Annoying Game Mechanics are those that just make you groan when you see them in a game. You’ve seen them at their best but you’ve also seen them at their worst. You can’t love them but you can’t hate them either, but you can definitely be annoyed!
This week the mechanic I’m having an issue with is Collectibles!
These are the items, trophies and knickknacks strewn around the maps, there for you to find. They’re an optional quest, something else to do when you’re not saving the world or looking for a princess in another castle. They expand the gameplay—sometimes even padding it—and may or not include some sort of challenge to collect them. Maybe you need to do a tricky platforming segment, or climb a steep hill with limited stamina or defeat a powerful enemy to find this little thing.
I don’t mean health pickups and powerups, pieces of heart or mushrooms. Those are central mechanics, those we can call simply “pickups.” I mean the truly optional, those that if you took them out, the core gameplay would not change. I mean the Flags, the Gold Skultullas, the hidden memoires and ancient artefacts. As much as we dislike the idea of having to go around the maps looking for a tiny object or creature, we all do it in the end, because we hope there’ll be a big reward for the effort we put in.
And that ultimately is what separates the good Collectibles from the bad one. There is a function to them, a purpose to the scavenger hunt. Maybe it’s an upgrade or simply another ending to the game.
The staple of an annoying mechanic is that it’s seen both good and bad days. The following are some of the best and most disappointing uses:
- The Legend of Zelda has always done collectibles right, giving you a big reward for your efforts.
- Ocarina of Time had the Skulltulas, and every 10 or so would break the curse on one person and they would give you a reward.
- From Wind Waker onwards you had loot bags for monster drops. These could be exchanged for treasure or in Skyward Sword’s case, used for upgrades. You might think the upgrades a central mechanic, but they’re really not, as you don’t really need them at all, nor does the game hint that you should do it.
- TheEzioAuditore Assassin’s Creed games had you collecting Seals—through eitheraparkour gauntlet or a combat one— that would earn you the most powerful armour in the game, usually unbreakable and with more defence than any other piece of gear.
- Not only did it have those, but also the Animus Fragments in Revelations and the ciphers and special puzzles in the other two games and completing each would reveal a part of the truth.
- System Shock 2, Bioshock and Dead Space all have Audio and text logs, and while the benefit from them isn’t necessarily mechanic (such as a password), they help their title’s storytelling in a very rewarding way.
- Batman: Arkham City made the inane Riddler Trophies useful, by setting them as prerequisites for the challenge rooms where Edward Nygma stashed his hostages.
- Bloodborne has the “One-third of Umbilical Cord”. Taking three of them and selecting a particular option near the end, unlocks the game’s final ending. Again, you might consider this one central to the game, but they are in no way signposted and you can even find more than three, thus I consider them collectibles.
- The Witcher 3 has Gwent Cards. As much as I dislike the minigame itself (I was a Dice Poker master!), the cards are a form of collectibles. There’s even a sidequest called “Gotta Collect them All!” Each card can bolster your deck which in turn can lead you to making some serious money.
- Xenoblade Chronicles has special items thrown around its massive maps. You’ll come across them as blue balls of light hovering over the ground. You’ll often use these little items, which are completely random by the way, as objectives in some of the game’s thousands of subquests. And beyond that, you have an adventuring journal where you can ‘use’ these items to fill up the current zone’s collection for Flora, Fauna, Mechs, etc., and gain a small item when you’ve completed a set.
- Final Fantasies have always had some form of collectible:
- Final Fantasy VIII much like The Witcher 3 had cards (only this card game was quite fun!).
- Summons are mostly optional in the game, and collecting them can be one of the most satisfying things to do, as there is always a challenge to be found.
- Speaking of Assassin’s Creed, the series has also had its fair share of ridiculous and pointless collectibles.
- As much as I love AC2, the feathers were unnecessary and tedious. The point of them is to give Ezio’s mother closure, but surely there are better ways than hunting for 100 random feathers in the environment.
- The different flags found in all the games are a colossal waste of time, especially the Assassin’s Creed 1 and Brotherhood’s.
- The Animus Fragments in Black Flag are the epitome to pointless collectibles. They really give you nothing for collecting them, just an achievement.
- While Arkham City did make the Riddler trophies useful, it added the Catwoman Trophies in…just because. They add nothing and simply pad her segments, which aren’t remotely as fun as Batman’s.
- The Legend, Anniversary and Underworld trilogy for Tomb Raider added Relics to the game, and they do nothing but unlock concept art, which is a complete waste of time. Give me something useful, not something I’m already slowly unlocking by just clearing the game.
- Alice: Madness Returns has perhaps the most pointless of all collectibles. You can find memory fragments, which show you either a conversation or an image relating to Alice’s past and her mental state. The problem is they don’t offer any answers or insights into the plot. The real memories, the ones that do offer something interesting, are obligatory and found at the end of each level.
- Alan Wake had you running around collecting all manner of nonsense, from Manuscript Pages to Coffee Thermoses! They completely broke any immersion, something that was already hard to come by with such a padded game (levels outstayed their welcome and then lasted for another half hour) without adding something so pointless as knocking over can pyramids.