What makes a video game trilogy great? The sense of accomplishment you get after finishing a story arc that lasts years? Seeing how your favourite character completes their development? For me it’s both and more. There has been a trend over the last few years of franchises starting a second trilogy, I don’t think it’s always a good idea but it has led to some great games. 2017 is going to bring us a new Mass Effect Game and I for one am excited but should I be preparing myself to be let down? Beware, very minor spoilers ahead.
When I beat Mass Effect 3 in 2012 I was disappointed. I wasn’t alone in that however my reason for being disappointed wasn’t the same as everyone else’s. I agree that the ending was something to be desired and the fact that the developers themselves patched a new ending in (which I have still yet to play) speaks volumes. The community was outraged. Years were spent playing this trilogy and the fans were sorely let down by the deflated and rushed ending of this epic story. All the while I was sat at my desk, controller in hand wanting more. Now, 5 years later a new game is right on the horizon. Mass Effect: Andromeda is looking great but I have some doubts.
My all-time favourite video game series is Halo. When Halo 3 came out in 2007 the campaign ended the Master Chief’s story. There were some brilliant games in between, Halo 3: ODST & Halo Reach but they were both lacking the awesomeness that was Spartan 117. He is effectively the heart of the franchise. What made him great was the anonymity. You never saw his face and he rarely spoke. The player could imagine themselves in the Power Armour and it worked so well. In 2012 under the control of a new developer Halo 4 came out. They decided to continue the story of Master Chief and hope was high. I was so excited. I pre-ordered the game and even took the day off of work to play it. I beat the story that night and have never touched it since.
It just didn’t have the same feel of the previous three games. A new enemy was introduced and the visuals re-done. From a continuity point of view it failed for me. The Chief had a whole new look, his armour was different, and there were new weapons. Chronologically the game took place after Halo 3 so where were these weapons during the battles from previous games etc.? It missed the mark. The main bad guy was not strong enough and the final boss battle was so short and easy it made any build up throughout the game just not worthwhile. After playing it I wanted to forget that I had played it and swiftly jumped back and played Halo: Combat Evolved again. Visually, although different the game was stunning to look at. The graphics were amazing and all though weak compared to games coming out now it was the best bit about it. The need to set it up for a trilogy is what let it down. The story lacked any real development and the characters that I had come to love over the past 10 years were written so differently that I almost fell out of love with them. Almost…
Then Halo 5 Guardians came out. My disappointment in the previous title meant that I wasn’t excited to play this – I was always going to play it because of how much of a fan I am – and I didn’t get it on release date. I picked it up a week or so after release because the reviews I read had been really positive. It was a joy to play. The story focused on 2 protagonists, The Master Chief and Spartan Jameson Locke. Okay the marketing showed the game as being a fight between these two when really it was no more than a conflict of orders and in the end you kind of were working towards the same goal, just for different reasons. The mechanics from Halo 4 had been refined and fleshed out. The new weapons (and old ones) had a complete overhaul in terms of sound design and you felt powerful using them and the enemy was explained in a lot more detail. The game was excellent. I have beaten it multiple times, including a legendary solo play through.
A couple of months ago Gears of War 4 came out. The hype from me was real. My girlfriend will tell you how excited I was when the Gears 4 trailer was aired during E3 2015. The developer had changed since the previous games so I was a little sceptical going in. I got it for Christmas last year, beat the story within a week and honestly hated it. It suffered in a different way to Halo 4 in that the need to link to old characters felt forced. You play as the son of the main character from the first 3 games, which was fine. I don’t think we needed to see the characters from previous games, it wasn’t exciting and they actually spoiled this in the trailers. It would have been more shocking if the reveal happened during gameplay. After the 2nd act of the game the rest of the story was predictable and the gameplay mechanics became very, very repetitive. Again, the need to start a trilogy knowing that’s what they want to do is what let this title down. Saying that however, the cliff-hanger at the end was very good and unexpected. I hope that the developers of Gears 4 can learn from Halo 5 and produce a sequel that is good. My hope remains high for the franchise and I will no doubt be excited when Gears of War 5 does come out.
If you read this far, first of all, why? Second of all, I hope you’ll understand why I’m both cynical and excited about the 4th Mass Effect game. They have already said that it is going to be the first of a new trilogy – this scares me. Hope does remain for me as the story is going to be completely separate and based on brand new characters. Whether this will be true remains to be seen. I will definitely be playing it when it releases in the next couple of months.
Tell me what you think. What is your favourite video game trilogy? Be sure to follow us on Twitter @JackGeekstalk so stay updated on our nerdy and often random thoughts and musings.