Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Video Games

Breaking out of my comfort zone

life is sweet; life is good.
A typical street in Gozo.

I’m still recovering from my trip to Malta, and I want to talk more about it while weaving it with my travails in video gaming. Here’s my first post about Malta if you want some background into what I’m going to write here.

As longtime readers know, I have a very troubled relationship with sleep, fraught with tension, misery and pain. It’s slowly getting better over the past few years, and it’s reached the point where I can sleep up to six hours at one time.  I know you’re scratching your head and thinking, “What’s so great about that, Minna? I can do that every night!” Exactly, my friend. It’s something any person *should* be able to do, but let’s quickly recount my sleeping history.

Ever since I was a wee child, I’ve evaded sleep. My mom would put me to bed around eight or nine, and I’d stuff the towel under the door crack and read until midnight or later. Fast-forward to college my first year, and I was sleeping 3 1/2 hours a night. I couldn’t fall asleep until three or four in the morning, and I had a 7:45 a.m. class. Then, I’d go home for vacation and sleep 15 1/2 hours the first day while simultaneously catching a cold. In my twenties, 4 hours was my average. I stretched it to 5 in the next twenty years, and then with the help of taiji, I bumped it up to 6 – 6 1/2 hours.

Malta fucked with all that. I don’t think I slept more than three hours in one stretch, and I was so tired the whole time. Going in the ocean helped, but that only lasted as long as we were on the beach. Once we returned to the retreat center, I’d be hot, miserable, and tired again. There were a few moments of clarity as to how spoiled I am. How well-off Americans are in general, really.

It was interesting because I’m very aware of politics in America and how I’m a triple minority (Taiwanese, bi, female), fast becoming a fourth (old). I’m a person non grata, and I’ve resigned myself to my fate. My standard of living, however, is quite high in comparison to life on Malta. I’m not romanticizing when I say that life is much simpler on the island of Gozo. Well, maybe I am romanticizing it a bit, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that life is slower and a bit more easy-going on the islands than here in the US.

The other strange thing is how quiet it is in Gozo. In the States, there is a low-level hum that is as constant as it is ubiquitous. Even if there’s no other sound, the drone of all our electric shit surrounds us. In Gozo, there is none of that. When the people are quiet, all is quiet. It was one thing I really enjoyed about Malta. Honestly, if I had air, I would have found the quietness to be serene and peaceful.

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Finding a needle in a haystack

worship me!
Look at my dad hotness!

It’s been a over a month since I’ve played a Souls* game, and I’ve been adrift ever since. I don’t have any Souls game installed on my laptop, which is really strange as the three games have dominated my life for the past few years. There are other games I’ve played since, for example, Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator. I didn’t really feel it when I first played it, but it slowly grew on me. I made my dad a chubby awkward Asian guy with a scraggly beard, pierced ear, glasses, and death metal t-shirt. As I tweeted, I basically created me as a dude. I named him Morgan because that’s my favorite name, and it was off to the races! Let me meet the hot dads and find true love!

What did I love about this game? Right off the bat, I love the diversity. The dads were of all races, backgrounds, and body sizes. On the other hand, it was set in a suburban cul-de-sac, so there wasn’t much economic diversity, but I appreciated the conceit to keep all the dads in one area. I found the beginning slow-going. I moved to this cul-de-sac with my daughter, Amanda (my husband/her father had died at some point in the past), and we’re settling in. It’s very dialogue-driven, which is a bit tedious in the start. I went on a few dates, then put the game away, thinking I would never play it again.

I went back for whatever reason, and I really got into it. Yes, each of the dads was a specific stereotype, but there was some death to them as well. Except for the bad boy dad, but I probably shouldn’t have slept with him the first night I met (and drank) with him. Is he a dad for real? Hard to say because I never saw his kid. Robert, I think his name was, but who cares because he was just DTF. My favorite was Hugo, the high school English teacher who had a secret passion for WWE-like wrestling. He had delightfully-rumpled hair and dressed sharp, and we did trivia and cheese night at a local pub. He was hot, hot, hot, but…his son was a terror. Disrespectful, mouthy, and a budding vandal. I’ll just say it. I hated him.

In this game, if you go on a third date with a dad, it’s the real deal. It means you’re getting serious with him because isn’t that how it works in the real world? I didn’t want to get serious before I dated all the dads to the max, so I set about doing that. Yes, I dated them all twice (if you can call messaging Robert on Dadbook, yes, that’s what it’s called and not getting an answer a ‘date’), and let me tell you, it was fun. The mini-games were eye-rolling, but I liked the variety. Plus, there’s a sweetness to the game that I didn’t expect. It’s so full of heart, and I can’t hate on a game that just wants to spread the love.

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The Surge–put it in the done folder

making him feel it EXTRA.
Crucifixion never felt so good.

Ian and I sometimes talk about the way we game. He’s a Games Journalist™ now, but even before he had to play a million games a week, he had the tendency to dive into something for a bit, then move on to another game, rinse, lather, and repeat. I, on the other hand, will latch onto a game, then wring every ounce of content I can out of it and then some. ‘Coz I’m Taiwanese, and we’re a cheap people. I tend to have ‘my’ game, playing it obsessively until I finish the game. In this case, it’s The Surge. I wrote about the first half of it here.

Halfway through the game, I started getting sick of the game. Now, this is normal for me when I play a game, especially a Souls/Souls-like game. It’s the downside of ingesting a game until it bleeds out of my eyeballs. I clearly remember the first time I played the original Dark Souls. After the infamous duo, everything went rapidly downhill. I didn’t want to play the rest of the game. And, it’s pretty much accepted that the second half of the original Dark Souls doesn’t hold up to the first half, do not @me, Souls fans, because you know it’s fucking true. When I beat *spoilers* Gwyn, I chose to link the First Flame, and watched the credits roll, I didn’t feel jubilation, elation, or any other kind of positive -ation. I was relieved, and I was glad to see the backside of Dark Souls. I put it in the done folder, and I thought I was through with it forever. Ha! I will get to that more in a bit.

One thing I quite like about The Surge is that you had to go back to one early area–Central Production B–several times because doing later parts unlocked new areas. What I didn’t like is that it wasn’t always clear what I was meant to do when I finished an area. Yes, yes, I know esoteric and Souls go together like hand and glove, but usually in a Souls game, you at least know what you’re supposed to go. And, because it’s not exactly linear, sometimes you have several places you can go. Yes, there are areas that you can skip or not even know exist, but in general, all the places you NEED to go are fairly easy to spot. There is one major counter-example in Dark Souls II, but, again, not a Miyazaki* game. In The Surge, I had to check the wikis more than once after finishing a section because I had no idea where I was supposed to go next.

Here’s where we touch on the story. The story is…meh. The premise is serviceable.  You start on a train into CREO, a company dedicated to using technology for the betterment of the world. Yeah, like we have never heard that one before. Like it’s not the basis of a zillion sci-fi novels/movies/TV shows. Yes, there’s the board that even for all their good intentions, ultimately do more evil than good. They are positioned to be the big baddie, which they are in the metaphorical sense, if not the literal one. *mild spoiler* When the train stop, you get off the train, wait, what? I’m in a wheelchair, which is an interesting choice. Not being able to sprint is frustrating, which is a good thing. Here’s the thing, though. It’s just a shtick. The first thing you do after getting off the train is to roll to a place where you choose either ‘Lynx’ (dex) or ‘Rhino’ (tank), and then you have the mechanical pieces grafted onto your body. You’re supposed to be sedated, but it doesn’t take. As a result, you get thrown into the garbage heap, and you wake up to a drone trying to drag you somewhere. And, of course, you can walk. *unspoilered*

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First half of The Surge–otherwise known as Junkyard Souls

grind 'em up!
You didn’t need that arm, did you?

In the world of the Souls-like, I have tried many–oh, so many–with dismal results. Most of them lacked a certain something that makes Souls games addictive to me, though it was different with each game. Ironically, the ones that hewed the closest to Souls were the most disappointing because they made me want to be playing a new Souls game. I haven’t finished most of those games. The one exception to that was Salt & Sanctuary, which I thought was a solid game as a caster, but a shite one as a melee character. I also promptly forgot much of it once I beat it, but that’s neither here nor there. Then, there was a Souls-like I really adored, Hollow Knight, that I just sucked at and knew I wouldn’t be able to finish. I still think it’s a great game, and I love the protagonist.

Anyhoo, one of the more slavish Souls-like games was Lords of the Fallen, made by Deck 13 Interactive. It made no bones about the game being a love letter to Dark Souls, and almost everything they did could be mapped onto something in Souls. It should have been my jam, except it wasn’t because one, the magic was shite (at least in the few hours I played). Two, they mistook careful combat for everything being suuuuuuuper slow. Three, the one thing they added is a timer for getting back your Souls (whatever they were called) when you die, and I hated that. A lot. I tried Lords of the Fallen twice, and quit within a few hours the second time because it just wasn’t very good.

Fast-forward to 2017. Deck 13’s next Souls-like game came out, called The Surge. Lords of the Fallen was called Clunky Souls, which was more than apt. The Surge is Junkyard Souls, though they prefer to say it’s Sci-fi Souls. I watched a bit of YouTubers and reviewers when they played it, and it was immediately much more intriguing than Lords of the Fallen, even though I’m not into sci-fi. At all. I’m way into fantasy, but LotF was so generic, it might as well have not been fantasy at all.

I knew when I saw The Surge that I would try it out. I’ve given most Souls-likes a go, and this one had enough going for it that I wanted to at least give it a shot. I also knew I would wait until it went on sale because I wasn’t paying forty bucks for it. The Steam Summer Sale started last week, and both The Surge and Prey (for some reason, they are the same game to me in my mind) were on steep sale, and both had free demos. I installed both, and before I tell you about The Surge, let me tell you about my experience with the Prey demo.

I fired it up and was immediately nauseated. It’s first-person, and I have severe motion sickness. I fiddled with the FOV, and when I tried to go back to the game, it crashed. When I tried to restart, I couldn’t use my controller. Third time, I was able to get it running, but I was still nauseated. I messed with the FOV for a few more minutes, but nothing seemed to work. I went to the Googles, and the Steam forum informed me that it’s a motion blur problem, and that you have to go into the files to fix it because it’s not an option in-game. Which is infuriating because motion blur, apparently, is to make console game players forget that the game is only 30 fps and not 60 fps, like PCs. Ahem.

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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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