Hacked Off: Split Paths

Split paths could mean just about anything in games, but I’m talking about when a route has multiple ways you can go. One of these will progress you with the story, while the others are mysteries and could hold a super-secret item that will help your game tremendously. Now, this isn’t to outright say games should only have one route you can take, as that’s pure madness and would make games go back in time. No, I just want it to be a bit easier to know what way is going to progress with the story.

Nearly every game these days has these split paths. It opens up the game and can even make a linear game feel a little less so. But every time I come across one, I’m forced to make a leap of faith. I spend a good few minutes, or seconds depending on how engaged with the game I am, on deciding which will progress the story. Moving on with the plot is not the option we want straight away, as there could be something really cool down the other way. This could be the thing everyone will talk about when they find it, so if we miss it we’ve basically not played the game. Sure this never happens, but it only takes one game to do it for it to scar you for life. It’s like forgetting to lock the door once, from then on after you will doubt yourself on whether you locked it or not, even if you specifically remember doing so.

The ritual of picking a route is what I can’t stand in games, as it is terrifying. What I normally have to do is partially walk up one path to get a grips of the surroundings and see where it might lead. I then go back and do the same for the other route, trying to look for any clues of which is the non-story path. This normally works, but there are many times where both ways look the same and there is no real clue of which way is what. This means you have to play eeny, meeny, miny, moe and pray it’s the right one. Sometimes games are kind and you can backtrack, others make you stick with your choice and block off the path back. It’s as if they know of the torment they create and want to make people have sleepless nights wondering about what manner of treasures they missed.

This must make me sound very paranoid, which is probably right, but why must games do this? Potentially having good items or collectibles down these paths forces me to explore the map intensively, something I probably would have done anyway. It’s like someone holding a gun to my head while I take out the bin bags, I was going to do it so why add this fear? I suppose they could put signs up, saying this way to carry on finding the bad guy, and this way may or may not have something useful. Okay, so I’m not the idea man, and I don’t know how they could make it easier, they just should.

If you’ve read these features before, I’m sure you would know that I like to give examples of it happening to me in games. However, I fear there are too many games that pull this “split path” trick, so it would just be a list of nearly every game I have ever played. While this would get my word count up, I hardly think it would be of note.

This trivial choice of routes is one of the reasons I am slow at completing games. The worst thing is that I still don’t find everything, apparently I’m blind or just stupid, as I rarely find every secret, if anything. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if I find less than people who play the game normally.

I don’t know why it gets to me, and why I can’t just throw caution to the wind and go with it. It’s not like the other path ever has anything important, it is just health or ammo. Though there are those rare and really fun times when it’s just a dead-end, and it turns out you went down that path for no actual reason. I just know that when I do this, there is just one guy somewhere laughing to himself, knowing that I foolishly walked down the path he designed, expecting it to be laced with riches to only find endless disappointment.

Its fine when I play the game by myself as, I can moan at the game as it forced me to do it. The problem occurs when I play online with others, as it is my fault for giving into temptation of what could be. I end up always being at least a good three minutes behind them, as I’m hugging the walls trying to find all the secrets or items I missed. The situation resembles that of a dog and its owner. I just want to explore and see all the different things, and this super-secret route is too enticing to ignore – while the other person just wants to get on with their day and move on. It gets so bad that I end up missing big chunks of quests because I’m trying to see if each bedroom of an abandoned house will be a major part to a secret ending of the game.

With games being more and more open, I expect there will be a time where I have spent 200 hours just checking down empty routes. But hey, at least I’d know the landscape of the game pretty well.

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