Daikatana: Unlimited Saves

Like most first-person shooters for PC, Daikatana lets you save anywhere with the press of a button. This was not always the case. Originally, it had a complicated system of “save gems”, which you had to collect, and could only carry in limited quantities, and even then could only be applied in certain places. Unlimited saves got added in one of the official patches. It’s still optional, but at this point it’s turned on by default.

While I’m generally keen about experiencing games As The Creators Intended, this change is one that the creators at least signed off on. Still, now that I’m in the “Hey this actually isn’t bad” phase of the game, I found myself wondering if something had been lost here, if the levels had been designed in a way to benefit from restricted saves. So I chose to play through a level with save restriction as a Nethack-style voluntary conduct challenge.

My conclusion: It definitely did affect how I played somewhat, making me a little more careful about managing my health and ammo levels. (With unlimited saves, my habit was to simply quicksave after every encounter if I was still in good shape.) But it affects things less than you’d expect. That’s because even if you never save manually, the game does an automatic save every time you move between zones of the map. So unless something happens that prevents you from backtracking (such as falling down a cliff), you can still save whenever you want — just not wherever you want. The map I chose for this experiment — E3M1, “Plague Village” — may have made this unusually convenient by doubling back a lot, sending you to fetch items and return rather than pressing forward all the time. Still, it means that unlimited saves are in this game basically a convenience rather than a game-changer, sparing you from sprinting back to the zone boundary periodically. Which makes me think that the whole business with the save gems was something of a design failure, and they were right to patch it out.


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