Once upon a time, gamers were content with one-dimensional collection quests. You know, the ones where a static NPC tells you to bring them X amount of an item and rewards you with a bit of experience and a handful of currency. But that is a bygone age. As games began to evolve, so too did our standards of what quests are deemed worthy of our time and effort.
Nowadays, people want substance. A quest that expands the world’s lore or enhances character development and relationships with NPCs. Chiefly something with a well-written storyline that offers a personal or emotional incentive. Exclusive, quest-locked regions are great for lore expansion, while quests that unlock new abilities are a great incentive when constructing overpowered character builds.
Mostly every quest can be boiled down to go here, kill that, collect X amount of this, find this item, or visit this NPC. But what makes or breaks these base formulas is the storytelling behind them. The Witcher 3 is a prime example of potentially mundane quests that flourish thanks to the fantastic substance within each one. Quests that would generally be chore-like and boring can also be saved by giving them an air of mystery. Quests requiring the player to engage in a bit of detective work can make things more interesting and increase the challenge.
If a quest lacks a good backstory, it needs to have an excellent payout, and we’re not talking about a few measly septims or orens. No, our time spent in-game has grown far more precious than that. As enemies grow more treacherous and shop items become more costly, only rewards such as top-of-the-line gear or a hefty coin pouch will suffice.
Gamers typically welcome a healthy challenge. But this can be a fickle standard to meet as everyone has their own level of difficulty they enjoy. Something that makes you think and figure out an aspect of the game for yourself without flashing arrows and path markers telling you exactly how to complete the quest is usually ideal. However, if the quest is so frustratingly convoluted that you need to look up a guide to complete it, it defeats the purpose for many people.
Now that we’ve covered some of the aspects that make a quest worth playing, let’s look at what makes a quest a complete and utter waste of time. Serving as a gatherer, errand runner, or messenger between two or more NPCs is the worst. Especially chain quests that have you running from place to place and possibly back and forth a few times. The time wasted in these chore-like quests is only magnified by meager payouts and little to no story to make them more engaging. These are the type of quests that beg the question, “What am I doing with my life?”
Monotonous drawn-out quests get boring quickly. But it’s downright infuriating when at the end of the long trail of tiresome objectives, you are rewarded with a meaningless trinket. Weapons that are no better than your current gear or a trophy piece to clutter your inventory are essentially good for resale, giving you yet another errand to run.
Outrageous collection quests for the sake of game completion or meaningless titles and trophies are the biggest offenders of all. Of course, completionists will disagree. However, there are good and bad completion quests. Drawn out collectible quests that reward you with a dragon’s hoard worth of gold but take the entire length of the game to complete aren’t worth it if there’s nothing left to spend that wealth on.
On the other hand, quests like finding all the feathers in Assassin’s Creed 2 unlock an exclusive cutscene. Not to mention, the search takes you to niches in the world you had no reason to visit otherwise. Some may argue climbing to these obscure heights is also a waste of time, but this is an example of a collection quest that simultaneously drives the story. These aspects give you a richer experience and encourage you to explore the world the developers have created to a fuller extent.
In all reality, what makes a quest worth playing is up to the player and will differ for each individual. But the general consensus is lore, lore, and more lore. Engaging storylines that further a character’s backstory and expand the virtual worlds we choose to immerse ourselves in are universally well-received. And while we all enjoy a challenge, monotonous grinds that offer little depth and meager rewards are simply unappealing.
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