“Nooooo, not a sequel! They’ll ruin everything!”
How often have you said this in regard to one of your favorite movies? We all know that for every Toy Story 2 , there’s a Jaws 2 , Grease 2 , and (a sign of an uncaring god if I ever saw one) Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising . It’s wise to be wary of movie sequels, but is that also a good rule for video games? I think video game sequels are far more likely to improve on their predecessors than movies are, and history seems to back me up. Think Baldur’s Gate II , Diablo II , Assassin’s Creed II , Uncharted 2 , System Shock 2 , and Thief II: The Metal Age . All these games are often held up as the best example of their respective series.
Why is this? Well, for one, full game development teams are far more likely to stick together than full film casts and crews, so a sequel is often handled by people who are intimately familiar with the best and worst aspects of the original. Game developers also tend to be more closely in touch with critics and fans. Plus, unlike movies, games have interactive mechanical elements like controls and level design that can be improved from game to game. As long as the main players stick around, that gives game developers a great chance of turning out a second game that improves on the first one in every way. In fact, we’ve got four fresh sequels right around the bend that I believe are destined to be better than their developers’ first kick at the can: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided , Watch Dogs 2 , and Dishonored 2 .
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
I’m cheating on this one a bit because I’ve already played it for review and can confirm that it’s a huge improvement over Deus Ex: Human Revolution . It’s clear that we’re seeing a game by a more mature and confident development team that was able to take critique of its first title to heart. The artistic design is stronger. Protagonist Adam Jensen has an actual personality now. Playing steathily and non-lethally is more fun and involves a lot more gadgets and augmentation options now. The much-maligned boss fight system has been completely changed. Fans of the first game are sure to be delighted by all the improvements on offer, and I think Mankind Divided is going to win over some doubters, too.
Watch Dogs 2
We all know what happened with the original Watch Dogs . It had a great concept and Ubisoft’s hype machine did a fantastic job hyping it to massive levels before release. Perhaps too good a job, in fact, because the final product was generally deemed, “just ok,” with players frustrated over control issues, a generally aloof and unlikeable protagonist, and a major graphical downgrade on all systems from the pre-release materials. We weren’t even sure we’d see a second game in the series, but Watch Dogs 2 looks genuinely fresh and fun. It appears a lot more playful than its predecessor, and Marcus seems like a far more down-to-earth guy than Aiden. The pre-release focus is more on all the cool things you can do in the game than on how amazing it looks (though it does look quite nice) and how high-concept the background story is. I think that’s an excellent sign.
In my not-particularly-humble opinion, Dishonored had the least need for improvement of the three games covered today. It’s one of my favorite games, and one I consider a modern classic. Still, Arkane is determined to take its winning formula to the next level. Like with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided , Arkane wants to make stealth and non-lethal gameplay more entertaining. Playing as Emily seems like a perfect fit for humanitarian gamers like me (not that she can’t also be totally lethal). If your favorite part of the original Dishonored was finding creative ways to wipe your foes off the map, though, never fear. It sounds like the game’s morality system is going to be more forgiving this time around. You still won’t be able to get the “low chaos” ending if you run around like a deranged serial killer, but you’ll have room to take out a few annoying guards who really deserve it.
All three of these action-adventure (slash RPG slash FPS slash whatever) series started with great promise, but certainly had flaws that their players wanted to see addressed. Their sequels all appear to be doing so with style and grace, improving on the originals while maintaining the general “feel” and the major themes of their respective series. It just goes to show that when it comes to sequels, the game industry is way out ahead of Hollywood. Except when it comes to Guardians of the Galaxy 2 . We all know we’re just going to eat that one up.