Many developers have been going darker with the tones of stories lately. It's time we stop asking definitively if this is a good or bad thing and consider the artistic value at hand.
What Portal 3 Needs
It’s no secret that I’m a complete Portal fangirl. There’s something about the series that just wows me each and every time I sit down to play it, be it the writing, the level design, the game’s atmosphere, or the unique conventions that give the game an identity all its own. And while I’m not always the biggest fan of sequels, I’d be lying if I said I never want to return to that universe again…and yes, I’ve thought about it. A lot. So much, in fact, that I have a list of things I’d love to see in a (hopefully eventual) Portal 3.
RETURN OF THE PORTAL DEVICE
Duh. It wouldn’t be Portal without it. The portal device is probably one of the most creative pieces of video game conventions in years, bringing with it a new way of seeing and interacting with the world around you through natural law and an impressive physics engine that never seems to break continuity. The beauty of the portal device and its implementation is its simple, yet effective rule set that is both intuitive and consistent. No matter what happens, you always know your limits with the portal device, and you always know exactly what you can or can not do with it. So please, bring back the portal device in #3 and make me twist my head in a knot as I try to figure out exactly how developers want me to go about solving a chamber.
GO BACK TO APERTURE
…but not as Chell. As much as I like that character, Chell’s story is done, and I’d rather leave it that way. Sure, we don’t know what happened to her after she was set free in a field and the Companion Cube tumbled out the door after her, but I’d rather the entire thing be left to the imagination, anyway.
No, when I say go back to Aperture, I mean go back…way back, to the time when Cave Johnson was alive and well and ran the lab instead of the rogue AI GLaDOS. It was clear during the entire time you bounced around between the old chambers that there’s an obvious story to be told within the walls of the old Aperture, and I’d like to experience it. Maybe as a down-on-my-luck character who’s looking for a bit of money in return for the testing? Or even as one of the “athletes” in “top physical condition” Johnson refers to throughout the game? Either way, it’d be interesting to go through Aperture at its prime, when there’s more than just you and a slew of robots in the building. And a change in timeline and setting could serve to deliver a different feel and aesthetic to the place besides the sterile white walls and sci-fi vibe we’ve gotten from Aperture Labs in the past. Developers have cited before that this was the direction they were headed in with Portal 2, so doing this in 3 would make complete sense and seems totally viable.
If you see a return to the old school Aperture, it’s more than likely that you’ll see more of the bouncy, speed, and portal gels used throughout the old chambers. Which is great, but I’d love to see more gel varieties and even some other new puzzle conventions. I had my doubts with the gels in 2, but found that solving puzzles with them was actually satisfying and intuitive to a degree I had not anticipated. Seeing a return of the old and an introduction of the new would be a welcome mix to a third installment in the series.
Enemies in Portal always seemed a bit lacking. Mostly taking the form of the apology-spewing turrets, you never get a real sense of danger from hostiles throughout the series. Which is fine, but it’d be interesting to mix things up and introduce new enemies that pose a unique set of challenges to players as they move through the test chambers. Maybe ones that move, ones that fire different weapons…I’m no game designer, and I won’t pretend to be. But I’d love to see a new take on enemies to freshen up the puzzle solving a bit.
With Left 4 Dead, Valve has proven that they know their way around co-op. And the co-op puzzles of Portal 2 were challenging and interesting, blending seamless gameplay with inventive puzzles to make for a supremely satisfying experience. While it might not be our robot friends in Portal 3, there’s always a way to figure out cooperative play, and the next installment needs to see another return to it.
RETURN OF THE LEVEL EDITOR
While I don’t have the smarts or the patience to sit down and design my own levels, there was an obvious niche that the Portal 2 level editor filled that needs to return again. As we’ve seen with games like Little Big Planet, user-generated content is an important and desired part of gameplay for many players, and it’d be great to see Portal 3 take this idea and build on it to create an even more seamless and user-friendly experience in level creation and editing.
A RETURN TO GREAT WRITING
Following in the tradition of virtually every other Valve series, Portal is no stranger to great writing. In fact, it’s the writing of Portal that gives it its own distinct dark humor and charm, working magic to create one of the most memorable and interesting universes ever created in a game world. With Portal 3 I have no doubt we’ll see a return to the classic writing style of the previous games. And with a new timeline and opportunities for new character introduction and a new story line, nothing gets me more excited than the potential for another great installment in the Portal series.
Now, before you start throwing the classic “Valve doesn’t make threes” mantra around, bear with me; developers have skirted around the question in the past and have hinted that another installment in the Portal series is a foregone conclusion. It’s an exciting prospect to say the least, and while I’ve tried to nail down a handful of ideas and conventions I’d love to see in the game, there’s nothing more appealing to me than the opportunity to sit down and solve my way through test chambers while chasing an amazing story with brilliant writing. The first two games were some of the most unique gaming experiences I’ve ever had and wowed me in a way unparalleled by any other title I’ve played. Ultimately, all I’m asking of Portal 3 is for it to do that once again.