30 Days: Surprising Sequel

This is one of a series called “30 Days of Video Games“, an exercise on daily writing.
Follow the link for the full list.

(Note: this was previously slated to be “Favorite art or graphics style”, however, I feel like I had already covered that in the previous 30 days series.  So riffing off the previous entry, I changed this entry’s topic to be ‘a sequel that exceeded expectations.’  Enjoy!)

This is a harder choice than it seems.  So many sequels generate a lot of hype – and reasonably so.  The whole idea of a sequel is to essentially capitalize on previous success, and most importantly, to grow on that success.  Merely selling the same number of copies of a sequel is a loss, so publishers will attempt to expand their product’s base by aggressively marketing sequels, usually appealing to what made the previous game so successful.  This makes the previous entry such a loaded field: history is full of failed and disappointing sequels, and those that were successful usually release in an orgy of hype designed to increase initial sales.

Perhaps time has dulled my perception of things, but I don’t recall a huge marketing blitz, nor do I really recall any massive hype for the game.  I do, however, remember leaning back after my first game in Age of Empires II and thinking, “This is what this game should be.”

A little background – I’ve made reference to my time at Ernest & Allen, a small web design startup in San Luis Obispo that was my professional home for several years.  As befitting the age, ours was an office that worked hard and played harder, and the original Age of Empires was a surprising entry into our gaming library.  Many a late night was spent as we battled over randomly generated patches of land, all dreading the “nuh nuh naaaah” of Monks that would convert and wreak havoc upon our armies.

Age of Empires II offered a lot of promise and it delivered – AoE II is a pantheon-level RTS game, coming along in a “golden age” of sorts of real-time strategy games.  The addition of better villager controls (inactive villager button, y’all!), the strategic component of castles, unique units and the new victory types (especially the Wonder victory where you could turtle up and try to out build your competition) all made for a incredibly rich and replayable game (one that’s still played and supported on Steam.)

Hrm, I might need to reinstall my Conquerors disks…

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