What’s better: instant-death bottomless pits, or being able to reroll your build?

Last week, you decided by 60% to 40% that vampires are better than werewolves. I trust we will never hear of this again. Alas, I must respond to serious allegations. RPS reader Truffles commented, “This is an absurd comparison, I thought this was meant to be scientific! How are we meant to decide between two completely unrelated things?” You’re right. I’m sorry. I’m failing you all. “I hope next time we’re back to proper sensible comparisons,” Truffles added, “like instant-death bottomless pits vs. being able to reroll your build.” Alright, let’s find out. What’s better: instant-death bottomless pits, or being able to reroll your build?

Instant-death bottomless pits

The death hole is a clumsy tool, some might think. An improbable punitive pit the level designer created simply to kill you dead. It can be a clumsy tool, it’s true, and it often is. Many pits feel arbritrary, too. Even worse, they can be inconsistent. But that’s problem with how the tool is wielded. Is it not also potentially an elegant tool?

The hole was there. The skill test was the pass the hole. No partial failure, no bumbling on having not learned your lesson, you failed the test and now you are gone forever, goodbye, goodbye, forever goodbye. The rest of the game around the hole and everything leading to this moment is not the hole’s fault.

Instant-death bottomless death pits are fun to subvert, too. Dark Souls has a great trick with a bottomless pit. After a hundred frustrating insta-death falls (which I would not class as “bottomless”) and a thousand misleading “Try jumping” messages left by other players in places that definitely will kill you, you will need to jump into an instant-death bottomless pit. No way around it. You need to enter the Abyss. Surely they don’t expect you to jump down into the cold, black, empty Abyss? Just, walk off this broken staircase into darkness? So you do it and… oh, no, yes, this is the way to go. Except! If you’ve haven’t yet found an equipped the right ring, this pit will kill you, just as expected. A great prank. FromSoftware’s later Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has a spot named Bottomless Hole, and someone will tell you to try jumping, and it will kill you… unless you spot you can grapplehook away to ledges in the depths. If you didn’t have a sensible fear of From’s holes, you wouldn’t be so delighted by them.

And it is funny when someone falls down a hole.

Being able to reroll your build

Outside of very specific situations where part of a game’s power is making you commit to your decisions, isn’t forbidding build rerolls just wasting your time? Rerolling your build: a game respecting your time. And isn’t that one of the greatest gifts a game can give us?

Give me freedom, give me joy, give me time to do something else without holding a grudge like a big chuffing baby who’s secretly also hoping I might buy a couple £10 ‘microtransaction’ skins while I’m trudging through a whole new character because I just wanted to try a different sword and maybe toss around some wizard nonsense.

But which is better?

Honestly I’m tempted to be contrarian and say pits are purity and elegance and what greater compliment than a video game respecting and fearing me enough to attempt sheer unadultered murder. But I live in fear of a designer years from now saying, “Well, Alice, if we look at a post you wrote on the 7th of February, 2024, you didn’t stand up for rerolls so…” Ah you decide, reader dear! This week’s two choices are, after all, by and for you.

Pick your winner, vote in the poll below, and make your case in the comments to convince others. We’ll reconvene next week to see which thing stands triumphant—and continue the great contest.

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