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Thinking Thursday: No One Wants to Make a Trilogy

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By: Stephen Crane

Let's be honest. The gaming industry is more or less plagued by sequels at this point. In recent memory we've seen Uncharted 2, Crysis 2, Dragon Age 2 and a slew of other second games. We don't really see all that many third games. Valve itself has made a name out of making games only in twos. Look at Half Life then Half Life 2 then Half Life 2: Episode 1 then Half Life 2: Episode 2. Yeah, they made two sequels out of a sequel. Still no trilogy. What about Diablo? The list really goes on. (Photo: Courtesy Flickr user metaphorge)

What is comes down to is this: No one wants to make a trilogy. Sure, we all want a trilogy. There is a public outcry for Diablo 3 and Half Life 3. There is a simple reasoning for this. Look at the film industry and consider some of the biggest trilogies. The third movie just never really ever lives up. Return of the Jedi was the weakest of the ONLY Star Wars trilogy. There was no other Star Wars trilogy. You cannot convince me otherwise. How about Godfather 3? Pretty much the same story. Spider-Man 3 was just a travesty to all of cinema. Emo Peter Parker should never have his own dance scene. That's just silly.

With video games the fear of a trilogy should be especially large. Games build themselves and their brand off a specific mechanic and story line. Gears of War has the cover and reload system as well as the third person, dark-and-gritty perspective. Uncharted has the open area and destructable environments. With a direct sequel to a game you get the opportunity to continue the story while improving the game mechanics and adding or tweaking features. With a third game in a direct trilogy you have to continue the story from there and find even more new and unique features to the game.

To be clear, when I am talking about trilogies and sequels I am talking about trilogies and sequels in the directly following storyline type of sequel like Mass Effect 2. I'm not talking about James Bond sequels which are generally (except for Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) completely separate and have little to no bearing on each other.

I'm not saying there aren't good trilogies out there, of course. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time made for a not half bad trilogy, but the third game in that series was obviously not as good as the original or even the second and that is exactly the point. No one actively wants to make the weakest game in the trilogy. It's almost inevitable that the third game in the series will be something akin to Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones. If it was by itself and rated only on that merit, it would probably be considered a respectable game. When it's compared to its older brothers it just looks sloppy and simplified.

Third games in a series can surprise me, though. Halo 3 was a masterfully done game in part because you could see the work put into it to make the game as epic and fun as possible. It wasn't a perfect game by any means but it had solid single player and multiplayer that added a degree of freshness to the game.

The success of Halo 3 is by no means a rule, however. I know I'm going to date myself here and it possibly isn't the best example but Star Wars: Rogue Squadron's third game made a great mistake in trying to complete a trilogy: It added a feature that didn't work. The on foot missions were distinctly terrible.

In the end I really am hoping to see more completions of trilogies. Mass Effect 3 is one of my most anticipated games even though it is still so very far away. The market demands completions to these stories that have been set up. As gamers we just need to keep in mind that they probably still won't be as good and should try to recognize and forgive if this turns out to be the case. In this author's opinion, though, for every ten failed endings to a trilogy that only instance of the perfect end makes everything worth it. Also, I just really want to see Valve actually finish a trilogy. They should probably hop on that.

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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