It Gets Better

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"...and I was like 'Shit up my nose! What right does this game have to suddenly kick arse?'"

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 Info Dump 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 Problems can 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, it still takes quite a tenacious audience to deal with this and reach the interesting part of the story.

Compare to Padding, Filler, Growing the Beard, Prolonged Prologue, Developing Doomed Characters, and Arc Fatigue. Often goes hand-in-hand with Check Point 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 It Got Worse, which is about the events in the story and not the quality thereof. Also not related to the The "It Gets Better" Project, although it is an example.

Examples of It Gets Better include:

Anime and Manga

  • Legend of Galactic Heroes
  • Digimon Tamers starts like a Slice of Life show with mons, battling the Monster of the Week and exploring the character's lives and personalities. Then they go to the Digital World with lots of hopes and dream. THEN, Episode 34 happens and everything gets weird. The difference is quite shocking, to say the least. Word of God says this was intentional.
  • Pacing issues like this are one of the biggest obstacles for new readers of the 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.
  • One Piece. In the start the story lacks of depth, is a little childish, and in some parts the narrative is forced. However, as the story progresses, it becomes more mature, the characters improve and so do the battles and the stories.
  • 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.
    • KHK! is following in the footsteps of Dragon Ball here—anybody remember when Goku thought Bulma had been abandoned by her parents because she "had an extra butt on her chest?" Anybody?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • One problem several people have with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is that its first thirteen episodes cram about thirty chapters worth of material into them compared to the 2003 anime series, which takes around thirty episodes to cover and expand the same amount of material with some light Filler, resulting in the first fifth or so of Brotherhood coming across at a rushed pace. This can be particularly troublesome for those who are more familiar with the 2003 anime than the manga and aren't aware of the second one being more faithful. Once Brotherhood fully diverges from what was shown in the 2003 anime, however, while some material is still cut down, it gradually slows down to a much more manageable pace without seeming too drastic.
    • 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.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: To transcribe the average reaction:

Episode One: Seen It a Million Times. Nightmare Fuel, Scenery Porn, but otherwise meh.
Episode Two: Oookay, little Darker and Edgier, but whatever.
Episode Three: HOLY SHIT!
Episodes Four through Twelve: ...meep!

  • 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.
  • 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.

Comic Books

  • 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.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!").
  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • Similar, obviously, to the Literature example, 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.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey. Half an hour of deserts and apes before we get to outer space exploration.
  • Sergio Leone has said Once Upon a Time in the West is supposed to reflect the process of death, slow-paced with breaths of amazing (usually duels). Well, some people can get bored.
  • Mirror Mask 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.
    • Well, 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...
  • 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. This is justified, though, as it's necessary to establish how uneventful Scott's life is before his Manic Pixie Dream Girl Ramona shows up and turns everything into chaos.
  • 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.
  • Death Proof could be the ultimate example of the trope. 45 min. 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.
  • 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.


  • Proof that great literature isn't immune to this: Robert Graves' novel I, Claudius begins with a massive history lesson that barely mentions the titular 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.
  • 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 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.
    • Your mileage may vary a LOT on whether the slice-of-life look at Hobbit society was too long, since without at least some of it, the identification and attachment the readers have for the main characters would be far less, the threat of the Shire's possible destruction wouldn't elicit nearly as visceral a reaction or feel as much like a threat to the readers' emotional investment, and without the contrast with the scenes of simple, carefree Hobbit life, the history of and quest through Middle Earth would lose a huge amount of its impact and majesty. The trip from Hobbiton to Bree, however, could've easily have been written differently to cover all its necessary points in far fewer pages. And let's not forget the part before the actual novel gets started (over 100 pages on hobbit-related minutiae if memory serves). That isn't exactly the most interesting piece of literature that JRR Tolkien ever wrote.
  • Jack London's White Fang took about five chapters before White Fang was even born, let alone named.
  • Jane Eyre is notorious for this, especially among those that read it for a school assignment.
  • 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.
    • Not to mention 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?"
  • 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.
    • The anime version cuts nearly all of this out, in the process removing any hope of understanding what's going on. Oops.
  • The Return of the Native spends all of the first chapter describing the heath where the story takes place. The whole goddamn chapter.
  • 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.
  • 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 four Doorstoppers and counting in favour 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan, for half the novel, with the other half spent on the fallout of events from the last couple pages of the first half. And he calls himself out on it!
  • 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.
  • 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; not to mention 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.
    • Quite a number of ancient stories do this, mostly because they're meant to be either sung or spoken aloud, from memory, and repetition makes it easier to memorize a hundred-page epic poem. Thus we get passages like this:

"My lord, if today you want to set off into the mountains, Utu should know about it from us. Utu, youthful Utu, should know about it from us. A decision that concerns the mountains is Utu's business. A decision that concerns the Mountains of Cedar-felling is the business of youthful Utu. Utu should know about it from us."

      • It probably sounds a lot better live, in the original language. Beowulf has a similar problem.
    • The Iliad is just as bad an offender. The second book contains a loooonngg list of ships, consisting of how many men sailed from each city. It goes on for over ten pages. Not to mention the numerous times that they end up providing full biographies of minor characters who die in the paragraph following their life story. And an entire chapter describing the engravings on Achilles' new shield.
      • The minibios are absolutely integral to the Iliad as 'a story of war' rather than just 'a story about Achilles, Agamemnon, and Hector.' Frequently we get a guy's name after being informed how he was killed.
      • 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.
  • Readers may react in this way to several Frederick Forsyth stories. The author researches his subjects so thoroughly that the reader usually earns the equivalent of a Ph.D. in history, investigative journalism, corporate espionage or prospective mining (I'm looking at you, The Dogs of War!) just by reading the first three chapters.
    • This methodical approach works really well for The Day of the Jackal, being a novel about an elite assassin.
  • 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.
  • 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).
    • Captain Tupolev's introduction in The Hunt for Red October comes to mind as well.
  • 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.
    • The turtle scene isn't entirely pointless, though. It's supposed to be symbolic of the situation the main characters find themselves in. But yeah, it could have been condensed to one scene instead of a full chapter.
  • If King's The Stand were really about a battle between good and evil, it would consist 90% of exposition and set-up. Of course, it just ends up being about a pandemic and the rebuilding After the End with a bonus dash of that good vs. evil thing. Typically of King's style, the end after the actual confrontation features an exposition longer than it about someone making his way home by various mundane means while nothing much happens.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 beginning of Frank Herbert's first Dune book is heavily weighted down with this kind of exposition in the first hundred pages.
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 about a third of the way through the book, however. Before that, there is more than one hundred 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.
  • 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).
  • 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. Arguably, 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.)
  • 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.

Live-Action TV

  • The Wire isn't exactly instant gratification TV, and it certainly does not exactly make it easy for new viewers to jump in and understand the show. The first few episodes get hit with this problem the hardest, which almost overwhelms to the point of discouragement, thanks to detail overload and an abundance of characters to introduce and dissect. However, as all longtime fans of The Wire know very well, for people willing to take the time to understand the show's intricate design, they will be rewarded a hundred times over. It just takes some perseverance to get there.
  • 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, not to mention 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 ending changed everything viewers knew about the show.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation isn't terrible per se but the first couple of seasons struggle, with awkward storylines, jerky character development and interaction, and often heavy handed morals that they don't get away with as easily as the original series did. By the third season however they've really come into their own and distinguished themselves as more than just a sequel series for a cult 60's show. Next Gen is now one of the most popular series, and is in fact Trope Namer for Growing the Beard.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • "Ghost of Stephen Foster" by Squirrel Nut Zippers has a minute of slow, somber violin music before the catchy klezmer finally begins.
  • "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.

Tabletop Games

  • 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 dangerous, if you are the kind of player who wants to have lots and lots of combat in the game. 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 dangerous but, for the lack of abilities, still boring; and some of the Unpleasable Fanbase want the thrill of low-level danger back.


  • 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.
  • The first part of the prologue of Götterdämmerung, with the Norns, is 15 minutes of pure exposition.

Video Games

  • In Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, the first few levels where the player is confined to using painfully inaccurate ranged weapons (as clumsy and random as blasters are purported to be by the Jedi, why would any non-Jedi use them if they were so useless?!) 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.
    • Worse, Nintendo Hard doesn't begin to cover it, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The first episode of the Umineko no Naku Koro ni Visual Novel is nigh-unplayable due to this. You literally spend 2 hours reading people discussing the weather and politics. Then death happens. Lots of horrible nasty death.
  • Okami 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.
  • 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.
  • Invoked in the 2004 PlayStation 2 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.
  • 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.
  • Assassin's Creed takes a good hour and a half to get to your first real mission. That's if you're quick.
  • 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 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.
      • There is a point in the game where you have to fish for plot-related reasons, so it's not like they make you learn how just for the hell of it.
    • Hell, 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: Ocarina of Time doesn't have required tutorials, but there are several long cutscenes and a fairly pointless quest in Kokiri Village (to get a sword and shield) before Link can begin the first dungeon.
    • The creators took complaints about the opening sections into account when they made The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword. While it's still an hour or so before the main quest begins, most of the tutorial stuff is optional, and the main focus of the intro (the Bird Races) is still pretty exciting on its own.
    • 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 the player-character got bored and fell asleep while an old man was telling the story.
  • 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.
  • The first ten hours of Tales of the Abyss can be a real drag since the main character Luke is an unlikable Jerkass 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.
  • Sonic and The Secret Rings forces you to unlock many of the interesting abilities, going as far as to make you actually have to unlock better controls.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Oblivion being what it is, there's several mods allowing you to start the game in different ways. Naturally, it's one of the more popular mods available.
    • 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 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. 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.
  • A lot of players disliked the Taris section of Knights of the Old Republic, especially since everything you do there is meaningless as the planet gets bombarded into rubble as you leave. This was nothing compared for the hatred for the opening of KOTOR 2, which dumps you in a long dungeon right at the very start, then gives you only a brief period to run around doing fetch quests before dumping you in another one, before you can really start doing the exploration you want.
    • The Telos section is way worse than the opening dungeon. At least you get to kill stuff and meet several party members. Telos is a bunch of fetch quests in an area with a horrible amount of loading screens, making it downright mindnumbing. And you still have no lightsaber by this point.
  • The first level in Forbidden Siren was called "easily the worst level in the entire game" by one website.
  • 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. Not to mention, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 in a row.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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."

  • 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.)
  • 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. (To be fair, this beginning is considered by many to be quite well-written—it's just railroaded.)
  • 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 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.
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks and 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Monster Hunter 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.
    • You could apply this to all MH games. They start out slow, but once you get used to the controls and the craft/shop system then any can can really pick up to fighting monsters that are challenging, colorful, and entertaining, resulting weapons follow suit.
  • 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. We promise.
  • 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.
  • The Civilization games (including member in spirit Sid 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.
  • 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 first Paper Mario is the only Mario RPG that explicitly prevents you from guarding and using timed hits until it is explained by the tutorial... at the end of the lengthy prologue. Until then, battle is purely "hit and get hit", and the player is forced to use healing blocks and items to avoid dying.
    • Speaking of Paper Mario games, the third one, Super Paper Mario, can feel a bit slow at first. Then Your Mileage May Vary on when the game gets interesting: When Peach joins, when Bowser joins, when Sammer's Kingdom is destroyed, etc.
  • 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...
  • The first Dragon Warrior 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.
  • Izuna. While the games are a Nintendo Hard dungeon 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.
  • 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 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gabriel Knight suffers from this for those not interested in backstory, historical minutiae, and/or drawn-out interview processes, especially when controlling Grace (audio tour of the museum, anyone?). 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...
  • 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.
  • Final Fantasy XII. It's 2–3 hours before you get any real combat options.
  • Final Fantasy XIII. It takes 20 hours before the game becomes more nonlinear than a straight corridor and actually gets interesting. The first hour or two of the game in particular can succumb to this, as the level up and paradigm systems are completely absent, so the player's only option is to auto attack during every encounter. You're also thrown into a plot-in-progress with no idea of what's going on, relying totally on the codex to slowly make sense of the events. The game gets much, MUCH better after fighting Anima.
  • The Last Remnant has an extremely complex battle system that takes a lot of patience to understand, much less master. Not to mention 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Pokemon before you receive this tutorial.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Hoo boy. Agon Wastes and the Great Temple are basically reskins of the Chozo Ruins with some Space Pirates thrown in for variety, and Torvus Bog is a long slog with annoying, Gravity Suit-less water sections, infuriating enemies, and some of the most unspeakably frustrating boss fights in the whole series. Then, you get to the incredibly enjoyable Sanctuary Fortress, where Retro's design really starts to shine.
    • 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: constant Button 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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... maybe a little too much.
    • 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 (assembling the Trident anyone?) 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.
  • 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 (puppies, anyone?). 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.
  • 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.
  • This is one of the reasons Act I of Neverwinter Nights 2 tends to catch so much bad flak. 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.
  • 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. Of course, when he does...
  • Serious Sam III 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.
  • 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.

Web Comics

  • A lot of webcomics, a natural consequence of learning to cartoon, plot, and write by the seat of one's pants.
  • Homestuck starts out about a kid in his house. It then proceeds to grow a very, very strange beard when the reality-altering video games come into the plot. According to the author's Formspring, this is one hundred percent intentional.
  • The creator of Xawu keeps on saying that It Gets Better. It seems to have just died instead.
  • El Goonish Shive was an amusing, albeit narmful, comic with mediocre art and a ridiculous amount of gender bending. Eventually, it evolved into an extremely intelligent comic with great art and a ridiculous amount of gender bending.
  • It's often recommended to skip straight past the first five chapters of Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures.
  • Girl Genius starts as the story of a Loser Protagonist, in black-and-white. But here, this is voluntary: the story begins with her intelligence limiter removed. So she'll get better.

Web Original

  • 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.
  • Tribe Twelve of The Slender Man Mythos; it starts off as a Marble Hornets clone, but after the funeral submission, it begins to improve noticeably, in just about all respects. The acting is especially noticeable.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Western Animation

  • 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.
  • While they probably stand out compared to G3 and 3.5, which by popular admission are pretty terrible, one could argue that the first two My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episodes are heavily clichéd and predictable. While these two episodes certainly aren't bad exactly, it's the later, slice-of-life episodes that are the real gems of the series.
  • Avengers Earths 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.[1] 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.

Real Life

  • The "It Gets Better" project [1] - video messages for young gay/lesbian/trans people from their older peers and high profile figures giving them the very important message to keep fighting and not give up as things WILL get much easier and more rewarding for them in the future. Set up as a response to a spate of suicides of gay/lesbian/trans teenagers.
  1. 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.