A pacing problem that occurs when the beginning of a story is so front-loaded with exposition and details about the world contained within, taking forever to get to the good parts and putting all of that exposition to good use. In other words, this is a specific type of Infodump that occurs at the beginning of a story.
This can understandably take a while to get through, and you may well have lost heart before
you manage it. It might be worth sticking around though...quite a few classic stories suffer from this, only to reveal a real classic when the writer finally gets into gear. Or not. Either way, the writer probably doesn't do themselves any favours by boring their reader at the start. As many writers will tell you, the first line of a book will often decide whether it gets published or not.
Sometimes, though, this pacing problemcan be used deliberately. Maybe the writer wants to establish the hero's former life as slow, tedious and mundane before they discover their Secret Legacy. Or, in the case of historical fiction, the writer wants to ensure that the reader doesn't need the Encyclopedia Britannica close to hand to understand what's going on. However, deliberately making the beginning of your story boring is a very risky game; it can take quite a tenacious audience to deal with this and reach the interesting part.
A lot of webcomics demonstrate this, a natural consequence of learning to cartoon, plot, and write by the seat of one's pants.
Compare to Padding, Early Game Hell, Filler, Growing the Beard, Prolonged Prologue, Developing Doomed Characters, and Arc Fatigue. Often goes hand-in-hand with Checkpoint Starvation. Contrast Lost in Medias Res, where a show starts with too little exposition and Ending Fatigue, when it takes forever to end, not start.
Contrast Action Prologue. In Video Games the endgame version is Disappointing Last Level (although a game can suffer from both).
No relation to From Bad to Worse, which is about the events in the story and not the quality thereof. Also not related to the It Gets Better Project, although it is an example. And not to be confused with It Gets Easier, which is about becoming more jaded and accepting of bad things that happen.
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Anime & Manga
The first four episodes of Attack on Titan are somewhat slow, focusing on character interactions and world-building. Once the Titans show up in Episode 5 and all hell breaks loose, though, the show picks up and becomes a much more enjoyable watch. Though this only occurs in the anime; in the manga the author chose to put the training mini-arc after the Trost battle was over, probably because he precisely wanted to avoid this trope. The drawback being that we are introduced to a lot of characters we don't know anything about right off the bat.
There is the possibility that they didn't want to go over material that was already discussed in length in the 2003 anime unless it was absolutely necessary, such as Nina Tucker and Maes Hughes' respective deaths. And in some cases, when Brotherhood did feature material that was seen in the 2003 anime, it was more faithful to the source material, such as the introduction of Izumi and Sig Curtis, which happened much earlier in Brotherhood than it did in the 2003 anime.
Heat Guy J appears to have attempted this, and suffered a Cosmic Deadline. It starts out very slowly, and ends on quite an action-packed note, but many fans dropped off before even making it halfway through.
The first couple episodes of Hunter × Hunter are rather slow-paced and generic. It isn't until later, when the series gets darker, that the story becomes more of an interesting deconstruction of the Shōnen genre
The second Hunter × Hunter anime has been criticized for repeating the same event from the first anime series while ignoring likable parts and even cutting parts from the first manga chapter. However, after 60 episodes the series will cover for the first time the material the first anime never adapted.
The first 50 or so chapters of the manga Katekyo Hitman Reborn! are just there to introduce the characters and the world. It would be easy to think it was a comedy manga instead of the actual high-paced action manga it evolved into.
Monster suffers from a first book/few episodes filled with mustache twirling villains and a protagonist who is a little bit too pure to be interesting. Fortunately the villains become more complex and the series pulls back the focus a bit from the overly pure character for some more interesting ones.
Pacing issues like this are one of the biggest obstacles for new readers of the Mahou Sensei Negima! manga; the first few volumes of the series are a fairly generic Love Hina-ish Unwanted Harem comedy series, and the actual plot doesn't show up until around at least chapter 15, and even then it isn't until around half a dozen volumes in that the series hits its stride.
The official translation makes it worse, as the adapter of the first few volumes didn't realize that the early chapters do contain some important characterization and foreshadowing, so a lot of it ended up getting cut, bordering on a Macekre and making the opening material even weaker.
Rave Master has a slow start and poor artwork at the beginning of the manga. It isn't really until Sieg shows up that the series really kicks into gear, even if he leaves shortly afterward. This leads to the infamous Tower of Din arc, and the story escalates from there.
There are often complaints that roughly the first third of Trigun (the anime) is silly, stupid and episodic, with only vague allusions to the fact that Vash's story is remotely deep or complicated. With the arrival of Nicholas D. Wolfwood (episode 9), Legato Bluesummers and the Gung-Ho Guns (episode 12), the story arc of the series actually begins.
You can read the first couple chapters of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle and then skip around 90 chapters (a little over a third of the manga's run). Story arcs before then have very little to do with the overall larger story, save for a handful of minor events, and can be summed up as "Syaoran and Co. travelled to X world to solve X problem and get a feather".
The first half of the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX was so full of pointless filler duels, it hurts. By the second half of the season, it gets a bit better, and it gets a lot better once season three comes around.
Wedding Peach got a very bad reputation when it first made its way to the West due to this. Animerica magazine slammed the show in its review, although it was clear to anyone acquainted with the series that the reviewer had only seen the first six or seven dubbed episodes. After Jama-P stops being the Monster of the Week every episode due to a Heel-Face Turn and weddings become simply a motif and not the central focus of each episode, the series improves greatly.
Neil Gaiman himself has this opinion on The Sandman. For most of the first volume, he was struggling to get a sense of the characters and the kinds of stories he wanted to do, and also had to deal with an editorial mandate to include characters from the DC Universe which he found very awkward. But when he got to the final issue of that volume, which introduces Death, suddenly everything clicked for him. He still advises people that the first volume isn't really worth it, though many fans disagree.
Scott Pilgrim doesn't play on much of its video game elements until the ending of the first book and from then on through the rest of the series.
Some aspects of Hivefled's early chapters put people off, such as the slow pace, the grimdark tone, and Gamzee's disproportionate actions towards his own friends. The latter is especially the case if they haven't read the prequel "Reprise" and don't know what happened to Gamzee to make him act like that. Once Character Development sets in and the plot kicks off, these issues are usually rectified.
Death Proof could be the ultimate example of the trope. 45 minutes more or less of how The Bechdel Test actually works, for a time, talking about pot, dancing, jobs and everything. Halfway through it, people can walk out... except that after all that, there's a car crash in which everybody dies except Stuntman Mike.
Definitely present in the Best Picture Winner The Deer Hunter, a war film where it takes 45 whole minutes before the heroes even get to the war. Yes, it's kind of the point of the movie to show that war destroys the lives of normal, hard-working Rust Belters, but holy crap, does that wedding scene go on forever.
Dr. Strangelove is fairly pedestrian and slow-paced for the first fifteen-to-twenty minutes, with a couple of good lines, until we get to The War Room and suddenly it becomes hilarious, and stays that way for the rest of the film.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is nearly three hours long. The first 45 minutes are just Blondie and Tuco's shenanigans, with a minor sub-plot involving Angel Eyes searching for a guy who ultimately becomes a plot point. It's only about the 45-minute mark that Blondie and Tuco finally find out about the buried gold and begin searching for it. Strangely, this is a case where this was not only done deliberately, but it works, and even if you get bored by the first part, the main plot just gets better, to the point where the greatest scene in the whole film is saved for the very end.
The film version of The Lord of the Rings takes thirty minutes to just get the hobbits out of the Shire. The extended edition takes almost fifty.
MirrorMask begins with a grand tour of the boredom of circus life, with the only effect on the second and third acts being the audience knows of the main character's mother's condition. There's also all the visual callbacks, extra significance for the I Know You're In There Somewhere Juggling, actual established relationships with the parents... a sense of real-world consequences and the instability of such a life, rendering it all the more precious when threatened and regained...
Dingo's ranting in the deleted scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (the scene is sometimes shown on TV and on the DVD) is interrupted by: The three-headed knight, Dennis, some characters from later in the film (the old man from Scene 24, Tim the Enchanter, and the English army), and God, the latter four entries all just shouting "Get on with it!"
The Pink Panther (1963) begins very slow and moves along like a drama until it somewhat abruptly breaks into the slapstick and chase scenes the series is known for.
The Producers begins with an unnecessarily long sequence where Bloom engages in a lengthy conversation with Bialystock in order to illustrate how slimy Bialystock is followed by an equally lengthy exposition about how the Broadway scam is supposed to work. On the other hand, it has some of the best lines of the movie ("My blanket! MY BABY BLUE BLANKET!").
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World starts off slowly. The first Evil Ex doesn't appear until about 40 minutes in, making it seem like nothing more than some hipster comedy about a dweeb's love life. The idea is to establish how uneventful Scott's life is before his Manic Pixie Dream Girl Ramona shows up and turns everything into chaos. YMMV on its efficacy.
Evident in Stargate and Atlantis The Lost Empire, where not only does it take the expedition ages to discover civilization, but scenes of the team linguist overcoming the language barrier immediately follow, seeming like additional Padding.
Both the ending and the beginning of the horror movie The Strangers: at the beginning we get a text explaining how many American citizens are estimated to be involved in violent crimes a year, a voiceover, in wannabe The Texas Chainsaw Massacre style, explaining what had happened, and shots from the freaking end. And at the end they make it pretty obvious that Kristen is going to let out a huge scream and turn out to be Not Quite Dead.
Them! is a movie about mutated giant ants. Except for the first half hour, where it's a leisurely-paced police procedural set in the New Mexico desert instead.
From the Twilight series: Breaking Dawn Part 2 is, for the most part, a fairly banal and boring affair... until you reach the action climax where the movies suddenly decides to kick all kinds of ass. It's a sight to behold, really.
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is an inversion. The film starts out as decent post-apocalyptic film, then the children appear and the movie is now a painfully silly kid-adventure flick.
An Acceptable Time spent most of its time loafing around the Murrays' home. It isn't until you're most of the way through the book that the events described on the back of the cover actually get around to happening.
George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire can induce this by way of a bit of a bait-and-switch...the opening to the first book has the local equivalent of the Legions of Hell being introduced and then promptly being so relegated to the background for five Doorstoppers and counting in favor of political intrigue and gritty civil war action that despite the subtly rising tide of magical and mystical events and the persistent threat that winter is coming, people think it's the actual focus of the series.
A Tale of Two Cities has some difficulty with this trope: The first 6 chapters are actually very good. Interesting, full of intrigue, likeable characters. Then, after finishing Part 1, (the first 6 chapters), there is Part 2 (the next 24 chapters), which is a long sluggish read setting up for part 3 (the last 15 chapters), which is very good.
The H.P. Lovecraft novella At the Mountains of Madness starts with an unusual take on this - fifty pages of description of how their scientific expedition was meant to go. How it actually went starts around page sixty. He's careful to set this description up so that it works for the book instead of against it, though.
Brave New World: Most of the novel goes into a great deal of detail about cloning and how society works in the future. It takes a while before the main characters even get introduced, then the action begins. Of course, since setting up the dystopia is vital in order to tell a dystopian story, this is an example of Tropes Are Not Bad.
The Casual Vacancy: most of the story is spent establishing characters and seemingly unimportant plot points. It doesn't really pick up until the last 100 pages, with plot points slowly coming together and the last 75 pages throwing everything you had read and thought unimportant in your face.
With regards to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Tasha Robinson's comment about the 1971 film adaptation at the A.V. Club could be applied to the novel and any other adaptation: "Picture a Wizard Of Oz where the Kansas scenes take up half the film." The opening third of the novel is not only busy with Developing Doomed Characters and the Pinball Protagonist but also with establishing the legend of Willy Wonka and the resultant Serious Business of the Golden Ticket contest. Adaptations follow suit, generally not getting to the factory and Willy Wonka himself until the halfway point — luckily, most of this buildup is Played for Laughs, which eases potential tedium, and once the characters are in the factory, the story becomes a briskly-paced lark.
In-universe with The City of Dreaming Books. The protagonist was told repeatedly by his uncle to read the great novel "Ritter Hempel" (Hempel the knight), but gave up after the first fifty or so pages were all about how to clean lances. Only later he learns that everyone else had the same problem, and later in the book there are great and funny scenes, like when the knight loses his glasses in his armor.
Cloud Atlas: The opening of the novel's six stories seems to be a lot of people's least favourite in the book. It may be that the 17th-cenury English makes the section a little less accessible than others, and it may be that it's just a function of being the first section: the reader doesn't understand all the significances within on the first read. It might also suffer from being right next to the Robert Frobisher section, which is a fan favourite.
The Count of Monte Cristo includes long diversions into the backstories of many characters in the first half, eventually integral to the plot but difficult to chew on. Most adaptations break them up over the course of the story.
Similarly, some fans of The Dark Tower find the first book, The Gunslinger, too slow and think that the series doesn't get good until the second book, The Drawing of the Three. On the other hand, an almost equal number love The Gunslinger because it's so contemplative.
Making Money is possibly the only Discworld book to suffer from this. We know he's going to take the position at the bank, it's on the dust-jacket, hell it was foreshadowed at the end of the last book. It is funny at first to see him resisting Vetinari, but eventually you want to shout "Get on with it!" Terry Pratchett himself has said this about Discworld as a whole, claiming that the earlier books were "written by a less talented author". He recommends that new readers bypass some of the Early-Installment Weirdness and start with Mort.
The beginning of Frank Herbert's first Dune book is heavily weighted down with this kind of exposition in the first hundred pages.
The Epic of Gilgamesh has a tendency of repeating entire passages verbatim over and over (for example, one person would speak to the messenger, and the messenger would then deliver the exact same speech again to his master; there's also the very long winded title of Gilgamesh, which would be repeated every time someone uses his name). However, this is more due to a quirk of Mesopotamian oral storytelling style, than bad writing.
It probably sounds a lot better live, in the original language. Beowulf has a similar problem.
The Iliad: The Catalogue of the Ships in the second book is so tedious that it puts some readers off altogether. For the record, it's entirely skippable as it has almost no relevance to the rest of the poem.
Final Cut by Steven Bach has a brief prologue about why he needs to find a new movie for United Artists Studios, then spends over a hundred pages going through the entire history of United Artists before getting back to the studio's slow downfall.
The first chapters of Frankenstein deal with the backstory of the sea captain who met the titular Doctor on his expedition to find the North Pole. If you didn't know that the novel was a Story Within a Story (Within a Story) you would read the opening wondering "What does this have to do with the Monster?"
The Dogs of War is an excellent example, since it's a novel about a coup in Africa that has several chapters devoted to one character's attempt to buy out a "shell corporation". It's so detailed, it was actually used as the blueprint for at least one real coup attempt.
This methodical approach works really well for The Day of the Jackal, being a novel about an elite assassin.
Gone with the Wind is like the Civil War in real time, or it would be had Margaret Mitchell not mucked up the timeline so badly. The book drags at multiple points, but the beginning is especially slow. It takes an awful lot of description about high society life on a rural plantation before we get to any actual fighting. The book is explicitly a view of life in the South before and after the civil war from the civilian point of view. While the war starts a few chapters into the book, the hardships and realities of war start escalating as the book goes on. Life doesn't get much better after the war ends about halfway through the novel either.
The Grapes of Wrath seems to take forever to just get to the Joads, wasting a whole chapter on a freaking turtle crossing a road. Then due to pacing problems of the Joad plot, the chapters about turtles and angry car salesmen with no names end up being the best parts of the book for a lot of people.
All Harry Potter books are like this, but some more than others. The first book takes almost half of its (short) length for Harry to actually get to Hogwarts, the rest being spent on exposition. The fourth also contains several long-winded scenes about the Quidditch World Cup before that happens as well (admittedly they are crucial to the plot, but readers won't know this at first). Halfblood Prince is mostly uneventful with most of it just exposition. Think of it as the prologue to the next book Deathly Hallows as it sets up a lot of key plot points.
Many Harry Turtledove series have over a dozen viewpoint characters, and each book or major section typically starts out with a little vignette for each of them, just to remind you of the position they were in at the end of the previous book. If you're lucky, the end of these sections will feature a big change for the character, or even kill them off if you're even luckier; sometimes it just does not get better.
The Honor Harrington series can be like this, depending on how much you like politics. Each is at least several hundred pages long, and in one instance, a book for which the title and back cover talk all about Honor being captured, said capture doesn't happen until the last 100 or so pages of the book. In War Of Honor, so much time is spent on the politics leading up to the resumption of hostilities that even if you're hoping they somehow avert the war, you may eventually change the tune to "Someone shoot at somebody so something actually happens." It's 450 pages in before a shot is fired, and it isn't even the main conflict.
Much of the first book is spent explaining in excruciating detail just how space travel, artificial gravity, and ship-to-ship combat work in this universe, in addition to explaining the workings of a Royal Manticoran Navy starship, the political complications brought on by the Baselisk System, and of course, setting up the background behind the impending war between the Star Kingdom of Manticore and the Peoples Republic of Haven... which wouldn't start until the third book of the series (the second book had more para bellum posturing, but was much more action-packed).
Several reviewers have commented that beginning of The Host is weaker than the rest of the novel.
Proof that great literature isn't immune to this: Robert Graves' novel I, Claudius begins with a massive history lesson that barely mentions the title character. Still, the history lesson provides enough murder, bloodlust and political conspiracy to tide the viewer over until Claudius introduces himself properly...and then things really get interesting. It might also raise a smile at the end of the book when Claudius (a historian) says that one of the perks of becoming Emperor is that he can make everyone read his history books, and is out and out Lampshaded when Claudius mentions a few dozen pages into the book that he has written several chapters of his autobiography and hasn't quite got up to the point where he is born.
Done again in the sequel Claudius the God where, after having one page describing him being carried off by the army to be declared Emperor, he sees an old friend of his, Herod Agrippa. The next five chapters are devoted to relating Herod's life story up to that point. Though again, the story is entertaining enough to be worth it and the character will be of great importance later on. Notably, the Television Adaptation just starts with Herod.
Jane Eyre is notorious for this, especially among those that read it for a school assignment.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell has this effect on a lot of people - the action doesn't pick up until a good four hundred pages in. That the character of Strange doesn't show up until a quarter of the way through the 1000 page novel is another factor.
A good deal of the beginning of Journey to the Center of the Earth is the heroes' journey from their home in Germany to the Icelandic volcano they want to explore. Except for the acquisition of their third adventurer, nothing of importance happens in all this time and the whole first section can be skipped over without missing anything.
Very common in the Kara no Kyoukai novels; each part in a chapter (and there are many parts in any given chapter) usually has paragraphs interspersed through it focusing on nothing but philosophy and concepts, which even pop up in the middle of a very heated life-and-death battle.
This is actually prevalent throughout Nasu's writing, not just Kara No Kyoukai.
The anime version cuts nearly all of this out, in the process removing any hope of understanding what's going on. Oops.
The Anachronic Order hurts the anime more than the manga, as the first episode's lack of character establishment leaves the otherwise smoothly-animated action sequence without significance or personal investment, then the second's continued lack of explanation as to who the hell these people are make it just as much of a chore. Watching it chronologically presents a much better foundation for the series, though that episode's slow pacing still requires an amount of commitment to reach the climax of it, It Gets Better sooner and stays better longer.
The slice-of-life look at hobbit society in the original novels of The Lord of the Rings has this problem. It takes the Hobbits four chapters just to get from the Shire to Bree. In comparison, the Mines of Moria take up only two chapters, and Frodo and Sam only spend three and a half chapters in Mordor. The improved pacing is one of the places where the film trilogy manages to improve upon the book. Part of that may be because the early parts of the book were still locked in a more episodic format (akin to The Hobbit), and only shifted to a more plot-driven focus later on.
The Silmarillion is even more front-loaded with exposition. Much of this is aimed at literally building the world of Middle-Earth, but several chapters are devoted to the origins of minor figures. In this "History of the Silmarils," it's not until midway through the fifth chapter that the eventual creator of the Silmarils is even introduced.
The central character of Les Misérables doesn't appear until after seventy pages spent introducing a minor character who shortly thereafter disappears from the book. This keeps happening, as when the Battle of Waterloo is described in meticulous detail before returning to the plot, which is why the book is 1200 pages long.
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman could be seen as this when the title character narrator digresses so much that his birth is not even covered until volume 3 of this 9 volume book, but the entire story is a humorous series of anecdotes and digressions.
A common phrase said by fans to new readers of Malazan Book of the Fallen. The first book throws the reader in the deep end without so much as a "can you swim?", with a whole host of characters and events and expects you to run with it. After the first few hundred pages, after the reader has acclimatised themselves, the experience quickly becomes less "Huh-wha?" and more "Ooohh! That's clever."
It's not that the first novel is bad, but it's not anywhere near as well written or complex as the rest of the series. Part of the reason is the author attempting to sell it as a script first, then making a book of it.
Parodied in the novel The Princess Bride; the fictional novel that it "abridges" supposedly has a second chapter involving sixty-six pages of Florinese history. This chapter is left out completely. There's also the referred scene where the abridging author (William Goldman) describes how a visiting princess arrives, unpacks in meticulous detail, is insulted at dinner, and then repacks everything in just as much detail as she unpacked, before leaving and never being seen again. Indeed, the whole premise of the book is that Goldman published the "good parts version" because the original was so very long and tedious.
And in one of the curious fictional autobiographical accounts Goldman has written to go with the various editions, this one tied with the nonexistent sequel, he has Stephen King chastise him for leaving some of this stuff out. Knowing King's style, that's actually remarkably funny.
The Princess of Cleves, a 17th-century French novel, begins with about 40 pages describing King Henri II's court and family in confusing and mind-numbing detail. But most of this is irrelevant to the real story, a simple Love Triangle involving three of the aristocrats.
The Robert W. Chambers story The Repairer of Reputations starts with 2-3 pages of alternate history. If you completely skip it, you won't even notice.
The Return of the Native spends all of the first chapter describing the heath where the story takes place. The whole goddamn chapter.
Ringworld spends quite a while showing the reader why Louis Wu wants to go traveling. Unfortunately the reason he wants to travel is that his life is boring and hollow, something that Niven gets across a bit too effectively.
The opening chapter of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, called "The Custom House," is composed of between 31 and 55 pages of exposition based on which version you're reading. What does this lengthy opening have to do with the book? Nothing. It tells of how a fictional Hawthorne found the fictional documents to write The Scarlet Letter. It's a thematic device that most people just skip over, as it's extremely dry.
It's basically a long list of digs at Hawthorne's former co-workers, along with his complaints about being fired when his party lost the election. Some parts, in particular the description of the General, may have had some satirical value for contemporary readers. For modern readers? Not so much.
The first third of The Skylark of Space is rather low-key. All the action occurs on Earth and is mostly the subterfuge of DuQuesne trying to steal Seaton's technology. Then they finally do get in space, and after a few jaunts to various planets, the Lensman Arms Race eventually comes in full force.
In The Sum of All Fears, a 700 page book, the first 500 pages are devoted to the miserable personal life of the main character. Then the action starts.
In Clear and Present Danger Tom devotes nearly a chapter to the history and exploits of USCGC Panache captain Red Wegener, along with a backstory about a journalist on his ship... and Wegener goes on to play a relatively minor role in the remainder of the book. He gets about five seconds of screen time in the movie (and is played by a woman about 20 years younger than he would have been).
Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series is full of this (except We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea) to the point where, in a hypothetical 100-chapter book, chapters 1-98 would be very... slowly... building up suspense, chapter 99 would be the action, and chapter 100 would be tying up loose ends. (It is especially bad in the one where they are accused of untying boats but didn't, and it's really obvious who did it.) The books are very interesting, however.
That Hideous Strength is a drastic departure from the previous two books. Firstly, it takes place on Earth, and while there are some vaguely supernatural elements introduced early on, the first 100 pages or so are, by and large, devoted to University politics and polite people politely arguing about various intellectual pursuits that seem to be nothing but fluff if you're not paying close attention (much like the CSPAN parodies on The Onion). You'd be forgiven for thinking you got the wrong book, until the second third of the book begins and things start picking up. Of course, you get a sense for where things will be going if you can manage to pay attention.
Tyger Pool by Pauline Fisk uses this deliberately to establish the slowness and gloom suffered by a recently-bereaved family, featuring long monologues by the heroine about her deceased mother and the paralysing gloom that's affected her father. Just when you think the story's not going to go anywhere... it does.
The premise of War and Democide Never Again is that the heroes travel into the past to prevent all the atrocities and wars of the twentieth century. No Time Travel is actually done until halfway through the book, however. Before that, there is more than one hundred and fifty pages of the main character talking about his life before getting involved in the Ancient Conspiracy to travel through time, and reading flashbacks of people's lives in oppressive dictatorships.
Tad Williams loves to take his time. His Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy (the fourth book was so long it had to be cut into two 800 page books for the paperbacks) took 150 pages for the action to start; everything up to that was mystery, backbiting, and intrigue. The entire first book of his Shadowmarch series is intro. The central mystery of his Otherworld series is introduced in he opening chapters of the first book and barely even merits mentioning until it's wrapped up at the end of the fourth doorstopper. The only book he's written that got things going in short time also wrapped up quickly, that being his stand alone novel Tailchaser's Song.
This is a common problem with 18th and 19th Century novels. Because of the wide use of the Literary Agent Hypothesis, many novels start with long, irrelelvant introductions about the literary agent and how he acquired the novel. (The fact that many if not most authors back then were paid by word count probably had something to do with it.)
This occurs in many (though not all) of the works of Michael Crichton. For one hundred or even two hundred pages, he introduces the characters and describes the situation in painstaking detail. On page two hundred, things go wrong and people start dying.
In the case of Jurassic Park, it's several chapters before we even meet the main characters. Crichton states this is because he wanted to set it all up as something of a mystery in the beginning, and to uncover what's going on slowly to the reader. Which is a weird thing to do, considering the title of the book leaves little doubt as to what the reader will find inside. The huge popularity of the films makes it even worse, pushing it pretty firmly into It Was His Sled territory.
Don De Lillo's [[White Noise]] doesn't introduce the plot device "Airborne Toxic Event" until about a hundred pages in. The first segment of the book introduces characters and sets up key themes, and it's both funny and insightful, but there isn't a ton of plot there.
Live Action TV
Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started things off with many episodes with disconnected plot points that failed to grab audiences. Many of the plot points introduced in these episodes become relevant in later episodes and the series really starts hitting its stride when the plot focuses more on Centipede, introduced in the first episode and The Big Bad, The mysterious Clairvoyant, is introduced.
The 24 fanbase expressed annoyance with seasons 3 and 8 because they started off on a weak note. The cluster of subplots, pacing problems, and weak Character Development killed the tension 24 is usually known for. Around the halfway point, the writers finally got a grasp with what they should do, and managed to produce much stronger episodes until the end of their respective seasons.
Subverted in season 7. Although it's a split around whether it started to improve when Jonas Hodges was introduced as the major antagonist or the season was relatively consistent from the beginning, after Hodges was taken out of action and replaced with a much less favored villain, Jack was sidelined for the rest of it and Tony crossed the Moral Event Horizon, up to the finale just about every fan found the remaining part damn near unwatchable and easily some of the worst episodes in the show's run.
Season 4 of Arrested Development starts off pretty slow as it spends most of the first few episodes setting up key plot points that pay off at the end and mostly puts jokes to the side. The whole season should be thought of as a movie with interweaving plots that make much more sense as the story goes on.
Many fans of Babylon 5 lament of how hard it is to get new people into the show. This is because much of the first season is very difficult to get through, being largely episodic and universe-building in nature, to pave the way for later events. And featuring a bland and uninteresting male lead who was replaced in the second season.
For this reason, The Daily Show once introduced a story under the title "Be Patient, This Gets Amazing."
Fringe had a tough time building an audience during its first season, because its earlier episodes resembled The X-Files a little too much, what with its Monster of the Week plots, and its FBI based setting to solve paranormal crimes and/or mysteries. J. J. Abrams helming the show during its early days may have hurt as well (if the reputations of Alias and LOST were anything to go by). As a result, the more Genre Savvy sci-fi fans tuned out before the halfway mark, which was the point when Fringe revealed that those episodes was mere setup for the real plot that has unfolded ever since. At that point, Fringe carved its own identity beyond the X-Files-meets-Lost that stereotyped the show earlier, and never lost its stride from that point onward.
Game of Thrones season one can be aptly described as Prolonged Prologue in TV form. Most of what goes on establish the many protagonists and significant locales that will be heavily involved later in the plot. With the exception of some key moments, most of what unfolds is exposition layered on top of more exposition, with not much plot inertia going on (similar to how The Wire started; see below). This all changes once the big Wham Episode hits in episode nine, which throws the semi-stable equilibrium of the previous episodes into outright chaos, which defines the following episodes, and never relents from that point onward.
After LOST season 3 opened up with an awe inspiring first five minutes, many fans found the first seven episodes to be very frustrating and boring, plus a hasty death that cut off a potentially awesome future to an already great character. Some viewers during the season's original airing jumped ship around this time, which is too bad, because the following episodes were mostly wonderful, and the completely unexpected season endingchanged everything viewers knew about the show.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had similar early growing pains. The writers were riding Next Gen's coat-tails hard early on, with a lot of first-season episodes that had a big "hey, remember this thing from The Next Generation?" hook. It eventually found its feet and had its own story to tell, and did as much to deepen the Trek universe as any other series broadened it.
The first five episodes of The Vampire Diaries are very slow, due to hardly any characters actually being aware of the vampires' existence. Then Elena finds out at the end of episode five, and the show improves considerably.
Delta Goodrem- Believe Again is this, 40 seconds introduction definitely makes it harder for casual listeners to enjoy.
Dream Theater's "Bridges In the Sky" starts with a full minute and a half of synth drones, throat singing, and Eastern instrument effects before the main song starts. It still manages to be awesome.
fun.'s second album, Some Nights has this as the title as one of their songs. However, it is not this trope, as the album starts off with fun.'s recent three singles, all of which have been critically acclaimed.
"Threnody" by Sebasti An is quite possibly the biggest build-up to a bass drop ever: out of a 13 minute song, the build-up is 11 minutes long. Sebasti An has played it live many times before in its entirety, often extending the introduction by ten or more minutes, with hilarious results.
The Yes album Talk is this for fans of their 70's work, since only the last 2 tracks really try to get the "classic sound".
An overwhelming amount of electronic dance music (house, trance, techno, dubstep, etc.) contains intros and/or outros of just the percussion, which are primarily there for DJs to use for mixing. These intros/outros are usually removed for an artist's album and their appearance phases in and out of use based on current trends: as of 2012, many producers are reducing or removing their beat intros altogether.
Songs can have a filler of their own. Often they're near the beginning and can be recognized by an urge to skip forward. The most common examples are video game song remixes.
"Singing Mountain" from Chrono Trigger. A beautiful piece of music preceded by a whole minute of listening to the wind.
There's a lot of Russian folk themes and French martial music snippets before you get to the bit people can hum - with all the artillery and stuff - in the 1812 Overture. (The overture itself is some sixteen minutes long; that famously hummable bit is barely more than two.
Kris Kristofferson's 1970 debut album Kristofferson features his own versions of all his early songs that revolutionized country music songwriting ("Me and Bobby McGee", "Help Me Make It Through The Night" and "Sunday Morning Comin' Down" for starters), but for some odd reason the album opens with the goofy, sarcastic, not-very-country novelty song "Blame It on The Stones".
Dungeons & Dragons up until 4th edition suffered from this: People routinely started campaigns at level 3 because at level 1 there are just so few options and so few player hit points that it's both boring and extremely swingy. Max HP at 1st level was a common house rule (and became an official rule with 3rd edition).
This is one of the major things Wizards of the Coast tried to fix in 4th Edition. It didn't really work: combat at level one is no longer as swingy but, for the lack of abilities, still boring; and some of the Unpleasable Fanbase want the thrill of low-level danger back.
The big problem is that after the first time you play, the simplicity of low level characters is boring, and the first time you play, the complexity of first level characters is confusing. Dungeons & Dragons after second edition became an extremely complicated game from the get-go, making the low level tutorial mode futile - a first level character is STILL too complicated for a first time RPer.
The first part of the prologue of Götterdämmerung, with the Norns, is 15 minutes of pure exposition.
Considering the entire opera cycle is about twenty (yes, twenty) hours long, it's not as though they don't have the time.
The first two thirds of Our Town consists of a mind-numbingly detailed portrait of completely average small-town life. Of course, that's part of the point the author is trying to make.
Ace Attorney games can sometimes be like this, depending on which game you are playing. The cases can be a bit slow, the characters may not be particularly interesting (or you may not know who they are, if you play a later installment first), and the plot within the case may be a bit uninteresting (Justice for All starts off with Phoenix Wright getting freaking amnesia!) The first two Phoenix Wright games, as well as Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth are particularly notable, as you know who committed the murder for each of their first cases after their opening cutscenes.
It's a fairly standard behavior for fans of Animal Crossing to wax annoyed at various qualities of the Justified Tutorial. Either it's too long, it's too repetitive, or it really ought to be skippable.
Alpha Protocol starts off rather poorly; A combination of crappy skills and weaponry makes combat a chore early on, and the missions in Saudi Arabia are pretty boring for the most part. The game opens up immensely by the time your given free reign to choose your missions.
Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura. Coming off the crashed blimp, you have barely any money to buy your starting equipment, and your skills are lacking. It's hard to say at what point the game manages to pick-up, but you'll just suddenly realize that it did.
The most common complaint is "The wolves at the start of the game are too difficult, I quit." Hint: buy a boomerang.
Or, you know, skip fighting the wolves ...
Assassin's Creed I takes a good hour and a half to get to your first real mission. That's if you're quick.
Assassin's Creed III spends the first three sequences setting up the plot with a completely different character and doesn't really open up until the 6th sequence about seven to ten hours in.
Baldur's Gate is extremely unforgiving to begin with, as you are at level one (see the D&D entry above) and have barely any HP, combat ability (whether you are a fighter, mage or other class) or special abilities (where applicable). You can only really start to actually do anything interesting without being slaughtered after gaining a couple of levels, half-decent equipment and a party.
Baldur's Gate II has a much more forgiving opening area. For a start, there's the fact that being a direct successor means you actually have some skills and are tougher than a wounded puppy this time around (and you can actually import your character from the first game). However, the opening dungeon becomes extremely obnoxious and boring for many after the first trip or two through it, let alone if you like making new character builds. Mods have been made that allow you to skip it entirely while still taking everything of note, including experience.
The fans refer to the dungeon as "Chateau Irenicus".
Icewind Dale has a similar start. Thankfully, there are some moderately challenging sidequests in the first town to get experience. Going on to fight the first goblins will probably get you killed, especially your squishy wizard, with his 4 hitpoints and one spell (two if you have maxed Intelligence).
Invoked in the 2004 PS2 and Xbox release of The Bard's Tale, where an extremely talkative Viking explains at length how he got into the situation he's in. The Bard himself can choose to shut him up before he finishes, but doing this denies the Bard a useful trinket a little later on.
Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean gets off to a rocky start. The card-based battle system is something that you really have to experiment with to master; even if you read the manual cover to cover, you'll still spend the first few battles just pushing buttons. Just to add to that, you spend most of Sadal Suud with nobody but Kalas in your party, which slows battles against even the weakest enemies to a crawl. Finally, to top the whole thing off, there's little to no strategy involved; most of your weapons are simple nonelemental swords with only one spirit number, reducing battles to little more than hitting the enemies over and over. It's probably intended to ease players into the system, but it makes the whole thing feel clunky and tedious.
Origins, meanwhile, suffers from an underwhelming first half. The gameplay is enjoyable, but, story-wise, all the major villains can't die yet, so you lose a lot of boss battles. A lot. Sagi becomes a borderline Failure Hero just because he's so ineffective at getting things done. It's not until the Heart-to-Heart scene that Sagi becomes anything more than a thorn in the Big Bad's side.
The first BloodRayne game began with several levels in an ugly brown swampy area, fighting zombies and spiders. It's only after you slog through this that you get to the real business of slaughtering Nazis. Thankfully in subsequent playthroughs you can skip the swamps entirely.
Cave Story can make a bad first impression, thrusting you into a confusing web of a plot with underwhelming weapons, tricky controls, and tiresome fetch quests. By the time you reach the Labyrinth, you're pretty much done with the fetch quests, you have some excellent weapons, and you're finally starting to get a bearing on the plot.
The Civilization games (including member in spiritSid Meier’s Alpha Centauri) start off quite slow: you have only one city, it takes ages for anything to get done, and there's miles and miles of empty space between you and the next civilization/faction over (usually). However, the game gets increasingly engrossing (and time-consuming) as world civilization gets more and more complex, and your rivals develop a unique character.
In Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, the first few levels where the player is confined to using painfully inaccurate ranged weapons are painful to get through. However, upon obtaining a lightsaber and gaining Force powers the game becomes primary example of how fraggin' cool it is to be a Jedi. Also, as ammo and health are limited and stormtroopers have taken about sixteen levels in badass. It's awesome. And you will spend a lot of time weeping bitter tears as you can't get through one room with four guys—again, no matter how worth it you know it will be when you can literally stand in front of an entire army and not touch a button and win.
Unfortunately, the first couple hours of Deadly Premonition are probably its weakest. It start with a combat section, which are all uniformly clunky and tedious, and it's not until you run the first few objectives and the sandbox-esque town of Greenvale opens up that the game REALLY gets interesting.
The first level of Deus Ex was this for many people; it essentially throws you to the wolves and is extremely difficult if you don't yet get how the overall gameplay and systems of the game work yet. On the other hand, it grows on many people in subsequent playthroughs for this reason too (as it doesn't really compromise too much on what works so well in the game). It's also thematically appropriate, as several characters note that the mission is pretty much a test of JC's capabilities, and if you complete it at all most people will be deeply impressed and say things like, "Who's awesome? You're awesome."
The first Devil May Cry game started by forcing you to jump around the lifeless opening foyer of a mansion and find 45 red orbs to unlock a door before meeting your first mook.
Divine Divinity is a perfect example of this. Long, linear dungeon crawl to begin with, takes at least several hours to get through before you get to the heavily nonlinear and somewhat less combat-intensive main part of the game, which has heaps of interesting quests and whatnot. Technically it's possible to skip the dungeon but sucks somewhat because pretty much every other enemy around is well too tough at level 1.
Dragon Quest VII may have the longest Start-to-Slime time in video game history. The game sets itself up nicely in the beginning for the time-travel/world-hopping main storyline, but it takes two freakin' hours before the party encounters its first monster.
The reaction your hero's friends have to this first battle may be a bit of Lampshade Hanging; Kiefer's so excited he breaks into insane laughter, while Maribel is... less than pleased.
The game also starts to get real fun when you reach Dhama Temple and the Job System kicks in, which is about 30 hours later. Before that the fights are still pretty boring.
For people used to modern RP Gs, the Updated Re-release versions of Dragon Quest games can be this. The only way to know how far your character is from the next level is to head to the local Save Point, combat is brutal on lower levels, and depending on the game, there may be few ways to regenerate magic outside of towns. Even the newer games like IX suffer from these due to the Grandfather Clause.
The first Dragon Quest Monsters on the Gameboy Color, while superior to its spawn in almost every other way, suffers from a lot of dull text at the start, as you're forced to wander around a Noob Cave with monsters that don't have much in the way of usable skills, then do another mediocre dungeon, before you can finally start using the customization that makes the game so awesome. The DS game suffers a little from this, but the period is much shorter.
Dwarf Fortress sort of fits this, though in an odd way. It would be more accurate to say the player gets better. Simply, Dwarf Fortress is so complex that anyone new to the game simply doesn't deserve to enjoy it yet. But once you figure out how to dig and build, you'll start enjoying the game. Then you can begin to scale that difficulty cliff, which provides you with an ever increasing view of awesome that by the time you reach the top you feel you deserve every bit of fun you now get... until you realize you just climbed up the side of a volcano and... well... anyone who's gotten to this point knows where I am going with this. Remember, Losing Is Fun.
EarthBound starts you out with one party member, rendering any strategy beyond 'hit and get hit' nonexistant. Also, the game gives you little room for error; this isn't too much of a problem in Onett, but Peaceful Rest Valley can be a nightmare even with the help of the rolling HP meter. After Paula joins and levels up enough for her tremendous speed and magical powers to start showing, the game gets much better.
The prequel, MOTHER, will be rather tedious at times, especially since this is the only game of the series with Random Encounters. But as soon as you first enter Magicant, the game gets a little better.
The sequel, MOTHER 3, does this as well. The first three chapters cover three very important days. While they may be excellent as far as the story goes, the gameplay suffers somewhat, especially during Chapter 3. After the Time Skip, however, you get control of Lucas and Boney, and the gameplay becomes much more enjoyable, especially after getting your Psychic Powers.
A lot of people dislike the tutorial level of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, as it consists of a (dull) cave which they must play through before they can start the game proper. Considering one of the biggest selling points for the game when it was released were the beautiful outdoor landscapes, it was particularly stupid to set the tutorial entirely inside a stuffy dungeon.
The intros to both Arena and Daggerfall were similarly boring traps that the player must escape before they're free in the Sandbox. The tutorial beginning of Morrowind received complaints and made mods as work-arounds, but weren't nearly as bad as the others or Fallout 3 described above. Morrowind also got the complaint that its tutorial is virtually non-existent, making the game too difficult to start. Bethesda has yet to find the sweet spot, it seems.
Skyrim manages to briefly show off the main attractions—impressive landscapes and dragons—during the introduction. The dragonborn gets hauled across the landscape, then sent to the executioner's block, then rescued by a dragon... and after that the tutorial starts. Which is mostly a Dungeon Crawler, again. In short, it takes a while to get to the sandbox mode. It gets quite boring when one wants to start again with another race/gender.
Also in Skyrim, while the player gets free reign to explore after the tutorial dungeon, if you want to use the Shouts you still have some tedium ahead of you. You need to go from Riverwood, to Whiterun, to a dungeon near Riverwood (Although you can clear the dungeon before heading to Whiterun, since you can get a sidequest from the merchant in Riverwood that'll take you through it), back to Whiterun, then go kill your first dragon, then report back to the Jarl and get told to go see the Greybeards.
Eversion seems like a Sugar Bowl Mario-clone platformer at first, but after a few levels, you need to figure out how to "evert" in order to solve the puzzles, and it becomes very... interesting, to say the least.
Fallout 3 takes at least a half-hour to get going, as you're forced through an extended character creation/exposition bit that, for all its attempted immersion, even one of the characters admits is a joke right before he offers to change your stats for you.
Fallout: New Vegas, by contrast, has an extremely quick tutorial, but afterwards it does quite a bit of Railroading, mostly by throwing Beef Gates up everywhere. It opens up once you either get to Vegas or find enough Disc One Nuke equipment to deal with the Cazadores.
In Fallout 2, you begin with little money and poor equipment, and typically fight repetitive melee battles against scorpions. The more interesting gun battles against gun-wielding soldiers and powerful mutants of the wastelands start coming in The Den, and get more interesting as the game goes on.
That's not even the worst of it - due to Executive Meddling, the very first thing you do in the game is travel through the Temple of Trials, a tutorial that makes absolutely no sense and even contradicts the main story in having this incredibly elaborate temple only used for worthiness-testing next to your dirt-poor village. Then the trial features a scrap against another member of your tribe to prove your worthiness - using your fists. Difficult if you've specced for guns during setup or worse gone for certain diplomacy traits, unless you use an oddball way around it, since The Dev Team Thinks of Everything.
System Shock 2 has a similar character setup - you start the game in the moment you enroll with TriOptimum. You go through the basic training (three simple and very quick tutorials) and then through three years of training. It averts the trope however, since it is very quick, especially if you want it to be quick. It works well as part of the intro - establishing your character, while the FMV-intro establishes the setting of the game.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance opens with a very long intro, then a tutorial battle comprising schoolyard children having a snowball fight, then more exposition before finally getting to the game.
The original Final Fantasy Tactics suffers too. During the first battle, only Ramza is controllable, and there's like, 10 other AI controlled units, so you'd have to wait and watch until your turn comes up. Plus, the first chapter of the game is pretty slow-paced. (But its so hard that you probably won't even notice.)
The first twenty levels of your first character in Final Fantasy XI are painful, as the game drops you in your hometown with absolutely no instruction about how to do anything. They're by far the hardest, most frustrating, most unintuitive, grindtastic levels you will ever play in the entire game.
Sweet lord, Final Fantasy XIII. It dumps you straight into a plot-in-progress with no real clue as to what's going on, who these characters are, and what they're trying to do. On the subject of characters, most of them don't make a good first impression, so you're likely to spend a while hating at least one or two of them. Gameplay-wise, the crystarium and paradigm systems are completely absent, leaving you with nothing to do but use the Auto-Battle command every turn, and maybe an item here or there to mix it up a bit. It's not until the Anima fight that the gameplay gets interesting. On the bright side, it's all uphill from there.
The first level in Forbidden Siren was called "easily the worst level in the entire game" by one website.
Gabriel Knight suffers from this for those not interested in backstory, historical minutiae, and/or drawn-out interview processes, especially when controlling Grace. Each of the three games takes about half the game for the action to pick up, which is good when it does, but until then it's jarring.
Golden Sun: The Lost Age starts out feeling like a rehash of the first game, up until about a quarter of the way through, when you get the ship. Then, the game opens up a great deal.
Even if you know exactly where to go and what to do, many players will feel like they are trudging through nothing but mundane fetch quests and crossing one side of a continent to another for the plot while wading though Random Encounters up the ass. It isn't until after discovering the true nature of the Lighthouses in Lumeria and then going to the far west to tackle the Jupiter Lighthouse is when the game starts to pick up.
While the prologue of Half-Life 2 is well liked, the first "real" gameplay sequence in the canals/Airboat before getting the gravity gun is considered a drudge by a lot of people.
Subvert-able though, as when selecting "New Game", you can choose to begin on any chapter you've already played to, allowing you to skip to Ravenholm, which is just after the Gravity Gun tutorial, and the point at which the game starts to get really good. That is also one of the two chapters playable in the demo.
Hamtaro Ham Ham Heartbreak starts of with Hamtaro, who has to look for Bijou (who will join him permanently) and save Oxnard and Pepper's relationship. It's somewhat uninteresting until Bijou joins you and the relationship between Oxnard and Pepper is fixed, and then you meet Spat, but it's when you meet Harmony that the game will hit its stride.
Heavy Rain: The intent of the opening sequence playing Ethan Mars And His Idyllic Home Life is to familiarize yourself with the Quick Time Events and make you care about Ethan...but lots of people found it incredibly boring.
Hey You, Pikachu! gets off to a weak start, mainly because you can't look away from your Pika-pal until he comes to live with you. Once you get full camera controls, the game opens up nicely.
Infinite Undiscovery was (rightly) criticized for its obnoxious opening hour. It starts with the player running up a long series of cut and pasted stairs, being chased by an invincible boss, proceeds into a ridiculously long and mostly pitch black forest full of enemies, all with only two characters and about as many health items. After the forest, the player gets a proper party... controlled by the AI, with the only player-controlled character being unable to attack, being required to carry another character to a nearby town. Fortunately, it picks up immediately afterwards.
Izuna. While the games are a Nintendo Harddungeon crawler, the first game has a long text introduction followed by a boring dungeon where you get few items and die in a couple of hits. The 2nd game is better for this, but still has a lot of text at the start.
killer7 has an extremely slow start, with the introductory level throwing you straight into the action without a word of explaination, and only offering bits and pieces of exposition during the incredibly long second level...but as soon as you reach the Cloudman chapter and meet Andrei Ulmeyda, the game picks up instantly.
Kingdom Hearts II. You go through a three hour prologue/tutorial playing as somebody who is not even the main character and whose story only even gets cursory mention throughout the rest of the game until the very end. Even within this three hours, you get five to ten minutes of really cool stuff set between a half hour of slow, boring, let's check around town stuff.
Even in the original Kingdom Hearts, the plot doesn't kick in until you reach Traverse Town, which happens after roughly an hour—maybe two—of play. But this is much better paced than its sequel.
Knights of the Old Republic, both the first game and its sequel, have less than stellar opening levels that take a long time to complete and have a severely limited Jedi experience. It's only when planet selection is available that the games really pick up.
La-Mulana starts off with a horribly weak character armed with a single clumsy weapon in a jungle full of irritating enemies and unclear puzzles, all while fighting tricky Jump Physics and trying to figure out where to go. However, this has less to do with pacing problems and more to do with the developers' stated desire to weed out anyone who doesn't have the patience to put up with the steep learning curve. It picks up after you get the grail (which makes dying very unlikely outside of boss battles) and the glyph reader (which gives you a chance to start working on most of the puzzles). By that point, you've probably got some bearing on the general logic the game runs on and have gotten the hang of the control system.
The Last Remnant has an extremely complex battle system that takes a lot of patience to understand, much less master. There's also the really long, unskippable cut scenes...but, once you understand the fights enough so that you're not just pushing buttons, it gets good. It should be noted that the PC version makes the cutscenes skippable and somewhat streamlines the battle system, though it is still quite bewildering starting out.
Laura Bow: The Dagger of Amon Ra doesn't actually get interesting until after you make it to the museum. Before that it's a bunch of gathering information, gathering items because you've conveniently lost all of your stuff and somehow don't have a press pass, money, or a dress to wear to this party you've been hired to go to write a story on, and you have to take the taxi from place to place, watching the same unnecessarily long, unskippable transition clip every single time you do. But then the game actually starts to get interesting.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess forces you to go through a ton of tutorial-style content before you get to the actual game. From the start of the game, it is roughly five hours before players enter the first dungeon, several hours more before they gain access to Hyrule Field, and far longer still before they can explore it in its entirety. Included in the tutorials is learning how to fish, usually completely optional. Then after you catch something, you need to find out how to drop it so that the cat takes off with it.
The Wind Waker does the same thing. You start out in a tiny island with no weapons, and once you finally get your sword and shield and you head off to rescue your sister, you lose your equipment and have to spend about an hour doing a Stealth-Based Mission before you finally get your stuff back, and then you have to spend ten minutes sailing to the next town. By the time you actually start the first real dungeon, you're at least two hours into the game.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks parodies the trope. It starts out with a big chunk of back-story, told with text and still pictures, just like the beginning of The Wind Waker. Once it ends, we see that Link got bored and fell asleep while an old man was telling the story.
Mass Effect: the first game opens with a short exposition onboard the Normandy starship, followed by the "dungeon" mission on Eden Prime which serves as a combat tutorial, then more exposition, which is followed by your arrival to the game's major town, the maze-like Citadel, which is full of even more exposition and fetch quests with a few action scenes before finally opening up when they give you the Normandy to explore the galaxy. The sequel in contrast opens with an action-packed dungeon nowhere near as long as Eden Prime, followed by a short exposition, then another action-packed dungeon, and then an even shorter exposition before opening up. On the other hand, given that half the reason for playing BioWare games is to experience the worlds they've created, some players might enjoy the exposition.
Metal Gear Solid can start off slow, stiff and exposition-heavy for some... until the scope of the plot and narrative slowly build up, hitting a spike at the Psycho Mantis battle, culminating into an explosive, emotional climax that few games can compare to.
Additional credit goes to Dark Aether prior to defeating Amorbis. Without the Dark Suit, gameplay is reduced to darting from beacon to beacon while defeating persistent enemies, and exploration of the nonlinear worlds (the core of Metroid's gameplay) is effectively punished. Dark Aether isn't meant to be safe by any definition, but it's only later that taking risks becomes a genuine option.
Corruption has this too—the Olympus and Norion are very generic Federation areas (though the Ridley fight is good), and Bryyo is very linear and with some annoying level design and tasks. Once you beat Mogenar, you're off to Elysia, a stunning steampunk world with tramlines to grapple across, more exciting upgrades, and it gets a bit more open at this point too.
Hell, the first game suffers from this as well; the derelict frigate is kinda cool, but then you lose everything, including the Charge Beam, leaving spamming the Power Beam (read: constantButton Mashing) your main attack until you get it back, which is a borderline Guide Dang It if you're new to the series and haven't gotten used to the exploration-based gameplay. At least Echoes had the kindness to leave you that.
Let's just go ahead and say this trope is the reason Metroidvania games exist. You start out as a horribly weak character, fighting against irritating enemies, and by the end of the game you're an ungodly powerful killing machine that can buzzsaw through even the toughest enemies.
Monster Hunter games games start out slow, but once you get used to the controls and the craft/shop system then anyone can really pick up to fighting monsters that are challenging, colorful, and entertaining, with resulting weapons follow suit. In particular, Freedom Unite has a set of tutorial missions that can take a day or more to get through. After you actually start getting rewarded for your effort, however, it picks up nicely, even though there's no plot beyond the premise. It goes a lot faster with friends.
This is one of the reasons Act I of Neverwinter Nights 2 tends to get flak from some players, particularly those mainly interested in the story. You travel through two quest hubs, several scripted encounters, and lots of ultimately irrelevant sidequests before you finally get to Neverwinter—at which point you get even more irrelevant sidequests before finally getting a chance to continue with the main plot.
Oh No! More Lemmings begins with the Tame levels — twenty levels of various terrain formations, with all skills available and no hazards, so there is no difficulty whatever, and not much fun either.
Ōkami has a long, unskippable, if beautifully drawn, introduction detailing the historical battle between Nagi, Shiranui and Orochi. If the player started the game only after letting the "attract loop" play, which illustrated the exact same story slightly differently, it seemed to go on for a very very long time.
Speaking of Paper Mario games, the third one, Super Paper Mario, can feel a bit slow at first. Then the game gets interesting—when Peach joins, when Bowser joins, when Sammer's Kingdom is destroyed, etc.
Persona 4 is an odd case in that it just can't help but justify the Anthropic Principle. You know as soon as you discover the TV world that you're going to wind up going to it and fighting monsters, but the characters react realistically rather than simply rushing in, with the result that gameplay doesn't fully open up until about three hours in.
In the Pokémon franchise, it's annoyingly tedious to be shown how to catch Pokémon at the beginning of every game. Especially bad in a few of the games, where it's possible to catch a full, six-mon party of Pokémon before you receive this tutorial.
Some people say that the most boring part of every single Pokémon game is the first few towns until the first gym battle. You knew everything that happens there years before the game was even made.
There isn't any interactivity at all for the first hour or so of Princess Waltz. The first time you do anything other than click through dialogue is the battle at the end of Chapter Two... which promptly introduces you to the simple yet intricate card-battle system, at which point your interest gets reignited.
Retro Game Challenge opens up with the earliest, simplest game in the collection: Cosmic Gate. If you happen to not be a fan of Galaga then you're in for a bit of a bad time.
Rune: After the perfectly serviceable tutorial, you and your allies are killed at sea. Your body then sinks so far Down the Drain that you end up in a network of boring underwater caves and ruins under the underworld before ol' Odin decides to revive you, which are filled with boring enemies like crabs, anenomes and jellyfish (with occasional goblins, but they're very rare.) On your way to the surface, you then have to pass through Helheim, which is full of almost nothing but boring zombies. Finally, you get to the "land of the living", and the game gets vastly better from there on in. The intro is bad enough that it was probably partially responsible for the game's obscurity.
Serious Sam III: BFE starts out rather slowly with most of the enemies coming one by one. A pistol and a single shotgun are your only ranged ranged weapons near the beginning. Taking cover is also necessary despite what the game's slogan is due to a lot of enemies having hitscan weapons. Near the end of the third level, first big battles start to happen and the pace of the game picks up a lot. After that it gradually builds up.
The lack of ranged weapons can be averted through finding secrets. Find the right ones and by the time you reach those first big battles you already have both shotguns, an assault rifle, and the laser gun; this still leaves you with little ammo for them until the point you normally acquire them, though.
The Westopolis stage is one of the worst opening stages in the entire Sonic franchise and probably helped lower the already rock-bottom public opinion of Shadow the Hedgehog. It exposes many of the game's flaws; the game starts becoming considerably more fun around the halfway point when better weapons deal with the targeting system's flaws when in close range.
Even worse: in order to get the final ending of the game and face the True Final Boss, you have to get the game's ten normal endings. That means you have to play through Westopolis ten times.
SimCity is all about this trope; starting off small can be rather boring for some, but this is also where you can make a lot of mistakes by expanding a city too quickly and going bankrupt or get into bad development habits. Particularly after the first, when you have to lay out a lot more to expand at all. Luckily, you can dive into working with an existing metropolis in all of the games, though you might have to turn disasters off in some scenarios.
However, Sim City 4 takes this to the extreme in the sense that they offer the regions of San Fransisco, New York City, and a generic "Fairview" as being completely empty, as in not one town to get you started, let alone your own custom regions start off blank. It can be frustrating to get the first few towns to grow, but after you get the regional population over 150,000, getting other cities to grow actually becomes incredibly easier and more strategically challenging as opposed to being pure frustration.
The Game Gear Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is very different from the Megadrive/Genesis Sonic 2. Notably some genius decided to put perhaps the hardest boss (FAR harder than ANYTHING in a Genesis Sonic game) in any Sonic game ever as THE FIRST BOSS.
Note that this is entirely because of the reduced screen size on the Game Gear; the game was ported from the Master System version, which is designed for a TV and is considerably easier because of it.
Underground is a bad level to start on anyway—it's boring and very cheap. Then again, that game has major Schizophrenic Difficulty issues...
Sonic and the Black Knight isn't much better, although it's more tolerable at first, and gets much better by the end. It has less to do with gaining abilities and more to do with the player learning what to do combined with bad level design for the first couple stages. Right around Molten Mine, the game picks up significantly.
The first hour or so of Star Ocean 3 consist almost entirely of "run to this place, talk to this person, repeat." There's only two battles during the entire opening, and one is a tutorial.
Star Ruler. At the start your industry is poor, your ships are short-legged, slow, weak and don't carry much ammo, early-game rushes are nearly impossible. It's only after some tech buildup that you can start making war in earnest.
Star Wars: The Old Republic has a lot of this, especially on the Republic Classes, and doubly so on the Jedi Consular. The Consular's first act is hunting down Jedi Masters afflicted with a Dark Side plague, and is pretty much a Fetch Quest. But then we get to Alderaan, where the last Jedi Master is negotiating with the squabbling noble houses (and under the Dark side plague, making the civil war worse). The Consular, either way, shows up and forces a peace among those haughty nobles, establishing them as a first-rate Ambadassador and setting into motion the events of Acts 2 and 3.
The Suikoden series can take varying amounts of time to get to the best parts of the game, but Suikoden V is the real offender as far as this trope goes - it takes a good 10-15 hours (as in, probably the better part of a real life day) to get past the initial go to various towns, talk to various people, see cutscenes, and okay, we'll let you fight a *few*battles here and there stage to where the game starts opening up, letting you get your base and actually starting to explore, recruit, and really get into the actual game. But once you do get past that, it's actually probably the best Suikoden game other than the revered "Suikoden 2".
Super Robot Wars Original Generation starts you off with one or two Gespensts (mass-produced units with only a handful of abilities) and maybe a fighter plane or two. It isn't until the cooler unique prototypes that it gets really interesting.
Kyosuke's route isn't too bad though, as you get quickly several unique units and even some Super Robots. Ryusei's, in the other hand...
The first ten hours of Tales of the Abyss can be a real drag since the main character Luke is an unlikable Jerk Ass and the plot is fairly typical. Even worse is how expensive weapon and armor is, so every time you get a new character you have to waste a lot of time running around fighting monsters because you will not have enough money. But eventually you get all your characters geared up, Luke has a Heel Realization moment, and the first traditional Tales plot twist happens, making the story actually interesting.
This is more or less endemic to the entire Tales Series, considering one of their unifying aspects is that they start off with formulaic, overdone RPG cliches and then switch it up and confound the player's expectations about halfway through. Problem is, they're usually very, very long games, so halfway through is a long ways off from the beginning.
Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World: You start off with a long unskippable cutscene, and the first chapter is essentially one long, long unskippable tutorial on how to play. Even on New Game+. It really doesn't help that this is the first of many chapters where the "Courage is the magic that turns dreams into reality" line is really overused.
Toribash starts off rather awkward and clumsy. There's a tutorial in the game, but a lot of players starting tend to only learn the most basic of moves, or just blindly enter inputs... then, as understanding of the physics, timing, tolerances, and power available sets in, players can start pulling off more impressive maneuvers, and by then even the basic default settings will allow for some rather spectacular (or spectacularly gruesome) feats.
Whenever you recruit a new character, Valkyrie Profile gives you an unskippable cutscene detailing his or her backstory. Some are good, some just have you mashing the X button in the irrational hope that it will do something. Notably, the intro to the entire game- which has to introduce the main character AND her first two companions- takes nearly fifty minutes. And there's also a prologue cutscene that plays if you leave the game on the title screen without pressing start for a while, sets up a plot twist later on, and is almost as long.
The first stage of Wai Wai World 2 is a slow, boring autoscroller that seemingly takes forever to end. Thankfully, the game gets more exciting the minute the second stage starts.
The Witcher certainly has this issue. While the Prologue might not seem that bad to first-time players, Chapter I probably will. The slow learning curve, slower pace, fair amount of backtracking and seemingly side-tracked plot ended up putting off some gamers - most notably Yahtzee. However, things get better in the next chapter, which is when the player's abilities start to diversify and the main story starts to pick up.
The Witcher 2 had a similar problem due to it's inverse difficulty curve and barely-present tutorial. Some players Rage Quit the game after failing to beat the first encounter with enemy mooks. However, once you get a hang of the way the combat works and get some levels to unlock more abilities, it turns into a very rewarding experience.
The early levels of World of Warcraft can be boring if you're not playing for the first time. You have only one or two skills and no talent points yet.
Especially the low level Barrens for the Horde. The zone is as exciting as it sounds, and it's extremely big, with plenty of quests that have you scour large areas to find those elusive kodos that just don't drop quest items as often as they should. Even one of the quest NPCs is constantly moving. And ganked repeatedly by the Alliance.
Enormous areas of the game were made this when an expansion came out. Azeroth, the original two continents, were nearly totally abandoned when the Burning Crusade came out and everybody went to Outland. Only low levels and bank alts were left. Then the Wrath of the Lich King came out, and Outland was abandoned.
Blizzard actually acknowledges the issue and throughout the second expansion was constantly improving it. They have cut the amount of experience needed for levels 1-60 several times, added XP gain in battlegrounds, introduced the whole new system for random dungeons which made it far easier to gather a party for them, and gives more loot and finally added several moderately challenging dungeons which awarded loot on par with lower level of previous raid tier. While the last addition removed the need for new players to farm several tiers of raids to finally get into actual content, it got hit with It's Easy, so It Sucks.
Cataclysm takes it a step further. Most of the classic zones have been redesigned (the Barrens for example were split into two more manageable zones), the talent trees are completely revamped (and now give you first Signature Move for a chosen specialisation at level 10 instead of around 30), dungeons are readjusted for new level ranges, etc. It is very awesome.
The developmental league in WWE Day of Reckoning's story mode. There's no storyline or anything interesting going on, it's all "Beat this guy," "OK, beat this guy using your finisher," "OK, beat this guy using a top-rope move," "OK, make this guy tap out..." and on and on and on. And you're fighting crappy nobody wrestlers that are just an amalgamation of CAW parts instead of the actual WWE guys you bought the game for. Overly realistic for many gamers.
Endemic to the X-Universe series. Depending on the game, it can literally take days to get enough cash together for your first factory, assuming you don't try to take advantage of the derelict ships floating around. Recently the devs have been trying to reduce the lead time and make the games more accessible to new players.
Any game that involves grinding (loot, items, abilities, etc.) tend to be slow paced and boring as you're forced to take on either weak enemies or take on enemies with a weak character and run away from stronger enemies you can't defeat yet. As you gain more items, abilities, and levels, you will be breezing through fights faster and get to use some pretty awesome stuff to kick more ass.
GameSpot has a review demerit Game Emblem called Terrible First Impression for games that suffer from this trope.
"Games with this demerit pick up at least a little later on, but they definitely don't start strong."
Pretty much every MMO ever made suffers from a form of this. The early levels are fun the first time you play through them. And then they become massively boring and frustrating whenever you make a new character and have to level through them again... and again... and again. Specific examples follow.
Sometimes slowing down leveling in MMORPG games can invert this trope.
An example about how this works would be Dungeon Fighter Online. Imagine you're playing a fighting game, like Street Fighter, and you're starting off. You can hadoken but you can't really do anything else aside from standard combos. In order to get more you have to keep winning battles to unlock new moves. It starts out slow, even if it's varied and fair you still don't start out with much. Then, let's say you focus on your combos for this chracter, and suddenly you can learn spin kicks and a move that dashes forward and deals damage, allowing you to safely approch your enemy. Suddenly the fights get more engaging, you have more moves to whip out, and you can do pretty good combos with them now, juggling your enemy for a good few hits before they land again. That's most MMOs in a a nutshell, you start slow, only using basic abilities and skills that don't interest, but eventually you get acess to more skills that gives you more tactics.
Also, for the comparison, this was the fighter, either gender, becoming a striker. Most of the "fun" skills aren't unlocked until later, possibly 30-35 range, but once you do battles become pretty fun because of how many options you have.
Doing it this way lets one learn how the moves work individually, then eases you into how they work together. Mocking someone for playing an 'ebay character' is common, when they obviously don't understand how the class works, appearing to have plopped into a max level character rather than working their way up.
The game FlyFF is a pretty big offender, most of it's early advertisments and hell even it's name, Fly For Fun, advertises it's flying system and doing it at will, The Catch? You have to wait until level 20 to do so. Also the Class System for your character, you can't make the first change until level 15 and before you can make the change you must also complete a quest, the same happen's with the 2nd job change at level 60.
Homestuck starts out about a kid in his house. It then proceeds to grow avery, very strangebeard when the reality-altering video games come into the plot. According to the author's Formspring, this is one hundred percent intentional.
The first season and a half of Twisted Kaiju Theater aren't bad or anything like that, but if you want actual coherent storylines as well as be properly introduced to the comic's universe and characters, than you might as well skip that whole part. And the latter half of season 2 is where the comic really grows it's beard and it's quality increases. This can be a good way to lessen the insane Archive Binge you'll probably end going on.
The Walkyverse starts out as Roomies!, a fairly dull and simply drawn Slice of Life comic about college kids, which eventually improved considerably. It goes on to become It's Walky!, a dramatic action/scifi multiverse with great art and well developed characters, and spins off into Shortpacked!, a beacon of geek humor and satire. A Continuity Reboot, Dumbing of Age, returns to the slice-of-life-at-college roots, but keeps the superior artwork and characterization.
Repeatedly acknowledged by the author when he celebrated the continuity's 15th anniversary by reposting the old comics a day at a time on a new site, along with commentaries. He doesn't hesitate to Lampshade the blandness of the early art, humor, and characters, as well as the occasionally naive moralizing.
The creator of Xawu keeps on saying that It Gets Better. It seems to have just died instead.
The animated Urban Fantasy series Broken Saints is notorious for being very slow to start, apart from being just slow-paced in general. However, as writer Brooke Burgess is quick to point out, if the series didn't take its time with the nice character moments early on, the audience wouldn't care as much about them later on when the shit hits the fan.
The Nostalgia Critic's early videos were okay, they just weren't particularly laugh out loud funny or the Critic himself especially interesting. But then Doug tried something new by challenging The Angry Video Game Nerd and the comedy and character started falling into place.
The web puppet series "Robot Rampage" suffered this in its first episode. While it essentially sets up the plot for the first season (building a Robot), the episode is a bit slow and expositional.
"Ayla and the Mad Scientist" in the Whateley Universe takes forever before we even find out who's going to be the antagonist for the book.
The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes begins not with the founding of The Avengers, but with about two hours' worth of shorts detailing how each of the first eight members fought crime before becoming part of the team. Regardless of whether you watch each short one by one, or watch the five episodes compiling them, they make a rather disjointed introduction to the show.note The individual shorts were released in an order that caused the heroes' exploits to constantly interrupt one another, while the episodes compile them in a manner that sometimes fails to give each hero equal prominence. Even after the Avengers get founded, it takes six more episodes for all eight of those superheroes to join. However, a number of the episodes detailing the team's founding and early expansions became regarded nearly as highly as those that followed, if not more so.
Season 2 takes its sweet time for the team to realize there is a mole on their team, this being the BIG cliffhanger from season 1. We're also waiting for the one person who figured this out to escape from the mole's prison. He escapes in episode 9. The arc is 13 episodes long, but the climax and payoff is well worth it as the build up finally begins to merge and pay off.
Beast Wars for its first few episodes is a very run-of-the-mill action show with mostly one-note and at times annoying characters and basic plots. The pilot in particular is just a slow-paced setup full of exposition and a very simple story that's basically just an excuse to have a huge fight scene. It isn't until about the first season's half-point that the characters settle into their roles and a continuous storyline begins to take shape. The writers admittedlyhad no idea what to do with the show in the beginning, but thankfully they were able to tie the random plot-points they had laid out into a mostly coherent story by the season finale.
Many people agree the first half of season 1 of American Dad!! is mostly non-humorous political humor that was outdated before it even aired, in addition to having Family Guy-esque cutaway gags. Thankfully, the second half of season 1 saw to it to get rid of many of the political humor, as well as completely removing the cutaways. Ever since then, it has been wildly regarded as the funniest animated series on Fox.
The animated part of Gertie the Dinosaur comes when the film is about halfway done. Of course, the whole thing is less than fifteen minutes long. Despite this, there was still a version made that cut the non-animated first half out.
Adventure Time starts off by throwing the viewer into the deep end of the show's absurdist comedy, and it can take quite a while to get a handle on the setting and characterization due to how little continuity there is. It isn't until about halfway through the second season that the interpersonal relationships between the characters get more focus, and the show starts to build continuity within the setting. Then in the S2 finale, the Lich appears, and things really come together.
The first couple of episodes of Codename: Kids Next Door are considered decent but nothing really special. It's not until the fairly serious first season finale that it starts getting good.