Why Insomniac Games Stands Out As One of the Best Studios
When tasked with having to pick my favorite studio, a couple came to mind. Platinum Games has definitely drawn my eye lately. EA has had its fair share of great games, but they also have their bad games. When it finally came down to it, it was a tough choice between Naughty Dog and Insomniac Games. After some deep thought and some serious back and forth I came to the conclusion that Insomniac Games is not only one of my favorite studios, but one that has proven itself to have matured over the span of almost 20 years.
An ode to Insomniac Games
The memories I've shared with Insomniac
I may have missed out on the Spyro series growing up for Crash Bandicoot, but I share some of my fondest memories with the Ratchet & Clank series. This is the only series I have continuously gone back to replay which is something I don't do often. I have played every game in the series, platinumed them all on the PS3 and I am beyond excited for their future ventures. Even Resistance: Fall of Man holds up as one of my favorite co-op experiences on the PS3. Being one of the first games I got on the PS3 I remember being immensely impressed with the graphics and scale they were going for with the series as I played with my brother everyday after school.
Insomniac has been around almost 20 years so its time I ask: what's in store for Insomniac Games?
To understand the future, we must look at their past.
Insomniac Games is an American independent game developer. Founded in 1994 by Ted Price (current President and CEO). Ted has been a part of Insomniac since the very beginning. With an approximate work force of 210 people now, Insomniac has grown substantially. With its primary headquarters in Burbank, California they have expanded to a second building in Durham, North Carolina. From 2005 through 2007 Insomniac Games was ranked in the top 10 on the “50 Best Small & Medium Sized Companies to Work for in America” list. Yes, that's a real list.
Their very first game was Disrupter for the Playstation; a sci-fi FPS with live action cut scenes. Not a very popular game, and also one I've never played. But their next series would really define the PlayStation generation.
Released in 1998, Spyro the Dragon became a mascot for the PlayStation along with Crash Bandicoot. The series showed off what the PlayStation could do with open 3D environments, the likes of which have never been seen at this point in time. The colorful world and characters brought Insomniac into the spotlight and showcased the amazing talent of the team.
The game went on to get two more sequels from Insomniac before being passed off to multiple studios like a hot potato. Seeing reboot after reboot, the game is nothing like the Skylanders we know of today.
Having only played the first game for the first time last year, I had a fantastic time playing it. Short by todays standards but very fun. Loaded with collectables, it's a series I regret not playing now as an adult.
When the announcement of the PS2 was imminent, Insomniac decided to take on a new venture--create new worlds and characters. Its next franchise would once again be a series that defined the PlayStation 2 generation.
Ratchet and Clank Series
Ratchet and Clank first made their debut in 2002 on the PlayStation 2. This unlikely duo of a lombax and a robot, who travel from planet to planet blowing stuff up with massive weapons and sheepinators, is one of the most recognized PlayStation franchises.
With a total of 9 games under their belt (not including the HD collection or PSP Spin-offs) Ratchet and Clank have garnered an illustrious reputation for putting out quality games... sort of.
The series is filled with adult jokes and humor. The story is interesting and the dialogue is enticing. The real story crafting talent of Insomniac came out in the Ratchet and Clank series. Always getting high review scores Insomniac didn't want to burn the series out so they began spreading in different directions. All 4 One proved to be an interesting concept, while Full Frontal Assault seemed like more of a flop.
In defense of All 4 One, a 4 player co-op sequel, it was something the studio hadn't done before. It mixed up the gameplay in very unique ways. By no means the best in the series, it proved that Insomniac could reinvent Ratchet & Clank and still have a great game. As for Full Frontal Assault, the tactical strategy sequel, it was once again taking the franchise in another direction to see what could be possible. It may not have worked but they learned their lesson, right?
Right! Recently, Insomniac has announced Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus. Going back to its platforming roots since A Crack in Time in 2009, Ratchet & Clank isn't the only franchise they had going during the PlayStation 3 however.
During the PS3, Insomniac had began developing games with two teams. One doing the Ratchet and Clank and another doing a dark alternative timeline alien invasion FPS known as Resistance: Fall of Man. Worried at first that the studio couldn't handle an FPS, people forgot their first game was an FPS. Not to mention Ratchet and Clank's heavy focus on Guns, Insomniac knew what they were doing and they took a typical war setting and turned it on its head.
With the PS3 launching at $600 and Resistance being a launch title, it didn't sell too well and not many people played it. But by the time two and three came out and people began going back, you could see the impressive story the people at Insomniac had crafted. The dark story and the feeling of doom clouded the senses, and put the series up to par with the high quality standards that is Insomniac.
Finally, nearing the end of the timeline we reach their most recent endeavor.
Fuse came out in May of this year with mediocre reviews. Unfortunately, the later years of Insomniac with Ratchet and Clank: Full Frontal Assault and Fuse have had people lose a little faith in Insomniac.
Fuse was an earth shattering moment for me. It was when I realised Insomniac wasn't a Sony owned studio. This was their first multi-platform game, and a four person co-op shooter with a unique art style. Published by EA, the game saw many reworks and delays, which in the end may not have paid off.
Mediocre reviews or not, Insomniac is doing different things that other studios won't do. Where as most studios will stick to what works and pump out sequel after sequel, Insomniac is branching out and trying different things.
I do not own Fuse and my opinions are solely based on the demo, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Now that were all caught up we look to the future of Insomniac.
Sunset Overdrive and Beyond!
The Future looks bright for Insomniac. Sunset Overdrive, their newest game, was shown at E3 as a Xbox One Exclusive. The games focus is on "agile combat" including wall running, zip-lines, and acrobatics. Nothing more is known other than it makes me very upset that it is an Xbox One Exclusive.
In an IGN Interview 2 months ago, Ted Price explained that there may be more Fuse in the works:
"No, I’m not talking about DLC, I’m talking about new Fuse experiences altogether."
Could this have been Sunset Overdrive? Or could they have a whole new idea on this four player co-op experience. Which as I wrote that last sentence leads me to a theory. This is the 2nd four player co-op game Insomniac has developed. They must have a grand plan for future next generation consoles and fun multiplayer experiences.
As I previously mentioned, Insomniac also announced a new Ratchet and Clank game available this fall at $29.99. The Ratchet and Clank looks to return to its roots with fun platforming action story driven adventure.
I'd like to say I grew up on Insomniac games. Aside from Fuse (which I plan on playing) and two Spyro games, Insomniac is a creative studios that dares to be different. It can tell a compelling story of survival, or make a slight inappropriate joke while fighting interplanetary thugs. They can can establish franchises or just make a Facebook game. It's a studio that stands out and connects with people. I can honestly say, after writing this and looking back on the history I've had with Insomniac, this is undoubtedly one of my favorite studios.
There's always room for discussion. Do you agree? Whats your favorite studio? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.