Sidequests are an important part of open world games. What else are you supposed to do if you can’t help out random people you meet by the side of the road? It basically acts as a way to ignore the main story without having to endlessly grind out in the wild. Obviously there are benefits to it such as experience or rare items, but that isn’t the only reason why we do them. After all a sidequest isn’t really all that different from just normally hunting. The main difference is that it gives you a specific objective to complete. Sometimes it could be hunting one or more specific enemies or collecting a certain number of item from somewhere in the world. So what is it that makes them feel different? The answer is pretty simple. They help to create the world itself. I know that sounds weird but it is true. The most important thing a game needs is to make the world feel like it is connected and that every thing has a larger role to play. You, the player, give shape to the direction the world is going to take through your actions, but sometimes it is the little things that give the greatest impact. What better way to feel like you are justified for ignoring the main quest for hours when you are helping some random passerby find his missing dog? Not only to you get to save a dog, but you even get stronger for it. Guess the guy traded you for some Scooby Snacks or something. Anyway, adding a bit of context or personality can make tedious tasks feel more bearable. The main reason is because now you have a goal to work towards that you know you will be rewarded for completing.
Let me put this into perspective. Imagine if there is an item that you want to get for your in-game character. Maybe because it is useful, maybe because it is valuable, or maybe because you like the way it looks. Now let’s for the same of the example imagine that this item has a low drop rate. We will say about 2% from an uncommon enemy. That would mean that on average if you kill fifty of them you would eventually get the drop you need. now if you are lucky you would get it in the first thirty encounters, but there is also the possibility you may not get it even after sixty attempts. Now imagine a quest where someone really hated this enemy because it destroyed their crops. The NPC (non-player character for those of you not aware) issues you a quest to kill thirty of them and will give you a similar item as well as some experience points. Obviously you would accept the quest because at least you are given a guarantee that you will get something for your repetitive grinding. You may even get lucky and get the random drop as well. So you can get a guaranteed useful item, some experience, and you get to feel like you were actually doing something productive away from the main quest. After all, there is always a little bit of guilt for ignoring the main quest for so long so it help to have some distractions to help you feel less bad about ignoring whatever disaster is about to unfold. Usually the games are at least designed to entice you to do them, but still keeping them optional. Personally, I am not a fan of when sidequests are required for game completion. At least, most of the time.
Now, I don’t have a problem when sidequests are essentially just a branch of the main quest. For instance the main quest could have a certain objective, but there are certain side objectives you must meet to proceed with the main quest. Those I don’t mind because those kinds of quests I treat more as subquests rather than sidequests. The thing I actually have a problem with is when the game tells you that you need to do enough side activities before proceeding with the main quest. The reason why it bothers me is because the objectives you are completing don’t have any relation to the main quest. At that point you are just trying to pad the runtime in your already large game. That is basically like saying you need this level of completion in order to proceed. That makes sense for a game based on collection. It doesn’t make sense for a game that is supposedly open. Not a lot of games do this so it is a minor gripe if I’m honest, but that is exactly why I point it out. If I am doing a sidequest, I want it to be because I feel like I want to do it, not because I have to do it. The major benefit of an open world is freedom to explore so why force me to do something at all? It’s especially annoying when all the sidequests feel the same. They should help take away some of the grind, not add more into the mix. I want sidequests to make me feel like I am talking with people in a believable world is all. Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so. What about you?