Since I began streaming in August 2017, I have played a huge number of many kinds of games. The majority of those I have streamed have been single-player story-heavy games. Many of them, such as open world games, will also be full of side quests, activities, relationship building with NPCs, management sim aspects, or even a huge pile of collectables the player can find for various reasons. Some games obfuscate these objectives and leave them to be simply a bonus to your regular gameplay. An example of this would be the Fallout series, where you can find the bobble-heads or magazines and gain a small boost in stats. Other games will emphasise these side activities by displaying a score menu that tracks your progress or even giving you a showcase of these achievements in the form of unlockable cosmetic content.
Recently I have played two such games on the channel that have actively emphasised the concept of 100% completion, and as I finished each game’s main story I had two different experiences with this kind of game design. I generally think of this as my on-and-off relationship with 100% completion. This happens often when I play a game that has a strong emphasis on side activities and is loaded down with treasure hunts, secret content and collectables.
I start out strong, and the sight of all this extra gameplay excites and motivates me. “I will have it all!” I say to myself, determined to stare deeply into every facet of the game. I take time out from following the main story to actively hunt all of the side content, mortified at the prospect of missing something interesting or beneficial to the overall gameplay. As time draws on, days fall off the calendar, streams are started and finished full-to-bursting with a mix of story and completion hunting, I find my passion beginning to fade somewhat. Eventually I feel ready to be done with the game, and want to see the ending of the main story.
This isn’t usually the fault of the game as much as my own priority on storytelling in video games pushing its way to the front of the queue. I love a strong story in video games. I cannot emphasise that enough! I also love collecting things! Combing every corner of the game’s map looking for easter eggs and side quests, hidden weapons and upgrades. Seek and ye shall find. If a game starts you off looking in a particular direction, turn around and run the other way first. 99% of the time there is nothing there and no reason to go backwards instead of forwards. The 1% of times I do find something is as rewarding to me as finding a gold nugget is for the diligent prospector. I often jokingly say on stream, as I run behind a nondescript yet conspicuous by its presence statue at the far end of the room, that this is the perfect place to find ‘the best weapon in the game!’
And one day I will be right! Just wait and see…
The games I recently played were Yakuza 0 and Batman: Arkham Knight. The Yakuza games are well known for having a huge arsenal of side content. You can play arcade games (actual real world ones!), look for collector cards, play darts or pool, find one of the 100 or so side quests between the two characters, and each character even has a full-blown management sim where you make money on businesses. Some side quest characters have relationship stats you can build by helping them out with their problems, and so on. Even more, there are in-game score tracks for activities as small as eating one of every kind of food in all of the game’s many restaurants. Doing so will reward you with ‘Completion Points’ that can be spent on upgrades for the character. As I played this game and saw all of this, I knew that 100% would be a tall order. And as entertaining as most of the content is, and the management mini-game even has its own story to keep it interesting, I recently decided to blow past all of this and finish the main story of the game after almost a month of streaming it. I had only completed around one fifth of the business sim aspect of the game on each character, and I only discovered around half of the side quests for both, too. And I didn’t find all the cards. I didn’t eat one of everything. I didn’t unlock all of the fighting moves. I didn’t complete all the pool trick shots. I didn’t defeat twenty opponents in the gladiator ring. And high-score all of the karaoke songs and dancing games. And master all difficulties in the batting cage. And, and, and…
The last couple of streams of the game I focused on the main story, mostly eager to see how the story ends than simply being bored with the game’s plethora of extra content. Even then, completing the main story kind of takes the wind out of my sails when it comes to the remaining side content. I am ‘done’ with the game. I don’t feel like this is a bad thing, either.
Having said all of that, I also recently finished Batman: Arkham Knight. The Arkham games also have a respectable amount of completionism for a player to sink their teeth into. Hidden story content, easter eggs, The Riddler’s challenges and trophies littered around the map, all to name a few. There are many side stories, too, that will unlock as you progress through the game or complete other side stories first. In the first two Arkham games I did not find all of the Riddler trophies and secrets before moving on to the final fight. I never went back for them afterward, either. The first game, Arkham Asylum, simply treated this as a minor treasure hunt with no real endgame in sight. In the second game, Arkham City, The Riddler had his own side quest which would only let you progress so far depending on how many of his secrets you had found. This gave more emphasis on completing this part of the game since there was more story to experience by participating in the treasure hunt. A story I never completed by the time I reached the end of the main game.
In Arkham Knight, you finally get to fight The Riddler. That is, if you find all of his secrets scattered around the game map. And find them I did! Yes, I committed myself and completed the whole side quest and treasure hunt! I have to say, too, I am very proud of myself. Not only that, but I also completed every side quest, which I had not done in the previous Arkham games. I fought every boss, took down every watchtower and checkpoint, disarmed all of the bombs, I even chased down the man-bat that was flying above the city and injected him with the antidote to his mutation. I rescued all of the firefighters, took down Firefly, challenged Azreal, you name it I did it. Why? Because at the end of all of this was the final post-game cutscene, Knightfall. And it did not disappoint.
Maybe the differences in focus between these two games is the key to appealing to the completionist inside me, I am not sure. Yakuza 0 felt like it simply wanted me to tick off all the items on its to-do list, making them mere chores. Which is not entirely fair since many of them came with some small side quest embedded within. The Batman game felt more like it wanted me to see all of the story content, and put it in the form of a to-do list. Small difference, but there it is.
Even so it might not be a fair comparison when it comes to holding my interest. The scale of the side content in Yakuza 0 far outweighs that in Arkham Knight by several magnitudes, so that could also be a factor in my desire to just see the end of Yakuza 0. Still, I will reiterate that I do not feel too bad about never having seen 100% of many of the games I have played. Sure there is a little guilt, as the content a developer loving made goes unseen. Overall, though, I have always been happy with the games I complete on stream. There is, however, great satisfaction in doing all there is to do. Especially if the game rewards you with a final ending to the story.
What games have you left unfinished, and why? Do you have any regrets? Feel free to leave a comment and share your experiences.