A few days ago, Sleeping Dogs developer United Front Games put up a video introducing their new title, Triad Wars. I say “introducing their new game” lightly, as not much of the game is actually shown, but we’re pretty used to that by now and it’s hard to be offended by it anymore. What’s more offensive, really, is Triad Wars.
To take a step back: Sleeping Dogs was, in my opinion, one of the strongest new IPs of last gen. It was smart and fun, the hand-to-hand combat was awesome, and the story was great. Following Sleeping Dogs up with a proper sequel, I believe, could have elevated Wei Shen to the level of one of gaming’s great new action heroes - he was just that strong, and Will Yun Lee’s performance was just that great. To speak generally and skip spoilers, the game is left with an ending where there’s room for Wei Shen’s adventures to continue so long as they don’t continue in Hong Kong. And hey, Hong Kong is so well-realized in Sleeping Dogs that I would love to see United Front bring some place else to life.
Sleeping Dogs was praised for its story and its hand-to-hand combat, and I think we can all agree that what a sequel would need to polish up is the gunplay and the driving. As major fixes go, that’s not so bad. Look to Ubisoft, for example: neither Assassin’s Creed nor Watch Dogs started out perfectly, but Assassin’s Creed showed that a promising IP can result in a truly great follow-up. It’s fair to say Sleeping Dogs is a far better first outing than both of those.
So why not Sleeping Dogs 2?
Let’s look at what Triad Wars is: it’s a free-to-play multiplayer game in which players create their own character and commit crimes while managing their business. The video shown is obviously early on, but it’s concerning that what little we see of on-foot gameplay appears to just be Wei Shen’s animations, so I personally am concerned that we won’t see much new on the combat angle. If the gunplay and the driving aren’t fine-tuned either, then the only thing that will make any kind of difference is the business management… and time will tell if that’s anything more special than what it currently appears to be, which is… manipulating some sliding bars.
Actually, let me take a quick step back. In the video and in a recent reddit AMA, the developers refer to it as an “action-strategy game”; the general summary seems to be you build up your own property and prop it up with defenses and NPCs to support your territory, which can be challenged by other players.
So, it’s… Clash of Clans?
Oh, but Sleeping Dogs had a great, truly cinematic story! If you made a truly great HBO series about an undercover cop in Hong Kong, Sleeping Dogs is what you’d come up with. So, with Triad Wars…
Ah, never mind. “Triad Wars is more about the story you create for your character within the universe of Sleeping Dogs,” which I have a hard time believing means anything but “there isn’t really a main story.” So.
Here’s my point: Sleeping Dogs 2 is the game that players wanted. A free-to-play PC-only APB clone with vaguely-defined RPG mechanics is not. I understand that publisher Square Enix cited the game as a failure alongside Tomb Raider and Hitman: Absolution, and that publishers hear free-to-play and see dollar signs right now. But it’s already up for debate exactly whether or not the game was truly a failure - it was received well, it has a following, it charted rather well, and was the best-selling original game of 2012 in the UK - and it’s hard to argue that there isn’t at least a huge amount of promise for a sequel.
I won’t pretend I can look into a crystal ball and predict Triad Wars’ success or failure, but I think we all know a bad idea when we see one. It’s nice that the developers said they “would love to continue making games in the Sleeping Dogs universe.” Really. But the confirmed game we have is this thing. And I can’t think of too many people who want it.
P.S. One of the developers said “People like two things about Sleeping Dogs: they really love the cop aspect or they really love the crime aspect, so we made this one for the criminals.” I’m not certain they actually listened to what people liked about Sleeping Dogs. And going by that logic, aren’t they cutting out half of what people apparently liked?
Whatever. Maybe I just got too hopeful for Sleeping Dogs 2: Wei Shen vs. The Yakuza.