Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: dark souls

Getting out of my own damn way

I’m my own worst enemy, and I know it. I can think about a hundred things I want to do or should do, but when I actually get down to the nitty-gritty, I start throwing roadblocks in my own way. I immediately think about a million of things that will go wrong, and then, more often than not, I end up doing–nothing. One big decision I made in my life was going to SF for grad school in writing. Writing & Consciousness, to be more specific. Yeah, it’s SF. Whaddya going to do?

Immediately, I was inundated with doubts. I poured them all out to my therapist, one after the other. After listening to me for twenty minutes or so, she stopped me and said, “Minna. Half of the things you imagine will never happen, and things will happen that you can’t even dream of right now.” I know it sounds cliched, but it really hit me hard. I didn’t have much control in my early life, so now, I worry obsessively as a way of trying to feel as if I’m in control. Her timely reminder that I can’t control what happens was what I needed, and it emboldened me to go forward with the move. The results were mixed, but I at least fucking did it.

You’d think I’d learn something from it, like, yeah, do something, anything, and just keep it moving. I’ve said it before, but one thing I really admire about my brother is that he’ll get an idea and just do it. If it doesn’t work, he’ll move on to the next thing. Now, obviously, there are downsides to that (like wasting time on unfinished projects), but it also means he can shrug it off when something fails or when he goes to the next project. Plus, he actually finishes a lot more things than I do. He once told me he had no regrets in his life, which blew me away. I regret everything in my life–everything! Even the good things, I can find a reason for regret.

You know what? I should take a positive example in my life–taiji. I had taken it before, and it was a terrible experience. Once I was recovered from it, I decided that I wasn’t going to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I liked taiji itself, and I wanted to take classes again. Of course, my brain was telling me a million reasons why it was a bad idea, but I managed to push through it and started researching nearby studios. I had a few things I were looking for–one was Asian-led. I let that one go pretty quickly, though, because I live in Minnesota. the second one was that the teacher was a woman. That one was a bit more fruitful, and I was encouraged. The third was no payment schemes. What I mean is, there are some martial arts schools that are more interested in getting paid than in teaching. A common way is to have paid belts. (There are no belts in taiji, or shouldn’t be.) There was one studio that insisted on a uniform and that you had to buy everything through them. NOPE.

I came across my teacher after hours of searching, and I have to say, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I’ve learned so much from taiji, and it keeps giving to me (even if I’m currently frustrated with it because of all the changes). It’s hard for me not to think of all the ways I’ve failed, though. All the bad decisions I’ve made, many of them in my personal life, are scarred deeply in my soul. Sometimes, I can’t help thinking about them and picking over what I’ve done wrong. Or, I Google my exes just to torture myself. (Not all of them, just the ones I regret where things went wrong.)

I tend to let things happen to me rather than actually be proactive about things. There are things I want to do, but I have a real fear of actually doing them. All these doubts besiege me, and I end up paralyzed emotionally. Let me give you a current example. I blog (duh), but I know that podcasts and vlogging are the ways of the future. Or, having a strong social media presence and piggybacking off that. Or streaming if you’re into video games, which I am. I *know* all this, but am I doing any of it? No. Why not? I’ll tell you why, one by one.

Podcasts and vlogging: I hate the way I sound and look. Now, I know the former is pretty common because we can’t hear our voices as they sound to others. I’ve accepted that I have a voice that others find soothing and pleasant, so I can deal with it. Barely. As for the latter, I hate the way I look. A lot. For several reasons. As I’ve noted before, I don’t look in the mirror unless I actually have to, and every time I do, I cringe. I don’t know if I can get past that barrier, either for vlogging or for streaming, but I know that people respond better to face cam than when there isn’t one (for streaming), especially with women, but that brings up another issue with women and streaming–the rampant sexism that women have to face online. On the one hand, there’s the death threats, the rape threats, the ‘you don’t belong here, bitch’ threats, and such. On the other hand, there’s the stalkers, the obsessed fans, and the “I want to get in your panties” assholes. For whatever reason*, misogyny just spirals out of control online.

Continue Reading

My love/hate relationship with Dead Cells and other ‘hard’ games: Part one

come. at. me. bro.
Cursed, but it was worth it for the ice bow!

I think I’m reaching the end of Dead Cells. Not because I hate it. Not because it’s a terrible game. But because I’m hitting the wall, and while I’ve hit walls before, this feels like the wall I cannot overcome without putting in way more hours into the game. Let me explain. I think most people are familiar with the concept of hitting the wall in which you just can’t get around an obstacle in front of you (be it physical or mental). In a video game, it’s usually a boss that you simply can’t beat. In a ‘hard’ game, it can be other things, such as level design, difficult enemies, or just simply dying over and over again for a variety of reasons.

Let’s take Dark Souls for example. And, yes, it’s my go-to when I want to talk about difficult games. It’s notorious for its difficult bosses, and I’m betting that the Bell Gargoyles were the first real gut check for most Souls players. Well, OK. Asylum Demon first. Then the Taurus Demon. But definitely the Bell Gargoyles! Hm. What was my point? Oh, yeah, this! The thing, though, is that many people didn’t even make it to the Bell Gargoyles for a variety of reasons. One of the things about the game is that after you beat the Asylum Demon (if you do), you’re taken to the Firelink Shrine. There are three paths you can take from there, and two of them are ridiculously hard. Now, some Souls fans will tell gush about how brilliant it is because the two paths are so hard, it points you in the right direction. Hard disagree from me. What’s the one thing you hear about Souls if you’re a gamer, even if you have no interest in it? That it’s fucking hard. FUCKING HARD. You just tried to beat a demon to death with your goddamn fists because you didn’t know you were supposed to run from him (so you can get your weapon and fight him properly later, and he’s still no joke in your first playthrough), so being attacked by ghosts you can’t kill* or skellies who can one-shot you doesn’t seem that outre.  Your idea of hard has already been busted, so especially without context (the third path being hard, but not insanely so), it’s easy to think you’re supposed to run through the area with the ghosts or the skellies and just deal with it.

The reason I’m saying this is that there are tons of legit reasons for people quitting Souls. I love the games, and I’ll recommend them ad nauseam, but I also realize they’re not for everyone. I had a friend who reached Firelink Shrine and saw a message in front of the Crestfallen Warrior to attack him, so she did. Which is a BAD idea. If you aggro an NPC in Dark Souls, they will be permanently aggro’ed unless you pay an exorbitant amount of money to get your sins absolved. I know this because I accidentally hit Andre while trying to talk to him (first time I used a controller, and the controls for Souls games are, at best, whimsical), and I had to pay something like fifteen-thousand souls to make him forget (it’s based on your level. 500 souls per level, so the higher level you are, the more you have to pay). I seriously considered starting the game again because Andre is essential, and that much money (souls) seemed exorbitant at the time. Anyway, my friend couldn’t use Firelink Shrine, which is your hub bonfire, because the Crestfallen Warrior was aggro’ed, and that made her quit. I completely understand that, and I do not blame her in the least.  Continue Reading

Dead Cells has its icy claws in me

a breath of respite!
Are we in Anor Londo?

About a year ago, I heard tell of an exciting Souls-like* game in Early Access called Dead Cells.  I watched a few Let’s Plays and Let’s Look Ats, and I was immediately intrigued. However, I am chary of Early Access, and I decided to wait.  Recently, it was on sale, and I was between games, so I snapped it up. I installed it, started it up, and I was hooked. The controls are intuitive (although, funny story. I went back to Dark Souls III to try a pure pyro strategy, well, close to a pure pyro, and I’ve been accidentally hitting NPCs because interact in RB in Dead Cells and A in Dark Souls III (on my Xbox One controller). Fortunately, you can hit NPCs once and not aggro them, but it’s pretty disconcerting), and soon, I was rolling, jabbing, and collecting my souls, er, cells with the best of them.

So, speaking of souls, let’s talk about it being a Souls-like game. I’ve heard that quite a bit about Dead Cells, and I didn’t really see it when I first started playing. The more I played, though, I got the comparison. It’s funny to hear Lets Players talk about souls and Estus Flasks, and I agree it’s better to be deliberate in combat rather than just mashing buttons (though I panic-mash more often than I care to admit). However, I don’t think it’s so much that this game is Souls-like than it is that both are Metroidvanias. Sprawling levels to explore with locked off areas. Getting runes to acquire abilities to unlock said locked-off areas. In this case, permadeath, but with upgrades that you keep between runs.

When I start, I’m just a ball of goo that rolls across the floor until I reach an empty body. I inhabit the body, and then I’m ready to go. I start with a Rusty Sword, and I start wrecking fools. Or rather, they wreck me in the Prisoners’ Cells. There are random pickups on the ground, such as melee weapon (all kinds of swords), ranged weapons (bows, whips, etc.), shields, and skills (traps, grenades, meat grinder, etc.). There are also upgrades and gold balls you hit to break and scatter. There are secrets in the wall that are marked with a faint rune, and you hit them to open them. They usually contain some kind of gem (gold) or food (kebabs and chicken so far), which is a nice pick-me-up.

You can speed run through the area to try to make it to the timed door in the next area, but the time limit is really strict. To make the first timed door, you have to get there in under two minutes. I’ve done it a few times, but that means skipping most of the first area and not getting the upgrades. Behind the timed door is *spoilers* good loot such as one upgrade (strength, tactical, or skill, and each includes a health upgrade), several gems/gold/coins, a bunch of cells–oh! forgot to say that the cells are used for the permanent upgrades at the end of each level–and sometimes a blueprint for a new weapon/shield/skill. I don’t think it’s worth it, though, because you have to take the blueprint and cells to the end of the level in order to cash in on them, and I feel severely under-leveled if I don’t clear out the first area before proceeding. I’ve never made it to the other timed doors, and I don’t really care.

Let’s talk upgrading. After each level, you can talk to the Collector who’ll use your cells to make whatever you want (and if you have blueprints for it). When you first start the game, you don’t have any ability to heal. You can buy the Estus Flask from the collector for fairly cheap, and you get one gulp. Each upgrade is successively more expensive, and I’m up to three swigs. You have to spend all your souls–cells!–before moving onto the mutation guy, though I just found out that you can break that door down to save your cells. There’s a reason for doing this, which I’ll get to in a minute.

The adorable mutation guy lets you choose one mutation after each level. This can be as simple as more health, or as specific as an X amount of increase in damage for Y amount of seconds after killing an enemy. You can unlock more of these by spending your cells with the Collector. My favorite is Ygdar Orus Li Ox, which brings you back from death once, but you can only pick it up after the first level.  I guess it’s so you won’t choose it right before a boss fight, but so what if you do? It’s irritating that I have to carry it all the way through all the levels if I want it to actually help me during a boss fight.

Continue Reading

The Politics of Art

So, I love to write. A lot. Prolifically. Garrulous. It’s the equivalent to a chatterbox who cannot keep her mouth shut. I can’t keep my fingers from banging away at my keyboard, and I have many broken keyboards to prove it. In fact, this one (on my laptop) is on its last legs, and I should replace it pretty soon. The problem is, people are reading less and less. Rather, they’re reading less of actual longform pieces and novels. I’m old woman shaking my fist at the clouds, but I also acknowledge that it’s probably not going backwards any time soon.

What’s the new big thing? Videos. Streaming. It’s all the rage with the kids these days, an it’s something I’ve thought about doing myself. The problem is, first of all, I hate the way I look on camera. Now, of course, I could stream a game without face-cam, but from what I’ve seen, you get more views with the face-cam on, especially as a woman. Which, therein, is my second issue. The world of video games is still a man’s world with a very bro-y culture. I don’t watch streams on Twitch (except Ian’s! twitch.tv/eenbou) because the chats are fucking toxic. I don’t use that word lightly, but it’s sadly true. Anything over ten viewers, and it’s ‘fuckbois’, ‘faggot’, and ‘i’d fuck that ass’ all the damn time. There’s a streamer I did watch occasionally when he wasn’t too big yet, and I already felt not included by dint of being a woman in my forties. I watched a vod of a recent stream, and he’d changed from being low-key and lovable to low-key and ‘fuckbois’, and it really disappointed me. I’m not naming  him because it’s not him–it’s the ethos of chat. I’m stil working on my Theory of Dudes in which the more dudes you have in one place, the grosser the culture becomes.

Anyway, I watched a podcast with four female streamers, and they were emphatic about not being just boob jigglers, but one of them is known for that, and another is known for being bro-y in her chat. They were all young and conventionally pretty, which is another double standard for women who stream. Dudes can be any age, shape, size, or look, but the women have to be young, not fat, and hot. In addition, most of the female streamers are even bro-y-er than their male counterparts as a way to overcompensate. It’s the same with streamers girlfriends/wives. They put down women, make sexual innuendos, and are pretty jerky. They also feed into the stereotypes of the nagging wife, which is annoying as hell as well.

Continue Reading

His Name is Nioh and He Advances in Japan: Part Two

let's be samurai homies!
Lady Ginchiyo is a bad-ass!

I’ve been playing more Nioh, and I have plenty more to say about it. You can read my initial impressions here. I’m roughly half-way through the game, and the bloom has come somewhat off the rose. To briefly recap, Nioh is a game that has been called a mix between Dark Souls, Ninja Gaiden, and Diablo. You can probably guess that I’m here for the Souls part, and I enjoyed Diablo III as well. This should hit my sweet spot nicely, and it does. Kind of. I’ll get to that in a bit.  Oh, also, there will be mild spoilers, but nothing huge. Just FYI. When we last left off, I was describing the Estus system. Er, Elixirs. You start off with a certain amount, three is the base, and for every five Kodama you find in a region, you get one more base Elixir that will replenish every time you visit your Shrine. I know I said in my Bloodborne posts that a combination of a set number of Blood Vials that replenish at each Lamp in addition to the ones you pick up as you romp through Yharnam would be ideal, and that’s pretty much what we have here. However, as much as I liked it in theory, it doesn’t quite work in execution if you’re as mediocre at the game as I am. Right now, I’m roughly ten levels above what is recommended for the missions, and it’s the minimal I need to feel comfortable. You can store up to 9999 Elixirs, but I haven’t been able to even reach a hundred extra. One thing in BB that I appreciated was that I could buy Blood Vials. Yes, they were expensive as hell by the end of the game, but I wasn’t spending my Souls, er, Blood Echoes, on anything else, so why not? You cannot buy Elixirs in this game (as far as I know), but you can make offerings to the shrine of equipment/items/weapons you don’t want, and you receive Souls, Amrita, in return. In addition, you may be blessed with a gift, often an Elixir.

By the way, I had a terrible thing happen once while I was making my offerings. I do it regularly, especially when I need a few thousand Amrita for my next level. Once, right before a boss, I was making my offerings as quickly as I could. I’ve gotten into a routine of clicking as fast as possible, clearing up as much of my inventory as I can. I like to keep my load to under half of what I’m allowed to carry 500 items, so under 250). One niggling irritation is that if you’re offered a gift, and you can’t carry any more of that item, it gets sent to your storage. That’s not the annoying part. The annoying part is that when you get a gift, you have to click on it. That’s bad enough, but if it’s being sent to storage, a message saying you can’t carry any more and do you want it sent to your storage will pop up, and you have to click on confirm. That’s two more clicks than should be necessary to accept a gift (it should just be automatic), and it’s especially annoying to have to confirm you want it sent to storage. Yes, it’s a small thing, but if I’m doing the process twenty to thirty times, it adds up. Anyway, you use the trigger buttons to go from one category to the next. Weapons, helmets, torso armor, etc. Apparently, I was holding it down plus hitting another button at the same time, so I ‘made an offering’ of all my weapons that weren’t equipped. Because I was doing it as quickly as I could, I said yes before I had realized what I’d done. I can’t tell you how upsetting that was. Not because I use the other weapons, but because some of them are given as rewards for missions. I actually had already done another sub-mission twice because I accidentally offered up the spear that I received as a reward. Now, I had four or five weapons that I could only get from redoing earlier missions. I didn’t really care otherwise because weapons drop like crazy, but I was still mad that this was a thing.

Continue Reading

His Name is Nioh and He Advances in Japan*: Part One

Many moons ago, I heard tell of this game called Nioh. It was described as a samurai Dark Souls, and I was intrigued, but cautious. Souls-like has become its own genre, and most of the entrees are, quite frankly, trash. The ones that aren’t only make me long to be playing Dark Souls.  It’s difficult to strike a balance between being Souls enough to satisfy that itch while being different enough to not be a clone. Any-hoo, it didn’t matter because Nioh was a PS4 exclusive, and I didn’t have a PS4 at that time. I kept hearing about it, though, especially after it was released. It was widely praised, being called the child of Onimusha and Dark Souls, a cross between Dark Souls and Ninja Gaiden (which makes sense since the team that did Ninja Gaiden, Team Ninja,  developed Nioh) with the loot drop of Diablo, and confirmed it was samurai Dark Souls. Most of the people who loved Souls adored Nioh as well, especially with the tweaks that recalibrated enemy toughness (too tough in the demo). When I bought my PS4, I thought about buying Nioh, but I’m cheap. I am simply not willing to spend $60 on a game, even though I would get plenty of bang for my bucks. I’ve poured hundreds of hours into all the Soulsborne games (if not thousands), so paying sixty bucks each would be reasonable. Side note: I am against pre-ordering, but FromSoft is one of my few exceptions, especially with Miyazaki at the helm. I am willing to buy anything he makes. JUST MAKE A NEW GAME ALREADY, MIYAZAKI!!

As I was romping my way through Bloodborne, the announcement that Nioh was coming to PC dropped, and I lost my shit. As much as I love BB (which is a great deal),  I do not love playing it on the PS4. I don’t hate it, but I’m a PC grrl at heart, and I firmly believe all games should be on the PC. In addition, if it’s on the PC, there’s a chance that it’ll go on sale sometime in the foreseeable future. This is simply not true on consoles. I bought BB two years after it was released, and I still had to pay $35 for the GOTY edition or whatever it was (it included the DLC). In contrast, I bought Dark Souls: Prepare to Die edition (which also included the DLC) for under $10 a year or two after it was released on PC. With Nioh on the PC, I could reasonably expect it to go on sale in a year or two at which point I would snatch it up.

The astute among you will have observed that it’s not years since the game has been released on PC; in fact, it’s only been a few weeks. By the way, it was $50 with DLC on PC, so it’s already cheaper than it would be on the PS4. Ian bought it on release, and he was loving it. He streamed the first part, which I watched because I’ve seen up to boss two (three if you include the tutorial boss, which I don’t. More on him later), and it ticked all the boxes for me. I was looking forward to playing it one day, but I was going to wait until it was under twenty bucks. I don’t mind playing a game several years after it’s released, and I have hundreds of games in my pile of shame just mocking me for not touching them. However, after I beat BB and was wondering what my next game would be, Ian and I were talking about Nioh. Late into the night, he gifted it to me, and I was properly stoked to be samurai Geralt. This is another running joke with the game–the protagonist, William Adams, who is based on a real person, looks exactly like Geralt of Rivia from the Witcher series. William is Irish and a pirate, but he might as well be Polish and a witcher; he looks that much like Geralt, minus the scars. I’m down with that as Geralt is one of my video game boos.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

Exercise, Activity, and Mood

I have struggled all my life with depression. At times, it has been chronic and crippling, to the point where me brushing my teeth was a major accomplishment. Right now, I would say I have a low-grade enduring depression that flares up into serious depression from time to time. It’s my go-to when I’m under stress, and the difference is how alien the encompassing depression feels now as in comparison to how comfortable it was back when I was in the middle of it day-to-day-to-day.

I would love to say that I worked on my depression and that’s why I’ve gotten better. I would love to be able to give a list of things you can do to feel better. I would love nothing more, but I can’t because that’s not how I emerged from the suffocating embrace of depression. Sure, I did my due diligence by seeking out therapy and medication through therapy, then starting taiji which has helped a great deal, but it was an outcome, not the main intent, but nothing I did consciously to help my depression mattered as much as the indirect results of other behavior such as the aforementioned therapy and taiji.

However, I’ve been in and out of therapy for the past thirty years, and I’ve been practicing taiji for almost nine years. Neither are an easy or quick solution, and I didn’t go into taiji with the intention of easing my mental health issues. That’s just been a nice side bonus. I will say, however, it makes me more aware now how fragile my mental health balance is. I went through a period recently of deep depression, not as bad as it was before, but still pretty intense. I knew it wasn’t from within me, which made it almost worse. Rationally, I knew there was no reason I should be depressed, but I also knew I couldn’t talk myself out of it. It lasted a few weeks, and I just gritted my teeth and powered my way through it. I was terrified it would last forever, but it faded after two  or so weeks.

On Saturday, I had to get up early to pick up Ian from the airport. Without thinking, I checked my social media. Then, I remembered that it was my day not to be on social media, and I quit. I felt bad, but not too bad. I can’t tell you how much better I feel on the days when I stay offline. I don’t think it’s viable for day-to-day life, but it’s nice to get a break twice a week. It’s too easy to get overwhelmed while scrolling through my TL, thinking that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. I mean, it is, but not more so than it has been in the past. There is a lot of shit in this world, and there always has been. Having it flash past my eyes on a continuous basis leaves me in a state of numb depression. It’s something I’ve railed about before–how overwhelming all the bad news can be. It’s easy to feel hopeless about the state of the world and think that there’s nothing you can do to alleviate the pain.

Continue Reading

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

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

on my way to the blackest vault.

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.

Continue Reading