by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 8th August, 2018
Video games industry can be peculiar and unfair place at times. We saw many, many times that sales numbers dictate whether a game would get a sequel or not much more than review scores or fan opinion, or actual quality of the game. More often than not brilliant titles are left alone even though they were awesome, even though they managed to hit just the right cord among gamers, even though they accomplished the ultimate feat when it comes to video games - being praised by fans and critics alike - just because they didn't sell well enough.
And sometimes those sales numbers don't have to be that bad; they just need to be lower than internal projections made by publishers and that's enough for them to be put on the ice and forgotten as the years pass. Even indie games have to reach a certain sales milestone in order for a sequel to be put into consideration and that shows just how the industry is ruthless. In a world where quantity is put on top of quality and where profit is everything, there's no place for unplanned video game sequels and that's just how it is.
Of course, the recent explosion of crowdfunding did give some games sequels they rightfully deserved but there are still tons of quality titles that have been abandoned and forgotten even though they deserved for their story to see another chapter. On the other side there are some games that simply do not need a sequel (or sequels) because they managed to close their story and to end without major questions left unanswered, or a simply a standalone experiences that would be ruined with unnecessary sequel (we also saw lots of those games getting sequels just because they sold well).
This piece will explore some of the best games that certainly deserved a sequel or two but never got one, either because they fail to sell in numbers that would guarantee the next chapter, because developer studios who made them got shut down, or because of other reasons that simply stopped them from continuing to offer gamers amazing experiences worth exploring. Let us begin.
World in Conflict could be placed among the top five RTS games of all times without even thinking. The game was so good it was really strange it didn't get a proper sequel. We only got a sort of an expansion called Soviet Assault that told the game's story from the different angle, for the angle of Soviet invaders but that just completed the story; it didn't add anything new to it.
The game was marvelous. It featured unique camera controls and perfect controls of your ground forces; it was deeply strategic but somehow so easy to get into and just play it; and graphics can be characterized as pretty solid even today, more than a decade after the game came out. The story was emotional as much as it was exciting and missions were varied and filled with constant action so you simply couldn't get bored while playing it.
And the game's story certainly deserved a sequel because, while we managed to defend the US from Soviet invasion many other questions left unanswered. Did Europe manage to fend off Soviets? Did the US decide to launch a counter-offensive after they got back their soil? And what SSSR did? Did they retreat or maybe decided to launch attacks on other strategic territories like Japan, the Middle East, or some other area? World in Conflict ended in such a way the game could have got a whole trilogy, not just one sequel but we will never know how the 1989 world war ended.
This was one of the more original action adventures and back when it came out a sequel was almost guaranteed. The game met with solid critic feedback, players loved it, and its combination of God of War-like action with the story from Dante's epic poem was pretty original and at a time the game was by far the best hack and slash action game for the Xbox 360.
It was brutal, visceral and bloody, fast-paced with lots of cool combos and badass main weapon of the game's protagonist (that scythe looked more than amazing) who ventured into depths of Hell to find his lost love. And the story just begged for a sequel because the game ended with Dante reaching Mount Purgatory (and the second part of the poem is set in Purgatory) leaving us with a huge cliffhanger.
The sequel was in works but Visceral Games moved on to other projects (the sequel to Dead Space) and EA probably though Dante's Inferno didn't sell well enough to shell money into the development of another game. A shame really because we could have got an amazing trilogy that could have ended in Heaven with Dante battling angels just for a chance to see his loved one once again.
Jade Empire started as a side project at BioWare. The studio wanted to try something completely different so they decided to create a martial arts RPG game set in ancient China. And they hit a golden vein with the game getting massive praise from critics and gamers alike and once Xbox exclusive ultimately ended up being released for PC.
The game featured epic and well-written story along with unique combat with lots of different fight styles, each with its unique moves and combos it all built one original experience that put Jade Empire in front of most other RPG games of the time. An original story set in the Far East, cool combat, and lots of interesting characters you met in the game made Jade Empire a cool game that certainly deserved a sequel.
The story ended in such a way that direct sequel was out of the question but the world of Jade Empire deserved another chapter that would explore other secrets that were mentioned in the first game. But now that BioWare is owned by EA and they stopped being independent studio we will not see a sequel because the game was too much original and niche for a huge publisher like EA risk and invest money in making a sequel.
Freelancer is simply cult classic and one of the best (if not the best) space sim games of all times. Ever since it got released in 2003 it became a top recommendation for everyone looking for a space sim game. Even today, if you ask a fan of the genre they will probably recommend some other game but the recommendation will be followed by advice to try Freelancer at some point because it's just so damn cool.
Back in the day Freelancer offered an unprecedented visual quality along with amazingly designed world and a huge number of planets, stations, asteroids, and other objects and areas to explore. The game followed the main plot - which was epic and deserving of its space opera characterization - but the player was free to do anything they liked. Hunting pirates, becoming a renowned trader, or trying to amass big money on handling contraband, or maybe explore systems in the search for ancient derelict wreckages. Opportunities were endless and players could explore the world of Freelancer for months without advancing the game's main plot.
And the story was more than solid and it involved war on a galactic scale, ancient enemies, aliens, advanced technology and more. Once you completed the campaign you could continue playing the game, trying to get more money, more upgrades and a better ship. A superb game that was Chris Roberts' high point until he decided to start work on Star Citizen, which is completely different from Freelancer but maybe, just maybe could be considered as its spiritual sequel.
The best story ever told in a game, an RPG where conversation skill was much more important than combat stats, high HP, or superb magic aptitude. A game that explored themes so bizarre and original it still didn't get a proper challenger capable of taking things further than Planescape: Torment.
A game where you played as an immortal with amnesia who will meet so many interesting characters and explore never before seen worlds and planes of existence, each one completely original and new, each one an experience for itself. Planescape: Torment is bigger than life RPG and it is a real shame it never got a sequel. While Nameless One's story was completed and reached a proper end, the world of Planescape just begs for new stories to take place in it.
We got a spiritual sequel to the game in the form of Torment: Tides of Numenera but that game had nothing to do with the original beside similarity in its name. But maybe it is a good thing Planescape: Torment never received a sequel because most of us who played the original would probably end up disappointed with it because it is really, really hard to top such masterpiece.
Alan Wake is a masterfully designed survival horror and this one absolutely deserves a sequel. The game's amazing story is like Tween Peaks from some parallel universe, and its gameplay puts emphasis on survival and brings back glory days of survival horror games before they become more action adventures with jump scares than survival experiences where ammo is limited and where enemies cannot really be killed.
The game's focus on light and the fact that the main enemy is simply eternal darkness gave the story something primordial, something we as humans can all relate with because we all fear the dark at that primal, subconscious level. And combining darkness with insanity crafted a surreal experience where you don't know when reality ends and where your brain starts messing with you. Another quality of best horrors, the fact you cannot escape from the darkness made the game even better.
And its end, where Alan stays trapped inside The Dark Place, gave a perfect setting for a sequel that didn't get ruined by American Nightmare, which was more of a Twilight Zone episode than proper expansion. The fact is Alan Wake is still trapped inside the Dark Place and it would be a shame if Remedy decides to keep him there for all eternity.
Folks at Obsidian just know how to make excellent RPGs and one of the more original ones was Alpha Protocol. The game got out in 2010 and while it didn't earn stellar reviews or sold in millions of copies it stayed in minds of many gamers because it featured excellent story based on various spy movies and novels along with solid gameplay and highly original setting for an RPG game. Alpha Protocol is a rough gem of a game that could amaze and frustrate all in a span of seconds.
On one hand, the game's story was excellent, a dark spy thriller with many plot twists, uneasy alliances, secret organizations, betrayals, and action worthy of James Bond, or Jack Bauer. Next, the game's conversation system was deep and engaging with many decisions that impacted the story in meaningful ways.
On the other hand, Alpha Protocol features lousy visuals and sometimes laughable animation system that put the game on par with worst budget titles. Also, the gameplay was deeply flawed and while RPG side of the game was excellent gunplay and other stuff you could do in it were less than stellar. But at the end, the story was so good the game simply had to have a sequel. The game could be a start of a successful franchise with Michael Thorton (Alpha Protocol's main protagonist) becoming next Sam Fisher. We could maybe, just maybe, see a sequel now when Obsidian is fully independent and filled with money from the success of the studios' newer titles like Pillars of Eternity.
Oh, an action game set in urban open world of Hong Kong with martial arts instead of many different guns and a solid story about a double agent infiltrating Triads in order to discover secrets of his past and apprehend mafia bosses while constantly questioning his aligns was one of the best experiences of the year when it came out in 2012.
Massive open world that perfectly recreated modern Hong Kong, deep and engrossing combat filled with special moves and quick combos and a ton of stuff to do was main selling points of Sleeping Dogs along with a compelling story that wasn't best ever but better than most similar games offered except GTA of course.
The game had races, fight clubs, dojos where you learned new moves, lots of side activities, cars you could buy, motorcycles, and lots of side missions. And the story ended in such a way that a sequel, albeit with different main character, could be made without any problem. The game even sold quite well but developer studio behind it shut down and Square Enix considered the game a failure in terms of sales despite it being sold in almost two million copies.
It's really strange how this game failed to get a sequel because Republic Commando was the best single player shooting experience Star Wars ever got. The game had adrenaline pumping combat and engrossing campaign, and shooting was amazing. Squad based gameplay gave it a bit of strategic layer where you have to look closely at your squad mates and plan for action before entering combat.
Graphics were more than solid and levels were tightly packed with enemies in a way you didn't notice the game was more or less a hallway shooter with limited freedom of movement but with carefully designed levels that were perfectly suited for close quarters combat.
The end was a real cliffhanger and the setting could secure for at least one sequel (the game took place in the midst of Clone Wars way before Palpatine rose to power) but LucasArts decided to scrap the planned sequel that took place during the rise of the Empire. And now when Star Wars license is in hands of EA we are sure this great military shooter would never get one.
L.A Noire showed that adventure games with a focus on police investigation could become huge hits if made properly. The game had best ever facial animation (although it could break into pieces at times), which made interrogations too feel like you really were a detective in post-WW II Los Angeles filled with drugs and murder.
Virtual L.A was rich in detail and one of the best digital recreations of the city we ever saw and while the game wasn't really an open world title, the city played as a perfect backdrop for various cases that sent you across the town. The game offered plenty of mysterious cases with the main weakness being its flawed pacing where you experienced crescendo mid-game while being in Homicide and from then on just doing chores in order to finish the game and see how it ends.
But a sequel placed in Chicago, San Francisco, or some other city in the US that also included noir anesthetic along with various police business (or maybe allowing us to play as a private detective this time) could really be a breath of fresh air because L.A Noire was a highly original game that made adventures popular again. Shame that Rockstar discovered GTA Online because they won't make another game if they cannot earn billions of dollars by offering online mode. And this one simply couldn't work online so yes, we will never get a sequel.