Kat’s Top 5 Gaming Sequels
A video gaming sequel can often be a means of expanding a given game and its universe. It can also present possibilities for improving on the flaws of your first entry: even games that may have started good are often improved upon with the introduction of a sequel. When the developer is given the opportunity to take what worked, fix what didn’t, they can really set a series off for its long-term potential.
These are my picks for top 5 best direct gaming sequels.
Mass Effect 2
BioWare’s first entry into their space opera trilogy has a fantastic story and atmosphere – well establishing the cast of characters, and the fundamental storyline of the Reapers. Mass Effect 2 took practically everything and made it so, so much better. With an entirely stripped down and re-vamped combat system (that is improved upon even further in Mass Effect 3) gameplay becomes less of the cumbersome chore it was into the first game into a genuinely thrilling and strategic shooter experience. BioWare also took advantage of the pausing in the middle entry (before arrival of the Reapers) to tell a classic getting-the-team-together story, with a perfect balance of main story quests, team recruitment, loyalty missions, and a number of side quests to be discovered.
All of which is to say, where Mass Effect started things out great, Mass Effect 2 took the series into downright amazing. It’s for this game alone the franchise has become so beloved by gaming communities.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Not unlike Mass Effect, this series out began with a solid – if rather flawed – entry. One that nicely introduces us to the core characters, and offers the first hints of some of franchise hallmarks still to come. Among Thieves took these fundamental ideas and ran with them: with a more present storyline, deeper character interactions, a higher-stakes plotline, a wider variety of environments, and the crazy action setpieces that Uncharted has become known for. Between the fantastic writing, the jaw-dropping graphics, and the breakneck thrills of this dastardly adventure series, it’s no wonder it’s become a banner franchise for Sony.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is not only the tipping point for Uncharted and Nathan Drake into iconic status, it’s also clinched Naughty Dog as one of the greatest developers in the industry.
If you play Portal you really have to play Portal 2. One really cannot exist without the other: even if that didn’t obvious appear from the start, going into the first game. It certainly didn’t lend itself to the easy idea of continuation. After all, there’s always going to be the risk that with such a limited (if brilliant) premise to continue the games on past their due. And yet everything about Portal 2 works – remarkably so. Valve took advantage of a longer gamespan to divvy out a more complex story, with a couple new characters introduced for good measure. Along the way, they enriched the gamer’s knowledge of Aperture Science, and plotted out an impressive new array of puzzles based not only on the Portal gun, but with clever new game mechanics like gels and warp fields as well. To say nothing of the endlessly quotable GLaDOS/Wheatley/Cave Johnson lines.
Four years later and Portal 2 is an instant classic. And it’s nice to remember that sometimes seemingly small ideas can still boast great returns. And if you’re smart about what you’re doing, a sequel doesn’t just have to be a cashgrab: it can be an enrichment of everything that made the first game great.
Gearbox has justifiably created some of the most legitimately addictive games from this series in the last generation. The kind that absolutely nailed both the basic shooting and looting motif, with enormously engaging gameplay, wrapped up in a confident world and tone. And the developer was incredibly smart in creating their second go-around: like Portal the first title didn’t obviously necessitate a continuance. And indeed, even ran the risk of becoming redundant – how many times can we walk across Pandora looking for a new Vault before it gets old? And yet Gearbox was still incredibly smart. The fundamental gameplay is largely the same – if refined – while the game’s most substantial improvement comes in its increased character and story developments. Indeed, introducing Handsome Jack not only gave the title a greater sense of urgency that wasn’t found in the first one, but it also offered gaming one of the best (and most entertaining) villains around.
With Borderlands 2 Gearbox demonstrated that they still have plenty to offer from this series: it may have started out with a group of Vault Hunters, but already we can see that there’s plenty more to be mined from this rich and entertaining universe.
Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn
This title is quite a bit older than any else on the list, but it remains a personal favorite of mine. Not just as the pinnacle of CRPG goodness, but also a demonstration of so much of what makes BioWare great. More even than Mass Effect 2, this game is a huge improvement over its predecessor (which was also pretty amazing in its own right). A lot of the details and kinks are smoothed out for a much more refined gameplay experience, the gameworld opens up in exciting (and delightfully unexpected) arenas, and the story becomes something far more complex than the traditional Hero’s Journey-esque sensibility that informs the first Baldur’s Gate. Indeed, both the deep sense of the real-time party-based gameplay and in the intense ruminations on the self wrapped up in all the rich aesthetics of this Dungeons and Dragons world, BioWare crafted the ultimate role-playing experience.
With Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn BioWare was already transitioning into a developer to be reckoned with. And even as they presented a number of improvements over the first title, they simultaneously discovered many of their tenets that would inform the later (and great) game series yet to come (like Mass Effect and Dragon Age).
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