There is something that happens in between a second game and a third game in most video games series’. There is no distinct word for it, and no way to pin point exactly what it is, but somehow, most games master their formula for a second game, and then lose whatever magic made it work by the third. It seems to get even worse the higher a series goes, with a few notable exceptions (Halo, Metal Gear).
At first, I thought it might just be certain games, but then I looked at all of gaming and realized, this is a genuine problem. I think part of it can be blamed on fatigue on the developers part. By a third, fourth, and fifth game in a series, the developers have spent years working with the same engines and same characters, and I truly believe that can cause burn out, and the end result is a game (or games) that often reflect that. Even on the off chance that a develop hands the reigns to a different group of people for a third game, that can open up a whole set of new problems. Either way, agree with me or not, here are eight games series that truly lost their magic, and should have quit while they were ahead. Quick shout-out to Dead Space. You JUST missed this list, so stop now!
The first Fable HAD to be a let down. There was no way this game was going to live up the hype that creator Peter Molyneux and developer Lionhead put on it. They told us we would get the most immersive action-RPG experience ever. The reality is, we did not get that. But what we got, and I think most people can agree on this, was fun. No, it was not nearly at the scope we were promised, and it felt flat and very limited (it is the three dimensional version of a left-to-right 2D scroller, with players always forced into virtual “hallways” that only gave the illusion of open space), yet, it had charm and was fun to play.
Next up, Fable 2 pretty much perfected everything that the original Fable did well, and though it STILL was not the deep, action RPG we always wanted (oh look, I can fart. Wow, gaming has come so far), I still thought it was an absolutely charming and fun game, ripe with British humor and a fun visual style all its own.
And then Fable 3 happened and OH MY GOD, what happened to this series? The graphics looked flat and dull, the gameplay felt as sluggish as a shitty PSone game, and the writing was awful. It was, in fact, so bad, that I found it utterly unplayable. It was as if they took everything that worked in the first two games, and reworked those aspects so they wouldn’t work anymore. Add to that a silly “decision making that has impact on the world” feature that failed on all levels. and Fable 3 is one of the biggest drop offs a major franchise has ever made.
This game is so bad, Xbox was GIVING it away on live two months ago. Seriously.
Sonic the Hedgehog
What the shit happened to Sonic?
Honestly, I want to make a documentary about this idea, because in the gaming world, everyone has been talked about it for years. Thing is, unlike most of these other examples, with Sonic you can pin point it. A character known for being super fast in two dimensions just does not transfer well into a 3D adventure game. Ever since graphics evolved from sprites to polygons, our favorite blue hedgehog has suffered. To the point where talking about bad Sonic games will eventually be its own list for me, because there are so many to choose from.
Seems it finally dawned on someone that Sonic needs to be a 2D, hand drawn game, so they took it back to that in the recent Sonic 4, and while some people may think it recaptures some of the magic, I have to argue that. Though the sound and graphics are a great homage to the Genesis classics, the physics of the game are absolutely broken, and that kills the whole point of what makes Sonic fun. When you can walk in regular speed around one of the loops, something is inherently wrong with your Sonic.
Sega needs to retire the little guy, honestly.
Gears of War
I can’t decided if you guys are going to hate me for this one, or agree with me.
I will preface this by saying I think the first two Gears of War were amazing. Gears one was unlike anything we had ever played or seen, and Gears two upped that in every way. Thing is, even though it had a few unforgettable moments (R.I.P Dom), ten hours into Gears of War 3, I was bored. I felt like I had done everything that game series had to offer up to that point, and just felt like I was killing time hiding behind things and shooting at lame enemy generators with fancy new names (ooooh, a lambent stalk!), and it just did nothing for the series. Well, it actually was a solid final entry, story wise, but other than that, what did 3 have that 1 and 2 didn’t?
As if the third game wasn’t “familiar” enough, now we have Gears Judgement. Oh, come on? Can game developers stop promising trilogies, when it is obvious they are going to milk franchises dry, whether we like it or not? I am not saying Judgement was bad, but I am DEFINITELY saying Judgement was nothing new or exciting. Cool part in all this is even Cliff Blezinsky, who created the series, bounced after part 3. He was like, nah, I’m good. So that tells me I am not too out of line with this.
I will DEFINITELY get shit for this one, but really, the Saints Row series has been SERIOUSLY mishandled from the second game on. Saints Row 2, even if no one but Paul and I will say it, was better than GTA 4. Why? Because GTA 4 just lacked the fun of Saints Row 2. GTA 4 had a far better story, yes, but in the “this is so much fun” department, Saints Row 2 stole the show. From insanely fun missions (driving a flaming ATV through the streets to see how much damage you can do), to the cool manner in which you could take out any gang you want in any order you want, it just worked so well, and I think it worked so well because no one expected it to.
Then part 3 came out, and suddenly, they upped the dick jokes by about 500%, and for some inexplicable reason, took out the fun missions of part two, replacing them with unnecessarily epic missions that just tried too hard. Oh look, I am skydiving in a tank, that is so epic. Oh wait, no it’s not. That is epic if epic was defined by nine year old boys. Also, part three forced a linear mission structure on you that sapped all the fun out of the concept of an open world (and don’t even get me started on how half the games NPC turn into zombies. That worked in Red Dead, failed horribly in Saints Row).
Now we have part four, which, by the way, was supposed to be DLC, but then Volition caught wind of GTA V and decided to steal some of that hype by rushing out a half finished remake of Crackdown with dick jokes. Again, an awful game that tried way too hard, but people liked it because, well, dick jokes. But this series hit its high water mark during its second installment, and the best of us know that. Also, let’s be real for a second, GTA 5 just took the throne back, and no one is going to being touching it for a long, long time. Read my epic review of that epic game right here.
I will never forget that the first Final Fantasy was the first game I bought with money I made from working. I also remember there had never been anything like it before, that I had played, anyway. I was instantly hooked. It was a JRPG, and it was perfect. I liked the fact that one person would take a move, than the bad guy would go. I like the fact that it took planning and item management. I liked the fact that it was, very much, the Dungeons and Dragons experience, made more interactive. And even as the series continued, I played every one. Not only payed, but loved. Pretty much right up until 9. Then Final Fantasy 10 happened, and while I didn’t hate it, it felt very different. It also didn’t help that I hated the main character, and found him and most of the other characters in the game to be grating.
Then X2 happened, and well, it felt like Spice Girls, the game. I had NO PROBLEM playing as females. I actually enjoy it more than playing as guys (enough with the space marines, gaming), but playing as ANNOYING females is what killed it, and from that point forth, the series just died for me. You look at the most recent games and they are difficult to even recognize as Final Fantasy games anymore. That would be okay if they were still fun, but that is the problem.
Mega Man: I have not played a Mega Man game in years, which is why it is not on the main list, but that is because the blue bomber fell off a long, long time ago.
Resident Evil: Part 6 was a travesty, but I am one of those weirdos who still kind of enjoyed part five, which is why I am not making a huge exposition about it.
Assassin’s Creed: So what, they put out a new one of these games every two months or something? Jesus, resolve your story and stop passing off the same engine and same game as something new. It will take more than Pirates to save this series.
Okay, so what games did I miss?