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The problem with sequels

January 15th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

I’m now playing Hearts of Iron 2 for an upcoming review and having some problems detaching myself from the original. Is it possible to evaluate a sequel out of the context of the earlier games? How about out of the context of all similar games?

This is especially an issue with the Paradox grand strategy games because they are variations on a theme more than distinct games. Sure, each period game has different aspects and issues, but the engine is mostly the same underneath, the look hasn’t changed much from the first Europa Universalis and the game themes are almost interchangeable from title to title.

In this way, strategy gamers are a lot like sports gamers. In sports games, the changes in a franchise are gradual. You can’t review Out of the Park 6 without discussing what has been added from Out of the Park 5. The OOTP series is still, to my mind, the best baseball management sim available. But is it worth buying every year? Can’t we make do with last year’s version?

Of course, Victoria and Hearts of Iron are more different than the roster patch/draft tweaks of your typical sports game. But if you aren’t a real afficiando of World War II history and just like the idea of running a country, should you bother having four or five different types of countries to run? Does the tweaking from Hearts of Iron 1 to HoI2 really make that much difference?

Paradox’s first two English language games were Europa Universalis 1 and 2. The sequel was such an improvement on the original that you would be daft to not recommend it. However, it wasn’t as fresh and new as the original was when it appeared, which meant that a lot of the reviews didn’t have the sheer enthusiasm with which people greeted the original EU. I know no one who seriously prefers the first to the second, but go back and read the reviews of each title. The EU2 reviews are more positive, but less frenzied.

And so it may be with HoI2. I’m still finding my way around war-torn Europe, but the sense of discovery just isn’t there yet. I won’t publish my review here (I’ll let you know when it’s done and where you can find it) but a few of my general opinions will become apparent.

And this is my first general opinion: reviewing sequels is harder than reviewing new games. And almost all major games are sequels or franchises in waiting.


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