Community Review: Strategy Guides

Here's a question I've never asked before: who here uses strategy guides? I'm talking about any kind of strategy guides. The kind you might find online at GameFAQs, the nicely put together ones you can buy at EB Games, whatever? What are your thoughts on them?

I have a friend who buys strategy guides, not because he wants advice on games, more because he just really enjoys the package — the content, the presentation, etc. I've bought a few in my time. I have the Halo 3 one, I have the Dark Souls, I have the Metal Gear Solid 4 one.

My feeling is that it's best to buy strategy guides not to get through the game, or to get past difficult parts, but to get the absolute most out of a video game you love. That's how I felt about Dark Souls and Metal Gear Solid 4 in particular. These are games that feature a lot of depth, both in terms of lore and mechanics. There are cool parts of these games you could easily miss, so sometimes some sort of strategy guide is useful.

Also — some of them look really cool as a coffee table book thing, particularly the hardcover ones.

So is anyone here a fan of strategy guides? And, as an aside, what's your stance on using GameFAQs? Is it an absolutely-stuck-no-other-choice thing or is it a bugger this, I don't have time to mess around thing?


    Never really used strategy guides. Throughout my life my brothers and I would only ever use one after finishing the game. At the moment, the only reason why I would look up a guide is when I get the feeling that I'm about to reach a point-of-no-return and I want to find where that exact point is.

    Last edited 01/09/14 11:10 am

      I'm mostly the same. I don't use guides at all to get through any section of a game. Even if something stumps me for days, I'm gonna sit there and figure it out dammit!

      However, for other stuff - like finding all of those pieces of heart in the Zelda games, I do use them. Some of the seemingly random string of events you need to do in order to achieve some of that kind of stuff is borderline silly. I also might occasionally check them to find out how to unlock something in the game.

      I've written a few FAQ's myself that you can find on GameFAQs, so I hope at least some people find them useful :)

    It's a "don't look because I want to experience the game" until "crap I missed this and that and that"

      Fallout 3 was basically the start of strategy guides for me: the sheer amount of stuff that occurs outside of the main quest, and requires specific triggers or only occurs at particular times justified getting a guide and planning things out.
      Then I got serious with Zelda...

    When i was younger I used them alot more. I have the Final Fantasy XIII one which was actually really nicely done in hardcover. I also had the FFX-2 one that came with a really nice poster. I also got a few Pokemon ones for mainly the pokedex rather than walkthrough. Also browsed gamefaqs religiously.

    These days if I get stuck or need help i just google the specific and hope theres like a Yahoo Answers topic there. Or like a wikia page.

      Here's my FFXIII guide:

      Start game ----------------------------------------------------------------> End game

      I kid, I enjoyed the game mostly. :)

        Lol, this is how I played.

        1. Start game
        2. Marvel at the prettiness characters
        3. Get gradually more annoyed by the characters
        4. Stop playing and never return to finish...

        I'm sure it actually is a good game. I feel like I should go back and give it another go, but who am I kidding, that will never happen

    Back in the day i used to get mummy and daddy to by me pokemon ones. Now i just google it. Why pay for tips?
    I meant back in red and gold pokemon days.

    Last edited 01/09/14 11:11 am

      Those old ones were somewhat more valuable and useful than a lot of others, I remember having one for Red/Blue and using lists with when Pokemon evolve and learn moves was invaluable.

      Actually knowing if u should hold off evolving to learn a move or preplanning what moves to have at cap. Knowing when and how to evolve.

      Never used the actual walkthrough part, but my guide was so dog eared it literally fell apart by the end.

      As for the topic at hand, I like them being available if I get stuck. But also love the ubiquity of the free online guide. I'm actually shocked they still manage to sell them.

      But in the days before gamefaqs I recall getting stuck in an old point and click, everyone in my family had tried and we just were stuck about a third of the way through. We even tried finding a guide for it in bookstores, but it was too obscure a game.

      Then one day a few years later I found a guide online, realised there was one area we had all missed and I finally was able to finish the game.

      I love that I don't have to worry about being stuck and completely unable to progress in a game I love now, though on the other hand that game became kind of legendary in our house because we couldn't progress. I might not have as strong memories of it if not for that.

      Also kind of love non-spoiler strategy guides that give actual generic strategies and helps teach you to play it better like the Pokemon one.

        I agree with you 100%. I should have specified that i didnt use it to spoil the games.

          (I had actually forgotten that it had a guide for the game itself until mid way through that post. It's possible I tossed those pages in a box when the binding came apart =P)

    I love the ones that are a guide and artbook in one. Especially since a lot of today's guidebooks are more along the lines of "outline books" they'll give you the minimal amount of information in order to progress, but leave out a lot of details that'll help you during that progression. Not to mention that a lot of guidebooks that state they'll give you all the secrets in the game, actually give none because they are contractually obligated to leave things as vague as possible in that regard.

    If I've tried my own strategy on Dark Souls and died 20 times.

    Then I'll go to their wiki page and see what they recommend. 90% of the time I can't get whatever ring or weapon they recommend so I just go grind and level up my gear until I can do it again.

    Funnily enough I beat Smough and Ornstein on the first go because I'd leveled my gear so high to get past those silver knight archers.

      I am sitting at work and just started laughing when I read that. Those damn archers!!! The fact I had trouble with Smough and Ornstein yet laughed off the archers finally after a couple of attempts to hear you smashed the boss instead first go. That is such a Dark Souls story.

        And the fact that I don't even remember any archers makes me think I had a different experience as well, also when it came to S & O I had no idea about them being hard... I had a ghost join me and we easy crushed them and I continued the game.

        I feel I missed a big part of the DS experience by not hating the earth they walked on.

        Melee/Pyro build with low poise made them pretty hard. I finally got lucky with a parry and riposte that knocked the one on the right off the ledge.

        By the time I got to Smough and Ornstein I had a +4 Quelaag's fury sword and a +5 ascended Pyro flame.

        Took out Ornstein using fire orbs and then got in close and two-handed Smough's crotch for maximum effect.

          Funnily enough I used the Quelaag sword and a Pyro glove too. I was doing a dex build but I have long forgotten what level the weps were at that stage of the playghrough.
          By the end though my +10 Iato and starter gear demolished the 4 end bosses ie 4 kings etc that the end was a cake walk in stark comparison.

    Instead of playing the game myself and figuring it out, spoil it and have somebody tell me what to do instead. More to the point, *pay* somebody to tell me how to do it? No thanks.

    Not averse to min/maxing once I've played through something a couple times but that's what GameFAQs is for.

    Granted, I do remember a time before that was an option and strategy guides / books were the only way to go, sooooo. I'm old.

    I tend to avoid all guides/walkthroughs/etc., because for me the joy of a game is in exploring its mechanics and making discoveries on my own.

    The exception to this is some adventure games when you've been stuck for hours. Then I'll either look for a UHS style guide to prod me in the right direction or ask my wife to look up the walkthrough and give me a subtle hint.

    The vast majority of the time that I have to resort to a hint I expect to think "I'm so stupid, why didn't I get that" but end up thinking "The developer's so stupid... this is the worst design ever!".

    I'll avoid going online for strategy guides until I've played through a game or an area of a game at least once. After that I'll look up the lore of the game and if I'm wanting to complete it, look up any missed items/quests etc. The other thing I look up would be strategies for RTS games. I've never bought a guide though

    Nowadays though I really just watch Let's Plays to get ideas on how to play games or see stuff I might've missed, but again, only after I've played through a game a fair bit so I'm not getting any spoilers

    Generally I'll avoid them unless I get stuck, or maybe just curious e.g. if there's an item in a game and I've got no idea what it does, then I'll go look up a wiki or GameFAQ's or whatever. I never buy the printed guides, though.

    I've only really used them after beating a game once before, and at the moment, I only own the fabulous The Last of Us Collectors Edition one with a hardcover, and use the included Fireflies keyring. That said, this was after I'd beaten the game, and I'm going to put it through it's paces whilst I eventually play through on Survivor :)

    Actually, I remember buying one for Lego Star Wars II ages ago...

    I've only brought one physical guide, the NMS Zelda guide which I got more for collections sake than anything else. I generally don't use stuff like GameFAQs where it tells you 'go to this town, then talk to this shop keeper, then talk to the Mayor' but I do use community resources like Wikis and in the case of MMORPGs advanced class/raid guides. The former I sort of consider an unofficial in-game reference, like a Pokedex. The latter is something I only use because MMORPGs demand the entire group min-max. Personally I don't like it, exploratory raiding where you probe the encounter and form your own strategy is way more fun to me, but I'm not going to waste my friends time by going into a raid blind when they want to just clear it and get gear.
    The other exception is Achievement Guides. I don't use them but I do skim them for buggy achievements and other things to watch out for. Normally I do a semi-blind run on Normal mode before actively seeking out the achievements but if I don't think I'll want to play through the game two or three times I'll also take note of the missable achievements before I start.
    My biggest fear with them is spoilers. I don't cry when someone tells me how something ends but it takes a little bit away from the game when you aren't surprised when the game throws a curve ball.

    All that said I don't look down on anyone who does use them. It's not even a case of being better/worse at gaming, some people just prefer to do things that way. It's like arguing playing while sitting up is better than laying down.

    Last edited 01/09/14 11:24 am

    @aliasalpha and I have long shared the stance that most of these official guides may as well just be one page which says, "Play the game and complete it", for all the use they are. Rarely do they offer any real insight into the game or any valid strategies. There's the occasional gem by some companies, but ultimately you're better off looking online these days.

    I do have one for Metal Gear Solid 4 which does make for the cool coffee table style book which I picked up cheap out of curiosity as it seemed to be well made on initial inspection. Unfortunately I never got around to reading it in-depth.

      Hey you don't speak for me! Even if I agree with everything you said.

      Old guides used to be good when they had access to developer resources and knew where secrets and stuff were, now it feels like someone got a review copy a month early, played it through and wrote a hasty walkthrough before anyone else could

    I have a few, but mostly it's just as a collector's piece for my very favourite games, moreso than using its as an actual walkthrough. I think I have a bunch of random ones though, just because I've seen them marked down so much (to like, a dollar) and then cut out pictures from them to put onto gift wrapping, haha.

      I'm much the same in that sense. I tend to purchase the hard cover strategy guides for display amongst my collection. Art books are also prone to my acquisition from time to time, the latest was the hard cover Titanfall art book. Halo 4 had a really nice limited edition hard cover guide too which I purchased and never used.

    I use Wikia's from time to time to see how to craft something in Starbound or Hearthstone. But for most part I find it does take a little bit of wonder out of the game so I have tried to stop doing that so much these days!

    The only time I've used strategy guides was back in the day of point-and-click adventures when the walkthroughs were published in The Green Guide section of the newspaper. I remember getting stuck a lot in Day of the Tentacle and LOOM. These days though, if they come free with a pre-order I will read through them AFTER I've finished a game.

      I remember after hours of being stuck somewhere in the King's Quests or Space Quests etc calling up the Sierra hotline to get the tip needed to progress. You'd be trying to explain exactly where you are in the game as fast as possible to get your tip, since you're getting charged $1/min or something ludicrous, and then wait nervously for the next phone bill to come and hope it slides past without mum or dad seeing...

    I buy them, mainly when there's an open world setting with stuff that's easy to miss. I don't normally follow the walkthrough (if there is one) but check back on it after playing that part of the game.

    Sometimes they're useful for bosses with obscure strategies. Sometimes there are parts of the game which are deliberately obscured, requiring you to do really obscure things. (The ultimate weapon for the protagonist in FF12, for example, required you NOT to check one particular barrel early in the game, and then REQUIRE you to check another barrel later in the game... before the weapons was actually opened up much later.)

    Recently I'm referring to online resources more frequently since I can keep a tablet handy. Back in the day running back to my PC to check on sites online was a major pain.

    (Then Squeenix released the FF9 hint book, of which 50% was references to online web pages. MAJOR FAIL, Squeenix. While I haven't checked recently, I suspect those online resources are now gone.)

    I'm a lover of physical guides. I enjoy the art and layout mostly but sometimes I actually use them! Gamefaqs serves me well most of the time but I do love pawing through detailed maps and lists/tables in a readable font vs the plain text of gamefaqs etc.

    Youtube becoming more relevant for Ubisoft collectathons sometimes I need to see someone make that jump into that tree for an object after I've failed upteen times. Then try another bunch and finally collision detection stops bugging out argh! Anyway guides woo.

    As for when I use them. It's usually only for end game farming and knowing the ridiculous conditions to get 'true ends' in those wacky RPGs I play ;)

    Last edited 01/09/14 11:50 am

    I have some pokemon strategy guides only for the pictures, plus I read some strategy guides that weren't sealed in target, big w & myers in the store itself, by the way have any of you lot sneakily read the strategy guides in store?

    Never. I do own a couple but more from a memorabilia standpoint so they're unopened. Wind Waker for example.

    What about cheat books? lol

    Anyone remember cheat planet?

    Love 'em. I have over 50 (easily) on a shelf at home.

    There are some duds; containing not much more than what should be in the manual (e.g. Neverwinter Nights 2).

    Most just guide you over the rough patches in the game.

    But some are exceptional. These are either beautiful (Dragon Age 1 and 2, FFXIII) detail everything (Fallout 3/MGS4), or even give advice on how to roleplay your own character (e.g. System Shock 2).

    Most used is probably Oblivion. Most loved is the original Eye of the Beholder guide, which had full guide plus just a hint guide in the form of a story.

    Oblivion & Skyrim are the only guides I've ever used and Skyrim is the only 1 I've ever bought myself. It was more for the novelty as much as anything but I did find it handy to begin with to find exactly where books with skill points are, or the closest people that can train you, or even how to begin a guild line or where a cool quest line a friend spoke about is. I just don't have enough time to wander about aimlessly hoping to stumble across them in a game of that size and scope. Will probably purchase another guide with the next Elder Scrolls game, but most other games are just not big enough to worry about a guide.

    I purchased the above hard cover Dark Souls guide. The main reason was for something cool to flip through as opposed to actually using it to help play the game. It's a really beautifully presented compendium.

      I own the same one, besides being a great guide it is actually a gorgeous thing to behold. It's the only guide book I've ever purchased btw.

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