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Collectibles: One Scavenger Hunt too Far

by on January 29, 2014
 

These days, collectibles are everywhere you look in gaming. Whether they’re coins, monsters or audio tapes, you’d be hard pressed to find a title that doesn’t feature collectible items in some shape or form. While in many cases they are a welcome addition to the game experience, as the years go on, collectibles are becoming increasingly redundant in a number of titles, and yet they still continue to crop up game after game. Are all these scavenger hunts starting to get a little unnecessary?

Now don’t get me wrong, as I mentioned before, many games use collectibles in a great and productive way. The Lego series in particular is built on the premise of item collecting. As a foundation this works perfectly for them, and I don’t think anyone picks up a Lego game without expecting to do a little legwork for hidden items. Meanwhile, other titles make their collectibles useful, such as heart pieces in Zelda or bone charms in Dishonored. Games such as these entice you to hunt out their items to make your character stronger and more prepared for the journey ahead, and these are a great addition to the game experience too.

Then you get the in-between collectibles; ones that have a use but you probably won’t be able to utilize it until after you’ve finished the main game. Assassin’s Creed II is guilty of this one, with that seemingly endless feather hunt that eventually grants you the Auditore Cape. While you do get a very short cut scene and pick up an achievement for your trouble, its real worth as a piece of gameplay is a little questionable, but at least not all bad.

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However, there is a growing trend in gaming of collectibles being scattered across the virtual world with little reason or purpose. They don’t make you stronger, provide bonuses, or add anything to the story; they simply pad out the game and maybe give you an achievement if you’re lucky. While some of these scavenger hunts can be enjoyable if you like the thrill of the hunt or enjoy exploring the land, many others just become tedious. Some games will even push you to such depths of despair that you’ll find yourself resorting to an online collectibles map, or even giving up entirely. Worst of all, once you’ve hit item collecting rock bottom, it becomes quickly and painfully apparent that 100% story completion shouldn’t be held to ransom for such absurd tasks as collecting 440 Riddler trophies. That isn’t how you make a great game, and it shouldn’t be considered a norm.

So why do developers continue to pack their games with unnecessary collectibles? Why are the requirements of game completion increasingly dependent on yet another mundane scavenger hunt? Most of the time it seems like developers are just distracting you, and trying to make it feel as though their game has many more hours in it than it really does. I mean it’s not exactly a surprise that developers want you to spend more of your day on their game and not someone else’s, but it is a little sad when weak design strategies are used to keep you roped into the system for as long as possible.

The thing is I honestly wouldn’t mind if these added collectibles were simply well thought out, despite being there to fill out the game. Many titles prove how much a few collectible items can add to the experience, such as the insightful audio tapes in Bioshock. Unfortunately, interesting and original collectibles seem to be becoming less and less common, as everyone seems to be more concerned about numbers and less about getting the job done right.

I just think it’s about time for some developers get back to the basics and focus on making a great, well put together title. If they do feel the need to pad out their game through collectibles or any other means, then that’s fine, but they need to really become a part of the game and not feel like a tacked on afterthought. I’d much rather the next title I play take me a handful of hours to complete yet be an amazing experience, than be dragged out with yet another pointless scavenger hunt. I won’t get my hopes up too high, though; Assassin’s Creed IV is in my disc drive.


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