Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Video Games

Sekiro: epic boss fight is epic

Ed. Note: This whole post is basically one major spoiler so be forewarned. 

halfway there!
His sword is definitely bigger than mine.

Hello. The last we spoke, I was facing Owl (Father) at the end of my second trip to the Hirata Estate. I had attempted to fight him five or six times and was not feeling it at all. I was contemplating skipping him, but I knew it would eat my craw (a combination of eat at me and stick in my craw) and make me think less of myself. I also knew that had he come earlier in the game, I would have tried for at least an hour or two before starting to complain. My patience is razor thin at this point, and it’s hard to make myself do the grind.

I took a deep breath and jumped in. He wrecked my shit casually a dozen times before I even felt I had even a glimmer of a handle on him. It’s strange, though, because I didn’t think he was as hard as, say, Genichiro (the boss who took me literal days to beat), but I think that’s because I beat the first version of him fairly easily. This, version, however was Owl in his prime, and he was a nightmare for me. I tried the cheese from the video I had watched, but my problem with the cheese was that there was one move Father did that fucked me up every time. It’s when he threw his shuriken then raised his sword high to his left and held it. The cheese is to move forward and dodge twice, but instead, I pressed down LB (block) while dodging, which didn’t do jack or shit. Father would slice through me and because it was a counter-attack, decimate my health bar to a sliver. Then, he would follow up with another attack that would kill me. Every. Goddamn. Time. If I managed to block the attack, the followup would still devastate me.

After an hour, I knew it was the wrong way to counter that attack, but every goddamn time, even as I was telling my brain not to press LB, I would press it. At that point, it was just better for me to try to avoid that attack altogether. This is one of my issues with the bosses in Sekiro–the best way to fight several of them is to bait out one or two of the attacks and run away from the rest. It’s a viable strategy, but it doesn’t really feel great while doing it. Also, with Owl (Father) at least for me, I wasn’t able to bait out the attack I wanted on a reliable basis.

It seemed I had to fight this boss on his own merits, which, as I wrote before, I did not want to do at this time. However, my pride demanded it of me, so I girded my loin and hopped into the fray. I have written before about the five stages of beating a boss before (near the end of this post), and I’ll expand on them a bit here. The first stage is incredulity and fear, somewhat akin to denial. “I have to fight this thing/guy/gal? No. No. No. No way I’m going to beat this boss!” I have literally walked away from a boss arena and refused to deal with it for some time (if I had other things I could do) because I was just not ready. I did it with Genichiro, and I avoided him for hours. The second stage is resignation. “Welp. I guess I have to do this. Alrighty then.” Third stage is anger and rage. This stage can last quite some time. I distinctly remember with Owl (Father) during this stage, I was cursing him, his mother, his father, and everyone else in his lineage. I cursed out FromSoft and Miyazaki, and everyone involved in the game. I was an angry, angry, ANGRY gamergrrl during a large portion of this fight, let me tell you. Fourth stage is having a glimmer of hope. That moment when you realize that maybe, just maybe, you can beat this thing/guy/gal. It can be one block you’d never gotten off before. Or you get ’em to their second phase (which, by the way, was a lie for Genichiro as he had three phases. Asshole). Or you just see things in a way you hadn’t before. The final stage is the ‘I finally beat this fucking boss’ phase, which is the best phase of all.

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Sekiro: therapy session is in

Ed. Note: I’m so close to the end, I can taste it. I want to write more about my frustrations with the game, but also just update how far I am in the game. Spoilers. Some. Maybe? Probably. Be forewarned.

are you proud of me yet, father?
I’m sure he just wants to chat.

We’ve reached #5 on the list, but I want to revisit #4 for a minute. Right now, I’m finishing up all the optional ending timelines so I can make the big decision of which ending I want when the time comes. One of the optional timelines includes me going into the past to the Hirata Estate, the second area I did waaaaaay back in the beginning of this game. It still has my favorite sen run, which, with the help of a Mibu Balloon of Wealth, nets me 1,000 sen in five minutes or so with no sweat at all. The boss at the end of this area was the first to make me contemplate quitting the game–Madame Butterfly. Lady Butterfly is her actual name, but it’s the same, really. After dozens of time dying to her, I read in the sub-reddit a single skill–Nightjar Slash–done over and over and over again will kill her. I was highly skeptical, but I tried it–and it worked the first time.

Did I feel guilty about it? No. The alternate would have been me not finishing the game. Well, or just leaving her (she’s optional) and feeling guilty about it. Either way, if it’s in the game, it’s a viable strat. And since there’s no way to summon, I used every trick that was available to me. There are other bosses that I learned tricks/cheese for, and I didn’t give a shit. Great Shinobi Owl was one of them, which ties in neatly with the Hirata Estate. Why? Because he’s the boss at the end of the area. After fighting two duplicate mini-bosses (one of the lone ninjas and the drunkard). So all of the bosses are replicated. You probably know how I feel about that at this point.

Fighting Owl (Father) is currently on my plate, and it’s a pain in the ass. I don’t want to do it, and a part of me is saying skip it because it’s not part of the ending I want. Another part of me is indignant at the thought of skipping him–the OCD/pride part of me. The problem is, I’ve gotten him down to half his first health bar, and I have no idea what the second phase brings. I’ve watched videos of the first part of the fight, and there is a *cheese* so to speak, but like most of the other cheese, it’s predicated on knowing the moveset of the boss. With the Great Shinobi Owl, the cheese (by the same YouTuber) was running around in a circle around him and baiting out one of two moves. Then, using Whirlwind Slash to hit him before backing away, resetting, and starting again. There was one move he did that I had to recognize quickly enough so I could throw firecrackers at him (one of the prosthetic tools) to stop his devastating combo.

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Sekiro: the thinnest of thin lines

*BONUS POST*

Ed. Note: There will be spoilers. Not many, but some end game ones, including bosses. Be forewarned. 

lone vilehand, i believe? or not.
One of the countless Lone ninja dudes. Don’t really know or care which.

I have already declared that I think Sekiro is probably the best of the FromSoft games, even if I never play it again. It’s brilliant and amazing, and a bunch of other superlatives. With that all said, it’s not a perfect game by far, and there are several things that annoy me about it. Some are evergreen FromSoft issues and some are specific to this game. Some are minor, and more than one are major. I’ve talked about some of them before, but I want to get them in one place. This place.

Here they are in no particular order.

1. Hitting through walls. This is an old-time favorite in the FromSoft games. Enemies and bosses that can hit you through walls. You can’t always do the same to them, and it’s not clear when you can and when you can’t. It’s irritating, but it’s something that just makes me think, “Ah, FromSoft. Never change.” Unless it’s against a boss and I’m about to win, and then I get killed, in which case, it’s “OH MY FUCKING GOD FROMSOFT WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING TO ME?” I tend to swear when I fight bosses, but weirdly, many times in Sekiro, I’m silent. That’s usually my M.O. for right before killing a boss, but this time, it’s more often than not.

2. Too many mini-bosses and too many replicas. Look. I know the FromSoft games are all about the bosses. I get it. It’s what put their name on the map so to speak, and it’s something they probably take justifiable pride in. The thing is, they have been increasing the number of bosses in each game*, and in this game, it’s a bit much. Well, I have to amend that. At first I wasn’t sure what was a boss and what was a mini-boss. I soon learned the big bosses are the ones who give you battle memories (one per victory). The mini-bosses give you prayer beads and/or other rewards. At least that’s how I figured it out.

Anyway.

Let’s chat about the mini-bosses I have met so far and how many copies there are of each, shall we? We shall because it’s my party and I can write whatever I want to. The first mini-boss I encountered was General Naomori Kawarada, and I had to let him be for quite some time (More on that later). Later on, I ran into another general who looked a lot like him. General–wait, let me look it up–ok. Apparently, not a general. Name of Seven Ashina Spears Shikibu Toshikatsu Yamauchi. I link them together in my mind, regardless of whether I should or not. Then there’s the Chained Ogre who shows up again much later. I’m trying to do it in order, but some of it is a blur. Actually, a lot of it is a blur. So I’m going to try to recount as best as possible without too much research.

Next up, Shichimen Warrior who also shows up again (and I read show up yet another time. Added note: Saw him. Did not take him the fuck on yet). Fuck that fucker. Seriously. Fuck the whole Terror bullshit. It is by far the worst status affliction of them all. I will even take Toxic over it. Well, no, maybe not. Actually, yes, but only by a hair. We’ll talk more about that later as well.

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Sekiro: it all comes down to this

Ed. Note: I am firmly in the end game. There will be spoilers galore in this post. I have many emotions, and I will share them all with you. Well, as many as I can before I run out of steam. 

let them fight for me!
I’m just an innocent bystander here.

It has been a long haul, but I am finally at the end of the game. Sort of. How do I know? Because I reached the point where I had to make first decision about which ending I wanted. I will confess that I have been looking up story beats along the way because I really did not want to unknowingly lock myself out of certain endings. FromSoft games are well known for having multiple endings and for some of those endings needing ridiculously elaborate setup. In addition, if you don’t do certain things at certain points of the game, you won’t be able to access certain endings.

OMIGOD!

I just learned there’s an item in the game that allows you to immediately die and return to life with 50% health and the rest of your resurrections are unblocked. I mean, I knew this item existed, but I never knew what it really did–per yooz with the cryptic item descriptions–and now, I’m kicking myself for not looking it up. Well, I was until I really discovered what it meant. If you use the item (or the item that allows you unlimited uses) on the boss (which is the only way I can see it being useful), you will have to rez once, but your other two rezzes will be unlocked. Yay! Right? Yeah, no. If you die to the boss, then the last rez will be blocked. So you have to use the item each time you’re about to die, which is more than my tiny brain can handle. There are times when it would be feasible, especially as it’s instantaneous, but I’m just not that quick on my feet. Ah, well. I’ll try it out and see if I can make it work.

Anyway, I made my way through Ashina Castle (Dusk), and everything was different. Same, but different! My Divine Confetti farming section was the Upper Tower – Antechamber. I would start at the idol, Deathblow an Ashina Samurai, then another, then an old lady, then another Ashina Samurai. All of those are Deathblows. Then, an enemy I will call Ashina Elite Patrol Guy. Deathblow him, kill the Ashina Samurai by fighting him, grapple up into the ceiling, drop down in another room for a Deathblow on a plebe, kill the old lady, race back to the first room, grapple up, get everyone back in their set place. Drop down into the second room, battle the Ashina Elite Patrol Guy. Go to the stairs, Deathblow the first Ashina Samurai, fight the other to the death.

I did this probably hundreds of times to farm Divine Confetti. I had it down to roughly three minutes per run. It was where I farmed for DC and to rack up Skill Experience Points. At a certain point in the game (fairly late), Ashina Castle is invaded, and IGN calls it Ashina Castle (Dusk), so that’s what I’m calling it as well. My favorite farming area now looks like this. Kill the first Ashina Samurai by Deathblow (the same), then sneak up to the Interior Ministry Ninja (in royal purple) and Deathblow him. Then, I would use the Puppeteer Ninjitsu on his ass so he would fight for me, not against me. The old lady and the Ashina Samurais were gone, so I would just bust open the paper screen between the walkway (where I was) and the war room. I would run through the war room to get the Ashina Samurai and the Ashina Elite Patrol Boy riled up, plus the Interior Ministry Ninja who’s hiding in this room, and then they would all fight each other, including my puppet. I can tell which one he is by his glowing purple eyes.

I’d race into the second room, kill the plebe and the old lady, then bring the other enemies back to the main room so they were all fighting each other. I’d stand back and watch, occasionally slicing when I thought one side needed a hand, and this is now my new DC/Skill XP farming area. The Interior Ministry Ninja give almost 700 XP per kill (as opposed to the Ashina Samurai who give 79), so it’s a lucrative little farming spot.

I will admit to a bit of Sekiro fatigue. It always happens when I’m in the end game because I gorge on them and over-satiate myself, but I can’t stop playing. This game is even more engaging than the rest, and I really want to gut it out. But, I’m tired. It’s so unrelentingly brutal, I feel as if I’ve gone through ten rounds by the time I’m done with one boss fight. Or one new area. I rarely feel overpowered–unless I go back to the very beginning. The highs are indescribable, but the lows are pretty low as well.

Anyway. Back to the the endings.

*SPOILER WARNING*

Yes, I know I put a spoiler warning at the beginning of the post, but I wanted to double it up because this is end game shit.

I made my way to the top of Ashina Castle once again. This was where I fought Genichiro, and I knew there was going to be something there. I wasn’t exactly sure what, but I was pretty sure it was going to be epic. It was my adopted father, supposedly dead, talking to Lord Kuro. I got to the top before I made it into the upper castle, so after listening to my father and Lord Kuro talk, then talking to my father and him asking me to pick a side–his or my lord’s, I backed away and did the rest of the Ashina Castle (Dusk) before returning.

you're not the boss of me, father!
Dad is NOT happy with me.

I knew this decision was going to lock out certain endings either way, and I was tempted to do the save file/copy things so I could do all four endings at one time. I didn’t, though, because it’s not the way I play. No shade because to go back and play four times seems almost unimaginable. I was seriously tempted, but I didn’t. I knew what my decision would be because it was what I wanted to do in the first place. I refused to follow the Iron Code, and my father was, shall we say, very disappointed in me.

Before I tell you what happened next, let me tell you about the ending I locked out. I figured if I agreed to follow the code, I would have to fight Emma and Issin (with or without my father by my side) because they would be sworn to protect Lord Kuro until the end. If that’s the case, then this is the first time that choosing one ending over another means mutually-exclusive bosses. What I mean is that I don’t think I will have to fight those two having chosen the route I have (though I may be wrong), which is kind of a bummer. I played each of the Dark Souls games at least half a dozen times, and I played DS III close to two dozen times. In other words, I didn’t care so much about endings because I knew I’d play them several times each*.

However. I don’t think I’ll play this game again. I can’t say for sure, of course, but I really feel like it might be a one and done. It’s by far the most brutal of the games, and it’s taken every ounce of me–and I know there are harder bosses to come. In addition, there isn’t much for replayability except for the different endings. Yes, you can choose different skills, but there are no choice of weapons, armors, or classes. I do use different skills from time to time, but honestly, I don’t pay much attention to all that. You can get the same Ninjutsu tools and prosthetic tools for each run, and you can swap them out at will, so that won’t change run to run. NG+? I shudder to even imagine it.

Back to my father. He’s very disappointed in me, which means, of course, that we have to throw down. He hits hard. Very very hard. And he’s super-aggressive. However, his moveset is pretty predictable, and he’s not as nearly infuriating as Genichiro. Except for the fact that he breaks my posture so quickly, and one swipe of his sword can do half my health. I tried him a couple times, and he was seemed beatable, though frustrating. Except when he broke my posture in a few swipes and then killed me. I didn’t care for that at all. I checked a few videos and walkthroughs, and one suggestion was to keep running around, bait out one or two of his more punishable attacks, then use Whirlwind slash to hit him twice before backing off. I was pleased to see I had grasped the basic concept of waiting for one of his two most punishable moves and getting in a lick or two before backing off. The only thing I was missing was the Whirlwind Slash, which I quickly swapped in for whatever Combat Skill I had.

I got to his first Deathblow in under ten tries. Believe me. That’s good for me. He fell to his knees and then pleaded for mercy. When I took a step towards him, he admonished me for being gullible, and he exploded with something and came at me again. I was prepared for it to take several dozen more tries, but a funny thing happened. His second form was actually easier than his first for whatever reason. He kept the same moveset, and the only difference I could tell was that he substituted the Lloyd’s Talisman** hand grenade for a poison bomb. Either way, it made no difference and I got him on the first try (second phase, I mean). As I gave him the Shinobi Execution he deserved, he told me he was pleased with me after I told him he taught me well. I finally got my father’s approval! Too bad I had to kill him to get it.

let's do this!
The eternal father-son conflict.

Once I was finished, I looked up the endings one more time. I had already locked out one ending, the supposed ‘bad ending’, and I wanted to make sure I knew when I locked out the others. As far as I can tell, it’s not until the very end, but there are several things I have to do if I want to walk down any of the three remaining paths. I’ve done the bulk of two of them, and I’m not sure I can move forward with one of those two because an NPC won’t do what she’s supposed to do. I know there is one more major area with one path (and, I think all of them include this area now that I locked out the bad ending?), and I have to say that I’m not looking forward to it.

I know that I’ve reached the end of my patience with the game because every mini-boss I see, I sigh in impatience. Especially since many of them are the same as (or similar to) another mini-boss. I’m sure there are lore reasons for it, but it just feels like padding and a way to artificially inflate the difficulty–which isn’t necessary! The game is plenty hard! The game has so much difficulty! There’s no need to litter it with carbon copy mini-bosses! There are FOUR of one mini-boss. FOUR. I’ve done two, and I can’t be stuffed to do the other two. I guess it’s fine when the duplicates are avoidable, but it still just gets tiresome to keep tripping over them.

I love this game. It’s fucking brilliant and amazing. Barring the ending(s), I’m willing to say it’s the best FromSoft game to date. I’m tempted to do the save thing now because these three endings are all pretty much interchangeable until a certain point, but it still doesn’t feel right to me. If I do play again, I may do it then, but for now, I want to have my one true Sekiro experience. It’s how I roll, baby; it’s how I roll.

 

 

 

 

*Except the original. After I finished it for the first time, I was done with FromSoft games. For life! Oh, how naive I was then.

**Or whatever it’s called in this game. It blocks your ability to heal.

 

 

 

 

Sekiro: Dancing with the devil

*BONUS POST*

Ed. Note: More boss talk. More spoilers. All gold.

not again!
I win! Yeah, no.

The last we met, I was dancing with the devil, otherwise known as the Guardian Ape, phase two. In this phase, it felt as if I were dancing with the boss rather than fighting him. In fact, he reminded me of a combination of the Dancer of the Boreal Valley from Dark Souls III and Mytha, the Baneful Queen from Dark Souls II. It didn’t make it easier for me to deal with him, but it was an interesting observation.

I will fully admit that I was not into this fight. At all. I was tired of the multiphase bosses, especially when the first phase took so much out of me. As I said, the first stage wasn’t hard, per se, but it was grueling. If I made any mistake, I’d have to waste one or two Healing Gourds. I would have loved to have five of my eight left for the second phase, but I usually went into the second phase with one or two Healing Gourds and my three Pellets. That was not nearly enough healing.

Side Note: I like the way the Pellets are meted out in this game. In Dark Souls II, the Life Cems were plentiful and cheap, and I could carry 99 on me at any given time. Therefore, my usual MO was to use the Life Gems to make my way through the level, saving my Estus for the bosses. Or, use the Estus and top off with Life Gems whenever necessary if I was just running through an environment with no boss in sight. If I got low on Life Gems, I just bought more from the hag and didn’t think about it. In this game, Pellets drop randomly from enemies, and you can buy a limited amount from vendors. There is no limitless supply, so it makes me have to be more careful about when I use them. What I usually do is use my Healing Gourds for the level (and eight is usually plenty for this purpose), and I save my Pellets for a boss fight.

Side Note II: This is a side note to the side note. I fucking love that accessing the inventory means pausing the gameplay in this game. It hasn’t in the past, and I was never good enough to add things to my quick item bar during combat. I’m sure there are some Souls fans who are bitching about this change, but I like it. It means if I realize I need a certain item in a boss fight, I can pause and add it to the quick select. Back to the first side note.

I abused the Life Gem system in Dark Souls II, but I never felt good about it. It took away the tension of running out of Estus during a level, and the sight of a bonfire wasn’t as much a relief as it is in the other games (plus, way too many bonfires in DS II). In this game, the fact that Pellets are not unlimited and that I can only carry three at a time means I still have to think about healing judiciously. I can hoard the Pellets (which I do) until I really need them, and then, I can use them, but only until they run out. I can’t replenish them without significant grinding, which, while frustrating, is fair. I think Miyazaki struck the perfect balance with the Pellets in this game.

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Sekiro: Praise the Empire of the Sun!

Ed. Note: More Sekiro, of course. Yes, there will be spoilers. Many, many, many spoilers. In fact, consider the whole post one gigantic spoiler. 

Update Ed. Note: Turns out I had a lot to say about the difficulty of FromSoft games, so this post will not be as spoilerific as I initially thought. More like mild spoilers. Unless you’ve never played the Souls games, for which there are bigger spoilers. There will be one major spoiler for Sekiro, and I will tag it when we get to it. 

My complicated relationship with Sekiro continues. I have consumed it with a focus that is probably frightening to behold, but it’s how I play all FromSoft games. By the way, I’m retiring the Soulsborne moniker and just calling them FromSoft games from now on. They are not all the same, and they are not interchangeable. Even though I understand why people lumped Dark Souls and Bloodborne together, it’s not really the best way to talk about the games. Yes, they share similarities, but it’s because they’re made by the same company, and, specifically, the shared vision is that of Miyazaki. So, FromSoft games it is.

I have no idea where I am in the game, but it feels like end game to me. By that, I mean the last third of the game. Again, I don’t know for sure, but I know the rhythms of FromSoft games by now, and, yeah, I would say I’m two-thirds through it.

Last time I wrote about Sekiro in the bonus post, I was raving about the unique experience I get from beating a FromSoft boss that I previously thought was unbeatable. I’ve written posts in the past, likening the process to the 5 stages of grief. I’d like to expand on this a bit because every time there’s a release from FromSoft, there’s the inevitable discussion about whether or not there should be an easy mode included. It’s frustrating because it’s hard to explain exactly why an easy mode would absolutely take away from the essence of the games. Dan Tack from Game Informer (their resident FromSoft games enthusiast) has a great article on it.

I have to note that people conflate two things when they bring up an easy mode for FromSoft games. (Almost typed Souls games. It’s gonna take a while for me to self-correct on this.) One reason for requesting one is to make the game for accessible for people with disabilities, and the other is to make the game more accessible for people who don’t have the time, patience, obsessive nature, etc., to become competent at the games.

I have sympathy for the former, and to the extent the games can be more accessible such as being able to rebind buttons (Sekiro is the first FromSoft game for which you can do it), colorblind settings, etc., I am here for it. All of it. Putting the glowing red Deathblow circle on an enemy, having differently-colored arrows over enemy heads, using a kanji character to indicate when you’re about to encounter an unblockable hit–all of this i s good. (If FromSoft wanted to add an option to turn it off, that would be fine, too.)

Making the game itself easier? Yeah, no.


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This is why I play FromSoft games–Sekiro edition

*BONUS POST*

Ed. Note: This post is going to be focused on one boss, so it will be absolutely littered with spoilers. Not just vague spoilers, but very specific spoilers. Be forewarned that if you read this, story beats will be spoiled along with a major boss–and, incidentally, an earlier boss. Here ends your warning. 

i am not ready for genichiro.
I’ve been through some shit, yo.

Let’s talk more about Sekiro. The last time we met, I was saying what I liked and didn’t like about the game. Since then (was it really only two days ago?), I have played more of the game, and I have more to share. Buckle in, folks. It’s going to be a long ride.

There is a rhythm to FromSoft games and there is also a rhythm to my reaction at different points playing the game. I’ve said before that I tend to gorge on the games when I play, which means that I can be glutted well before I’m through. When I’m playing a FromSoft game, it’s the biggest thing on my mind at any given time. I think about it even when I’m not playing, It’s an obsession, both in a positive and a negative way.

When I was writing the last post, I was in the middle of the phase I call, “I’m sick of the bullshit, but I can’t stop playing.” The night before (or that night. I can’t remember which), I ended the day having three bosses/mini-bosses on my plate, with two of them thoroughly kicking my ass. That would be the two MINI-BOSSES. The third one, a real boss, I faced once and then noped the hell out of there. I ended that session feeling really shitty about the game and myself, and I didn’t know if I wanted to continue playing. I knew I had to do a bit of a mind-shift in order to continue playing, and I did. One thing I needed to do was use the prosthetics more often and more efficiently. I also looked up each of the mini-bosses just to see if I was missing anything. I wasn’t really, although I did learn of a way to cheese one of them. I didn’t want to do that, though, unless I absolutely had to.

Side Note: All the mini-bosses have to be killed with two Deathblows. Briefly, you have to break an enemy’s Posture and when you completely break it, you can do a Deathblow as a finisher. For bosses, you have to end each phase with a Deathblow. Some of them, you can cheese by creeping up on them and doing a Deathblow without having to break their Posture by dropping on them or ganking them from behind. I don’t understand why they have two Deathblows if you can always do a stealth one first. It seems like a needless addition, but I guess it’s not something to be really fussed about.

Anyway, I went into each of the mini-bosses with a different attitude, and I killed them both on the first try. I felt pretty good about that, and I decided to tackle the main boss again. Remember I talked in the last post about the tutorial boss who kicked the shit out of me? Keep that in mind as I describe how I stumbled over this boss.

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My love-and-hate relationship with Sekiro

a brief moment of respite.
Nothing bad is going to happen, right?

Sekiro* dropped last week–has it really been a week?!?–and as a huge FromSoft fangrrl, I was nervous, excited, and antsy waiting for it to be released. I bought it, pre-loaded it, and then spent an hour troubleshooting it to get it to run on my laptop. When it finally started running, I got that thrill I always get when I first start a new Soulsborne game. The opening cinematic sent a chill down my spine, and once I could actually play, well, I’ll get to that in a second.

One of my issues before starting was that I felt there was no way Sekiro could live up to the hype. Not just my personal hype, though I had a lot of that, but the hype that the games community (professional and players) has frothed up. Seriously. So. Many. Opinions. All the opinions in the world. FromSoft has built up a reputation for making uncompromisingly difficult games with a certain vision (Miyazaki’s), and they have surpassed the cult status they acquired after Demon’s Souls was released. They are now a Triple A dev team, although, strangely, they feel a bit mercenary gun-for-hire in that they keep changing publishers, though that might be the norm in the industry–I wouldn’t know.

As I’ve said before, I like to go into these games as unspoiled as possible. I saw the first trailer, but I ignored the rest because FromSoft likes to put allllll the bosses in the trailers. People love it, so I understand why they do it, but I prefer to encounter each horror/delight on my own. I had a million expectations going into this game, and a million fears. That’s because I’m an anxious person, but that is neither here nor there.

Did the game live up to the hype? Was it everything I’d hoped it be?

In a word, yes.

In another word, no.

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Waiting in breathless anticipation with Sekiro pre-loaded

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

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

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

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

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


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A confession from a FromSoft fangrrl

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

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

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

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

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


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