A Breeding Ground for Success...?
Written by Squirminator2k
Those of us who grew up around the Amiga know that although Team17's debut title Full Contact was a Videogame Journalist favourite, the Teamsters really made their mark with Alien Breed, a top-down shooter inspired by Gauntlet, a similar game in terms of style, and the Alien Trilogy (well it was a trilogy at the time). When I first played Alien Breed I loved it - there's no doubt it as one of the greatest games of the time. They then rearranged it and released Alien Breed Special Edition '92, a "Directors Cut" edition of the game. Eventually they released two sequels - Alien Breed II: The Horror Continues in 1993 and Alien Breed: Tower Assault in 1994. Both of these games far outstriped their predecessors, with Tower Assault being one of the greatest games Team17 have produced in their 14 year history.
Then they released Alien Breed 3D, and things started to go pear-shaped.
I won't fault AB3D as a game - as a first person shooter it can certainly hold its own against other FPS titles of the time such as Doom, Heretic and Breathless - but was it the right move for the Alien Breed franchise to move into? Team17 certainly thought so; they cited the move to the first person perspective down to a "high demand" for games in this genre. They even said so themselves in the manual for the game, which is fair enough. As well as this, the Alien Breed franchise already had an established fanbase - it may not have been a financially viable option for Team17 to knock out an entirely new game with a new title. Or it's entirely possible, as has been shown in recent years with games such as Worms Pinball, that the publishers (Ocean) wanted Team17 to exploit the brand name. Whatever the reason, AB3D was a welcome addition to the series and an interesting move to make. It was certainly successful - successful enough for the Teamsters to develop a sequel, at least.
AB3DII - The Killing Grounds. What happened? Sure, the game engine was good enough to produce the best-looking FPS on the Amiga (at the time, mind - since then games such as Quake and SiN have been ported to the system). But what about the gameplay? Does such a thing exist anymore in a world of videogames dominated by nice animation and high-quality textures? Apparently not - as a gameplay experience AB3DII was superbly inferior to the previous AB3D outing, and it didn't help that you needed a really high-spec Amiga to play the game at a decent framerate (I have only recently been able to experience this game at a speed humans can enjoy, thanks to emulation - it was previously impossible for me to do so on my old Amiga). As a game, AB3DII was a disaster for Team17 and, had they not gone on to release Worms - The Directors Cut before their decision to stop developing for the Amiga, they would have left Amiga Gamers with a sour taste in their mouths.
And from there the Alien Breed series really hasn't done well. Attempts to revive the franchise have been thus far unsuccessful - both Alien Breed Action and Alien Breed 2004 were cancelled during developer stages due to lack of publisher interest, which is a shame as AB2004 was a top-down shooter - a return to the franchises roots. Team17 did recently announce that a new Alien Breed title is in the works, but what exactly? Are we going to see more of the same classic Gameplay that made Team17 a Household name in the 90s? Or are we getting another 1st person shooter? It's possible, as Team17 have announced they are going to be using Unreal Technology in the future. Hopefully the new game they have in the works will be something we can enjoy, something that will revitalise the franchise.
But it's possible this will all end in tears. Perhaps Alien Breed's time truly has come and gone...