10 Open World Missions To Make You Regret Your Game
These days, AAA video games are all about offering the most gameplay, not necessarily the best. From a player's point of view, an open world game with 200 hours of stuff may seem like a bargain. But the downside is that even the best games feature missions that clearly wouldn't have made the cut if not for the "more is better" model. For example ...
In Red Dead Redemption 2, You Beat Up A Handicapped Person
If you're still in the early portion of Rockstar's Man It Fucking Sucks To Be A Cowboy simulator Red Dead Redemption 2, I'm sorry for spoiling this, but [SPOILER] your protagonist is going to get tuberculosis and die. It's a very tragic ending to a story about a man who rides his horse off a cliff about twice a day and never sees a doctor. But before that point, it's interrupted by a mission wherein you have to punch a mentally handicapped, deformed alcoholic into submission.
Yes, thanks to the pacing issues inherent in open world storytelling, you get to forget about all the bloody coughing and themes of humanity in dark times and go beat the absolute shit out of a sideshow freak. And then you get to go comically chase down a little person. See, it's hilarious because he's tiny!
I know that Rockstar and its plethora of "You can hogtie a sex worker and feed her to alligators" options aren't normally lauded for political correctness, but those are things the player can generally choose to do when they've abandoned the story to go screw around. Incorporating this as an actual side mission feels like something that should have been left on the cutting room floor. But when you're trying to program in 130 hours of content, I'm thinking the side missions are the cutting room floor.
Fallout 4's Memory Puzzles Are A Combo Of Multiple Bad Features
Fallout 4, aka The Hills Have Eyes: Boston Edition, wasn't a perfect game by any means, maligned for its lackluster settlement building system, lazy puzzles, and a painstaking mission in which you enter one character's memories and just kind of walk around a dreamscape, watching half-assed cutscenes to find clues. And then, in case we forgot about these chores, one Far Harbor DLC quest ("Best Left Forgotten") contained a combination of all three.
In it, you take a break from exploding raider skulls in a detailed map that's the size of the moon in order to move glowing blocks around and direct laser beams to destroy vague obstacles and collect even vaguer memory chunks. And you do this in an area that looks more like someone farted up a Tron: Legacy DVD cover than the Road Warrior aesthetic that most people buy Fallout games for.
This is a theme in open world "Quantity Over Quality" games: missions that seem like pieces from some different, half-formed game that were just thrown in. Sequences in which you're not using any of the skills or gear you've accumulated, or doing any of the things that sold you on buying the game in the first place. "Hey there, it looks like you've been enjoying our game for a while now. How about you take a break to play this completely different, worse game for a bit?"
In The Witcher 3, You Put On A Whole Stupid Play
Ah, the classic "We have to perform in a wacky play/opera" RPG sequence. I don't know why so many open world games seem to feature a section designed to derisively comment on how CRAZY performers are, but I feel like I've played through a half dozen different scenarios in which Muscles McWishfulfillment has to sigh his way through an interaction with an actor/musician/whatever. Even The Witcher 3, which does a pretty good job of hiding the fact that 50 percent of what you do doesn't matter in the long run, has a mission where you not only help come up with a play, but also deal with the ticket sales and the actors, before finally watching the goddamned thing.
What am I supposed to get out of this? I've already killed, like, 5,000 monsters, so my dick is definitely big enough without having to prove how much cooler I am than a stagehand. Also, what positive aspect of the game is this taking advantage of? This might fit if The Witcher 3 was a sitcom about Joey Witcher returning to his hometown to become a theater teacher, but not in a game where most of the enjoyment comes from slicing up bandits that I had previously set on fire.
Spider-Man's Drone Missions Are About As Much Fun As A Tutorial
At the risk of jail time or execution, every developer of a Spider-Man game must by law include a series of missions in which you either have to use your web-swinging abilities to race something or to reach a location/object in a limited time. These sequences can actually be pretty great, since 86 percent of the enjoyment you get from these games is in the web-swinging mechanics. Like in Ultimate Spider-Man, where you race the goddamn Human Torch, or Spider-Man 2, where they decided that the most touching line in the movie was "Pizza time!" and built an entire section around it, all to jaunty accordion music that sounds like God shitting in your brain.
The latest Spider-Man game should have taken this to a new level, as the web-swinging was all but perfected there. Instead, thanks to challenges from F-list villain Taskmaster, you get to chase around some drones. Never mind that you could be engaging with one of the best depictions of Doctor Octopus that the franchise has ever seen. You instead get to do tedious homework provided by the Marvel equivalent of the dude who walks around the mall asking people if they want to take a quick survey.
It's no accident that every game on this list ranges from good to great based on which review you're reading; that's the point. These are made by giant studios with giant budgets and long development times, and yet they just can't resist making the standard for side missions "Is it more fun for the player than doing absolutely nothing? Throw it in!"
Skyrim Provides A Boring, Slut-Shaming Mission
Many open world games that are set in worlds where instant communication doesn't exist feature a bunch of "telephone" quests in which you relay messages between people. You usually do this with the hope that, inevitably, one side will flip their shit and start shooting at you, but often it ends with you staring at the monitor and saying, "What am I doing with my life?"
Take the mission "Caught Red Handed" in Skyrim, for which you gather treasures from some dudes in order to ... let's see here ... blackmail a woman over her sexual history.
In it, a stranger's niece tells you that she thinks her aunt is a "disgusting woman," which in Skyrim speak is practically an executive order for you to ruin this poor woman's life. See, the aunt gave several men little gems in exchange for erotic favors, and you gotta collect them and rub them in her face. Under the threat of exposing her monstrous habit of enjoying sex, she will bribe you to keep quiet. Then you go back to her niece and celebrate that you did this instead of fighting a dragon.
The Worst Stealth Mission In Any Legend Of Zelda Game
If you've played more than two video games, you know the feeling of "Oh shit, is this a stealth mission? Fuuuuck." Tiptoeing around while you're crouched and unable to use any of your items feels like the game is punishing you for enjoying action. But because game developers can't possibly trust us to like what we like, these things get shoved into games all the time, even into ones like The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild.
In the mission "The Lost Pilgrimage," you try to remain hidden for what feels like days. But you're not hiding from an enemy. No, you're hiding from a little creature that's moving through a delightfully bland-looking environment that he nearly matches the color of, meaning that you'll probably lose him if he doesn't turn around and spot you -- which, in true shitty stealth mission fashion, instantly fails the quest. And don't get too close or move outside of the intended path, because you'll fail for that, too. And beware, because sometimes the little bastard will turn around and run straight at you, which also means instant failure and having to start the whole thing allllll over again.
Oh, and watch out for when he gets attacked by a wolf and calls for help, because IF YOU SAVE HIS LIFE FROM THE JAWS OF AN ANIMAL, you'll fail for that.
I realize I could have put any clumsily inserted stealth mission here, but it hurts so much more in a Zelda game built on exploration, creativity, and wacky characters. It's a game in which frustration shouldn't exist, because there's so much pure joy in exploring different approaches. Then you get to this part where if you deviate from the path by a single pixel, your punishment is having to do it again.
Arkham Knight's Riddler Subplot Is The Definition Of Filler
In Batman: Arkham Knight, in order to fight the Riddler, you must solve his death trap puzzle. Wait, hold on, you also have to help Catwoman solve it too. Oh yeah, I forgot, there are also ten of them. Shit, sorry. One more thing: You also have to complete a bunch of Riddler racetracks in the Batmobile. Then you get to fight him. Sort of. He disappears halfway through the fight, telling you that you're not ready to face him until you've gone through Gotham and found every Riddler trophy, solved every Riddler puzzle, destroyed every breakable object, and saved every Bomb Rioter.
Then you can come back and face him in a boss fight that's identical to your earlier, interrupted boss fight with him.
Now imagine a game that wasn't so dead set on artificially extending the amount of time you play it by ruining a major villain's storyline by stretching it into an endless grind. It's almost the opposite of the Spider-Man drone chase problem. Instead of failing to give us any real reason to do the bullshit, they merged it with a major story element and wound up ruining both. We can feel when our time is being wasted!
Pokemon's Repeated, Useless Contests
I'm sure you know the basics of your average Pokemon game. There are a bunch of critters sitting out in the grass, and you gotta catch 'em all and then train them into battle-hardened warrior beasts. It's a terrific formula and we're blessed to have this series in our lives, is what I'm trying to say. Sadly, though, this top-notch framework is often interrupted by Pokemon Contests, which seem to be less than pointless.
I mean, they might not be pointless, but the game never makes their meaning very clear. From what they explain, random audiences might vote on how cute your Pokemon is, or how cool it is, or how tough it is. Or they vote on how well it dances, or how awesome its costume is, or, bizarrely enough, how good it is at acting. Or they vote on how cool it looks when it's doing a move.
If this sounds like I'm just vomiting up a list of conditions, that's because I don't know why any of it is happening. There's no clear rewards system, and this is in a series that's FULL of clear and constantly reinforced rewards systems (win badges by beating gym leaders, obtain items after nabbing a certain number of Pokemon, so on and so forth). So if you ask me what the contest is, I'd say, "It's a circus-tent-looking building in town that you do your best to avoid."
Grand Theft Auto V Thinks Its Yoga Sequence Is Hilarious
The open world genre has been around long enough that games now openly acknowledge when missions or minigames are bad. Borderlands 2 and The Witcher 3 both include missions in which characters or flavor text openly mention how trivial or frustrating an errand is -- a joke that boils down to "Can you believe you paid $60 to do this?"
Grand Theft Auto V had yoga.
"A hard-ass protagonist finds his wife getting flirty with a yoga instructor while having to perform yoga moves himself" would be fine for a three-second joke in a cutscene. But, in what is apparently some kind of attempt at meta-humor, they make you take a break from shooting rocket launchers at cars to see if you can make every single one on the street explode in succession to play through this yoga minigame. See, because you hate having to do the boring thing, just like the character does.
So we get the combination of an action-free sequence while the "Uh-oh! The instructor is goofy! And he's getting handsy with my wife!" punchline is stretched into eternity. And sure, because this is a GTA game and pathos is for nerds, the mission ends with a big drug trip and you dealing with alien hallucinations. But why not just skip to that? Did the writers think the joke was so funny that we needed to make half a mission about it?
Oblivion's Mages Guild Fetch Quest Is The Epitome Of Busywork
In Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, the Mages Guild is a big deal, as they collect and distribute magical knowledge throughout the world. So how do you join? Do you prove your magical acumen? Or do you show through triumphant combat and hard work that you're worthy of receiving training in magic? Nope. That would be too enjoyable, and would spoil the player.
Instead, you talk to a guy who asks you to talk to other guys in various cities. Then, when you talk to each of those guys, you perform light fetch quests for them, like finding a ring, buying back a dude's staff, or pulling a prank. And it's only after you do this seven times that you get the blessing to go back to the first guy and finally join the Guild.
This mission earns this spot on the list because it represents open world games at their worst. It eliminates skill, strategy, and creativity in favor of "Go here, now go here, now go here." It stretches out the play time with traveling from Point A's to Point B's over and over, all to unlock the possibility of doing something fun in the future. It's as if designers will never figure out that the last thing you want to be doing in a game about slaying monsters is walk four miles to pick up someone's drycleaning.
Daniel Dockery has a Twitter where he retweets Pokemon fan art and makes broad declarations about Batman Returns.
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