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    Smoke and Sacrifice

    Game » consists of 2 releases. Released May 31, 2018

    Sachi must rescue her abandoned child from the underworld in this action-RPG with survival sim crafting and resource management.

    What's the Greatest Video Game: Smoke and Sacrifice

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    imunbeatable80

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    Edited By imunbeatable80

    This is an ongoing list where I attempt to do the following: Play, Complete, and Rank every video game in the known universe in order to finally answer the age old question "What is the greatest game of all time?" For previous entries find the links on the attached spreadsheet.

    How did I do?

    CategoryCompletion level
    CompletedYes
    Hours played< 8
    Favorite CraftableFinally making a torch that doesn't go out in one day
    Favorite partComing back and killing mini-bosses quickly with better equipment
    Least favoriteHaving to craft new shoes to enter a new biome

    I couldn’t tell you why, but I have had Smoke and Sacrifice on my radar forever. I must have watched the shortest trailer of it, and was sold before I even knew what it actually entailed. I mean the visuals are striking with the characters seeming like they have big head mode permanently on, but if I had done a little bit more research I probably wouldn’t have bought it.. That’s not an early admission if the game is good or not, but rather a big proponent of this game is crafting, and crafting by itself is one of the mechanics in video games I enjoy the least. This won’t just delve into a crafting rant, but by and large I don’t enjoy the games where crafting is the big tenant. Games like Rust, Ark, Conan Exiles, and to a point Minecraft don’t do anything for me. Yes, do I think people can create amazing things in those games, of course.. Do I think that those games have more than just crafting in them, sure.. but everything in those games is done with crafting being the main gameplay mechanic. Some could argue that Stardew Valley, a game I have very high on my list, is also a crafting game, because you have to build chests, sprinklers, or fences in the game. However, this is the crafting that I can tolerate, because I can also spend multiple a whole month in that game, not crafting and making lots of progress through fishing, mining, or regular farming without having to constantly put rocks and sticks together.

    No Caption Provided

    Ok, so we got off track a little bit, but it helps set the stage for Smoke and Sacrifice which is part action game and part crafting game. You play as a mother named Sachi who lives in a post-apocalyptic world where the sun has burnt out. Sachi’s home is a small patch of land that is powered by the “sun tree” which is complex machinery that is acting as a replacement sun but only works for a small area. The community worships the sun tree and in order to keep it running, the first born of every family is sacrificed to it, in order for it to continue working. One day when Sachi’s camp is attacked by monsters, she stumbles through a teleporter and finds that there is a world beneath hers that is very different. Here is where you come in to see if you can figure out what is happening in this underworld, and if you can survive and get back to your home.

    We’ll start with the story since its right here in front of everyone. As you might imagine, the underworld is what is powering the sun tree and the people who are toiling in the underworld are all of the children that were “sacrificed” at birth to keep it running. Being down in the underworld for so long has made them forget any part of their life that was before being down here, and the live as slaves being forced to work machines or gather items to hit work quotas to survive. Fairly early on, your adventure turns to trying to find where your child is, and rescuing them from this world and that becomes your driving focus. You will learn that the church, or cult of the sun tree are.. you guessed it, behind this whole thing and while some might believe they are being altruistic and doing this to keep society afloat, some are in it for the power and control they have over the group. The story will then take you into helping out a resistance, fighting against those in charge as well as what you plan to do if your ultimate plans are going to destroy the sun tree. How would the group above ground survive? Will you find your son? What will happen?

    Oh how it seems like you have unlimited space in the beginning
    Oh how it seems like you have unlimited space in the beginning

    The story isn’t actually too bad when you get into the thick of it. I do think it’s a little easy to see what direction it was going as I don’t think you could start this game up and not predict who the bad guys are 5 minutes into the game. This is an issue in video games in general, but where this games story can take a hit is in the pacing of it. Main quests are going to give you the story content you might want, but in order to hit some of those main quests you might need to spend a lot of time looking for very specific resources to then craft into something you need, fighting very specific enemies to gather items all before you can carry on a conversation or make a step towards the end. Again, this isn’t unique to Smoke and Sacrifice, hell I have wasted literal days doing side activities in something like Yakuza before I was supposed to continue the story, but I think the difference here is that I opted to stop in Yakuza to do the side stuff, and in this game you HAVE to stop to do the crafting aspect.

    Ok, so lets talk about this gameplay that I keep alluding to. In S & S you navigate the underworld in a Isometric/top down look at your character and their surroundings. The world is divided into different Biomes, but is technically an open world where you can go anywhere you want, as long as you have the correct gear. When you are starting off you are limited to this grasslands/forest esque biome where you can pick plants that are growing, break vases that might have resources, punch trees that might loosen up some fruit or a branch, and fight a few enemies. You have plenty of inventory space (in the beginning) where you can literally pick up everything you ever find (items thankfully stack) and you just expand the map until you can see everything this area has. As you talk to the “drear” (essentially the almost zombified people who work in the underground) you will uncover recipes for crafting, whether that be a lantern, or your first weapon, etc. Eventually as you are completing quests you will eventually be given a quest that has requires you to go to a different biome and you will learn that at the very least you need special shoes before your character can walk around in that area without dying. In the Ice biome you will need warm boots, in the fire biome you will need fire-proof shoes, then there are rubber shoes to walk around the electrical biome, and eventually more gear for the poison biome. Pretty standard stuff, so you first have to get the recipe and then you craft the item and on and on it goes. There are save points and fast travel points around the map (you will have to pay to unlock the fast travel, like 3 coins you find in game.. not real money), but as you progress the recipes get more complex and might require you to make the item at a cookpot, workbench, or factory machine. These are things you can find around the world, and sadly not something you can build.

    No Caption Provided

    Eventually your inventory will balloon up and then the real fun beings (or the opposite of that). You will at any given time be carrying around multiple weapons, multiple boots or headgear (because the upgraded boots still only work on one biome), food for healing, and a boatload of other resources because you never know what a recipe is going to call for. You do have a fairly robust inventory space, and in the beginning of the game you won’t come anywhere close to filling it even if you pick up every item, but for the back half of the game, you can expect to constantly be battling with space. There are chests you can unlock (if you find a key) that are scattered around the world which will give you some reprieve, but you will never truly know what you can drop off and never need again, because there is degradation of weapons, items, and many resources. Weapons can break if you don’t keep them repaired, same for armor, your torch can run out of light and need to be fixed. Some resources just go bad like meat or veggies if they aren’t cooked into a proper dish, nearly everything is on some timer that you constantly have to keep paying attention to, or keep the resources in your possession so you can address these issues as they arise. As you start factoring these things in, the amount of space that seemed abundant earlier on now seems very small. By the end of the game I was carrying 5 or so different boots, at least 3 different weapons, a ranged weapon + Ammo (2 separate slots), armor, 2 helmets, repair mix for weapons and armor (2 more slots), at least two different types of cooked food, coins for fast travel portals, a torch + repair part for that, and probably at least 2 quest items.. That is 22 items for what seems like a fairly needed setup, and I am sure this is common in these types of games, but boy do I hate having to constantly travel between chests to just keep swapping around items to progress.

    No Caption Provided

    Combat is a fairly large part of this game as well, not just because there are a lot of enemies, but because you will need certain resources that only enemies can give you. There is an attack button, dodge button, and you will eventually learn a full-block button, but a lot of the combat is learning what your enemies can do. Until you start getting more powerful weapons, you will have to learn when to attack and when to get out of the way as each enemy has their own attack pattern. I wouldn’t put any of the fights on par with Dark Souls battles, but you will fight some bosses where you will need to be able to roll in, attack twice, roll out just to slowly wear down their health bar. With that said, it is incredibly rewarding to take down an enemy that has been giving you trouble for the first time, or defeat a mini-boss and watch the bounty of resources pop out of them when they die. There is a day/night cycle that is always in affect which not only requires you to have a working torch for night time (if you don’t you will slowly choke and die in the smog), but also makes enemies more aggressive during night time. I would never recommend standing around until day time just to take on a battle, and there are enemies that are only available at day or night that you will eventually need to hunt down. While the excitement exists for the first time you tackle a new enemy or master their pattern, when you have to fight the giant bore 6 or 7 times in a row, simply because you need to harvest the resource only they have, then it can feel quite tedious.

    Should you die, you will automatically reload at the last time you saved the game, there are no checkpoints here and if you get carried away and try to save it only once a sitting, you are eventually going to end up losing a lot of progress. There are some save points that pop up right before taking on actual bosses, so you at least can retry those rather quickly, but getting stuck in an unfamiliar biome can lead to death rather quickly as you attempt to learn new enemies or what you can eat in the area. The game is bound to burn you at least once, just to let you know what you screwed up.

    No Caption Provided

    Despite being considered an RPG, there is no leveling up in this game. Your character never gains a level and gets better attributes, everything comes down to your actual skill in fighting and pattern recognition and what items you equip. A better sword will make quicker work of some enemies, and a better armor will allow you to take more hits, standard faire, but there is no goal level you need to be at for any part of the game. You could spend 20 hours of the game fighting slimes and you won’t be any better off then someone who rolls past every enemy and only fights bosses. This is both a blessing and a curse. I am an RPG nut and I just like seeing numbers go up and sometimes over leveling so I can just wallop enemies into submission without putting in thought, obviously I can’t do this here. So while there were some tough boss fights that took me multiple attempts, and I would have loved to go “gain a few levels” before trying again I also know that every victory is one that I earned through my own ability and not because my numbers were better. Fight enough giant bores and you can beat them without getting hit, simply because you have memorized their attack patterns.

    I think this game took me around 8 hours, probably less and while on paper I love that length of a game, this game feels long because there are just chunks of time where it is hard to see the progress you are making. Sure I spent a lot of time gathering enough resources to craft fire boots or make a new sword that is going to help in the long run, but at the same time I didn’t clear a single quest or make real progress. Hell I spent about 30 minutes before the final boss, stocking up on food, and that requires fighting lesser enemies, and gathering vegetables and then finding a cookpot to cook everything. It’s not hard work, but it is work.

    No Caption Provided

    While Smoke and Sacrifice had a lot to overcome for me, because if I am still being honest, I just don't care for the crafting genre still. I can commend this game being competent or interesting in its other features, but it still has an uphill climb for me to think that this would be a game I would recommend others play, or even one I would like to re-visit. This game does have replay value if you want to unlock all the recipes or try out and craft different weapons, but that is farthest from my mind in terms of a reason to revisit. The story and world are interesting, but as I mentioned there is a pacing problem because at any given time you have to stop and gather resources or craft before you can make progress in a story.. That happens in all games, but felt rougher in this one, since I didn't care for the in-between. I feel like the analogy here is saying, I like Street Fighter games, except for all that fighting.

    Is this the greatest game of all time?: ummm... no

    Where does it rank: Smoke and Sacrifice was better then I thought it would be, once I started seeing all the crafting tendrils creeping around the game, but that isn't to say its the greatest of all time. I have it ranked as the 125th greatest game of all time. Every step forward I felt I made in terms of enjoying the combat or engaging with the story, would come crashing down when I would have to spend 20 minutes looking for a shoe recipe and crafting supplies before I could move forward. I also hated the constant item countdowns that you would have to manage in the later game. Watching closely to see if any weapon or armor needs repair, because if it broke outright you would have to build a new one, making sure you prioritize cooking or eating food before it goes bad, and constantly having to repair your lantern for every night cycle.

    What's it Between: Smoke and Sacrifice sits between Hand of Fate (124th) and Let's Build a Zoo (126th)

    Anyone looking for it: here is the link to the list and more if you are interested in following along with me (this is not a self promotion).Here. I added links on the spreadsheet for quick navigation. Now if you missed a blog of a game you want to read about, you can get to it quickly, rather than having to scroll through my previous blogs wondering when it came up.

    Thanks for listening

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    bigsocrates

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    THIS GUY HATES CRAFTING SHOES.

    You had me excited about this game when you said "crafting" but I didn't really get into it until you said "painful inventory management." Let me tell you there's NOTHING better in a game than inventory management. I love it. Just being forced to make painful decisions about what to drop only to find that the thing you dropped was the thing you needed. So good. Every game should have inventory limits. It's what I fantasize about. Why don't more movies focus on adventurers having to carefully pack their bags?

    That and dying without checkpoints! So much fun!

    You know what game doesn't have crafting of shoes? Super Mario 3D World. You start out with the only shoes you'll need, BABY!

    You make this game sound like kind of a pain in the neck to actually play with limited reward and I'm not really sure why you didn't bail earlier. I try not to bail on games (and I think you try to finish them too) but at a certain point...we have a limited time on this earth and a limited amount of time to play games and new ones are coming out all the time and...I know I'm the guy who beat Balan Wonderworld but at least if you say "I beat Balan Wonderworld" people (game nerds) might want to talk about it or make fun of you about it. If you say "I beat Smoke and Sacrifice" they'll mostly be confused.

    It just seems like you never really had a chance of enjoying this game beyond sporadic moments.

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    imunbeatable80

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    @bigsocrates: yeah this game would have had to overcome a lot to be great. It did have moments and without an official ranking, I would prefer it leaps and bounds over the true crafting games (Conan, ark, etc).

    As for why I didn't bail.. I can't. This whole series is about beating games. I gotta stick it through because the sick part of my brain has to see how bad (or possibly good) it gets later on. The pain and suffering is only temporary, but knowing I can put smoke and sacrifice on a made-up list by someone with no industry experience is a satisfaction I can take to my grave.

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    bigsocrates

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    @imunbeatable80: I dunno man it's your series and I get that part of it is just going through your backlog and you have the wheel and all, but does playing a game you instantly know you're not going to like really help you find the greatest game? I know that Lord Winklebottom was never going to challenge for greatest game either but at least that one read like you had a nice time with it and especially enjoyed spending quality time with your wife playing through it, so that I get seeing through even if it wasn't a contender.

    This review read like a 4 out of 10 for you. Just an unfun, not quite miserable but not pleasant slog for 8 hours. You put it right below Hand of Fate, a game I kind of like and would probably give a 7 or so out of 10 to, but we have different taste in games so I don't know how much to read into that. What I do know is that it's...alarming that a game that's above the bottom third of your list reads as so unpleasant. Not just for your pursuit of the greatest game but also for your own enjoyment of the hobby?

    I dunno, you do you and if you really get a lot out of finishing titles like this then who am I to stop you? Nobody. I'm literally nobody. I haven't even played the greatest game (Billy Hatcher) myself so I'm talking nonsense here. But if you had the ability to pull the ripcord 30 minutes in and move on would that damage the project? How many games are on your backlog anyway? I'm guessing it's somewhere in the three digits. Is it depleting faster than it increases? I know mine doesn't.

    Maybe I'm just thinking about my own experience but I struggle to finish even games I like. I kind of had to force myself to go back to the Super Mario RPG remake and I'd give that like an 8 out of 10. I wouldn't even say that I had a bad time with the last third of it. The combat kind of wore out its welcome but the remake makes that fast and there were some cool things to see, good music, fun puzzles, and amusing story beats. It was good and I still struggled to finish it. Forcing myself to play through games I hated on the regular would start to feel like torture, or worse, work after awhile.

    If you look at your last 10 or so blogs you see a lot of games that are low on your list and just didn't seem like you had a good time with them. Some of them fit into your personal narrative in some way like MDK2 (a game you were curious about from youth) or The London Case (part of your "spousal detective agency" series) but games like NBA Inside Drive 2002, I Am Dead, and this one just seem like time sucks. In my personal gaming diet I've made an effort to focus on stuff that I at least genuinely like or have some specific interest in so maybe I'm projecting but I'm just asking questions.

    IS IT ILLEGAL TO ASK QUESTIONS? I THOUGHT YOU LIKED DETECTIVE GAMES, HYPOCRITE!

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    imunbeatable80

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    @bigsocrates: I appreciate you looking out for me, but nearly every game I've bought I have at least a nominal interest in. If I let you in on a secret, I'm never going to play super man 64 on this blog or mortal kombat mythologies because they are bad games I have no interest in, but games like "no straight roads" or "ogre battle 64" two games I'm playing now aren't going to be the greatest, but are enjoyable..

    It was never just about the list, but also forcing myself to finally play more than one hour of each game which is what I was doing before this crusade.

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    bigsocrates

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    @imunbeatable80: I'm sure that they are all games you were interested in at some point, but let me quote a friend of your wife's here:

    I realize that I am extremely easy to market to when it comes to video games. If a game has turn based action, grids to move around in, and contains light RPG mechanics, consider me there. In fact, the game we are talking about today "All Walls Must Fall" has the phrase "A tech-noir tactics game" on their title screen and that was enough to make me consider a purchase for an indie title. Should I have seen some of the red flags (no screenshots of actual game footage, only reviews are from their alpha/beta, touting club music as a positive), but I still downloaded it and played the game because it is a cheap tactics game and I am still jonesing for my next fix.

    []

    I can't think of a single moment while playing this game, that I had fun.

    I'm just saying...you might have been interested in the game but does that really mean you will necessarily get anything out of playing it? Jury is out. THE JURY IS OUT!

    I do understand the need to force yourself to finish games. When I was younger I basically finished nothing, and as I said I STILL have to force myself to finish even games that I like and am enjoying. There's something to be said for finishing games and though not everyone likes to do it I am definitely with you on this one.

    I just don't know if you have to finish every game. But if that's what makes you happy then I'm not going to stop you. I won't put up a wall. It'd just fall anyway.

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    imunbeatable80

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    @bigsocrates: you are trying to trap me, but I won't fall for it. I'm glad I played that shifty game, so I know how bad things can get. It's that game that keeps me grounded to realize that super mario 3d world isn't that bad after all.

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    chamurai

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    Good write up! The real sacrifice is the time you spent to play and write about this for Science.

    I've actually never heard of this game before today. Looking forward to Ogre Battle 64 though!

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    imunbeatable80

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    @chamurai: thanks as always for the read and comment.. the writeup for ogre battle 64 might be a bit as I'm still early on, but here is my preview take.. it's a really good game that rewards micro management sometimes to a detriment.. however there is inherently so much replayability as every army is customizable, so in one playthrough you could use 10 different characters and use a complete different 10 on a second playthrough.

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    bigsocrates

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    @imunbeatable80: NO SPOILERS! If it's a really good game it can't be the greatest game. You need to tag that! Flagged and reported!

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    chamurai

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    @bigsocrates: Perhaps the end game takes it over the top, like Sylvester Stallone putting his hat backwards while arm wrestling! We won't know until the science has been properly conducted.

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    Manburger

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    This is one of the gazillions of games (conservative estimate) that I've received for free/amassed from bundles but never played. Fun read, thank you for your service!

    I have the opposite problem regarding research: I've certainly looked up too much about a game and convinced myself I didn't need to play it. But I think oftentimes if you can just jump into a game without any preconceived notions, that is the best way to be. When I have done just that and looked it up after the fact, and see dissenting opinions that might've dissuaded me — "whaat but I thought it was pretty neat! am i the freak??" (yes.) — I have generally been pleased I just jumped in.

    The only immidiate dissapointment with Ogre Battle 64 is that it does not have a Queen-inspired title. (...unless it is referring to 64 of their uh greatest hits?? further research required)

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    bigsocrates

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    @manburger: It is incredibly easy to look up too much about a game. Generally for me it's not that it convinces me to not to play it (I have been convinced not to play games by looking up too much, for example by reading an @imunbeatable80 blog post and realizing that a game is not the greatest game; No thanks Stardew Valley, you are FAR from the greatest game and NOT WORTH MY TIME) but that I get something spoiled for me even though I'm careful.

    These days sites LOVE spoiling things in headlines. I don't know why the Gen Zers LOVE THIS. They want sites to post "you know the NPC who is your best friend? He betrays you and is the final boss. Here's the secret technique for beating him!" But even outside of that reviewers love to spoil late game twists to NO BENEFIT. "The best part of the game is the shocking betrayal when Yancy, who up until then has been playable, goes over to the other side." No analysis, no reason not to say something vague like "late game plot developments provide a real shot in the arm to a flagging narrative" just "spoil the big thing and move on."

    People used to complain about metacritic scores but this is a big reason why I rely on them.

    Still I do think that at least knowing what genre a game is can be helpful before you commit 8 hours of your life to it. That's a full standard work day. It's multiple days of gaming even if you play a lot. If I'm committing that to a genre I don't like I will at least want to play the best that genre has to happen.

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    imunbeatable80

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    @manburger: I, probably wrongfully, feel I can trust my gut after a quick trailer and maybe 5 minutes of gameplay footage. I'm not batting 100% as I am sure @bigsocrates will gladly point out, but I will only really change my mind on whether or not to get a game if I've decided not to and then heard universal praise from others.

    @bigsocrates: I don't get why people are ok with spoilers.. I still very much care about discovering the story in a book, movie, or game firsthand without knowing the twist. My wife is the opposite and it baffles me.

    If I had to guess it's that the attention span of younger generations are so shot, and they have no patience that they need to just know what is coming to even see if it's worth playing, or because they can't be bothered to read through the story at it's own pace. It sounds like I'm "old man yells at clouds" and maybe I am, but I'm also not constantly on my phone while watching a show or playing a game so I can soak everything up as it comes up.

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    bigsocrates

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    @imunbeatable80: SO YOU FINALLY ADMIT THAT I AM YOUR GREATEST NEMESIS.

    The Robotnik to your Sonic

    The Bowser to your Mario

    The Javert to your Jean ValJean!

    THE BUBSY TO YOUR PERSON WHO HAS EARS!

    You claim to be unbeatable but I WILL BE THE ONE WHO BEATS YOU!

    Honestly I don't know how accurate your gut is but what I do think is that you're the kind of person who will play a game you expect to only kind of like or maybe not even like but are curious about, and combined with insisting on finishing things that has led you down the path of spending a lot of your game time on stuff you'd rank a 7/10 or lower recently.

    I didn't know that you married a Gen Zer. It does explain why she likes "cozy" games. The kids LOVE things that are cozy. They love them. How do you deal with her calling the PS4 retro?

    There have been studies that showed that spoilers don't really impact enjoyment of media, and in my own experience I think that's mostly true, but I still want to experience the artistic intention of surprise. It's part of the intended experience, the same way I don't skip parts of games I don't like even if there is a "skip to the end of this part" button, which I think SHOULD be an option but one I don't take. I want to see what the authors had in mind, and that includes spoilers.

    I think a lot of outlets use them freely for a variety of reasons, but part of it is I think a lot of games media people are sweaty nerds (no offense, I'm one too) who like showing off that they get games first, and want to excitedly talk about them as soon as possible in very explicit ways rather than thinking about serving their audience.

    SEO probably plays a large role as well.

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    imunbeatable80

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    @bigsocrates: oh buddy.. you have always been my nemesis.

    Yeah, I exclude games media, because I get why they do spoiler talk. It's going to draw in the audience of people who have already been spoiled, people who want to be spoiled, and people who maybe weren't interested in the source at all, but are curious about the issue. My befuddlement is with people who are enjoying a piece of media and want to spoil the artistic twist early for no real benefit. Hey thanks for telling me the twist in the 6th sense, now when I go see it for the first time I'll miss the cool reveal.

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