Underneath my yellow skin

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And then there was one (boss left in Dark Souls III…plus more Remastered)

what a satisfying kill.
My biggest challenge of this playthrough–Manus.

I am going to talk more about Dark Souls III and Dark Souls Remastered, so grab your favorite beverage and settle in. Last we visited the world of Lordran, I was entering the DLC, Artorias of the Abyss, with great trepidation. You can read about it here. My first time playing this DLC, I was well-aware of how difficult and brutal it was. It’s legend, in fact, for being off-the-charts hard. People raved about how amazing it was–and how it wrecked their asses. Since I played it well after it was released, I couldn’t summon for bosses even if I wanted to–and oh, how I wanted to. Sanctuary Guardian was easy-peasy, and then I hit a major wall with Artorias. Manus wasn’t that bad, but Kalameet nearly broke me. Since then, I’ve played the DLC a few times more. SG is no biggie, Artorias has become cake, Manus was fine (because I actually could summon for him), and Kalameet continued to haunt me. I finally skipped him on NG+ with my pyro because I just couldn’t be stuffed and I couldn’t summon. All of this was in my mind when I tackled the DLC this time around.

I faced the SG with no fear in my heart. It got me the first time because I was a bit reckless (pro tip: NEVER get greedy), but I made short work of it the second time around. Another pro tip along with a *spoiler* I guess, if you can spoil a game that is seven years old. Acquiring the Rite of Kindling from slewing Pinwheel, you can kindle bonfires to give you 20 sips from your Estus Flasks. 20! To give you context, you start with 5 at most bonfires, and you can kindle to increase by five per each kindle. You have to use humanity to kindle, but there is an endless supply of humanity in the game. So, you could kindle every bonfire to 20 if you so chose. that’s basically what I did the first time I played, but this time, I only kindled Firelink Shrine (which already started with 10 because there’s a Fire Keeper* there) to 20. Then, I would warp to it, rest, and then go back to the bonfire I had been at. In this game, you can only warp to certain bonfires, but fortunately, most of the bonfires before a boss were warpable. And, in the remaster, they added a bonfire in the Catacombs right by Vamos (which pissed off the purists, but which was a good addition in my mind), so having only Firelink Shrine kindled to the max is a completely viable option.

Going through the DLC with ridiculous Endurance, a maxed-out Zwei**, and five attunement slots made pretty short work of the DLC. Of course, it helped that I’d done it several times before as well because there was nothing that took me by surprise. Well, except for the first dog on the way to Kalameet. I forgot about those fuckers. Why are dogs in Soulsborne games such fucking assholes? Stepping up to Artorias’s fog gate, I felt a frisson of tension because he owned my ass the first time we met. The last time I met him, I did him in one, but who knew how it would go this time? It went smashingly well, dear reader. I got him in one, and I merrily went on my way. Next up was Manus, and I wasn’t feeling too worried about him. Boy, I should have because he got the best of me over and over again. I really didn’t want to fight him several more times, so I decided to try the cheese of shooting him from outside the boss arena, but I was an idiot and used the wrong ring (hornet instead of hawk, which I didn’t even have), so it didn’t work. I womanned up and fought him mano-a-womano. The time I finally beat him, my use of the silver pendant was true, and he didn’t do that asshole six-move combo very many times. I think it took me maybe a dozen times to kill him, and he was by far my hardest nemesis in my playthrough. BY FAR. I will admit, I thought about summoning for more than a second, but my goddamn stubborn pride wouldn’t let me do. I hadn’t summoned for anyone up to this point during this playthrough, and I’d be damned if I did it for Manus.

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Obsessed with Dark Souls (Remastered and III)

no way i'll have to kill him later.
My pyro pal, Laurentius of the Great Swamp!

Hi, my name is Minna, and I’m addicted to Dark Souls games.

Hi, Minna!

I’ve been addicted to Souls game for….three years now? Maybe four? But I can stop at any time. I can!

Let it all out, Minna. We’ve all been there.

Currently, I’m mostly playing Dark Souls Remastered because it just came out, and it’s been so much fun to return to my Dark Souls roots. I will say, if you have the Prepare to Try edition on PC (which includes the Artorias of the Abyss DLC) and are running it with dsfix, which, of course you would because there is no way to play it otherwise with the stuttering and other problems, there’s not really a reason to get the remaster. I am not a huge graphics person and from what I read from those who had a pre-release (read, reviewers and maybe certain YouTubers), there wasn’t much that popped in the remaster. I will say the sparklies added are really nice, though. Like, when you die, the white dust is brighter. When you get souls, it’s crisper. The white fogs are also more lively. I dig the enhancements and the extra noises.

What I don’t dig is something that isn’t in control of Namco Bandai Namco (the publishers. Bandai Namco more precisely, but they used to be Namco Bandai)–the hackers. They released the Steam edition early, and within hours, some asshole hacked in and was streaming himself invading players in the Undead Burg, dropping loot for them that got them soft-banned. In my first playthrough, I went human to summon for the Bell Gargoyles and Capra Demon just for fun, but then regretted it because it was so trivially easy. Of course I got invaded because tons of people were playing, and I contemplated starting over because I felt bad about cheesing the gargs and Capra (yes, I’m that person now), but I continued merrily on. I went to see Andre to upgrade my weapons and, what? He was dead?!? How the hell???

I quickly Googled it and on Steam, there was a user warning that this happened in his game after he was invaded. Yup, you got it–another hacker. I was livid. My hands were shaking. Andre is a very important blacksmith in the game and losing him that early was devastating. It reminded me when I played the first time and aggro’ed him by accidentally swinging at him instead of talking to him. Any time I returned, he would immediately try to kill me, and I Googled what to do. Most people advised starting over, but no way in hell I was going to do that. I finally got enough souls to absolve my sins so he wasn’t mad at me any longer, but I learned my lesson.

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A little bit of this, and a whole lotta that

hello, beautiful!
Oh, what’s this? I’ve Forgotten.

I’ve been at loose ends in the world of video games, so I’ve mostly been comfort gaming. Well, kinda. I discovered that there was a booster pack for Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ which included a new character.

*Spoilers*

It’s name is The Forgotten, and of course, users data-mined it so they figured out how you unlock the character. Edmund McMillen, the developer, tweeted out his disappointment as he did the last time this happened, saying just enjoy the game and follow the hints. My dude. Be realistic. I understand from his point of view how unhappy it would make you if you spent hundreds of hours planning the unlock, only to have people cheat their way to it, but from a user standpoint, it’s completely understandable. Most people at the point of unlocking new characters have put countless hours into the game. Doing repeated runs simply to glean clues as to how to unlock a character isn’t fun, especially when the clues are so esoteric and random. Wanna know how you unlock The Lost? Grab a mug of tea and a comfy chair, and I’ll tell you how.

First, you have to take the Mysterious Paper into the Sacrifice Room  and die with it as a trinket four times. It’ll fill in each corner with a picture of a death, and then you have to do those deaths in order without dying in between. First, you die as Isaac to a Mulliboom on one of the first two floors (Basement/Cellar). Then, die as Maggie to your own bomb in the Caves/Catacombs. Then, die as Judas to Mom’s foot or hand. Lastly, die as Azazel to Satan, but only to him himself, which is the second phase. There’s another way to unlock it, but that’s more random.

This actually wasn’t that difficult to do, but no way in hell I would have figured out how to unlock The Lost. Now, here’s how you unlock The Forgotten. Beat the first boss in under a minute. Bomb the spawn room on the first floor. Pick up the item dropped (Broken Shovel) and carry it with you through the rest of the game. What does the Broken Shovel do? It allows Mom’s foot (or two) to randomly stomp around your character for. the. entire. game. Well, OK, not the entire game, but we’ll get to that in a second.

Can I tell you how much I fucking hate Mom’s foot? There’s a trinket that has this effect randomly, and I never pick it up. Having to deal with it the whole time I’m trying to, you know, win the game, is off-the-charts terrible. This is by far the worst unlock and one of the worst things in the game (trying to finish The Keeper’s post-it note is arguably worse. The Lost is fine since I now start with the Holy Mantle with this character), and I seriously thought I might not be able to do it*.

So, of course, I had to play as Azazel because he flies, he starts with mini-Brim, and he has more damage and speed from the start. In other words, why wouldn’t you start with Azazel? I have to say, I tried to unlock the character organically a few times, but no way in hell I would have figured it out, and after watching NL unlock The Forgotten, I’m glad I didn’t waste more time trying to do it myself. Beating the first boss under a minute is not something I ever would have thought of. Oh, also, if you beat the first boss in under a minute, you hear Mom laugh and then scuttle away. That’s your first hint.

Anyway, Broken Shovel’s active is you get a reprieve from the feet for the room. It has a four-room charge, and I was bumping it every chance I had–especially on the bosses. Oh, also, fighting Mom, the effect doesn’t happen. I suppose it’s because it would be too confusing as that’s the effect of the fight in general, but it would just mean avoiding two to three feet instead of one. So, a sliver of reprieve from the constant agony.

Then, you have to beat boss rush to get the other half of the shovel. You normally have to make it to boss rush in under twenty minutes. For this run, they turned off the time restriction, thankfully. Also, they make it so you have to go to boss rush, and you can only take the Negative because you have to go to the Dark Room. Once you get the second half of the Broken Shovel, it becomes the regular Shovel, but keeps the four-room charge instead of six (I think). The foot thing stops, thankfully, and you have a choice to make. You can either proceed as you normally would, or you can use the shovel to skip the womb levels. You can’t skip Shoal, so you have to do that and the Dark Room, but you only have to do the Dark Room until you find a room with a crumbly square of ground in the middle of it. Then you use the shovel on it and dig up The Forgotten.

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When something I love doesn’t love me back

I recently tried out Dead Cells again because why not? I loved the game and put countless hours into it; I wanted to see if my waning enthusiasm could perk up. Plus, it was going to be released soon (it’s still in Early Access), so I thought maybe there was another update. There was. What have I noticed so far? One, the name of the bosses have changed. There are four that I know of, including the final one, and here are the name changes. Spoilers and all that. The Incomplete One is now The Concierge. The Watcher is now Conjoctivius. The Assassin is The Time Keeper, which makes sense given where she is. The Hand of the King is…wait. I think this one is actually the same. Don’t quite remember as I was too busy trying to not be killed by him. The Time Keeper is still easy as cake for me as long as I have ice weapons/grenades. Conjoctivius still sucks, but I killed her the one time I fought her (though I’m still not quite sure how as I was positive she killed me), and The Hand of the King still fucking sucks.

There’s another adorable gremlin guy who lets you modify your weapons for a set amount of gold. The leveling up the weapons system has changed so that instead of leveling up certain weapons, you level up each tier of weapon that applies across the board. These are good updates, and the fact that you have to spend souls, er, cells in order to attain the tier level upgrades means that cells actually matter again.

There are different room patterns and enemy placements (it’s RNG to a certain extent, but there are certain patterns you can recognize), which was frustrating. I went the vanilla path for a few times just to get my feet under me. When I veered from that, I got killed. I gotta say, one of my frustrations about the alternate paths is that they’re so fucking difficult. I know it’s because you get better shit on the alternate paths, but better shit doesn’t matter when you’re dead. I went to the Ossuary which is an alternate path for the third section, and it wrecked my ass. It feels so RNG-dependent. If I get ice grenades or an ice bow early on, then I can do the alternate path. If I don’t, then I can’t.

I noticed a new secret in the Ramparts that I won’t be able to figure out without looking it up (similar to the one in the Promenade of the Condemned), and instead of exciting me, I just heaved a sigh and shrugged my shoulders. I know I’m not going to figure it out, and more importantly, I don’t want to figure it out. Let me make the first (but not last) comparison to Dark Souls. When I find a secret in Souls, I’m hyped and excited. Even if I can’t figure it out (which I usually can’t), it’s still a thrill. Here, it feels like a burden. “Oh, great. One more thing I have to do. Swell.” I actually felt that way in DS III during the last DLC (and during all of the DLCs for DS II), and it’s become a sign to me of when the joy has been sapped out of a game, and I’ve lost my will to live.

I played half a dozen runs or so of Dead Cells, met The Hand of the King three times, and promptly died to him every time. I got him down to half one time, but that was it. I was doing no damage to him, and while he wasn’t quite as hard as in the previous build, I didn’t feel as if I wanted to take the time to learn him. I *think* I could, but I don’t want to. Again, it’s a mark of my engagement with the game that I don’t want to for reasons I’ve mentioned before. One, it takes an hour just to get to him. Two, his HP pool is ridiculous. Three, the castle is still ridiculous.

I uninstalled it again after a few runs because I just couldn’t be stuffed again. I’ll give it another look after it releases for real, but I have a hunch I won’t be spending too much time with it. It’s like Nuclear Throne in that while I really really want to love the game, it simply won’t allow me to. I’ve hit a hard wall, and I don’t want to struggle to scale it. I’ve talked before about walls so I won’t belabor the point. However, to briefly recap, there are different levels of walls. One is the ‘I just hit this hard thing’ wall. In Dark Souls, it’s the Asylum Demon for those of us who have never played a hardcore game or very few and sucked hard during a first playthrough. The first time you see the guy, you’re like, “Aw, hell no. What the fuck am I going to do against this monstrosity?” Especially as the first time you see him, you don’t have a real weapon. Once you figure him out, though, he’s cake. He’s big and lumbering and slow. He telegraphs his movements so even I can see them a mile away. Then, you can adhere to the age-old DS advice of SMACK DAT ASS, YO! These days, if the Asylum Demon even hits me, I’m embarrassed. Not saying he doesn’t, but it shouldn’t be happening. He did kill me once the first time I met him in NG+, which I still blush to admit. But, normally, he’s no harder than a regular enemy–just a few more hits than others take.


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I’m all about that Souls, that Souls, that Dark Souls

a worthy foe.
I bow to you, Sir Alonne.

Last we checked in with our erstwhile heroine, she was triumphant over her defeat of Sinh, the Slumbering Dragon, who slumbers no more, yo! She had thoroughly trounced the Ivory King with the help of her four Loyce Knights, and she only had one goal left in the DLCs*: beat Sir Alonne solo. Shocked and surprised that it wasn’t the Fume Knight? By the way, the nugget that he goes berserk if you dress up as Velstadt was interesting to me, so I tried it. I cosplayed as Velstadt, and, indeed, Raime lost it when I stepped through the fog door. He forewent the first part of the fight completely and jumped straight to, “MURDER THE ASSHOLE NOW!”, which means he only uses the Fume Sword and not the smaller sword. Funny note: It works if you’re only wearing Velstadt’s helm and not the full armor as well, but I can’t tell you if it’s the same if you only wear the gauntlets, chest, or legs.

Anyway, no. I beat Raime with my first tank character, even though it wasn’t easy. I remember blood, sweat, and liberal cursing for that fight, and while I tried him a few times solo this time around (and did decent damage. It’s just the slow, sweeping sword movement that got me every time), I eventually beat him with summons. I think it was the two NPCs, but it might have been with one NPC and one human. Might I say it’s so cool that these games are still being played? Not so cool was being invaded, but, yeah, I know it’s part of the game. A beloved part for many Souls players, so I begrudgingly accept it.

Sir Alonne owned my ass every time we met. I have difficulty with the quick human enemies, and he was no exemption to this. In addition, the area leading up to him is fairly brutal, and there’s a time limit to it as well–an interesting mechanic, and I was burned by it once or twice in the past. This time, I was resigned to spending two or three hours on him because I was going to beat him solo no matter what. I dug in deep and stomped my way to his fog gate with relatively little difficulty. I had to laugh, too, because one of the Let’s Players I watch (Super Best Friends, Woolie on the sticks for DS II, Pat ‘helping’, and I’m talking about Pat) was ranting about how he was grinding for the Blacksteel Katana, which the Alonne Knights in the Iron Keep drop, but rarely. The problem is, the enemies permanently disappear after 15 deaths (I think it’s 15), which means if you don’t get that drop by the fifteenth death, you don’t get it at all. I hated this addition to the formula, as did most Souls players. I understand why it was added, but enemies respawning is one of the mainstays of Soulsborne games.

Anyhoo, Pat was ranting about trying to grind for two of the Blacksteel Katana for hours and while he got one fairly early on, he didn’t get the other. The area was depopulated, so he couldn’t get the second one.  What he apparently didn’t know/figure out was that the Alonne Knights in this area drop the Blacksteel Katana as well. In my first run, I got two from the knights themselves, and there’s one in the bottom area–which apparently Pat didn’t explore/didn’t remember. I cracked myself up over the idea of tweeting him to taunt him about my incredible luck, but I kept that to myself.

I took a deep breath and walked through the fog gate. I was pretty sure casting against Sir Alonne wasn’t the way to go, so I had the weapon buffs magicks, but no pyromancies. Also, this area is made of lava, so I knew my pyro techniques wouldn’t work very well. We started battling, and I was astonished that it wasn’t nearly as hard as I remembered. He wasn’t doing as much damage (probably a better load out, more suited to his agility), and I was dodging him better than I ever had. I think it’s probably because of my time with Bloodborne that my dodging has gotten better over all, and halfway through the fight, I allowed myself to think I had a chance. He didn’t do his charge-up attack for whatever reason, and I actually killed him on my first try! I couldn’t believe it, and I allowed myself to feel proud for a full minute as I looked around the room.

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Picky media consumer

I am not a picky eater. At least, I wouldn’t be if it weren’t for my sensitivities. There are only a few things I don’t like, and the list includes kiwi, water chestnuts (I LOVE regular chestnuts, though), and coconut. I like coconut curries, but coconut itself? Not so much. Other than that, I’m pretty much a fan more or less of food. When it comes to the media I consume, however, it’s a much different story.

I once flummoxed a professor in my grad program ((Writing & Consciousness) by saying I didn’t like movies. She said that was like saying I don’t like sandwiches or soups–both of which I like, thank you very much. Part of the problem is that at the time, there weren’t many movies that reflected me. Taiwanese American bisexual fat woman? Yeah, good luck finding something with that, mate! In addition, I’m always conscious that I’m watching a movie. When I read a book, I disappear into the pages and am absorbed in the world. With a good book, I completely forget that I exist. With movies, I’m always removed from the action except on very rare occasions. My three favorite movies, Once, The Station Agent, and Japanese Story, are all movies I actually lost myself in, even if it weren’t for the whole time. Another difference is that I can read my favorite books a million times, but I don’t often feel compelled to watch a movie more than once.

I find movies limiting. When I read books, my mind provides the details that the book doesn’t give. With movies, it’s all on the screen, and I find it a much more passive way of ingesting media. I think there’s less room for error, too, because continuity can be a problem. I remember watching a movie (don’t remember the movie now) that was so bad, I noticed that the color of a shirt wasn’t consistent in what was supposed to be the same scene. I’m not that detail-oriented, so the fact that I noticed meant I was not into the movie at all.

Another problem with movies for me is that my brain can’t always differentiate between reality and fabrication, so horrific images in movies stay with me a long time in the way horrific scenes in books don’t. I know that seems counter to what I said earlier, but I never said my brain was consistent. There’s a suicide scene in Girl, Interrupted, that stayed with me for years afterwards. Any time I thought of it, I would feel as if someone had actually died. With books, the whole experience may stay with me, but I’m less likely to remember horrible scenes with such a vivid reaction.


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Nioh V. Dark Souls: An Unfair Comparison

I recently tried out Nioh again after a long period off from it (because I was sick and did not want to sit at my desktop. It refuses to run on my laptop. At all) because I read about a Jutsu (magic spell) that supposedly trivialized bosses. I didn’t have it, but I ‘bought’ it and equipped it. I went through some old sub-missions, and I can’t say it made a noticeable difference. I encountered a ‘boss’ in one of the sub-missions, but she’s not the same as an actual boss, obviously. In fact, she becomes a common enemy in another mission.

I like to do old missions in order to farm and to brush up on my skills. I have to say going from Dark Souls III to Nioh (and back again) is not easy. I am so used to the DS controls (right bumper and trigger for weak attack and strong attack respectively, B for roll/run, A for interaction with items. X is for using the consumable item in the down position on the D-pad, and Y is to two-hand your weapon), that when I play Nioh, it takes a good half hour to adjust to the buttons. X and Y for weak attack and strong attack (like The Witcher 3 and apparently most games), A for dodge/run, B for interaction with items.

Both games have systems that are almost impregnable. I think the members of FromSoft (devs of Soulsborne games) pride themselves on their menus being counterintuitive and byzantine. They change their stats every goddamn game, and there’s always one stat that just doesn’t do jack or shit. One small example of needless obfuscation*–in every game, there is a consumable item (souls in the Souls games and coldblood in Bloodborne) that if you crush, you get a large quantity of souls/blood echoes. The thing is, they all have these weirdass names and refuse to tell you exactly how many souls you’ll get for crushing it. So you might pick up a Soul of an Intrepid Hero, a Large Soul of a Proud Paladin, and a Soul of a Great Champion (all names of consumable souls in DS III), but you probably wouldn’t know they give you 2500, 1000, and 50,000 souls respectively.

They decided that wasn’t opaque enough and went even weirder for Bloodborne with the consumable blood echoes. There are categories such as Coldblood Dew and Thick Coldblood, for example. Then, in most of the categories, they are numbered. Therefore, Coldblood Dew (1)  is 350 blood echoes, and Kin Coldblood (12) is 20,000. I’ve played Soulsborne games countless of times and still cannot tell you how much each consumable soul/coldblood is worth without Googling it.

Nioh is obviously influenced by Dark Souls, and I feel as if they took a look at DS’s menus and saw it as a challenge. “You think that’s obscure, mate? Take a look at this!” I don’t know why I made Team Ninja British when they and FromSoft are Japanese, but so be it.

Another reason it takes so long to reacclimate to Nioh’s control buttons is because there are so many things to do with the buttons.

*taking a deep breath*


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Dark Souls III: Bossing My Way Through NG Pluses

down to the wire with the dancer.
Tears of Denial saved my ass!

Hi, my name is Minna Hong, and I’m addicted to Dark Souls III. I have written before how it’s not the best Soulsborne game (Dark Souls. No question. But, man, is it so janky and has issues), but it’s the most replayable–at least for me. It’s also a game I can comfortably play on my laptop, so it’s my go-to when I’m in the mood to play something, but I can’t be stuffed to get up and go to my desktop. (Like when I was sick. I didn’t even want to get up and move the two feet to the recliner I use to play Bloodborne on my PS4.) I’ve also gotten back into Binding of Isaac: Rebirth to finish off the achievements, but that’s another post for another day.

I’ve played all the Soulsborne games more than once except Demon’s Souls, which I haven’t played because I don’t have a PS3, please god let it be remastered for the PS4, but I hadn’t done more than NG+ on any of them. I also hadn’t played a tank character up until I finished Dark Souls III and decided to give it a try. I’d heard all the griping in ‘the community’ about how easy magic/casting made the game, that it was babby mode, that only scrubs used magic, and I decided I had to give another build a try so I could make a comparison of my own. Before being a tank, I would still have argued that being a caster is more difficult because I had less health and stamina, had to wear lighter armor, and I didn’t have enough magicks/pyromancy/miracles to make my way through a whole area or boss fight. That meant I had to do some melee, usually with a starting/first area weapon (battle axe was my jam), which meant plinking away for potato damage until I reached a bonfire and replenished my spells.

One of my favorite changes to DS III was switching from a limited number of spells to mana (FP, focus points, but it’s mana) and having two Estus Flasks (Ashen Estus Flask to replenish the FP bar) which you can allocate any way you like. By the end of the game, I had fifteen gulps of my Estus Flasks, and I had a ten/five split between regular and Ashen.

Once I finished the game as a pyromancer, I decided to do another pyromancer run and a tank run (separately). I needed to know if my hunch that being a tank would be easier in the long run was right or wrong. Short answer–right. Having that fat health bar and endurance for days made such a difference. Being able to wield the Greataxe (what I used for my first tank run) or the Executioner’s Sword (another early fave) with ease meant dishing out massive damage. Being able to use more than a base shield meant blocking was viable, and if I wear the Wolf Ring +3, I don’t even flinch when I get hit.

When I started the first Dark Souls game, I chose pyromancer because I like fire, yes, but also because I thought being ranged would be better for an old, slow-reaction gal like me. After playing a lot of tank, however, I have to say that being a tank is better if you have slower reactions. Why? Because as a caster, I had to do a lot of dodging. A LOT. As a tank, I could trade blows and come out mostly intact. Right now, I’m rocking the Black Iron Set with the matching Black Iron Greatshield +10. If I wanted to truly cosplay as Black Iron Tarkus, er, Knight Slayer Tsorig, I’d use the Fume Ultra Greatsword, but I find it too unwieldy and, frankly, underwhelming. I switch up weapons during different playthroughs (and for different bosses), but my main is Lorian’s Greatsword, which is by far my favorite weapon in the game.

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Too Tired to Think–and Dark Souls III

I’m writing this on Christmas, and I’m feeling out of sorts. Not as bad as in past years, but there’s still a vague ‘I should be celebrating, but I’m not, and that makes me a bad person.” As I said, it’s much more subdued than it has been in past years, but it’s still there. I like to say I’m immune to advertising*, but there is still enough societal pressure that makes me low-key feel bad for not celebrating.

I still feel like shit with congestion and cotton in my brain. My ears are scabby and gross, and if I pick the scabs (I know, I know), pus oozes out. My lymph node is almost not-swollen any more, which is good, and it’s barely tender. I’m still going to go to the doc after the holidays, though, because I need to get a grip on this. I also need to get my thyroid meds checked, which may help with the sinus crap.

It’s been almost a year since I’ve cut out gluten and dairy, and I can honestly say I don’t miss it–except for cheese. God, I love cheese, but it doesn’t love me back. As Tim Minchin says, “I cannot Camembert any more.”

Why does cheese have to be so goddamn delicious???? And why is it so hard to duplicate? “I love cheese, but it’s plain to see, that cheese doesn’t love me. I am such a fool in love; I just cannot get enough, but it’s an unrequited love!” Sing it, Tim! The rest of it, though? Not. I’ve gone back to my Taiwanese roots and reacquainted myself with rice. Which, by the way, smells so delicious while cooking. And, PSA: rice cooker all the way for a perfect cook every time. Anyway, rice is way tastier than bread, and it’s way more versatile. I’ve also discovered non-gluten tortillas, bread, and bagels which are all nearly as good as the originals.

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The Video Game Equivalent of Comfort Food

lorian's greatsword to the face!
You, sir, ain’t no Sif!!

When I’m sick, I mostly want to hunker down on my couch with my cat, Shadow (who is snoozing on my legs right now), sipping my honey ginger lemon tea, moaning inside my head about how terrible I feel. If I’m going to game, it’s going to be on my laptop as I don’t want to go to my desktop or sit up to play Bloodborne on my PS4. By the way, I think Bloodborne is a brilliant game, but there is a section at the end (plus the DLC) that I absolutely hate. LOATHE. It’s quite possibly my most-hated area of a Souls-like game ever, and that’s including Blighttown (which I actually didn’t hate that much), the original Izalith, and the invisible reindeer area of the snow DLC for DS II. It makes the last part of the game such a downer for me, but I really should just plow through it with my tank.

Anyway, I haven’t played Nioh for about a week. I still think it’s a great game, but it juuuuuust misses the mark for me. Whatever the *it* factor that Souls games have for me is missing from Nioh, and I can’t tell you why. The combat is fantastic, even though I don’t switch between stances during a fight. The weapons are great–I’m maining an axe with the odachi as a strong second. The stagger with the odachi is real, yo. The magic is interesting, but too diffuse. I’m mostly using regen jutsu, and while it’s helpful, it’s not flashy at all. The biggest problems with Nioh are one, the environments. Not only are most of them drab and dreary, they’re ugly. They look last gen, and it’s really disappointing. Plus, they’re repetitive within the environments, and I get lost very easily. There’s a mini-map, but it’s not helpful at all. In fact, I get less lost in Souls games, even though they’re more labyrinth-like and don’t have maps. At all. Related, the enemies are not varied at all. Granted, I’m only half-way through the game, but there the hollows on the one hand and demons on the other. The bosses have been half and half (though some are both), and I’m suffering a little sameness fatigue.

The other biggest problem is two-fold. One, you start with a set number of elixirs at the start of each mission, and you can pick up elixirs as you go, but you are capped off at eight. That’s not nearly enough, which is one reason I use regen health jutsu. I really think the Estus Flask system is nigh-on perfect. I liked the way it was done in the original Dark Souls the best. You started with five Estus at most bonfires, but you can kindle to ten (which is what Firelink Shrine starts as) with a humanity, and later on, you can kindle up to twenty. I hate farming for Elixirs, just as I hated farming for Blood Vials in Bloodborne, and it’s made worse by the other part I don’t like–the mission system. In BB, if I needed to farm Blood Vials, I’d run to the first area and kill all the scrubs until I had enough Blood Vials. Or, later in the game, I’d buy them and be done with it. In Nioh, you can’t buy Elixirs (as far as I know), and yes, you can make offerings and maybe get Elixirs in return, but it’s not enough. You can store infinite amounts, but I never manage to have more than fifty or so in storage. That sounds like a lot until you come up against a hard boss. Then, you can deplete your storage in a hurry, or rather I can, and I can’t just run to the first area and farm them up. Why? Because once you start a mission, you have to finish it or you have to do the whole thing all over again. I really hate that I can’t jump from mission to mission without negating the entire experience.

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