Too much of a good thing
Humans might be the ultimate hunter-gatherers--and even that could be up for debate--but sometimes games take the gathering part a little too literally. How often do you find yourself scurrying around identikit crates/foliage/nooks and crannies to see if something shiny can be plundered? Collectibles might add on a few hours to a game, but Id rather have those hours be full of things I havent done across every other game Ive bought in the past decade.
This list represents the most heinous examples of games that have stretched the great collectible hunt miles past the breaking point. Whether their shiny trinkets are too plentiful or just pointless, this collection of offenders is the reason that collectibles should be given the Atari E.T. treatment and get dropped into a new landfill-shaped home.
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
Buried within the ocean of collectibles in Black Flag is a really enjoyable Assassins Creed story. The only problem is that you have to wade through trinkets to get anywhere, as the game constantly teases you with distractions and... ooh, is that a great white shark?
Of course, an open-world game like Black Flag cant just rely on the story to keep players amused: it wants you to explore the land and create your own adventure. Sadly, the pay-off is poor: the Animus fragments, treasure chests, music song sheets, Mayan stelaes and hackable computers give you little more than a big fat checklist that can often be more of a grind than a joy. Sure, there are some cool rewards, like new armour and weapons, but by the time you've been playing for 30 hours, you're pretty tooled up anyway.
Los Santos is a world that I probably havent seen half of, because every time I dive into its debauched playground of mayhem, it feels colossal in every direction. Including under the sea. So it was with great excitement when I got to What Lies Below, a mission that gives you guided a tour of the depths of the Los Santos coastline, by getting you to collect fragments of, um, something. Maybe a crashed submarine or all those buried government reports Ive been hearing so much about recently? Either way, I cant remember, which seems to be Rockstars point.
It was around the fifteen-minute mark when my excitement turned into mind-rotting boredom. Vacuuming up all the translucent gubbins to polish it off takes a few hours and rewards you with $10 in-game money! Even if the Xbox 360 spat out actual dollar bills, I would still be annoyed at the collectible rampage. The implied derision for wasting your life in the blue oceans of Los Santos is a cruel joke at the gamers expense and sours the amoral fun times. Well, until you grab a rocket launcher and start some impromptu traffic control, at least.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
The New Order is a demanding-but-immensely-rewarding FPS, mixed with a surprisingly engaging story populated by characters you actually care about. Not bad for a reboot of a reboot. The attention to detail also stretched to the collectibles that help fill in the blanks of the Nazi-ruled world you find yourself in. However, a little extra effort would have gone a lot further when it comes to the game's collectibles.
Granddaddy Wolfenstein 3D is a game built on secrets--mazes within mazes--so you can understand why Machine Games flooded collectibles into The New Order. But the sheer quantity is overwhelming. The gameplay mechanics are so much fun that collecting everything that the game wants you to gets monotonous rapidly. Before you know it, it doesnt matter that the letters have some incredibly detailed and cough-moving-cough short stories that deserve to be read. You just cant be bothered to hunt them out, because youve spent half a level looking for some gold thing and would rather like to get back to the robot Nazi slaying sharpish.
Tomb Raider is a bold tale of Lara Crofts struggle to embed her pickaxe in as many people as she can manage, and it also has plenty of positives when it comes to its collectibles. They make sense. Lara is an archaeologist after all, so you cant begrudge her rummaging for treasure. And for the most part, they actually help expand on the gameplays strengths, so theres a genuine drive to find weapon parts that are handily left lying about to upgrade your DIY arsenal. However, there are also geo tags: the one weak link that should have been left on the ship that sunk at the start of the game.
Annoyingly, the little demons are everywhere and are never too hard to find. But, whereas the other collectibles link into the story, the geo tags are never mentioned. In fact, theyre just an artificial an attempt to inflate the games longevity. Its a surprising laziness considering the rest of the games efforts to make the collectibles a part of the story.
Valiant Hearts is part puzzle game, part misleadingly cute dive into the horrors of WW1. Its story drags you through many of the key events of the Great War and gives you historical facts to nail home the authenticity of its hand drawn hell. However, it tempers the horror by giving you a majorly adorable dog to boss about, and a few scattered collectibles to numb the pain of its story. Its a shame they feel like they belong in a different game.
Unlike most games on this list, Valiant Hearts isnt stuffed to the seams with collectibles, and some of them even help add depth to the hand-drawn surroundings. But--of course theres a but--they feel like a cop-out, a 'necessity' for replay value that only muddles the games charm. All too soon you're restarting the same level, constantly trying to figure out how the hell you missed a glowing piece of paper When you have a story as strong as this, you dont need arbitrary collectibles to keep players hooked.
Killzone: Shadow Fall
Killzone: Shadow Fall has the look of a perfume advert and, unfortunately, the brains of one too. Its very pretty, but often leaves you wondering 'Whats the point?' It has some lovely open areas for you to orchestrate tactical assaults with your flying robot friend, but will gladly funnel you down corridors throughout various chapters. It wants you to be enthralled by its twisty tale of genocidal wars, and then prompts you to collect comic book pages, because apparently audio logs are just too 2007 to fill a game.
There are 97 different collectibles flung across its ten levels, but some of them just dont make sense for Lucas Kellan to be bothering with. Why is a highly trained assassin desperate to complete his comic collection, page by shiny page? Surely he gets a decent salary from his shadow operations; why cant he afford to just buy a new copy? The lack of cohesion with the narrative yanks you out of the story quicker than it takes to dispatch a Helghast soldier.
Aliens Colonial Marines
So, yeah, Aliens: Colonial Marines, is a bit guff. Part of that guffness is the fact that it employs collectibles as a lazy crutch to artificially inflate completion time, without paying too much attention to the context of the games narrative (or logic in general).
Take the motion tracker, a handy sonar-esque tool for monitoring movement. It should be used to spy Xenos creeping up on you, but it ends up being used (for most of the game) to find dog tags, audio logs, or 'special' weapons. To clarify: it's a motion tracker. Finding objects that never move. Ok, then... Given that this game wants to keep you in a heightened state of alertness, as you debate whether that slithering hiss you heard wants to eat your heart from the inside or not, stopping in your tracks and staring at darkened corners (trying to figure out where the audio log is stationed) pretty much kills whatever atmosphere was mustered to begin with.
Delivered with a just bit of thought and care, collectibles can become a neat motivational tool, driving players to explore worlds in ways they hadnt thought possible. But when these trinkets are haphazardly shoved into campaigns its hard not to yawn as you hoover up all the digital fluff. Any collectables you resent hunting down? Are you a fan of pointless digital rewards? Let me know below.
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