Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Fun

The end of Dark Souls Remastered…for now. What next?

So while I was romping through Dark Souls Remastered NG+, I decided to take a break and try a few games I purchased on gog.com. It was right after e3, and I had been catching up on the stuff I missed. I saw the trailer for Beyond Good & Evil 2, and I decided I wanted to try the first game (Beyond Good & Evil) because I’d heard such good things about it. I went to gog to check out how much it was there, and it was on steep sale. I also bought Chuchel because I had seen Ian play some of it, and it was really cute. I joked with Ian that my feeling about BG&E would probably be, “I wished I had played this game twenty years ago (even though it was released fifteen years ago) because while I like the concepts, I can’t deal with the jank.” I also liked that Jade, the protagonist, looks Asian. Hey,  I take my representation where I can find it. One of the reasons I got so into Torchlight as my first hardcore game was because the character I chose looked Asian, and she was fucking badass. By the way, there has been much made about why BG&E failed so spectacularly when it was released, and I really think the fact that the protagonist was female was part of it, but that’s another post for another day.

Anyway, I played about an hour of BG&E, and it was very much as I thought it would be. I really liked the idea, and I adored Jade with her bright green lipstick, but I couldn’t deal with the…not jank because it ran fairly well…but the controls (the camera, man. Oh, the camera) and the aged gameplay. No place to see what the controls were, no way to change the controls (that I could find), imprecise camera controls, etc. In addition, the combat was just bad and the tutorial was horrid. I couldn’t figure out what key I should use to eat the food, and I actually had to look it up on Google. Which, by the way, I couldn’t do while I was playing because I couldn’t Alt+Tab out of the game.

One of the first things I had to do was take pictures of the animals in my immediate area. Seriously, game? This is what you want me to do? The camera controls sucked, and they were very finicky about what constituted a good picture. In addition, they didn’t explain to me that my companion spiky fur polar bear (which is how I thought of him) was wildlife, so I wasted several minutes wandering around trying to find the last animal I needed to take a picture of before moving on. Once I finished that quest, I wandered around to find the next bit, and after several minutes of this, I was done.

I’ve written before how having not grown up gaming makes it difficult for me to go back to old games because I don’t have the nostalgia for them. I played Pitfall as a kid and Ms. Pac-Man as a teen, but that’s pretty much my experience with hardcore gaming in my youth. Wait. I played Time Crisis (the first, I think) in an arcade because I was with my then-boyfriend and bored out of my mind. I was pretty disdainful about vidya games, and he urged me to try one. I resisted for a bit, but then I gave in because we were already there. I put a quarter into the Time Crisis machine, and I was instantly hooked. I kept pumping quarters into the machine, hooked on the response-reward loop. My boyfriend wandered over after some time to ask how I was doing, and I told him to shut up and get me more quarters. I finished the game in one go, and then I didn’t touch another game again for decades.

Those instances notwithstanding, I didn’t play video games, so when all the reboots started happening, I didn’t have the same pull towards them as people who’ve played those games in their childhood probably had. It’s the same with all those retro-looking games–they just don’t have the same appeal to me as they do for people who were gaming back in the 80s. There was a time where everything was crunchy pixel art in a nod to early gaming, and I could not get into it at all. I didn’t get the appeal, and I just accepted it was yet another thing I would never be a part of.

I gave up on BG&E after an hour. While I could see why it was so revered, I couldn’t play it. I’ll wait for BG&E and hope it’s as good if not better than the first one.


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Obsessed with Dark Souls (Remastered and III)

no way i'll have to kill him later.
My pyro pal, Laurentius of the Great Swamp!

Hi, my name is Minna, and I’m addicted to Dark Souls games.

Hi, Minna!

I’ve been addicted to Souls game for….three years now? Maybe four? But I can stop at any time. I can!

Let it all out, Minna. We’ve all been there.

Currently, I’m mostly playing Dark Souls Remastered because it just came out, and it’s been so much fun to return to my Dark Souls roots. I will say, if you have the Prepare to Try edition on PC (which includes the Artorias of the Abyss DLC) and are running it with dsfix, which, of course you would because there is no way to play it otherwise with the stuttering and other problems, there’s not really a reason to get the remaster. I am not a huge graphics person and from what I read from those who had a pre-release (read, reviewers and maybe certain YouTubers), there wasn’t much that popped in the remaster. I will say the sparklies added are really nice, though. Like, when you die, the white dust is brighter. When you get souls, it’s crisper. The white fogs are also more lively. I dig the enhancements and the extra noises.

What I don’t dig is something that isn’t in control of Namco Bandai Namco (the publishers. Bandai Namco more precisely, but they used to be Namco Bandai)–the hackers. They released the Steam edition early, and within hours, some asshole hacked in and was streaming himself invading players in the Undead Burg, dropping loot for them that got them soft-banned. In my first playthrough, I went human to summon for the Bell Gargoyles and Capra Demon just for fun, but then regretted it because it was so trivially easy. Of course I got invaded because tons of people were playing, and I contemplated starting over because I felt bad about cheesing the gargs and Capra (yes, I’m that person now), but I continued merrily on. I went to see Andre to upgrade my weapons and, what? He was dead?!? How the hell???

I quickly Googled it and on Steam, there was a user warning that this happened in his game after he was invaded. Yup, you got it–another hacker. I was livid. My hands were shaking. Andre is a very important blacksmith in the game and losing him that early was devastating. It reminded me when I played the first time and aggro’ed him by accidentally swinging at him instead of talking to him. Any time I returned, he would immediately try to kill me, and I Googled what to do. Most people advised starting over, but no way in hell I was going to do that. I finally got enough souls to absolve my sins so he wasn’t mad at me any longer, but I learned my lesson.

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A little bit of this, and a whole lotta that

hello, beautiful!
Oh, what’s this? I’ve Forgotten.

I’ve been at loose ends in the world of video games, so I’ve mostly been comfort gaming. Well, kinda. I discovered that there was a booster pack for Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ which included a new character.

*Spoilers*

It’s name is The Forgotten, and of course, users data-mined it so they figured out how you unlock the character. Edmund McMillen, the developer, tweeted out his disappointment as he did the last time this happened, saying just enjoy the game and follow the hints. My dude. Be realistic. I understand from his point of view how unhappy it would make you if you spent hundreds of hours planning the unlock, only to have people cheat their way to it, but from a user standpoint, it’s completely understandable. Most people at the point of unlocking new characters have put countless hours into the game. Doing repeated runs simply to glean clues as to how to unlock a character isn’t fun, especially when the clues are so esoteric and random. Wanna know how you unlock The Lost? Grab a mug of tea and a comfy chair, and I’ll tell you how.

First, you have to take the Mysterious Paper into the Sacrifice Room  and die with it as a trinket four times. It’ll fill in each corner with a picture of a death, and then you have to do those deaths in order without dying in between. First, you die as Isaac to a Mulliboom on one of the first two floors (Basement/Cellar). Then, die as Maggie to your own bomb in the Caves/Catacombs. Then, die as Judas to Mom’s foot or hand. Lastly, die as Azazel to Satan, but only to him himself, which is the second phase. There’s another way to unlock it, but that’s more random.

This actually wasn’t that difficult to do, but no way in hell I would have figured out how to unlock The Lost. Now, here’s how you unlock The Forgotten. Beat the first boss in under a minute. Bomb the spawn room on the first floor. Pick up the item dropped (Broken Shovel) and carry it with you through the rest of the game. What does the Broken Shovel do? It allows Mom’s foot (or two) to randomly stomp around your character for. the. entire. game. Well, OK, not the entire game, but we’ll get to that in a second.

Can I tell you how much I fucking hate Mom’s foot? There’s a trinket that has this effect randomly, and I never pick it up. Having to deal with it the whole time I’m trying to, you know, win the game, is off-the-charts terrible. This is by far the worst unlock and one of the worst things in the game (trying to finish The Keeper’s post-it note is arguably worse. The Lost is fine since I now start with the Holy Mantle with this character), and I seriously thought I might not be able to do it*.

So, of course, I had to play as Azazel because he flies, he starts with mini-Brim, and he has more damage and speed from the start. In other words, why wouldn’t you start with Azazel? I have to say, I tried to unlock the character organically a few times, but no way in hell I would have figured it out, and after watching NL unlock The Forgotten, I’m glad I didn’t waste more time trying to do it myself. Beating the first boss under a minute is not something I ever would have thought of. Oh, also, if you beat the first boss in under a minute, you hear Mom laugh and then scuttle away. That’s your first hint.

Anyway, Broken Shovel’s active is you get a reprieve from the feet for the room. It has a four-room charge, and I was bumping it every chance I had–especially on the bosses. Oh, also, fighting Mom, the effect doesn’t happen. I suppose it’s because it would be too confusing as that’s the effect of the fight in general, but it would just mean avoiding two to three feet instead of one. So, a sliver of reprieve from the constant agony.

Then, you have to beat boss rush to get the other half of the shovel. You normally have to make it to boss rush in under twenty minutes. For this run, they turned off the time restriction, thankfully. Also, they make it so you have to go to boss rush, and you can only take the Negative because you have to go to the Dark Room. Once you get the second half of the Broken Shovel, it becomes the regular Shovel, but keeps the four-room charge instead of six (I think). The foot thing stops, thankfully, and you have a choice to make. You can either proceed as you normally would, or you can use the shovel to skip the womb levels. You can’t skip Shoal, so you have to do that and the Dark Room, but you only have to do the Dark Room until you find a room with a crumbly square of ground in the middle of it. Then you use the shovel on it and dig up The Forgotten.

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When something I love doesn’t love me back

I recently tried out Dead Cells again because why not? I loved the game and put countless hours into it; I wanted to see if my waning enthusiasm could perk up. Plus, it was going to be released soon (it’s still in Early Access), so I thought maybe there was another update. There was. What have I noticed so far? One, the name of the bosses have changed. There are four that I know of, including the final one, and here are the name changes. Spoilers and all that. The Incomplete One is now The Concierge. The Watcher is now Conjoctivius. The Assassin is The Time Keeper, which makes sense given where she is. The Hand of the King is…wait. I think this one is actually the same. Don’t quite remember as I was too busy trying to not be killed by him. The Time Keeper is still easy as cake for me as long as I have ice weapons/grenades. Conjoctivius still sucks, but I killed her the one time I fought her (though I’m still not quite sure how as I was positive she killed me), and The Hand of the King still fucking sucks.

There’s another adorable gremlin guy who lets you modify your weapons for a set amount of gold. The leveling up the weapons system has changed so that instead of leveling up certain weapons, you level up each tier of weapon that applies across the board. These are good updates, and the fact that you have to spend souls, er, cells in order to attain the tier level upgrades means that cells actually matter again.

There are different room patterns and enemy placements (it’s RNG to a certain extent, but there are certain patterns you can recognize), which was frustrating. I went the vanilla path for a few times just to get my feet under me. When I veered from that, I got killed. I gotta say, one of my frustrations about the alternate paths is that they’re so fucking difficult. I know it’s because you get better shit on the alternate paths, but better shit doesn’t matter when you’re dead. I went to the Ossuary which is an alternate path for the third section, and it wrecked my ass. It feels so RNG-dependent. If I get ice grenades or an ice bow early on, then I can do the alternate path. If I don’t, then I can’t.

I noticed a new secret in the Ramparts that I won’t be able to figure out without looking it up (similar to the one in the Promenade of the Condemned), and instead of exciting me, I just heaved a sigh and shrugged my shoulders. I know I’m not going to figure it out, and more importantly, I don’t want to figure it out. Let me make the first (but not last) comparison to Dark Souls. When I find a secret in Souls, I’m hyped and excited. Even if I can’t figure it out (which I usually can’t), it’s still a thrill. Here, it feels like a burden. “Oh, great. One more thing I have to do. Swell.” I actually felt that way in DS III during the last DLC (and during all of the DLCs for DS II), and it’s become a sign to me of when the joy has been sapped out of a game, and I’ve lost my will to live.

I played half a dozen runs or so of Dead Cells, met The Hand of the King three times, and promptly died to him every time. I got him down to half one time, but that was it. I was doing no damage to him, and while he wasn’t quite as hard as in the previous build, I didn’t feel as if I wanted to take the time to learn him. I *think* I could, but I don’t want to. Again, it’s a mark of my engagement with the game that I don’t want to for reasons I’ve mentioned before. One, it takes an hour just to get to him. Two, his HP pool is ridiculous. Three, the castle is still ridiculous.

I uninstalled it again after a few runs because I just couldn’t be stuffed again. I’ll give it another look after it releases for real, but I have a hunch I won’t be spending too much time with it. It’s like Nuclear Throne in that while I really really want to love the game, it simply won’t allow me to. I’ve hit a hard wall, and I don’t want to struggle to scale it. I’ve talked before about walls so I won’t belabor the point. However, to briefly recap, there are different levels of walls. One is the ‘I just hit this hard thing’ wall. In Dark Souls, it’s the Asylum Demon for those of us who have never played a hardcore game or very few and sucked hard during a first playthrough. The first time you see the guy, you’re like, “Aw, hell no. What the fuck am I going to do against this monstrosity?” Especially as the first time you see him, you don’t have a real weapon. Once you figure him out, though, he’s cake. He’s big and lumbering and slow. He telegraphs his movements so even I can see them a mile away. Then, you can adhere to the age-old DS advice of SMACK DAT ASS, YO! These days, if the Asylum Demon even hits me, I’m embarrassed. Not saying he doesn’t, but it shouldn’t be happening. He did kill me once the first time I met him in NG+, which I still blush to admit. But, normally, he’s no harder than a regular enemy–just a few more hits than others take.


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I’m all about that Souls, that Souls, that Dark Souls

a worthy foe.
I bow to you, Sir Alonne.

Last we checked in with our erstwhile heroine, she was triumphant over her defeat of Sinh, the Slumbering Dragon, who slumbers no more, yo! She had thoroughly trounced the Ivory King with the help of her four Loyce Knights, and she only had one goal left in the DLCs*: beat Sir Alonne solo. Shocked and surprised that it wasn’t the Fume Knight? By the way, the nugget that he goes berserk if you dress up as Velstadt was interesting to me, so I tried it. I cosplayed as Velstadt, and, indeed, Raime lost it when I stepped through the fog door. He forewent the first part of the fight completely and jumped straight to, “MURDER THE ASSHOLE NOW!”, which means he only uses the Fume Sword and not the smaller sword. Funny note: It works if you’re only wearing Velstadt’s helm and not the full armor as well, but I can’t tell you if it’s the same if you only wear the gauntlets, chest, or legs.

Anyway, no. I beat Raime with my first tank character, even though it wasn’t easy. I remember blood, sweat, and liberal cursing for that fight, and while I tried him a few times solo this time around (and did decent damage. It’s just the slow, sweeping sword movement that got me every time), I eventually beat him with summons. I think it was the two NPCs, but it might have been with one NPC and one human. Might I say it’s so cool that these games are still being played? Not so cool was being invaded, but, yeah, I know it’s part of the game. A beloved part for many Souls players, so I begrudgingly accept it.

Sir Alonne owned my ass every time we met. I have difficulty with the quick human enemies, and he was no exemption to this. In addition, the area leading up to him is fairly brutal, and there’s a time limit to it as well–an interesting mechanic, and I was burned by it once or twice in the past. This time, I was resigned to spending two or three hours on him because I was going to beat him solo no matter what. I dug in deep and stomped my way to his fog gate with relatively little difficulty. I had to laugh, too, because one of the Let’s Players I watch (Super Best Friends, Woolie on the sticks for DS II, Pat ‘helping’, and I’m talking about Pat) was ranting about how he was grinding for the Blacksteel Katana, which the Alonne Knights in the Iron Keep drop, but rarely. The problem is, the enemies permanently disappear after 15 deaths (I think it’s 15), which means if you don’t get that drop by the fifteenth death, you don’t get it at all. I hated this addition to the formula, as did most Souls players. I understand why it was added, but enemies respawning is one of the mainstays of Soulsborne games.

Anyhoo, Pat was ranting about trying to grind for two of the Blacksteel Katana for hours and while he got one fairly early on, he didn’t get the other. The area was depopulated, so he couldn’t get the second one.  What he apparently didn’t know/figure out was that the Alonne Knights in this area drop the Blacksteel Katana as well. In my first run, I got two from the knights themselves, and there’s one in the bottom area–which apparently Pat didn’t explore/didn’t remember. I cracked myself up over the idea of tweeting him to taunt him about my incredible luck, but I kept that to myself.

I took a deep breath and walked through the fog gate. I was pretty sure casting against Sir Alonne wasn’t the way to go, so I had the weapon buffs magicks, but no pyromancies. Also, this area is made of lava, so I knew my pyro techniques wouldn’t work very well. We started battling, and I was astonished that it wasn’t nearly as hard as I remembered. He wasn’t doing as much damage (probably a better load out, more suited to his agility), and I was dodging him better than I ever had. I think it’s probably because of my time with Bloodborne that my dodging has gotten better over all, and halfway through the fight, I allowed myself to think I had a chance. He didn’t do his charge-up attack for whatever reason, and I actually killed him on my first try! I couldn’t believe it, and I allowed myself to feel proud for a full minute as I looked around the room.

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Dark Souls II revisited (but not remastered): The good, the bad, the ugly

the harder they are deaded!
The bigger they are….

I recently finished Scholars of the First Sin (SotFS, the remixed version of DS II, which apparently is much better and harder than the original–which I never played) and the DLC* for the umpteenth time, and I have more feelings about it that I need to share. Standard disclaimer: DS II is the hated uncle of the Soulsborne family. Many Souls fans rage against it and like to pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s very divisive within the community with some absolutely loathing it. Me, I’m more on the positive side. I’ve said time and time again that I think it’s a really good game, even if it’s not the best Souls game. I’ve also said that while Dark Souls is the best of the games (yes, including Bloodborne), it’s the one I’ve replayed the least (except for BB), including SotFS.

During this playthrough, I decided to be a pyromancer/strength character. First time through, I play pyro if I can, caster if I can’t. Huh. Come to think of it, it’s one of the reasons I don’t care as much for Bloodborne. Yes, there is arcane, but magic/casting really isn’t viable in that game. Yes, you can do gun stuff, but I’m not crazy about guns. In fact, in my arcane build (note: I do NOT recommend you do an arcane build your first time through. I’m a stubborn bitch and that’s how I roll, but, yeah, no. FromSoft games are known to be melee-focused, and none more so than this one), I substituted the gun parry with an Augur of Ebrietas parry, which was loads of fun. Anyway, you can’t start as a pyro in DS II. When the classes were revealed, I was so disappointed there was no pyro. You get the Pyromancy Flame fairly early in the game, but it still pissed me off. In addition, your Pyro trainers–both!–are petrified, which means you have to release them from their stone prisons with a Fragrant Branch of Yore. You get plenty in the latter game, but they’re precious few in the beginning, and you have to make hard decisions. Usually, it means putting off un-petrifying the better trainer for a bit, which is irritating as a pyro. In addition, one–Rosabeth of Melfia–blocks the way to a whole new and important area while the other–Straid of Olaphis (the better trainer)–blocks a bonfire and is in a room with five exploding zombies.

One of my biggest beefs about SotFS is that they don’t honor the safe room rule. If you have a bonfire or a vendor, the area around it/them should be safe. There should not be enemies, and you shouldn’t have to worry about getting killed or your vendor getting killed while you’re interacting in these areas. In this game, there are several instances where this isn’t true. The scene I described above is one. There’s another vendor, Weaponsmith Ornifex who is in a similar situation. She’s in a room that has enemies firing right outside, and I worry she’ll get hit with a Homing Soul Area or some such. I’ve had spiders follow me into the room, and I have to kill them while being careful not to hit Ornifex. With Straid, I just snipe the zombies with Magic/Dark, but it’s still irritating and annoying to have to do it every time.

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There can only be one (The Great British Bake Off)

I loved The Great British Bake Off (before the fuck up with the presenters. Haven’t watched since Mel and Sue quit) and watched all the series compulsively. It was quite different from most reality shows in that it didn’t seem exploitative or try to wring emotions out of the contestants. I learned why that is. Early in the series, the producers were trying to do that shit, and Mel and Sue said they would quit if it kept going in that direction. In addition, if someone was crying, they would cover the person with a coat or swear near them so the footage was unusable. Finding that out made my admiration of them double, and it only hardened my resolve not to watch the post-Mel and Sue (and Mary Berry) episodes.

I loved the chemistry between Mel and Sue and how sweetly goofy they were. I loved how much of a doyenne Mary Berry was, but how she was down for a swig of hooch or two. She was down to earth for the Queen of Baking, and who wouldn’t love to have a granny like her? As for Paul Hollywood. Yeah, I know he’s an arrogant, narcissistic, and a dog, but those blue eyes….Ahem. I loved the low-key nature of the bakes, the non-hatred among the contestants, and the mostly bonhomie feel that permeated the series.

I loved the amazing creations and how terribly wrong it all went sometimes. I didn’t always love the judging decisions, especially in the first season when it was clear that Paul Hollywood imposed his viewpoint on Mary Berry, but I thought they were pretty sound overall. I loved the imagination and creativity that the contestants displayed. I loved that there seemed to be a genuine connection among the contestants. I loved that they went to different parts of Great Britain in the first season and did bakes from those locales.

I. Loved. It. All.


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My love/hate relationship with Dead Cells and other ‘hard’ games: Part two

 

my favorite npc!
My mutatation buddy is done for the day.

I wrote last week that I was coming up to the final wall with Dead Cells, and now I have hit it. I speculated it would be the Castle, and I was correct. More specifically, the final boss, The Hand of the King. He’s a pain in my ass, and I have not beaten him once. At my most OP, I had something like -75% damage taken, ice grenades (which, by the way, are pretty useless against him because of his fucking shield that he can pull out in a second), damage up the wazoo, a nice and fat health bar, etc., and…I got him down to a quarter maybe a fifth of his life left before he killed me. I don’t think I could have stacked myself any better, and I still couldn’t beat him. I tried a completely different load-out the next time I fought him (turret, damage boost, no ice), going all-damage, and got my ass handed to me.

It’s not fun to walk into the Throne Room and know I’m about to get my ass beat. Even walking through the Castle is a chore because of the hordes of enemies with beefy HP pools. Plus, you have to fight *spoilers* two out of three elite enemies in order to get the keys to go to the Throne Room, and every time they hit you, you get infected with some kind of poison. If you get hit five times, you instantly die. *sigh* I need my ice skills for the elites and other enemies of this area, but I have to hope that I can get something else from the shops for the final boss fight.

I’ve also reached the point where cells aren’t worth anything to me. I  know that the game changes radically once you beat the final boss (have gleaned that from the forums), and cells maybe aren’t as needed then. However, as I’ve stated, I have yet to beat the final boss, so I don’t have access to all this new content. There are a few blueprints I haven’t gotten yet, but they’re all dependent on being dropped at a very low rate (unless you use the Hunter’s Grenade, which guarantees you can extract the blueprint, but only after you fight the elite version, and it takes one skill slot), so grinding them is difficult. The ones I need are all in later dungeons, and there’s one dungeon in which losing a skill slot is unacceptable. My point about the cells is that I can play an entire run which is roughly an hour and not get anything for it. Part of the fun in a rogue-like is unlocking skills and getting new shit. Once that isn’t in play, the excitement factor zooms to zero.

Right before I uninstalled the game, I realized that the loop wasn’t fun any longer. I could breeze through the regular path to the first boss and one area beyond with no problems. I could go alternate paths and get better stuff, but then get my shit pushed in by the Watcher. Although, I’m getting much better at that boss. Then, I can go to the Graveyard, which I’ve only gone through a half dozen times, or to the Slumbering Sanctuary, which has a neat concept, but ultimately isn’t that interesting. I’ve mentioned before that I hate the Clock Tower, though with all ice skills, it’s much easier, and fuck the Forgotten Sepulchre.

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My love/hate relationship with Dead Cells and other ‘hard’ games: Part one

come. at. me. bro.
Cursed, but it was worth it for the ice bow!

I think I’m reaching the end of Dead Cells. Not because I hate it. Not because it’s a terrible game. But because I’m hitting the wall, and while I’ve hit walls before, this feels like the wall I cannot overcome without putting in way more hours into the game. Let me explain. I think most people are familiar with the concept of hitting the wall in which you just can’t get around an obstacle in front of you (be it physical or mental). In a video game, it’s usually a boss that you simply can’t beat. In a ‘hard’ game, it can be other things, such as level design, difficult enemies, or just simply dying over and over again for a variety of reasons.

Let’s take Dark Souls for example. And, yes, it’s my go-to when I want to talk about difficult games. It’s notorious for its difficult bosses, and I’m betting that the Bell Gargoyles were the first real gut check for most Souls players. Well, OK. Asylum Demon first. Then the Taurus Demon. But definitely the Bell Gargoyles! Hm. What was my point? Oh, yeah, this! The thing, though, is that many people didn’t even make it to the Bell Gargoyles for a variety of reasons. One of the things about the game is that after you beat the Asylum Demon (if you do), you’re taken to the Firelink Shrine. There are three paths you can take from there, and two of them are ridiculously hard. Now, some Souls fans will tell gush about how brilliant it is because the two paths are so hard, it points you in the right direction. Hard disagree from me. What’s the one thing you hear about Souls if you’re a gamer, even if you have no interest in it? That it’s fucking hard. FUCKING HARD. You just tried to beat a demon to death with your goddamn fists because you didn’t know you were supposed to run from him (so you can get your weapon and fight him properly later, and he’s still no joke in your first playthrough), so being attacked by ghosts you can’t kill* or skellies who can one-shot you doesn’t seem that outre.  Your idea of hard has already been busted, so especially without context (the third path being hard, but not insanely so), it’s easy to think you’re supposed to run through the area with the ghosts or the skellies and just deal with it.

The reason I’m saying this is that there are tons of legit reasons for people quitting Souls. I love the games, and I’ll recommend them ad nauseam, but I also realize they’re not for everyone. I had a friend who reached Firelink Shrine and saw a message in front of the Crestfallen Warrior to attack him, so she did. Which is a BAD idea. If you aggro an NPC in Dark Souls, they will be permanently aggro’ed unless you pay an exorbitant amount of money to get your sins absolved. I know this because I accidentally hit Andre while trying to talk to him (first time I used a controller, and the controls for Souls games are, at best, whimsical), and I had to pay something like fifteen-thousand souls to make him forget (it’s based on your level. 500 souls per level, so the higher level you are, the more you have to pay). I seriously considered starting the game again because Andre is essential, and that much money (souls) seemed exorbitant at the time. Anyway, my friend couldn’t use Firelink Shrine, which is your hub bonfire, because the Crestfallen Warrior was aggro’ed, and that made her quit. I completely understand that, and I do not blame her in the least.  Continue Reading

Dead Cells has its icy claws in me

a breath of respite!
Are we in Anor Londo?

About a year ago, I heard tell of an exciting Souls-like* game in Early Access called Dead Cells.  I watched a few Let’s Plays and Let’s Look Ats, and I was immediately intrigued. However, I am chary of Early Access, and I decided to wait.  Recently, it was on sale, and I was between games, so I snapped it up. I installed it, started it up, and I was hooked. The controls are intuitive (although, funny story. I went back to Dark Souls III to try a pure pyro strategy, well, close to a pure pyro, and I’ve been accidentally hitting NPCs because interact in RB in Dead Cells and A in Dark Souls III (on my Xbox One controller). Fortunately, you can hit NPCs once and not aggro them, but it’s pretty disconcerting), and soon, I was rolling, jabbing, and collecting my souls, er, cells, with the best of them.

So, speaking of souls, let’s talk about it being a Souls-like game. I’ve heard that quite a bit about Dead Cells, and I didn’t really see it when I first started playing. The more I played, though, I got the comparison. It’s funny to hear Lets Players talk about souls and Estus Flasks, and I agree it’s better to be deliberate in combat rather than just mashing buttons (though I panic-mash more often than I care to admit). However, I don’t think it’s so much that this game is Souls-like than it is that both are Metroidvanias. Sprawling levels to explore with locked off areas. Getting runes to acquire abilities to unlock said locked-off areas. In this case, permadeath, but with upgrades that you keep between runs.

When I start, I’m just a ball of goo that rolls across the floor until I reach an empty body. I inhabit the body, and then I’m ready to go. I start with a Rusty Sword, and I start wrecking fools. Or rather, they wreck me in the Prisoners’ Cells. There are random pickups on the ground, such as melee weapon (all kinds of swords), ranged weapons (bows, whips, etc.), shields, and skills (traps, grenades, meat grinder, etc.). There are also upgrades and gold balls you hit to break and scatter. There are secrets in the wall that are marked with a faint rune, and you hit them to open them. They usually contain some kind of gem (gold) or food (kebabs and chicken so far), which is a nice pick-me-up.

You can speed run through the area to try to make it to the timed door in the next area, but the time limit is really strict. To make the first timed door, you have to get there in under two minutes. I’ve done it a few times, but that means skipping most of the first area and not getting the upgrades. Behind the timed door is *spoilers* good loot such as one upgrade (strength, tactical, or skill, and each includes a health upgrade), several gems/gold/coins, a bunch of cells–oh! forgot to say that the cells are used for the permanent upgrades at the end of each level–and sometimes a blueprint for a new weapon/shield/skill. I don’t think it’s worth it, though, because you have to take the blueprint and cells to the end of the level in order to cash in on them, and I feel severely under-leveled if I don’t clear out the first area before proceeding. I’ve never made it to the other timed doors, and I don’t really care.

Let’s talk upgrading. After each level, you can talk to the Collector who’ll use your cells to make whatever you want (and if you have blueprints for it). When you first start the game, you don’t have any ability to heal. You can buy the Estus Flask from the collector for fairly cheap, and you get one gulp. Each upgrade is successively more expensive, and I’m up to three swigs. You have to spend all your souls–cells!–before moving onto the mutation guy, though I just found out that you can break that door down to save your cells. There’s a reason for doing this, which I’ll get to in a minute.

The adorable mutation guy lets you choose one mutation after each level. This can be as simple as more health, or as specific as an X amount of increase in damage for Y amount of seconds after killing an enemy. You can unlock more of these by spending your cells with the Collector. My favorite is Ygdar Orus Li Ox, which brings you back from death once, but you can only pick it up after the first level.  I guess it’s so you won’t choose it right before a boss fight, but so what if you do? It’s irritating that I have to carry it all the way through all the levels if I want it to actually help me during a boss fight.

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