2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Everything I Could Have Asked For,
This review is from: Silent Hill Downpour: Prima Official Game Guide (Paperback)
This guide is one of the best game guide's I have used in quite awhile. To put that statement into perspective, I should note that, if there is one available, I buy a printed guide for every single video game I buy and play. I know, I know that there are plenty of strategy guides and walkthroughs available online these days, but this "tradition" of mine goes back to the original PlayStation days when, if you wanted help on a game a printed guide was so much simpler than stumbling around the internet via a dial-up connection, hoping to encounter a useful source of information. I have continued to buy/collect game guides mainly because I really like having a corresponding shelf full of guides just below my shelf of games; but to be honest, in most cases these days I don't find much use for the guides when playing the games. Most printed guides these days seem to be assembled via committee, they are pretty to look at, but they often lack important information, not to mention actual "strategy." But this Prima guide for Silent Hill Downpour definitely bucks that trend. It was written by a single author, Nick von Esmarch, who not only seems to care a great deal about the game, but who obviously put a good deal of thought into how to present the information, guiding the player through the game without "hand-holding," and without spoiling any surprises.
I played through Downpour with this guide from the beginning. I knew that I needed to complete the game during the weekend I had set aside to do so, before other commitments began to suck up my leisure time for the next few months. So I used the guide from the start to ensure that I stayed on track and got the most out of the game. And I found that this guide took me, step-by-step, to each spot I needed to go, making sure that I collected every available item and found every single health pack and box of ammunition. Yet Mr. Von Esmarch did all of this with great care-- he was always specific enough to get me exactly where I needed to go, yet vague enough so as not to spoil any surprises, or ruin any of the atmospheric "beats" that the game used to tell the story and ratchet up the tension.
The maps in the guide were detailed enough to help me orient myself and find what I needed, yet never filled in so much detail that I didn't want to explore the streets and hallways of Silent Hill on my own to complete my own in-game map. There were even "hand drawn" maps in the guide for a couple of areas in the game that didn't have maps.
I also found that the pictures included in the guide were very thoughtfully composed and compiled-- again, showing enough detail to help me orient myself, but never giving away anything about the game that might spoil the discoveries I would make on my own as I played. In fact, the only time I struggled to use the pictures in this guide for help was during the Otherworld sequences-- and those parts of the game were specifically designed to be labyrinthine and confusing! But, honestly, I found that if I really studied the pictures in the guide, there always seemed to be a subtle clue that would help me find my way.
Furthermore, during those dizzying Otherworld chase sequences, I found Mr. Von Esmarch's step-by-step instructions to be spot-on: easy to follow, with perfect descriptions to help me find my way. My method was to play through those sequences without any help, but refer to the guide if I found myself dying or losing too much health. Every time I used the guide, I was amazed at how clear cut the path seemed to be once it was explained.
This guide is a huge asset in solving Downpour's great puzzles. For each puzzle, the author not only breaks down the specific steps for Easy, Medium, and Hard puzzles, but he again lays out the information so that the reader can choose as much, or as little, help as he wants. First, Von Esmarch reiterates the clues, then he describes the solution in general terms before finally breaking down each specific step needed to solve the puzzle. As with the Otherworld chases, I would always try to solve the puzzles on my own, only referring to the guide if I was completely stuck-- and I was always amazed at how well Mr. Von Esmarch did at guiding me while somehow leaving just enough out to make me feel like I was solving things on my own!
Regarding spoilers, the guide uses call-out boxes and specific color schemes to make sure that anyone reading the guide never encounters even the smallest bit of compromising information. Von Esmarch doesn't even leave vague spoilers (i.e. "There may be something hidden around the next corner...") in the main body of the guide. Yet within those call-out boxes, the author gives plenty of information so that the player who wants to know what is coming can prepare himself, but the guide still avoids giving away the exact nature of what is to come.
Now, for the first time in a Silent Hill game, Downpour includes multiple optional side quests. These quests can be completed at any time once you gain access to the section of the town wherein the side quest takes place. Basically, there is a linear, story-driven section at the beginning of the game, followed by a chance to explore a couple of neighborhoods in Silent Hill at your own leisure, completing side quests and trophies (or, alternately, hurrying on to the next required area to move the story along); next, comes a linear, story-driven jaunt through a large building; the completion of that building opens up the next neighborhood, allowing the player to again decide whether to explore the streets and complete side quests, or hurry along to the next plot point. This "linear section followed by an increase in the open town map" pattern repeats multiple times throughout the game.
There are a couple of ways Mr. Von Esmarch could have chosen to organize the side quest walkthroughs in this guide: he could have saved all the side quest information for its own section at the end of the walkthrough, focusing first on only the steps required to move the main story along... or he could explain each side quest at the earliest point in the walkthrough that the player could begin the side quest. Mr. Von Esmarch has chosen the latter option-- which, for me, made perfect sense, for a few reasons. First, it gives the player access to health items and better weapons as soon as possible. Second, it cuts down on the amount of backtracking the player has to do, since in some cases he can complete an entire neighborhood while he is "passing through" and thus not have to return later on to complete a side quest. Lastly, there are a couple of plot-driven "points of no return," and the way this guide is organized helps ensure that the player has the chance to complete any side quests without accidentally stumbling through one of these "no turning back" checkpoints. (The author is very explicit about pointing out when these points are about to happen). Now, some of the side quests cannot be completed until the entire town is accessible. So there will be some flipping back to an earlier page in the guide when a new section of the map opens up, in order to continue with a quest that may have begun in a previous section of the town-- but that depends a lot on how each individual player chooses to approach the side quests. It made perfect sense to me to finish up every single action I could in a particular neighborhood before moving on to the next, so yes, I did have to revisit earlier pages in the guide to continue with a quest when I reached the next neighborhood. But this was my choice-- and at the beginning of those quests, I appreciated being alerted in the guide at the earliest convenient starting point for a quest, rather than having to flip to the back of the guide for information about a quest. In other words, I didn't have to keep track of when and where any given quest might start, because the guide told me about it as soon within the walkthrough as I could begin (and reminded me to go back as soon as I could continue with a suspended quest). Alternately, I feel like it would have been a hassle to have to flip to the back of the guide for information regarding side quests, or to follow the story all the way through town and then have to backtrack in order to follow the guide through the side quests. Personally, I'll take revisiting an earlier section of the guide over running back through entire sections of the game any day.
When it comes to Trophies/Achievements, Mr. Von Esmarch is again very helpful. Many guides simply give a list of the trophies followed by the same description that appears in the game once you obtain the trophy. This guide, however, gives helpful tips when necessary (some trophies are very self-explanatory) to help ensure that the player understands what is needed to complete each task. I do think this section of the guide could have been expanded and even more detailed, especially for those players planning to grab the Platinum Trophy, but since I only ever planned to complete one single playthrough, only collecting the trophies that I earned during the regular course of the game (not going out of my way to hunt trophies), the guide worked for me.
As with any Silent Hill game, Downpour also contains multiple endings, and the ending that the player receives depends upon various actions taken throughout the game. The author doesn't spoil any of these endings, or even detail the repercussions of certain choices within the body of the walkthrough-- since any discussion of that type could be considered a spoiler. He saves all this information for a section following the walkthrough. I appreciated this, since even though I was following a guide, I wanted to make my own choices within the game, and reach whatever end I acquired as organically as possible. Unfortunately, once I finished the game, I never took the time to look at this section of the guide (and I loaned it to a friend so I don't have access to it right now), so I can't speak to how detailed or helpful this particular section of the guide is. I'm sure that help in achieving every ending is something that would be very important to many Silent Hill players, so I apologize that I can't give better information regarding that aspect of this strategy guide.
Finally, the Bestiary and Weapons section of the guide: I found the Bestiary very helpful in preparing for encounters with the enemies in Downpour. Rather than simply describe the monsters, the author gives tips on how to deal with them, and I found those strategies to be very useful. As for the Weapons section, there isn't a lot of variety when it comes to weapons in this game, and it is always quite obvious during the game which weapon is the more powerful option; so although the Weapons section doesn't include a complete description and statistical breakdown of every gun and melee weapon, it worked as a means of giving the player a heads up regarding what to be on the lookout for as you wander through the foggy streets and dark hallways.
...I should also point out that there are green lockers in the game that contain special weapons (one gun and one melee weapon). These lockers require one of three special combinations that were given out as pre-order bonuses by certain retailers. The specific combination you use to open a locker determines which specific weapons you find inside the lockers. Since these combinations were pre-order bonuses, it makes sense that they were not included in this guide, since that would negate the point of offering these combinations as an incentive to pre order (yes, I know those combinations can be found all over the internet-- I used one myself-- but that is entirely beside the point). However, I was surprised that the lockers weren't mentioned at all in the guide. When I encountered the first of these lockers, I couldn't for the life of me figure out why the guide didn't say a thing about it (which led me to the internet for answers, and the eventual acquisition of the combinations). I can only presume that these lockers were added late in the development cycle (perhaps in the months after the game was delayed from its original release date), after the guide was completed. Regardless, I won't fault a writer whose book exists by the grace of the developer for not giving away a secret linked to one of the developer's marketing/sales strategies...
All-in-all, I hope I've made it abundantly clear that I found this guide to be very helpful, perfectly organized, and extremely well thought-out in terms of presentation. Oh, and on top of all that, Nick von Esmarch can actually write well-- by which I mean he knows how to construct grammatically correct sentences, and give instructions in an easy-to-understand manner, and that this book actually seems to have been proofread before it went to press (a sad rarity with strategy guides these days)!
I'm glad I bought it, and glad I used it. I sincerely hope Mr. Von Esmarch continues to write game guides, and that I get the chance to use one of his books again in the future. I can say in all honesty that this guide stands with the best that I have personally encountered.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 18, 2012 6:37:56 PM PDT
Saenar Drift says:
One thing I wanted to mention, I think you made your review too long.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 19, 2012 2:27:42 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 19, 2012 2:47:46 AM PDT
Darth Knight says:
I actually (mostly) agree with you.
What I mean is, I really wish it were shorter, and I tried very hard to cut things out; but in the end I wanted to be super thorough because I felt like the other reviews completely misrepresented this guide based on my own experience with it. So I wanted to respond to every criticism from the other reviews, as well as explain enough about the way I game and use strategy guides that anyone wondering whether or not to buy this guide could make an informed decision. Since there are walkthroughs available online, I wanted to do everything I could to help any reader see that, in my opinion, this guide is worth the money.
Hopefully I succeeded. Hopefully the content merits the length. I'd hate to think I rambled on so long and used up so much of a reader's time yet ultimately failed to help them make their decision.
Thanks for the feedback. I really do appreciate it.
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