Since we last talked about games, I’ve quit playing Syndicate. Not out of hate or disgust, but I just stopped playing one day, and I haven’t picked it up since. I had way more fun with it than I thought I would, and since I got it for free, I got plenty of bang for my (zero) buck. I’m not mad at it, but it’s pretty much a disposable game–like the video game equivalent of the summer blockbuster popcorn movie. I have no desire to go back to it, even though I think Evie kicks all the asses. Jacob is back on my shit list, but I just treat him as an annoying younger brother–which, in my head canon, he totally is the younger of the two twins.
I’ve put in almost 40 hours into the game, and I’m…maybe 70% done with the story? I’ve cleared all but two of the boroughs and am about 90% done with the one borough. Plus, a whole new borough opened up that focuses around Jacob’s grandchild, Lydia Frye. Ok, I just looked up about Evie and Henry Green. Now I kinda want to finish the game just to get to the climax of that relationship. I’m strangely invested in the two of them hooking up, and I want to see it happen. But, knowing me, I wouldn’t be able to rush through the main storyline to get to it without being distracted by the other stuff. I really want to see it, though, so I may just grit my teeth and do it.
But! I’ve also been trying some other games, and I want to talk about them. Void Memory by Gustav (one dude, I think) is a 2D Castlevania Souls-like blah blah blah. I liked the look of it, and it has mostly positive reviews on Steam. It was on sale, so I bought it and gave it a test drive. I used a controller because I always used a controller for games like these*. There was an immediate problem of the prompts being shown for the k/m no matter that I was using a controller. In the menu, they showed the keyboard bindings, but not the controls. So, it was a fun game of ‘Which button do I press? Who knows?’ as I figured out which buttons controlled which actions. I might have dealt with that except that the choice of buttons for the controller are really, really shitty. Attack is left trigger. LEFT FUCKING TRIGGER. That is not fucking acceptable. If you want to use your ranged weapon, it’s something like hold right trigger and then tap left trigger. I don’t remember because I wiped it from my mind as soon as I requested a refund, and there isn’t any buzz about it online.
The enemies in the first section were boring, attacked at random, and were easy to kill. I ran into the first boss unceremoniously, and then I promptly killed him. It wasn’t very hard, and I supposed he was the tutorial boss, but I still had no idea what the fuck was happening. I just dashed away from him then went in for one or two hits, rinse, lather, and repeat. I had plenty of heals, and I just whaled on him until he died. I felt no thrill in beating him, just bewilderment about what was going on. I suffered for about half an hour before giving up and calling it quits. Look. I get esoteric and obtuse. I am a Souls fan, for fuck’s sake. But in this case, it just seemed more from incompetence than a deliberate choice. Or, someone who copied the frills of a Souls game without understanding why FromSoft does what it does.
I found a game called The Story Goes On by Scarecrow Arts in my library. I had no idea when or why I bought it, but it was probably on sale. It’s a rogue-like-lite in the vein of The Binding of Isaac, and also has pretty positive reviews on Steam. The few negative reviews said that it just didn’t have the difficulty or the breadth of a BOI, and I decided to try it out. Why not? I started up and was immediately annoyed by the fake-piratey talk. And the scarecrow narrator. And the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to skip his blathering. I jumped into it, and, yep, it doesn’t have nearly the breadth or depth or difficulty or creativity of a BOI. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great, either. It’s…dare I say it…boring. I just went from room to room, hitting the enemies, and moving to the next room. I killed…three bosses? Two? I think two. I was allowed to pause the game, and I quit out without a qualm. I am looking for a game to replace BOI:R, but this ain’t it. Like I said, it’s not bad, but there’s nothing new or catchy about it, either.
I noticed that Steam had the Code Vein demo for free. Now. I have my issues with anime Souls. Mainly, boobs. Look, I like boobs. We all like boobs. Boobs are great fun for everyone. Well, not everyone, but for lots of people, me included. I like other people’s boobs. What I don’t like is for them to be the main focus of a game as they are in Code Vein. All the women have their bosoms prominently displayed, and it’s fucking ridiculous. Plus, there is sexism in the game about how women are thought of and treated, so my interest in the game diminished. Not to mention the radical change from the first trailer to the second plus the inexplicable delay before it was released. So, I went in with a lot of hesitation and was confronted by the customizer. There were so many choices, I spent over an hour making my character. I tried to find the least-revealing clothing possible, but that’s not saying much. I also tried to make her as fat as possible, which also wasn’t saying much. I did manage to find a hairstyle that had the hair go down to her knees, and I was SO excited! It’s hard to find long hair in games (for good reason. Hair physics is so fucking hard), so I was on it. In a hot second. I adore my character. I love her hat and her veil and her steampunk aesthetic. The funny thing is that all that careful planning and customization, and I spent much of the demo in a jacket (blood veil) and a gas mask.
Anyway. I’ll cut to the quick. The game is very good. Very, very good. It’s almost overwhelming in the beginning because of all the actions you can do, all the systems, and all the menus. Not to mention all the blood codes and skills associated with each one. Like, yes, Souls games are obtuse, but this is a whole different level. I stuck to the fighter blood code at first because I just wanted to get the feel of the combat without worrying about the other stuff. But, as we all know, I’m a caster at heart and one of the codes is caster, so I tried that out. And the others. Because you can switch between them whenever you want, and some of the skills are usable with other blood codes.
I finished the demo in about an hour without dying (though I did need an assist from Louis once or twice. I also had seen RKG play it, so I knew what was coming), and I beat the boss on my first try. Then, I got to run around the hub world, which was fun. I tried to ignore the skimpily-clad women, but it wasn’t easy. I unlocked the first level in the dungeon along with a level 40 dungeon from which I was warned off. With great optimism, I jumped into the first dungeon with a different partner (you can switch between Louis, Yakumo, and Mia) because Louis was fine, but I wanted to try the others.
I got my ass handed to me by two of the bosses in the dungeon. The big boss wiped the floor with me, and it wasn’t even close. He could kill me in one combo, which I always hated. I screamed. I raged. I switched up everything. I fought him for over an hour, and I came within two or three hits of killing him when he did a bullshit move. I was FURIOUS. I grinded a bit and beefed up my equipment, tried to optimize my build, and then went in with my two favorite weapons–the Zwei and the Lost Bayonet. Very different, but both really cool. It’s strange that I can use both of them with some blood codes, but I’m down with it.
Long story somewhat shorter, I finally beat the boss with Yakumo by my side, and I was exuberant. Then I ran the dungeons again, beefed up more, and destroyed the big boss yet again. And again. I definitely was under-leveled the first time I fought him, but fighting him several times made me learn him. By the time I finally beat him, I knew all his moves, and I wasn’t intimidated any longer. Fighting him, it was a similar feeling to when I fight a Souls boss, in both positive and negative ways. In addition, in doing the runs, I kept getting surprised by a couple of enemies as I went for the one at the end of the corridor. The third or fourth time I made the run, I looked around and saw a couple ‘dead’ enemies–or so I thought. I marched over to attack them, and sure enough, they were alive. It’s also a Souls trick from Dark Souls III, and I didn’t care for it because I thought it was borderline cheating.
It’s a really good game. I want it, but I’m not going to pay $60 for it because I’m cheap as fuck. Also, I’ve heard the DLCs are trash so I’ll stay away from those. I did try Nioh again after reading reviews about Nioh 2. I made it to the first boss and had some vindication because the first time I played the game, I beat him because he glitched out and I could just whale on him without him hitting me. This time, I got him in three attempts, and I didn’t really sweat it at all. I still hated that the game throws mobs at you in a way that Souls games don’t, and I pretty much stuck with middle stance.
For whatever reason, this game just doesn’t click with me in the same way a Souls game does or even Code Vein did. There isn’t the same joy in this game that there is in a Souls game, and I’m using the word ‘joy’ in a very loose way. I feel very grim when I’m playing Nioh, much like it’s homework. I watched Dan Tack from Game Informer talk about Nioh 2 (video above, and I love the helm and the axe!), and he said there wasn’t the same triumph in beating a boss because it oftentimes came down to changing equipment. That was one of the main reasons I quit playing in the first place because I had been bashing my brains against a boss for hours, then I switched weapons and beat her in less than thirty seconds. It didn’t feel triumphant. It didn’t feel as if I had actually learned the boss. It felt…cheap.
I want to beat Nioh before Nioh 2 comes out on PC, but I’m just not sure I have the stamina to deal with it. Another thing Tack mentioned was that the game wants the players to suffer/die, unlike the Souls games. He believes FromSoft wants you to win, but I believe they’re simply indifferent. At any rate, I agree that Nioh delights in the difficulty and the cruelty, and that is not why I play Souls games.
I’m still searching for the one true game, and it’s hard for me to believe that Code Vein might be it. We’ll have to wait and see.
*Souls-like games. Just in case we aren’t clear.