Last time, you decided that mantling is better than cool swearing, and by a considerable 'flipping' margin. I can't say I disagree but ooh, hark at you, aren't you practical. You'd be lost in cool conversations behind the school bike sheds. We must move on. This week, I ask you to being tossed to the winds of fate or telling fate to do one. What's better: randomised item stats and perks, or saving everyone?
Randomised item stats and perks
I could not tell you how many hours of Diablo 2 I played hunting for great loot. At first, my concern was good loot. You know, just a nice sword to swing or some cool javelins to fling while I run about and chat with my pals on TeamSpeak. Maybe a unique item or two would be cool. Then I went from wanting good loot to great loot. Give me not just good items, but good rolls on good items. A terrible trap. And often an exciting one.
I know that this is not entirely different to playing a fancy one-armed bandit, or clicking on a very fancy number generator. And yet, when that great item drops with great stats and the perks you crave...! How terrible to live with a part of your brain utterly craving this feeling.
I like when I can influence random stats. Destiny 2, a fantastic game saddled with god-awful grind, has used various systems over the years to let you influence a drop's stats, and to include or omit various perks from the pool. That was always welcome. Many games have similar ideas, or systems to rework items later. And in many games, even mindless farming can be a pleasant zen space if you know you have some sway over the drops, whether that's by focusing on particular enemies, or a particular zone, or... it's to feel some small amount of control over a random number generator. What power, to bend chance to your will!
The common assertion that "video games are a power fantasy" is wildly overused, but I do find it interesting to think about the different types of power fantasies in video games. What if you could save someone? Save them from stubbing their toe, save them from mortal danger, save them from a right dressing-down by their boss, save them from an awkward conversation, save them from a moral dilemma, save them from boredom, save them from being late and letting a friend down, just save someone in any way? What a nice fantasy, to have that power. But what if you could save everyone? Now that's power!
I like when a game lets me save everyone. When everyone quest, sidequest, bonus objective, and utterly unmarked and unnoticed opportunity to do something nice for someone can resolve happily. I will put an awful lot of effort into exploring possibilities and unlocking alternatives for amicable outcomes rather than settle for okay solutions, and I'm delighted when it pays off. I'll often Google the hell out of it too. Sure sure, I'm engaging with the game as presented, feeling out its systems, but I gotta know: can I save that guy? Or discovering later that you could have saved someone but didn't? Gutting. My power fantasy is helping nice things happen for everyone.
A game letting me save almost everyone is good too, but I shall save that thing for a separate future decision.
But which is better?
I just want to save everyone. Would be nice if I could save everyone while wearing a really, really good hat, but I'll settle for saving everyone. I think Destiny 2 burned out any desire I ever had to grind for the rolls I crave, and I don't think I'll ever get back to that. I have entered the post-grind years of my life. I'm still narked that Darktide's great Left 40K Dead experience is undercut by tedious randomised loot. 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.