Discussion The Patient Gamer - Serious Sam: The Second Encounter HD - Seriously Better Than The First Game

GodisanAtheist

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For my thoughts on the Original.

Serious Sam The First Encounter started with a good idea (throw about 100 enemies at you at once) and sort of ran out of steam at the concept phase. The Second Encounter seriously feels more like the game the original should have been, and oddly enough feels like both the successor of the original DOOM games and the predecessor of the more recent 2016 DOOM reboot franchise. Its sort of a missing link in the FPS progression chain that was hijacked by the Half-Life narrative shooter design philosophy in the early 2000s.

By and large, there really isn't much more to say about the second game except for where it really improves on the original and sort of occupies that missing link status:

Level Design - While there are certainly strong traces of the original games "interconnected boxes" level design still present in The Second Encounter, the levels feel a lot more like locations instead of hyper gamified arenas. Oddly enough, the level design feels closest to the newer Doom games, where you have your arena battles, but then you have some corridor platforming/key hunting to do before moving on to the next area. Enemies do come in waves, but there seems to be a better mix of what the game is throwing at you, making weapon juggling a bit more important in order to handle the mix of light/mid/heavy units that spawn in. You tend to encounter the really balls out overwhelming horde of enemy encounters late into each respective campaign as well, so there is less "I have half my weapons and I have to kill 100 Kleers?" situation to deal with. Additionally, the three campaigns are set in distinct areas (Mayan Ruins, Ancient Babylon, and Medieval Gothic) so there is a bit more scenery than the sandy Egyptian deserts of the first game.

Weapons - The game flushes out its weapon options with a handful of solid new offerings that really plug some major gaps in Sam's toolkit. First is the Flamethrower, which seriously helps fill a much needed "high damage, damage over time, short range" category that I didn't even realize this game needed until I got the weapon. It makes low tier mob management way more straightforward than relying on the practically glacial shotgun options which still occupy the role but far less effectively.

Next up is the Sniper Rifle, which HOLY JESUS CHRIST IN HEAVEN the game really benefitted from. Serious Sam's maps are seriously huge, like you could be looking at stuff literally a couple kilometers in the distance. In the original game your only "solid" long distance option was, counter intuitively, your pistols. The Sniper Rifle finally puts some long range stopping power in your hands with an seriously high damage output and a scope to help you reach out and touch your enemies. The gun is balanced by basically being a peashooter while not scoped, and given the nature of the waves of enemies you have to face, it makes a good weapon for thinning the heard while they are still a 1000 feet away but quickly becoming a liability as they begin to overwhelm the weapon's fire rate and close in.

The game gives you a chainsaw in addition to your knife for dealing with enemies up close and personal without having to deal with the seriously slow swings of the knife, but frankly I never found myself low enough on Ammo to really have to use the chainsaw. Additionally, letting most enemies get up close and personal with you long enough for melee weapons to really be effective will guarantee that you have a seriously bad time.

Lastly, you have the Serious Bomb, which is effectively your "get out of jail free" card if you're being overwhelmed by enemies. It essentially kills all spawned enemies in the area and initiates the next wave, giving you a short gap to collect yourself and dig in on some of the more serious encounters. I swear there were some encounters that I was pretty sure would have been impossible to overcome without the bomb, so its utility is without question, but potentially at the expense of level design.

The downside of some of these new weapons (namely flamethrower and sniper rifle) is that they render other weapons sort of useless. After I got the flamethrower, I never really had a good reason to use the shotguns anymore. After I got the sniper rifle, I never touched the Pistols ever again.

Enemies - There are a couple new enemy additions to the game that range from good additions to serious pain in the ass. The best new enemy in the game is Pumpkinhead: basically an alien hick with a chainsaw. These guys promote movement and spatial awareness, and can really throw you off your game if you've gotten seriously complacent circle strafing a horde of Kleers. Like the Werebulls, these guys track you until they go in for their attack run, at which point they can be dodged.

The kind of take em or leave em enemy addition was the new red and blue grunt fodder. Weak enemies with dodgeable weapons, they again are at their best mixed in with a horde to give you something else to think about, but don't really do anything seriously differently than the headless Sirian foot soldiers from the first game.

The biggest pain in the ass addition to the game are the Demons that shoot fireballs. Holy crap screw these guys, seriously. The fireballs will track you, do a ton of damage, and unlike the green fireballs from another enemy cannot be destroyed unless you're using a rocket launcher. They take a serious amount of damage to go down, and are just all around a super aggravating enemy to fight. When they show up more or less expect to lose 50 points of life/armor, cause either they'll be pegging you while you're trying to fight off other stuff or other stuff will be getting hits in while you focus fire on them.

All said and done, if you're interested in the roots of the Serious Sam franchise, start with The Second Encounter. Its simply a better, more entertaining game in every way compared to the original. If you happen to buy The First and Second Encounter together as part of the HD bundle, you get the entire game's first campaign available in the second game as well. Overall I enjoyed my time with Serious Sam, but I am personally done with the franchise and won't be pursuing Serious Sam 2 (The Second Encounter is not actually Serious Sam 2, much to my surprise) or 3 at least in the foreseeable future.

The problem with being the missing link in a gaming genre's lineage is you're neither that original nor that creative, and unfortunately that's where Serious Sam sort of ends up for me at the moment.
 
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Iron Woode

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I don't know, but I really liked the expansion Siberian Mayhem. Great graphics and awesome enemies. Not to mention incredible weapons.
 
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GodisanAtheist

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Yeah I admit it would be interesting to hear from folks that played SS2/3/4/SM. I know @Stg-Flame played SS3 BFE and came away pretty unimpressed, and I've read that SS2 is sort of cartoony compared to SS TFE/TSE.

Does the series evolve or really take any meaningful steps forward or is TSE the high watermark for the series and the rest of it never really does anything new or better?
 

Iron Woode

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Yeah I admit it would be interesting to hear from folks that played SS2/3/4/SM. I know @Stg-Flame played SS3 BFE and came away pretty unimpressed, and I've read that SS2 is sort of cartoony compared to SS TFE/TSE.

Does the series evolve or really take any meaningful steps forward or is TSE the high watermark for the series and the rest of it never really does anything new or better?
It would depend on how you view each game.

I like the first 2 a lot.

SS2 was very strange. Cartoony is a good description. Still has it moments but it's very strange.

SS3:BFE was fun but odd. It was a jarring change from the first 2.

SS4: PBA is a fine, fun game but it has too many cut scenes that go on longer than necessary.

Siberian Mayhem is a lot of fun and blends the old and new better, IMHO. The maps are gigantic even compared to the old maps.

review of Siberian Mayhem:


The newer games look great but the older ones have that old school charm. I do like the enemy AI of the newer games.

I am replaying Siberian Mayhem since the 1.02 patch and I am enjoying the heck out of it.
 
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SAAA

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I sort of lucked out playing the second encounter first, then played the others only long after.

What amazed me back then is how well optimized the game was to run on my older PII 450MHz with a poor video card, it was also amazing to see it hold up very well as textures/effects were decent.
It's sort of a glorified engine showcase indeed, but it felt definitely above the FPS stuff from that era from a technical standpoint, especially map size and render distance, not to talk the amount of entities on screen.

You could define it as an "arcade" FPS, a follow-up of those 2D scrolling shooters were you just blast past anything on the screen... it's oddly satisfying and they got the balance right especially in TSE, the newer games suffer maybe from a bit of time skip and style changes from the first ones.

The newer games look great but the older ones have that old school charm. I do like the enemy AI of the newer games.

I am replaying Siberian Mayhem since the 1.02 patch and I am enjoying the heck out of it.
I have yet to try the Siberian Mayhem but it sounds promising after that comment... will try this easter to squeeze in some playtime.
 

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