This feature is part of the Dot Plays 2023 series, where we’re discussing the games that had us hooked in 2023, whether it’s old games, new games, indie gems, or something in between. You can check out the entire series here.
A lot of games nowadays aim to be as huge as possible. They feature numerous side quests and activities packed in a massive open world that’s just way too big to be fully explored. But Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 shows you don’t need to have that approach to be a successful game.
In the newest Insomniac Games production, the story focuses on Peter Parker and Miles Morales’ superhero and personal struggles in New York City. While the main story is, well, the focus (duh) and the strongest aspect of Spider-Man 2, the game is filled with many other activities. But they never get dull.
The following part of the article may contain some mild spoilers about Spider-Man 2‘s side quests.
The ideal balance between quantity and quality
Spider-Man 2 has around a dozen different tasks you can swing by in NYC. Whether you’re collecting Marco’s Memories, taking down Kraven’s Hunters, looking for Spider-Bots, or helping citizens of the metropolis with their concerns via the FNSP app, there’s plenty to do In Peter and Miles’ New York.
On paper, these may seem like tiresome errands you force yourself to complete to get that Platinum trophy, but they’re not. Completing each quest line results in a unique, and often touching, ending that ties loose ends related to it. For example, collecting all of Marco’s Memories will see the villain mentally healed and join the reformed villain’s club, while catching all the Spider-Bots results in a visit from a character from Sony’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
Insomniac Games does a terrific job of evoking emotions in these quests. I never expected to tear up over moments where you talk with grandpa in a park or lead pigeons to another part of the Big Apple. While they may seem dull for a few players, they’re true to Spider-Man’s roots and personality. If you disagree, read The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man from Amazing Spider-Man 248.
Also, completing these activities couldn’t be easier. Sure, they take some time, and you likely won’t like all of them, but they’re mostly straightforward and enjoyable.
Swinging through New York and completing the side quests you come across doesn’t feel like a chore. The additional content is really well-written, and the only thing that strays you away from it is the even better main story.
Such an approach to open-world games, however, isn’t common in today’s gaming industry.
settlement side quest needs our help
I love Bethesda games, but I wasn’t as immersed in Starfield as I thought I’d be. The game offers endless opportunities, but there’s almost too much to do. The lack of unique storylines behind the world’s locations, which are very similar to each other, and the game’s lackluster main story didn’t help. This isn’t only a Starfield issue, however, I felt similarly while playing Dying Light 2, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and other recent open-world games.
That doesn’t mean developers should abandon open-world games with non-linear storylines. I loved getting lost in The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim for the 784th time, and I completed the last three Fallout entries (but not you, 76) multiple times. Baldur’s Gate 3 has also returned to my gaming evening menu after I thought I’d never get back to it again, but its world, characters, and storyline pulled me back pretty quickly.
Developers need to focus on enriching their worlds, not on making them as wide as possible. I’d rather spend fewer hours in NYC and fully enjoy them than spend countless hours in a larger world with repetitive content. If developers do decide to make an endless game, however, they need to make it unique and characteristic, keeping you hooked for months, like Skyrim or Red Dead Redemption 2 do.
Quality over quantity just makes sense. You don’t have to take my word for it—just look at Spider-Man 2 and Starfield’s The Game Awards nominations, which are seven to one, respectively.