Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Fun

Dark Souls II, electric boogaloo

Post three about Dark Souls II versus Elden Ring. Well, mostly about DS II/Scholar of the First Sin (SotFS). Here is the second post about it; it includes a link to the first. I really do think FromSoft had a thankless task in making the sequel, but I must admit, post-Elden Ring, the game suffers in comparison.

I don’t know if it’s because I had the medical trauma in between, but the negatives of the game are really popping out this time. Remember that I have played it dozens of times, though not as many as I’ve played DS III, and I prefer to play it (the sequel) over the original. Mainly because you can fast-travel from the start, tbh. Yes, the first half of the original game is objectively better than this game, but that doesn’t make this game bad. And, for as much as people want to faff about how great the first game is, we all know that the second half is, well, trash. Miyazaki didn’t have enough time to finish it because the big wigs at…Namco? I think? were pushing him to finish it. So, he half-assed areas like Lost Izalith (for which he publicly apologized) and could not do his true vision on the later-game bosses.

It’s funny because when Ian finished the game for the first time recently, he talked about the second half because he had never played it before. He had made it up to Ornstein and Smough before quitting. So listening to him talk about the second half of the game as he played it was very interesting. He didn’t have the preconceived notions about it even though he had heard the second half was shit, so he was able to see more of ethe wacky beauty of it than other people. He appreciated the different aesthetics of the different areas, which actually made sense. Those of us who have played the game dozens of times are inured to the first look at it because, well, we’ve played it dozens of times.

Seeing it through his eyes made it new again. And, yes, baby skeletons day care (Nito-land), spooky ghost town (New Londo Ruins), Seath’s whole deal (Duke’s Archives and Crystal Cave), and lava-land (Lost Izalith) are very distinct and you can instantly tell in which area you are in a glance.

And to be fair, he crushed the second half of the game, rarely getting stuck for very long. He did have trouble with the DLC, but that was to be expected. As is the FromSoft tradition, The DLC is ten times harder than the base game. It’s for the true fans, which makes me interested to see what they’ll do with Elden Ring DLC. Sekiro DLC wasn’t really DLC. I mean, it was, but it was just making the bosses harder already, like they needed that, and a few other things I didn’t care about. Then again, Sekiro is my least-favorite From game of all time. Not the worst From game, but my least-favorite.

It’s funny because everyone says you can’t beat Sekiro if you don’t get the combat system down. Incorrect! You most certainly can, but you’re not going to have fun doing it. I am living proof of that. I hear about people gushing over the game, saying it’s like a rhythm game once you get the hang of it. Yeah, well, I suck at those as well, so there you go. It’s a spatial issue and a reflex issue. I cannot get the timing right for the life of me. I spent hours practicing parrying on the Silver Knights in Anor Londo in the first game. By the end, I was able to parry them 75% of the time. Which wasn’t amazing, let me tell you.

I try every game to master the system. I honestly do. I have practiced the parrying to mostly no avail. I cannot riposte in Bloodborne for the life of me, but I found a workaround–using the Augur of Ebritas will stun an enemy, allowing me to get the visceral with a much more generous window.

Then, Sekiro, I still have nightmares about trying to master the deflect in that game. I tried so hard, but I could not do it except by accident. Of course I kept trying throughout the game because it really makes the game easier, but I just could not do it. I had to whittle away at the health of every boss, which made for grim times. Doing Demon of Hatred and Isshin, the Sword Saint through attrition was a test of my patience. Beating Isshin was the best feeling I’ve ever had in a video game, truly transcendent, but I knew that it was a once in a lifetime feeling. It’s funny because Luke from Outside Xtra made a quip about how it wasn’t fair that he could fight a boss a million times, die every time but one, and the one time you beat the boss, that’s the last time you fight. He pointed out that it wasn’t really fair because if you went back, the boss could probably kick your ass again.

I did not enjoy my trip back to Sekiro. I tried to do Father (Owl) again, and he thoroughly kicked my ass. Many times. Not only was he kicking my ass (on NG+), but I wasn’t even making a dent in his first health bar. I had some thought in the back of my mind about getting the plat, but if I was going to do that, I had to kill Father (Owl) again, which seemed impossible. Plus Isshin, which, ha, no. I gave up on it and never went back.

I really wish Bloodborne would come to PC. I don’t know if it ever will, but if it did, then I would actually consider platting it. Except for the dreaded Chalice Dungeons. I hate them. A lot. First of all, they are so samesy that it’s boring. Much like the catacombs/caves in Elden Ring, but worse because they seemed designed to be the same. At least in Elden Ring, there’s a different gimmick to each one. In Bloodborne, they’re all the fucking same. And I get hopelessly lost wandering around in them.

I didn’t even bother with the parry in DS II or III. Even though they are slightly different in each game, they’re just not for me. I much prefer the combat in Elden Ring because of the guard counter and the jump attack. You can still parry in the game, but it’s much less necessary because of the wide variety of options.

In comparison to Elden Ring, Dark Souls II loses much luster. Dark Souls III can hold its own, but Dark Souls II (SotFS) pales in comparison.



Dark Souls II/SotFS tries too hard

I wrote about Dark Souls II/Scholar of the First Sin (SotFS) yesterday, and I have more to say about it. I don’t think FromSoft could win when it came to making the sequel because the original was so beloved. It only came out on consoles at first and took some serious campaigning on the part of PC players before it was ported to the PC. And the port was shit. Utter and complete shit. It took a mod named Durante to offer dsfix to make the game playable. In fact, if you were thinking of playing the game on PC, you were counseled to not even think of it if you didn’t include dsfix with the specific specs he recommended.

There was a love for the first game that was unparalleled. Yes, there was an appreciation for Demon’s Souls, but it was definitely not as loud as was the fanfare for Dark Souls. Because of it, expectations for the sequel were at an all-time high. Simultaneously, Miyazaki was working on Bloodborne with what is known in the community as the A team. Or at least that’s what the community started calling it after the two games came out. Implying, of course ,that Dark Souls II was made by the B team (or flat-out saying it).

Here’s the thing. There are many things wrong with Dark Souls II/SotFS. I’m not going to deny it. Playing it after playing Elden Ring makes me see all the flaws in high relief. I absolutely hate the unfairness of the mobs where there’s usually an enemy hidden somewhere who jumps out at you or is located in an area that is juuuuuust out of reach. I did No-Man’s Wharf yesterday, and all the hatred for this area came flooding back.

Not because it’s hard, per se. I expect FromSoft games to be hard, obviously. The mantra of ‘hard, but fair’ is very uneven in this game. And this area is a prime example of From trying too hard to be difficult.

First, let me say, I forget how fragile I am at the beginning of every From game. This one especially as I play as a Sorcerer because there is no Pyromancer. Why? To be different, I think. You can get Pyromancy later in the game, but you cannot start out with it–which still irks me to this day.

It’s a really weak class. I don’t care what anyone says. It starts with puny stats for everything except Intelligence, and you don’t even get a real weapon or a shield to start with. You get a staff and a puny dagger. 30 Soul Arrows, which is not a lot in the grand scheme of things. I can’t tell you how fragile I felt the first time I played. It was agonizing and felt artificially hard.

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SotFS compared to Elden Ring

I started a character in Dark Souls II (Scholar of the First Sin) because I’m crazy like that. It’s not enough to play Elden Ring and Dark Souls III, oh no! I had to delve back into SotFS for the first time since I platted it. And, unfortunately, that playthrough is thoroughly fucked because I had to sequence-break to get what I needed for the plat. By the way, it’s balls that you cannot cloud save for the From games on Steam. Yes, you can with Dark Souls Remastered, but that’s because it’s not FromSoft who did that version. And, there’s a bug in that version that makes it impossible to play with others for some people. Which doesn’t matter now, but in general, is a big drawback.

For the plat in Dark Souls II/SotFS, I had to make it to NG++, which is the same in the original game and in DS III. And I had to make it to Drangleic Castle, which is roughly 2/3rds through the game. But, you can get there early if you have a million souls (total) per NG. Which means I needed 3,000,000 souls. I think I had over 2,000,000 at that point. The easiest way to get that amount of souls is to kill one of the Great Souls over and over again, using Bonfire Ascetics. (I am not explaining every little thing in this process. Sorry.) The easiest Great Soul boss to reach is the Rotten, who isn’t that difficult to kill. At least not on NG. On NG+++++ whatever I reached, however, he’s not fun. But I managed to get him and enough souls to open the castle early.

As a result , that game is trashed. I mean, I could keep playing, but it’s hard to get back into it after I sequence-broke the game. Oh, and the reason I decided to start another character in SotFS is because I watched RKG’s inaugural season, which was SotFS with Mama Finchy. I love that all their characters for the FromSoft games are named Finchy with a descriptor before the name. So Dark Souls is Chimpy Finchy; Dark Souls III is Froggy Finchy; Bloodborne is Posh Finchy; Dark Souls II/SotFS is Mama Finchy; Sekiro is….well Sekiro. He’s an outlier, obviously, as you can’t make your own character in that game. Demon’s Souls is Papa Finchy. I have no idea who’s going to be their protag in Elden Ring. There’s also Dumbledore Finchy for the ‘can we finish the original Dark Souls on a livestream?’. He’s a distant cousin of the  Dark Souls Finchies.

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Elden Ring v. Dark Souls III: cage match

I went back to my beloved Dark Souls III to see how it held up. First up: I really hope FromSoft gets it back online soon. Roughly at the same time that Elden Ring was released, it was discovered that there was a vulnerability in the servers (Bandai, not From, sorry) that made BamNam shut them down completely. They’re still not up, though supposedly, they are in the process of going live again. I don’t know why they can’t just be migrated to the other servers–oh, right. Elden Ring is not Bandai–oh wait, yes it is. So do it already, BanCo!

I played both DS III and Elden Ring yesterday. This was not easy to do, I’ll tell you what. The day before, I only played DS III. Because for whatever reason, you cannot cloud-share for DS III, I had to start a new character on my desktop. I was up to Farron Keep with one torch to extinguish. I am now up to Aldrich, the last of the Lord of Cinders needed to trigger the Dancer. Who I rarely have trouble with, but I like to summon for, anyway. And there are no NPC summons for her.

Anyway. I traipsed through the game with my usual character. Hidden Body/Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring combo (with Lingering Dragoncrest Ring to extend the Hidden Body) with the Executioner Greatsword to regain FP with every kill, plus Chaos Bed Vestiges from the soul of the Old Demon King. I normally don’t have much trouble with him, but I was running lean this time. I wanted to use Pestilent Mist, which takes 30 Int. Therefore, I skimped on Vigor and Endurance, which is a no-no.

By the way, let’s talk about spell slots. In Dark Souls III, it’s connected to Attunement. You have to level up your Attunement to get more spell slots. I need five spell slots to get my shit done. Two for Chaos Bed Vestiges, one for Hidden Body and two for Tears of Denial. I use a ring that gives me one extra spell slot, so I only need to buy four. As a Pyro, I started with one Attunement slot (I’m pretty sure). I had 12 Attunement at the beginning, and I needed 12 more to get the 24 needed for 4 Attunement slots.

That’s not cheap at all. And, yes, Attunement also gives you more FP (mana), but it’s mainly so I can get more Attunement slots. As a result. I don’t experiment much with spells because I don’t have the slots for it. I may change it up a bit when I face a boss, but for 90% of the game, I have one set-up. And, it does me fine. It’s my comfort zone; it gets the job done.

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Elden Ring and going in raw

I talked about spoilers yesterday and today I want to talk about something similar–looking things up in a wiki. I tried to play the first Dark Souls by myself, but gave in roughly halfway into playing it, probably to find out where I needed to go next. The turning point was, as it often is, Ornstein and Smough. I could not beat them no matter how hard I tried.

So I looked up what I should do and followed the guidelines, such as making sure my weapon was upgraded as high as it could go. I was using the Furysword, so that took special upgrade material. I looked at what they were weak to and what tactics I should employ. I also found out that you could get the Rite of Kindling by beating Pinwheel in the Catacomb, which would give me 20 heals. So I left Anor Londo, went back to Firelink Shrine (all the way, painfully, down through Sen’s Fortress), and I made my way to Pinwheel.

It was painful getting to him. But Pinwheel himself is a cakewalk with buffed up Pyro. I made my way back to Anor Londo and kindled Solaire’s bonfire to 20 Estus Flasks. That helped a great deal in the fight, and I would never have figured it out on my own.

When I hit the DLC, I started using the wikis for everything because it was so fucking hard. Well, the Sanctuary Guardian wasn’t that hard, but everything after it was. The enemies smacked me like a Mack Truck, and every new area was grueling. The bosses were over-the-top hard, and I nearly lost my mind in Oolacile.

I start every game with the intention of not reading wikis, but something pushes me to it. In the third Dark Souls game, it was when I cured the Dark Sigil by having the Firekeeper take it from me. It was a new mechanic, so I had to try it, right? Well, that made Yuria mad at me and she disappeared from my playthrough forever. As I was doing a dark magic run, I was furious. I thought she was the vendor for dark magic, which, turned out not to be the case. She doesn’t sell anything fundamental and is only needed for one certain ending (my favorite ending).

Still. I was furious and I contemplated starting over. I didn’t want to do that, though, so I unhappily accepted my fate and went on with the game. It really soured my experience, even though I knew it was part of the FromSoft brand. Byzantine NPC questlines that can be easily fucked up, I mean. Of course, I bounced back and finished the playthrough (and dozens more), but it taught me that you can’t have a pure playthrough and do all the questlines at the same time.

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Forever a weirdo

I am a weirdo in almost every facet of my life. I don’t drink at all and I don’t want to be around other people who drink. For the most part. Most people vastly underestimate how drinking affects them, and it’s not pleasant to witness. It doesn’t help that because I am empathic, I absorb people’s emotions–especially the negative ones. People are much less able to hide or mask their emotions when they are drunk, which doesn’t help matters.

In addition, I don’t like any of the pop culture that other people like. I saw the Red Wedding episode of GoT and HATED it. Not just because of the brutality of the episode (especially the killing of the dire wolf), but because it just seemed…torture porn-y is the best way to put it. When I watch something that is gritty and realistic, my body doesn’t distinguish it as being made-up. Therefore, I have the same reactions I’d have if it was real. That’s a me-thing, but it’s one of the reasons I don’t like movies/TV.

It’s relevant in talking about games I like because I was watching the Summer Game Fest, and I was bored out of my mind. Granted, I was waiting for the Elden Ring DLC that never came, but it wasn’t as if I was really hyped for the event. I don’t get hyped about much of anything in the first place because that way lies madness. Geoff tried to keep expectations down by saying there wasn’t going to be any surprises this year (not like last year and Elden Ring).

Which, fine. No surprises. Whatever. But everything was tepid. Even things I was mildly interested it bored me. The vampire game was one I had an eye, but it didn’t really do anything for me. Same with most of the rest of the trailers. And it held true for the individual company conferences as well.

There was one game that intrigued me–it was called Pentiment by Obsidian Entertainment and came out of left field. Nobody knew it was coming, and it has a distinctive art style that just grabs you. It’s a medieval murder mystery that is very charming-looking. Do I get exactly what is going on? Hell, no! Am I going to download it on Game Pass Day One? Hell, yes! This was in the Xbox/Bethesda showcase.

Other than that, though, there was nothing that caught my interest. There were so many Dead Space rip-offs, I lost count. I don’t care about sci-fi or horror, so it’s a double no, dawg, for me. Plus the multi games. Don’t care about those a lick, either.

I know it’s not for me, so I don’t get too riled up about it. Nothing is for me. That’s what I’ve learned in my 51 years here on earth. I am not the target demo for anything, and while that can be frustrating at times, it’s also freeing. I don’t expect to like anything, so I’m pleasantly surprised when I actually DO like something.

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Elden Ring odds and ends and the nature of spoilers

Before Elden Ring came out, there was a discussion on various sites about spoilers. What is one and what isn’t. Most sites came down to, “You have to know what is a spoiler for you” about which I agree. However. I find it humorous, specifically in terms of FromSoft games that many games sites don’t consider anything shown in the CNT to be a spoiler.

I get it. The games are so dense and crammed with things to do. The idea that anything in the first ten hours is spoilery seems a bit precious. But to say that nothing in the first two areas should be deemed spoilers is doesn’t sit well with me.

There was a mini-kerfuffle about a Game Informer video, featuring Dan Tack, their resident Souls guy (well, at least he was. He’s since left to work for Bandai Namco). I’ve included it in this post. GI was chosen as the official, uh, games site? Cover story? Something like that for Elden Ring. They were given a lot of information that other sites didn’t get.

I had no issue with that. My M.O. for deciding what I wanted to see was that I watched all the trailers. I watched journalists play the closed beta and the CNT. That was in the first area only and I made my peace with knowing things from that area. Even with that, they were carefully penned into certain areas. It wasn’t as if they could truly roam everywhere; you could see the fog walls where they couldn’t go.

When the aforementioned Game Informer article came out, I watched the first ten minutes before quietly shutting it down. He was showing then-never-seen-before footage of Castle Morne and the Academy of Raya Lucaria. I don’t think I even got to that point before nope-ing out of the video.

Here’s my line when it comes to spoilers. I will watch official trailers. I was fine with the CNT and the hoopla surrounding that. Anything other than that, no. When Elden Ring came out, my fave channels did let’s plays of it, of course. And they all said there were no story spoilers, meaning they went and explored the worlds without going into the legacy dungeons.

I was not fine with that because one of the joys in a From game is exploring the worlds. In the past, I didn’t even watch the trailers because they like to stuff them full of bosses. Ian argues that you can’t tell what’s going on with the bosses from the trailers, which is fair. My argument was that I didn’t even want to know they existed. Which I also think is fair.

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Living a post-Elden Ring life

It’s been a few days since I got the plat, and I’m still playing Elden Ring on the daily. But much less time every day than before, which is allowing me more time to think about it.

First, a note. I am really tired in a way I haven’t been since…that night. Or rather, that’s what I immediately thought of. It’s not the same kind of tired (it’s not a body exhaustion as it had been that night–it’s more I struggle to keep my eyes open even though I had plenty of sleep last night). I’m much more aware of being tired since that night, but it’s hardly been an issue. I have my phone on the coffee table right by me.

Anyway, it’s much more enjoyable in Elden Ring now that I’m done with the plat. That fifteen hours of the third playthrough was exhilarating because I had a laser-like focus on my goal for once. My first playthrough was magical because I just did what I wanted, when I wanted, for as long as I wanted. I didn’t even get to Stormveil Castle (the first legacy dungeon) for ten hours. There is so much to do in Limgrave, that you can just wonder around forever. Plus, it’s not intuitive how to actually get into the castle, so there’s that as well.

I still am not exactly sure how you got to the Roundtable in the first place, but the wikis seem to think it has to do with Margit? I had a good laugh at watching several videos state confidently how to get to the Roundtable Hold when I knew they were wrong. The first playthrough I didn’t get to the Roundtable Hold until I faced Margit for the first time. And, as I mentioned, I did not even reach Stormveil Castle until ten hours in, that was a problem.

Why? Because I started as the Confessor, which is faith-based. It starts with two defensive incantations–one that muffles your footsteps a little and one a small heal. The latter was useful, the former–not so much. I did not have any offensive spell for the first ten hours of the game–which made it agony. I did buy a bow from one of the Nomadic Merchants, but that’s not my preferred distance attack.

The faith teacher was in the Roundtable Hold. Once I got there, I was able to buy a few Pyro incantations that made life much easier. But, another issue was that if you did not start as an Astrologer or Prisoner, you could not buy a staff/wand for casting spells very easily. I even Googled it and could not find where to buy one. I had to go fight a certain enemy to get a staff, and she wasn’t easy to get to. later, I did find out from my wanderings that there is one Nomadic Merchant at least who sells the Astrologer’s Staff, but I did not know that at the time. Plus, you still have to go into a certain area that is not the beginning area to find him.

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Platting Elden Ring and beyond

With the Elden Ring plat in my back pocket, I still have more to say. Here is part one, and here is part two. This is part three, and it’s probably the last post I’ll do on the plat itself. Obviously, I’m going to keep talking about the game, but there is only so much to say about the platinum.

I will say that I feel a sense of letdown that I always feel after meeting a big goal. I think that’s human nature, though. This is different than a life goal for several reasons, not least because the only reason it took this long was a save-scumming snafu. So, in my heart, I already had it when I finished my first playthrough. I started a second just to have fun playing a different character, and then I raced for the finish in NG+.

By the time I reached the end of my second playthrough, I was ready for the plat to be done. I had some things I wanted to do before going into NG+ for the first time, but suddenly, I needed to get through NG+ and get the damn plat already. It’s funny, but it’s indicative of my personality in general. I can put up with a lot of shit, but then, when it nears the end of the situation, I cannot wait for it to be over.

Not that this was a bad situation, obviously, but a similar experience. I knew I had to play through the game two more times in order to get the plat. This after a 225+ hour first playthrough. I patiently explored a second time with a different character (because I’m saving my first character in NG for the inevitable DLC), and got my second ending in just under another hundred hours.

I spent half an hour doing things to prep for NG+, but not even halfway through, I said fuck it and went into NG+. I wanted that plat, and I wanted it now. I cannot emphasize hard enough how over the plat run I was. I don’t know why it kicked into gear when I hadn’t thought about it at all during the second playthrough (except to make sure the ending I chose for that playthrough was set up properly), but I suddenly could not get to the plat soon enough.

By the way. this is probably only humorous for me, but I didn’t get the vanilla ending until the third time through the main story. Normally, I play through the game and get whatever ending would be the typical ending. However, this time, with the plat in mind and the fact that Ranni’s questline took me roughly forty hours, I grabbed her ending first in case the save-scumming failed (which it did) so I wouldn’t have to go through her questline again if I didn’t feel like it. Her questline is easily the lengthiest.

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Elden Ring plat for realz, part II

Part two of my musing over the Elden Ring plat. Here’s part one. I ended that one by talking about how I’m not a min-maxer and I mostly just go by feel. I know there are people who live for that and I thank them for their diligence because I can check out the stats on the wikis in a pinch. But for me, I’d rather just play and maybe do suboptimal damage, but not caring because it’s fun. With that said, let’s continue my recitation of the plat run.

There was a boss I had discounted as an actual boss in the march towards the finish. It’s Gideon Ofnir, who was a piece of cake in both NG playthroughs. I got him on the first try the first time and the second try the second time (and it only took two because he has a blast effect that can insta-kill me). I had no reason to think it’d be much different on try three, but it was. In part because I could not summon my Mimic Tear for whatever reason the first time I tried. So I went solo a few more times and got slaughtered. He has all the magicks at his fingertips (though, fun fact, he can only use specific boss magicks if you tell him about them back at the Roundtable Hold), and he can spam them over and over and over again. He has no FP restrictions nor any stamina bar,  apparently. And you can’t summon for him. At least I don’t think you can.

I was getting nervous. Until I tried out Wolf’s Assault on him after summoning my Mimic Tear. I just spammed Wolf’s Assault over and over again, and he could not do a damn thing. This was on the fifth or so try, and I got him easy-peasy. One of those times, I feel like he summoned a big version of himself, but I’m not sure that actually happened or it’s just my brain.

Godfrey/Horah Loux/big lion was up next. I didn’t have a problem with him in my first playthrough and got him in two with my Mimic Tear. I had more of a problem with him in my second playthrough, but still got him in three or four with summons. NG+ was harder. His stamp that goes across the whole arena got me almost every time. It was irritating as fuck, but it still only took five or so times with summons.

Then, it was time for the final boss. Radagon of the Golden Order and the Elden Beast. I was nervous because the first time I fought them, I did the cheese on the Radagon part of the fight before knuckling down and beating the Elden Beast with the Mimic Tear by my side. Then, I got a summon on my second playthrough who did the work. I actually summoned two people, but one died during the Radagon portion of the fight.

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