Gamers come in all sorts of different flavors, and I’m not just talking about casual and hardcore. There are some who don’t play single player, some who only play single player, and then there are the kinds that give game designers of any type nightmares. I think I’m probably in the last category, specifically when it comes to Western RPGs. Given that games in those genres these days have branching stories, multiple conversation outcomes and more hidden bonuses than you can shake a stick it, it tends to drive OCD completionists with a lot of time on their hands (e.g. me) crazy.
That’s when I turn to the most forbidden of texts, the horrible tome know as the “FAQ”. Deep within the dark recesses of the Internet, I find my brethren, people who restart dungeons because they missed one chest after defeating whatever horrible creature inhabits that cave. These are the people who don’t play RPGs for the story or the characters or the experience, but rather to accrue every possible trinket and stat bonus the game has to offer. We can leave no stone unturned, no party companion un-romanced, and we do so by exploiting the game to its maximum. Not through exploration or discovery though, but by distilling it down to the most bare bones, no frills, maximum return type of experience. This is how I’ve come to destroy any Western RPG I’ve played.
My first experience with RPGs of any kind came with Knights of the Old Republic on the original Xbox. I tended to stay away from these games before hand, and I only tried this game out because of its association with the Star Wars brand. I can already hear JRPG purists groaning, but stay with me here, people.
This is when my use of the Internet was in its infancy, and I played through the game the first time with fresh eyes, absorbing the wonder as I made choices, made mistakes, and grew my character in an organic way. Once I had finished my first playthrough, however, I became curious. What if I had turned to the Dark Side, wiped out the Sand People, or manipulated the Republic against my Sith foes? As I slowly began to realize that I had not seen the game in its entirety or discovered all the dialogue options and powers, I took my first step into a larger world and plumbed the depths of that game.
By the time Knights 2 rolled around, I was prepared to sacrifice a pure game by looking up the various secrets the designers had hidden. I played that title several times, but I always did everything right; every quest outcome was in my favor, and my entire party had been turned to Jedi (or Sith) by the game’s end without fail. Some might say that I was ruining the game, that I wasn’t playing it the way the developers intended, but I wanted more. I wanted to play RPGs and be the best character ever, no holds barred. But I wasn’t going to get there without a little help from the Internet.
I continued in this way for the rest of the RPGs I played, but when Fallout 3 hit the shelves, that’s when things got a little out of control. Once I beat the game on the Xbox 360, sure that I had seen and done everything, I took a peek at the PC version and discovered console commands. This was the moment where I became a horrible, twisted monster, maxing my stats and acquiring top level armor and weapons with a few text commands. I browsed wikis and frequented boards, searching for new things to bequeath to myself with little to no effort.
Fallout: New Vegas was played much the same way and Mass Effect 2 did not escape my habits either, so much so that I looked up a guide for Lair of the Shadow Broker as I was playing it. This has bled into other genres as well, as I searched the Internet for tips for Halo: Reach’s credit system and Bulletstorm’s Skill Shots. I’m honestly scared for Skyrim and Mass Effect 3 because of my tendency to tear games apart.
I think I’ve made my strange habits known on GamerSushi before, but this is the raw truth, laid bare for all to see. I know that you’ll probably view me differently after this, but to each their own, right? Right?
Do you guys have any horrible facts about your play styles? Does anyone else cheat their way through games, RPGs or not?