Prima Guides – Why Won’t I Ever Learn?

October 5, 2008

Don’t look at me like that. I can’t stand it — those accusing eyes. That harrowing look. That glare that says, “Syp, you’re a 32-year-old gamer who really should know better.” I might as well have a scarlet “Epic Fail” hanging on my chest.

For I, yes, I, bought a copy of both the Warhammer Online Prima Strategy Guide and the Atlas. I knew what I was doing, I knew it was stupid, and I have paid $30 for that stupidity.

Here’s how it went down. I drove down to Gamestop on September 17th to pick up my Collector’s Edition — which, wonder of wonders, the register monkeys didn’t lose. The clerk actually tried to convert me into playing World of Warcraft as he rung me up a completely different MMORPG — “Yes, I’ve heard of WoW,” I said, my eye twitching. “It’s only been out for four years.” Perhaps I was distracted by his constant attempts to sell me crap I didn’t need — a one year subscription to Games Informer! pre-orders for Madden 2017! a Dreamcast! — but I saw a bundled copy of the Prima Strategy Guide and Atlas and was told that, if I purchase them now, they’d oh so kindly knock off $10 from the price.

They knew I was being taken, as I paid for it. I knew it. Even the clueless mom buying GTA IV for her toddler gave me a patronizing “tsk”.

So as I continue on in this article to tell you just how much these guides suck eggs (that’s the third grader in me coming out), you must recognize that I knew better and still did it anyway. You can’t blame me for being caught up in the “WOOHOO Warhammer’s out!” frenzy of excitement.

Hopefully you all know that hardcopy strategy guides are just about worthless in this day and age of the internet, and if not, here’s Penny Arcade to reinforce that message. MMO strat guides, even more so, since whatever information the books might contain will be outdated the second you purchase the guide. Literally, that second. I figured there might be a tidbit or two of useful knowledge therein, so I got them anyway, but it ended up being $30 of fluff and filler that will certainly line the darkest recesses of my closet for the rest of time.

Forget the Atlas, because about 100% of its maps are contained in the Strategy Guide. So it’s the Strategy Guide, just dumbed down even more. And here’s the thing, none of the maps in either the Atlas or the Strat Guide are useful for anything. They label PQs, quest hubs and RvR objectives. That’s about it. There’s no big arrows that helpfully point to “HUGE SECRETS HERE!”, or warnings about what to avoid, or, really, anything more than you’d get in game as your map autocompletes. My mind reels at the sheer wastefulness of these maps, but I shouldn’t even be surprised after reading the introduction to the strategy guide.

Let me paraphrase. The strat guide begins with the Prima authors essentially going, “We’re all SUPER excited to be writing about this TERRIFIC game! Mythic’s really nice to us and was excited to help us too! But we realized that you can’t have a strategy guide to point out all of the quests and secrets of a game where everything might change with the next patch, so we’re trying something DIFFERENT. We’re just going to SKIP all that stuff, and focus on RvR strategy instead.”

Let me paraphrase that paraphrase: it was just too tough to try to cover a MMO, so the authors flipped up their hands and went “Naw”, then scribbled down strategy sections for each career that’s written in some pseudo-fictional voice (good luck trying to read 10 pages of Greenskin writing without developing a migraine). I’ve never actually seen a strategy guide admit defeat before it ever began, so that was a novel approach, at least.

The only semi-useful part of the strategy guide are the career sections, mostly because it’s the only place with charts that try to detail abilities, morales, tactics and mastery paths. Of course that’s all out of date in several places, but it’s there if you want a quick offline reference to give you an idea what a career has to offer.

As for the touted “RvR strategies”, it mostly boils down to common sense. If you’re a healer, heal and be friends with a tank. Tanks should tank. DPS should DPS. Cheerleaders should do a half-spring somersault. Syp should die. Then you get to the scenario strategy sections, which are even more patronizing: “You really, really need to get to the flag before the enemy!” the guide will say in a slow, sing-songy voice.

Like the phone book, the hardcopy strategy guide is obsolete and yet still in production, possibly because of people like me who knew better but dropped a third of a C-note on them anyway. If a store clerk tries to push these on you, just say “BAD TOUCH! BAD TOUCH!” and run from the store immediately.



  1. Same. I did it too.
    I wonder if there’s a support group out there.

    Or a 12 step program.

  2. Good work!
    Now do a contest with the guide as the prize. That way you can spend some extra money on the shipping.

  3. Hehe I bought the atlas, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy the Game guide. The atlas has been moderately helpful at some times, but other than looking at the sparse map, it’s not very helpful.

    WarDB.com and Atlas of WAR are WAY more helpful. I use the Atlas when I don’t feel like Alt-tabbing out of the game.

  4. I actually got a copy of the Prima strat guide for free from Mythic as a consolation prize for my collector’s edition box showing up several days late. That was how I knew Mythic *really* wanted me to suffer as I waited.

    It does have a list of (some of) the lairs in the back of it, but since somebody is bound to post this info on the Internets, well…I can’t believe Prima is still in business. I bet they sell gold. <_< I WENT THERE.

  5. I was suckered in too by the same game store. They’re something to look through when I’m away from the computer. 🙂

    Thanks, by the way, for the handy little guides. So far I’ve gotten the cloak and the de-spite. Next I might try the troll thing.

  6. Syp makes mistakes, so we don’t have to.

  7. I bought both and was very disappointed with the atlas, and other than the class info, which is just nice reading (except Greenskins), it’s pretty useless.

    What drives me nuts is that the maps aren’t even map shots, they are some hand drawn doodles someone made. Complete crap, and I’ve found a ton of stuff they are missing from the map. It even points out some things, but gives no useful info about it.

    Totally useless guides. Avoid buying them.

    Sadly, I’d already pre-ordered Fallout 3 CE with the CE guide. Shoot me! 😛

  8. I’m also such a sucker for guides. I have only looked at it for about 15 minutes and thats it. I will never learn. I put it with my wow guides.

  9. I love the Atlas. Is it accurate and up-to-date . . . no. It offered some good write up on the scenarios. Still I purposefully went to the store to get the Atlas .. why? I like to have the paper maps out when I play. Guess it bring me back to the old PnP RPG days. So the $20 was a good investment .. one that make the game more fun.

  10. @ thade

    Im not suprised that Prima is still in business. When I worked at EB games people would actually buy the strategy guide for that years Nascar game….

    its freekin go fast, turn left!!!! What kindof strategy do you need???

  11. Yeah should be rehab, I fell for the strat guide too. As I was looking at it. I knew it was a mistake. I said to myself I don’t need it. Then I blacked out. Next thing I knew I was in my car with a strat guide in hand. LOL!.

    But one thing the strat guide came with an extra special item, a object that increase xp rewards that will come in handy in my ascent to 40

  12. I bought the strategy guide too. It was a big waste of money because they didn’t even attempt to add anything useful about the game. Anyone considering buying the guide should pass.

  13. It can level a table real good too.

  14. Strategy Guides for most computer games are more like souvenier books.

    It’s something to look at when you can’t play the game and show your friends at work or school, but it contains no actual strategy and a lot of it is just dead wrong.

    I bought the damn thing too, as a souvenier. I love the scenario strategy section, where they have a paragraph of useless tips for Order, then they cut and paste the exact same paragraph right under it for Destro. For every scenario. Just to fill up the page….

    No wonder they shrink wrap them in the stores.

  15. Last time I actually purchased a strategy guide was for Lunar 2: Eternal Blue because it actually had stuff in there that didn’t have anything to do with the game directly, like stickers.

  16. Let’s not forget the Final Fantasy IX strategy guide:

  17. Wow… thanks for taking one for the team, Syp.

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