So, Mass Effect Andromeda (ME:A) has gotten its hooks in me again. After a month long hiatus, I’ve pretty much binged the game over the weekend to the exclusion of all else. The game is pretty much my kind of Sci-Fi, space ships, combat, and an intriguing storyline that traverses multiple star systems in the Andromeda Galaxy. It is also a rather large game, with one major story arc and many, many side quests. Each of the “major” worlds that you discover has a mission or two that involves the main quest and then a ridiculous amount of the side quests to fill out that world. And even when you’re done, more side quests tend to populate on that world, so while you can “finish” the world, it is not uncommon to spend quite a bit of time on each world.
Now, while I appreciate long games, I’m starting to feel that many games are simply padding their runtime with useless side quests and other story elements just to 1) artificially inflate their length (gamers these days supposedly value a longer game rather than a shorter game) and 2) to make sure that you play only their game for long periods of time (hence you don’t trade the game back in thereby decreasing the “used game” market). “Games as a ‘Service'” is an idea that is slowly gaining hold in the gaming community with more and more publishers trying to extend the life of their games to accomplish the two goals and the idea of paid DLC. My concern is that this is coming at the expense of storytelling.
For instance, there was a mission that I just completed on ME:A that had me chasing a woman with a highly contagious disease and I needed to try to stop her before she reached a populated center. However, in her delusion she had stolen a shuttle and left the station. Yet, in a shuttle, she was able to traverse several different solar systems (quite far away from the space station) and was able to crash land the shuttle on a populated world. Her little shuttle served the plot rather than the story. There was no way, based on the fiction that the game had set up, that the shuttle she was in should have been able to fly as far as it did and cover as many systems that it did. I could tell this was done for game extension and nothing else. Even the ending of the mission was also off–I won’t spoil it–but the resolution did not match what the exposition was set up as when the mission was first presented to me.
This is a problem that I see continuing to happen as games get bigger. Instead of stories that make sense, we will get stories that exist to simply fill out the story and make the world bigger and the game longer. Instead of tightly crafted games, many games will become more diluted and and will have to rely on more and more visual aspects and less story aspects. I wonder what impact this will have on gaming in the future as more and more games focus on length and breadth rather than story?