Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Fun

Waiting in breathless anticipation with Sekiro pre-loaded

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which hereafter shall be known as Sekiro because that’s what it was intended to be called until Activision shoved its nose into the–I’ll get to that in a bit–is coming out tomorrow (or today by the time you read this). Or rather, tonight since it’s coming out at midnight EDT (are we DT or ST now?) which means 11 p.m. here. I had to uninstall Dark Souls: Remastered (the current DS game I’m replaying) to make room for Sekiro, which I bought last night. Pre-ordered it. At full AAA price.

If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I’m cheap as hell. I don’t mind waiting for a game to go on steep sale before buying it, which means I’m usually playing a game a year or two after it’s released. I bought the original Dark Souls a year and a half after it was released, the Prepare to Try edition, for ten bucks, I think. Maybe twenty. I did play Dark Souls III in real time, but that was because Ian bought it for me along with the season’s pass. After DSIII, I said that any future game by FromSoft was an auto pre-order for me, and this is also amazing because I am very against pre-orders for a few reasons.

One, before Steam instituted its return policy, you were SOL if you bought a game and didn’t want it for whatever reason. Now, if you buy a game after it’s released, then you can look at reviews and whatnots of it in order to get a better feel if it’s for you or not. With the sheer volume of games being released these days, it can be overwhelming if you’re not the type only to play, say, Collar Duty games. If you are the type to only play COD BlOP or whatever, then I can absolutely see pre-ordering the next iteration. I can also see paying full price because console games don’t go on sale nearly as often or as steeply as do PC games.

Two, I don’t like this move to making games a service thing rather than a one-time product buy. I hate that a game can be released broken with the idea that it’ll get patched in time. Honestly, I would rather wait until a game is fully functional before it’s released, even if it means the game is delayed months. I will say that waiting for Eitr to come out has tested that theory, though. I first heard about it…I want to say three years ago, but it might have been six months more or less. Anyhow, they are the exception, and I would rather the game come out later fully intact than to be released a broken mess.

In other words, I don’t want to reward companies for bad behavior. Continually pre-ordering games that turn out to be broken, incomplete, or just downright bad gives said companies no incentive to do better. If they’re going to make the same amount of money either way, why not just released a broken game? I’m not even blaming them because it makes business sense. I also know I can’t make other people wait to buy games, but I don’t want to play into that system.


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A confession from a FromSoft fangrrl

I have a confession to make that will probably get me kicked out of the Souls community, but YOLO.

Bloodborne is my least-favorite FromSoft/Soulsborne game to play out of the four (still haven’t played Demon’s Souls) for a variety of reasons.

Before I get into the reasons why (and why I’m writing about it again), let me clearly state that I think Bloodborne is a brilliant game. It’s gorgeous and lush, and all the intricate mapping that Miyazaki is known for is amply present in this game. If you can see it, you can get there, and it gives you something to work towards. I love the Hnter Axe even though it’s basic, and I will admit to having oodles of fun hitting an enemy in the face with the Augur of Ebrietas and yelling, “Tentacles to the face!” In fact, the only time I won a PvP encounter was when I followed this formula for massive damage and the kill. Granted, I was in the area way later than I could have gone so I was pretty OP for the area, but still. I was pretty satisfied with killing an actual player in this manner. However, it was not recommended that you go in with an arcane build on your first playthrough, but I’m stubborn. I’m a caster until the day I die, and it’s how I play all the Soulsborne games for the first time. I will say that I’ve changed to being a strengthcaster, but that’s for subsequent playthroughs.

Anyway, I can objectively say that I was amazed by Bloodborne. I wish I hadn’t watched countless playthroughs of it before playing it, but I never thought I’d buy a PS4, so I thought the only way I would experience the game was by watching it. I do sometimes wonder if I would have a warmer feeling for it if I had played it through unspoiled, but I go back and forth on that. I think I would have been completely frustrated if I’d gone in without any prior knowledge because it’s different in several ways to the Souls games. On the other hand, one of my favorite parts of these games is the exploration and discovery.

Side note: The boys of RKG nee Prepare to Try celebrated their 3rd birth-i-versary yesterday with a seven-hour stream. They were passing the sticks on each death, and Gav was saying how he had practiced for a couple hours before the stream because he hadn’t played much of the games before. He said that he thought for him some of the fun of the games was having Krupa there to explain the lore and to guide them. Gav and Rory had said more than once that they never would have gotten out of the Undead Asylum (first area of the original game) without Krupa’s help. Their goal was to see how far they could get in the original game (remastered) during the stream. They put a call-out for summons, and I was sad they were playing on the PS4 because that meant I couldn’t be summoned, but it was so cool to watch people in the stream get summoned. With all the summons and the shit they dropped for the boys, they made it well past Biggie & Small. They said they’ll do another stream in which they finish this playthrough which had a Finchy (all their characters are named Finchy) with a magic build.


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You take the good, you take the bad

I’ve been watching the RKG boys play through Dark Souls II, and it’s reignited the debate about whether the game is good or terrible in ‘the community’*. There are the ones who insist it’s terrible, then cite the one thing that gets oft-repeated in the community–the physical impossibility of going from the end of Earthen Peak (up an elevator) to the Iron Keep. There’s just no way the two places could coexist the way the game places it, but here’s the thing. I never noticed as I was playing. I only learned about it from watching a video on what’s wrong after said video was mentioned in a playthrough I was watching. Now, it’s repeated as gospel as why the game is so terrible. I mean, yeah, it’s not great, but I wonder how many people would have even noticed without the videos on it. There are other things that the game can be rightfully dinged for in this same category (in the original game, if you see it, you can get to it. Everything is connected in an organic way, and it’s amazing), but this one single item isn’t the trump card that other people think it is.

In the post on the RKG FB page, it became clear that a big part of the problem was the expectations for DS II. I’ve mentioned before how sequels are often in an impossible position because half the people just want the original thing, only more of it and make it better somehow! Other people want an improvement, but they still don’t want you to skew too far from the original formula. Some people who played Demon’s Souls first think it’s a much better game than Dark Souls, and they cite the lack of invention in Dark Souls as the main reason. For people who didn’t play Demon’s Souls (me), Dark Souls was so innovative and they had never played anything like it. If you played Demon’s Souls first, then Dark Souls was more about refinements and pulling it all together. There were a few changes such as the interactive worlds, but a lot of it was streamlining the ideas from the first game and making it a bit more mainstream.

Side note: reviews for Sekiro are coming out by the people who got it before the release, and I asked Ian to tell me in general what the reaction has been. I’m trying very hard to go into it spoiler-free, which is really difficult. He said that people have said it’s the most accessible of the FromSoft games while still being satisfyingly difficult. I’m all in! I mean, I would be, anyway, obviously, but I feel more at ease with the positive reviews than I would be otherwise.

Anyhoo, back to DS II and the boys. In their latest episode, they just finished Huntsman’s Copse, and I want to talk about this area because it shows both the best and the worst of the game as well as how an idea that is good in conception doesn’t always translate well into reality. There is a room in the game that you notice as you’re going to Heide’s Tower of Flame. You may or may not notice that there is a post in the middle of the room that has a hole in it. You may or may not notice that there is a path that is barred off. If you are me, you don’t think twice about it until later when you’re at a loss as to what to do. I’m a bit fuzzy on my first playthrough, but I think I looked up what I needed to do with that room. Strap in, lads and lasses, because it’s a bumpy ride.


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Depression and escapism

the thinnest ray of sunlight.
Shrouded in darkness.

When I am depressed, I strip out all the extraneous things that I don’t *have* to do on any given day. There are a few things that I force myself to do every day, including my work and writing. I brush my teeth (and floss!) three times a day, and that’s the extent of what I force myself to do every day. I go grocery shopping every few days, and I go to taiji twice a week. Oh, and I do the dishes after I eat instead of letting them pile up for weeks. It’s a little change, but it made me feel much better. If I have energy and am not sick, I might go out to do something else, but that doesn’t happen very often.

I do the laundry when I would be running around outside in underwear otherwise (which would be today), and everything else is done on an absolutely needs to be done basis. I take a shower every few days when I remember it, and even that is a big production. I think it’s difficult for people who have not been depressed to understand how enervating it can be. I’ve heard people talking about someone, describing that person in a way that made it immediately clear to me that the person probably suffered from depression. Then, they would talk about how lazy the person was, and it would make me really uncomfortable.

Let me give you a small example. For taiji, I have to keep my nails short. That’s my preference, anyway, but it’s a good idea, especially when there’s hand-to-hand contact. Cutting one’s nails isn’t a big deal. It takes maybe five minutes, and a few swipes of an emery board after is all you need to do. When I first notice my nails need cutting, I simply think, “Huh. I should cut my nails.” Then I ignore it for a week or two as my nails continue to grow. The next time I pay attention to them, I think, “I really need to cut my nails.” I feel embarrassed and ashamed, but I still don’t do anything about them. Then, because I have shitty nails, they begin cracking and breaking. I also get hangnails which I chew and pick at, and I’ll chew on my nails to rip off the jagged edges. That doesn’t help, of course, but it doesn’t stop my brain from thinking it’s a good solution to the nail-cutting problem.

When it’s all said and done, it takes me about a month before I actually summon up the energy to cut my nails. I know rationally that it’ll only take me five minutes and then I can free up my mental energy for something else. Instead, I delay  it and stew about it until I absolutely have no other choice than to cut my nails. Looking from the outside, you could fairly call me lazy for not cutting my nails for a month. It’s not laziness, however, and it’s doesn’t help anything to have someone tell me I’m lazy. Believe me, I tell myself that often enough. I know if I wasn’t depressed, I would get so much more done. It’s not helpful, either, because it just makes me less motivated to do anything.

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A (chat)room of my own redux

I was participating in the producers-only stream for RKG yesterday when an interesting thing happened. Somehow, Discord came up and a woman who participates heavily in the FB group said she didn’t feel comfortable in the Discord chatroom. Buncha dudes said you just had to jump in and blah, blah, blah. I told the first woman that I agreed with her, and a third woman chimed in to agree. Dudes kept insisting that the room was so welcoming and ignored what we three women were saying. When one woman tried to point out the cliquey nature, dudes were like, “But we became friends! But just join in!” without really getting what the women were trying to say. They took their experiences to be the standard and factual while dismissing our experiences or trying to excuse them away. It was a microcosm of privilege in a concrete setting, and I have rarely seen it so starkly.

I want to point out that I’m not saying they’re terrible guys or raging against the machine. They all seemed like nice dudes, and I say that sincerely. My point in this anecdote is how ingrained such behavior can be and how difficult it can be to make someone see privilege where they only see normality. I thought about bringing up the gender component, but didn’t. In the end, we dropped the conversation with no one being convinced that they were wrong.

And, I don’t think anyone was wrong. The dudes were right in that the Discord chat is inviting and welcoming IF you can fit into the culture. Which is very laddy. Which is not the same as bro culture, but it’s still off-putting. And we women were right that it’s not welcoming if you don’t fit into the culture.

Side note: It’s been weird that the two YouTube groups I like both left their big companies (IGN and Buzzfeed, respectively) to go private within six months of each other. As I noted in my last post on this subject, The Try Guys’ targeted demo is young women whereas RKG’s targeted demo is young men. The Try Guys have been away from Buzzfeed for roughly eight months, and I realized when they came back from their Christmas break that I don’t like them nearly as much now as I did when they were with Buzzfeed. I thought about why that was, and I realized there were a few reasons. One, they’ve become more of A BRAND and less of just four goofy guys trying interesting things that get them out of their comfort zone. They have merch now, and they push that merch in their videos. Yes, in a jocular way, but it’s still them hawking their merch. Two, they had a video in which they showed the stuff they did before Buzzfeed, and Eugene’s was disturbingly brilliant. It showed in stark relief how different the stuff he’s doing now is. I wasn’t the only one to notice, and he had to tweet out why he thought what he was doing now still aligned with his vision.


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Miyazaki the brilliant storyteller

One of the things that irks me the most when people talk about the Soulsborne games is when someone glibly says, “Oh, there’s no story there.” I’ve heard actual games journalists say this, and it irks me every time. There is a story to each game–a pretty deep story with several NPC storylines. It’s just not handed over to you in cutscenes (though there are a few of those. The ones in the beginning are surprisingly explicit); you have to dig it up mostly on your own. Or, if you don’t have the patience for it, read up on it on the wikis.

I will say that you don’t have to understand the story in order to play the games and have a satisfactory experience. The gameplay itself stands up if you’re willing to put the time and effort into learning it. I’ve learned from ‘the community’ that the controls are shit, but I didn’t know that because it was the first time I’d ever used a controller. Any control scheme would have been foreign to me, and now, the Souls schematic is the one imprinted into my brain. I reinstalled MHW because Ian is powering through the end game, and his enthusiasm has perked my interest again. It’s hard getting back into the controls, though, because I’ve been playing Souls games in the meantime.

I was switching back and forth between Souls and MHW  for a bit, and that was really hard. When I go back to Souls games, though, it’s like coming home. It’s one of my biggest gripes about Souls clones that they would copy everything about the formula EXCEPT the controls. If you’re going to be a Souls clone, then copy the control scheme. B is forever roll, and I will fight anyone on this.

Anyhoooooo. Back to the brilliance of Miyazaki, and this is specifically related to him. In each game, there are several NPC questlines. You have to do them in a specific, byzantine order in order to fulfill the quests. I’ll give you an example. Solaire is one of the most famous and beloved NPCs in the whole Souls series. The whole ‘praise the sun’ and ‘do you even praise the sun, bro?’ memes are about him, and the funniest part is that he never says the phrase at all. It’s the emote you get when you join the Warrior of Sunlight Covenant (his covenant), and you perform it by crouching slightly, then raising up as you hold your arms up in a V. If you’re summoned as a SunBro (nickname for the members of this covenant), you perform the gesture automatically as you enter your host’s world, and you’re a brilliant golden color as opposed to white.


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5 things I hate about the Soulsborne series

looks pretty benign to me.
Oh, Bed of Chaos. It’s never good to see you.

Anyone who knows me or reads my blog knows I am a huge FromSoft fangrrl. I always return to the Souls games, and I am still finding new things in them. However, that is not to say that I think they’re perfect games and will brook no criticism of them. There are several fanbois who are exactly like that and will explain why each flaw is actually brilliance on the part of Miyazaki, but that’s not me. There are more than a few things about the games that annoy me, and a few that I downright hate. Some span all the games and some are only game specific, and I’ll note which it is during each point. They’re not in any particular order, and I will comment on my degree of hate as I talk about each one. With that said, here we go.

1. The whole second half of the original game. I recently played Dark Souls Remastered, partly with my NG++ character who had just beaten Biggie & Small. I thought about what I wanted to do, and I heaved a small sigh. Basically, there are four big bosses you have to beat after Biggie & Small before the last boss, and whenever I think about going into the four different areas, I just don’t want to do it. The first half of the game is near perfection, but the second half, hooooooooo boy. The first time I played it, the second half of the game made me hate the game in general. After I finished, I thought I was done with it and would never touch it again. Oh, how wrong I was, but it’s partly because of how much I loathed the second half of the game.

Miyazaki himself has commented on how the second half was rushed and was not nearly as good as the first half (paraphrased). He apologized for one of the areas, Lost Izalith, and a more fully realized version of it is in Dark Souls III (though not with the same name, though there is an area within the area that has the exact same name as an area in the first game, Demon Ruins). I’ve said before, but my measure of hatred for the area is such that even though I’m a completionist and will do Blighttown (the area in the first game most people agree is the worst) the normal way when I play the original game, but I skip the lava/dino butt area of Lost Izalith with nary a qualm. To me, that is the worst area of the game, well, one of them, and I don’t care if I never see it again. Indeed, I will be thrilled if I never do.

I also hate the Crystal Cave and it’s fucking invisible paths because fucking invisible paths! Need I say more? I also have a terrible sense of spatial recognition, so that doesn’t help. Plus, yes, I know, falling snow helps delineate the way, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t sharp turns between the falling flakes. I fell that way once. I hate this area because it feels hard just to be hard. Yes, Dark Souls is a difficult game. Fuck the try-hards who bleat that it’s not difficult–just challenging. It is hard for those of us who are strictly mediocre players.

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Trying to wean off my Dark Souls addiction

I’ve been morbidly watching the weather because we’re in a cold snap to end all cold snaps. It’s currently -15, ‘feels like’ -24, which is twice as warm as it was yesterday! It was supposed to get much warmer today, but Mother Nature apparently changed her mind. How like a woman, amirite? Ew. That felt gross, even saying it in jest. Yesterday, it went as low as ‘feels like’ -53. I kept checking because I wanted it to hit -60. Again, it was just morbid curiosity because it really doesn’t matter after a point. ‘Feels like’ -53 isn’t much different than ‘feels like’ -30. I don’t know exactly where that difference is, but it’s nowhere near where we are right now.

I’ve also been fighting off something or the other while dealing with sinus issues. I’m half-convinced it’s allergies because I mostly feel it right after I wake up and before I go to bed, and I’m fair-to-middling during the day. This morning, however, I woke up with something a bit more than usual, and I know I’m fighting something off. Which is aggravating. As I stated before, I’d rather just be sick and get over it in a few days (even though it’s never a few days. The worst part of it is a few days, then it lingers for weeks after).

I’ve put Dark Souls III on the back burner for now (uninstalled it) am an now tromping through Lordran again (Dark Souls Remastered). I forgot my current character is on NG++, and man, is she powerful. I’m wielding the Black Knight Halberd +5, and I’m enjoying it greatly. It surprises me because I’m not a polearm kind of gal, but the BKH is a fast and powerful weapon, and it’s great for crowd control. I was up to going to Anor Londo, running against the dastardly duo (Silver Knight Archers) before meeting up with the other dastardly duo (Biggie & Small). I actually made it into the church in one go, which I did the last two times as well. The key is running past the goddamn spears with confidence, ignoring the guy on the left, and attacking the guy on the right. Being powerful enough to block the spears he shoots at me is nice, and I was able to slice him to ribbons before he could kill me.

May I just say that being a Havel monster is the best? Yes, I was wearing the entire set, and, yes, it mitigates a lot of damage, but it takes a long time to reach the point where you can wear the whole set. I’m at 40 Vit, 50 End, and 50 Strength, so I’m a beast. I’m at 19 in Attunement, which gives me 5 attunement slots. That’s insane because you need 30 levels to have 5 attunement slots in Dark Souls III. Then again, magicks are much more powerful in DSIII because of the mana bar rather than the limited amount of casts in the original. For example, I have the Hidden Body spell in DSR, and I have 3 casts between bonfires. THREE. In comparison, I’m constantly casting it in DSIII, and I never run out of mana. Yes, I know it’s FP (Focus Points), but it’s mana. I have my flasks as 10/5, and I have a healthy mana bar. Plus, I wear the ring that conserves FP, so I can pyro my way throughout the areas.

In DSR, I have to save Hidden Body for special situations. Hidden Body/Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring to be a ninja. Currently, I’m wearing the Witch Set because I’m messing with the Hidden Body/Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring combo, which means I can’t wear Havel’s ring, which means I can’t wear his armor. There are only two ring slots in DS, and one of them is permanently taken by the Ring of Favor and Protection. It boosts HP, stamina, and equip load, but it breaks if you take it off. Therefore, I really only have one ring slot to play around with, which is frustrating.


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Always the watcher, never the watched, er….

I am always on the outside looking in. Even when I’m participating in a conversation, I feel outside of it–with very few rare exceptions. I’m gauging the other person(s) and calibrating my own responses. That’s not terrible in general, but taken to the extreme, it can be debilitating.

I’m a weirdo and a freak. I’ve discussed this with my taiji teacher because she is, too. The plus side to being an outsider is that it’s much easier to do things that others might consider odd because I’ve been doing that all my life. It’s always amusing to me when people get hung up on a certain band, TV show, movie, or whatever, insisting that you must like it as much as they do. Try saying you don’t like the Beatles on Twitter and see what happens. Or Breaking Bad. Or Titanic. The pushback is strong, and there are people who literally cannot fathom someone not liking __________. Well, not the last. There are plenty of people who agree with me that Titanic is shite*.

It’s the funniest when people tell me that my taste is horrible, especially in music, because I’ll cheerfully agree. It flummoxes them, and that’s when I know their intent is to put me down rather than have an actual conversation. I like to say I have no guilty pleasures, only pleasures because I don’t feel guilty about what I like (99% of the time). It’s weird because I feel guilty about almost everything else in my life, but not the pop culture I consume or not.

The downside, however, is that I just assume no one will want to hear about what I’m interested in unless there are plenty of indicators to the otherwise. When I think about dating, for example, I have a difficult time envisioning someone who will have the patience to put up with my oddities. Taiwanese American, bisexual, fat, agnostic, child-free (and do. not. want. children or steps), not interested in most mainstream popular stuff, and just plain weird. Add in video games as an old person and taiji, and the fact that I don’t want a traditional relationship, and, yeah. Prospects are dim.

The problem is that I’m so inclined to discount that anything I have to say is of any interest to anyone because I’m used to being ignored and invisible.

Side note: It’s fucking 2019. There is no excuse not to have more PoC and queer folks (and other minorities) in popular media. If I see a trailer for a show that is all white people, I immediately tune out. There was a stretch where all the trailers for new TV shows fell into the category I called, “White guys doing white guys things”. I have no interest in that bullshit, and I never gave any of them more than a second of attention.

The centering around white straight dudes in media has definitely affected how I see myself in general. Add to that a hobby (video games) that is all about white straight dudes, and my negative self-esteem is reinforced on a daily basis. I’ve mentioned before how I can get into some aspects of gaming, but I never feel truly accepted. It’s as if I’m tolerated as long as I don’t make a fuss or stand out in any negative (in their eyes) way. It’s gender, but it’s also age and race. I’m too old to be a gamer, and it stops me from fully participating in the community in general. It’s not hard to see that 95% of the visible gaming journalists/YouTubers/Twitchers fall into this category. Maybe it’s not quite that high, but it certainly seems like it. I’ve searched out women, but they are few and far between.

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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, which 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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