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What's better: becoming overpowered, or a chunky manual?

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Last time, you decided that saving everyone is better than randomised item starts and perks by an overwhelming majority. I'm glad that is settled. May all video games learn from this. Please, I beg you, learn from this. This week, I ask you to choose between a beefy build and a beefy wodge of paper. What's better: becoming overpowered, or a chunky manual?

Becoming overpowered

It is nice when a game remains challenging throughtout by always escalating difficulty to match my own scaling, whether that's because I'm gearing up or simply mastering systems. Yeah, that's nice, sure. But also, isn't it nice when a game is okay with my own power getting wildly out of control, crushing all challenges in my path with ease and generally rampaging around shouting?

I'm always pleased when a game lets me become overpowered. I've figured out a weird niche combination of skills or items, and my reward is to run rampant. Or I've nailed the perfect party composition. Or I've turned my brain off and grinded power for a few hours while listening to podcasts. Or I've found a super-rare item which is just plain daft. Or the latest patch simply made something super-strong. Or, like Vampire Survivors, the game is all about becoming overpowered. Or... there are many ways to become overpowered, and I've enjoyed them all.

I understand a desire for balance in competitive multiplayer games. I understand the satisfaction of constantly being challenged. But in many games, ah c'mon, what's the harm of me running wild every once in a while? I'm always sorry when singleplayer roguelikelikes in particular decide that some rare item or synergy is too strong.

The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth sadly became increasingly miserly and miserable over the years, but it has always offered opportunities to become so broken you literally break the gameWatch on YouTube

A chunky manual

Joined grizzled PC gaming veterans around their burning barrel of AOL trial CDs (they still have hundreds of 'em stockpiled between old graphics cards they'll never need and old hard drives they're sure they will) and they will, inevitably, talk about a really big manual. Maybe Falcon 4.0, the flight sim whose hundreds of pages pretty much teach you how to fly a warplane. Or the hundreds for Civilization and SimCity 3000, games complex enough to warrant explanation. Or... ah, so much information!

I like a chunky manual which explains a game well. Oh sure, it was fun to read on the bus back from Electronics Boutique, but it also encouraged studying a game and coming to really understand it. If you needed to know something about the game, by god it would tell you. We have replaced chunky manuals with in-game tutorials which somehow patronise us with infantalising instructive voiceovers yet rarely explain the deep and interesting systems we want to master. And I'd certainly rather read a chunky manual with a good index than bumble through menus or flick over tooltips in desperate search of what I need. Or, more likely, these days I'll turn to Google and find incomplete, incorrect, or outdated information and guesses presented as knowledge. I miss this being explained professionally and correctly in a document I can digest at my own pace on the sofa.

Plus, chunky manuals were often full of great pictures, stories, in-universe colour, and other goodies.

Much like feelies (which you decided are inferior to RULES OF NATURE), chunky manuals are mostly over. What game even gets a physical release these days? But if enough of us consider them viable candidates for the best thing, maybe we can turn the tide.

But which is better?

Some of my favourite Binding Of Isaac memories involve forming builds so powerful that they would either one-shot a boss or crash the game. That's what I call power. As much as I enjoy a well-written manual properly explaining a complex thing, I can't resist becoming ridiculous. What do you think, reader dear?

Pick your winner, vote in the poll below, and make your case in the comments to convince others. We'll reconvene next week to see which thing stands triumphant—and continue the great contest.

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