Saturday, April 23, 2016

Dark Souls 3

I had an entire gaming week to myself. I figured I'd play this or that, dig into my crazy long list of Humble Bundle games, or play on console for a bit... I ended up spending the entire chunk of my time on Dark Souls 3. It consumed my life day and night and even dug into my sleeping time. 52 hours later, I think I'm done. I have 77% achievements, and I did not focus on achievements at all. I focused on bosses and exploring areas.

The game started out as I would expect any Dark Souls game with a very weak character and learning the ins/outs of movement and combat. The first boss was a bit of a challenge but after a few attempts I was through him and on to the rest of the game. They start you off pretty early with the ability to warp to any area, similar to Dark Souls 2, which is nice.

I found weapon upgrading to be a lot slower than Dark Souls 2 or Dark Souls 1. It was acceptable overall because I was still making upgrades as I went through the game, with very obvious tiers based on your specific area you were at. For example, in one specific area I would find materials for upgrading from +4 to +7, and enemies dropping materials for upgrading from +1 to +3. It did a good job of setting expectations on what level of upgrades they thought you would have, or could have at any point in the game. I ended up levelling a short fire sword for most of the game until I found a weapon that was able to do enough damage to replace it. A few fire resistant areas made this a bit difficult, but not disproportionately to other difficulties in a souls game..

Contrary to previous games, in Dark Souls 3 you use embers to restore your "humanity". When you are human, you have extra life, can summon others, and can be invaded. Contrary to Dark Souls 2, there is no penalty for dying repeatedly. I'd say this is a vast improvement for the less hardcore players.

Boss fights were quite varied, and I really enjoyed the mix. This is a welcome change from previous titles, that were typically painful learning exercises on enemy movement/attack patterns. If a specific boss was too difficult, I would summon in someone to help bring some damage (eg: against a fire resistant boss). When you bring someone in, it also increases the boss' life, so make sure they're pulling their own weight! A few times I had people coming in to help with the boss only to immediately die. This leaves me with a powered up boss and no help.

Finding new weapons and armor was enjoyable, but really loved finding rings. You find a few early on, and before long you have all four ring slots filled. By mid game, you're making decisions on which rings to use based on your play style. I also really liked some of the new ring ideas, and that the staple rings from earlier games had a comeback (cloranthy, red tearstone, etc.). I found out later that there are +1 and +2 versions of rings similar to Dark Souls 2, but you will only find those in New Game+.

There were few key differences between the Dark Souls games that I'd like to go into. Some of those were good decisions or just different decisions or sometimes poor decisions but overall it was interesting to see the comparisons when playing through the three different games. They also peppered in some Bloodborne things, but I haven't played that game to completion yet, so I may not have seen all the inclusions.

Chest Destruction
As far as I remember, chests could only be destroyed in Dark Souls 2, and I'm glad they removed that in Dark Souls 3. Having your precious treasure destroyed and replaced by rubbish was a horrible, horrible feeling. I know this de-emphasizes mimic fear, but there has to be a better way. Also, you can always tell a mimic by minor changes to the model/appearance.

Weapon/Upgrade Pacing
Dark Souls 3 feels the slowest at weapon progression. Whereas Dark Souls 1 put the blacksmith a bit into the game, this made you decide on a weapon that worked well for you, then allowed you to upgrade it. In Dark Souls 2, you get upgrades early on, and it scales quite well for the game. Dark Souls 3 felt the slowest, as you would typically have your main weapon at the highest tier possible, and all other weapons one tier below that. It felt like I really didn't have a choice once I started levelling a weapon, but at the same time I did well for most of the game with a fire short sword.

Weapon Upgrade Options
The upgrade options in Dark Souls 3 seem to be the best overall. Your scaling of a weapon is independent of what it's infused with, and you can remove the infusion if you change your mind. The scaling of the weapons are now changed based on infusions, similar to Dark Souls 1. My main complaint is that you don't upgrade more than two weapons fully until the end of the game.

Stat Screens
Dark Souls 3 finally adds the ability for you to see a full comparison when chaging your equipment. If you click the right thumb stick (R3) then you can get a detailed breakdown on what each change in equipment will do. It's a bit odd then, that poise damage is not shown in the screens which Dark Souls 2 included.

Carried Items
Like Bloodborne, you can only carry so many usable items with you at a time. Eg: 99 arrows of a specific typre, with another 99 in the bank. This was to prevent you from just bringing 100's of items into the game, and spamming your way through it like you could in previous Dark Souls games.

NPCs have improved in the direction that Dark Souls 2 was taking them. They have more interactions out in the environment, more diverse quest lines. They usually join you back in your base at some point, but only some of them have anchor spots there.

NPCs in Dark Souls 1 usually involve finding someone and talking to them enough times to have them go back to the main hub area. A similar route was taken in Dark Souls 2 with a few other interactions out in the field. Dark Souls 3 takes this to a new level of involvement. They are people you need to check in on, bring quest items to, purchase things from, and talk to for additional lore.

I really enjoyed my time playing Dark Souls 3. I might go back into it when DLC comes out, but I don't think I'll be starting another character or delving into New Game+. Time is limited, and there are other things to see.




The fabled "Battle Pope". A remarkable amount of poise for the light weight.


For a brief time, I was using the silver knight armor. I looked awesome, but it was heavy.


Who needs armor when you have a shield like this? Also, I can't wear armor with a shield like this...

Dark Souls 2: Sins of the First Scholar

Really good game. It starts you out with a new character, so it took a while to remember how much my character sucks, since the last time I was playing was with a decked out Dark Souls 1 character. I played the Sins of the First Scholar version, but didn't really get into the DLC.

The staggering you do from hits initially, is really, really huge. I don't remember it being that bad in DS1.

You can also heavily stagger enemies, which is nice. The fire longsword has a huge stagger on it's thrust attack. I've been powering through the game with that.

Most of the bosses in this game, I just pulled in a few summoned allies and wiped the floor with them.

A few terrible areas, but nothing felt as terrible as The Depths in DS1.
* Black Gulch sucked for a bit, but was over relatively quickly.
* Shrine of Amana was just cheap, so I had to out-cheap it by spending all my souls on Dex and bow upgrades. Then sniping spell casters in the face from a distance. At least I had some time to level up and build my gear for this one.
* No-Man's Wharf confused me for a bit, until I discovered the short cut added in SotFS

I ended up joining the Rat King Covenant, mostly out of convenience, and then I found out they have an awesome ring you get (Ring of Fog). I could never grind enough rat tails to get it, but the notion I might someday have it was nice.

The torch system was neat, but a little too special case. You could like pyres along the way to various areas, which allowed you to relight your torch at that point. It was mostly used in the game as an "I've been here" reminder, and very little as an actual game mechanic. There was maybe one area where it helped me see things... I don't recall.

The added ability to respec your character, in case you wasted points in attributes that you didn't really want after all. I burned my first respec to change my strength/dex allocations into more stamina and health. Having the fire sword early and upgrading throughout the game meant I didn't need much strength/dex early on. I tried an intelligence build later on, but used another soul vessel to reverse that.

The upgrading of weapons seemed to go much slower than DS1, but it did come much earlier than DS1, so I think it was better overall.

I don't remember being able to destroy the chests in DS1, but in DS2 you absolutely can destroy them. Doing so, replaces their contents with rubbish. This is especially frustrating when an enemy destroys the chest because you were fighting around them at a poor time. This is further made worse by the game auto-saving aggressively, which is terrible when those chests break. As a rule of thumb, I started shield bashing chests to check, because it didn't do enough damage to destroy them. I also save scummed liberally... If you play online, there are usually lots of warning signs around mimics. Only one time did the signs wait to load in until I was already being eaten...

Having to go back to town to level up was a huge pain, compared to levelling up at any bonfire. The warping allowed from the start was nice, but there was a charm to DS1 where your routes would loop back on themselves and you could see the interconnectivity of the game. Warping is still awesomely convenient.

The hollowing process of losing a portion of your maximum health kinda sucked, but it forced you to either use up a ring slot to reduce that reduction per death to cap you at 80% instead of a horrible 50%, or you could use a human effigy to get your humanity and max health back.

I didn't get invaded that often in the game, and had much better positive interactions with summoning other people to help with fights.

Overall the game felt much more accessible than the first.

Finishing the game was good, and it felt nice to complete the story.

Overall I enjoyed the game, and had a great time playing it. My friend Luke did help quite a bit, but I also was able to take on huge chunks without his assistance/direction.






This is how I looked for most of the early to mid game. It's a heavy armor set, and helped me to not die. Still rockin' the fire sword.



This is how I looked for the later parts of the game. Each piece comes with a nice bonus, and it's pretty light weight. Yep, still fire sword.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Undertale

Undertale is a mini twist on traditional RPGs. Bit of a throwback to the old NES days basic RPGs with basic commands.

Some of the scenes that the game does are quite brilliant. You have a choice even when you think you're just watching something.

The art style was not appealing when I first saw the game, and no amount of screenshots would make me want to buy it. But... you tend to get over it then you realize how interesting indeed they make it in various areas.

The music was quite well done. A hint of 8-bit nostalgia, but never dull.

I played a pacifist play through but you can also go through an attack people normally. I wasn't that interested in doing a traditional play through. In a pacifist playthrough, you have to learn the enemies and beat them without killing them. It rewards zero EXP, but you get what seems to be the full money amount. I had quite a bit of money for most of the game.

I got stalled out on what looked like the last boss. It was just too tough to do all the dodging, and I didn't feel like grinding up healing items -- I wasted all of my money on a previous boss that seemed like paying for a debt was the "pacifist option", I was wrong and utterly broke due to that mistake.

I gave up and just started watching the rest of the game on YouTube. It was ridiculously difficult bullet hell game for quite some time. I'm glad I didn't bother. I didn't mind the meta gaming that was done, but going full bullet hell was too much for me to get through.

Also, the fights after what I thought was the last boss will haunt my dreams forever.

I feel like there were a lot of great take-aways from this game, but it was very difficult to finish. I'd recommend on picking it up just to see how they did the pacifist options to fights. It's slightly different per enemy, so it's a neat way of making you learn the enemies more than just sacks of hit points.

Infamous: Second Son

I had only played the first inFamous on PS2 before this, but this game was really good. I read some of the wiki information to see if there's anything I should know, and if you didn't do that, you'd still be fine.

The story is solid, with meaningful and realistic characters. You're still given the "good or evil" decisions in the game, but I could actually see myself choosing the "evil" option for legitimate reasons that do not involve being a psychopath. I still choose the "good" option, because I usually don't want to see how dark something can go... also the powers for good were kinda nice (infinite speed running anyone?!) Also, it feels better and more impactful to get power-ups that let you slam bad guys into prone positions and incapacitate them, versus killing them faster/easier.

The powers were all tailored around the basic forms of combat. Since I am absolutely terrible at aiming on consoles, I opted for powers that let me shoot in general directions, then finish the take down with melee. This worked out quite well for most of the game.

The game has easy, normal, and hard difficulties. I managed to beat the game on normal, but it was extremely tough at some parts. Remember the part about being terrible at aiming on consoles? This is likely why.

The power-ups are much easier to get in this one than the first one. In the first game, you had to scale buildings and complete mini-quests. In Second Son, you have to find some armored vans surrounded by guards, and take out the van. When you do, you get a section of the city unlocked, and you get 5+ shards (upgrade points) scattered around the destroyed van. It's quite the improvement.

The interactivity in the game is almost too good. I constantly found my character trying to rail-run on edges, or pull himself onto ledges all the time. Since you will be wanting to do this for 99% of the cases, it's fine. It does seem out of place sometimes though.

The writing and voice acting was really good. You feel the connection you have with your family, and you are constantly at odds with your police officer brother. The character models were also really realistic looking, which was great to see a game going that direction.

The boss fights were incredibly hard on normal difficulty. I should have switched to easy. Seriously.

Overall, I really enjoyed the game. I did not dig that far into side quests aside from destroying vans for power-ups. I don't really feel like I missed anything, and with my limited time for playing games, I think this game was time well spent.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Titan Souls

I picked this up on PS Vita, after trying the demo but not being overly impressed. I suppose the "maybe this could somewhat be like Shadows of the Colossus" sucked me in. I was wrong, and it was painful to complete.

The game is punishing. There are checkpoints, but you feel the delay every time you die. 3 seconds of watching the boss continue to murder your already dead corpse, 10 seconds of literally fade to black, 2 seconds of respawn animation, and another 10-20 seconds getting back to the boss fight. This adds up when you die over 100 times in a game.

I completed the game in around 4 hours, plus some change on the last boss who happened after the timer stopped. It started okay, with bosses who were tough, but not unfair. I had a chance to learn their tells and patterns without insta-dying. I still died, but made progress every 5 minutes or so, killing a new titan. These were well designed fights. Later on, there are bosses who are just outright unfair -- 30+ minutes spent trying to get that perfectly aimed cross-room shot in the 2 frames of boss vulnerability.

They did their best to try to elude to how to beat a boss by subtle hints or limiting what you can do. For instance, the Yeti boss gives you zero time to react or plan for the next attack with a pull back shot, and nothing else to shoot. You just have to hit him in his 3 frame of vulnerability at the right time.

As I went to kill the harmless titan, there was a small glimmer of hope that I would get some exposition on why I'm killing these titans. Nope, nothing else is ever told. It's like an incomplete story. This was the big draw of Shadows of the Colossus. I understood that exploration was not going to happen in Titan Souls, but the complete lack of story is a gaping hole. Give me a story I can skip if I don't care, but don't leave it out completely.

Would I recommend playing this game? Not really. It was fun for what it was, but it was brutally difficult and I feel my time could have been better spent doing something else. Almost anything else.

The good things that came of this, was having a game to play on my PS Vita, and I got to update my blog.

Here's a good guide in case you get stuck. I tried not to use it, but eventually used it more and more as I didn't want to spend respawn time slowly figuring out tells, or if I was just barely missing the 2 frames of vulnerability on a boss.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Super Time Force Ultra

Super Time Force Ultra is a throwback to Contra, with more verticality and exploration to its levels. The trick it adds, is the ability to rewind time anytime you want, or on death, and spawn in a teammate to help complete the level.

There are extra characters to unlock by saving them before they die, similar to how you can save your own teammates. You can also get some bonus characters by gathering enough collectibles in the levels. All characters are unique, but I found some to be vastly more powerful or useful than others. The rocket launcher and samurai sword guys were on my solid GOTO list. Rockets for damage, sword to speed clearing.

Each stage gives you a set amount of time to complete it before you die, so you have to be quick. So long as you can get to the boss with about 10-15 seconds to spare, you can win. Picking up time boosts on the ways helps.

I really enjoyed playing this in my spare time, or with a big chunk of plane/airport time. Really good game.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Last of Us

I've been meaning to play this for a while, and finally got some time to get to it. It was recommended by some friends at work, if I wanted to avoid too much grind. I played it on PS3.

I always figured this was a post-apocalyptic game, with emphasis on survival/scavenging. There are also some zombie-type aspects to it.

First off, the game looks amazing. Like really amazing. The models, faces, mannerisms, and animations are all fantastic. Then add solid VO, and the cutscenes are just stunning.

The story is amazing, and the characters are believable, with their own motivations guiding their actions.

The game's gives you an objective that you're going for even though it's always going to be a difficult path to get to that single objective. It does keep things focus though which is really nice. It also gives you a hint if you stick around in a place for too long, because you don't know where to go or forgot.

The gameplay was clear and clean. It's a stealth game until you're spotted, then it's a cover based shooter, or you could just book it and run for the next objective. I had to book it a few times, and it's nice it's an option. It also was nice to see that quite a few cutscenes were done with in-game graphics, versus watching a movie. And with that, you usually at some if not full control over your character. I like that only take control away when they have to.

The controls can take a bit of time to get back into, if you step away for a week (or two), but they make sense.

Throughout the game you can upgrade weapons at workbenches. You get parts for upgrading throughout the game, and you get an upgrade tool at specific spots, to allow unlocking various levels of upgrades. You can also see from this that there are 5 levels of upgrades, so you know you have a good chunk of the game left when you only have 1-2 upgrade tools. At first I found the bow to be very weak, but once you upgrade it, it's amazing. It's a ranged silent take down weapon. Also, the target size for a head shot is forgiving. Also, always carry a full health shiv for unlocking rooms, their contents is worth the minor spend.

I also enjoyed the game much more when I found the lock on option, because I am terrible at aiming a reticle on any console. In this game, you really can't afford to just waste bullets with misses.

A few things I would change:
* Add a continue button screen to the end of loading a game. It takes long enough, and not all loaded games will take you to a safe place
* Make enemies consistently drop ammo. Possibly just on easy difficulty? They drop ammo consistently near the end, but not throughout. Arrows can sometimes be retrieved from a corpse, but not always. Missing and hitting a wall will break the arrow.
* Possibly have an option for how long to wait before giving the hint? There were a few places I was clueless and needed the hint sooner, or missed the dialog hint.