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What's better: Improvised environmental weapons, or skipping across a timeline flowchart?

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Kiryu smashes a man with a bicycle in a Yakuza 0 screenshot.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Sega

Last time, you decided by 72% against 28% that setting unit waypoints is better than receiving waypoints yourself. Given how loudly people decry receiving waypoints, I'm a little surprised it was that close. And that's how we know we're doing science. This week, I ask you to choose between mastery of place and mastery of time. What's better: improvised environmental weapons, or skipping across a timeline flowchart?

Improvised environmental weapons

Honestly, what kind of uncool dude actually carries weapons around with them? (The only exception is a switchblade, the one cool weapon.) No, a cool violence-doer is violence incarnate, able to grab random nearby objects and use them to throughly defeat those uncool nerks who've come with their 'guns'. While you're fumbling with your tactikewl holster, you big baby, I'll be clobbering you with a bicycle.

I am clearly thinking most of the allfather, Kazuma Kiryu from the Yakuza games. While he can bring weapons, why would you when he can grab nearby bicycles, bottle crates, traffic cones, barrels, boxes, potplants, stone lanterns, advertising stands, and other environmental objects to smash over some idiot's head. With some moves he'll even seamlessly grab and swing them mid-combo. This fighting style will win the admiration of anyone in need of fathering.

In a far more seamful manner, I did enjoy improvised weapons in 2008's Alone In The Dark (the game with the coolest inventory system). Grab a chair or plank of wood, carefully manoeuvre it into a fire without setting yourself ablaze, then batter monsters with your burning junk.

More recently, I adore how much swashbuckle 'em up En Garde! lets you kick crates and tables at people, throw pots on their head, and all sorts of other foolishness.

In a less formal way, lots of games also let you casually harm people by dropping and throwing objects. Systems not wholly intended for violence but certainly useful for it.

Now, outside of games which run on complex physics simulations, you could argue that all these are not improvised weapons. It's not an accident that you can batter people with bikes. The developers definitely wanted you to thunk mooks with traffic cones. But consider this counterpoint, killjoy: I will hit you with an office chair, and what will you do about that?

And let's not forget the funniest improvised weapon: running a gunman over with your car.

Skipping across a timeline flowchart

Many games have you make decisions that, whether you know it or not, will cause timelines to branch. Do X now and Y won't happen later. Miss out on Z and something terrible will happen. But what if you want to revisit those decisions, try again, see what else might happen, see everything that might happen? Have fun saving before every crucial decision then replaying hours of game, I guess! Unless... what if the entire branching timeline were laid out on a flowchart, and you could skip to crucial points whenever you wanted? My friend, all of time will be yours to enjoy.

The timeline flowchart in a Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma screenshot.
The timeline in Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma | Image credit: Spike Chunsoft

I mostly know this from weird murder mystery series AI: The Somnium Files, though I understand the Zero Hour games are all about that timeline too. In these games, it's vital to explore branches to uncover more options and ultimately reach the actual truth. I cannot imagine these games if you had to replay everything up to the branching point.

I wish other genres and games offered this too. Sure, ideally I do want to experience a playthrough as a complete story I am fully submerged in. I have played whole games over (and even series, with The Witcher and Mass Effect) to see what would happen if I made different decisions. But developers must know that many players will alt-tab out to Google guides for the 'best' decision, or skip to YouTube to watch the events of alternate branches. Make the flowchart unlock after completing the game once, if you must, but please do offer it.

But which is better?

I really would like to see timeline flowcharts in more games, but then I think of my best dad and... but 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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