by Jinryu

Played and finished two games recently, both of them sequels. One was good, another was not.

I think the thing about sequels is that there are effective and non-effective ways to do things.  Do use a sequel if there was more to say about a subject or a character that the viewer wants to know about.  By “more,” I mean, develop characters and story further while keeping it interesting.  Gaming nowadays should be about storytelling and/or gameplay.  If you don’t have both elements, then you better damn well be really good at one of them.

Do not use a sequel, and this goes for movies as well, if all you’re going to do is bank on the popularity of previous heroes and heorines, and you think that plugging them into a situation with new villains will be enough.  A sequel will always be measured against the original– so you need to be original in the sequel, otherwise, frankly, the original will be the only thing with enough originality.

Case and point– Matrix movies got terrible really fast. X-Men movies? Shiiiiiet.  These movies flopped in my book because there just wasn’t any more room for significant character development.  If you can’t carry the film through with some bildungs then the natural tendency is to compensate with something else– in the case of those two movies, it would be more fighting and bad-assery and people yelling and raging and all that.  At a certain point though it’s all been seen.


Tomb Raider (“Survivor”):

This was a completely fresh look at the series, and personally, I really appreciated it.  It doesn’t play like a normal Tomb Raider game if you ask me, and is different enough that it’s rather left field.  The only other TR game I played that was this different was Guardians of Light, which was also a lot of fun.

Nowadays, I’m looking for story and character development more than anything else.  Gameplay, well, I don’t expect much from a game nowadays in terms of gameplay because most new games tend to just copy the gameplay of an older version or rival games and then add a few bits and pieces here and there.  Some of the gameplay parts of Survivor were kinda novel and they felt pretty good, but the main part that I appreciated was the storytelling.

It might be a video gaming tradition, both from creators who grew up reading American comic books and manga, that heroes and heroines are all usually quite badass.  My impression of the previous Tomb Raider games was that Lara Croft is good at what she does, but ultimately, she’s not a friend I’d like to have because she’s an insufferable stuck up bitch.  She’d be too annoying to be around.

Survivor reinterprets this– giving you an origin story before she’s actually good at anything.  As the game progresses, you actually see what forces her to become more hardened, both in terms of survival skills and personality, and you feel that you’re making real progress in a relationship with the character.  I won’t say too much more because I don’t want to spoil it.  It is definitely one of the better games of 2013 though.


Saints Row IV

This was, unfortunately, garbage. I really enjoyed Saint’s Row: The Third, but this fourth installment was just awful.  Imagine The Third had a giant add on content pack– that’s what IV is.  It’s essentially exactly the same in terms of gameply– plus superpowers, which are a poor rip-off of Infamous concepts that were new about 2-3 years ago.  The game is ridiculously disbalanced and makes you wonder, very often, why am I bothering?  For example– what’s the point of stealing a car, much less upgrading or customising it, when your character is now capable of running as fast as a car on nitro?

Story wise, the story is just bad. I can tolerate a bit of breaking of the 4th wall, but to make a whole game on a running joke of it is just bad form.  The side quests, and even the main quest, are totally unoriginal in terms of gameplay– they basically involve stealing things, killing things, doing a few mini-games like driving or running, or some of the older classics like “Tank Mayhem” and “Fraud” (which was the insurance scam mini-game from previous games).

In order to build your relationship with the members of your crew, you basically do sidequests for them.  But none of the sidequests even attempt to have any background story development.  Basically, from the possible sorts of missions you can do, each supporting character just choses as random 10 stupid things to make you do, and you do them.  Sometimes you have to do the same thing in different places, or for different people.

Which means that this game is a hella lot of grinding. I suppose that might be typical for these sorts of open-world games nowadays, but I don’t like it.  What made the previous game, The Third, was that despite the gameplay simplicity, it was a script and character driven game.  The previous game was damn funny. And being funny is actually really hard.

IV demonstrates just how hard it is: while there are a few moments, it’s nowhere near as good as the predecessor because it tries too much to live off past achivements, and doesn’t bring anything new in gameplay, story, or whatever.

The sountrack is interesting– it’s radio and playlist style and it features some pretty awesome songs this time around.  However, they took out all the really good stuff– in the old game, as I was heisting cars, it was a real treat for me to hear dozens of hours of really funny radio jockey commentaries, as well as the NightBlayde commercials.

Overall, I can say that you can skip this one.