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Gameverse | July 12, 2020

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Can Valve’s First “3” Be Portal 3?

Robert Endyo

Nearly nine years ago we were once against tossed into the broken down laboratories of Aperture Science with Portal 2. The game followed up a franchise introduction that practically created the bar for puzzle platforming. Puzzle games, especially those from the first-person perspective, have been chasing that level of quality ever since. So far, only Portal 2 was able to deliver and expand upon the near perfection it delivered.

It’s no mystery that Valve has neglected the revered franchises that made it one of the most popular game developers. Half-Life is only this year getting its first new game since Half-Life 2: Episode 2 released in 2007. Left 4 Dead hasn’t seen a new title since 2009 and there’s little hope of one coming any time soon. Does that leave any chance of getting the third iteration in the Portal franchise?

Gabe Newell “three” memes aside, Portal is one of the few IPs that Valve has seemingly given some effort in maintaining over time. The Lab was one of the first VR experiences Valve pushed out and is probably partially responsible for getting Half-Life: Alyx moving forward. They even licensed the use of the brand to Clockstone Software to create Bridge Constructor Portal. Unlike Half-Life and Left 4 Dead, this franchise has kept a heartbeat for the near-decade since its last full game release.

However, could a return to the test chambers and underground world of Aperture Science still work after the conclusion of the second game? I like to imagine it would be more than reasonable considering the story retcon of the ending of the original Portal to justify the second. Yet it may be interesting to expand from the location to give the same fresh feel Portal did by venturing so far outside of the labs. It would also be nice to get more of that incredible J.K. Simmons powered Cave Johnson performance.

The co-op element of Portal 2 was also one of the best I’ve ever played before or since, so it would be an important thing to bring back. In fact, it was so good that I’d be content if it was the only thing they did in a future game. Would it even be crazy to create DLC for a game nine years later? I’d still buy it. I don’t think I’d be alone in that sentiment considering how positive the perception is for Portal 2.

There is no shortage of unique first-person puzzle games over the past decade. Some were more evocative of Portal than others, but the quality level has varied even more. Lately, I’ve come across some particularly good designs like Superliminal, which didn’t feel like Portal in function but gave me the same sense of wonder and surprise throughout. Games like Lightmatter also seem to follow that exploration of using distorted physical properties to make unexpected gameplay. Some may consider The Witness and The Pedestrian in the same category as well. 

Still, Portal can’t be replaced. Talented individuals can create mods and maps that rival the original designs, but it’s not quite the same. The inclusion of characters like GLaDOS, Wheatley, and Cave Johnson along with that unmistakable attention to detail gave it a spark that can’t be duplicated by your average Joe. Even though Dota 2 is still going strong, VR is growing every day, Dota Underlords is about to release, and Artifact… still exists… room should be made for Portal 3. It may not be Half-Life 3, but nothing ever will be, so let’s have another chance to explore another great (but neglected) Valve franchise.