VGBlogger Gift Guides for Geeks & Gamers: BradyGames Strategy Guides

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BradyGames pretty much has a shared monopoly on the video game strategy guide market (with Prima). This year, unless you’re gaming on a Nintendo system or need tips for the latest games from Ubisoft or EA, guides from the vast majority of the big blockbusters are brought to you by BradyGames. Call of Duty: Ghosts. The Last of Us. Grand Theft Auto V. Diablo III. Batman: Arkham Origins. Saints Row IV. Tomb Raider. Dead Rising 3. Name the game, and BradyGames likely has the guide you’re looking for.

In many instances you even have the option between standard and limited edition guides. Typically, for an extra $10 over the price of a basic Signature Series guide you can upgrade to a limited edition featuring a hardcover format similar to that of a coffee table art book (they sure look a whole lot nicer sitting next to the living room entertainment center). In fact, the limited edition offerings come packaged with some form of collectible, whether it’s a keychain or a lithograph, or maybe even a bonus art gallery chapter you won’t find in a Signature Series book. Overall, Brady’s guides are of the highest quality, whether you need the aid of a walkthrough to complete a campaign, tips for surviving multiplayer competition, or a cheat sheet reference for collectibles, Easter eggs, and Trophies/Achievements. But even if you don’t particularly care for strategy guides, owning one of Brady’s limited editions is more like adding a true collector’s item to your gaming stash. They are a great supplemental gift to buy with its matching game, or to buy for someone who already owns and is a fan of a particular game.

Through December 5th, BradyGames is running a Cyber Monday special on select strategy guides. Just enter coupon code “BRADYCYBER13” at checkout for a 60% discount. We were already preparing to feature Brady guides in our holiday coverage this season, but in light of the sale we thought it might be more helpful to dedicate an entire article to the subject. So, yeah, this is a guide about guides! Read along for a quick look at some of the guides that we got a chance to sample.

Grand Theft Auto V – MSRP: $17.49 (Signature Series) or $25.89 (Limited Edition) – Buy From: Amazon.com or BradyGames
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The Grand Theft Auto V limited edition contains an additional 20 pages of character illustrations, plus an exclusive lithograph of the game’s three playable antiheroes tucked inside a nice logo-stamped slip-folder. The guide itself is jam-packed with reference material to help you navigate the massive open world of Los Santos, including an impressive collection of maps showing where all the collectibles, stunt jumps, random events, weapon/armor pickups, hobbies and pastimes are located. GTA gearheads will also love the the vehicle showroom chapter which contains about 30 pages of thumbnails charting each vehicle’s price and attribute ratings in speed, braking, acceleration and traction.

BioShock Infinite – MSRP: $15.39 (Signature Series) or $25.89 (Limited Edition) – Buy From: Amazon.com or BradyGames
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BioShock Infinite comes with a 4″ replica of the bird/cage Freedom Key on a keyring, plus an exclusive bonus card for the Siege of Columbia board game from Plaid Hat Games (which we will be featuring in another upcoming gift guide article). The Songbird hardcover certainly catches the eye as well. Flipping open that cover will reveal a handy selection of maps clearly diagramming the locations for Vigors, Infusions, Kinectoscopes, Telescopes and Voxophones. The content of each Voxophone has also been transcribed so, in case you have trouble understanding the dialogue or other in-game voices muddle the audio, you can recap by reading the recorded diaries in text form (though I did notice that some of the transcriptions weren’t 100% complete). Another great thing about this guide is its detailed strategies for pulling off Vigor combos, combining Gear pieces to form custom class-style builds, earning some of the more involved Trophies/Achievements and combating the different enemy types. The artwork throughout the guide–particularly the images on the inside of the front and back covers–is absolutely beautiful.

The Last of Us – MSRP: $13.99 (Signature Series) or $24.49 (Limited Edition) – Buy From: Amazon.com or BradyGames
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The Last of Us includes an antique-finish keychain modeled after one of the Firefly medals found throughout the game as a collectible. Nothing fancy, but it actually is a keyring you might actually use. The cover, with its embossed logo text and silky smooth black finish, adds a simple touch of class. The Last of Us has some pretty tricky hidden collectibles, so for someone like me, after having completed the campaign twice on my own, having the guide on hand for ongoing endgame mop-up duty has proven invaluable. Maps and sidebars provide collectible locations throughout the main walkthrough pages, but if you’re after specific items and don’t want to spoil the process of playing through the game you can consult the Collectibles chapter at the back of the guide for a complete cheat sheet for all the Firefly Pendants, Artifacts, Training Manuals and Comics (with screenshots for visual aid). There’s even a section to help discover all optional conversations and Ellie’s joke-telling scenes.

Tomb Raider – MSRP: $17.49 (Signature Series) or $25.89 (Limited Edition) – Buy From: Amazon.com or BradyGames
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Tomb Raider doesn’t coming with a keychain, but it does have an painted replica amulet like the one Lara wears around her neck in her latest adventure. A tie-string is included as well if you want to wear it the next time you cosplay as Lara Croft. Inside the back cover you will also find redeemable codes for two multiplayer character skins (Scavenger Scout and Scavenger Executioner), if you somehow find yourself caring about the game’s completely unnecessary multiplayer mode. Tomb Raider is another one of those games that’s overflowing with collectible hunting. Part of the fun of being a true tomb raider is tracking down all the treasures and puzzle tombs by yourself, but this is the guide to get if you need a hand finding Relics, GPS caches, Treasures Maps, Documents and each hub environment’s set of optional challenges. Like The Last of Us guide, the main walkthrough maps will help you find things, or you can reference the collectibles chapter for an itemized breakdown. A section with character bios and enemy profiles is a nice addition beyond the reference material for completing the game.

Batman: Arkham Origins – MSRP: $15.39 (Signature Series) or $25.89 (Limited Edition) – Buy From: Amazon.com or BradyGames
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Batman: Arkham Origins’ limited edition is perhaps the most collectible of all, offering a set of four lithograph prints, one for the Joker, one for Deathstroke, and the other two for The Dark Knight himself. Unlike the other limited editions, this one also rocks a foil-stamped dust jacket over its hardcover. Inside the cover is a beginning to end walkthrough for the main storyline as well as side missions, with maps, boss strategies, and individual combat encounters listing out the number and type of enemies faced in each battle sequence. Batman fans will definitely enjoy the Personnel Files chapter for the biographical data on the Dark Knight, his friends and allies, and his greatest villains. The guide also offers tips for Dark Knight Challenges, Challenge Mode maps, and multiplayer. And as an added bonus, Brady managed to sneak in a mini-walkthrough for 3DS/Vita companion game Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate. This section only takes up around 15 pages so I’m not sure how thorough the guide is (I haven’t played the portable Batman yet), but the map selection appears to be quite robust.

Diablo III – MSRP: $15.39 (Signature Series) or $25.89 (Limited Edition) – Buy From: Amazon.com or BradyGames
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Diablo III gets the node for the most useful bonus–a metal bookmark which looks like a sword thrusting down from the Lord of Darkness’ sculpted head. It looks cool, and it’s functional. Double score! But that’s not all. The limited edition also features an illustrated excerpt from The Book of Tyrael, as well as a bonus chapter containing roughly 20 extra pages of armor art concepts for the five playable classes. Before reaching this section of the guide, you will find a full walkthrough for surviving the campaign’s four acts of hack-and-slash hell and even accessing optional quests, including the magical land of Whimsyshire. The guide is also crammed from cover to cover with charts and tables full of crafting recipes, information for each class’ active/passive skills and runes, and gear stats, in addition to a Denizens of Hell bestiary with more than 70 pages of creature breakdowns.

Call of Duty: Ghosts – MSRP: $13.99 (Signature Series) or $24.49 (Limited Edition) – Buy From: Amazon.com or BradyGames
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Call of Duty: Ghosts rounds things out with what I would say is the weakest of the limited editions. The cover looks pretty badass with its embossed ghost mask logo, but the pack-in embroidered faction patches don’t exactly move the needle. But hey, if you’re serious about representing your service to the Ghost Team or the Federation you’ll be able to appreciate their collector’s value more than I can. Between the covers, the guide is mostly dedicated to helping you up your multiplayer game with basic training tips as well as detailed maps for all of the multiplayer locales and graphs comparing factors like recoil, damage, rate of fire and reload times for each weapon class. Only about a third of the guide covers the single-player campaign, which makes sense since the story is so straightforward that you shouldn’t need a helping hand to beat it. However, if you are a completist the guide is nice to have around for the Trophy/Achievement tips and Rorke File locations inserted within the flow of the campaign walkthrough.

Disclosure: Review copies of the limited edition strategy guides were provided to VGBlogger.com by BradyGames.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!