The video game industry is laden with many different kinds of genres, from shooters to platformers to racing games and everything in between, but the experience of playing role-playing games and the journeys within have always been the ones I've remembered and treasured the most. You define your characters through the choices you make, and the world and its inhabitants are shaped by them. Unfortunately, not all the role-playing games we love yield sequels, be it due to lack of public interest, funding, or simply that the company feels the story is complete. Despite all that, here's a list of the top five unlikely role-playing game sequels I'd like to see.
#5 Jade Empire 2
In 2005, BioWare released Jade Empire, an action role-playing game for the original Xbox and later for the PC in 2007. Instead of medieval fantasy or a licensed Star Wars game based off the Dungeons and Dragons systems they were known for previously, BioWare attempted to do something different. Inspired by ancient China and mythology, Jade Empire was set in a fictional world filled with gods, spirits and martial arts.
The player started the game at a dojo training under the tutelage of Master Li, but when the nearby town of Two Rivers came under attack, the player began a journey that took him or her across the Jade Empire and face to face with assassins, gods, romance and betrayal. To survive, players had to develop and learn many different fighting styles, from weapons to magic to hand-to-hand martial arts, all of which took place in real-time – the player actively decided when to attack and dodge, instead of a traditional turn-based system. In the end, the setting was great, the combat was fun, and the characters were enjoyable, even if the game was somewhat too easy and too short.
What I'd like to see in a sequel: Not many games take place in such a setting. A return alone might make me ecstatic. But a revisitation should include an even more visceral combat engine, engaging the player with smooth, powerful moves of fist and foot that look and feel real instead of reminding me I'm playing a video game with sloppy movements and reactions. I'd also love to see the story take place on a larger scale, going beyond the borders of the Jade Empire. A clash between the mythologies of ancient China, Japan and Korea could prove very interesting.
#4 Knights of the Old Republic 3
Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel, released in 2003 and 2005 respectively, are thought of by many as the best games and stories within the Star Wars universe. The original won countless game of the year awards, and was repeatedly placed on IGN's best games of all time lists. After all, who could forget HK-47 or its famous plot twist which left your jaw unhinged? Knights of the Old Republic 2, while developed by a different company and certainly flawed, was a worthy sequel that left us craving more. Both games featured well-written, rich storylines and characters that had us learn the ways of the Jedi, explore the galaxy, and fight (or become) the evil in its shadows.
At the conclusion of Knights of the Old Republic 2, we were left with clues about the protagonist from the first game, and given hints that the protagonist and his or her prior companions might reunite for a storyline that would take players beyond the known space of the Republic. In fact, the story, quests, environments, characters and items were all written for the third game, but when Lucasarts faced financial difficulty, the project was canceled. Because BioWare's MMO, The Old Republic takes place 300 years after the original games, we may never have another adventure with Revan, Bastila, Carth or the others.
What I'd like to see in a sequel: A conclusion to the story outside of a brief mention or log entry in BioWare's Star Wars MMO. I want to see estranged lovers reunited and hidden foes confronted. Faster, more fluid combat would be welcome, too. I wouldn't be disappointed if a sequel implemented the lightsaber combat from Jedi Outcast or Jedi Academy.
#3 Shenmue 3
Created by Sega's Yu Suzuki, Shenmue was a game ahead of its time, featuring unparalleled interaction and a thrilling plot of mystery, martial arts and revenge. As an open-world game, players could enter countless buildings, talk to numerous people, and pick up, touch, interact and play with innumerable objects in the environment. They could walk to an arcade and play classic Sega games, buy food and inspect the candy bar in their own hands, or spend quarters on toy capsules. Shenmue even featured a day/night cycle and, if connected to the internet, real-time weather.
The game's plot began on November 29, 1986 in Japan, as Ryo Hazuki returns home to his family's dojo only to witness his father's murder at the hands of Lan Di and the subsequent theft of the mysterious Dragon Mirror. As Ryo, players soon set out on quest that takes them across Japan and later, in Shenmue 2, to China, to learn the truth about Ryo's father and find the man who is responsible for his death. Along the way, the player made friends, allies, enemies, and grew stronger in the ways of martial arts by training with other masters and fighting in tournaments. However, due to high production costs and low sales, Shenmue 3 was canceled. The mysteries of the mirror, of Lan Di and Ryo himself, truths hinted at during the explosive Shenmue 2 climax, may never be answered.
What I'd like to see in a sequel: Answers! Conclusions! We got neither. And a Ryo who wasn't oblivious to the romantic cues from the women around him.
#2 Alpha Protocol 2
Alpha Protocol was a divisive game – people either loved or hated it. It was also met with lukewarm critical reviews and sales figures. Those who loved it will usually even admit the gameplay was rather weak, if not downright bad and archaic. Why, then, does it make my list?
Choice and consequence. Much of what the player did, large or small, had massive consequences on how the game unfolded. There are plenty of role-playing games that claim to do this, but few accomplish that lofty goal. Alpha Protocol did, and the conversation timer and dialog stance system gave weight to every choice. There was little time to stare at the screen to contemplate the next move. One had to think, talk, and move on the go, creating a fast, fun (if you could get past certain gameplay frustrations), adrenaline-fueled adventure.
In Alpha Protocol, players chose from a list of dialogue options based on attitudes inspired by the "three J.B.'s" – James Bond (suave), Jason Bourne (professional) and Jack Bauer (aggressive). Additionally, different benefits could be gained for everything said and done. Instead of making players feel punished for choosing an option that another character disliked, they'd rather would gain a divergent set of perks, such as an ability cooldown rather than great action points.
The setting was also rather unique. Playing as Michael Thorton, a modern spy violently cut loose and on his own, players had to move from safehouse to safehouse, gaining contacts and resources to expose a corporate conspiracy across Rome, Moscow, the Middle East and Taipei. How this is done, with whom and in what order was entirely up to the player.
What I'd like to see in a sequel: Alpha Protocol did incredible things with its evolving story, so there's not a lot I'd changed with its structure, but its gameplay and animations needed a lot of polish. There was little reason to build your character in anything other than stealth and pistols for their abilities, due to the frustrating AI and general weakness of the weapons, and I've love to see a sequel address those complaints. Greater visual variety in the weapons would be appreciated, too.
#1 Rise of the Argonauts 2
Similar to Alpha Protocol, Rise of the Argonauts shared a love or hate relationship with players and critics. Animations and combat were awkward and repetitive, and it featured long stretches of conversation and exploration (with no mini-map) between action pieces. It may not leave a good first impression. But similar to Alpha Protocol still, it deserves mention on this list for its writing.
In Rise of the Argonauts, the player became Jason, the mythological king of Iolcus. On the day of Jason's wedding, his wife, Alceme, is murdered by assassins. Refusing to give her soul the rites of passage, he sealed her body in a temple dedicated to the gods, and with their permissions began a search for the fabled Golden Fleece while they preserve her body. Only it could bring her back.
Along the way, Jason met and recruited legendary characters such as Hercules, Achilles and Pan, traveled to the Oracle at Delphi and the underworld, and fought dangerous and mythological creatures. It was an exciting journey, despite the long pauses between combat, thanks in large part to the characters. Pan in particular as the fatherly and clever satyr was one of my absolute favorites. Jason, too, becomes the hero you read about in stories. Unfortunately, what it doesn't share with Alpha Protocol is its dialog system and strength of choices. I didn't feel as if my decisions would alter the story in any meaningful way.
While the combat didn't impress, with boring repetition and constant slow motion decapitations, it did feature a healthy upgrade tree. As players moved through the game, they completed challenges, such as killing ten enemies or particular story objectives, which earned them points to dedicate toward one of several gods. Each god had their own ability trees, such as spears, swords, and buffs, which players could invest in at any point in the game. There were no traditional level ups.
What I'd like to see in a sequel: If they could have created more variety in combat, paced the action and the dialog scenes better, and gave you more choices with meaningful consequences for a sequel, it could have been the start of one of my all-time favorite role-playing games. And the setting is ripe for more adventures, especially when you're dealing with ancient Greek and Roman mythology and figures.