Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: dark souls

Hope is fading…like the First Flame

I hate video games. This, obviously, is hyperbole, but it’s starting to feel true. I tried Furi this week, and I couldn’t get past the tutorial boss. Before you tell me to git gud, n00b, hear me out. I knew going in that Furi was a hard game. It’s all boss fights, and each one is difficult in its own way. That’s all I knew going in. Oh, and that the protagonist is in jail and has to fight the jailer to get out. That’s all I knew firing it up, and I was prepared to have my shit pushed in time and time again. What I wasn’t prepared for was how fucking irritating the jailer/warden, whatever the fuck his name is. I’m going to call him FuckFace just because. No reason. Anyway, he talks waaaay too much. Maybe it’s because I play Dark Souls and Monster Hunter, but I’m not interested in someone flapping his lips at me as I’m trying to kill him. Yes, there was Micolash in Bloodborne, but he was fucking annoying as well. Not as annoying as The Jailer, though. He’s sneering and pompous an supercilious. And he won’t. stop. talking. He fancies himself a dom with me as his unwilling sub. He talks about killing me again and again and again. Blah, blah, blah.

I could tolerate that, barely, if it weren’t for the fact that he has eight phases. Yes, you read that right. Three of them are tutorial, and you heal to full after each one. But, so does he. Then, in the fourth phase, shit gets real. He starts attacking you with everything he’s got, and I died to him a few times. I also noticed myself doing damage, but then seeing he had full health. What? Oh, right. He has a fucking shield for each phase. So you have to kill the shield before doing actual damage to his health. You get three lives to do five phases (plus shields), and I just–no. I did not want. I set down the controller, uninstalled it, and sighed sadly.

The thing is, I think it’s a good game. I really do. I just think it’s above my pay grade, and I don’t want to put in the work it would take to get firmly mediocre at it. Plus, I hated listening to The Jailer being such a jackhole. In addition, there were two other things about this guy that made me turn off the game One, there are bullet-hell aspects to the game, which I do not enjoy. The other is that you have to learn to parry.

*SOUNDLESS SCREAM*
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I don’t think I actually like video games

I came to a realization a few weeks ago that I may not actually like video games. Hear me out. I’ve been playing ‘hardcore’ games for roughly seven years. The first one was Torchlight, which I absolutely loved. I loved the protagonist who looked Asian if you squinted. I really loved that she came back as a voiced NPC in the sequel, and her voice was low and husky like mine. I loved that I could have a pet whom I could name and feed fish. The game was very addictive, and I immediately had the ‘just one more level’ feeling about it.

Diablo III was right after that, and I really dug that as well. Then the Borderlands, original and sequel, which I played for hundreds of hours. Then, I played Dark Souls, and everything changed. I could no longer play hack ‘n slashes afterwards because the combat was empty and unsatisfying. Yes, I played Skyrim afterwards and enjoyed it*, but I was a caster (of course), so I didn’t have to do much of the melee combat.

In all this time, I played dozens of games that I didn’t like. At all. Some that I really wanted to like and should have been up my alley, such as Alan Wake, and others that I just didn’t like at all. Like Arkham whatever. I’m not sure which game, but I hated the combat. I gave it a fair shake–a few hours–but I just didn’t click with it at all. Others, I liked, but there was one aspect that I just couldn’t stand that made me fall off it, such as Sleeping Dogs, which I call Sleepy Dawgs for reasons that should be obvious. I really liked it, not in a small part because of the badass Asian male protagonist, but the driving suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. I can’t emphasize that enough. I didn’t love the combat as it’s similar to the Batman combat, but I could hack that. It was the driving that I haaaaaaaaaaated. I distinctly remember the incident that made me quit. I had to follow a wedding cake truck (long boring story) to get the cake back. After failing it twice, I was DONE. When I went back to try it again much later, I accidentally erased my saved game because United Front Games, the devs, made the inexplicable decision to put New Game at the top of the queue rather than Load Game like everyone else, and there are no saved files in the game–at least when I played. That was it for me. No way I was playing the game again, and I have not.


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What is ‘normal’ isn’t universal

run, run away.
Just looking at her makes me tired.

It’s wearing to always be the weird one. I have to get that out there before I start blathering about whatever is on my mind. Fair warning: I woke up feeling as if I was hit by a dump truck (not as bad as a Mack truck, but still), and I’m slightly dizzy and nauseated. So, I’m going to write until my brain gives out, which could be in five minutes or it could be in an hour.

One common wisdom people give about depression is to write about your feelings as a way of tracking them. It makes sense, but I refuse to do it. Why? Because I write a lot on a regular basis, and I don’t want to make it a chore, rather than something I enjoy doing. Telling myself that I have to jot down every feeling I feel is a sure way to make me not want to write. I do it, anyway, in these posts, so making myself journal seems excessive to me.

Another common wisdom to counter depression is to get some sun and to exercise. I’ve heard the latter so much, it’s embedded in my brain. My experience with exercise, however, begs to differ.

Side Note: I have SAD in the summer instead of winter, which is yet another way in which I am not normal. I love winter. I roll down the windows in my car until it’s zero degrees. I used to do it sub-zero, but I’m more sensitive to cold now that I’m an Old. My thermostat is set at 62º during the day and 60º during the night. I did not wear a coat all of last winter, but I also didn’t go out during the coldest days. I think we reached something like  -50º including the windchill, which is cold, even for me. I do appreciate the sun, but in small doses. I like it better than gloomy weather, but it has to be paired with cold.

Back to exercise. I’ve heard it all my life, and I’m sure you have, too. “Exercise drives away the depression!” Well, no. That’s not true. I found that it didn’t make my mood worse, but it didn’t help, either. No endorphin boost for me, except when I did dancing as exercise. Fast walking (and I used to do four miles a day) just made me actively angry, in part because I was getting hot and sweaty while doing it. I sweat. A lot. More than most people. I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s not fun to be bathing in it. Also, being in the heat makes me actively angry. Anything over seventy is not my happy place. I read about the office temperature wars, and I have to shake my head. Most people seem to think 70º to 75º is the comfort zone. In fact, women in general prefer a higher temp than men do. Me, I would cuss everybody out if I had to be that hot every day.

People who like it warmer complain that they have to cater to people who like colder temps, but it’s because at some point, we can’t take off any more clothing. One person on this temp war thread said their dad started a new job at a place where a woman kept the thermometer cranked to 85+º. Eighty-fucking-five. PLUS. The commenter said their dad almost fainted, and I would have fainted. The dad also kept his thermostat at 62º during the winter, so he’s my kind of people.

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Sekiro: my final thoughts

Ed. Note: Spoilers. There will be some. 

I have more thoughts on Sekiro, obviously, and I am going to share them with you.  They probably won’t be my final thoughts, but who wants to click on a headline that says, “Read my maundering thoughts about this subject”? Also, my laptop is out of whack right now, so I’m typing this on my desktop. That means I don’t have any of my pictures available, so I’ll probably post videos from other people and be done with it. With that said, let’s get into it.

I’m halfway through NG+. I’m not, really, but that’s my inside joke with myself because for the longest time, I’ve thought of Genichiro as halfway through the game. Hell, I wrote about him as that in the last post, I think. He’s not, really, though. He’s more like a fourth of the way through, depending on the ending and when you fight him. He’s definitely first half, which makes him even more of a hard skill check. I just beat him in NG+, and he still enraged me. This time, however, it was his third form that tripped me up as I made it to the third phase (Genichiro, Way of Tomoe) every time, but that lightning strike fucked me up. I managed to redirect it twice, but more often, I just mistimed my jump or evaded it, and the former did massive Posture and Vitality damage. I got him down to two hits from death in my second try with no heals (did not use the powerful heals), and I got fucking greedy. I cussed him out, and I went again. I got him in six tries, which is less than a tenth of the number of attempts it took me in NG. I found it amusing that it was the third phase that gave me so much trouble when I had no problems with it the first time around. I think I fought him a dozen or so times in that phase in NG (so, roughly a sixth of the actual attempts), but it was because I was so pissed by that point, I went ham on him. Yes, I know that’s how the game is supposed to be played in general, but it’s not my style. I’m trying; I really am, but I’m still more apt to dodge than attack.

Side Note: I take a perverse amount of pride that I did not master the parry (deflect in this game) and was still able to beat it. It’s the same as the rest of the games. I haven’t mastered the parry in any of them, though I made myself proficient way after the fact in the original Dark Souls against the Silver Knights. Didn’t help me against the Black Knights, though. It was fun to get 90% of my parries, however, after whiffing so many times while I actually played the game. To be honest, I didn’t try to parry after fucking it up a dozen or so times. I know that parrying makes everything easier, but I just couldn’t get the timing down. It’s the same with Bloodborne. All the talk was about the visceral–and the parry needed in order to pull it off. The gun was so important, they said. You’ll want to use it to parry, they said. Ha! Little did they know to whom they were talking. Me, the anti-parry queen! Can’t get through Bloodborne without mastering the gun? Challenge accepted. I did not use the gun hardly at all as I played the game, but to be fair, I was running an arcane build. Which, by the way, do not do on your first playthrough. I knew it was going to be shit, but I’m fucking stubborn. The reason I mentioned an arcane build is because there is a spell, er, Hunter Tool, you can pick up mid-early game, Augur of Ebrietas, that can function as a parry. It’s reaching out tentacles to interrupt a gunshot, and then I could get in my visceral. In fact, few things in that game made me as happy as to yell, “Tentacles to the face!” as I used it.

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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 of the original Dark Souls. 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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Live like you’re going to die tomorrow

 

fork in the road.
It could go either way.

Many moons ago when I was mired in a deep and chronic depression, I was contemplating suicide. I didn’t talk about it much, but I did mention it to my BFF. I’ll never forget what she said, though I haven’t quite followed her advice in the meantime. She said, “Don’t kill yourself yet. Give yourself a year to do whatever the hell you want and then see how you feel about it.”

Of course, she wasn’t advocating that I kill myself–far from it. She was trying to reframe the depression that had me feeling like complete and utter crap on a daily basis. Her point was that if I was going to kill myself (and, again, emphasizing that she was not advocating for it in any way), I should go out with no regrets. Her suggestion was that I make a list of all the things I wanted to do, do them for a year, and then see how I felt then.

Unfortunately, I was too far into my depression at the time to actually follow her advice, but I find it on my mind now that I’m in the midst of another depression. It isn’t as severe as the last one, and I’m very aware that it’s external rather than internal, but it’s still rather debilitating. There are several small things I need to do (new glasses, tire change, get a new insurance card), and I keep saying I’ll do it tomorrow, next Monday, etc. Rationally, I know that each one is no big deal, but they seem almost insurmountable in my mind.

I’ve written before how much energy it takes to do anything, let alone anything outside of my comfort zone. It’s easy to think someone with depression is lazy, but that’s because it’s hard to gauge the energy depleted from the outside. When I go to taiji, for example, I start thinking about it the night before. I remind myself when I’m leaving after running through my agenda for the day in my mind. Then, the next day, I have it in the back of my mind the entire time I’m doing whatever else leads up to the actual departure. Then, I get up at the assigned time, go out for a quick smoke, get dressed/shower/brush my teeth/go to the bathroom/do what needs to be done before leaving. I grab my weapons bag, my water container, my canvas bag (for the co-op), and my purse. Then, I place everything in the car just so, pull on my sunglasses, put on some lip goo, before finally opening the garage door.

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You take the good, you take the bad

I’ve been watching the RKG boys play through Dark Souls II, and it’s reignited the debate about whether the game is good or terrible in ‘the community’*. There are the ones who insist it’s terrible, then cite the one thing that gets oft-repeated in the community–the physical impossibility of going from the end of Earthen Peak (up an elevator) to the Iron Keep. There’s just no way the two places could coexist the way the game places it, but here’s the thing. I never noticed as I was playing. I only learned about it from watching a video on what’s wrong after said video was mentioned in a playthrough I was watching. Now, it’s repeated as gospel as why the game is so terrible. I mean, yeah, it’s not great, but I wonder how many people would have even noticed without the videos on it. There are other things that the game can be rightfully dinged for in this same category (in the original game, if you see it, you can get to it. Everything is connected in an organic way, and it’s amazing), but this one single item isn’t the trump card that other people think it is.

In the post on the RKG FB page, it became clear that a big part of the problem was the expectations for DS II. I’ve mentioned before how sequels are often in an impossible position because half the people just want the original thing, only more of it and make it better somehow! Other people want an improvement, but they still don’t want you to skew too far from the original formula. Some people who played Demon’s Souls first think it’s a much better game than Dark Souls, and they cite the lack of invention in Dark Souls as the main reason. For people who didn’t play Demon’s Souls (me), Dark Souls was so innovative and they had never played anything like it. If you played Demon’s Souls first, then Dark Souls was more about refinements and pulling it all together. There were a few changes such as the interactive worlds, but a lot of it was streamlining the ideas from the first game and making it a bit more mainstream.

Side note: reviews for Sekiro are coming out by the people who got it before the release, and I asked Ian to tell me in general what the reaction has been. I’m trying very hard to go into it spoiler-free, which is really difficult. He said that people have said it’s the most accessible of the FromSoft games while still being satisfyingly difficult. I’m all in! I mean, I would be, anyway, obviously, but I feel more at ease with the positive reviews than I would be otherwise.

Anyhoo, back to DS II and the boys. In their latest episode, they just finished Huntsman’s Copse, and I want to talk about this area because it shows both the best and the worst of the game as well as how an idea that is good in conception doesn’t always translate well into reality. There is a room in the game that you notice as you’re going to Heide’s Tower of Flame. You may or may not notice that there is a post in the middle of the room that has a hole in it. You may or may not notice that there is a path that is barred off. If you are me, you don’t think twice about it until later when you’re at a loss as to what to do. I’m a bit fuzzy on my first playthrough, but I think I looked up what I needed to do with that room. Strap in, lads and lasses, because it’s a bumpy ride.


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Depression and escapism

the thinnest ray of sunlight.
Shrouded in darkness.

When I am depressed, I strip out all the extraneous things that I don’t *have* to do on any given day. There are a few things that I force myself to do every day, including my work and writing. I brush my teeth (and floss!) three times a day, and that’s the extent of what I force myself to do every day. I go grocery shopping every few days, and I go to taiji twice a week. Oh, and I do the dishes after I eat instead of letting them pile up for weeks. It’s a little change, but it made me feel much better. If I have energy and am not sick, I might go out to do something else, but that doesn’t happen very often.

I do the laundry when I would be running around outside in underwear otherwise (which would be today), and everything else is done on an absolutely needs to be done basis. I take a shower every few days when I remember it, and even that is a big production. I think it’s difficult for people who have not been depressed to understand how enervating it can be. I’ve heard people talking about someone, describing that person in a way that made it immediately clear to me that the person probably suffered from depression. Then, they would talk about how lazy the person was, and it would make me really uncomfortable.

Let me give you a small example. For taiji, I have to keep my nails short. That’s my preference, anyway, but it’s a good idea, especially when there’s hand-to-hand contact. Cutting one’s nails isn’t a big deal. It takes maybe five minutes, and a few swipes of an emery board after is all you need to do. When I first notice my nails need cutting, I simply think, “Huh. I should cut my nails.” Then I ignore it for a week or two as my nails continue to grow. The next time I pay attention to them, I think, “I really need to cut my nails.” I feel embarrassed and ashamed, but I still don’t do anything about them. Then, because I have shitty nails, they begin cracking and breaking. I also get hangnails which I chew and pick at, and I’ll chew on my nails to rip off the jagged edges. That doesn’t help, of course, but it doesn’t stop my brain from thinking it’s a good solution to the nail-cutting problem.

When it’s all said and done, it takes me about a month before I actually summon up the energy to cut my nails. I know rationally that it’ll only take me five minutes and then I can free up my mental energy for something else. Instead, I delay  it and stew about it until I absolutely have no other choice than to cut my nails. Looking from the outside, you could fairly call me lazy for not cutting my nails for a month. It’s not laziness, however, and it’s doesn’t help anything to have someone tell me I’m lazy. Believe me, I tell myself that often enough. I know if I wasn’t depressed, I would get so much more done. It’s not helpful, either, because it just makes me less motivated to do anything.

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Miyazaki the brilliant storyteller

One of the things that irks me the most when people talk about the Soulsborne games is when someone glibly says, “Oh, there’s no story there.” I’ve heard actual games journalists say this, and it irks me every time. There is a story to each game–a pretty deep story with several NPC storylines. It’s just not handed over to you in cutscenes (though there are a few of those. The ones in the beginning are surprisingly explicit); you have to dig it up mostly on your own. Or, if you don’t have the patience for it, read up on it on the wikis.

I will say that you don’t have to understand the story in order to play the games and have a satisfactory experience. The gameplay itself stands up if you’re willing to put the time and effort into learning it. I’ve learned from ‘the community’ that the controls are shit, but I didn’t know that because it was the first time I’d ever used a controller. Any control scheme would have been foreign to me, and now, the Souls schematic is the one imprinted into my brain. I reinstalled MHW because Ian is powering through the end game, and his enthusiasm has perked my interest again. It’s hard getting back into the controls, though, because I’ve been playing Souls games in the meantime.

I was switching back and forth between Souls and MHW  for a bit, and that was really hard. When I go back to Souls games, though, it’s like coming home. It’s one of my biggest gripes about Souls clones that they would copy everything about the formula EXCEPT the controls. If you’re going to be a Souls clone, then copy the control scheme. B is forever roll, and I will fight anyone on this.

Anyhoooooo. Back to the brilliance of Miyazaki, and this is specifically related to him. In each game, there are several NPC questlines. You have to do them in a specific, byzantine order in order to fulfill the quests. I’ll give you an example. Solaire is one of the most famous and beloved NPCs in the whole Souls series. The whole ‘praise the sun’ and ‘do you even praise the sun, bro?’ memes are about him, and the funniest part is that he never says the phrase at all. It’s the emote you get when you join the Warrior of Sunlight Covenant (his covenant), and you perform it by crouching slightly, then raising up as you hold your arms up in a V. If you’re summoned as a SunBro (nickname for the members of this covenant), you perform the gesture automatically as you enter your host’s world, and you’re a brilliant golden color as opposed to white.


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5 things I hate about the Soulsborne series

looks pretty benign to me.
Oh, Bed of Chaos. It’s never good to see you.

Anyone who knows me or reads my blog knows I am a huge FromSoft fangrrl. I always return to the Souls games, and I am still finding new things in them. However, that is not to say that I think they’re perfect games and will brook no criticism of them. There are several fanbois who are exactly like that and will explain why each flaw is actually brilliance on the part of Miyazaki, but that’s not me. There are more than a few things about the games that annoy me, and a few that I downright hate. Some span all the games and some are only game specific, and I’ll note which it is during each point. They’re not in any particular order, and I will comment on my degree of hate as I talk about each one. With that said, here we go.

1. The whole second half of the original game. I recently played Dark Souls Remastered, partly with my NG++ character who had just beaten Biggie & Small. I thought about what I wanted to do, and I heaved a small sigh. Basically, there are four big bosses you have to beat after Biggie & Small before the last boss, and whenever I think about going into the four different areas, I just don’t want to do it. The first half of the game is near perfection, but the second half, hooooooooo boy. The first time I played it, the second half of the game made me hate the game in general. After I finished, I thought I was done with it and would never touch it again. Oh, how wrong I was, but it’s partly because of how much I loathed the second half of the game.

Miyazaki himself has commented on how the second half was rushed and was not nearly as good as the first half (paraphrased). He apologized for one of the areas, Lost Izalith, and a more fully realized version of it is in Dark Souls III (though not with the same name, though there is an area within the area that has the exact same name as an area in the first game, Demon Ruins). I’ve said before, but my measure of hatred for the area is such that even though I’m a completionist and will do Blighttown (the area in the first game most people agree is the worst) the normal way when I play the original game, but I skip the lava/dino butt area of Lost Izalith with nary a qualm. To me, that is the worst area of the game, well, one of them, and I don’t care if I never see it again. Indeed, I will be thrilled if I never do.

I also hate the Crystal Cave and it’s fucking invisible paths because fucking invisible paths! Need I say more? I also have a terrible sense of spatial recognition, so that doesn’t help. Plus, yes, I know, falling snow helps delineate the way, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t sharp turns between the falling flakes. I fell that way once. I hate this area because it feels hard just to be hard. Yes, Dark Souls is a difficult game. Fuck the try-hards who bleat that it’s not difficult–just challenging. It is hard for those of us who are strictly mediocre players.

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