A week after I saw the credits roll in Hades, I’m still firing it up every day. Why? A little for the combat, somewhat because it’s soothing and comforting (it’s my new Binding of Isaac), but mostly for the lore. That sweet, sweet, Greek lore. Again, this is all going to be spoilers if you haven’t seen the credits and played beyond it. Fair warning before I jump into the meat of the post. All spoilers, all the time. Spoilers for DAYS.
You’d think with all the content I’d experienced so far that SuperGiant would be satisfied to rest on their laurels and say, “Good job, us!” with a satisfied nod. It took me roughly fifty hours to see end credits because I am bad at the game. Or I was. Now, I win more runs than not and my personal best was five wins in a row. I’m on Heat 7 with the sword, which–ok. I need to explain this. One of the genius touches of the game is how they do NG+ and beyond. Most games just start you at the beginning again and make the enemies harder. In a roguelike, there may not be any NG+ at all. In this game, each run is called a heat. The first is Heat 0 (which I call Heat Zero for clarity), which is your basic New Game. There are four floors with a boss at the end of the floor. When you beat the final boss, a mechanic called the Pact of Punishment is introduced and it has modifiers that increase the heat. You can increase as much as you want, but you’re only going to get the rewards for the appropriate heat. So, in this case, Heat 1, you need one pain point. My go-to is adding what is essentially a shield to each enemy which means they can take one free hit.
Also, you have to beat each heat (well, except Heat Zero) with each weapon in order to advance to the next heat with that weapon. There are different aspects of each weapon, including hidden ones. I have to say, I love the hidden aspects of the weapons because they’re named for famous people. Like the sword’s hidden aspect is Excalibur, wielder, Arthur. The spear is a really interesting one. Guan Yu. Gives you much more power, but a third of your health. So you’re very much a glass canon. Ugh. I just read how to unlock one of the hidden aspects I don’t have and it’s not going to be fun. At all.
This is one complaint I have about the game. The grind gets super grindy. At this point, I’m pretty much over the combat and am in it for the lore. I’ve united Orpheus and Eurydice, and I’ve done the same with Achilles and Patroclus. I’m having an interesting relationship with Dusa, the Gorgon head who is a helpful maid in the House of Hades. I’ve been giving her Nectar/Ambrosia (how to bond with people) and while she’s appreciative at first, she then tells me she can’t take it because it makes Nyx mad. What, huh? Why does Nyx not want me talk to Dusa? I haven’t figured that out yet, but at least she’s allowed to talk to me again.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! by David Galindo (chubigans) just got the last update (still in Early Access! I’m curious to see if there will be anything new added before it’s officially released), and it’s a corker. It’s a cooking competition called Iron Cook Speedway (how droll. It’s a common theme of the games), and it’s done in an arena? I think? But simulates the road? Or it’s really the road. Anyway, the cool thing is that Northerlion and his wife, Kate, are in the last update! They are the commentators of the cooking competition, and it was really cool to read that they were in it.
They play Chuck and Gretta, and it’s really delightful. Probably because I’ve watched NL on and off for years, and I love that his avatar looks so much like him with a goofy hat. Kate’s avatar is relly cute, too, and it incorporates that she normally colors her hair different colors (in the game it’s light blue). The repetition of their lines gets a bit samesy, but it’s a small niggle.
A bigger niggle, however, is that the difficulty is ramped up to a hundo in the final update. Look, I get it. It’s the culmination of the whole game, and the whole game is predicated on being difficult. Lots to do at a frantic pace, and you can’t really let up your concentration too much unless you’re doing old days again (as I’ve done for comfort).
One of the new things introduced in this sequel was the food truck attacks. I’ll be completely honest with you–I fucking hate them. As soon as I could buy the upgrades to stop the attacks, I turned them on and never looked back. I did try one day without them on after I finished the rest of the content, but I quickly turned them back on because it was harshing my mellow. I understand why they were included, and I think they were good in concept. I’m sure there are people who like them, and I did like working towards earning enough to get the upgrades one by one to block the attacks.
However. In practice, they drained much of my enjoyment because the way I play, I try to get into a groove with each day, and they didn’t allow me to do that. Yes, I know that’s the whole point, but it felt…like filler. I know it’s the second sequel and I know there’s pressure to keep it fresh.
Side note: I have always maintained that one of the reasons Dark Souls II (you didn’t really think I’d not mention Souls in this post, did you?) was reviled so much was because it was in a Catch-22 situation. Dark Souls was so original (if you hadn’t played Demon’s Souls), there was no way to make a sequel that could capture the same sense of discovery and surprise as the original, but if they deviated too far from the first game, well, then people would be pissed about that as well.
What I’m saying is that I don’t blame a developer for including something new. They have to do it, and one thing I loved about DS II was that it had fast travel from the start. It’s one reason I played it more than the original game. In Dark Souls III, they switched from having specific number of casts for magicks to having mana (Ashen Estus Flask). I was skeptical about it at first because it meant less of the regular Estus for me, but once I played enough, I was able to see the brilliance in it. There were 15 Estus Flasks total, and if you were a pure melee character, you could have 15 regular Estus*.
I fiddled with it throughout the game, and I discovered that the primo ratio for me was 2:1 regular estus to ashen estus. So, in the end, I had 10:5. I changed it up for the boss fights, but that served me well.
Back to CSD 3. Once I had the food truck attack gimmick under control, I enjoyed the game much more. And that’s exactly what it feels like to me–a gimmick. I mean, it makes sense in the game world, but it feels as if it was just tacked on. Or as if chubigans had the idea in his head first and was determined to shove it in no matter what.
Again, I get it. It’s new and fresh and different. It certainly makes a chaotic game even more chaotic. But I hated actually playing with it on. This brings me to the newest and last update. The food truck attacks can’t be blocked. It doesn’t matter how many upgrades you have–and I have them all–you have to deal with the food truck attacks during every. goddamn. day. Not just one, either. There are at least two (except for the days that had three stops) during each day and sometimes three. Maybe four? I don’t remember I haven’t done the endurance days yet (eight stops per day), but I would surmise there might be five or six.
I hate it. I really hate it.
Side note II: I have to comment about my way of playing these games. I only allow for gold days, which means no mistakes. Why? Because I know that I’ll want to do that in the end, anyway, so why not just do it the first time around? I have written more than once that I do not like that gold days are predicated on perfection. That is neither here nor there, however, as it’s been that way for all three games. I have managed to get all perfect days for the first two games, and I got all the achievements in the first game (before the massive update). I got almost all the achievements in the second game except for a few of the stress day ones. And, I’ve gotten all the achievements in the current game prior to this update.
As to the last point, though, I had many theoretical tears while trying to get the last few. These achievements were getting a gold on certain days with ridiculous requirements. There have been plenty others of these, but I was able to figure out how to get them done.
Here’s the thing. These achievements are not skills, really, they are about finding ways to cheese the achievement as best as possible. There are a few ways of doing this. One is having as few prep stations as possible. Seven is the lowest, and keeping a handle on that is the best way to deal with any day. The problem is that you get -1 on the required points list for every extra prep station. My personal M.O. is to only use auto-serve dishes (ones that don’t take more than one step) because then I can just push them out without thinking about it.
There are a few days where none of the dishes are auto-serve, and that’s frantic as fuck. I hate, hate, hate those days. I also hate random food days because I don’t get to choose. I will say that the random food days in this current update were easy-peasy because there were no points requirements, so I just used all 0-point dishes, which meant all were auto-serve. Did I feel guilty about it? Hell to the fuck no, but it underlines that it’s more about gaming the system than getting good at the game.
I’ve noticed before that the games I love are ones that tend to ramp up in difficulty the longer they’re around. I have a ceiling for my skills, and I can feel when I’m bumping up against the ceiling. I felt in the DLCs of DS II and the DLCs of DS III. I felt it hard in Sekiro. it’s the Keeper in Isaac (the MegaSatan fight), and it’s this update in CSD 3. Like I said, it started nudging me at the end of the last achievements, and now, it’s swirling around me completely. I’ve managed to finish half the stops (A-E, I think. Each letter represents an area, and there are different days within each letter), and I’m not looking forward to the other half.
This is for the hardcore fans, and while I understand why and appreciate it, it means that it pushes the game beyond me. Yes, I finished DS II, III, and Sekiro. I have not finished the Keeper (and this is beyond the True Platinum, which I have), and I’m not sure I’m going to finish this last part or the achievements related. Could I do it? Probably. Do I want to put in the incredible amount of work TOO do it? Not sure. We’ll have to see if I continue to play or not.
*Focus Points is the official name of the mana in the game, FP for short. In addition to being the marker of mana, it’s also what you need for your weapon arts.**
**Weapon arts is another new thing introduced in the third game, and it’s wonderful. Don’t want to talk about it in this post, however, so I’ll leave it at that. I’ll just leave this here.