Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Fun

Praising that good sun as a SunBro, er, SunSis summon

big hat loganning it--as a pyro.
Love me, love my ridiculously big hat!

I’m still having sinus issues, which means gaming-wise, I don’t want to tackle anything new. I want the video game equivalent of mashed potatoes, which for me is Dark Souls. I know it sounds strange because Souls games are notorious for being difficult, though you’ll get some strenuous argument about that in the community. Fans who have been playing forever have forgotten how hard the first time through was and now insist that the games are challenging and not hard. Nope. They’re fucking hard. Yeah, I get the argument that it’s more a shift in your way of approaching games than an actual difficulty, but as someone who jumped into the game after only playing a handful of ‘hardcore’ games, I didn’t have any preconceived notions of how the gameplay should be.

In addition, I had never used a controller before, and now I live for Dark Souls control mappings. It wasn’t until much later when I learned that they were considered terrible and awkward. They’re now embedded in my soul, and B is forever the roll button. It’s funny because when I was switching back and forth between Dark Souls (II and then III) and Monster Hunter: World, I would be flailing with the buttons whichever way I switched. However, when I went from MHW to DS, I quickly adapted whereas it was much rougher the other way around. Dark Souls control mapping (and, the Xbox One controller is DA BOMB!!) is what is the most comfortable for me, and it probably will be as I continue to play the games.

Yesterday, I beat the first DLC with the help of some awesome human summons for both the bosses, and it warms my heart that so many people are still playing. I also got two human phantoms for the Nameless King, and one stayed with me until the end. She was great, and I think she was the one wearing the same ridiculously big hat that I was (my favorite hat by a rather large margin in the whole game. You can buy it relatively early, but I always wait until the end of the game when 10,000 souls is trivial. It’s called the Sage’s Big Hat, and it’s an homage to Big Hat Logan, a character from the original Dark Souls), and it always makes me happy to see someone else wearing it. It has a plague mask as well, and it’s amazing. It’s not my favorite set because there is no set (Black Witch Set HYPE), but I will wear the Sage’s Big Hat until the end of dawn, no matter the stats, whih I’m assuming are not great for physical, but decent for elements. I’ve never looked at the stats because I was going to wear it, regardless, and I’m happy that I’ve reached the point where I can go for Fashion Souls rather than utility. The rest of the set is the Fallen Knight set, which looks like rags but in a cool way.

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A (chat)room of my own…and Dark Souls III

I’m too old for video games. Or, to be more precise, I’m too old for video game ‘culture’. To be even less precise, I’m too old for pop culture in general. I support two groups on Patreon, The Try Guys and RKG Studies (nee Prepare To Try)*, and I am in the Discord chat for both these groups. For the latter, I’m in the upper-echelon tier, the producers, which has a chat of its own. The boys dip in from time to time, which is pretty cool.

The problem is, I’m too old for either of these groups. It’s funny in that The Try Guys fan base seems to be predominantly young women in their early twenties, whereas the target demo for RKG is twenty-something dudes. I’m old enough to be their mother, and I often feel as if I’m the older and world-weary woman who has seen it all and done it all when I’m in either of the chats/reading the comments on the posts/videos.

Concerning RKG specifically, I’m fine when I’m commenting on games or supporting other people through their difficulties (I’m a healer, through and through), but any time it veers away from that, I feel alienated. I’m just too fucking old to jump into the banter, and, if I’m to be honest, much of it is uninteresting to me.

That’s one of my issues with the gaming community in general–it’s very lad-focused (and I use the word lad deliberately) with many of them not really knowing how to interact in a social way that isn’t, “me, me, me!”. I noticed this when I was in the chatroom once for a YouTuber I used to watch. They were all nice lads, but I had nothing in common with them. Plus, there’s a casual sexism that runs through most chatrooms (not to mention the more outright malicious sexism that is present in many) that turns me off to them. It’s very much a boys club in that you have to adjust to the atmosphere if you want to be tolerated.

The thing is, I’m not sure there’s a way to change that or if it should be changed. I mean, the casual sexism, yes, that should be changed. But, if it’s mostly guys who are drawn to the chatroom, then is it really upon them to actively recruit women? I have a hard time saying it is, but at the same time, there are ways to make it more inclusive. In the end, I don’t know where I stand on it, but I just know that I will mostly remain where I normally do–on the outside.


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The one game to rule them all award

*BONUS POST*

I have written three posts granting awards for various games throughout the year. They are all deserving winners, and I appreciate every one of them for a variety of reasons. However, we now come to the one game that is nearest and dearest to my heart, and anyone who has read my blog with any consistency can probably guess which game it is. Or if not the actual game, at least the developer.

Whenever I am between games, I always return to my roots–Dark Souls. I recently finished another playthrough of DSII: SotFS in anticipation of the Prepare to Try boys* doing a full playthrough in February. I played as a strength caster, which is now my favorite way to play Souls games.  Nothing feels as good as a Greatsword +10 in hand and an array of powerful pyromancies/hexes/spells/miracles. There were still people playing, and I was able to summon humans for several bosses, even in the DLC. I love that the Souls community is alive and thriving, though not so much when I get invaded. I had one invader wag his finger at me when I used an Estus to heal, but if you fucking come into my world, I’m going to do whatever I can to come out alive.

The invader system is one reason I play offline until the bosses much of the time. I know it’s a beloved part of the games for many people, and so I accept that it will never change. Not to mention there will probably not be another Soulsborne game, but that’s besides the point. I hate PvP, and I know that anyone still doing it now must be really good at it because they’ve been doing it for so long. I’ve been invaded in the DLC area in NG+, and think about that. There’s someone camping out in the DLC in NG+ of a game that came out almost four years ago. Has it really been that long?

::double-checks::

It has, indeed. The base game came out over six years ago! I think it’s pretty cool that people are still playing (and, yes, I realize that I’m people and I’m still playing, but the fact that I could consistently summon people for certain bosses made me happy), and I’m finding it the same in my current Dark Souls III playthrough, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

One thing I love about Dark Souls games is how they push me out of my comfort zone. My preferred playstyle when I first started out was as much a caster (preferably pyro) as possible. Now, I like a blend of strength and casting, and I lean more on the former than the latter once I’m past the first playthrough. This time, on NG+, I decided to try something different with Vendrick. I had five Giant Souls, so he didn’t have any hyper-armor, which was a relief. By the way, the Ancient Dragon is so much easier than I anticipated. Granted, I summoned Bashful Ray and Vengarl, but I could easily do him again on my own.

Side note: I love that once I’ve soloed a boss, I don’t have any compunction about summoning for the boss the next time(s) I meet him/her/it. Jolly cooperation is fun, especially when everyone is in synch. There are a few bosses in SotFS, however, in which you cannot summon, which means having to go solo. Vendrick is one of them.


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The reason why I play games awards

There are many different ways to play games. Some people hop from game to game as if they were at a buffet and starving. “I’ll try a little of this and a little of that, and, ooooooh! Give me some of that!” They play the game until they either get sick of it or they finish it, then they put it away and never think of it again. I’m pretty sure games journalist especially have to operate in this manner. Knowing a games journalist, it becomes increasingly difficult for him to game just for fun when he has to do it for his job on a daily basis.

I have a vastly different style when it comes to gaming. I’ve said this about my mindset towards pop culture in general, and it holds especially true when it comes to video games–I don’t cast my net very wide because I’m very certain about what I don’t like. When it comes to video games, I don’t like multis, RTS, FPS (though that’s more because of nausea, not the actual gameplay), bullet hells, platformers, 4X, and anything that calls itself “_____core” without a hint of irony. I hate JRPG, dating sims, survival, and most horror. I really want to like adventure games because they are more story driven, but I just…don’t. I hate all the ridiculous contrivances of the genre, such as combining a stick, a piece of lint, and a teddy bear to make a key*.

What do I like when it comes to gaming? That’s harder to define because I don’t tend to like genres in general, and it’s difficult to know what game is going to click with me.  The first game I played for realsies was Pitfall when I was a kid. Then, Ms. Pac-Man as a teen. Then, while dating a guy who liked arcades, I got hooked on Time Crisis II and barked at him to get me more quarters as I finished it in one go. That was in my late twenties, and I didn’t touch a ‘hardcore’ game again for roughly fifteen years.

Once I did, however, I started playing a weird range of games. The first was Torchlight at the suggestion of Ian, and I immediately fell in love with the game. I loved that the protagonist was a woman who looked Asian if you squinted, and I loved all the dungeon crawling. I still have a soft spot in my heart for it, and I’m one of the very few who thinks it’s a better game than the sequel. Diablo III was next, and I played the fuck out of it. I reached Paragon with my Demon Hunter, and I’ve dipped my toe back in that particular river from time to time as they add to it. Borderlands (the original and II) was next, and I glutted myself on it. Playing them back to back with all the DLCs is not recommended, and I was thoroughly sick of it by the time I tried Pre-sequel, which I did not finish. I only played a few hours before I realized I thought it was crap (and not just because I had put hundreds of hours into I and II, and was sick of the formula).

Some of the other games I’ve really enjoyed: Path of Exile (beta. I fell off it once I realized I’d have to start over), Cook, Serve, Delicious (and sequel), The Sexy Brutale, Nuclear Throne, Binding of Isaac: RebirthNight in the WoodsDead Cells, and, of course, the Soulsborne games.

What do they all have in common? Hell if I know. I will say that once I played Dark Souls, it’s been nearly impossible to return to hack-and-slash games. I don’t have to have combat in a game, but if it’s there, it has to be meaningful, apparently. There’s a bit in one of the Prepare to Try videos (the secrets video, I think) in which Rory says, “Imagine if Dark Souls was the first game you played. It would blow your tiny mind. You wouldn’t be able to play any other game.” He was joking, but I feel as if it’s true. There are so many games that when I’m playing them, I’m like, “I could be playing Dark Souls right now.” That’s pretty much my metric for a game–would I rather be playing Dark Souls?


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Games honorable enough to mention awards

I have very definite tastes when it comes to pop culture. I like or dislike something almost immediately, and it’s very rare when I change my mind. I’m not saying this is a good or bad thing, but I know it’s part of my personality. In fact, if I have a predisposition not to like something (such as Pulp Fiction or Titanic), there’s no hope of changing my mind. I saw both of them knowing full well that I would hate them, and I did. Oh, how I hated them.

Anyhoo, when I play a game, I can usually tell within five minutes whether I’ll like it or not*. Sometimes, if I think I may be unnecessarily harsh, I’ll give it more time, but it’s very rare when I change my mind. As a related side note, I like my beverages either burning hot or ice cold. I like to literally burn my tongue when I drink tea, for example. I don’t know why, but I do. It’s the same way with popular culture. When I consume a piece of it, I either love it or hate it. It’s very rare when I finish, say a novel and am meh about it. With video games, I will play up to an hour and then quit if it doesn’t grab me. Or, I won’t even start one that I know I will hate such as Collar Duty.**

This year, there are two games I played that while I wasn’t grabbed by them or thought they were the most amazing games I’d ever played, they had something there that made me like them more than not, but for very different reasons. I can’t say they were among the top games I played in the past year, but they are definitely worth a mention.

The game that should be grateful that they were not sued by Iron Chef

Battle Chef Brigade

I was drawn to this game, developed by Trinket Studios and published by Adult Swim Games, for a very silly reason–the protagonist was an Asian woman named Mina Han. I mean, how could I not want to play her given that she was me in cartoon form! Not really as she’s in her early twenties, slim, with short hair, and loves to sleep, but the name, gender, and Asian part were enough for me to buy it. It didn’t hurt that it was a mashup of a monster hunting game (lite)/fighting game (lite) and a cooking sim/Match-3 and more.

The graphics are a mixed bag. The characters look hand-drawn, and the game is bright and colorful, but some of the environments and monsters are not as pleasing to the eye. Each character is distinct, and the story is fun if not silly. The basic gist is that Mina is a simple country girl who works for the family restaurant. Part of that is killing monsters in the backyard for their parts as ingredients in the family recipes. There is a something called the Battle Chef Brigade competition in which all the best fighting chefs in the world gather to compete against each other. Through some trickery, Mina makes it into the competition.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this game up until the point where you start having to do different dishes for different judges. All of the gameplay is frenetic which is in sharp contrast to the leisurely pace of the rest of the game. The ramp up is too much for me and my aged reflexes, however, and I had to give up the game before I finished it. I will add that the turn towards the paranormal didn’t jibe with the rest of the game, either. I would have been fine with the game sticking to the competition and not throwing in that vampires (or vampire-like creatures, can’t quite remember) were infecting the monsters.

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I don’t play many video games but when I do awards

It’s nearing the end of the year, and you know what that means. Countless top ten lists, best ofs, and other navel-gazing articles/videos. I did my own list last year citing my favorite games of the year, and I’m doing the same this year as well. While I enjoy me a good ‘best of’ list, I like to do things differently. I don’t think there’s an objective best, anyway, so I’m just going to list my personal favorites. As to the title of this post, it’s true. I don’t play many games, but when I do, I play the hell out of them.

The game I was reluctant to play, even though theoretically it was tailor-made for me (maybe because), and it ended up capturing my heart

Night in the Woods

When I first heard about this game early in 2017 when it was released by Infinite Fall, I immediately thought it was made for me. Indie game with a female black cat protagonist? Hells, yeah! Plus, the design is gorgeous, and it seemed like it was narrative-driven. It should be right up my alley–which was why I hesitated in playing it. Plus, it was nearly twenty bucks, and I’m really cheap when it comes to games. I like to pay less than fifteen bucks for a game (which means buying during steep sales most of the time), though I’ve loosened up on that recently.

When I finally bought it and started it up, I was immediately stumped by one of the earliest ‘gameplay’ moments. I put that in quotes because it fit the definition but barely, and it was embarrassingly easy in retrospect to figure out–if you play plenty of games. Once I got past that, however, I was swept up in the game and the protagonist, Mae. She is the aforementioned female black cat, and she captivated me in a way no protagonist ever has. A young college dropout who was consumed by anxiety, depression, and sarcasm, she was me. It was later revealed that she’s bisexual, and I felt connected to her even more strongly than I had before. Add to that her propensity towards inertia and sticking her foot in her mouth by excitably blurting out awkward truths, and I became increasingly protective of her.

I played through the game three times and still didn’t see everything in it. I only played it more than once because I watched Campster’s (Errant Signal) video on it, and I noticed things in his video I hadn’t seen in my playthrough. In addition, he said the game benefited from a second playthrough, and he was right. It was on the third playthrough that I fell in love with the game.

The art direction is fantastic, and I empathized with each of the four main characters: Mae, Gregg (GREGG RULZ OK), and Angus. Whenever I spent a significant amount of time with any of them, I came to care about them even more. The overarching story/mystery is underwhelming, but by the end of my third playthrough, I accepted it as a metaphor for what is happening in the dying Rust Belt town rather than anything literal.

I won’t gush about how lovely certain moments were or how I legit cried at the poignancy of some of the interactions. I’ve written three posts on my emotional connection to the game, and I still don’t think I managed to convey how much it means to me. It might seem ridiculous to become attached to an animated cat-girl who’s sullen, mentally ill, and a brat from time to time, but Mae wormed her way into my heart, and I’m grateful for it. I’m probably going to do a fourth playthrough before too long because there are a few things I know I haven’t seen. If there is one game that I played this year that I would recommend with all my heart, it is this one.


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It’s time to say goodbye (provisionally) to MHW

easy-peasy with four people.
Ain’t no party like a gank party, hey, ho!

I’m still hacking up a lung, which is really unpleasant. I’ve been wanting to fight Tempered Kirin, but my energy is too low to take on that challenge. One of the best and worst things about Monster Hunter: World is that doing each new quest solo takes a lot of energy. They aren’t necessarily hard (though some of them are), but they are grueling. CapCom has added Arch-Tempered Kulve Taroth, Nergy, and Kirin (I think the first and third are temporary), which just makes me heave a sigh.

I’m going to make a confession that I’ve alluded to before, but I’ll state it plainly now. I find the Tempered Monsters to be boring. They just have way more health than their HR counterparts, and they’re more aggressive. That’s it. Doing them solo is tedious, and doing them with a talented crew is too easy. Granted, I haven’t hit the Tempered Elder Dragons yet, so that might change. The thing is, I’m not looking forward to it at all. I’ve been putting off Tempered Kirin because I’m sick, yes, but also because I’m not enthusiastic about it. I know I can do it multi and be done with it, but that defeats the point, I think. Or not? The most fun I have with the game is multi, so maybe I should adjust the way I’m thinking about the game. I have nothing left to prove as I’ve beaten all the monsters solo.

I was thinking about hardness in the Dark Souls games last night. I beat the Fume Knight with the help of a really stellar player summons (shout-out to Zoi and all the people still playing DS II after all this time) and the two NPC summons*. I had looked him up beforehand to refresh myself as to his weaknesses, and I noticed that his HP was 14,258. Gwyn, the final boss of DS had 4,250. Yes, Fume Knight had over 10,000 more HP than Gwyn. Sister Friede has 18,877 (total for her three phases). To be fair, the boss with the highest HP in Dark Souls was also in the DLC, Manus, and he had 6,665. Still. Giving a boss way more health is not my favorite way of making a game hard, but at least in Souls games, it’s not simply giving bosses more health.

I suppose you can think of Tempered Monsters as NG+ and Arch-Tempered Elder Dragons as NG++++++++, but the problem with that is that it’s only the monsters that get buffed. I mean, yeah, I know the whole game is centered around slewing monsters (it’s right there in the title), but at least during the storyline, as it were, you find different areas, different environmental life, new NPCs, and new armor. You unlock different upgrades to your weapons, and new upgrading systems. Once you hit Tempered Monsters, everything is pretty much unlocked as far as new stuff.

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Walking away from the First Flame

I heard The Pina Colada Song on my way home from Cubs today, and it put me in the mood…to play more Dark Souls! It’s my Dark Souls fight song, and I’ve heard it twice in the past week. That must mean something, right? I recently learned that there is a second ending to Dark Souls II. Rather, to Scholar of the First Sin, which is the remake/update of DS II because DS fans were so upset with the vanilla sequel. It’s pretty cool that there are still things I don’t know about the games even though I’ve played the hell out of them, much like when I found a mini-area I had never seen before in DS II, but I doubt there’s anything big I’ve missed. Then again, I missed the second ending, so who knows what else I’ve missed? I think it’s because DS II is the least-talked-about game in the series. I haven’t played the vanilla version of this game, so I can’t comment on that. I have let it be known that I think SotFS is a really good game, but it’s not a great DS game. Anyway, the biggest difference is

*SPOILERS*

There is a character, Aldia, who is the brother of King Vendrick. He’s in the vanilla game, and you have to go to his keep for reasons. However, you never get to see him, and he’s more of an urban legend than anything else. FromSoft decided to change it up for SotFS. I mean, hell, even the name is in reference to Aldia, so it’s the first hint that he’s going to feature more prominently in the remake.

In the second half of the game, he shows up at bonfires to talk to you. He gets increasingly smaller every time he appears (which is three), and he’s not human. I can’t describe what he is, exactly, but he loves the sound of his own voice. Then, you have to do things in a certain order (and I will admit I knew this before going into the end game) in order to have a certain thing happen. Does that sound deliberately vague? Well, it is.

In the vanilla game, there is an area called the Throne of Want. You walk forever to get there, and it’s the boss arena for two different bosses. First, Throne Watcher and Throne Defender (a duo), and then the final boss, Nashandra–the queen. You can also kill King Vendrick at some point, but it’s optional (and a HUGE pain in the ass). In order to have Nashandra show up, though, you need something called the Giant’s Kinship, which you can only get from defeating the Giant Lord in a memory. You cannot access the memories without the Ashen Mist Heart, which you need from the Ancient Dragon in the Dragon Shrine–which you can only access after beating the Guardian Dragon in Aldia’s Keep. Yes, I am spoiling the whole end game, but it is under a spoiler tag, and the game is four years old, so I think I can get away with it.


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Letting the First Flame die out naturally

ain't no love like elder dragon love!
Luna and Teo, the yin-yang of Elder Dragon love.

First of all, health report. Feeling a bit shittier than yesterday, but still better over all. Got a bit of snow yesterday, which makes me happy. Got my instapot (yes, that’s what I’m calling it from now on because it amuses me) and bought the ingredients for vegan mashed potatoes and gravy. Will mess about with that later. By the way, let me reiterate how difficult it is to find recipes that are JUST dairy-free/gluten-free, but in this case, vegan is fine. That might be my hook if I start blogging/vlogging my cooking with my instapot endeavors. I’m only doing it because of my sensitivities–otherwise I’d be chowing down on cheese, bread, and pasta on the regular. I don’t want paleo, keto, vegan, vegetarian, whole30 or top 8 free recipes. It’s frustrating because I can find gluten-free recipes and dairy-free recipes, but only gf/df recipes are few and far between.

On to Monster Hunter: World. I’ve been trying to quit the game for weeks, and I’ve been playing it less and less as time goes on. I didn’t play at all yesterday, butt I can’t give it up completely. Why? Well, there’s still a ton to do for one (Tempered Kirin, I’m looking at you). Two, they keep adding new content. They just announced the USJ: Gold Star Treatment and the USJ: Blazing Azure Stars! (related) a week apart in which you get the Azure Star loot. It looks cool as hell, and, of course, I need to get the Palico armor set first and foremost.

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Winding down Monster Hunter: World, oh, and yeah, Thanksgiving

femdante is way sexier than mascdante.
FemDante in all her glory! And the Dante Devil Sword–which is actually a Charge Blade.

I am writing this on Thanksgiving, which is a weird day to me. First is the fiction Americans are told as children as to how the Pilgrims came to America, were welcomed with open arms by the natives, and they celebrated together by eating turkey and maize and whatnot. It’s a flagrant whitewashing, and it took me way too long to learn the truth. Christopher Columbus was an asshole who got lost, brought death, slavery, and pestilence to Native Americans, and there was no happy turkey dinner. It’s true the Native Americans at the time helped out the foreigners, which I’m sure thy regretted by the time Columbus was through with them.

In addition to that, I hate holidays in general because they bring out the worst in people. Or rather, they put so much pressure on people to have a certain kind of day, it’s stressful. Thanksgiving and Christmas in particular fetishize families to the point where if you don’t have a good relationship with your family, are estranged from them, or simply prefer not to spend time with them if you had your druthers, you are made to feel like a freak, an unfeeling asshole, or a wide range of other negative things. I feel alienated on a regular basis, and no more so from Thanksgiving to Christmas,

How am I spending my Thanksgiving? Much like any other day. Writing, watching YouTube vids, reading, playing MHW (Lunastra dropped today, which I’ll get to in a bit), snuggling with Shadow, and overthinking things. I don’t think it’s sad, and I don’t have any desire to celebrate–especially as I can’t eat most of the staples of Thanksgiving dinner, anyway.

Jumping dramatically to another subject–Monster Hunter: World. Still working on the Tempered Monsters, and it’s still bullshit that you have to track them to get the investigations. Have yet to get a Radobaan quest, so I still haven’t fought him solo. I did the Kulve Taroth quest two more times so I could get the Golden Shell to complete the Palico armor set. It’s ridiculously gilded and pompous, but I love it. My favorite Palico armor set is from Xeno’jiiva, the ‘final’ boss (storyline boss). It’s ethereal and makes Shadow look like he’s late for the wedding. I really wish I could have done the Kulve Taroth Siege properly, but there was never anyone doing it when I went to dive in. Probably because it’s better with a coordinated team of four, which I don’t have.

I did the Code: Red quest multi as I predicted, and I had a blast! It’s a special arena quest in which you fight one monster after the other. First Anjy, then Odo, then Rathalos, and finally, Teo. I went with pure power rather than any element, and I was the team healer per yooz. It’s amusing to me that I’m a Switch Axe user (Swag Axe in the parlance of ‘the community’) and a healer because they’re not that compatible. I don’t care, though, because I’m a healer first and foremost.

Anyway, with a good team of four or even three (had to do it with only two other people once), we can get the deed done in roughly twenty minutes or less. I know each monster has less health than their solo counterparts, but it’s still a thrill to take ’em down. It’s the best when the team works as one, such as the time one of my teammates set a trap for Teo, set down two Mega Barrel Bombs, and the rest of us set down our Mega Barrel Bombs as well. That did HUGE damage to Teo, and he was easy peasy to kill. I did the quest six or seven times, and I even got a Teo gem from one of the fights! I have unlocked the ability for the Elder Melder to make Teo gems now, so I never have to fight Teo again if I don’t want to.

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