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Hacked Off: When a Game Has Too Many Side Quests

If an open world game didn’t have any side quests, it’d feel pretty empty. Yet, one of the things people complain about most are the side quests. Even several Hacked Off articles have dabbled into the dark side of those pesky fetch quests and escort missions. To continue the trend, here’s one in general about the balance of them.

Like a broth that has too many cooks, too many side quests ruin a game. There’s no point senselessly adding in side quests just to add content. Skyrim is a good example. Everyone always talks about how great it was because there are an infinite amount of missions generated. This is not a good thing. Who has helped kill the Forsworn terrorising villagers a thousand times and is still skipping along to the next request thinking, ‘This is top quality fun. Hopefully, I can have another mission exactly like that one, maybe with a subtle difference but only a subtle one,’?

Mass Effect: Andromeda should really change its name to Mass Effect: Side Quest. While a lot of them are decent, there’s just an overwhelming number of them. Every Tom, Dick and Harry wants you to go do something for them. As if them finding out where there friend has gone is more important than establishing a home and dealing with serious threats to the entire initiative. The game could have easily worked having a lot of these little quests. Building a new life means you have to pick some flowers every now and then. There just needs to be more story to keep people ticking over and remembering why they’re there. Final Fantasy XV had a similar balance problem with it lacking on the story front, but it didn’t try to fill in every space with buckets of side quests.

There’s nothing wrong with side quests, I’m actually quite partial to them, it’s just they need to have a point. Oh, and they need to be good, which most just aren’t. Having the odd fetch quest is a necessity, but I don’t fancy spending most of my time on a game doing them. Helping random NPCs collect random documents just doesn’t get me excited anymore. Don’t get me wrong, the first time a character in a game asked me to go find them something and then bring it back, I was over the moon and could hardly contain myself. I felt as if my prayers had been answered, this is what gaming is for, running errands.

Borderlands was unbearable with its side quests. The whole game made little difference between a story mission and a side quest. I couldn’t even tell you which ones were which. I just remember steam rolling my way through, methodically going down the list. The series has always had a reputation for comedy, and while the second game is very funny, the first one isn’t. From a wacky game like this, you’d expect to see it relayed in the missions and especially side quests. The second installment at least changed this. Not by removing the number of them but by making them enjoyable to sit through.

Yet a game can’t lack them. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild could really do with some more things to do in its open world. The series has never really put much emphasis on side missions, but with a world as big and free as the one in BotW, you’d like to see a fair number. There is a massive world with lots of areas that are just left to go to waste. I don’t want it to be swamped with pointless quests just for the sake of them, but some extra ones would have been nice.

You’d think that not being able to come up with a good side quest would mean those that make it in are there for a reason. Though a lot of developers seem to put in anything people can come up with, even those that were sat in the ‘maybe pile’, blimey, some even from the ‘no pile’, seem to make it in. Why not just cherry pick the good ones and make the game balance nearer to a 50/50 split with story missions? There can’t be many people completing all the side quests anyway.

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