BioWare and Electronic Arts are gearing up for the launch of Mass Effect: Andromeda at the end of next month. We've been getting tidbits of new information and details about the game, including how they'll handle the side-quests.
Mass Effect: Andromeda producer Fabrice Condominas spoke with PC Gamer recently about the inspiration behind their overhaul of the side-quests in the game, noting that they actually took cues from CD Projekt Red's The Witcher 3, saying...
We are approaching the completionist aspect very differently, because we've done and learned a lot from Inquisition. But we've also observed what other games have been doing, like The Witcher.
The Witcher 3 (in particular) is a fine example of how they tried to integrate side-quests into the game to feel like main quests, and at the same time not feel like they were taking players out of the game to dilly-dawdle in meaningless tasks.
The article on PC Gamer rightly points out that a lot of times in open-world games there's an insistence to fill the world with stuff, but it isn't always meaningful, impactful, purposeful or even all that fun when compared to what the main game offers. A perfect example of this is Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV. A lot of the side-quests in both games were literally just pointless mini-games that you completed to rack up experience. Condominas also likened a similar situation to Dragon Age: Inquisition, where they felt they had a lot to do that didn't seem all that important in the grand scheme of things.
CD Projekt avoided this pitfall in The Witcher 3 by making the side-quests feel like their own main line adventure... in fact, they blurred the lines between the quality of side-quests and the main storyline, so that it never felt like one or the other was taking Geralt away from something important.
I'm a little shocked that Condominas didn't mention Mass Effect 2, which while it was definitely smaller in scope than the original Mass Effect, the side-quests were almost all entirely centered around the main cast who would be required to play a big part in taking down the Collectors. Some of the side-quests at least did feel significant to the overall story being told in that game, even though the entire story itself was essentially one giant crew fetch quest.
For Mass Effect: Andromeda they're aiming to make those side-quests feel significant to the overall universe they're trying to expand and explore in the game. It's a cool goal if they can pull it off.
The comment section on the PC Gamer article is a little divided because some people don't mind mindless side-quests set apart from the main story, so long as the side-quests are fun. Others feel the side-quests need to compliment the main quests. I think there's always going to be a divide, given that loads of people loved all the pointlessly fun and entertaining mini-games and side-quests in GTA: San Andreas, all of which were unique in their own way and were highly replayable. There was far less enthusiasm for the mini-games in GTA IV, which culled a lot of the over-the-top antics for more realistic activities, like skeeball, darts, and bowling.
I think the side-quests in Mass Effect: Andromeda should be a-okay. Besides, they seem to want people to be as engaged as those epic quests from The Witcher 3, not throw their phone at the wall because their cousin wants them to go bowling every five minutes.