Editorial: Enough is Enough… or is it?

I may not have good taste in games.
I may not have good taste in games.

When is enough, enough? This thought plagued my thoughts as I gazed at my already scarce collection of Playstation 3 titles and found that 75% of them were populated by Assassin’s Creed games. It occured to me that in a few short months I would be handing over another $60 to own the latest installment of a series of games that I have come to love, hate, and everything in between. It has been months since Revelations was released and I have yet to finish the game. So much of today’s media is stuck in the world of Sequeldom and the video game universe is far from immune to this disease. Our consoles are filled with not ‘games’ but franchises and InsertTitleHere XXVII.

I have mixed feelings about sequels. After all, there are two sides to every coin and I always do my best to look at both sides. Maybe someday I’ll come across a penny with a picture of Cthulu in place of Lincoln’s head.

My main problem with the recent surplus of sequels is that they leave less room for any real developments, especially where modern-day consoles like the Playstation 3 is concerned. Sequels are safe. Companies are able to invest in a franchise that they know is already succesfully, slap on the same name, and droves of rabid fangirls and boys will line up at the door. Assassin’s Creed is a wonderful example of this. The first game was a strong concept if a little repetetive at times. The second game more or less made up for the short-comings of the first game. What about Brotherhood and Revelations? More of the same and with the impending release of Assassin’s Creed III the air feels with a certain degree of apprehension. Will it be more of the same? Or will Ubisoft manage to make a truly good game? In the end, it hardly matters. I will be there on release day to pick up the latest installment of the series if only to flesh out my already growing collection. So, while developers are busy playing it safe with ‘more of the same’ it leaves little room for any real earth-shattering innovations.

I could admire this view for hours.
I could admire this view for hours.

As a result, a girl who once said she would never throw her console to the wayside in favor of her PC instead finds herself turning increasingly to the world of indie-developers through outlets such as Steam. And why not? I pay a fraction of the price for a short game that brings more enjoyment, more awe, and more admiration than the 30+ hours I would spend racing around the streets of Rome, or whatever, again. Games like Bastion display a real sense of art and storytelling. I finished the game and felt, despite the open ending, fulfilled. Most of the console games I pick up in recent years leave the game not-quite-wrapped-up to leave room for the possibility of a sequel, or more downloadable content, or spin-off games for the iPhone. To me, video games, like movies and other media, are a form of art, but when artistry is thrown to the wayside in favor of quick profits– it makes my stomach writhe in disgust.

On the other hand, I do love a good sequel. It is so easy to fall in love with a certain setting, a story line, a group of characters, even a concept and want the opportunity to revisit it. And why not? If a developer has created a world and a storyline that allows for expansion, by all means, they should take that opportunity. Seize the moment, so to speak. Sequels give developers the opportunity not only to expand on stories, concepts, characters, but to take things to another level by rethinking gameplay dynamics, taking into consideration things that ‘did not quite work’ the first time around and redefining them. Assassin’s Creed II is a wonderful example of this. It took the story, characters, and succesful aspects of Assassin’s Creed and smoothed out all the little kinks.

I only wish that some game publishers would take a hint from the literary world, where we are often waiting years for the next installment in our favorite series. Creating art takes time. Creating a good game takes even longer. I would rather wait an extra year to have a good game than be handed a mediocre release every year in an attempt to make a quick profit.

8 comments

  1. I only wish that some game publishers would take a hint from the literary world, where we are often waiting years for the next installment in our favorite series.

    This is part of the reason why Pokemon and Final Fantasy have lasted so long, I’d say. The game releases aren’t very close together, so fans don’t have a chance to get sick of the games. Lest we forget what happened to Guitar Hero…

  2. I enjoy a good sequel, but there are so few sequels I would consider good lately. Bioshock was an amazing game, and the sequel in comparison left a lot to be desired. The same can be said of a lot of sequels lately. I wish more companies would try for something new. Also, on a side note: regardless of your taste in games, you seem to have great taste in movies! Star Trek, Watchmen, Sherlock, and Scott Pilgrim. All great movies

  3. I don’t mind *waiting* for sequels. When they come out every six months, though, I’ve found that:

    1) I’m less interested in them overall, and
    2) They are generally of inferior quality.

    The best things come to those who wait.

  4. I couldn’t agree more, Ashley. I used to enjoy a good sequel, but this generation seems like it has been nothing but sequels – and worse than that, current gen sequel status appears to give developers liscence to reuse the previous game’s engine, gameplay and art assets, so that the end product feels more like an expansion pack. Subsequently, I am suffering from severe sequel fatigue.

    I enjoyed Killzone 2, but didn’t buy Killzone 3 because it looked like more of the same.

    I enjoyed Infamous, but I didn’t buy Infamous 2 because it looked like more of the same.

    ^^ And did either of these games really deserve or warrant a quick turn-around sequel?

    I enjoyed Assassin’s Creed II (a game that massively renovated the stuff of its prequel), but I probably won’t buy Assassin’s Creed III even if it is a substantial evolution for the series, because three years of annual expansion pack sequels have caused my to divest myself from the Assassin’s Creed world and narrative.

    Fuck Ubisoft!

  5. I’ve said it before: Nothing amazing comes out at a rate that’s alarming. Basically, I’m just agreeing with Lusipurr on this one.

    But if you look into Assassin’s Creed, you’ll realize little of it HASN’T been reused from older ideas. It started out basically as “what if Prince of Persia (the first remake) was an old world Hitman game”. The remake, obviously, was based off of the original and re-crafted for Ubisoft with the help of the original creator, Jordan Mechner. Then Ubisoft took a lot of those assets and mechanics and made it more free roaming. They were done bleeding PoP dry (for now), anyway. May as well recycle what’s left!

    Besides, complaining about sequels is old hat. It’s all about complaining about reboots now!

  6. Back in the day, the Mega Man series was more of the same, Mario evolved in each sequel, and Dragon Warrior was somewhere in between; each examples having several or more sequels on the same platform. They were all good games, or at least some people loved all of them in the series. They did have at least a year in-between development for each, so that’s one difference from, say, Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty.

    Maybe it was because in the NES days, video games were so new that we hadn’t become jaded, unwilling to waste our time on more of the same of what we already liked? I think more likely renting the games from Blockbuster, $5 for 5 days, made it less financially damaging than purchasing each game as it came out, therefore less expectations for needing it to be awesome. Perhaps the constant stream of DLC and expansions make it really arbitrary which seperate title you happent to be playing, thus the thinking of “what’s the point of a sequel?”

    You can be sure, in any case, that now large game companies are more interested in ripping a few bucks off you by any means necessary, even if it means devoting disproportionate amounts of effort and money towards advertising than creativity.

  7. Sequels are kind of a mixed bag. A pretty big percentage of my favorite games of all time are sequels. Other times a sequel is announced and the first word that comes to mind is “Why?” Sometimes sequels refine the previous game and make them significantly better, sometimes it’s more of the same (which, as Matt Dance points out isn’t necessarily a bad thing), other times it’s like developers try to reinvent the wheel and all but ruin everything in the process.

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