To Quick-Save Or Not To Quick-Save?

Illustration for article titled To Quick-Save Or Not To Quick-Save?

Everyone loves a good quick-save. You know, a one-button press that lets you save your progress mid-level in case you screw up. So fast, so easy, so reassuring! You've frozen a moment in time, and with the touch of a button, you can return to that moment whenever you'd like.


In a lot of games, the quick-save changes everything: You're about to try a daring move, so you hit F5 in case you botch it and need to try again. But is the quick-save a help or a hindrance? Do we blithely quick-save without thinking, robbing our games of a lot of their fun? I'm of two minds about it.

In games like XCOM, which I've been playing recently, constantly saving throughout a mission greatly diminishes the sense of risk. It's one reason I'm looking forward to trying that game's "Ironman" mode, which constantly saves and makes it impossible to undo mistakes. With the stakes so much higher, everything will feel more exciting and risky.

When I initially played Far Cry 2, I played it on Xbox 360, which only allows you to save at safe houses. As a result, the missions felt fraught and dangerous, and I was forced to improvise when things went pear-shaped (as they so often do in that game). In the PC version of Far Cry 2, I have a quick-save option. Suddenly I can save the game, try something daring, and if it doesn't work out, simply reload. It's surprising how much less tense it makes things.

Of course, quick-saving is always optional; if I don't want to quick-save, I can just not use the function! I rarely quick-save in Far Cry 2, even though I have the option. Games with limited saves, like the Hitman games, seem to hit a good balance—you can only save four or five times in a level, so you have to choose your saves wisely. The higher the difficulty, the fewer saves you have.

So, on the one hand, quick-saving encourages experimentation, lets you perfect your play-style and saves you time. On the other, it significantly reduces tension and changes the flow of the game.

I'm still of two minds on it, so I thought I'd see what y'all thought. Do you quick-save? Are there games where you avoid it? Do you ever enact your own self-imposed "ironman mode" to see if you can survive while never saving? Let me know what you think.



I'm fine with the idea of creating tension by limiting your ability to undo mistakes, but I hate games that don't respect my time. Sometimes I really need to leave like right now but I can't because you aren't allowed to pause a cut scene or save until you reach a check point. Those games are frustrating and I feel like I'm being punished because I don't have a solid hour or 2 to play.

Not sure what the solution is here... probably something like an always on auto-save, but you have to allow for the fact that the game can enter an unwinnable state. Depending on how far about checkpoints are, allowing the option to restart from the last checkpoint would discourage at least the majority of really abusive quick-saves. A good checkpoint system IMO should never make the player replay more than 15 minutes tops. If I have to replay the last hour, I'll probably just shut it off for the night and I may not come back.

I really like the optional "ironman mode". Those who enjoy and have the time for such a play through get their wish, while I can enjoy the game on my own terms. It's a win-win for everyone.