CRPG walkthroughs are satisfying and comforting

You know how there’s a stigma — both internal and external — about lowering difficulty settings in games below “normal?” Well I’ve always sensed that there’s another stigma floating out there, perhaps less now than it used to be, that using walkthroughs for RPGs made you less of a gamer.

Honestly, I’ve done both, and generally I’ve found that I end up really enjoying a good CRPG more if I have a walkthrough at my side — either for hand-holding directions or general reference. Since I’m only playing these for me, I figure I can play them as I like. A walkthrough doesn’t remove all challenge, but it does help to play efficiently and thoroughly.

There are few things that bug me more than the thought that I’ve missed something really cool in an RPG as I go through it. Some secret, or side quest, or useful item, or what have you. It really bugs me when I get to the end of some of these games and lack the power and gear to make it through the final boss fights. Sure, I could always play a game once without a walkthrough and subsequently with them (and I have done it that way), but RPGs are huge time sinks. I don’t often have time to play one more than once with so many others sitting on the backburner.

And this is kind of weird, but having a walkthrough makes me feel like I’m gaming with someone else — the author of that document. They don’t know me, but I get to know them through the way they write it and how they talk to me in the guide. It feels personal and social… again, in a weird way.

That all said, I’ve found that with more modern CPRGs, I don’t need or desire a walkthrough too much. I went through, for example, Pillars of Eternity, The Outer Worlds, and Disco Elysium never once consulting any guides. I might if I go back to do them again, mind you, because walkthroughs can be a great way to squeeze out some unexplored freshness, but more recent titles are better about keeping you on track and making quest pickups and objectives more apparent.

How do you feel about walkthroughs? Do you use them? Do you judge others — and me — for using them?

4 thoughts on “CRPG walkthroughs are satisfying and comforting

  1. bhagpuss December 18, 2020 / 9:50 am

    For single-player rpgs (or really mostly for adventure games) I use walkthroughs exactly as much as I need to for the experience to be entertaining. If I don’t get stuck I don’t use them at all. If I hit a snag I read just as much as I need to get a hint on what to do and then I stop reading. I do that as often as necessary and no more.

    If I find I’m having to use a walkthrough a lot it’s a sign of a badly-designed game. If it’s not clear what to do from within the game then the game is de facto failing. Mostly what happens is it’s blindingly obvious what needs to be done, the problem is working out what bizarre combination of key-presses the developer chose to use to make that happen. Consistency is rarely a strong point.

    In mmorpgs I use walkthroughs for quests much more liberally. I don’t play mmos for either problem solving or narrative so i don’t feel I’m spoiling my own fun by following a set of instructions or using waypoint co-ordinates.

  2. Jeromai December 19, 2020 / 7:21 am

    I miss oldschool strategy guides. The ones which took the time to digest the game properly and provide helpful tips, lore writeups and more elaborate, non-obvious content. Those where you can settle down with it like a good book and read from cover to cover, having learned more and deepened your understanding of game concepts and non-obvious secrets. Good maps, easy to use charts, compiled data presented well (not just 50 pages of lists signifying nothing – which is good, which is bad, how to filter lists printed on paper?)

    The walkthroughs I hate, and find valueless? Screenshot, one sentence text, screenshot, one sentence text on repeat through all the levels and missions and chapters. That one sentence text just says, “Ok, now do this like I told you.” “And then we go to the next stage B and pick up item C.” “To handle NPC D, select option E” while promptly ignoring that other options exist, or what happens if you pick them, and so on.

    Nope, it’s just a lazy “here’s a description of how I personally played through this game, and if you follow my footsteps exactly, you too can finish the game.”

    No, I don’t want to follow in your footsteps slavishly. if I’m reading a guide, you should be telling me comprehensively what all the options are, or describing general principles on how to solve a puzzle for myself, so that I can learn more than “if I play it like how you did, I will finish the game.”

  3. Yeebo December 19, 2020 / 3:29 pm

    The old squaresoft games are a heck of a lot more fun with a walkthrough. You will be missing out on a ton of character power and very often some cool sidequests iof you don’t use one.

    It irks me somewhat if a game is completely unplayable without a guide. I should be able to get pretty far on my own if I care to. MMOs that force you to consult a wiki just to play are especially egregious, and I doubt the sanity of their designers (you do want this game to make money right?). However on the whole I really like game guides for much the same reasons as you. I have softcover guides for FF 1-9, Chrono Trigger, Parasite EVE 1 and 2, and a few other games from other publishers sitting on my bookshelf.

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