Will the Gears of War Strategy Guide Work with Gears of War Ultimate Edition?

Gears of War strategy guideThe Gears of War Ultimate Edition released this week and did not include a corresponding strategy guide in publication. The Ultimate Edition is simply a prettied up version of the original Xbox 360 game, right? So the original Gears of War strategy guide by Doug Walsh should work all the same. I had the same thoughts, but after seeing what happened with the Kingdom Hearts remixed HD versions, I didn’t want to take anything to chance. After playing the game last week with the original guide by my side, the verdict is both yes and no.

Yes, you can use the original Gears of War strategy guide, but only for the first four acts of the game. All of the strategies are perfectly sound for getting through the levels, and all of the COG tags are exactly where the strategy guide describes. I only missed one, and that was because I got distracted with one of the more tense scenes in the first Act.

No, you can’t use the original Gears of War strategy guide for Act 5. The Ultimate Edition added in the missions that remained on the cutting room floor but were put back in for the PC version of the original game. There are roughly five missions from Act 5 not mentioned at all in this strategy guide. If you need help, go find something online and make sure you look for the PC version until the Ultimate Edition walkthroughs are published. Three COG tags are also not mentioned in the original strategy guide either, forcing players to once again look online for assistance.

However, the last half of Act 5 is sound, and all COG tags mentioned in the guide for this portion are 100% there.

No, you can’t use the original Gears of War strategy guide for the multiplayer. The multiplayer portion of the game has completely changed since this strategy guide first release. All of the maps from the DLC and the PC version have been added, PC modes and modes from Gears 2 have been added, and the modes have been tweaked. Some of the advice for how to amp up your multiplayer prowess is still solid, but when it comes to map specifics, it’s best to ignore it all and just hurl yourself into the fray with that shotgun by your side.

If you already own the original Gears of War strategy guide, pull that baby out and use it to help find some of those sneaky COG tags. If you didn’t buy it the first time around, I’m not sure you’ll find your money’s worth in picking up a used copy as it is out of print.

Batman: Arkham Knight Strategy Guide Review

Batman: Arkham Knight strategy guide reviewIt’s almost eerie how closely the strategy guide for Batman: Arkham Knight mirrors the game itself. Like its namesake, the guide is super-sexy and packed full of delightful surprises. Unfortunately, like the game itself, the book starts to fall apart in the third act, holding it back from being one of the all-time greats.

The Collector’s Edition of the Batman: Arkham Knight strategy guide is elegance personified. There’s an air of mystery and sophistication with the simple black cover, and the lithographic title adds a dash of playfulness and fun. It’s said you should never judge a book by its cover, but when the cover is this nice it at least deserves a nod. The book also comes with lithograph prints of some of the game’s characters, as well as the Batmobile, all of which look absolutely stunning. They’re of a quality that it wouldn’t be out-of-line to proudly hang them on your wall, they look that good.

Things only get better as you start digging into the content of the guide itself, which is chock full of gorgeous art from the game and in-depth descriptions of both Batman’s abilities, as well as the foes he’s about to face on this particular Halloween in Gotham. As you progress through the game’s story the guide pulls out character profiles in order to quickly bring you up to speed and build a bit more color into the experience, as well as doling out tips and tricks for new abilities and gadgets as they unlock. All these little touches add to an expertly-paced, informative walkthrough that does just enough handholding without being condescending. It’s a fine tightrope, and the guide walks it expertly.

Another small but appreciated flourish is the guide’s ability to largely avoid spoilers throughout. Arkham Knight is a twisty, turny game and there are a lot of impactful moments that could be potentially ruined if you read ahead in a book that plays fast and loose with the story. Impressively, the guide largely sidesteps this, so even if you flip to the wrong page or read ahead a bit it’s unlikely you’ll have any part of the game ruined.

Beyond the main story the strategy guide also meticulously details each of the game’s Most Wanted side-missions, listing locations, strategies and special considerations for taking out each of Gotham’s most-dangerous villains in their respective multi-part quests. While the guide is comprehensive, this is also where the first imperfections start to show, as it sometimes fails to point out that specific quests cannot be completed until certain points in the game. If you’re the type of player who likes to take a break from the story in order to knock out some missions along the way it can be frustrating to hit a hard stopping point in certain missions because they’re functionally impossible to finish until later. It would have been helpful if the guide had broken down the missions by chapter in which a certain section could be completed, because as it stands now it just assumes you’ve finished the main story and are doing everything after Gotham’s primary threats have been thwarted.

As I tore through the guide I was debating whether this might be one of the best ever created, in spite of its minor shortcomings. I found myself happily opening it up every time I booted up the game, keeping it close for reference, and sometimes flipping to the Arkham Universe preview in the back, which contains even more great artwork and a look back at the series as a whole. It was all going so well, at least until I hit the Collectibles chapter.

In most games the collectibles aren’t that big of a deal, typically amounting to little more than an Achievement and maybe an XP boost if found. However, in Batman: Arkham Knight, they play a key role in the Riddler’s Most Wanted mission, which in turn must be finished in order to see the game’s full ending. Therefore, I was crestfallen when I turned to this section in my hunt for Riddler’s 240+ collectibles and found a slapped-together, painfully unhelpful guide.

First off, rather than utilizing the in-game maps and icons to list out where the various riddles, trophies, and destructibles are located, the guide instead opts to create its own maps with numbered, colored boxes to denote locations. This is already slightly confusing, as you have to juggle in your mind what the various shades stand for, and flip across multiple pages to find the corresponding entry in the guide.

More egregious than the lackluster maps is the barebones entries for each of the riddles, which are practically useless. Each entry is comprised of a tiny screenshot that provides absolutely no context, alongside maybe a sentence-long explanation of how to attain a given trophy, and that’s if you’re lucky. The entries are vague, cramped and mostly unhelpful, and the entire section is a massive disappointment. I very quickly gave up on this section entirely, instead opting for an IGN wiki since it actually provided insight on how to solve the trickier puzzles.

The Batman: Arkham Knight strategy guide does almost everything right, with a big emphasis on the almost. Still, it’s one of the more informative, helpful and ridiculously good-looking books out there, so it’s easy to recommend. The Knight is dark and full of terrors, but this guide will light your path.

SGR Rating: 4/5

Author: Michael Owen & Joe Epstein
Publisher: BradyGames
Editions available: Paperback and Collector’s Edition
Acquired via publisher

Unboxing Video: Final Fantasy Strategy Guide Boxed Set

I’ve been told by readers and strategy guide fans that the Final Fantasy strategy guide boxed set from Prima Games should be avoided at all costs. It’s poorly done. They copy and paste from the older guides. There’s a blatant mistake in one of the character pages.

Well, I can’t exactly do my job if I take all of these complaints at face value and not look at the books myself. Besides, I’m a huge collector, so of course I’m going to buy these books, mistakes be damned. So I have them, I’ve looked through them, and I compared the FFVII guide to the original.

Here are my thoughts:

The too long, didn’t watch version is this: it ain’t that bad of a boxed set, people. Put down the torches and pitchforks.

LEGO Jurassic World Strategy Guide Review

LEGO Jurassic World strategy guide reviewChris was the first one to foray into the video review waters after his tragic fight with that unicorn, and now I feel it is my turn to jump in. I had so much to say about the LEGO Jurassic World strategy guide and so much I wanted to show that video seemed to be the best format. That and I’m super lazy; you think I wanted to scan in all of those pages? Isn’t that why I use strategy guides in the first place, because I am super lazy (and I like to collect things)?

Regardless of my laziness, I had a lot I wanted to show to help explain exactly why I’m so disappointed in this strategy guide, which breaks my heart to write. It would be one thing if Prima Games slacked on all of their LEGO game guides, but they normally don’t. This book screams of a rushed product, something I noticed with the game as well when I reviewed it. The strategy guide’s only saving grace was the handheld section, which was everything the console section should have been.

Here’s why.

SGR Rating: 3/5

Authors: Rick Barba and Michael Knight
Publisher: Prima Games
Editions available: Paperback
Acquired via Publisher

Bloodborne Strategy Guide Review

Bloodborne Strategy Guide ReviewDue to a battle wound inflicted while battling a unicorn, I sustained a wound to my finger and thus typing is not really a thing I want to do right now. Thanks to this unicorn inflicted injury, I decided to do a video review of the Bloodborne strategy guide from Future Press. Actually, I kind of think I want this to become a thing that I keep doing! What do you think? Would you like to see more video reviews?

Video Strategy Guide Review:

SGR Rating 4.5/5

Author: Anwar Hassan, Bailey Strauss, Franz von Eisenheim, Lucas Hofstatter, Marcus Sanders
Publisher: Future Press
Editions Available: Collector’s Edition
Acquired via Publisher