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Games

Where Save Games Go to Die

If I had but world enough and time... I still probably wouldn't finish these playthroughs.

by Rob Zacny
Aug 2 2017, 1:56pm

'Thief: Gold' screenshot courtesy of Square Enix

The last time I saw Geralt of Rivia, he was standing somewhere in a marsh—though come think of it, that doesn't even narrow-down which game I'm referring to—haggling with a peat farmer about the price for killing some kind of swamp monster. He's also got to find his missing daughter at some point, but for now there's this swamp thing.

In the time since I took that contract in The Witcher 3, I moved house, changed jobs, moved to Los Angeles, changed jobs again, and moved back to Boston. The save has been transferred between three different computers, and never loaded. Every time I think about returning to Geralt, I think about that swamp and feel a wave of fatigue wash over me.

Lately I've been trying to clear out my gaming backlog, but as I do so I keep finding the remnants of previous failed attempts to do so. No sooner have I tried to start one old game than I remember an abandoned save somewhere else, something I really do need to get around to finishing… someday.

When I came home, in the process of porting my remaining data off my old PC, I encountered my Dying Light save, circa Christmas of 2015. I had just died trying to activate a massive electrical substation. I'd gotten trapped inside a maintenance shed and had spend about 25 minutes killing endless waves of zombies. I finally escaped, made it onto a roof, tried to platform may way to my objective, and died after missing the last jump and falling into a mosh-pit of zombies.

I always meant to go back, but when I think about Dying Light, I think about that moment when the horde closed around me after about an hour of running through the city at night, and a half hour of melee combat in a broom closet. Maybe someday, but never today, Dying Light.

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But the real shame-save? The crown jewel of my collection of half-completed games that I've always meant to finish but cause a wave of ennui when I consider them? Thief:The Dark Project, at the start of the "Return to the Cathedral" mission. I last returned to the Cathedral in 2012, two or three apartments ago. Then I moved, my PC was rebuilt, and the saves were loaded into a Dropbox folder where they've sat, untouched, for more than five years.

I should just give up and restart, but I've restarted Thief three or four times since 1998. This was the farthest I ever made it, as I steeled my soul against the endlessly dreary missions set in the tombs of the undead. Thief is a brilliant game that I love and admire, but it also a game that has taught me about the boredom and exhaustion of terror. Thief wants me to return to a haunted cathedral, but then I think about the wheezing, shrieking shuffling of the (unkillable!) zombies and I just can't do it. Nor can I ever restart, and face the hell of Cragscleft Prison or the labyrinth of the Lost City again. So the saves follow me through life, bookmarking where the place where I gave up without knowing I'd been defeated.

What are the abandoned playthroughs that haunt you? What are some classics where you've left a placeholder for years, fully meaning to go back any minute now? Help me feel better about this with your own stories in today's Open Thread!

Have thoughts? Swing by Waypoints forums to share them!