I Kind Of Wish Real Life Had Side Quests

I’m finally playing Mass Effect 3.

I played through ME2 and it was the greatest game ever – but then I started ME3.  And it’s more amazing than I could have ever expected.

The combat is even smoother, your powers look awesome, the graphics are better (and they were already good to begin with) and the story is compelling.  The only drawback is the ridiculous number of side quests.

(Minor ME3 spoilers follow.)

The game opens with the Big Bad Aliens invading Earth.  In your very first scene, you’re running to your ship to escape, avoiding the gigantic evil spaceships as they destroy the city around you.  It’s intense and heartbreaking.

Once you escape, you’re sent off to the Citadel, the “capital” of the galaxy, to ask for help defending Earth.  No one wants to help because everyone is dealing with their own Big Bad Alien invasions.  Well, crap.  Now what?

How about some side quests?

Turns out “saving Earth” is only the tip of a seemingly bottomless Maslow’s Hierarchy-type pyramid of quests.  So what if Earth is on fire and millions of people are dying every day?  Apparently we have time for lots and lots of nesting side quests.

Here’s an example.  The main objective is convincing the Good Guy Aliens to help me save Earth, but this particular race of aliens wouldn’t help me until I helped rescue their leader from a battle.  The leader turned out to be dead, so I had to find the replacement leader. The replacement leader wouldn’t come with me until I helped secure the battlezone.  Only then would he come back to the Citadel with me and help broker an alliance.  Sheesh.  Check that off the list.

And that’s nothing compared the side quest-chain I dealt with after that.  A crime queen offered me the use of her mercenary armies, but only if I talked to each of the three commanders individually.  One of them wouldn’t help me until I killed a guy he wanted dead: a general who’s been cracking down on his black-market arms dealing.  I didn’t really want to kill the general, so I talked to him and found out he understands the need for weapons, but won’t back off of the mercenary.  So we cut a deal: I’ll bring him weapons, he won’t kill the mercenary leader.  I talked to his arms merchant, talked to the general again, talked to the mercenary commander again, and checked in with Crime Queen, who officially got her mercenaries in line, and I got support for Earth.

Phew.

It’s almost too much to keep track of, but at the same time, it’s kind of gratifying to have all these side quests lead neatly to a desired end result.  There’s not much in my life that follows such a complicated path to a foreseen result.  Mostly it’s just, like, get food at the grocery store so I can make dinner.  Collect time-off requests in advance so I’m not swamped at payroll time.  Stuff like that.

I would gladly go on some irritating side quests if it meant getting closer to a guaranteed goal.  Want to get a book published? Write this many pages, collaborate with this agent, talk to this editor, negotiate the money, and seek out the perfect cover design.  Done.  Book accomplished! +500 XP!  Level up!

And if I ever got confused, there would be the bonus of having a strategy guide or wiki already written up for me to consult.  That would be super convenient.

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