PATHWAYS/020: Unlockables

Adjustable difficulty/Cheats

Unlockables, can be overpowered, but it’s the reliance upon them that causes such a reaction with players.

Serious Sam is an urgent game, one where more often than not the enemies are as fast as you are. This makes the player reactions due to the enemy pace — it becomes less ‘stop them from attacking me’ and more ‘stop them from reaching me’. As the arsenal wielded by the player was so overpowered, the game ran like everything was overclocked, tons of enemies, tons of ammo, tons of secrets and tons of space to run around in. It turns out, in retrospect, the version I played (Xbox) had more than a few quality of life improvements —  that I hope have been rolled into a mod for the PC version.

There was/is a cheat/bug/feature in that inputting a certain value in a nameable object can spawn a version of that item anytime a person mentions it, it’s very easy to abuse this system, but it also allows you to bypass certain restrictions and treat the game as a more open sandbox game. You don’t have enough space to hold all the items, nor the money to purchase the specific tools/seeds/ore, have your name be that of an item that can be sold and or eaten, and talk to a certain character who always says your name.

As such this very easily can ruin the game, but it’s important to treat it as a second playstyle rather than an abuse of power. Doing so allows you to have a farm like you would in the late-game very early on, it allows you to upgrade most if not all of your buildings before the first year is up. It has still got the limitations certain tasks take specific amounts of days, so therefore still plays like the original in a form.

I totally get that this is egregious, and might be further on your personal cheat barometer, than on mine. But, it turns out the bit I hate about Stardew Valley is the watering of plants, and the lack of immediate functionality upon startup. By making it that my name happens to cause the game to spawn a sprinkler, and a consumable item, I have banished the fear that I will run out of stamina/forget to water my plants, a thing that had ruined multiple Winter saves — leaving a farm of completely dead plants, and no income.

I’d have never completed the first two Fallout’s without using a hex editor for my saves. Just like how I’ve never completed Castle of The Winds, without using the magic glitch/cheat, which is so commonplace to me, that I no longer actually know what it did. I used to play Super Mario All Stars with the debug cheat in SMB3, just so I could play as the stone versions of the characters, or kuribo shoe on levels where it shouldn’t exist. Similar with the debug cheat in Sonic, the difference being, I never had the drive to finish the game.

The Sonic cheats completed annihilated any reason not to use them, whereas the Mario 3 debug acted more like assistance. Both broke the game, but the Sonic Debug turned the sprite into a cursor of sorts, that allowed you to spawn items, whereas SMB3 merely allowed you to change costumes by pressing the select button. It’s the difference between difficulty and functionality: What do you want from the cheat, an enhanced experience or a different one?

I have, on occasion, cheated in Dark Souls by editing values, so certain items are infinite/certain stat limits are no longer an issue, but the second someone invades I panic. Not so much because they may ruin my game, but vice versa. It is possible to completely ruin someone’s matchmaking ranking by simply losing to them. Your boosted stats weigh the invisible matchmaking number, by losing/winning both you and your opponents matchmaking potentiality is increased.

When I cheat in Dark Souls, I do simple things: 
– Boost the amount of consumables I have.
Have access to all the upgrade paths.
– Level up stats/respec in a direction different from my original plan.
– Tourist mode.
– Play offline.

That last one is super important. Years ago someone invaded my world and ‘gifted’ me two million souls which I proceeded to spend on levelling, which left me with a character build that was super useful at the time, but would rely on stupendous amounts of souls in order to adjust maligned stats. It looked like a buff at the time, but it led to me creating a build which played like an increasingly unversatile tank.

I spent 67 hours on that character and failed to complete the game, it would take months to return to the game. Ultimately I completed the game in half that time, sometimes the return highlights other routes.

Adjustability on a personal level is key, what I find challenging might be simplistic to others, or the opposite. The most adjustable thing in modern games, is the player.

PATHWAYS is an ongoing series about the way we make our journeys through the worlds of games. You can read the rest of the series here.

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1 Comment
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