Using Walkthroughs: A Moral and Philosophical Dilemma

So a couple hours ago I beat Castlevania: SOTN on my PSP (the quick victory by defeating Richter). While I played the game for almost its entirety sans walkthrough-assistance, towards the end I found that I needed the crucial bat form in order to explore new areas of the castle. The options I faced were twofold and are a duo that the player must always confront at some point along his journey through an RPG: walk around aimlessly searching for new items, locations, and events…ORRRRRR…look up a walkthrough. Unfortunately, I chose the latter, and I did so due to the following travesty of a relationship:

Astonishment at my MSpaint skills aside, please note that the line decreases asymptotically, tapering off at the point where one who has wandered the equivalent of the Saraha Desert four times enters a delirium devoid of any conscious thought. At this point, the level of interest continues indefinitely at a low non-zero level, as the player, drool dripping from his mouth, plays on for all of eternity.

There is of course another daunting reason to use a walkthrough: the idea that one will be missing out on all that the RPG has to offer if every secret isn’t discovered. And while a noble handful of RPGamers may enjoy spending weeks upon weeks manually exploring every nook, cranny, and possibility of a fantasy world, most of us do not.

For this remainder, the means to discover those ever-rewarding secrets are by reading publications on the game, whether they take the form of official strategy guides or web-based content such as those found on gamefaqs.com (Sidenote: I can’t even begin to understand the incentive to create the gargantuan basic text-format walkthroughs that are found on this site – it looks like it would take an entire year to write and format just one game’s walkthrough and the only conceivable reward is the knowledge that assholes like myself are consistently reaping the benefits without showing one ounce of overt gratitude or contributing one measly fraction of a cent; maybe I’m underestimating the value of implicit e-Props).

So why is the use of this information a dilemma for the player? Simply because it goes completely against the reason one plays an RPG: to enter a fantasy world and not only be told a convincing story but more importantly be the main driving force of that story. The second you start reading a walkthrough, the entire experience is cheapened. If the RPG you are playing is the universe as we know it, a walkthrough is nothing less than an all-knowing God, eager to provide you with all the information you could ever desire. The danger of this is that it takes away a good portion of the mystery and grandeur you once felt.

You are now faced with the new conflict between your impish desire to find out more than you need to and the nagging complaint that you really should try to do it on your own. The distinction between things you can discover on your own and things you’re better off simply reading becomes blurred.

This is why above most other considerations, I appreciate a good RPG (or any game that involves a story) that can be played through without the use of a walkthrough and can still grant the player a rewarding feeling upon completing it. Chrono Trigger is a great example of such a game. Everyone should play that game at least once entirely on their own. I see nothing wrong with using a walkthrough in order to get all the best endings thereafter (although that is why they incorporated the New Game+ feature – another reason why CT is a legendary piece of entertainment).

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