Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Video Games

Leaving the Hades life

Am I going to talk about Hades. Yes. Am I going to gush about how great the game is? Kinda. Am I going to talk about what a thirst-trap the game is? Yup! Am I going to talk about the lore? Hell, yeah! Am I going to keep asking rhetorical questions? Nope!

SuperGiant Games have absolutely hit it out of the park with this game. It’s fucking brilliant and it’s replaced Binding of Isaac as my go-to for a daily roguelike run. It has quite a ways to go before I put in anything close to the amount of time I put into BoI. I’m actually surprised by how little (relatively) time I’ve put into Hades given how much I feel like I’m playing it.

I’ve mentioned before that I never got into any of the prior SuperGiant Games. They’re all really great graphically and game-wise, but none of them clicked with me. I *really* wanted to like Transistor because I loved the mood, the graphics, and everything about the game–except the gameplay. I could not get into it and found the controls awkward and counterintuitive. When Hades came out of early release, I was hesitant to get it. I had heard all the accolades and how great it was. I watched NL play some of it and agreed it was a great game. I was tired of BoI and hadn’t found a roguelike to replace it. It was on sale and there had been across-the-board good reviews for it. I finally bought it and, holding my breath, I gave it a shot.

I sucked at it, but damn it felt good. The graphics are gorgeous; the writing is great; the music is tight, and; the gameplay just feels right. It’s smooth and snappy, and it has that ‘just one more run’ feel to it. But, and I cannot stress this enough, the learning curve is steep in the beginning. I’m watching Johnny Chiodini start a new save file for a charity stream and it’s bringing back memories as to how difficult it was in the beginning. I tried to clear up a few achievements that negated many of the upgrades and even with the goosed-up weapons, it was rough. I quit, in fact. Plus, I just tried a run with the sword after unlocking one of the aspects of the spear (Poseidon, in this case) and it’s so under-leveled. I’m trying to do a Heat Nine run and it’s not great with a weapon that only has one level.


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Hades: more game for your game

A week after I saw the credits roll in Hades, I’m still firing it up every day. Why? A little for the combat, somewhat because it’s soothing and comforting (it’s my new Binding of Isaac), but mostly for the lore. That sweet, sweet, Greek lore. Again, this is all going to be spoilers if you haven’t seen the credits and played beyond it. Fair warning before I jump into the meat of the post. All spoilers, all the time. Spoilers for DAYS.

You’d think with all the content I’d experienced so far that SuperGiant would be satisfied to rest on their laurels and say, “Good job, us!” with a satisfied nod. It took me roughly fifty hours to see end credits because I am bad at the game. Or I was. Now, I win more runs than not and my personal best was five wins in a row. I’m on Heat 7 with the sword, which–ok. I need to explain this. One of the genius touches of the game is how they do NG+ and beyond. Most games just start you at the beginning again and make the enemies harder. In a roguelike, there may not be any NG+ at all. In this game, each run is called a heat. The first is Heat 0 (which I call Heat Zero for clarity), which is your basic New Game. There are four floors with a boss at the end of the floor. When you beat the final boss, a mechanic called the Pact of Punishment is introduced and it has modifiers that increase the heat. You can increase as much as you want, but you’re only going to get the rewards for the appropriate heat. So, in this case, Heat 1, you need one pain point. My go-to is adding what is essentially a shield to each enemy which means they can take one free hit.

Also, you have to beat each heat (well, except Heat Zero) with each weapon in order to advance to the next heat with that weapon. There are different aspects of each weapon, including hidden ones. I have to say, I love the hidden aspects of the weapons because they’re named for famous people. Like the sword’s hidden aspect is Excalibur, wielder, Arthur. The spear is a really interesting one. Guan Yu. Gives you much more power, but a third of your health. So you’re very much a glass canon. Ugh. I just read how to unlock one of the hidden aspects I don’t have and it’s not going to be fun. At all.

This is one complaint I have about the game. The grind gets super grindy. At this point, I’m pretty much over the combat and am in it for the lore. I’ve united Orpheus and Eurydice, and I’ve done the same with Achilles and Patroclus. I’m having an interesting relationship with Dusa, the Gorgon head who is a helpful maid in the House of Hades. I’ve been giving her Nectar/Ambrosia (how to bond with people) and while she’s appreciative at first, she then tells me she can’t take it because it makes Nyx mad. What, huh? Why does Nyx not want me talk to Dusa? I haven’t figured that out yet, but at least she’s allowed to talk to me again.


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I beat Hades; now the real game begins

*Bonus Post*

I beat Hades! Thanks for reading. Goodbye.

one big happy family!
Welcome home, Mom.

Just kidding. You didn’t think I’d let this achievement go without gushing about it, did you? Before I get into that, however, I wanted to touch on a few things I forgot to say in yesterday’s post. I have called myself sucky at the game. Then I read the chat for Aoife’s stream of it and realized that I needed to upgrade myself to mediocre. Why? Because while there were the people who clearly were really good at the game, there were also people who…weren’t. And not people who just played it once or twice, but people who played it regularly. Like the person who mourned that they couldn’t beat Theseus and Asterius no matter how hard they tried. At this point for me, I have to ready myself for it, but if I have a halfway decent build, I can get through it without losing a life. And, despite knowing that Aoife is correct in killing Asterius first, I still hammer away at Theseus because I just can’t fucking stand him.

Anyway! I beat the game and we need to talk about it. It was surprisingly emotional and I have many feelings about it. Consider the rest of this post spoilers because it’s all about the end game. Oh, and it was on the tenth escape that I got to see the end credits.

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Hades: come for the combat, stay for the lore

I’m still playing Hades. I’ve upgraded myself from saying I’m sucky at it to declaring that I’m firmly mediocre! Again, I have to qualify that by saying within the community who actually play the game on a regular basis. Among the gen pop, I’m aces. It’s how I describe myself at Dark Souls as well. And, yes, still, even though I’ve platinumed the first and third game. By the way, I still haven’t played much of the Souls games since I finished the not-plat for DS III. That platinum grind was horrible and I regret doing it. A fourth of me wants to not-plat the second game, but the sane part of me says sternly not to go up that same tree again. Weirdly, I’m fine with it. I’ve played DS III a few times and enjoyed it, but I don’t have the burning desire to play it. I know it’s there if I need it, but I don’t need it at the moment.

Back to Hades. Here’s the thing. I watched Aoife from Eurogamer play it yesterday. She’s almost exactly where I am in the game (she’s sharing a character with her hubby and combined they have about the same number of escapes together that I do, though in less attempts), but she’s better at not getting hit. What I love is that she has many of the same thoughts as I do, such as romancing both Thanatos and Megaera (though she’s not as far down the line as I am). She mentioned the boss fights being somewhat like Dark Souls not in the actual gameplay but in the sense of–well, let me give you the background. She was up to Meg doing a shield run on Heat Zero when she mentioned that the game was like Dark Souls. The first time she faced Meg, she was thinking, “What the hell? How the hell can I ever beat this?” Now, she’s like a a bump in the road at most.

That’s exactly how I felt, especially with Megaera. The first time I faced her, I was overwhelmed by all her different attacks and despaired of beating her. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, she isn’t that hard and now I get cross if I take too many hits. That is–*spoiler*–when I actually face her. At some point, not sure exactly when, Meg’s sisters get involved and you can face either Tisiphone or Alecto (or Meg) when you reach the first floor boss. Alecto is by far the worst, not only in terms of fighting, but personality-wise. Aoife agreed with me that Alecto was the worst. Someone in the chat said, “Worst than the one who is basically a zombie?” That would be Tisiphone and I’ve come to really like her. She only says ‘muuuuuurder’ and ‘muuuuuuurderer’, but then Zagreus tries to get her to say ‘Zagreus’. She does eventually, but mostly says a combination of murderer and Zagreus. Something like ‘muuuurdeZaaaaaaaagerer.’ Then, he decides to try to get her to say happy and she reverts to murder and murderer. She’s the best! *unspoilered*

Aoife also mentioned that she had trouble seeing the traps in the game, which I do as well. It’s partly because I’m not paying attention, but it’s also because the traps are designed to blend in with the floor. I had to laugh when she chose the modifier that gave something like 400% damage from traps and lava. She said optimistically that maybe it would make her more careful with the traps. Spoiler alert: she was not.

Aoife won the first run and started a second with the bow on Heat 1. She immediately got into trouble and lost a life on…want to say it was Alecto. Maybe Lernie? Nah, pretty sure it was Alecto. She mentioned that Alecto was her least-favorite which I loved. She also mentioned the Lernie story (actually the Lernean Hydra, second floor boss), which had made me smile when it happened.

One interesting thing in watching someone else play the game is to see what boons and keepsakes they like. Her favorite keepsake is the Evergreen Acorn from Eurydice. It absorbs a certain amount of damage from the boss of each floor. In its base form, it allows you to take three hits. Then four, then five. When I first got it, I dismissed it as limited and why would I use that? Hearing her rave about it, however, I gave it a shot. I mean, I’ve used it once or twice before, but not enough to level it up. During a boss fight with it on, I was like, “What is that yellowish grid-like shield around me?” It looked like honeycomb, honestly. Then, I went back to watching Aoife and she explained it was the visual effect of the Evergreen Acorn. That made sense!

I still don’t think it’s as useful as the Broken Spearpoint (Patroclus), though. It gives you 1.5 seconds of invulnerability after being hit and then has a 7 second cooldown. It’s interesting because I Googled this and the opinion on the best Keepsake is so varying, of course. I also learned that the Spearpoint got nerfed. It didn’t used to have a cooldown, which I agree is OP. The cooldown was made to be 10 seconds, which people griped made it useless. I can see that. Ten seconds is an eternity in this game. I do think 7 seconds is still on the long side, but…oh. Maybe it was 10 seconds when I first got it. I Googled. It wasn’t the cooldown time that changed but the invulnerability time.

Anyway, I tend to use Lucky Tooth (Skelly) for the final floor because it gives me an extra rez with 100 HP. However, I’m half-convinced it’s better to have Broken Spearpoint. Also, Aoife raving about the five free hits on bosses with the Evergreen Acorn, well, I’ll counter it with the invulnerability from the Broken Spearpoint for the whole floor. I think I might change up the Keepsakes somewhat given the opinions on the best ones, but I like the ones I like. Plus, the ones who like others are hardcore players, which means they’re better for people who are better at the game. Also, I haven’t gotten them all yet. Yes, even this far into the game, I haven’t gotten all the ‘base’ content. Aoife said she’d heard that you don’t get the ‘true’ ending of the game until you’ve escaped Hades several times. It seems like 10 might be the number, which surely I’m coming close to.

Aoife lost all three of her rezzes on the third floor before reaching the boss. She said that her only hope was finding Patroclus and I had to laugh. I’ve felt that so many times. He has a gift he’ll give you that gives you back all your rezzes. She mentioned that she wasn’t feeling it that run and I sympathized with that as well. She did beat the first run fairly easily on the shield Heat Zero run.

That’s something you need to know about this game. It’s like many roguelikes in that the more you play, the easier it gets. Escaping Hades the first time took me so many runs, I despaired of ever doing it. The second escape took me maybe half that time. And I reach the fourth floor nearly every run. Now, I’ve beaten the final boss twice in four runs? Three? It surprised the hell out of me and I’ve escaped Hades on Heat Two with…the sword? I think it’s the sword?

Another reason it’s easier the longer you play is the accumulated skills and abilities that you unlock as you go. There are six weapons. Each weapon has three different ‘aspects’ which are similar to skill trees. They give you different buffs and abilities. Plus, there’s a mirror in my bedchambers that is imbued with the power of Nyx. It gives different bonuses like more health for certain reasons, more speed, better boons, etc. By watching Aoife’s stream, I realized that each element in the mirror had an alternate ability that I hadn’t upgraded so I have a bunch of that to do now. In addition, in the third floor boss arena, I hadn’t noticed that there’s one shade who is cheering for you. Aoife said she went to talk to this one supportive shade (what the entities in Hades are called, the remnants of the people who’ve died) after every fight. I had never seen this shade before. I’d accidentally talked to her before, but never knew what was up with that. What a funny little detail!

In addition, Aoife always takes out Asterius first so she can deal with Theseus’s nonsense of calling down the gods by itself at the end. I, on the other hand, kill Theseus first because I fucking hate his pompous arrogant ass. Her way makes more sense, but I still kill Theseus first just because I hate him so much. She did meet Patroclus on the third floor of her second run, which saved it. She beat the duo with very little problem then had to quit for the day.

Here’s the thing. I’m pretty much done with the combat of Hades. Oh, by the way, I learned from watching her stream that Athena’s boons, mostly defensive, are considered crutches by the hardcore Hades fans. Don’t give a fuck! It’s either use them or not play the game at all for me. It’s the same when hardcore (read, asshole) Dark Souls fans decry magic or shields or whatever. I’d rather people play and finish the games than quit in frustration so whatever gets them through. I will take ALL the Athena boons as that’s how I’m able to semi-consistently beat the final boss. And, no, there’s no logical reason why I’m keeping that boss a secret but not the rest.

I’m more in it to see what happens to the different characters. I’ve finally gotten Than (Thanatos) in bed and I’m working on Meg (Megaera). I united Eurydice and Orpheus, and I want to do the same with Achilles and Patroclus. I’m also working on getting my father and mother back together, and I want to know the true story of what happened back in the day to get her into Hades in the first place and why she really left. Also, why are the Olympians helping me? I don’t believe their stated reason so I’m interested in knowing what their ulterior motive is.

I’m tempted to do Heat Zero runs just to get to the true end game, but I know that’s not my style. I’ll probably get there either way. Eventually.

 

I can’t quit you, Hades

#heyboohey
I never want to leave you, Than.

I’ve been trying to quit Hades by Supergiant Games for weeks now. Every time I think I’m out, I get sucked back in. “I’ll just try one more run,” I say. Then it’s one or two more runs every day (each run takes at least half an hour and up to forty-five minutes).

My issues with the game are still there. It’s very twitch-based and I feel as if my success is based on what boosts I get rather than my skills. Also, the insane ramp-up of the last boss and the fact that he

 

*Spoilers*

Has a fucking second phase. I can’t tell you how enraged I was when I thought I beat him for the first time and then had to go through a second phase with only one rez left. Honestly, I think if I hadn’t managed to eke out the win, I would have quit then and there. I still don’t know how I did it because it was very build-specific. I know I had a regen ability after dying and reviving plus a shit-ton of defensive perks, but that’s it.

*Unspoilered*

The problem with the game is that I can make it through the first three floors with relative ease depending upon build. The last time I died for good on the third floor (which was yesterday) was because I had an awful build and was using the shield which I don’t understand. Oh, and I hate the railgun and refuse to use it. I don’t think I’ve beaten the third floor with it yet. I can usually get to the third floor boss without losing a life and I consider it shameful to lose two to the third floor boss. One is acceptable, barely, and no lives loss is optimal, obviously.

You see, I don’t feel comfortable facing the fourth floor boss with anything less than four revives (I pick up an extra before the fourth floor) and even then, I feel like my odds of beating him are 50/50 at best. Everything has to line up exactly right in order for me to win and I have to be at my very best for the whole fight. It’s very dispiriting to be on cruise control for the whole game only to have the final boss wipe the floor with you.

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All and asundry

heyboohey
Qadir is hotter than the burning sun.

I want to find a new game, but I haven’t. Not really. I’ve dabbled in Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York by Draw Distance and–by the way, the name irritates me every time I see it because it’s so pretentious. A colon and a dash? Please. Anyway, I’ve never played any of the other VTM games even though it should be my jam (love vamps!) because they’re old. It’s old. One game thus far with a sequel being teased. I was gifted the game by Ian and decided to give it a try the other night. There are three clans from which you can choose (classes, if you will), two of the three which intrigued me. The anarchist class and the artistic/lover class. The third class is the blue blood (wealthy) class, which leaves me cold. I will try it at some point, probably, especially as it’s the only female character of the three, but I have no interest in it.

I started with the anarchist, naming him yanluo–the Chinese god of the underworld. I never capitalize names in games and I don’t know why. After roughly fifteen minutes, I started over again as the artist, naming him gamab–the African god of death. Sense a theme? The basic story is the same. Oh, it’s an interactive graphic novel, by the way. All the characters are impossibly hot, but that’s to be expected because they’re vampires. Well, there’s one who isn’t because he belongs to the Nosferatu clan, which is the hideous monster clan.

It starts with a mysterious vampire (I presume) talking to you at the beginning and explaining that some powerful vampire had died. Then it goes back to how you became a vamp in the first place. It’s a different story for each character, but it ends up the same. You get turned, your sire deserts you, and the *sigh* Sheriff, Qadir, comes to clean things up and whisk you away. I’m sighing because he is yuuuuuuuuuumy. I was Googling the game for reasons and there are quite a few people thirsting for him.

I like the game. I’ll try the blue blood character at some point, but I don’t know how much longer I’ll play it. It’s interesting, but none of the dialogue choices are ones I’d choose. It’s the bane of dialogue-driven games, unfortunately. One of the choices is usually close enough and I haven’t had a situation where all three choices are completely off. While I like it, however, I just don’t have much compunction to play it. There’s no burning desire so we’ll see if I actually go back to it.

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To Hades with the devil

who's a good boy?
Cerberus is best doggo ever!

I’m still playing Hades by Supergiant Games. Still think it’s a terrific game that is out of my reach. I recently timed how long it took me to do each floor, and it’s 15 minutes for the first floor, 15 minutes for the second floor, and 30 minutes for the third floor. Each floor is a grind though I can whiz through the first floor by now.

Side note: There is an interesting system of giving Nectar to the different characters you meet and they give you a Keepsake in return. Each of the Keepsakes have a different benefit and you can level up each Keepsake the longer you wear it. You can only have one on at a time, and you can only switch them after each floor (if you buy a certain item). That’s my M.O. I switch them out after each floor. There’s also mini-achievements in the game that you have to do in order to get rewards. One is to wear each of the Keepsakes at least once. I have ignored the Keepsakes of many of the Olympian gods because theirs are specific to them and their boons. As I wrote in my past post about this game, some of the gods have clearly superior boons (Zeus and Ares especially).

The third floor of Hades might be my hard stopping point. I don’t die on it any longer, but it takes so much time, effort, and resources to get through it. It’s so fucking tedious, and room after room of spear guys and bow guys is boring as hell. Also, so much twitch reflexes needed. So. Much. I have four total revives (death defiers) on the third floor if I haven’t lost any of them prior (and at this point, I shouldn’t. The fourth is from a Keepsake, and I only put it on after the second floor), and I’m usually down to none by the time I’m done with the third floor boss.

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Brute-forcing Hades

So. Hades by Supergiant Games. What a great game. It’s addictive with that ‘just one more run’ feel to it. It looks great, feels great, and sounds great. And I’m thinking of quitting. Why? I touched about it in my last post about the game and would like to expand on it here.

Side note: It’s going to sound familiar because I had the same issues with Children of Morta by Dead Mage, another great game that I quit cold turkey for similar reasons.

Look. I know balancing a game is hard especially if you’re making a game that is based on difficulty to a certain extent.

(Do NOT mention FromSoft and Souls games. Damn.)

But, my pet peeve in any game is throwing tons of mobs at the player in the name of difficulty. I hate, hate, hate it because I think it’s lazy, boring, and because as someone with terrible reflexes, it’s very stressful. And not in the fun way. I think many of the criticisms for Dark Souls II were overblown, but the one I agree with was that they threw way too many mobs at the player as a way of artificially inflating the difficulty.

What’s more, it’s usually the same enemies over and over again, which makes it boring on top of frustrating. I do not mind the same enemies for the same floor, but this game really overloads the type of enemies for each floor and many of them are ones in which twitch reactions are important. I don’t do twitch reactions, so it’s really frustrating to me.


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The importance of not being too earnest

There has been a trend in indie games in the past decade or so to make heartwarming games that have heartfelt narratives. In general, I approve of this trend because why not have more emotions instead of just stab, stab, stabbing everyone? It’s not a coincidence, I don’t think, that it’s indie devs who are cutting this pathway and not the triple A devs. Anyway, one of the first games I played that fit into this category was Gone Home by Fullbright. It was a mystery puzzle game that had the protagonist going home and finding everyone gone. You find out by picking items up and reading descriptions, then piecing together the story. It turns out that your younger sister is gay, and the story is quite heartbreaking.

Or at least it should be. I was eager to play the game because it had received universally high praise across the board. People were giddy about the representation and the story so I was eager to dive in. I was…underwhelmed to say the least. First, I have to say that my computer at the time couldn’t handle the game and would shut down after an hour or two of me playing it. The game wouldn’t save, so I’d have to start over again. And again. No matter what I did before my computer shut down, it wouldn’t save. I fully admit that probably biased me towards not enjoying the game.

However, I must also note that while I was playing it, I had the feeling of ‘is this it?’ in the back of my mind the whole time. Not that the story wasn’t compelling. Not that I wasn’t happy to have representation in games. It’s just that I couldn’t stop thinking that I’d read similar stories in YA literature. I realize it’s a different medium and it hadn’t been done before in video games, but it still fell flat to me. I was glad it existed, but it really didn’t do much for me.

A parallel of that is a game I recently called If Found by Dreamfeel. It’s about a trans teen (late teens) in rural Ireland and the travails of her daily life. It’s a short game and can be finished in an hour, and I like the mechanic of erasing things. The story is sad and familiar, but at the same time, it just….I don’t know. It felt slightly hollow for me. But I’m not a trans teen who’s feeling isolated by her gender so I don’t think I’m qualified to comment on that aspect. It’s also a game I’m glad exists, and I hope there are trans teens who play it and feel seen.


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Hades is one hell of a good time

In my quest for the next meaty game I can sink my teeth into, there have been misses and there has been one game I’ve been keeping my eye on. It’s called Hades, and it’s a rogue-lite-like by Supergiant Games. Supergiant Games in an indie company that is beloved in the indie community as it were. Their previous games include Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre. All three games were hailed when they came out, and I’ve tried each of them. I’m sure you can tell that I did not fall in love with them by the tone of what I’ve written, and you would be right. I tried. Honestly, I gave at least the first two a fair shake. I could see why they were held in such high regards, but neither of them clicked with me. The third just wasn’t my type of game at all, which I knew before I bought it.

I will say that each game looks gorgeous. Supergiant Games does aesthetics well, and while you can tell an SG game by the look of it, they change it up with each game. They all have vivid color palettes and a dreamy-like look to the graphics. From memory and a few stills, Bastion has earthy tones, Transistor is pastel-y, and Pyre has a more intense but darker color palette. Hades is just bright (but with the same richness of colors). I love the cartoony without being cartoonish feel to the characters (another staple of the games) and I love the theme of this game. I was obsessed with mythology when I was younger, so this is a nice way to scratch that itch.

I gave all three of their prior games more time than I normally would because they were so well-regarded in the indie community. I wanted desperately to like them, but I didn’t. Or rather, I didn’t feel compelled to keep playing. I thought each game was well made and could absolutely see why people were gaga over them. I couldn’t make myself like them, however, and I reluctantly moved on from each. Each time, I felt as if I were the problem, not the game, as if it were a personal failing that I couldn’t really get into the games.

This is the reason I was apprehensive when picking up Hades. In fact, I avoided it for a bit because I was worried that I would feel that way yet again. This game is more beloved than the others, if that’s possible, garnering outstanding scores across the board. The worst Metacritic score is 8.5. That’s the worst. I did watch a YouTuber try it out and liked what I saw, but who knew if it’d be the same when I actually played it? Still. I needed a game and it recently came out of Early Access. That meant it was on sale, so I picked it up. I was hoping it’d be like Binding of Isaac: Rebirth in that I’d be able to play it endlessly despite frustrations with it. BoI: R is far from a perfect game, but there’s something really comforting about playing it.


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