What Are Your Thoughts on Protagonists Discussing Puzzles? 1
Image: Push Square

If, like this author, you were old enough to grow up during the PS1 era, you’ll remember that visiting websites like GameFAQs and printing off entire walkthroughs was practically a necessity. Games, specifically action adventure games, could be so obtuse that you practically had no chance of progressing without a little extra help. Alternatively, this writer was just rubbish.

The point, however, is that titles were a lot less intuitive than they are today. Developers have learned a lot over the past two-and-a-bit decades, and releases are generally a lot more accessible than they used to be. This extends beyond the dizzying array of options you tend to find in today’s AAA games, but also the way they’re designed. And that’s prompting some debate.

Case in point: there’s growing frustration among some gamers with regards to protagonists outlining the solution to puzzles. We first noticed this topic crop up with Horizon Forbidden West earlier in the year, as Aloy has a propensity to mutter hints under her breath. “I just need to get up to that ledge,” she’ll ponder. “Perhaps I can find something to help me get to higher ground.”

What Are Your Thoughts on Protagonists Discussing Puzzles? 2
Image: Push Square

It’s all innocent enough, but many more experienced players feel it’s harming the experience. With regards to Guerrilla’s sequel, it was certainly heavy-handed: you didn’t even have time to analyse your surroundings, before the protagonist was spelling out the solution. This same criticism is now being pointed at another high-profile PlayStation exclusive, God of War Ragnarok.

Personally, we feel the criticism is a little overblown: there’s no doubt characters like Atreus and Mimir will give you hints, but in our experience it takes a few moments for them to speak. Not only that, but we haven’t encountered any areas where supporting cast members outright tell you the answers; it’s usually more of a subtle nudge to take a closer look at a geyser or a contraption. (And if you’re still stuck at that point, there’s always our God of War Ragnarok guide, right?)

Ultimately, we’re a little torn on this. It’s clear that focus-testing feedback is the reason for the hints, as many players just aren’t as familiar with the “language” of game design like enthusiasts are, and probably appreciate the extra help. However, we can understand the frustration: a game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is so successful because it allows you to enjoy that all-important ‘a-ha’ moment.

Perhaps the solution here is to provide the option to delay or disable the offending dialogue entirely? Games are highly flexible these days – for the better, we’d argue – so an option to turn off any hints would likely be welcomed by enthusiasts, without removing the feature entirely for those who appreciate it. It’s certainly something to think about.

What do you make of protagonists spoiling puzzles in tentpole titles? Is it something you’ve noticed more of lately, or is the criticism completely overblown? Do you like receiving subtle tips from characters, or do you feel like you’re being patronised? Point us in the right direction in the comments section below.

What are your thoughts on protagonists discussing puzzles?