Jun 28 2012

6 Mission Types in Games that Make Me Cringe

Published by at 10:00 am under Editorials,Video Games

Those aren’t quests, they sound more like errands to me. 

While our games share many differences quest variety is not one of them, not usually at least. It doesn’t seem to matter what game I’m playing at some point I’ll have to rely on some embarrassingly bad AI for a critical quest or I’ll be forced to spend my time looting unimportant plot items like a squirrel preparing for winter.

It’s almost as if there is a finite amount of quests available for each game to choose from, leaving us to repeat them in many of the games we play. I’m not saying this makes these games bad, or that the quests themselves are bad, sometimes I’m even pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable they are, but some are definitely in need of retirement. After the jump I’ve compiled a list of six different mission or quest types that are either unnecessarily stressful, frustrating, or just plain boring. 

1. Escort missions

A game built around an escort mission yet it isn’t awful, amazing. 

Nothing gets me on edge more when playing a game than seeing the word ‘escort’ or ‘protect’ or any of the other buzz words that tells me I’m about to be at the mercy of some mindless bumbling AI controlled companion. I know it’s important to show my characters heroism or loyalty and I understand that supporting characters should be involved in gameplay to some extent, but geez are they usually dumb. It’s not that some escort missions aren’t executed well, sometimes these can be a pleasant surprise, but I’ve played through so many frustrating ones that my knee-jerk reaction is usually negative.

Companion control is almost always better when it’s given to the player, as I don’t recall a time when I ever preferred the computer controlled option over manual control. If I’m protecting some civilian I’d rather they just stay put while I clear the way, if it’s a combat unit I’d prefer it if they didn’t act as if they’re going to “take on the whole empire” themselves.

2. Delivery Boy/Girl Missions

The origin of all delivery missions.

When some character gives me a package to deliver or some boring everyday errand to run, the first thing I think is that the developers wanted me to go somewhere and needed a reason to send me. This doesn’t bother me, if it’s the first time I have to go some place and my character is still on the bottom on the game’s plot totem pole, then sure I’ll deliver your helmets, chickens, goblin heads, or whatever else to the next city’s supporting character. I’ll do my best to play the part of the fledgling hero.

But if I’ve saved the village, destroyed the troll, or killed the drug lord, then I’ve earned the right to not have to carry all of your crap around. Go find another wet behind the ears hero, I’ve got more important things to worry about. Usually the only thing fun about these missions was getting into some kind of trouble, like purposely speeding past cops in stolen cars while playing Grand Theft Auto IV. Other open world games like Fallout and Elder Scrolls are guilty of using missions like this. It doesn’t seem to matter what impressive deeds or feats of strength I’ve accomplished, if the game wants me to go somewhere it means i’m going to have to carry someone’s groceries to get there.

3. This powerful item broke, put it back together.

The only legendary item of power i’m cool with putting back together. 

There’s a great evil spreading through the land and no matter how many try, there’s no one that seems able to stop it. Our only hope is a legendary item of great power, something only used when the world is in great danger, a weapon only you can wield. The, uh, thing is that it’s, uh, broken… No, no, it’s fine, you can just travel around and collect all of the pieces and put it back together before the great evil takes over, it should wait.

Why is every item of great power in pieces? If it was so great how did someone manage to break it into pieces, why is it even in pieces in the first place? These types of missions always just seem to bug me as they seem more like high class delivery missions in disguise. These are a little better though as legendary item pieces are usually guarded by some sort of boss which makes it a bit more than a simple delivery mission. Still, I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked to gather the kings horses and put together some ancient humpty dumpty item in order to save the world, but one of these days I would just like a legendary item to remain in one piece.

4. Destroy X

Despite Blizzard’s best attempts, the Crag Boar still exists as a species. 

This, to me, is the epitome of lazy ass quest creation. There once was a time where the word quest meant, you know, a quest; it was epic, there was a side story, characters grew stronger, and allies were lost. A quest used to mean something. Now though anything that can be written down and checked off like a shopping list is considered a quest. Asking me to go kill stuff in a game where you kill stuff isn’t a quest, it’s an errand.

Haven’t I been killing my enemies sufficiently? I spent the last four hours killing trolls to get to this village; giving me a quest to kill ten more seems a bit silly doesn’t it? Sometimes these missions attempt to make the game “feel” bigger by forcing me to slow down and grind. I feel like these types of quests exist to simply add gameplay hours in lieu of more content. When a game boasts twenty hours of gameplay how many of those hours are spent on quests like this? It would be nice if games were legally required to inform me of how many hours of gameplay are actually fluff hours spent on redundant quests like these.

5. Collect X

I blame you for a lifetime of having to collect things, Mario. 

‘Collect x’ is the older brother to the ‘destroy x’ quest type, and is the crown jewel of boring and mindless questing as you may not even be required to break or smash things. If you thought delivering an item was boring, how about traveling around and looting some ambiguous objects for a while, you can even spend some time clicking around in your inventory if you like! Sure I’m exaggerating a bit, but I’d like to think that there’s a better way propel the character and the story forward than having me run around picking flowers or something else generally unimportant to gameplay.

Sometimes players are asked to loot fallen enemies to collect an object, which technically makes it a ‘Destroy X’ quest with a whole bunch of extra looting in between.  The problem with quests like this is that it makes me feel like a dust buster, running around and sucking up objects into my inventory. Unless you’re playing Katamari that doesn’t sound like much fun.

6. Anything with a time limit

Disarming underwater bombs in most difficult mission of all time. 

Sometimes a time limit is necessary to actually create some fun or exciting gameplay, once completed these can be rewarding, but man when I see that clock in the corner start ticking I always lose my cool. Even if I could do it 20 seconds, somehow giving me a whole minute throws me off my game. Spoiler alert, I remember Super Metroid having an ending like this and it came out of nowhere. The entire game was fairly leisurely and then all of a sudden you had to make a mad dash for your ship in order to complete the game, something that got me killed the first time, I remember.

Unlike some of the others I listed, I don’t really mind a countdown or time limit if it’s done right. In my opinion a timer should just be there to create tension or stress and not to actually stop the player’s progression, unless it’s a time trial or something. I know I seemed to dislike all of the other examples I listed, and even though I enjoy a good time limit here and there, whenever I see that timer appear I always cringe.





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11 responses so far

  • frank

    I think a good use of the countdown timer was in Metal Gear Solid 4 during the ***SPOILER*** Metal Gear Rex sequence.

    As far as escort missions are concerned, I found Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (which was one long escort mission) to be mostly unobtrusive since your escort was rarely a hassle to take care of. But yes I always have the same knee-jerk reaction to escort missions. My reaction is usually “FUCK YOU (insert game studio name here)!!!”

  • Jesus Morales

    Well, what mission types do you like? :-P I agree that such missions can become annoying, repetitive, and really dull an otherwise good game. If done correctly, and not overused though, I think they can work. Well, escort missions have to done exceptionally well to not be annoying. Unless you’re sure you’ve done a bang-up job with your escort mission, just skip it.

  • Eugenio

    You missed “fly through these hoops in sequence” missions. Man, how I hate that.

  • Tara

    Haven’t read article yet but Arathi FTW! Ore! Flowers! Pwning the Witherbark!

  • Tara

    Gonna be kind of cunty now that I have read the article. Oh gee, let’s have a whole game that’s nothing but boss fights! Some people (by which I mean not cranky whiners) enjoy the downtime of a go get this or take this there quest. It allows us to smoke and check phones etc etc. You know I what like? Epic fucking bow (twice) from mobs outside of Mauradon (pre-world breaking admittedly). Grinding, particularly in the course of a go kill 10 of these quest can provide needed money/gear/xp and mindless running around whacking shit with an axe can be very meditative. I usually love these articles but srsly dude, you have led to me make one comment…….u mad bro?

  • Straenge

    Maybe it’s just me but MMO’s especially have me convinced that either we have just become so accustomed to having the same type of missions over and over again that we don’t think about it and just automatically go through the motions or like the poser above, where if we think outside the box, the players want nothing more then perpetual grinding.

    For myself at least who plays a current MMO quite a bit, I am just tired of seeing the same thing in every game, majority of which you listed. What happened to something new? Puzzles, Strategy while also having the mechanics to possibly have more then one inevitable conclusion. Kill X and Escort is all well and good but how about Escort while avoiding security while keeping the escort calmed.. or Kill this many mobs (or secretly make a deal with them)?

    Sadly though, maybe people aren’t interested in thinking while playing a game.. in my current MMO, barely anyone I team with reads through dialogues or even cares about storyline, let alone anything else other then leveling as fast as possible and only care about how fast they can do the mission while having little thought of the missions itself.

  • Seriously

    ‘Taraon 28 Jun 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Gonna be kind of cunty now that I have read the article. Oh gee, let’s have a whole game that’s nothing but boss fights!”

    Oh wait, you mean Shadow of the Colossus? Which was widely critically acclaimed and a classic of video games?
    L2P bro

  • Amy

    This whole list just sounds like a bash on World of Warcraft lol (not saying that’s a bad thing) Even though you have pics of other games, it’s like every problem you list is something that Blizzard uses as a staple in WoW. Destroy X doesn’t bug me as much as Collect X. Everyone remember the buzzard gizzard quest in the Blasted Lands? The drop rate was so poor I thought my character would die of old age first.

  • Matt

    You forgot such things as required mini games such as the initially optional but required card game in FF IX.

  • Mr. Right

    Escort Missions were the only valid thing on this list. Looking at everything else on it I’m convinced the author just doesn’t like missions period, because they basically listed every type of possible mission.

  • J

    Not to be a total prick, but if you take away those six (escort, deliver, repair, kill, collect, and time-trial) what else is left? Boss Fights? How would you kill a Boss if you first didn’t do a combination of at least some of those 6 things (learn to fight by killing enemy combatants, finding magical items or repairing an ancient/lost one, etc)? And, if you could kill that Boss without doing something first, then anyone could kill that Boss thereby devaluing the title of Boss. Essentially, it wouldn’t be a Boss at all, it would just be a a regular mob, as there would be nothing else to really contrast it with. Unless I’m missing something really obvious here (which I might be, and would be grateful if someone were to point it out) I would love to know what other missions exist in just about any game. Seriously, I will check back to see if anyone has suggestions that I’m completely missing.

    On a side note, I don’t think those six are the problem in gaming, rather, it’s the lack of creativity at how they are currently being employed.

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