Late at night when I have nothing to do but think about things that are perhaps becoming a repetitive theme in our beloved games past and coming. Lately, I’ve had the displeasure of many a sleepless nights, however I did have the pleasure of rummaging through my thoughts on game sequels (don’t worry, that’s not the only thing I think about, but this place isn’t for that sort of stuff!) and their relation to the “squashing” of creativity.
Now, sequels have been around since there have been prequels. For a sequel to exist, there really isn’t much to be done but tack on a “2” to the original. Hangover 2, Avatar 2 (just, why?) and The Godfather 3, just incase you didn’t know what a sequel was (where have you been?). On the gaming side of things, we know sequels all too well, developers love making sequels. Cynically viewed as “milking” the money out of the titles, which admittedly doesn’t sound like such a bad idea for developers, I mean they’ve got to eat somehow right? But what about us, the genuine consumer whom spends dollar upon dollar to live through the eyes of a fictional character time and time again each year? How does the seemingly endless pile of sequels affect us?
In a simplistic and very narrow minded view, it makes our wallets cry for mercy and probably doesn’t bode well for social lives either. For a much longer and well thought out (questionably pre-fixed with “well”) answer, do read on!
By creativity I mean the spark of something new, complete originality, the deviation away from the confining elements of a “prequel”. Borderlands 2 two, for example, the reason it was so much more successful probably being that it took the same craziness that Borderlands had and just pushed it over the edge a little, the fact that it had carried the momentum of brand recognition from the first game and garnered the hype helped a little too. But they were essentially the same back and forth running of quests for XP to ultimately get to the level cap.
CryTEK, who’ve recently been caught saying that visuals are 60% of the game in an interview with Xbox 360 magazine, have created not only one but two sequels to their original Crysis game. Granted most sequels come from the spawn of “trilogies”, the Crysis series represent the “more of the same” model as I like to call it. Crysis 3 was anything but bad, in fact it was beautiful. However, it was far from a revolutionizing game, adopting shooter mechanics such as the standard load-outs and game modes, all of which had been done in the previous Crysis games. So was Crysis 3 just a prettier version of its predecessors? Maybe, even the “impending doom” of the earth is something that has been tired out and I can’t say I felt exhilarated by saving the world “yet again”.
The famously infamous Call of Duty cycle that churns out multiple games a year has since lost its creativity to me. When you produce games in such a fashion that it feels like they’re being released one after another, it’s time to question whether these games are pioneering innovation and creativity or are just backlogged titles. TItles that looked cool back then but not so much now, titles that are still being forced release because of the business model. Every single call of duty game past Modern Warfare has felt the same to me, with minor improvements to visuals, and the campaign stories making my eyes fall out of my head. At first they were fun and fast paced, but now it’s just boring, there is no experience or gratitude to be gained because they’re predictable.
There’s an even bigger question to ask where we see the same game with a “2” over it. The worrying prospect for Battlefield 4 is that it’ll just be Battlefield 3 with slightly shinier graphics and some more guns, maps and vehicles, that may as well be a DLC in my books. Are games like that essentially going to be the same? I mean there is only so much you can do with a Battlefield game, destruction, large scale combat and vehicular warfare. They’ve already done so well with Battlefield 3 I don’t see what Battlefield 4 will do so different.
Sequels are sometimes seen as the key to success for some, take Dark Souls. What started as a PS3 Japan exclusive with Demon Souls, has snowballed into an international sensation in the form of Dark Souls 2. Now why is there a “2” at the end of Dark Souls despite the fact that Dark Souls 2 will have almost nothing to do with Dark Souls except that they’re in the same “universe”? And how come the name of the game isn’t Dragon Souls or something, flipping the title like the transition between Demon Souls and Dark Souls? I guess it’s got to do with marketing mostly, brand recognition is a huge thing. Whereas “Dragon Souls” would be seen as a completely new title, with endless possibilities, Dark Souls 2 gives the franchise recognition that it’s a sequel to Dark Souls, drawing in already-fans and prospective fans who think it must be some shade of good if it’s got a sequel.
Confining themselves to the title Dark Souls 2 instead of some other prefix to “Souls” means that the developers at From Software now have to deliver expectation that Dark Souls 2 will feel, look and bring back memories and play onto the already existing Dark Souls. It can’t be a completely different game, for fear of alienating what made Dark Souls such a great game. But in doing so, in making Dark Souls 2 a sequel, they’ve sealed their walls and limited their creativity and liberties with it, I feel anyhow.
Of course, I’m not saying that games are becoming boring and monotone, that there is nothing to play because everything is the same, because it isn’t. I am just fine with sequels, in fact I’m part of the general consumer public that likes my sequels handed to me, but it’s worth noting the potentially detrimental effect there is on “original” games when there is such a huge demand for sequels to great games, rarely does lightning strike twice, but when it does it’s marvelous.