Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Video Games

Bloodborne: The Pits of Despair

I’m in the last quarter of Bloodborne (not including the DLC), and to be frank, I hate it right now. I’m battling two optional bosses, and they’re both roundly kicking my ass. They both seem fleeting doable until they stomp me into the ground, and I leave the fight emotionally battered. Daughter of Ebrietas and Martyr Logarius. They are my personal nightmare for several reasons, which I’ll get into later.

I get this way near the end of almost every Souls game. I remember how much I hated the second half of the first game, and how once I beat it, I almost quit the series for good. I felt the same way during the DLC for DS II, which I still hate. In DS III, it was the DLC as well, specifically The Ringed City. I actually cried in frustration at times, and I still have very complicated feelings about it. It was much easier as a tank (at least until soloing the last boss on NG+), which is another thing that is the problem now. I started with an arcane build because it’s the closest thing to magic this game has. The spells in this game are called Hunter Tools, and I’ve used them to good effect. Except. They’re mostly trash against bosses, especially bosses who are high in arcane themselves, which both the optional bosses I’m currently facing are. So, they’re no use to me with my problems right now, which is frustrating. I have 40 points in arcane, and I’m at level…82? 83? Something like that. It means I don’t have much wiggle room with the rest of my stats. That means I didn’t pump levels into my Hunter Axe, and my health and endurance are lower than I’d like them to be.

Another problem is that I still am not great at parrying. I’m better than in Souls games because the parry window is more generous, but I’m still not consistent with it. One of the best ways to beat Martyr Logarius is to parry/backstab him, neither of which I do that often. I probably should practice until I get consistent, but it’s a reflex thing. I could try using my Augur of Ebrietas on him because it stuns enemies which allows me to follow with a visceral or a backstab, but it also pushes someone away from me, so the timing is difficult. I’m old, people. I went through all the Souls games not parrying, which was one of my concerns for this game.


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Bloodborne: A Deeper Look

I’ve been playing Bloodborne for a week now. I wrote about my first impressions in this post here. Going in, I was concerned about a few things. I’d like to address how I feel about them now. One, the fact that I’ve seen so many playthroughs. I was worried it would ruin the game for me, but it hasn’t. I will admit it’s hard to go into a situation knowing what’s going to happen because I don’t get the wow factor, but I’ve still jumped a few times, and it’s much different actually playing the game than it is to watch a Let’s Play. One of the things about a Miyazaki game is that the worlds are densely woven, and it’s difficult to get a sense of what goes where and how everything connects. The best thing about a Miyazaki game is seeing a closed gate and knowing that at some point, you’ll be able to open it from the other side. There is one notable exception–a door that never opens. The theory in ‘the community’ is that it was a shortcut, but left unused because it would make the game too easy.

My other big concern was running without a shield. I’m such a turtle when it comes to Souls games, even when I’m a caster. I’m wedded to my shield, and you’ll pry it from my cold, dead fingers. Although, I’m now curious to try DS III as a dual wielder, but that’s neither here nor there. I had heard in one of the Let’s Plays I’ve watched for Bloodborne that the die-hard sword-and-board users were having a difficult time with Bloodborne, which concerned me. Was I going to be frustrated with being so open? I’m old, so my reflexes aren’t great. Would I be constantly taking hits? I’m roughly halfway through the game, and I’m not having a problem without having a shield. I’m dodging and quick-stepping with the best of them, and I’ll say that I’m actually more concerned with not being able to roll when I’m locked on than not having shield. The quick-step is amazing, but it’s frustrating to try to quick-step past a boss, only to get smacked.

Not having a shield, though, isn’t that big a deal because the combat is much quicker and more fluid. I love dashing around, feeling unweighted. I’m delighted that encumbrance is not a thing in this game. The armor isn’t that important except for the resistance stats, and I’m still repping the Yharnam Hunter Set, which is the coolest of all. I wore Henryk’s set for the Darkbeast Paarl fight because it has high bolt defense and because it’s so fly-looking, but then returned to the Yharnam Hunter Set. Fashion Borne is real, yo. I love Souls combat, obviously, but there’s something about Bloodborne’s combat that really sings. Because of the rally system, it encourages me to be aggressive. Still don’t want to get greedy, but being greedy means something different in this game, and the way to remedy it is attack again if possible rather than retreat.


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Bloodborne: Born of That Old Blood

Longtime readers know I’m a HUGE FromSoft fangrrl. More to the point, I loyal to Hidetaka Miyazaki. I will buy whatever he creates, no questions asked. Except, it has to be on PC because I don’t have a PS4. Or, rather, I didn’t. More on that in a bit. In case you don’t know, Miyazaki is the brilliant mind behind the Dark Souls series, starting with Demon’s Souls, and Bloodborne. I beat the first Souls games (Dark, not Demon’s), and I hated it by the end. I was so done with it, and I never wanted to see it again. No more Souls for me, no way, no how. Then, Dark Souls 2 was coming out, and I thought, OK, maybe I’ll give it another shot. It had been long enough since my trudge through the original game, and my feelings towards it had softened. I decided to play the original as a way to gin up for the second one, and it was much more enjoyable, to my surprise. Because I had learned the basics of the game, I was able to make my way through it more smoothly, and because I didn’t care about summoning, I had a less difficult time with certain bosses (*cough* looking at you, Biggie & Small *cough cough cough*). I still had to beat all the DLC bosses solo because there are no NPC summons, but I did it. By end of my second playthrough, I was a converted Souls fan, and I was eager to play Dark Souls II. Since I got it well after its release, I got the Sins of the First Scholar edition, which is harder and includes all the DLC.

It’s not as brilliant as the original, but it’s still a good game. I have played it several times as I have the original, and, of course, Dark Souls III. The third game is comfort food for hardcore fans, while still being the most accessible of the trilogy. I’ve played it the most times by far, and it’s my relaxation game, except now because I’m doing a dex build, which is not my jam at all.  I’ve beaten it a dozen times at least, and it’s still enjoyable to run through as a pyro or a melee character. In addition, I started a SL1 run, which is fucking brutal. That’s a Soul Level 1 run, for those not in the know. Or a onebro run, which is, whatever. The point is that you don’t level up your character throughout the game, which severely limits, well, everything. Much respect to the people who have made it through a whole game this way, but it’s not how I want to play Dark Souls. I think I made it to the Cathedral of the Deep before I decided to tap out. It’s way above my pay station.

One of my lasting sorrows as a Miyazaki fangrrl was that I couldn’t play Demon’s Souls or Bloodborne because I didn’t have a PS anything. I’m not a console grrl at all, and I resigned myself to watching countless Let’s Plays of Bloodborne, which looked fucking amazing. There was a time when that was all I watched because I was obsessed with it. I loved the Gothic horror vibe, and I was fascinated with the no shields concept, even though I felt I would be terrible at it because I’m so wedded to the sword-(or wand/talisman/pyro glove) and-board mentality. The idea of having no shield scared the hell out of me.

Fast-forward two and a half years to now. Recently, I was afforded of the opportunity to buy a PS4 at a very good price. I agonized over it because was I really considering buying a PS4 just to play Bloodborne? Why, yes, I was. I tried to talk myself out of it, but it stayed in the back of my mind. I wasn’t even sure if I should play the game because it’s so aggressive and fast. And yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I don’t think I can overstate my adoration for Miyazaki and his Soulsborne games*, and the temptation to play a Souls game which has the same core ethos, but is completely different was too much to pass up.


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Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! A Deeper Look

This is my way of playing video games. I find one that I really like, then I play the hell out of it until I’m done with it. The first game I played was Torchlight, and I gulped it down from beginning to end. I loved the hell out of my player-character, The Vanquisher, in part because she looked Asian if you squint. Mostly, though, it was just as fun as hell, and I played it for hours on end. It’s the same with Torchlight 2 (not quite as good, though I’m in the minority for saying so), Borderlands 1 and 2 (with all the DLC, but I didn’t finish all the DLC for the second game because I got burned out), Diablo 3, all the Dark Souls

By the way, I am excited beyond belief, and a touch freaked out, because I just bought a used PS4 at a really good price FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF PLAYING BLOODBORNE. I know this is what a crazy person does, but I’m a huge Miyazaki fangrrl, and once the opportunity was presented to me, I couldn’t resist. I know this game is going to kick my ass because the shield is a no-go and magic is not really viable until the end-game, but I know I’m going to soak up every brutal moment of it.

My point in mentioning it is that I’m going to play the shit out of Bloodborne, even if it kills me, which it will. Many times. Over and over. I got the super-deluxe complete uber edition, which means the hard-as-balls DLC, The Old Hunters. In a series known for how difficult it is, the BB DLC is perhaps the hardest of the lot.

I played Salt and Sanctuary compulsively until I beat it, and then I started a melee build and made it about two-thirds of the way through before I was done. Goddamn Witch of the Lake ruined me as a melee character.  In fact, the bosses are much harder to fight as a melee character than as a caster.

The other game I played obsessively was Cook, Serve, Delicious! , which is goddamn fucking addictive. The sequel was announced waaaaay back in 2014 or 2015, and I was unbelievably hyped about the sequel. It kept getting delayed, and I was afraid it would never get published. Well, it finally came out, and I wrote about my quick impressions after playing it for several hours in less than two days. There weren’t many reviews of it because it’s really niche, but Northernlion (he’s the one who turned me on to the original) did a Let’s Look At of it that was mostly positive.


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Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! My First Impressions

 

gussing up my joint.
My first restaurant, looking pretty swanky.

Cook, Serve, Delicious! is one of my all-time favorite games. I wasn’t interested in it when it first came out because it’s a hardcore cooking sims game. I like time management games, and I like cooking games, but it didn’t seem like it’d be up my alley. Then, I saw a review of it by Northernlion, and he and his friends played it on the NLSS. It caught my eye, and I bought it on sale. I was immediately hooked, and I played the shit out of it. It’s a fast-paced typing/memorization game, and there is a bit of a management component to it, and it’s totally addictive. It’s the only game I’ve 100%ed (before the developer, David Galindo, @chubigans on the Twitter Machine, added new free DLC to the game), and I’m still inordinately proud of that achievement.

Galindo announced the sequel sometime last year or the year before. I was hyped as fuck and played the original in anticipation of the release. Then, time went on, and the release kept getting delayed. I was sad, then I’d get happy when the next release date was announced, even if it was ‘summer of 2017’. When an actual date was announced (August something, can’t remember), I might have literally squealed out loud. However, it got pushed back one more time, and I was afraid it would never be released.

When it was announced that it would be released on September 13th, I was cautiously optimistic. I mean, I wanted it to be true with all my heart, but I had been disappointed so many times before, I didn’t want to get too excited about it just in case it was going to be delayed one more time. However, I was adrift because I had played the fuck out of all the Dark Souls games, and I didn’t want to play Salt and Sanctuary any longer, so what was I supposed to do for my new game?

Yesterday, I had Ian keep me updated on tweets by chubigans because it was my social media day off. Galindo was frantic trying to get the game finished (and had threats of internet outages plaguing him as he was doing so), and I kept refreshing the Steam store page to see if it has been released, but nothing. Galindo said it would be released between four and five CST (hey, homeboy!), but it wasn’t.  I  was getting desperate when it finally released, and I bought it before it had been on Steam for even a minute. I waited impatiently for it to install, which it did fairly quickly.

Once it was in my machine, I suddenly became reluctant to play it. What if it didn’t live up to the first game and the hype? What if I hated it? What if I was completely disappointed by it? This was my second most highly-anticipated sequel of this year (after Dark Souls III), and I wanted it to be my everything. I wasted fifteen minutes pointedly avoiding the game, but then I finally womanned up and started it up.
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In Defense of Dark Souls II

all my single ladies!
Me and the girls wrecking shit.

I’ve recently been playing Dark Souls II from scratch (both as a caster and as a melee character), and I have a few thoughts about it. It’s generally considered the bad child of the family–the one that drinks and does the drugs and is disrespectful to the entire family. Many people in the Souls community hate it, and while many people like it, there are few who think it’s as good as the first and very few who thinks it’s better. I’m in the camp of, “I think it’s a very good game, even if it’s not quite up to the original. It’s immensely fun to replay.” I’m also in the camp of, “It’s a really good game, but it’s not a great Dark Souls game.”

What do I love about Dark Souls the original? Sit back and let me count the ways. Also, let’s remember that I hated the original game by the time I was done with it, and I never wanted to touch it again. It’s only in preparation for playing DS II much later that I tried the original again and was blown away by it. I had enough distance on it to appreciate it, and I wasn’t as insistent that I beat every boss on my own*, so it was much more enjoyable. I will say as a point of pride that I’ve beaten every boss in Dark Souls solo, including all the DLC bosses. There are a few bosses I haven’t beaten solo in DS II because there are So. Many. Bosses., and the few that I haven’t beaten are early in the game (comparatively) when you’re relatively weak or in the DLCs. I’ve beaten every boss in the third game solo, except for a few in the DLCs.

Anyhoooooooo….what do I love about Dark Souls the original? Let me count the ways. Before I start, though, let me say that it being difficult isn’t one thing I loved about it. That’s the problem with many of the clones (including DS II); they think the difficulty is the end game, not part of the journey. What I do love about the difficulty is how good I feel when I beat the thing that I previously thought was unbeatable. Whether it’s a hard enemy or a really tough boss (looking at you, Nameless King), the exultation when they finally turn into white dust is indescribable.

What’s also good is finding a way to cheese a hard enemy/boss. There is a boss in Dark Souls II, King Vendrick, who is really…not hard, but sturdy. He has physical defenses that is berserker hard, and you have to get a bunch of giant souls (it makes sense in context) to make him easier. He’s so hard, you have to be able to do a certain amount of damage just to start the fight. I have a special fondness for him because he made me change the way I played the first time through (as a caster, of course). Here’s the thing. He hits like a Mack Truck. Even with my not-fragile melee character, he could kill me in two hits. With my caster, yeah, it was pretty much one and done. After dying to him many, many times the first time as a caster. So many times! I decided I had to get radical. I stripped off all my armor so I could have the lightest roll possible, and then I did the classic, “Stick to his left side and smack that ass!” This is what you do with large beasts, which he kinda was. Since I had my shitty Battle Axe as a weapon, it took forever to kill him. It was much easier with my melee character this time around, but it was still circle around the left side and smack that ass. Anyway, beating him melee as a caster while wearing no armor (since one hit killed me anyway, why wear armor?) is one of my fondest DS II memories.  Continue Reading

I Can’t Help Falling in Love Again…With Dark Souls

I love the Dark Souls series. Longtime readers will not be surprised by this as I can natter about it for ages–and have. In fact, I have to bite my tongue from raving about OMIGOD HOW  FUCKING AWESOME IS THIS SERIES AND YOU SHOULD LOVE IT AS MUCH AS I DO WHY DON’T YOU YOU FUCKING WEIRDO? Seriously, this game changed my life. It’s…OK. Calm down, Minna.

::deep breaths::

This post is not about that, though. It’s about the fact that I’ve been replaying Dark Souls II (the red-headed stepchild of the series) as both a caster and a melee character (both SO fun in their own ways) and something amazing happened. I was romping through Brightstone Cove Tseldora as a pyro and doing the Pate/Creighton questline (#TeamCreighton, yo!). Once I was done helping Creighton kill Pate, I finished the rest of the room, and then…

First of all, some backstory. I have played each of the Souls games several times and know them like the back of my hand. Of the games I’d say I know Dark Souls II the least, but I’ve still finished it at least four or five times (including NG+), so I know the areas fairly well. When I replay the Souls games, I like to switch up spells and weapons I use along with other equipment loadout factors, but I follow the same path of how I do the areas more or less. It’s to the point where I can go into a room and think, “OK, there are seven or spiders in this room with a bonfire. Then, I open the door and there are two bastard mages, five more spiders, and a basilisk that pops up from the ground. Then, Ornifex is in that room, and there are two spiders and one spider-man in the next room.” Sometimes, I forget the specifics of a room, but I know the general layout.

learn something new all the time.
I swear to god this wasn’t here before!

Anyway, once I was done with the Pate/Creighton questline, I finished up the other stuff in the room, and was about to leave when, wait. What’s that? There’s a hallway I’ve never seen before. I know it’s not a patch thing, but how the hell is there a hallway I’ve never seen? I was gobsmacked, and I was fucking excited! Another room? What? I went down the hallway, and then I was in a small room I’d never been, then another hallway, then outside trying to kill a spider-man, and then I fell, and there’s another room with two spider-men and a spider, and what???  I repeated the process with my other character to get a better handle on this new mini-area, and it just fucking blew my mind. How the hell did I miss this my five or six other times I’ve played this game? I vaguely remember seeing a video of this area before, but I thought maybe it was from the original version, and I’m playing the Scholars of the First Sin (SotFS) edition.

No, seriously. How the shit???

via GIPHY

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Kathy Rain: A Girl After My Own Heart

badass katmobile!
Hurtling towards oblivion.

In my desperation to find a game that I can play an a post-Dark Souls III world, I started rummaging through my pile of shame. Any gamer who uses Steam knows exactly what I’m talking about–all the games you bought during Steam sales that you promised yourself you would play at one time or another. Games you normally wouldn’t look twice at or games you’ve always wanted but are too cheap to buy full price*.

I’ve tried a few, and none have really kept my interest until I stumbled on Kathy Rain, a point-and-click adventure game. It’s a game I wanted because I like mystery novels and have been trying to find a good detective game. They’re hard to find for many reasons that I’m not going to go into in this post, but this one looked promising. The tagline is even: A Detective is Born. The protagonist is the eponymous Kathy Rain, a journalism major in college. She’s mouthy, smokes like a fiend, and drives a motorcycle–a girl after my own heart.

It’s set in the ’90s and has the crunchy pixel graphics that I normally don’t like, but it suits the game. I don’t find it intrusive at all, and the closeups of the faces are surprisingly good. The basic story is that Kathy’s college roommate, Eileen, tells Kathy that her grandfather has died. She goes to the funeral, and then she finds out that something weird happened to her grandfather many years ago. She didn’t know about it because her mother took her away from her (paternal) grandparents when she was young, and she  hasn’t been back.

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Salt and Sanctuary: A Bit Salty; A Bit Sweet, Part III

on my way to the blackest vault.
Going DOOOOOWN!

Ed Note: This is part three (and hopefully last) of my Salt and Sanctuary review. As you can tell, I have a lot to say about it. You can read part two here

I uninstalled Salt and Sanctuary last night. I didn’t want to play it any longer, but I found myself thinking, “I’ll just play a few minutes” only to look up and the sun is rising. I’m two-thirds of the way through my melee playthrough, so I feel I can comment on the differences between playing as a mage and playing as a tank. By the way, when I say tank, I mean still being able to fast/medium roll. I watched playthroughs of people clunking their way through the game, barely being able to roll or not rolling at all, and no thank you–especially as I still am not using a shield. I tried, but I still find it awkward. Also, it was useless against the boss I was having a shit-ton of trouble with–more on her in a bit–because she can drain your stamina in a blink. If you’re going to block, you can’t roll and dodge at the same time, and I couldn’t remember that in the heat of the battle.

My tank is leveled higher at this point than my caster was by the end of the game, and I still can’t wear my paladin armor without fat-rolling. I’m not happy about that, and it’s part of my dissatisfaction with the stats-leveling in general. As I mentioned before, you have to level everything up separately, and I’m sure that’s a common thing for a certain genre of games, but it’s horseshit. Light armor and heavy armor are separate tree branches, for example, which meant I couldn’t wear most of the light armor, even though I could wear some heavy armor. Currently, my tank character is rocking the Iron Butterfly VI and the Seawolf Cutlass VI. One is a  Class 3 Greataxe, and the other is a Class 3 Greatsword. Now, in Dark Souls, all I’d have to do is level up strength to probably thirty or forty, and I’d be able to wield both of these weapons*. In S&S, I have to level up each category separately up to the Class 3 in order to use them. And, it’s not just….

OK. Quick primer on the leveling up system. You have to use Black Pearls to level up your stats. You get a Black Pearl every time you level up in general, and you can find a few in the wild. If I want to level up swords, for example. I have to get to the Class 1 Swordfighter node from the nodes I had at the start of the game as a Paladin (spending Black Pearls on varying stats along the way), and then spend one Black Pearl on Class 1 Swordfighter. Then, you have to traverse up the branch again, buying other stats, until you reach Class 2 Swordfighter. You have to spend 2 Black Pearls for a Class 2 node, and so on up to 5 for Class 5. I had to do this with two different branches as I wanted to wield both greathammers/greataxes and greatswords. There are Gray Pearls that allow you to remove a skill, but not many. It’s hard to explain, and it’s confusing to use at the start. I figured it out pretty quickly, but I still didn’t like it. Souls games are known for their obtuse and unintuitive leveling systems, but I much prefer them to the Tree of Skill.

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Salt and Sanctuary: There’s a Lotta Salt in My Sanctuary, Part II

onion kniiiiiiight!
The Masterless Knight, one of my only friends.

Ed Note: This is part two of my review of Salt and Sanctuary, a game that wears it Dark Souls inspiration firmly on its sleeve. You can read part one here. There will be spoilers abound in this review, so be forewarned. Now, on with the show.

I just finished Salt and Sanctuary last night, and I have several things to say about it. Buckle in, boys and girls, it’s going to be a long and bumpy ride. I have a hard time talking about this game because my feelings on it are over the place. On the one hand, I’ve been obsessively playing this game, even starting a new game as a melee player (much more on that later), thinking about it even when I wasn’t playing it. That’s a sign of a game that has crawled up in your spine and made its home there. I finished the game in roughly forty-five hours, which is one-third the time it took me to finish the original Dark Souls plus DLC (don’t judge), and that’s with plenty of exploring and grinding. I probably could have finished it in thirty-five to forty hours if I really booked it through. This way, though, I feel as if I’ve seen most of what the game has to offer, though I’m aware of a few things I’ve missed.

However, about a half to two-thirds of the way through the game, I begin to hate it. It started to feel like a destructive relationship in which you’re totally in love with the other person, but you know they’re going to be the death of you. No, I’m not saying Salt and Sanctuary is going to kill me–let’s not take the analogy too far. You know what’s a better analogy? Having a big bucket of popcorn at a movie. At the beginning, I’m munching the popcorn and feeling pretty good about. Who doesn’t love theater popcorn with the mysterious butter-like syrup they pour over it? I’m munching through the previews, and the popcorn is delicious! I have handful after handful, and about halfway through the bucket, I start to feel slightly sick to your stomach. “I should put this down,” I think, but do I? Of course not. I paid good money for it, and who likes stale popcorn? Plus, some theaters now give free refills(!), so better keep on eating that popcorn. Three-fourths of the way through the bucket, I’m grim. I don’t even know what movie I’m watching any longer because my stomach is hurting, and all I can think about is that damn popcorn. I know I should just get up and throw the bucket away, but I’ll be damned if I let it best me. I am going to finish the bucket if it kills me, which it probably will. By the end of the movie, I’ve stuffed every kernel down my gullet, and I’m already regretting it. Once I’m done, I feel nothing other than remorse, shame, and bitterness at the popcorn for being there. Then, I go to the concession stand to get my free bucket just because I can. I never learn.

Again, it’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s pretty close to my feelings as I went through Salt and Sanctuary. I want to make it clear that the game is still a solid game, but the last third of it really made me sour on the experience in general. I also have to say that I went through a similar fatigue while playing Dark Souls, and it’s probably because when I play a game, I gobble it down as quickly as possible. It’s similar to when I watch a TV series; I binge-watch until I feel slightly ill. Anyway, in the last third, the game started becoming more focused on platforming, which is not the part of the game I enjoyed. I mentioned in my earlier post that the platforming feels oddly squishy, and that it’s hard to tell when you can safely jump and when you can’t. In addition, there are disappearing platforms, crumbling platforms, and platforms you can’t see until you’ve jumped a certain distance. What’s worse, there are combinations of all these, which nearly did me in.

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