Spoiler Warning (Uncharted 3)
Quick think of a trilogy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie trilogy, videogame trilogy, or book trilogy, just think of one. Now name the best entry in that series? Chances are you probably named the second entry in your chosen series. Whether it’s Star Wars, Uncharted, or Lord of the Rings. Most people regard the second entry the best in the series. Shouldn’t it be that the last entry in a great series is the best? Most people will say that should be the case. So what causes this conundrum?
One factor we must look at is the “fix that which is not broken” approach many game companies take to the final chapter of their game. In this approach companies feel that they can sell many more copies of the final chapter, if they fix some problems with the previous entry. While major fixes are necessary, and usually a welcome addition. Every closing entry in a series makes the mistake of fixing something that fans of the series didn’t think need fixing. Take the Uncharted series for example. While many people enjoyed the first one, the second one improved upon the formula presented in the first game and refined it. It is hailed by some as the best game the PS3 has to offer. Now when the third installment came around Naughty Dog felt that the idea of a super natural twist was not necessary. So they tried to fix something that many fans enjoyed in the series. While some had shunned the Uncharted series for it’s super natural element, many fans felt that it added to “Indiana Jones” feel of the game. While the third entry in the series isn’t a bad game, it was not the best the series had to offer.
Another thing a game company can do to the final installment in a trilogy, that may make it worse then it’s predecessor is make it more streamlined/mainstream. Now this may not sound like such a bad thing that a game company may do. Let’s look at a good example of when mainstreaming a title isn’t always the best for a series. Mass Effect 3 while still a good game is nowhere near as good as Mass Effect 2. One of the main reason that the 3rd entry fell short of what made the 2nd so good was streamlining the overall experience. Whether it’s the scanning mechanic that seems to be just a throw in, or the way you pick up side missions (by “over hearing” peoples conversations). All in all the experience is a less fulfilling one, that suffers from the mainstreaming of the series.
While there are many things that can cause the trilogy conundrum let’s discuss just one more. That final thing is the series has been too hyped. While many of us love trilogies we are the ones to blame for this last cause. We set the games up to fail. Why is it that we do this? It’s for the love of the game. A good example of this is the Fable series. The first game was amazing but a bit short. While the second game was a masterpiece. Everything gamers loved in the first one with a more robust story and longer game play. The third of the series fell flat. Gamers wanted an experience that could capture the magic of the first two games. This is very hard for an IP to obtain. The reason is gamers have already experienced parts of the game. Developers keep most of the things that “worked” which leads to less innovation in the final installment. It becomes a well tread path that we have all seen before. Which no matter how much we want the final installment to blow our pants off, it usually never lives up to the hype.
While the trilogy conundrum has been occurring for years in movies, it continues to this day both in films and gaming. Chances are that it will continue to happen for years to come. So as gamers what can we do about this trend? Not much but sit back, relax and enjoy the sequel. Which will most likely be the best in the series.