Note: This is article 5 of 6 we’re featuring from frequent guest and contributor, J, from Statbonus.com. You may also recognize this as the source for our “Play Like A Cowardly Viking” Skyrim special play-through. Please enjoy.
So you’ve played 1,000 hours past your favorite title’s content. You’ve exhausted every quest line, every side mission, every combination of character build. You’ve exploited every cheat code, looted every hidden level, and acquired every inane achievement. And yet it will be months, years even, before the next great title hits the shelves– I’m looking at you Elder Scrolls VI. The truth of the matter is that quality video game consumption always outpaces quality video game production. So what is a social reject console addict to do? Sure, you could spend countless hours of pointless clicking on any number of free to play (but pay to win) games, because Kate Upton’s mammary glands told you to. But is that really going to keep you entertained for more than an hour?
Of course not. That’s why you need to take a page from the book of the 20th century Moria player, and extend the replay value of the titles you already have in your collection.
For those of you who don’t remember, Moria was the computer age’s answer to the GM-less RP Gamer. With a little more than your average D&D player’s capacity for imagination, this text based adventure opened a world of cursed rings, filthy street urchins, and delicious slime-molds, upon which you could express your inner murder-hobo. But for some, killing the Balrog a dozen times wasn’t entertaining enough. They needed a new challenge, and Pelor forbid they power down their IBM 286 clone and interact with something that respires. No, these proto-Otaku delved back into the dungeons of Moria. Only this time they enhanced their replay experience by artificially raising the difficulty to insane levels. How insane? Let me put it this way: I played Moria and some of it’s many variants (Nethack, party of one?) for years– clear into the 21st century in fact, and I have never managed to survive long enough to see the final level, much less defeat the Boss.
These Morlock wannabees would defeat that Big Bad in under 10 hours (sometimes significantly less) while adhering to absurd self-imposed limitations only a basement-dwelling computer science major could conceive of. Like completing the game without armor, without eating, while blindfolded, or sometimes even all three! So it is in this spirit of the 20th century ASCII graphic adventurer, I present to you four advanced modes to wring yet more hours of entertainment from your favorite video game titles. First up:
Red Dead Redemption– White Hat Mode
I don’t need to sell you on just how good Red Dead Redemption is. In my life there are exactly three games I’ve played just for the immersion of the setting: cruising the outer system at the helm of my Cobra Mk III in Interstellar Elite for the Commodore 64, stargazing under the auroras of the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and taking a walk through the woods of Tall Trees (at least until a swarm of bears eats me) in Red Dead Redemption. But for those of you who have no time for lollygagging and have burned through all of Marston’s adventures, there are still challenges to be met.
Try Marston’s story again, only this time do it without using fast travel, dead eye (except where required by the plot), or paying off any of your bounties. Interestingly enough, even in the “wild west” murderers couldn’t just walk up to a clerk and drop some silver to make that pesky murder charge go away. And if that’s not difficult enough, take the gunfighter’s pledge not to use violence except in self defense. That means no sniping, no sneak attacks, no drawing your six-iron first.
Grand Theft Auto– Honor Among Thieves Mode
Let’s start with how I can almost feel you inspecting your shoes right now. I know how you’ve been playing Grand Theft Auto, and you should be ashamed of yourself. I know the NPCs are annoying and incompetent. I know that carjacking some NPC as a means of disposable transportation is cheaper and easier than hailing a cab. I know that going Green River Killer on the local hooker population is more profitable and efficient than completing most of the early plot missions. And, yes, it is fun to go all Larry Philips every once in a while. But once you’ve done all that, maybe you should try playing it the way I believe the creators intended: as the only competent and moral person in the whole damned city.
Reserve violence for self defense (again, no preemptive attacks), don’t steal anything unless the mission requires it (including bystander’s vehicles), and if you need a real challenge? Obey the traffic laws except when evading arrest. Seriously, try to stop at every red light. Observe the speed limit. Park only where it is legal to park. Trust me, this is a lot easier said than done.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim– True Nord Mode
It’s no secret that the Nords of Skyrim are based on the historical Norse civilization (you might know them as the “vikings”). Once you’ve depleted the extensive content of Elder Scrolls V and it’s expansions there are still challenges that await you in the oldest kingdom of Tamriel. All you have to do is play like a Norseman.
First off, no looting Nordic tombs. Treasure chests and unattended items on shelves are OK, but no riffling through burial urns or searching the cadavers in the catacombs for loose change. The coinage of any Draugr that rise from the grave to slay you is, of course, free game. If he didn’t want his corpse looted he should have stayed in his tomb!
Secondly, no thieving. But you have to understand how to discern the difference between thieving and raiding in the culture of the ancient Norse. Thieving is when you sneak about and take things that do not belong to you. Raiding is when you kill someone for their stuff and then take it. I kid you not, that’s how the Norse used to see things. There’s even an account I read about, in which a band of Norse raiders attacked a farm and managed to get themselves captured in the attempt. Later that night they were able to escape with most of the farm’s valuables in tow. But the group determined their actions to be dishonorable, you know, sneaking off in the middle of the night with the farmer’s stuff… So they went back and murdered his whole family by setting their home on fire in order that their helping themselves to his property would be socially acceptable. Therefore, feel free to take stuff from anyone you kill, but be up front about it.
Thirdly, no poison. It goes back to the honor thing. It’s OK to murder a man with your axe because you don’t like the way he drinks his mead, but poison is not how a true man kills his enemies. That goes for bad ass shield maidens too.
Fourthly, and this is important, no using weapons or armor of the fallen. This doesn’t include weapons found on racks or inside treasure chests. This is specifically the weapons and armor of people that have died using them in combat.The Norse were very big on luck, both good and bad. And though they believed the length of their mortal life was fixed, they also believed that using weapons of people killed was really bad luck. After all, how lucky could this sword be? Its previous owner is dead!
Fifthly, worship Talos. Don’t argue, just do it.
Interestingly enough, you don’t actually have to play a Nord character to play True Nord Mode. References to “Blaumen” (how ancient Norse described people we now generally describe as ‘black’) suggest that some parts early Norse civilization (such as it was) may have included non-ethnically Norse into their societies if they could keep with the norms of Norse culture– you know, taking slaves, murdering people for their loot, engaging in human sacrifice every nine years– all the stuff we did in high school. Thus if you want to play an Argonian shield maiden with an affinity for archery, go for it. Just remember: no sneak shots, no poison, and don’t even think about slaying that Deathlord in Lost Valkygg for his cool bow.
Halo (any edition)– Parent Mode
Halo is one of those games that has pretty good control over it’s difficulty level. But after you’ve defeated the ancient forces trying to snuff out mankind on Legendary with such jewels as Catch, Iron and Black Eye engaged, you’re ready for the ultimate challenge: Parent Mode.
If you haven’t acquired offspring already, borrow some of your families’ or friends’ spawn and try to save mankind again with a hyper child interrupting your view of the screen every 20 seconds. I guarantee, no matter how many snacks you serve, no matter what other electronic diversions you provide, those diminutive imps will manage to obscure the screen at just that critical moment when a quarter second interruption cements the doom of our Spartan hero and the extinction of the entire human race. Way to go kid.
Unless you’re this kid. Then seriously, way to go.