Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: dark souls

The good and the bad of The Surge 2

oh dear. it's coming.
What fresh hell is this?

The Surge (the original) was a surprise hit for me when I played it back in 2018. I even gave it an award and everything! I will never argue that it’s a great game, but I had a blast playing it. The RKG group (members of the group, not RKG themselves) hates it almost uniformly, and they got mad at me for saying I liked it better than Nioh. They argued that Nioh was a better game, and they seemed befuddled when I agreed. I know Nioh is a better game than The Surge. I mean, it’s more technically accomplished, it looks better (though there are some UGLY levels in Nioh–I’m looking at you, snow world–and the combat is more complex. Actually, that was part of my issue with Nioh, though I’d be curious to see if I felt the same way now that I’ve finished Sekiro. It’s more imaginative, and I like the demon/fantasy theme much better than the sci-fi world of The Surge. However, when it comes to which one I enjoyed more, indeed, which one I actually finished, it would be The Surge.

It was such a success that a sequel was inevitable. I was hyped about it, but also nervous. Why nervous? Because I was hyped about it. See, I wasn’t expecting anything from the first game. Why? Because Deck 13’s first game, Lords of the Fallen, was a hot mess. The reviews ranged from lukewarm to downright excoriating. Me, I hated the game. A lot. It was fantasy, and should have been right up my alley, but all they seemed to take from Dark Souls was ‘heavy’ combat. They were transparent about their love for Dark Souls, but they didn’t seem to understand what makes it such a transformational game*. It’s like looking at the Mona Lisa and thinking the smile was the only thing important about the painting. Yes, it’s an integral part, but it’s not the whole. I feel the same about Deck 13 and Lords of the Fallen. Yes, the combat is weighty, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Dark Souls. Also, the magicks is shite in LoF, at least in the first hour. Also also, just throwing a mob of enemies at the player isn’t a great way of making a game difficult. My biggest complaint about LoF was that they seemed to go into the game thinking, “We want a game that is hard” and built everything around that instead of having a vision that integrated elements of a challenging game.

When The Surge was announced, I wasn’t anything more than mildly interested. Nothing about it screamed, ‘come here!’ to me, and I let it go until it went on sale on Steam. Then, I tried the demo and had a reasonably good time, so I bought it for like ten bucks. I wasn’t expecting anything from it, and I was pleasantly surprised. There were several things I did not like about the game, but overall, I had a decent time with it. When the sequel was announced, I was stoked. But, as I said above, also nervous. Was I expecting too much?

Fast-forward to September 23rd when the game actually dropped. I bought it four hours before it released and pre-loaded it. I was excited and ready to roll by the time the game was installed. Graphics looked better than the last one, and the environments were more varied in the first few hours than they had been in all of the original game. I got to make my own character, and, yes, I made her an Asian woman. There wasn’t that much customization, but the fact that they allowed me to do any at all was a step up.

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And now for something different

I’ve been cutting back on my Streets of Rogue obsession because of a little game called Children of Morta (which I call Children de la Muerta in my brain) by Dead Mage. It caught my attention while it was in development, and I watched in interest when it was released two weeks ago. I was still in the throes of my Streets of Rogue fervor, so I didn’t buy it yet. Then, I started watching NL play it because it was what he replaced Streets of Rogue with. I was immediately grabbed by the art style and the story, even though the narrator sounds like he’s trying to be Wayne June (the narrator of Darkest Dungeon). I also really like that the family is called Berson, and the individual names are Grandma Margaret, John (father, playable), Mary (mother), Linda (oldest daughter, playable), Kevin (younger son, playable), Mark (older son, playable), and Uncle Ben, the blacksmith. Oh, there is also Lucy, the younger daughter, who is (as far as I know) not playable. The graphics are pixelated and gorgeous, and it’s an epic story of…well, I’m not sure, yet, but it’s fantasy, and then to be playing as Linda Bergson. She’s my favorite, by the way, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

I was hooked from watching NL, and I quit watching so I could play it mostly unspoiled. I bought it yesterday, installed it, and I have to say it didn’t immediately grip me. Not because of the game itself or the story or the combat, but because of the controls. I was using k/m, and Left Shift/Q/R as common buttons felt awkward to me. I found out from Ian that you could use controller, which was my impulse in the first place, but I hadn’t seen any keyboard remapping so I erroneously assumed it wasn’t possible. Dark Souls has done this to me, and I’m not entirely displeased with it. By ‘this’ I mean being a console grrl and a PC gamer.

The controller felt much better, but with two weird things. One, the dodge/evade button is A. I tried it as B (forever the roll/dodge button in my brain), but it didn’t work because of weird thing number two. As Linda, you can use the right stick to shoot while you’re moving. In that case, hitting B to dodge is inopportune. I eventually settled on A (the original button), but I don’t necessarily like it.

Either way, I started over with controller, and I played two hours straight. I made it to the first boss and beat it in five or six tries. I came really close on my second try, but then I fucked it up. At no time did I feel as if the boss was undoable, and it’s in part because I saw NL fight it (and beat it on the second try). I did give John, the melee character a go, but he’s very vanilla and boring. Linda is ranged with a bow and arrow, and I like raining different arrows down upon my enemies.


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Get your gate-keeping out of my games

Recently, in the RKG group, there was a post by a guy (gender relevant) which stated that it may be an unpopular opinion, but you cannot say you truly beat Bloodborne unless you do the Chalice Dungeons and beat all the bosses (paraphrasing). I posted my opinion which basically is who the fuck cares? I was more diplomatic than that, but it’s what it boils down to. I hate gate-keeping in…well, anything, but I notice it most often in things I care about, naturally.

First of all, just fucking state your opinion. That’s tangential to my rant, but it irks me when someone starts anything with ‘this may be unpopular’. Own your shit! Who cares if it’s unpopular or not? Of course, I might be particularly cynical in this instance because all of my opinions are unpopular. Well, not all, but many of them. In addition, my whole lifestyle is unpopular in one way or another, so I’ve become inured to it. In addition, it has a whiff of excuse giving in the beginning. Kind of like, ‘I’m not racist, but’ blah, blah, blah.

Again, that’s just a side note to the real irritation–men who unilaterally decide the markers that make someone a TRUE whatever fan. I later tweeted on Twitter that while I loved the Souls games, I hated this aspect of ‘the community’.

Side note: I love the Souls games with the intent to replay them. I love Sekiro, but it broke me. I intellectually thought Bloodborne was a good game, but I didn’t love it. I would replay it if it were on the PC, but I don’t like playing on the PS4. I would replay Sekiro until the cows came home if I could co-op. I understand why I can’t, but I’m not willing to spend ten hours on bird daddy or the last boss once again. So when I’m talking about the community, I mean the FromSoft community in general.

Anyway, I know the gate-keeping thing isn’t specific to FromSoft games, but there’s something about this kind of game that brings out the extreme toxic masculinity. I think it’s because the games are difficult to begin with, so if you play them, it’s easy to get an attitude about it. I will say beating a FromSoft boss is unlike any other feeling, especially after hours of failing against the same boss. There is a dopamine hit unlike any other, and it’s why I continue to play the games.

Part of my disgust is because who gets to be the keeper of the gate and why? Historically, it has been men. Mostly white straight cis dudes who hang every  part of their identity on their knowledge of a certain thing. It’s a way to keep people out, and it’s similar to a ‘no girls allowed’ sign. It’s a way to make someone feel better about himself.


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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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