The Next Level – The Last Level
Although 2011 was the year of the sequel as far as many franchises were concerned, there are some highly anticipated follow-ups due out this year. Headlined by Mass Effect 3 and Bioshock Infinite, expectations couldn’t be higher for two franchises so highly decorated in awards and praise. The question at hand is: will they be great because of what preceding games pioneered or will these titles find a new way to earn what the previous installments claimed? Mass Effect is adding multiplayer. Bioshock Infinite takes place in the sky. The sky. How could either of these two games ever be accused of recycling?
In short, this is what we believe to be the key to each of these games. For Mass Effect, one of the deepest Action RPGs of all-time, it has to strike balance. The introduction of new elements, although necessary cannot detract from the detailed storyline or even worse, the gameplay. These are the strengths. No, these elements are living, breathing entities and to overpower either with the new will be unwelcome and uncalled for. It’s almost written in the stars that this game will be fantastic – all that remains to be seen is will it be a “best of the generation” or “best of all-time”?
The Bioshock franchise excels in an area I don’t think I’ve ever discussed before, and the key to Infinite’s success is, in a word, ambiance. The eerie city of Rapture pulled us 100,000 leaks under the sea to teach us that a man chooses and a slave obeys; it played out an alternate civilization as well as a game ever has. Now, as we shift to the sky, the biggest challenge to the third installment’s success will be creating that same feeling about the city and its inhabitants.
In both cases, we have pinpointed elements that are intangible, unquantifiable. And while that’s interesting to us, it could be the stuff of nightmares for developers. In this third and final piece discussing how we as consumers communicate our reviews, we offer a suggestion to those of you embarking on a sequel: replay. Replay the first game, the second game – fall in love again. Not only will it be an unbelievable refresher for the story and mechanics of the series, it will help you to appreciate the nuances of the new game as well as which elements have been changed. Replaying minimizes the information gap between games and in the case of the two aforementioned titles, hell it’s a crime to experience them only once.
So best of luck in your gaming conquests of 2012, whether they are old or new.