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.
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.
With Owl (Father), the cheese (which he claims can be done without getting hit once, yeah, right) for the first phase consists of running away from him and recognizing three moves that you’re looking for. Then, a different dodge for each move, and punish. He did it with the charged thrust, but that’s high stakes because if Owl (Father) counters it, he’ll kill you in one blow. I haven’t even seen the second phase yet, and I can only imagine it’s more bullshittery. This leads me to #6.
6. I just can’t be fucked to learn the bosses this late in the game. This is an amalgamation of some of the other points, but I really wanted to emphasize how draining these games are to me. Early in the game, I tried to beat Lady Butterfly dozens of time (and I mean 3 or 4 dozen) before I reluctantly looked up the cheese. I wanted to beat her in an honorable way, but in the end, I shinobi’ed it. It took so much just to get to the second phase, and then to face another health bar with no resources and added bullshit by her? Yeah, no.
I’ve fought Owl (Father) maybe five or six times, and I’m already done with it. Do I think I could learn him if I took four or five days as I did with Genichiro? Yes, probably. Do I want to? No. The fact that I don’t *have* to fight him makes it even more tempting to skip him. Why don’t I? Pride. I’ve beaten every boss in every Soulsborne game solo, and skipping one does not sit right with me. Granted, he’s a duplicate boss, but his moveset is not the same. If he were one of the endless mini-boss clones, I wouldn’t feel as bad about it, but with a major boss, I would feel bad if I punked out on him.
Yes, I know it’s just a game. I know that no one is going to scorn me for skipping him (well, maybe a few people in the community, but they also would scorn me for taking dozens of tries to kill any boss, so fuck them), but it’s something I will hold over my head. I’m not saying I won’t eventually do it, but it would really bother me if I did. I really need to readjust my thinking when it comes to the end of FromSoft games. Or the end of anything, really. I can be dogged and persevering through the first part, and then when I’m near the end, I’m impatient with any obstacle. It took me literal days to beat Genichiro. Days!! Now, after five tries with Owl (Father), I’m ready to throw in the towel. I need to try to be more chill about it and not put so much weight on each boss fight. We’ll see if I can manage it.
Side Note: I’m watching a Sekiro video and realized I completely forgot the first mini-boss, another general-type. He’s called the leader, but he’s basically a general. But really easy. He’s the ‘welcome to the tutorial, I’ll be your mini-boss’ mini-boss. Or, the mini-boss for babbies.
7. The wildly different usefulness of the varying Prosthetics. Let’s talk Prosthetic Tools. The first, of course, is the grappling hook that is soldered to my left arm. That is my baby, and I’m loving life high above everyone. Of course, it gets frustrating when I can’t grapple to places I think I should be able to grapple to, but I understand that they can’t put grapple points everywhere. I was so worried I would have a hard time with this mechanic, but it’s so easy and intuitive. Spot the grapple point and click LT and watch yourself fly into the air. There are grapple points that are slightly different. Instead of a solid light green circle, it’s a light green circle with a downward arrow in it. It means you can use that point to move along, but you can’t actually rest at that point.
It’s the best Prosthetic Tool ever. There are several others, and while it’s a great idea in concept (a brilliant idea, really), the execution is, shall we say, uneven. There is one PT that is so OP, I have it on me all the time. Almost every walkthrough mentions it for most of the boss fights. It’s the Shinobi Firecracker, and you can buy it fairly early on. If you find the merchant, which I didn’t. I read about it while I was looking something else up, and of course I bought it as soon as I could! The way it works is that you throw it at the ground, and the enemy/boss flinches for a few seconds. Then you can punish them, and it’s a good way to get in my hits. It can also stop them from doing an unblockable blow, which is really handy. It only takes 2 Spirit Emblem (the currency for the PTs), which is peanuts. I currently can have 19 SEs at one time, which means I can use the Firecracker 9 times. I can’t tell you how many mini-bosses/bosses can be made much easier with this one PT. It’s ridiculous, really. As for the other PTs, they can be helpful in certain situations. Such as the Loaded Axe for cutting through shields and the Phoenix’s Lilac Umbrella for all things terror-related. The Sabimaru and all related PTs are good for the okami enemies in the Fountainhead Palace area, which is really nice.
Side Note II: The mini-boss of the Fountainhead Palace area is Okami Leader Shizu. I was fatigued after fighting a million okami before her. I decided to give it one try, and I jumped at her just as she was jumping at me. I got the Deathblow icon, and I instantly pressed RB. Just like that, she was dead! I don’t know exactly what happened, but there’s something called the Anti-Air Deathblow that you can buy halfway-ish through the game (which I did, of course). The timing has to be impeccable, but this ability ignores posture as long as you both are in the air and gives you an instant Deathblow opportunity. Since the okami hang in the air for quite a long amount of time, it was perfect for her. I have never tried it before, but I’ll probably try it more now–and to my detriment.
There are some PTs that I never use, probably because I don’t exactly know how to maximize their usefulness. Plus, with the Shinobi Firecracker being so cheap to use and so effective on almost everybody (human and beast), I feel like it would be stupid to give it up. I’m addicted to the Shinobi Firecracker, yo!
8. The loss mechanic. I have said before that I don’t like the loss mechanic in this game. I thought Souls had it perfectly in that upon your death, you lost everything at the point where you died. If you can get back and pick up your souls, you get it all back. If you can’t, you lose it all. High risk/high reward, and I thought it worked well. Or maybe I just got used to it. Either way, it was a workable system for me. BB adding the fact that sometimes an enemy could pick up your Blood Echoes and you had to kill said enemy to get it back added a new wrinkle to the old formula.
In this game, there is no losing everything upon death mechanic. I know it’s because you have to be able to resurrect on the spot (the core mechanic of the game), so I can understand why they couldn’t do the whole lose everything upon your death and run to retrieve it bit. But the way they have it set up, losing half your Skill XP and sen upon death unless you the Unseen Aid mechanic kicks in and you don’t lose anything (highest possibility is 30% and has gone down to 12%) is not something I like. Why? Because for someone as shite as the game as I am, that means that actually accumulating Skill Points takes a lot of grinding. There is no equivalent to a consumable soul in this game, so I can’t bank Skill XP in any way. At least not that I know of. Most Skills now cost at least 3 Skill Points, which is a lot of grinding. The currency I don’t care about because I can grind that out easily. In fact, the tip to have Coin Purses to save your money upon death was the worst one I read. I used them a few times in the beginning, but quickly realized they’re worthless. I spend all the currency I have before a big boss fight, and then I don’t worry about it.
I hate that you can’t out-level a boss easily in this game. If you want to level up Vitality and Posture, you have to use Prayer Beads to do so. 4 Prayer Beads level you up once for both V and P by making a Prayer Necklace. I have Nine? Eleven? Something like that Prayer Necklaces, and my health bar is fat and sassy. That doesn’t mean certain bosses can’t kill me in one blow, but it’s still better than how it was in the beginning. So small! So tiny! I read there are forty PB in the game, so I guess I have nine necklaces? Who knows. I have many. How do you get Prayer Beads? You can find them in the world, but mostly by killing mini-bosses.
The Skills are really useful, but it’s difficult to choose which path you want to go down. I know it’s probably better to finish one tree rather than scatter my choices over four trees (or five? Many trees), but I can’t help but pick and choose which skills I want. I have one skill to get before finishing the Prosthetic Arts tree. Today, I will be grinding to get that one skill. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
9. Some bosses are too hard. This is more a me problem than a game problem, I think. It’s also the crux of these games and the countless thinkpieces about how hard they are. This game is much faster than the Souls game, more akin to Bloodborne rather than Souls, and I much prefer Souls over BB. I don’t mind dying several times to a boss if I’m learning something each time, but in this game, there were several times when I died without learning a damn thing. Sometimes, I died without getting more than one or two hits in. Having this happen several times in a row is just frustrating. It’s one reason I’ve been checking tips more in the second-half of the game–I don’t want to waste an hour or two beating my head against a wall.
It’s even more difficult in this game than the others because you can’t summon. I don’t like to summon for a boss the first time I face said boss, but not having the option at all makes everything seem even more life-and-death than in other Souls games. Add that to not being able to grind for levels, and it’s no wonder I’m exhausted in the end game.
I know FromSoft games are supposed to be difficulty, and it’s one thing I appreciate about them. The line between fair, but hard and unfairly hard is so thin (and different for each person, of course), and I feel as if I’m up against that edge way too many times. People think I’m good at these games, but I’m not. I mean, I’m good for the population in general, but of the people who finish these games, I’m barely scraping by. I love these games, but they don’t love me back. They are not meant for me, which makes me ineffably sad. I’ll still play them, of course, but it makes me feel as if I’m trying to get into a club that doesn’t want me.
Those are my major gripes with the game, and I’m sure I could think of more if I put my back into it. I want to stress that I think the game is amazing overall, but these are the issues that hinder my appreciation of the game. I will soldier on and finish it, though, and I’m sure the pain will recede in time.