So I’ve not posted anything in quite some time. I’d like to say that the story behind that was one of excitement and intrigue. But really, I was just lazy. What, then, would cause me to break a sixth month silence? Collectibles, of course. Thank you, Saints Row IV. Now, I love the game. I really do. It’s fun and it’s exciting and you’ve got superpowers. But at some point, I realized that I had spent a healthy chunk of time bounding between rooftops collecting data clusters to upgrade my character’s superpowers. That, in turn, made me want to admit to the world how sick I am of collectibles in video games.
In theory, there’s not really anything wrong with collectibles. It all comes down to how they are implemented. It’s a hard balance for any developer to crack. Some games—notably open world ones—seem to have an unwritten requirement for collectibles. Far Cry 3, Saints Row 4, Sleeping Dogs, Grand Theft Auto—all of them have items littered about the map for you to collect. Most of the time, they’re of little to no consequence. They’re just there to pad out the game, and to get you to explore every nook and cranny. These types are easy enough to ignore, but when collectibles start tying directly into character progression—such is the case with Saints Row IV—it can be a slight problem. And the amount of clusters required to upgrade a power (usually 20 or more) only exacerbates the issue.
But Saints Row IV is just the latest game in a long running line of games with stuff to scavenge. Far Cry 3, a favorite from last year, also had its hand in the collectible jar. Where ever you went, relics beckoned retrieval. Grab 30 for a pair of shiny signature weapons. 60 granted an achievement. And after 120? A pat on the back for being such archeological badass. In a way, I foreshadowed this post last year when I mentioned the relics in my review. But regardless, while I abhor collectibles and hope they die a slow and painful death, Far Cry 3 did them alright. It should be no wonder; Ubisoft games, as many have caught onto, are all sort-of similar. They must have a checklist of features to include in their games. So they’ve had plenty of time to evolve past the rampant flag collecting of the first Assassin’s Creed game. For as “next-gen” as Watch Dogs appears, I can’t help but to worry that at the end of the day it’ll just feel like another, albeit very pretty, Ubisoft game.
Although I hope that collectibles, at some point, become a thing of the past, I do understand the need for them. Open world games, as their name implies, are large, and have to be filled with something. In Saints Row IV’s case, it’s hundreds of glowing blue orbs. In Far Cry 3, it’s relics. Developers have built these large worlds; they want you to explore them. Then, of course, there is the issue of perceived value. Everyone these days is all too worried about which games will give them the most bang for their buck. And while open world games are some of the bangiest out there, if they feel like they’re relying a little too much on cursory tasks, such as collectibles, to pad length, then that’s no good. Maybe I’ve just played one too many open world games, and the framework they’re built upon has become all-too-obvious. But games like Far Cry 3 and Saints Row IV are fun enough to stand on their own without any sort of filler.