Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: Dark Souls Remastered

The one game to rule them all award


I have written three posts granting awards for various games throughout the year. They are all deserving winners, and I appreciate every one of them for a variety of reasons. However, we now come to the one game that is nearest and dearest to my heart, and anyone who has read my blog with any consistency can probably guess which game it is. Or if not the actual game, at least the developer.

Whenever I am between games, I always return to my roots–Dark Souls. I recently finished another playthrough of DSII: SotFS in anticipation of the Prepare to Try boys* doing a full playthrough in February. I played as a strength caster, which is now my favorite way to play Souls games.  Nothing feels as good as a Greatsword +10 in hand and an array of powerful pyromancies/hexes/spells/miracles. There were still people playing, and I was able to summon humans for several bosses, even in the DLC. I love that the Souls community is alive and thriving, though not so much when I get invaded. I had one invader wag his finger at me when I used an Estus to heal, but if you fucking come into my world, I’m going to do whatever I can to come out of it alive.

The invader system is one reason I play offline until the bosses much of the time. I know it’s a beloved part of the games for many people, and so I accept that it will never change. Not to mention there will probably not be another Soulsborne game, but that’s besides the point. I hate PvP, and I know that anyone still doing it now must be really good at it because they’ve been doing it for so long. I’ve been invaded in the DLC area in NG+, and think about that. There’s someone camping out in the DLC in NG+ of a game that came out almost four years ago. Has it really been that long?


It has, indeed. The base game came out over six years ago! I think it’s pretty cool that people are still playing (and, yes, I realize that I’m people and I’m still playing, but the fact that I could consistently summon people for certain bosses made me happy), and I’m finding it the same in my current Dark Souls III playthrough, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

One thing I love about Dark Souls games is how they push me out of my comfort zone. My preferred playstyle when I first started out was as much a caster (preferably pyro) as possible. Now, I like a blend of strength and casting, and I lean more on the former than the latter once I’m past the first playthrough. This time, on NG+, I decided to try something different with Vendrick. I had five Giant Souls, so he didn’t have any hyper-armor, which was a relief. By the way, the Ancient Dragon is so much easier than I anticipated. Granted, I summoned Bashful Ray and Vengarl, but I could easily do him again on my own.

Side note: I love that once I’ve soloed a boss, I don’t have any compunction about summoning for the boss the next time(s) I meet him/her/it. Jolly cooperation is fun, especially when everyone is in synch. There are a few bosses in SotFS, however, in which you cannot summon, which means having to go solo. Vendrick is one of them.

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The end of Dark Souls Remastered…for now. What next?

So while I was romping through Dark Souls Remastered NG+, I decided to take a break and try a few games I purchased on gog.com. It was right after e3, and I had been catching up on the stuff I missed. I saw the trailer for Beyond Good & Evil 2, and I decided I wanted to try the first game (Beyond Good & Evil) because I’d heard such good things about it. I went to gog to check out how much it was there, and it was on steep sale. I also bought Chuchel because I had seen Ian play some of it, and it was really cute. I joked with Ian that my feeling about BG&E would probably be, “I wished I had played this game twenty years ago (even though it was released fifteen years ago) because while I like the concepts, I can’t deal with the jank.” I also liked that Jade, the protagonist, looks Asian. Hey,  I take my representation where I can find it. One of the reasons I got so into Torchlight as my first hardcore game was because the character I chose looked Asian, and she was fucking badass. By the way, there has been much made about why BG&E failed so spectacularly when it was released, and I really think the fact that the protagonist was female was part of it, but that’s another post for another day.

Anyway, I played about an hour of BG&E, and it was very much as I thought it would be. I really liked the idea, and I adored Jade with her bright green lipstick, but I couldn’t deal with the…not jank because it ran fairly well…but the controls (the camera, man. Oh, the camera) and the aged gameplay. No place to see what the controls were, no way to change the controls (that I could find), imprecise camera controls, etc. In addition, the combat was just bad and the tutorial was horrid. I couldn’t figure out what key I should use to eat the food, and I actually had to look it up on Google. Which, by the way, I couldn’t do while I was playing because I couldn’t Alt+Tab out of the game.

One of the first things I had to do was take pictures of the animals in my immediate area. Seriously, game? This is what you want me to do? The camera controls sucked, and they were very finicky about what constituted a good picture. In addition, they didn’t explain to me that my companion spiky fur polar bear (which is how I thought of him) was wildlife, so I wasted several minutes wandering around trying to find the last animal I needed to take a picture of before moving on. Once I finished that quest, I wandered around to find the next bit, and after several minutes of this, I was done.

I’ve written before how having not grown up gaming makes it difficult for me to go back to old games because I don’t have the nostalgia for them. I played Pitfall as a kid and Ms. Pac-Man as a teen, but that’s pretty much my experience with hardcore gaming in my youth. Wait. I played Time Crisis (the first, I think) in an arcade because I was with my then-boyfriend and bored out of my mind. I was pretty disdainful about vidya games, and he urged me to try one. I resisted for a bit, but then I gave in because we were already there. I put a quarter into the Time Crisis machine, and I was instantly hooked. I kept pumping quarters into the machine, hooked on the response-reward loop. My boyfriend wandered over after some time to ask how I was doing, and I told him to shut up and get me more quarters. I finished the game in one go, and then I didn’t touch another game again for decades.

Those instances notwithstanding, I didn’t play video games, so when all the reboots started happening, I didn’t have the same pull towards them as people who’ve played those games in their childhood probably had. It’s the same with all those retro-looking games–they just don’t have the same appeal to me as they do for people who were gaming back in the 80s. There was a time where everything was crunchy pixel art in a nod to early gaming, and I could not get into it at all. I didn’t get the appeal, and I just accepted it was yet another thing I would never be a part of.

I gave up on BG&E after an hour. While I could see why it was so revered, I couldn’t play it. I’ll wait for BG&E and hope it’s as good if not better than the first one.

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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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The end of Dark Souls Remastered…or is it just the beginning (of NG+)?

i seemed to have lost my top somewhere.
Nearly-naked me means fast-rolling is viable!

I finished Dark Souls Remastered yesterday, and I have many thoughts about my return to Lordran. One, I maintain my belief that this is the best Soulsborne game out of the ones I’ve played* because it was so fresh and innovative for the time. Things we take for granted now (interconnected levels, elaborate level design, hard-as-nails bosses, unforgiving death system, summoning, and the list goes on and on) were on display in this game. Yes, I know many of them were in Demon’s Souls as well, but they are much more polished in this game.

One thing I loved about this playthrough was comparing it to how the first playthrough went at the same points in time. First of all, even though I did a shit-ton of grinding in this playthrough, I still finished the whole game (plus the DLC) in roughly forty-two hours–which is less than a third of the time it took for my first playthrough. Or so Steam says. I’d say 5-10 hours of this playthrough was me grinding for levels, upgrade materials, and humanity, so the actual gameplay time was closer to thirty-two hours. Now, I’m on NG+ through the Capra Demon in roughly an hour and a half, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

I romped through the Northern Undead Asylum and the Undead Burg with nothing but my trusty Hand Axe and Fireballs. Yes, I was a pyro again because it’s all I ever want to be in these games. It felt like coming home to swing the Hand Axe or hurl off a fireball. It also was amazing how easily I could recall every minute detail of the map and enemy placement. I’ve mentioned before that I have spatial awareness difficulties, but for some reason, I was able to overcome it with this game. I think it’s partly because I had to play areas over and over in my first playthrough until they were seared in my brain. Now, I can go to, say, the Undead Burg and be like, “OK. Up the stairs, pause for the hellkite drake, then there are three Hollows waiting. There’s a fourth further up who is an archer. There are two Hollow Soldiers to the right guarding a hidden staircase down to the Undead Merchant (Male). There’s a door that leads to the Wooden Shield. Up the stairs to the left is the bonfire.” It’s a bit scary how much of this game is embedded in my, ahem, soul. I haven’t played the original in over a year, and it was as if I had never left.

There’s a mod for DS II that mixes up enemy placement, and while it sounds intriguing, it also sounds like my worst nightmare. One of the strengths in a Souls game is how scary a new area is, and how, by the end of it, it becomes, if not comfortable, then at least very familiar. The element of surprise is used to great effect by FromSoft to make you terrified every time you enter a new area. Once that’s taken away, everything becomes much more manageable. For example, the Asylum Demon. First time I fought him for realsies, I thought I would never beat him. Now, four or five fireballs to dat ass, and he was toast. Literally.

I also am much better at knowing what I want to do and in which order. Once I hit Firelink Shrine, I went into the graveyard specifically to grab the Zwei** and managed to run by all the skellies. I was going to be a strength/pyro which has been my jam since I tried it out in DS III. I went into New Londo Ruins to get the Fire Keeper Soul to strengthen my Estus Flask. Then, I proceeded down the ‘right’ path and decimated everyone who dared cross me.

Let’s talk stats. In my first playthrough, I did what most people do–put the levels in at random, thinking to keep things fairly even. This is a sensible approach that doesn’t work the best in Souls games. I feel the games are made in a way that encourages true builds, which means pumping two or three stats rather than spreading out the levels evenly. This time, I focused on Strength and Endurance so I could handle the big girl’s weapons. YES I MEAN THE ZWEI WHICH I USED THROUGHOUT THE GAME AFTER MAXING IT OUT AT +15. I’ll get to that in a minute as well. I put enough points into Attunement so I have five spell slots, and I have two rings that give me an extra slot each.

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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 Die  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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Feeling under the weather

too damn hot!
Saunas are not my friend.

We’ve been experiencing a heat wave in Minnesota this week, and to make matters worse, my a/c is busted. This is my own damn fault. It broke at the end of last summer, and when I called the repair guy, he said it would be better to wait until this spring to fix it so I would have more time on the warranty. That made sense as last summer was fairly cool, so I agreed. Then, as you probably guessed, I forgot. To be fair, we had a 15 inch blizzard on April 14th. The last thing I was thinking about was air conditioning. So, yeah, my fault, but I’m ruing it now.

We hit 97 degrees on Saturday and 101 degrees on Sunday. It hit 90 before it was even noon. Now, if you know me, you know that I cannot stand the heat. 60 is about my level of comfortableness, and anything over that ratchets up my irritability. When we hit 70, I want to throat-punch somebody. If it hits 80, I start to lose the little bit of energy I have. 90 makes me incapacitated, and 100? Forget about it. I was outside in it for a few minutes at a time, and it was incredibly draining.

How am I dealing with the heat with no a/c? Poorly. I have three iced drinks with me at all times, which helps. I’m in as little clothes as possible (usually a tank top and boxer shorts) with my hair up. I have an old big box fan that only works on high that I have blowing on my face. When it gets really bad, I go into the basement because it’s so much cooler. It’s not great, but if I make like a slug and don’t move, it’s barely tolerable. I blasted the air when I was in the car, though, I’ll tell you that much for free.

My sleep, which is shit, anyway, is even more erratic now. As I said in a recent post, my sleep goes nuts when I’m sick–which I was in the near past. Currently, I’m going to bed by midnight and getting up around six. I used to go to bed around four or five in the morning and get up around ten or eleven. Before that, it was even worse. I went to bed at six or seven in the morning and got up four hours later. Now, it’s an average of six hours a night. I can’t get used to getting up at the crack of dawn, even though it’s been more than a month.

I’ve been exhausted since the heat wave had started, and I’m pretty sure it’s heat-related. No matter how much I sleep, I’m dead tired when I wake up. Not just sleepy, but drop-dead exhausted. I literally can’t keep my eyes open at times. It’s disconcerting because even when I was sleeping four hours a night, I wasn’t this tired. I’m blaming the heat, but I’m thinking it might also be my sleep deficit catching up with me. Also, still not completely 100% (about 93%), and I’m nervous about a relapse. I’ve been coughing a bit in the past few days, which isn’t good. Plus, my left ear is all crusty again. These are both signs that maybe I’m coming down with the sickness again.
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