There’s no denying the awesomeness of AAA titles. With their high production values, they’re unparalleled in scope. However, the rising cost involved in creating them dissuades publishers from taking risks on more unique projects. This has resulted in an over-reliance on secure, established franchises, surefire formulas, and nostalgia-inducing remasters.
That’s not to say that AAAs have entirely lost the ability to delight. Recently we’ve been gifted with magical journeys like The Last Guardian and Horizon Zero Dawn, but games like these are increasingly becoming the exception rather than the rule.
The problem’s not insoluble, though. With Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Ninja Theory is fusing the creative freedom of indies with the feel of a full-blown AAA title. Chances are, if the team had gone to a publisher with an idea for an action game that focuses on a character with a mental illness, it would have been turned down out of fear it wouldn’t appeal to every gamer and their dog.
By adopting what it’s dubbed ‘independent AAA’, the Cambridge-based developer has been able to stay true to its vision and offer players something truly divergent. It’s a path more developers should be exploring.
Increasingly, the most memorable adventures are made by indies. Try to find someone who wasn’t blown away by Journey, or enthralled/horrified by Inside. These offer experiences that stay with you long after the credits have rolled. But indie developers often lack the financial means to get their visions off the ground, making support from big publishers crucial. Without Electronic Arts’ EA Originals programme, for example, games like the intuitive platformer Unravel and upcoming co-op-only adventure A Way Out would still be twinkles in passionate developers’ eyes.
As gaming grows, the potential for exploring innovative concepts should be blossoming with it. Right now more needs to be done to allow unique experiences to thrive, even if it means scaling back the spectacle to make more room for innovation.
This article originally appeared in Official PlayStation Magazine. For more great PlayStation coverage, you can subscribe here.