Side Quests: When Are They Considered Too Much?

There is no question that RPGs are an immersive gaming experience and are particularly great for exploring the detailed worlds created by the game developers who carefully crafted them in the first place. The best kind of RPGs are the ones where you have a ton of exploration and you have a choice between diving straight into the main story or doing the side quests scattered throughout the game.

My favorite kind of side quests are the subplot quests that aren’t important to the main storyline, but enhances the backstory of the character you are playing as or adds to the overall lore of the world you are playing in. Mass Effect and Dragon Age are great examples of games that have these kinds of quests.

You also have the other end of the spectrum where you have something called fetch quests. These quests involve finding lost objects and returning them to their owner, or finding ingredients for a potion or spell. The reward after doing these fetch quests is usually money or a useful item to use on your character. The fetch quests, depending on how much more items or money you want to gather, is a bit boring and annoying for me. The only time I would do them is if I needed more money or the quests aren’t as numerous to complete.

I always believed doing side quests are a fun way to explore a world/character further until I discovered there is such a thing as, what I like to call, “side quest fatigue.” Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has stretched my limitations and patience with side quests like no other RPG has ever done before.

Fighting random wild beasts while helping villagers in need one day at a time
Fighting random wild beasts while helping villagers in need one day at a time

Amalur is a great RPG to play so far. I can’t give a full opinion on it just yet because I’m still working on finishing it. Regardless, I’m having a blast just exploring the gorgeous world with my character Lyra, who is a battle mage in my current playthrough. The downside of playing this game, as I have discovered really early on, is there are just too many side quests!

As soon as I played through the intro, I took the time to explore the place my character found herself in. I immediately clicked on the exclamation point markers over the heads of random villagers Lyra met just to get a feel of the kind of side quests I would be getting throughout the game. At times they were fun. There were quests that were side story based, which I enjoyed. Once I kept taking, completing, and then taking on more side quests I found myself in the position of doing more side quests than getting into the actual main story itself.

In all the time I have played RPGs, Amalur has proven to be the game where I felt completely drained from doing side quests. There are just too many to take on and complete. It’s incredibly overwhelming when I think about the amount of side quests I have yet to accept. I’m also the kind of gamer who wants to complete whatever quest is in my game log just so I won’t feel guilty for not doing them. I guess I’m sort of a completionist, but not to the extent of wanting to unlock all the Xbox achievements in a game.

Aside from side quest fatigue, I really wanted to move on with the story. Out of the RPGs I have played so far, I at least got further into the main storyline while still being able to do the side quests. With Amalur, the more I kept helping everyone who had a problem in the game, it just delayed Lyra from continuing with her main quest as the “fateless one.”

I’m all for being able to play a game that allows free exploration and the option to choose to continue with the main story, but not to the extent where the side quests have now become too much of a distraction to be able to really dive into the main story. I do wish to somehow get a 100% completion with Amalur, but it has become way more overwhelming to do than when I played Dragon Age or Mass Effect. I feel Dragon Age and Mass Effect had the right amount of side quests in their games and I was able to get back on track with the main story.

To answer the question I have posed in the topic of my post, I think side quests can become too much when the number of side quests just outnumber the main quests to become more of a distraction. I know side quests are optional, but if you are like me, you want to try and do everything if you can. When the side quests just start getting tiresome to take on, they don’t really become fun anymore. I think when this happens, you just abandon trying to get every ounce of the game completed and just plow through the main story. If I do take this route, and it is looking very likely with Amalur, I do feel as if I’m missing something and I’m not getting the full experience of a game like I should. It’s a terrible feeling to be saddled with.

What are your feelings about side quests? Is there such a thing as having too many side quests in a game?

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18 thoughts on “Side Quests: When Are They Considered Too Much?

  1. I think you can definitely have too many sidequests, but the degree to which that actually bugs me depends on how fleshed-out the sidequests are. The sidequests in ME1 were a repetitive mix of clearing out dozens of enemy bases with the same architecture and collect-a-thon artifact searches, while the sidequests in ME2 and ME3, though fewer in number, had much more variety and a higher level of presentational polish. The sidequests in Borderlands 2 deliver a lot of optional backstory compared to BL1’s “kill ten rats” approach, but the fact that they often make you trek back through areas you’ve just completed (and they won’t unlock until you’ve done so) is horrendous. I like Fire Emblem: Awakening’s approach to sidequests, where there are just as many sidequests as story missions, the sidequests contain just as much dialogue as the story missions, and the rewards are often even greater than those of the story missions (you know you’re getting a new party member at the end of it, whereas the same cannot be said of all story missions).

    1. I definitely agree with you on how certain side quests can be better than others. I do remember not liking every single side mission in the first Mass Effect, but it was easier to do all of them without taking hours upon hours to finally get to the main story. This is really my issue with Amalur. I like having the chance to enjoy the side quests along with the main story quests, but not when after side quest number fifty you barely scratch the surface of the story itself. I guess my only solution to this is just focus on the main story on my first run with Amalur and then go back at a later date to explore all the side quests the game has to offer.

    1. I think Skyrim might be as massive as Amalur, but I never played Skyrim and I don’t have any real interest to play it. I also can’t comment on Oblivion since I haven’t played that game either.

      I read about the features for PS4, but haven’t watched any video on it. I think it’s because I don’t want to buy anymore consoles past Xbox, and this coming from someone who had no intention of getting one either!

  2. Great read! My love/hatred of side quests depends on how invested I am in a particular game. Generally speaking, I think most are fun (even the fetch quests) and worth the extra effort. Because I was just *so* into ME1, I purposely set out to do at least one complete playthrough, and I don’t regret a single hour of that 80+ hour game. By the time ME2 and ME3 rolled around, I just didn’t have that kind of time to invest in games anymore, so most of the their sidequests fell by the waistside. Right now, I’m so in love with Red Dead Redemption that I’ll do anything for John Marston. However, I’m not so attached to Xenoblade Chronicles, so I’m skipping most of the sidequests,

    But yes, there can certainly be too many sidequests. The Fable games, especially #3, just wore me out in terms of extra questing. In Fable 3 I had to stop interacting with the NPCs because nearly everyone wanted me to go fetch something/find someone/stop a crime. They were so distracting! With Skyrim (I’m so close to the end!), I’ve saved up over a dozen sidequests, and I can see myself revisiting the game every now and then to complete one. But knocking them all out in one sitting seems a bit much.

    1. Thank you! Having a love/hate relationship towards side quests is the best way to describe it. Sometimes I get really excited when there is a new quest for me to do, and other times I’m wishing for the game to stop magically coming up with more.

      The Mass Effect series along with Dragon Age were the games I had to try and do all the side quests they gave me. That was how much I loved those games. Though, thinking about it now, I didn’t do all the quests for Dragon Age: Origins. I did get quite a chunk of it done though.

      I agree with what you said about having to be really invested in a game to decide how much you are willing to accept and complete every single quest you encounter. The Bioware games are the best example for me. Amalur, unfortunately, isn’t one of those games where I can do all the quests in one sitting. I abandoned that, and it’s all about doing the main story full throttle!

  3. Thus far, the sidequests in ME2 haven’t felt as much like sidequests as like the actual content of the game, which is cool. Only, I feel like I am solving everyone emotional issues at the expense of my actual mission.

    In general, I prefer sidequests that are self-contained, whether or not they are relevant or revelations to my other characters. They should always function to build up the game world, however.

    I don’t necessarily hate the shallower, simpler types of sidequests, but I wish they were flagged differently in a game’s presentation so I didn’t go in with false expectations. I hate ‘taking all of the quests’ in an area not knowing whether one that starts as a fetch quest will turn into something more interesting or not.

    That’s where Mass Effect 2 is excelling for me so far. The sidequests are clearly marked by cutscenes and more or less always being about your own party, and the filler quests just get thrown on you from time to time. Sure, the whole “this filler quest happens to take place completely in conjunction with this sidequest to the extent that I’ll find an item in that area to hand to someone else” comes off a little too serendipitous, but not everything is perfect.

    1. I liked how the side quests were set up in ME2. Most of the time the side quests weren’t just fetch this and that. It really felt like main story missions to a certain degree, though none of it affects the overall story, whether or not you do those missions at all.

      I think for me, the fetch quests are only worth it if there is a great item to be taken from it or there is an interesting reason why I’m getting this or that for someone. A lot of the times fetch quests have been more disappointing than anything.

  4. I think there can definitely be too many sidequests in a game. I’m like you, I’m somewhat of a completionist and will want to finish any sidequests that an RPG throws at me. However, I think a lot gamers are like that and will want to soak up the whole experience. If there are so many that you’re spending most of your time running around doing sidequests, especially if you just have to collect things over and over again, that’s too many in my opinion. I definitely prefer sidequests that advance the story or develop a character, but even with those, I do get frustrated if there are just many that they actually become the focus of the game and not the main quests. ME is the perfect example of sidequests done right in my opinion! I wasn’t as fond of them in ME1, but for the rest of them, I felt they were interesting enough and were in just the right amount to add another level of entertainment to the game without distracting me from the main plot.

    1. The collecting are the worst ones I think. Maybe doing two or three is fine, but when you get to maybe your tenth fetch quest then I’m just getting impatient with the game. There really should be a good balance between doing side quests to get your fill of exploring the world, but at the same time you do eventually get to move on with the main storyline.

  5. That’s so true! The problem with Amalur — as fun as it is — is that the side quests actually sidetrack you from the main story, as you said.

    Personally, I felt most overwhelmed with the side quests in Skyrim, but at least that game doesn’t have a compelling, obvious main storyline to follow… so it’s okay to run around doing whatever you want, whenever you want.

    But with games like Amalur, I can totally relate to that need to get back to the story already! I also agree that the ME and Dragon Age side quests are awesome… particularly the ones that aid in character development, etc. And yeah, fetch quests are the worst.

    1. I think my friend mentioned how Skyrim doesn’t quite have an exact plot of some sort, so moving onto the story isn’t as great as say the Bioware games or Amalur. I also think I get tired of the side quests in Amalur because part of the side quests involve killing beasts that are plaguing the villages. After doing that so many times without a quest being involved is too much for sure, and complete overkill.

  6. Yes agreed, a game definitely can have too many side quests. I think the ones that bother me the most are the random re-spawning ones like in Children of Mana. You can never “finish” the side quests in this game because they never end. Maybe the developers think it’s great because you can play it endlessly, but it ends up feeling lazy and soulless. But you answer your question, I guess it really just depends on how many of the side quests are superfluous. I don’t mind doing some of them for items and money because it can still be fun, but if there are so many of them and they basically feel like copies of one another, then I feel it’s too much. I also prefer side quests that actually develop the world or characters. Those really are the best ones. 🙂

    1. I haven’t played Children of Mana, but that sounds horrible! I could never play a game where the side quests just never end. There has to be an end in sight. That’s already flat out crazy and frustrating.

  7. I sort of had this problem with Skyrim. On one hand, I appreciated the depth of options, and was able to pick and choose my favorites (Daedric Artifacts, FTW). On the other, the completionist in me dies inside when I know there’s no way I could possibly complete all of them. I think games like Mass Effect 2 offer a great amount and, more importantly, method to track entertaining side quests.

    1. Yeah, I hate the idea of not being able to get 100% on a game just because there are just too many side quests. Sure I can finish the main storyline and kind of be satisfied with that, but if a side quest is just as good as the main story quests, I really want the chance to play them too.

  8. Thank you for the article. It seems that some developers are too obsessed with quantity over quality these days when it comes to sidequests.

    1. Thank you for commenting! I feel like the focus on quality over quantity should be more important when developing a game. I rather have a few meaningful sidequests than an endless glut of meaningless ones that start feeling more like a chore.

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