Rehashed Sequel Fatigue Syndrome

The title of this piece is a disorder that I’m diagnosing myself with. You won’t find it on WebMD, but it’s very real, I assure you. It’s happened to me three times so far this year, too often to be a coincidence, and as such, I thought I’d explore the root causes of the syndrome with you here.

This week, I bought Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. It was one of the only “major” titles I missed in the flurry of releases last fall, and I figured I should catch up with the latest plot developments as the third game is on its way.

I booted up the game, found that I was still Ezio, albeit in a different city. Constantinople has plenty of buildings to climb, and I was curious to see what changes were made from the last installment.

But that’s the thing. Though Assassin’s Creed 2 improved leaps and bounds over the first game, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood barely expanded on the concept at all. Nearly everything was identical, save for the ability to whistle and call Assassins to kill people for you. Now, with Revelations, we have another $60 title that seems like a warmed over version of a dish that we’ve ALREADY microwaved once.

Is that scar genetic? They all have it.

Everything is the same. You lose all your weapons and wealth, and have to start from the ground up, doing missions to earn cash to buy shops and weapons and armor. The process is literally identical to the last two games, but they’ve brought the pace down to a crawl. Money is supposed to go into your account every 20 minutes, but in my first five hours of play,  I swear I didn’t get paid more than six times. It was already a somewhat tedious process, but now they’ve made it even slower, and doing it for the third time is just too exhausting to bear.

Assassin’s Creed: Revolutions also demonstrates the second problem with these warmed over pseudo-sequels. In addition to not improving on stuff we’ve already seen, they feel forced to throw in new elements in order to prove that another installment was warranted. The new additions here? A strange tower defense-like minigame that doesn’t in any way fit in with the core gameplay. It’s like they shoved an iOS game into a console and it’s truly bizarre to see.

The next attempt to spice things up is the use of a strange bomb-crafting system that almost seems to overcrowd the game. I can’t walk ten feet without running into a bomb merchant, opening up a bomb crafting station or tripping over bomb making supplies. There are like twenty different types of bombs you can make, and about 500 materials to make them with. Of course, it’s far easier to just run into a group of guards and press X four times to kill them all, but why do that when you can scour the city looking for the perfect ingredients that will make a bomb that makes them hallucinate that they’re being stung by bees or something.

Oh, and there’s a hookblade. You can climb 2% faster with it, and roll over enemies instead of stab them. Because of course you’d want to do that.

I’m getting tired of games like this, and it seems like they’re cropping up more often than ever. Fallout: New Vegas is another example. A “half-sequel” to Fallout 3, but one that’s full price and full-length. But really, the changes are only cosmetic. It’s just “more” Fallout, and you start over with nothing in a new destroyed patch of America, and the game plays and looks and feels the same for 95% of it. I guess some people herald this as great. I loved Fallout 3, so why wouldn’t I love more of it? I guess that’s one way to look at it, but I just don’t see it.

When everything is the same, from combat to the game engine to the character models, and the only new additions are so obviously gimmicky, I just can’t warrant starting over from scratch again to do more or less the same thing. My New Vegas adventure was also over in under five hours, and I haven’t picked it up since.

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  1. Fallout New Vegas didn’t change much game play wise but it was much more consistent story wise with Fallout 1 & 2. I enjoyed it much more than 3 because of that. I am hoping now that Skyrim has come out that they can use the same engine and gameplay improvements from it to Fallout. I’d love a new game in the wasteland with Skyrim graphics and improved physics

  2. Yeah, I know.what you mean. Although I have to confess that Brotherhood was the only game from this series I finished because of the improved combat system. Despite that, it felt like the narrative was crawling across these sequels, and I do tire of the “he lost all his weapons and has to start over” device. Happens way too often in games.

  3. I agree, I’ve had revelations for a while now, a christmas gift, and play the multiplayer pretty often, but only started the story just last night. I’m forcing myself to get through it at least so I can be up to date with Desmond’s storyline though. I do have to give a little credit to Revelations though, while you do lose some equipment, it’s not quite as bad as II to Brotherhood. You still had dual blades, throwing knifes, poison and poison darts, the hidden gun, a sword of course, as well as the ability to buy a crossbow asap. So there was that at least.

    Lastly I think the bombs are sort of fun, I thought they’d be pretty lame, and not used, but after I found out that you don’t get detected after throwing one, and having that secondary weapon feature, I throw them more often than I probably should. I’m sure I’ll tire of it in a day or two though.

  4. I think your complaint has more to do with growing up and having less free time. I can empathise with you but I can also sympathise with the development teams.

    Radical innovation is nice and all, but can just as easily blow up your face. Try to expand or deviate too much and the whole house of cards risks collapse. Plus, people expect the games they like to be followed up by sequels, and most demand that they come sooner rather than later. I imagine this can be pretty taxing on developers. When you’re in a rush I’ll bet it’s easier to follow a formula you already know works well.

    Personally, I’m happy to wait for a well polished sequel because it lessens the chances of disappointment. And as far as expectations go I’m generally happy as long as a sequel isn’t WORSE than the previous title. *cough*Saints Row The Third*cough*Mercenaries 2*cough*cough*

  5. Have to agree with you about AC:R.

    I could stand Brotherhood, as it seemed an entertaining diversion before the next true game. It also added a lot of stuff like the crossbow, poison darts etc and massively improved the combat. Rome felt large and took some exploring. It also had an interesting Borgia plotline that held my attention.

    Revelations just feels small. I bought it ages ago because I was really interested in Desmond’s story, but was disappointed that he was literally paused for the entire game. Also, too many items (Bomb stations) in too small a sandbox. Constantinople, whether it was the same size as Rome or not, felt really tiny to run about. I was also really annoyed that you always had a “safe” area in Galata from the very beginning.

    Also the area capture was far too easy to avoid. I actually started provoking Byzantines to get the Templars to attack. Why does buying a shop annoy Templars exactly? It seemed a bit too linear, and penalising you for carrying out the basic aim of the game (kill enemies, buy shops etc) was a bit wierd.

    I’m hoping that AC3 will be a return to form, and hopefully we will get to be able to play as Desmond as well for a bit.

  6. THIS – “he lost all his weapons and has to start over” device. is the most annoying thing every. Batman Arkham City avoided it, for the most part.
    that said, once i ‘Save the Earth’ in ME3, I’m jumping into Uncharted 3, followed by AC3. anyone else see a pattern?
    Paul, i suggest trying Battlefield 3. I haven’t played CoD since i picked this up. You want ‘new’ – tanks, fighters, HUGE maps. its all there.

  7. Overall, I understand your complaint but that’s just because sequels have really no choice to stick to the same formula. Developers don’t want a backlash from their fans for changing too much, and I can see that being a major headache for everyone involved to try to come up with something new and fresh for an established franchise, but still want to dish out games while the iron is hot. If Skyrim 2 came out tomorrow, with new quests, dungeons, story, armor, and weapons but ran and looked exactly the same, people would throw money at it.

    IMO, this is what Ubi did with the AC games. AC2 came out and it was a huge hit, and so they created annual spinoffs for fan’s enjoyment and money. They did this while another team worked on AC3.

  8. @MurderBot

    Ugh, Saints Row 3 was an abomination that I successfully managed to block from my memory until this exact moment. So… thanks for that.

    On topic, the sad truth is that the video game business is just that… a business. Every company under the sun is attempting to make money at the end of the day. Of course some companies are a lot more transparent about that than others.

    Making a new title from the ground up requires a lot more effort than slapping a new coat of paint on an existing piece of work. It just makes way more sense financially for companies to exploit this. Also, it seems to me that gamers (regardless of how much this annoys them) are unwilling to band together and start a boycott of this practice, so there is really no reason for companies to stop, anyway.

    I thought Assassin’s Creed 2 was terrific, and I can’t wait to see how the trilogy concludes, but like you, I’m not gonna bother with these half-assed pseudo sequels that are just milking the franchise until gamers get tired of it and call them out on it.

  9. In defense of Assassin Creed 3 – after the team finished AC2, they immediately started working on AC3. A small ubisoft studio worked on Brotherhood and Revelation. That small team is now working on multiplayer aspect of AC3.

    But i do have to agree regarding Revelation – while i finished Brotherhood on 100%, i barely finished Revelation because of how monotonous it has become. I finished it just for the story.

  10. @Aether McLoud
    What do you mean??? They ompletley revamped ME2! I know a few people that hated all the changes they made and say that ME 1 was the only game they actually liked

  11. The change from Uncharted 1 to UC2 was pretty big.
    But from UC2 to UC3 not so much.

    However! Everywhere Uncharted game is vastly different from one to the other visually. I’m talking here about the environment/level design.
    So it kinda keeps it refreshing.

  12. While I did enjoy AC:R, mostly because I love Ezio and this was his final entry in the series, I agree that a lot of it felt re-used, and I only did the tower defense mini game once, then would just recapture my Den later. However, I hope this doesn’t mean you won’t be buying AC3! I think they started development on it somewhere toward the end of Brotherhood, and from what I hear it’s not like any of the other ACs aside from a few core gameplay similarities (like crowd-blending).

    As for Vegas: I saw through the bull early and never even played it.

  13. This has been a convention for years and years in a different genre of the gaming business: sports games. Only sports games aren’t veiled about the fact that their products are annual releases – they don’t come up with clever, after-the-colon titles. They just slap a new year on the game. Incremental tweaks and new cover art are supposed to keep you coming back every year.

    CoD, AC, and the other franchises should just drop the charade and start naming their games the same way. CoD: 2012. Assassin’s Creed 2K13. Because that’s really what it is now. Annual releases with incremental “improvement” that doesn’t really innovate or do anything fun and new.

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