Game Sequel Vs. Original Comparative Round-Up: PART 3
Is a sequel really better- or worse than the original?
©2011 Alex Baldwin
Taking a look at the best-selling games of any particular time, platform or location displays our faith that the latest numbered title will always be the best, but sadly this can often not be the case.
One glance at the Final Fantasy series provides solid proof that quality is in no way associated with numerical value.
As new games are released their predecessors usually suffer an immediate price drop, providing potential bargains for those not yet initiated by the franchise and sometimes even better gaming experiences than the latest full-price release.
This series of articles takes a look at series with multiple entries in the current generation and which will provide you with the best experience.
Note that this can be very subjective, and the prefered games below may not apply to everyone.
CRYSIS vs CRYSIS 2
On release, Crysis was a technological leap forward at a time that made no sense.
Barely 2 years into the current game generation, developers Crytek pushed visual fidelity beyond the capabilities of the current generation of consoles and even most PCs at the time, leading to Crysis becoming the benchmark of choice for torturing PC hardware.
On the gameplay front, Crysis received mixed opinions. The ideas were solid, allowing the player to switch between suit abilities such as super strength, invisibility and speed in fairly open environments but it never really managed to make it as enjoyable or immersive as rival shooters Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
Some frustrating level design such as the zero-gravity interior of an alien ship and the switch from human enemies to unsatisfying generic aliens gave the experience a downward curve as the best moments were found near the beginning of the campaign. The multiplayer also failed build significant popularity or community, in spite of the later free release of the entire multiplayer as ‘Crysis Wars’.
Years later and on a brand new (far more optimised) engine, Crysis 2 saw a multiplatform release earlier this year with the promises of a more engaging campaign, even more enhanced graphics and a much better designed multiplayer able to stand with the best of them. On the whole Crytek delivered on their promises, with some simple changes such as the rapid switching between suit abilities leading to far more fluid combat and a much better feeling of being an unstoppable killing machine or silent assassin.
Level design was much tighter thanks to the new city setting but provided more strategic options through extensive cover and multi-tiered environments. The multiplayer also saw an overhaul that makes far better use of the suit abilities and a faster pace, although some technical issues on the PC version have held it back somewhat.
On the whole, Crysis 2 is a great example of how important level design is to the gameplay experience and a thorough improvement over the original.
VERDICT: CRYSIS 2
FABLE II vs FABLE III
When Fable II was released, it was widely hailed as being exactly the game we were promised the original Fable would be. Lead designer Peter Molyneux is infamous for promising the world but delivering something a bit more realistic; however in spite of not following through on some features, Fable II was a unique RPG that carved its own niche with distinctly British humorous overtones, a whimsical atmosphere and a sense of wonderment enhanced by Danny Elfman and Russel Shaw’s musical score.
Rewarding combat, a welcome canine companion and the endlessly entertaining gestures completed the package and helped mask the quite short play time relative to other popular RPG series of the generation such as Dragon Age and The Witcher.
Unfortunately things took a turn for the worse with the release of Fable III exactly two years later; the shortest development time yet for the series. While liberally carrying over the base of Fable II, some bizarre design decisions had many scratching their head. The gesture system had transformed from using dozens of interactions with crowds to a choice of two gestures at a time with a single villager in a specific interaction mode.
Technical issues also played a role, causing random bouts of slowdown for no apparent reason with a shaky framerate and some of the worst AI pathfinding yet seen that made your dog companion more of a nuisance due to his insistence on getting stuck on objects or running in circles when trying to lead your character to a dig spot.
The final icing on the cake was the over-simplification of the much-hyped kingdom management partway through the game when your character takes the crown. In spite of these issues, Fable III was still a decent game but far from the quality we’d come to expect from Lionhead.
Molyneux himself has since commented that Lionhead’s development process is simply not capable of working within the increasingly common two-year timeline being adopted for game development.
VERDICT: FABLE II
DRAGON AGE: ORIGINS vs DRAGON AGE 2
Dragon Age: Origins was another winning release for RPG developer Bioware, who seemed unable to do any wrong. With Star Wars: Knights of the Old Replublic (KOTOR) setting the framework last generation for the developer’s future releases, the seemingly PC-centric Origins came as a delight by combining traditional dungeon-crawling mechanics with modern RPG design.
The simultaneous release on console was also heralded by a new control scheme and interface specifically designed for console controllers that worked brilliantly. While a few technical issues marred the console versions the experience as a whole is definitely an RPG highlight of this generation with some of the most well-designed characters seen in a game and a hybrid combat system that managed to balance both strategy and action.
Needless to say, Dragon Age 2 was very much anticipated, although some faint alarm bells were ringing. While Origins was announced as far back as 2004 and subsequently followed a quite extended development time, Dragon Age 2 was released less than a year and half after Origins. Unfortunately, the end results provided a lot of evidence of rushed development.
While the spruced up engine looked much better, the much smaller scope of the sequel provided only a handful of environments, many of which repeated with small modifications under the guise of being different locations.
The environments were similarly devoid of detail, largely presented as wide empty corridors lacking the variety of Origins. The combat took a positive turn with an overhaul that made it quicker and more dynamic to match the increased action in Dragon Age 2, but in many ways the rest of the experience was significantly stripped-down from Origins and reflected an uncharateristically short development time.
Dragon Age 2 was not a bad game by any means and still manages to rise above many of its competitiors, but this downward spike in quality and content from Bioware after years of contiunually upping the benchmark for RPGs has caused concern amongst fans, particularly if Bioware and publisher EA plan on continuing to force shorter development times for a genre that has always needed longer timeframes.
In this case Dragon Age: Origins undoubtably provides the superior experience, and thanks to the release of the Ultimate Edition on all three platforms you can get the original game, its expansion Awakening and eleven downloadable content packs all together for almost half the price of Dragon Age 2. If you’re a fan of RPGs, fantasy books or movies this will provide some of the best value you’ll find this generation.