You know how when you were growing up everyone always said, “Two heads are better than one?” The people spouting that phrase were usually saying it to get you to get along with your sibling. Maybe they wanted you to be a better sport when it came to cooperating with your classmates. Whatever the reason, we've all heard the saying. It means that better ideas and plans come from group thinking, rather than being a lone wolf. This may or may not be true. Some people come up with their best theories and works when they're alone, left to their own devices. Plus the concept of a mysterious lone wolf generally entices people.
Let's transfer this manner of thinking to our favorite form of media. Video games are often one-offs, but more often they are part of a series or have a sequel. Take a stab in the dark and I guarantee you'll be able to pull out at least one example very easily. There's the Assassin's Creed series, with Origins being the most recent, and he Mass Effect series, with Andromeda being the latest. There are the countless Tomb Raider games. The Witcher line has The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt following the original. I can go on and on, and surely you could to. The point still remains, the video game industry considers at least two games to be better than one.
The largest reason for this is simply because an already established universe is more of a guarantee for a payday than a new IP. This isn't revolutionary thinking by any means, but rather a fact. If Destiny hadn't done well, they wouldn't have bothered with Destiny 2. South Park: The Stick of Truth did insanely well, so of course they're making The Fractured But Whole. It's great for the developers and wonderful for the fans as well. They make more money and we get more content. There's also the fact that sometimes creators have more story to tell than a single game can handle. Video game universes can be enormous, and one game doesn't always have the ability to cover it all. Take the Fallout series. It'd be really tough to accurately show what's happening after a nuclear war everywhere at one time, so the series focuses on single locations to better tell the story.
There are a thousand and one reasons for sequels being important in the video game industry. But what happens when they fail? I'm sure everyone can think of a sequel or a series entry that disappointed them. I struggled with the initial reports that Mass Effect: Andromeda wasn't as good as I had hoped. I even felt a little let-down when I was playing Fallout 4 after it first released. It was the same post-apocalyptic goodness that I had come to love, but it wasn't quite as great as Fallout: New Vegas. Even Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, the highly anticipated sequel to Shadow of Mordor, is suffering from some sequel suffering. Some are saying the gameplay is better, but the story just doesn't hold up. Others say the game is unwieldy and has too much going on.
Everyone hoped and dared to dream that Shadow of War would use its Nemesis system to its full potential. But it's appearing that the game might just be more of the same. This isn't unusual for sequels either. Often times, they don't really bring anything new to the table and fans are left playing the same game with just a different title. It's like the vast majority of the Assassin's Creed games; they feel like the same exact game, only with different locations and time periods. This isn't inherently awful, it's just not the ideal either.
We want and frankly need our sequels to totally improve on the game that came before it. If the same problems exist in a different envelope, it'll turn people off. It's hard enough to make it through a single game when there are some things we absolutely can't stand about it. It's much much worse if it's two games we have to suffer through. Two really isn't always better than one when it comes to games. We'll continue to play them in the hopes that this isn't always true, but it's best not to get your hopes up when it comes to a sequel.