Mass Effect 2 Sidequests Sometimes Poignant, Often Busywork

What makes a good video game sidequest? The optional diversions in big games like Mass Effect 2 don't always delight players. Sometimes, they even tick them off. The New York Times, reviewing ME2, seems conflicted:

Most of the game is spent on a series of side missions in which you build and strengthen your team of fellow adventurers. Those side quests are well constructed, and a few of them are quite emotionally poignant. But in the big story of attacking and defeating the alien menace and saving humanity, they can feel like endless throat-clearing and busywork.

"Throat-clearing" and "busywork"? How would you like to be able to describe sidequests in the games you play? Sadly, I suspect most of the side quests I've played over the years - bear in mind I haven't played Mass Effect 2 - did indeed feel like busywork. There are exceptions, like the wedding quest in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. But it rings true in this review that sidequests could be the drag on the momentum of an entertaining game.

Dragging Out a Galaxy Rescue [The New York Times]


Comments

    Well i'd have to disagree Jim, "throat clearing"? "busy work"? part of fighting big scary aliens is assembling a team and if that seems like busy work to you then by all means hit that omega 4 rely solo, see how you do.

    Those weren't side quest jim, side quests are nameless anomalies you pick up off random planet C. And i had fun with those this time, mainly cause i didn't have to drive for several hours in a car that just won't die..

    I did all of the side quests to gain everyone's loyalty and I have to say, a lot of them felt really dull. Then I started trying to get into the main mission only to find it was basically "Well... congrats! You've finished the game!"

      Exactly. The sidequests in ME2 aren't really sidequests at you - as soon as you've got your team, done the loyalty missions, do one mission and well, yeah, you've won the the game.

    None of the team strengthening quests are listed as side quests, they're all main story. Being that the main story is building a team to survive the suicide mission, did that reviewer play the game?

    I've described ME2 as being very 'wide' rather than 'long.' We don't see a lot of what we'd call main storyline in this game, that is true. But we do see a LOT of concurrent stuff, the loyalty quests, which are of equal importance to each other but don't move the Collector narrative forward much. This is very clearly a middle-of-trilogy game though, and I anticipate a very different set of missions for ME3, especially depending on how you completed the final suicide mission in ME2.

    What Samakain and Sesshomaru have said here is true, the loyalty quests are the bulk of ME2. They develop the team which I hope we see in ME3, so that all the time invested in ME2 is worthwhile.

    I'll have to ponder the quality of those individual missions a little more before I have an opinion on them though. Except for Garrus, who is completely awesome.

    The issue I had with those Loyalty quests is that they're all completely encapsulated, two-character quests. They never conflicted, or influenced each other.

    It does feel to me like unimportant work when I run these 9 or so huge missions which have nothing to do with the greater good and everything to do with one person's troubled past.

    I'm not a "fixer", I'm a galaxy saver. Aren't I?

    I really enjoyed the loyalty missions. Some of them had the most "emotionally engaging" (Now i am quoting the Bioware press releases :P) sequences and while the decisions you make in the loyalty missions don't seem to effect the overall story of ME2 (except for gaining their loyalty) i can see the outcome of those missions having a massive effect in ME3. (Specially - Legion's, Tali's, Samara's, Mordin's and Garrus's) Each one of those has a radically different outcome depending on whether you took a neutral, paragon or renegade route. I won't spoil as to WHY they are important but if you played through think about those missions and how they ended up - how will that effect Mass Effect 3 after you see the end of ME2?

    Yeah - alot.

    While I'm not sure I would classify side-quests as "throat-clearing" I think there is often a case to be made that side quests can send mixed messages to players. Often in games like Zelda and Oblivion, you will have NPC's telling you endlessly that you have to rush to save the galaxy, kingdom, etc... and yet you know if you dilly dally doing side quests, it will have no impact on the outcome of the final game whatsoever. In that sense, there is probably an argument to be made that side quests often don't gel with the pacing of the game as a whole.

    Question is; Is Mass Effect 2 as long as Mass Effect 1?

      I found it longer. The missions were shorter, but there were more of them. The "what the reviewer calls side missions" usually went for about an hour. I liked them as they added a bit more diversity than the three-four areas that you visited in ME1. So far I'm 16 hours in, I can now go to the final area, but have about 7-8 side quests to do before I want to venture to the end.

    Have to agree, as much as I love the game, the main story is extremely short. Without the loyalty missions, it would be over in a matter of hours.

    Then again, most of the length lays in the replayability of the game.

    Jay, it took me 36 hours to complete, and I didn't do all the side missions. I'm not sure how long I spent on ME 1.

    I kind of agree with the NYT, the side quests bog you down and throw you out of the experience. You're building a suicide squad to save the galaxy, why are you dealing with all this mundane "clear out the mercenary base" stuff.

    It wouldn't be so bad if those missions added to the world and story. You can see they tried, but without tying it into the actual main plot-line, which leaves them less than fulfilling.

    I didn't do them all, but I did some. I also played the DLC and all of the loyalty missions. Even these felt like a grind at some points, it felt artificial having to do all this shit to get onto someone's good side.

    The Normandy Crash site mission in the Collector's Edition/DLC IS busywork, and it's pretty shameful they made you pay extra to play it. You just go to the crash site, run around and collect 20 dogtags, and place a monument. No combat, just running around collecting stuff.It was a chore.

      The crash site sucked but came free as long as you got the game new.

    While I love exploring and doing side quests, sometimes they feel out of place in the story. For example, in Mass Effect 2 - 'Oh no, aliens are killing humans. We need to act quickly to stop them!' - 'Sorry, I'm just going to take a trip to the other side of the galaxy to strip-mine a few planets. I'll get around to saving the galaxy soon, I promise...'

    Fallout 3's quests were well-constructed, engaging and overall fun. Mass Effect (haven't bought ME2 yet) had extremely tedious ones. I'd love to see Majora's Mask-type quests back in games.

    I. Love. Sidequests.

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