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A new PC Gamer feature lists their favorite sidequests, and while it is far from comprehensive and mostly covers quests from third- and first-person action RPGs, it does feature quests from Baldur's Gate II, Pillars of Eternity, The Witcher 3, and other iconic CRPG titles. A few examples:
Oasis, Fallout 3
“I had you brought in here to ask one simple favour. Would you kill me?” It’s one of my favourite lines from Fallout 3 within arguably its best side quest. Tucked away in the corner of the grey wasteland is Oasis, where flourishing plant life obscures a tragic tale.
At the centre is Harold, a mutant with a tree growing out of his head. It’s grown so large that Harold is rooted in place, and he wants you to end his miserable life. But killing him will destroy this pocket of calm, stopping any chance of it spreading life to the rest of the world, and end the hopes of his followers. So what do you do? It’s a great opportunity to role-play, and the writing is superb whichever option you choose.
The Harper Hold Quests, Baldur's Gate 2
Bioware’s 2000 RPG remains one of the best in the genre, and it’s largely down to its side quests. The Harper Hold quests are a perfect example: complex, fiddly at times, but ultimately rewarding. It’s all about the characters. Two of the best from the first Baldur’s Gate—Xsar and Montaron—return fleetingly (one dies, the other is turned into a bird), and most of the tale centres around Jaheira, and ties in with her excellent romance story.
It’s really, really long but you don’t have to pay too much attention. There’s splices of action—mainly fighting the Harpers—followed by days of downtime, and then suddenly a character will pop up on your travels to move the quest forward. It’s not something games do much nowadays, sadly.
The Last Wish, The Witcher 3
The Witcher 3 is packed with hilarious side quests—I’m fond of Novigrad’s Hospitality, where you get drunk with a couple of bards and wake up to discover they’ve stolen your clothes.
But The Last Wish is a different breed. It’s all about its final few minutes, the culmination of a three-game relationship between Geralt and Yennefer. Sitting together in a shipwreck on top of a mountain (yep, it’s nuts) you have the power to either cement the love you share or break her heart. It’s poetically written, and the delivery and facial expressions make it perhaps the most emotional moment in the game.
Come Fly With Me, Fallout: New Vegas
Come Fly With Me is just plain cool: you’re helping a bunch of ghouls build a rocket ship so they can blast off into space, escape the wasteland, and find a new home.
The mini story that plays out is surprisingly complex. A human called Chris who thinks he’s a ghoul plays a starring rolem and if you can convince him that he’s human after all he will vow revenge on the ghouls for tricking him. It’s then up to you to talk him out of sabotaging the rockets.
The launch itself is a real spectacle, and a worthy pay off. Plus, if you’re an evil bastard then you can side with Chris so the rockets crash into each other on launch in a shower of flames, wiping out the group. Fun for all the family.
Lord of a Barren Land, Pillars of Eternity
Decisions, decisions. What made this quest stand out was the amount of options it gave you. Kolsc has asked for your help in getting one over on his brother and ruler of the region, Lord Raedric. First, you had three ways to break into Raedric’s Hold: sneak, climb, or go in blasting through the front door.
Then when inside your options for getting to the throne room—your goal—are endless. There’s sewers, secret buttons and passages, guards to kill, a key to talk out of a man in need of a favour, prisoners to free, and wine cellars to raid.
Then, when you ascend to the throne room you have the ultimate choice to side with Raedric or Kolsc, along with plenty of unique dialogue that’s dependent on exactly how you got there. Lots of Pillars quests give you choices – but this one is the best.