It was recently revealed in a Polish Magazine called CD-Action that the entirety of the Assassin’s Creed III game will be playable over 40 hours. This includes 20 hours of main plot and 20 hours of side quest, giving plenty for people to occupy themselves with. However, compared to the huge amount of time that other games take up this generation, is 40 hours really something to brag about? And, looking at the history of the game series, how much of that will be repetitive play, rather than unique side quests? Although a long play time tends to be associated with RPGs, as we move to the last moments of this gaming generations, there are plenty of games outside of that genre that show how amazing a longer game can be. This brings me to the question: is 40 hours enough playtime for hardcore gamers?
The Assassin’s Creed series isn’t the only one to ‘boast’ about their large play times, with Mass Effect III clocking in at roughly 30 hours and Prototype 2 taking up a leisurely 20 hours to complete most of their gameplay. Although this length is quite long compared to the campaigns of most FPS games flooding the market, they’re still nowhere close to Skyrim’s 30 hour main quest and 100 hour side quests, Minecraft’s infinite playtime and GTA 4’s 30 hour main quest and 70 hour side quests. Sandbox-style gameplay expands the amount of ways gamers can interact with the world—and in turn, expands the amount of time gamers can put into a game without feeling bored or burnt out. While most games have a respectable amount of time to complete their game—20-30 hours for a first time player—there are plenty that show that you can spend dozens of hours lost in side quests without detracting from a game.
With the amount of attention and funding that these high-profile games receive, it’s only natural to expect a proportional increase in their length. Putting in additional content isn’t just about adding extra side quests and cut scenes—it’s about providing a varied experience for gamers. 20 hours of side quests, while respectable compared to previous generations and the start of this one, simply doesn’t measure up to the standard anymore. Generating more gameplay in a game which is highly polished is as simple as adding more ways for the gamer to interact with the game. Being able to pick up any object or talk to any NPC gives a huge amount of depth to a game—but it can also be as simple as collecting a string of items that reveals something extra about the game’s plot. A combination of all of these things is what gives incredibly long titles like Skyrim their immersion.
Ultimately, some games are streamlined for a reason. Stopping to bet on a Chocobo race can ruin the immersion of a game, and spending more than 20 hours on a game’s main quest can cause a gamer to become burnt out. Not everyone has the time to devote themselves to hundreds of hours of gameplay, so it’s good that there are still high-quality games that have shorter campaign modes. However, giving players the options to complete a large amount of side quests (rather than just throwing in a few collectibles that will take a few hours and calling it a day) gives other players, who do have the time, a better opportunity to bond with the game. And more than 20 hours of extra content is well within the limitations of this generation. 40 hours may not be a bad amount of playtime, but it’s nothing to brag about in today’s industry.