“I’m still somewhat surprised that I’m still reading the quest texts. The missions aren’t any more than your usual kill stuff/deliver stuff/gather stuff, but the wrapping is nice, and the clever writing means that I care about *why* I’m killing stuff/delivering stuff/gathering stuff. This in turn makes me feel less like a monkey pressing the button to get a banana, and more like I’m actually playing a character in a world.”
As a fairly recent subscriber to the game, Hawley shares a few sentiments about Fallen Earth’s quests that I’ll back up. Simply put, he and I and many others I’ve talked to find themselves actually reading the quest text and get into the stories as a result.
What’s frustrating to me is that I can’t precisely define why Fallen Earth’s quest text — which appears in the most standard, drab text box you’ll ever see — is so compelling. But it is. It’s funny, it’s weird, it’s occasionally profane, it’s never quite what you’d expect, and it highlights the wacky nature of the six faction and their respective sub-factions. But it’s also something beyond that, and I am at a loss to explain really why. Maybe they just have a great team of writers, but I’ve played several other MMOs that have had talented writers who do their best to make the same-old, same-old quest objectives interesting.
Maybe it’s because the quests — and the stories that accompiany them — are as much a reward as the gear or chips for playing. Right now, I’m level 23 or 24 (I forget), and I’m going through a quest hub that’s spitting out level 18-19 quests. I’m overpowered for them, and the experience rewards are a pittance, but I genuinely want to do them. The quests chain together in easy-to-swallow morsels that eventually form a coherent narrative.
Here’s a couple examples off the top of my head:
(1) In my current questing hub, Picus Ridge, I was ordered to head out and hunt a guy who was on the run from the authorities. When I caught up to him and knocked his head off, I found a mysterious key on him. Returning to the quest giver, I handed over the key and watched as the guy freaked out as he realized that this was the key to a bomb. I went out and hunted through a camp for the bomb and disabled it, and found out that the bomb in question was a plague bomb, not an explosive one — and that there also was one in the town proper. Off to rescue the town from imminent doom! At each stage of the quest, I was fully aware of what I was doing and why, and it felt like a cool little story instead of a checklist.
(2) This one is a bit of a Sector 1 spoiler, so be warned. I’m not even sure where this quest line started, but somewhere along the way I began to investigate a group of malcontents who eventually were linked to a larger group of anti-technology luddites, who were eventually linked to the mastermind group, a bunch of absolutely whacko military/religious folks who wanted to bring the “purifying fire” to the world. The quest chain sent me everywhere, including infiltrating one of their camps as a potential recruit, after which I discovered that they wanted to launch a few remaining nuclear missiles from Sector 1 to Sector 1, and I had to stop them. That ultimately led me to one of the coolest locations in the area, an underground missile silo base.
(3) And no Fallen Earth quest discussion would be complete without mention of the gang struggle in Depot 66 that has you choosing the outcome of not only who ends up in charge of the town, but how their performance of MacBeth happens.
Now, I’m all for more advanced forms of quest delivery — cutscenes, voiceovers, scripted events. But there’s still some magic left in those little quest text boxes, and I guess it’s made me rethink my position on disliking them. If only we could distill the formula that makes FE’s text so addicting to read versus other MMO text! Are there any other MMOs that you would hold up as an example of superior quest text?