Wait, Mass Effect 2 had a main quest?
Hearing Witcher and sidequests mentioned in the same sentence always makes me cringe. The amount of plain bullshit involved in those was staggering. Go to marker X that is bloody far. Once you get to marker X you need to get to marker Y, that is close by, thank the gods, but once you actually get there, you realise there's a PURPOSEFULLY PUT BARRIER THERE SO YOU HAVE TO GO ALL THE WAY AROUND TO WHERE YOU STARTED FROM AND THEN BACK ANOTHER WAY. Yes, you made your point assholes, never buying a single game from you.
What was best about ME1 sidequests was how you would discover them. You might just be walking by someone on the Citadel and hear them talking over comms or arguing on the street. Or you might hear a report on the radio. Then if it seemed worth your time, you would go do something about it. This was excellent presentation.
It's not exactly new, this was already present in Neverwinter Nights but the execution of it was just so very good in ME.
Sure there were the cloned ships you would find floating in space, but really, complaining about those is like complaining that not every car is different and unique. Of course if some model is especially suitable for something, there's going to be more than one group using it.
A couple of them didn't really make sense, like the Hanaar preacher on the Citadel. A guard asking you to help him persuade it to leave? A Turian
guard asking you for help? But maybe we can let it pass since it was to introduce the Hanaar to the player.
I'm one of those who loved the Mako exploration in the first game too. Just being able to drive around, jump on mountains and then run into a smuggler camp? So good. Or find a crashed soviet space probe? Priceless
What was a chore about it was looking for money from deposits and such, sure I often ran into them because I was doing acrobatics with the Mako on mountains, but if you wanted 100% completion in regards to those, you just had to drive over every spot on the planet. Still better than scanning for Iridium tho.