going back to the Softball example, I’m worried that EA’s involvement will mean having to dumb down the gameplay of Titanfall even further. In Titanfall 2, Respawn managed a pretty decent balance between players with outright gun skill and those playing for fun. Yes, the twitch-based gameplay was still inherent but it streamlined things enough without resorting to Smart Pistol cheese tactics to allow a wide range of skills to flourish. I mean, that statement would hold more water if there was a greater pool of people playing the game but you know what I mean.
Titanfall 3 could change that though. We could see the mastery needed for movement effectively dumbed down and perhaps eliminated entirely. Weapons that don’t require much aiming will become over-powered – the Smart Pistol could even make its return as a primary weapon. Maps will be even more streamlined and perhaps even smaller all around. It’ll be interesting to see how Titans are balanced because they could either be extremely overpowered to facilitate new players or incredibly underwhelming to ensure they’re not too broken.
This isn’t something that any single EA game has managed to bring forth but it is indicative of multiplayer shooter games in general. Skill-based games where a single player can pop off without various pay-to-win augments are becoming less common – it’s all about that team meta now as popularized by games like Overwatch and Destiny 2. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that pie, especially if you’re EA?
It might be that Titanfall 3 doesn’t suffer from these various issues but if EA’s track record says anything, it’s that being sceptical is underrated.