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One of the biggest points of separation between me and my gamer friends is the issue of side quests:
I play them all. My friends do not.
This is not a side quest, it’s a torture method.
It’s one of those things I really do not understand when it comes to gamers. Why wouldn’t you play every bit of content the developers put in there? And I’m not talking about the ridiculous parts, like collecting all the flags in Assassin’s Creed or all the packages in Grand Theft Auto 4 (though I’ll be damned if I don’t do it myself, stupid addiction to achievements…) I’m talking about the simpler, quicker to finish side missions that pop up primarily in games like Mass Effect, Borderlands and Fallout. These quests are normally in Fetch/Deliver, Kill Enemy/Enemies and Talk to Person varieties, but I feel these are essential to a good game.
Cloud. Side Quest. Need more incentive?
The most obvious advantage of doing side quest is the delicious number of experience points they offer. And yes they are delicious. Every morsel of experience is an ingredient in the recipe that is your next level. Sure it takes a little longer to bake than a typical story mission may take, but remember, there are a smaller number of story missions than there are side quests, and unless grinding is preferable to you, strange considering it usually takes longer and tends to be more mindless, side quests are the most efficient way to level up, gaining access to higher levels and new abilities. And who doesn’t enjoy when they get more health, magical endurance and new ways to kill stuff? Bloody Mess Perk, anyone? And remember, in Final Fantasy Tactics, you can only get Cloud through a side quest.
Now imagine seven more of those in one shot.
There’s also the benefits that come with going on the long journey. Loot is the shiniest of it. Rarely do you complete a side quest in Borderlands and not find a mountain of treasure to equip or for the most part sell for more money. Think Borderlands and Diablo II, with the thousands of different weapon qualities that randomly appear, and worst case scenario and you get nothing good, maybe there’s something in the shops you’ll be able to afford now! Sometimes some unique and otherwise unavailable items are ONLY available in side quests. For anyone who has completed the Keller Family Refuge quest in Fallout 3 and fired the Experimental MIRV for the first time, you know what I’m talking about. For anyone who hasn’t, one shot, eight mini nukes. Think about that the next time you don’t want to go to that non-story dungeon.
I could have bought six movie tickets. So many more hours would have been enjoyed.
How many people play a game and end up complaining about how short is was? $60 USD is a lot of money to be spending on four hours of entertainment that doesn’t fundamentally change the way we look at games (We’re looking at you, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance) and side quests are a great way to expand that game time. You go to separate areas than are featured in the story and the rewards noticed above are granted as you go, and ultimately draw out a story without being pointless or boring (more on that in the next section).
Not as scary after a few side quests.
Another way this is accomplished is through tactical expansion. The Dragon Age series is a great example of this, as the eight companions (one additional hidden character and one more through DLC) do have different strengths and weaknesses in their character setups. With side quests, you don’t have to worry about having the best possible party, allowing you to experiment with unused characters in different formations. Exclusive to this game is the Combat Tactics Slots, allowing the player to design how the other party members act in combat when they are not in active control. Playing side quests lets you optimize that as well, testing new conditions without having to worry about being overwhelmed, hopefully making discoveries that carry over to their normal play.
Side quests brought Martin Sheen to gaming. ‘Nuff said.
The ultimate goal of any extensions to a game should go on to service a larger story, or optimally create a sense of immersion in the fictional world you play in, and most side quests we see today do just that. The Mass Effect series has been doing that since the beginning. Sure, saving that marine squad for Admiral Kohoku in the first installment might seem like filler, but it opens up a quest line leading to the discovery of the rogue military group Cerberus, which served the main plots of the following two games. And without the optional Loyalty quests of Mass Effect 2, well for my friend who’s playing through for the first time, I recommend you do every single one unless you hate your squad.
Side quests take time, money and passion to create. Yes, sometimes it’s just filler to pad out a game, but nowadays developers are taking time to make these game extensions more worth a player’s time and should be given a shot.
Especially if that developer is Bioware. I love those guys.
Lover of side quests, or think they should all go away? Drop a comment below to discuss!