Recently I have been playing through Gears Tactics, and I am having a fantastic time… mostly.
The main story quests are fantastic, with great dialogue, voice acting and narrative flow, I am at the edge of my proverbial seat wanting to see what happens next, and then WHAM slapped in the face with a requirement to complete three random skirmish missions.
While the mechanics in skirmish missions are just as good as their narrative counterparts, the strength and appeal of the narrative missions are how well the mechanics and narrative work together.
Stripping away the story you are Invested in, the characters you care about and stripping away all urgency from the main objective is not only jarring; it’s downright frustrating.
This design philosophy is no way unique to Gear Tactics, how many games have you played, only to be pulled away from the main story to find a missing pet, child or family heirloom.
Why do developers keep doing this?
Developers do this for one of two reasons.
Whiney/entitled gamers who expect 100+ hours from a $40 title and whine on Reddit/Steam forums that the game felt unfinished/too short if the dollar/hour ratio is above 1 cent per hour.
You see this mindset even in games like Rimworld and Ark Survival Evolved, where players with 1000+ hours complain they feel bored, they cannot be pleased, therefore they are better ignored.
The second reason is marketing, publishers love to brag about how their game will take x amount off hours to complete 100%, I would personally prefer to complete my main story and then move along, by all means, offer post-game side quests/optional side quests, but gating narrative progress behind them is a huge disservice to customers.
How can it be done differently?
The answer is simple; The main narrative should be in no way restricted by non-story quests or grinding, let those who are here for the narrative enjoy it, if players wish to go off on sidequests during the main story, they should be free to do so, once the main story is complete, players should be given the option to continue playing, they can then play side quests till kingdom come if they wish.
I love Gears Tactics, but I am here exclusively for the story, perhaps I would play random skirmishes sometime in the future, but right now I want to find out what happens to our protagonists, not secure crates for the 5th time.
There is nothing wrong with sidequests, I often enjoy playing a side quest as a break from a long MMORPG narrative, but that is MY choice to do so, let us choose if and when we play sidequests, and don’t force us to do so, simply for filler.
Look at stunning games like A Plague Tale: Innocence and Hellblade Senya Sacrifice, they are short narrative-driven titles that are beloved by the gaming community, they didn’t require filler to be popular, many games that suffer from mandatory filler content would be equally as popular if they allowed players to bypass side quest content until they wish to play it.
By all means, keep including optional side quest content, some of it is a lot of fun, but please developers stop forcing us to play it, we bought your game to play the main narrative, not rescue ten lost sheep, find a missing dog, or stack boxes!
Xbox Game Pass, an ever-growing catalogue of over 100 games that is a great way to try a whole smorgasbord of games, including day one access to all Microsoft first party titles, for just a few dollars a month.
Playstation Now, stream over 800 PS2, PS3 and PS4 games legally on your PC & PS4 with PSNow, a ground breaking cloud gaming console service for Playstation 4 and PC