I went to taiji yesterday for the first time in a few weeks (as I mentioned yesterday) and took it pretty easy. I didn’t want to overdo, but I’m wiped out today. Plus, there’s effluvia and coughing. I think I got everything moving around, and it has to come out somehow. I’m hoping it’s not a setback, but we shall have to wait and see.
This is a teaser video from FromSoft (makers of Dark Souls) for their next game. Most people seem to think it’s Bloodborne 2, but I don’t. To me, ‘Shadows Die Twice’ (the tagline) doesn’t have anything to do with Bloodborne. I’m thinking ghosts or vamps. I think I’m in the minority when I say I hope it’s a new IP and not BB2. I loved BB and will probably play it until the end of time, but I’m ready to move on from the Soulsborne universe. I’m excited to see what Miyazaki can do with something completely new. I lost my fucking mind when Ian sent me this teaser trailer, and now I have to spend the next twelve months studiously avoiding all spoilers.
So. Still sick with the chills and now sinus crap. I’m drinking my Simply Lemonade with mango and my ginger/lemon/honey tea like a boss as I’m hunkered down on the couch. May I say that getting the chills is terrible for me because I like being cold, so it feels like a slap in the face to me. I’m watching more Bloodborne vids because that’s how I roll. They’re ones I’ve already seen, but it’s more background noise than anything else. It’s blustery outside, and it snowed yesterday, even though it didn’t stick, and it’s gray today–which fits my mood.
In Bloodborne, I’m alternating between my tank playthrough and my NG+ playthrough for my arcane build, and I have many more thoughts on the game. I’ve already said how I had a more difficult time with the early bosses on melee than I did with my arcane build, and I think it’s because I don’t have my beloved Hunter Axe, which I just bought for this character. The damage is REAL, yo, as I have my Strength at 30. That’s already higher than for my arcane build, and I’m not even halfway through the game yet. My arcane is so sad for this character, but that’s the way it has to be if I want to beef up my other stats. I need two more Dex, er, Skill levels in order to use the Cannon, which will be exciting. When the game was released, apparently, you could use the fully-upgraded Cannon to kill bosses. Now, the bullet expenditure is 12 per use, which means you get one shot without using methods to increase your Quicksilver Bullet capacity (runes, blood bullets, etc.). I’m doing my best to do a Strength/Bloodtinge run, which means moar guns, yo! Or rather, stronger guns.
I’m also wearing the Hunter Set (without the bib on back. Hunter Set B in the link), though I recently switched out the Top Hat for the Yharnam Hunter Cap because the latter has better defense. I really like the Hunter Set w/Top Hat, however, so I might switch back. I do wear different sets for resistance, but I like having one main outfit that I wear throughout the game. It’s the Bone Ash Set with my arcane build, and Fashionborne is real, yo! I bought the Maria Hunter Set at the insight shop (for my arcane), and it looks cool as fuck, but the stats aren’t as good as the BAS. I like wearing one complete outfit, so it pains me when I have to mix and match. Fortunately, however, it’s usually a whole set that is best against, say, poison or other elemental effects. Also, I always play as a female character*, so I have all the female versions of the outfits.
Back to game difficulty on the second playthrough. I will say in general, the game is much easier on the second playthrough, naturally. Even though I’ve seen several Let’s Plays of the game before playing it, it’s still much different playing it. I got lost several times, and it doesn’t help that certain areas (looking at you, Forbidden Woods) look the goddamn same all throughout it. I can’t tell you how much time I wasted looping around, trying to find the right path, only to end up on the same goddamn path several times in a row. I have another problem on the second playthrough–skipping over areas. The first place of the Forbidden Woods is where I did my grinding run over and over again. I know it like the back of my hand, but there’s an area I skip when I do it (that takes you to Iosefka’s Clinic). When I ‘discovered’ the area on my tank playthrough, I had to remind myself that there was another area. I couldn’t find it, and I was wondering if I was losing my mind. I found it (and doggy town part 2, which I couldn’t find more than once in my first playthrough), and it was relief that I knew I wasn’t losing my mind.
This is the third post on my final thoughts (ha!) on Bloodborne. You can read part two here. What was I thinking as I watched the credits roll? Not much, honestly. I was so emotionally spent from the journey, I just had to take a few minutes to absorb it all. This is how I am after beating any Souls game–tired, contemplative, slightly stunned, and relieved. I want to emphasize that this is normal for me, and that I consider it a part of the Souls loop. About two-thirds of the way into the game, I’m tired of it. I’m so sick of it. I want nothing more than for it to be over, and yet, I can’t stop playing. Even at the end of a frustrating session, all I wanted to do was continue playing (though I was sick of it), and I thought about the game when I wasn’t playing it. I thought about how I could have done this better or that better, and I reminded myself that I had to go back and do this or that. When I play a Souls game, I become obsessed with it. I immerse myself in it so thoroughly, I’m drenched in the good blood. Er. Come to think of it, it’s how I play games in general (probably because of my OCD tendencies). I try out several games until I find one I like, then I play the shit out of it. I did this with Torchlight (the first ‘hardcore’ game I played, plus its sequel); Diablo III; Borderlands (and the sequel); Nuclear Throne; Cook, Serve, Delicious! (and the sequel!); The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth; Assault Android Cactus; Salt and Sanctuary, to name a few. But, none of them have gotten under my skin the way Souls games have, and I’d like to talk about this a bit more.
First, though, NG+ is ferreals*. Running through the opening section with my beloved Hunter Axe +10, it takes me three weak hits to kill an enemy, instead of one. The Executioner in Central Yharnam barely feels my Augur to the face instead of being killed by it. Apparently, from what I’ve read, the increase to health is greatest in the earliest areas, which makes zero sense, but whatever. The only way I can make it make sense is because you’re scaling up much less over time, but still–the leap is noticeable. That being said, because I don’t have any compulsions against summoning for bosses I’ve already beaten solo AND I have something like 75 insight right now (you need to spend one insight to summon a phantom), I’m anticipating summoning liberally during NG+. However, the fact that I’m playing it so late and I’m over-leveled *may* lead to difficulties summoning. I summoned Father Gascoigne for the Cleric Beast fight (also did the same in my tank playthrough), and we made short work of him. However, there are no NPC summons for Father Gascoigne, and I couldn’t get a human summon (how I figured out you get your insight back if you die before you get a phantom), so I fought him solo. Now, I beat him on my first try in NG by just smacking the shit out of him, but I was anticipating him to be much more difficult in NG+. I decided to get fancy and try to use Molotovs/Accursed Brew in his third stage, and I died several times to him with only a fraction of his health bar left. I did it by running around and jumping off the platform fruitlessly, trying to set up the perfect opportunity for me to Accursed Brew him from the rooftop where Viola’s body is with him below me. Late in the session, I decided to cut it out and just take it to him like I had the first time I fought him. I got him down to one hit left, and he caught me in a combo and finished me off.
Still thinking how I feel about Bloodborne now that I’m done with it. I’m not done playing it, obviously, but I have FEELINGS about finishing my first playthrough. I’ve written about some of my thoughts and feelings here, and I’m going to continue ruminating in this post. I left off the last post after beating Lady Maria, on my own, with an unusual strategy, and it’s probably the boss I’m most proud of beating because I thought I’d have problems with her before ever playing the game. After beating Lady Maria, I knew what was next, and I was dreading it. The Fishing Hamlet is legend for being grueling, and that’s the last thing I wanted at that point. I decided to tackle Laurence first, even though I knew that would be a pain in the ass, too. Weirdly, I did really well the first time and got him down to half-health. As per usual, I didn’t do nearly as well after that. I gave it several valiant tries, then decided I just didn’t give a shit. By the way, I’ve said it before, but giving a boss monster health isn’t a fun way of making it hard. Letting them have one-shot kills isn’t great, either. Covering the floor in lava, not good, either, and Laurence has all three. During the same time, I decided to allow myself to be summoned because I wanted to get my five Vermins, and I was curious to see if anyone was still playing.
I rang my Small Resonant Bell, and I didn’t have to wait long. I was summoned in, and imagine my delight when my host used Accursed Brew on Laurence. As that is one of my go-to spells as well (which means I actually started the last section of the DLC before tackling Laurence because that’s where you get the Hunter Tool from an NPC right at the very beginning. I did that specific bit just to get the Hunter Tool, then turned right around), I was delighted to help another arcane build. By the way, Accursed Brew is the best Hunter Tool in terms of bang for your buck. Two bullets, 500+ damage. It’s very economical. Anyway, my host and I ran around the arena, pelting Laurence with Accursed Brew. I Whirligigged his ass whenever prudent, and I used A Call Beyond twice. We finished him off with double Accursed Brews, and it was glorious. I LOVE bossing a boss with magic/arcane, and I bowed to my host with utmost respect. My favorite time of being summoned in DS III was when I was a pyro, the host and the other summon were a sorcery caster and a miracle user (don’t remember which was which). We got wrecked the first time, but then by some miracle (probably because we were the only ones playing), we got grouped together again. This was for Aldrich, Devourer of Gods, who is MUCH easier as a caster. It was a glorious thing to see the boys firing off lightning and magic while I was hurling fire at the boss. We destroyed Aldrich in roughly thirty seconds, and it was the best feeling ever.
I finished Bloodborne yesterday in one marathon session. I had one section and the final boss of the DLC plus the last two bosses (well, technically, the end boss and the secret end boss) of the main game to do, and I had only planned on finishing the last section of the DLC. Since I had watched umpteen playthroughs of the game, I knew what I had left to do (and boy, do I really wish I hadn’t watched them now. One of the best parts of a FromSoft game is to experience everything for yourself, but I truly never thought I’d buy a PS4 just to play BB. Funnily enough, I got Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain for free last month and just bought Until Dawn and Last of Us (remastered) plus the DLC for LoU at a steep discount, so I guess I’ll have more uses for my PS4 once I’m done with BB). I also knew that the last boss of the DLC was considered by many to be the hardest Souls boss ever up until that point, so I was not looking forward to it.
See, it always happens to me at the end of FromSoft games. I get sick of the game during the last third or so, and I can’t wait to finish it. It’s harder when I play the DLC as I’m playing the main game because that’s just so much game. I did all the sideline quests and all the optional content, so we’re talking a Bloodborne immersion. By the time I started the DLC, I was ready for the whole thing to be done. That’s not a good attitude because the DLC is notoriously difficult. The DLC has always been harder than the main games in the Souls series, and this was no exception. My theory is that it’s to reward the dedicated hardcore 1%ers, the onebros who do Waste of Skin/Deprived runs using nothing but their bare hands to rip apart the enemies, which is great for them, but frustrating for the rest of us who love Souls games, but aren’t terribly good at them. I’ve mentioned that The Ringed City (final DLC for DS III) made my cry when I first played it, and I HATED it, even though I love Slave Knight Gael as the final boss. I’m neutral about the DLC now, but I don’t love it.
The problem is, the DLCs are too deliberately difficult. I don’t play Souls games because they’re difficult; I play them to explore the environments, to marvel at the grotesque settings/enemies/stories, and to feel a sense of accomplishment after finally beating an area, certain enemies, and the bosses. I feel the main games (except II (SotFS) in a several places) are well-balanced, and the difficulty stems out of the desire to make the player better. It’s not about brutalizing the player, but that gets thrown out the window in the DLCs. It’s as if FromSoft has started to believe its own hype and the tagline Prepare to Die (from the original game, PC edition). I can say that The Old Hunters (Bloodborne DLC) is objectively more difficult than the main game by exponential factors. I can also say that it’s objectively well made and the level design is terrific. But, I can also say that I did not enjoy playing it, and I summoned for three of the five bosses.
I did it for Ludwig only because I wasn’t even getting a hit in on him. I summoned Valtr so I could see Ludwig’s moves without getting smashed. I did it three or four times, expecting to die each time. The last time, though, we made it to the cutscene, and Valtr had only used one or two vials. Valtr is a beast, yo! Maybe my favorite NPC summon ever. Ludwig’s second phase is easier than the first, and we wrecked him in no time flat. I felt bad for summoning, but not that bad. With Laurence, I tried him several times solo and got him down to his broken legs stage two or three times. I could have gotten him if I faced him dozens of times more, but I just didn’t care at that point. I did allow myself to be summoned for the fight just to get a better handle on him, and my host was another arcane build, which was so much fun! We Accursed Brew’ed his ass, and I used A Call Beyond twice. We wrecked Laurence easily, and I got a Vermin for my troubles!
I’ve been playing Bloodborne for a week now. I wrote about my first impressions in this post here. Going in, I was concerned about a few things. I’d like to address how I feel about them now. One, the fact that I’ve seen so many playthroughs. I was worried it would ruin the game for me, but it hasn’t. I will admit it’s hard to go into a situation knowing what’s going to happen because I don’t get the wow factor, but I’ve still jumped a few times, and it’s much different actually playing the game than it is to watch a Let’s Play. One of the things about a Miyazaki game is that the worlds are densely woven, and it’s difficult to get a sense of what goes where and how everything connects. The best thing about a Miyazaki game is seeing a closed gate and knowing that at some point, you’ll be able to open it from the other side. There is one notable exception–a door that never opens. The theory in ‘the community’ is that it was a shortcut, but left unused because it would make the game too easy.
My other big concern was running without a shield. I’m such a turtle when it comes to Souls games, even when I’m a caster. I’m wedded to my shield, and you’ll pry it from my cold, dead fingers. Although, I’m now curious to try DS III as a dual wielder, but that’s neither here nor there. I had heard in one of the Let’s Plays I’ve watched for Bloodborne that the die-hard sword-and-board users were having a difficult time with Bloodborne, which concerned me. Was I going to be frustrated with being so open? I’m old, so my reflexes aren’t great. Would I be constantly taking hits? I’m roughly halfway through the game, and I’m not having a problem without having a shield. I’m dodging and quick-stepping with the best of them, and I’ll say that I’m actually more concerned with not being able to roll when I’m locked on than not having shield. The quick-step is amazing, but it’s frustrating to try to quick-step past a boss, only to get smacked.
Not having a shield, though, isn’t that big a deal because the combat is much quicker and more fluid. I love dashing around, feeling unweighted. I’m delighted that encumbrance is not a thing in this game. The armor isn’t that important except for the resistance stats, and I’m still repping the Yharnam Hunter Set, which is the coolest of all. I wore Henryk’s set for the Darkbeast Paarl fight because it has high bolt defense and because it’s so fly-looking, but then returned to the Yharnam Hunter Set. Fashion Borne is real, yo. I love Souls combat, obviously, but there’s something about Bloodborne’s combat that really sings. Because of the rally system, it encourages me to be aggressive. Still don’t want to get greedy, but being greedy means something different in this game, and the way to remedy it is attack again if possible rather than retreat.
Longtime readers know I’m a HUGE FromSoft fangrrl. More to the point, I’m loyal to Hidetaka Miyazaki. I will buy whatever he creates, no questions asked. Except, it has to be on PC because I don’t have a PS4. Or, rather, I didn’t. More on that in a bit. In case you don’t know, Miyazaki is the brilliant mind behind the Dark Souls series, starting with Demon’s Souls, and Bloodborne. I beat the first Souls games (Dark, not Demon’s), and I hated it by the end. I was so done with it, and I never wanted to see it again. No more Souls for me, no way, no how. Then, Dark Souls II was coming out, and I thought, OK, maybe I’ll give it another shot. It had been long enough since my trudge through the original game, and my feelings towards it had softened. I decided to play the original as a way to gin up for the second one, and it was much more enjoyable, to my surprise. Because I had learned the basics of the game, I was able to make my way through it more smoothly, and because I didn’t care about summoning, I had a less difficult time with certain bosses (*cough* looking at you, Biggie & Small *cough cough cough*). I still had to beat all the DLC bosses solo because there are no NPC summons, but I did it. By end of my second playthrough, I was a converted Souls fan, and I was eager to play Dark Souls II. Since I got it well after its release, I got the Sins of the First Scholar edition, which is harder and includes all the DLC.
It’s not as brilliant as the original, but it’s still a good game. I have played it several times as I have the original, and, of course, Dark Souls III. The third game is comfort food for hardcore fans, while still being the most accessible of the trilogy. I’ve played it the most times by far, and it’s my relaxation game, except now because I’m doing a dex build, which is not my jam at all. I’ve beaten it a dozen times at least, and it’s still enjoyable to run through as a pyro or a melee character. In addition, I started a SL1 run, which is fucking brutal. That’s a Soul Level 1 run, for those not in the know. Or a onebro run, which is, whatever. The point is that you don’t level up your character throughout the game, which severely limits, well, everything. Much respect to the people who have made it through a whole game this way, but it’s not how I want to play Dark Souls. I think I made it to the Cathedral of the Deep before I decided to tap out. It’s way above my pay grade.
One of my lasting sorrows as a Miyazaki fangrrl was that I couldn’t play Demon’s Souls or Bloodborne because I didn’t have a PS anything. I’m not a console grrl at all, and I resigned myself to watching countless Let’s Plays of Bloodborne, which looked fucking amazing. There was a time when that was all I watched because I was obsessed with it. I loved the Gothic horror vibe, and I was fascinated with the no shields concept, even though I felt I would be terrible at it because I’m so wedded to the sword-(or wand/talisman/pyro glove) and-board mentality. The idea of having no shield scared the hell out of me.
Fast-forward two and a half years to now. Recently, I was afforded the opportunity to buy a PS4 at a very good price. I agonized over it because was I really considering buying a PS4 just to play Bloodborne? Why, yes, I was. I tried to talk myself out of it, but it stayed in the back of my mind. I wasn’t even sure if I should play the game because it’s so aggressive and fast. And yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I don’t think I can overstate my adoration for Miyazaki and his Soulsborne games*, and the temptation to play a Souls game which has the same core ethos, but is completely different was too much to pass up.
I’ve recently been playing Dark Souls II from scratch (both as a caster and as a melee character), and I have a few thoughts about it. It’s generally considered the bad child of the family–the one that drinks and does the drugs and is disrespectful to the entire family. Many people in the Souls community hate it, and while many people like it, there are few who think it’s as good as the first and very few who thinks it’s better. I’m in the camp of, “I think it’s a very good game, even if it’s not quite up to the original. It’s immensely fun to replay.” I’m also in the camp of, “It’s a really good game, but it’s not a great Dark Souls game.”
What do I love about Dark Souls the original? Sit back and let me count the ways. Also, let’s remember that I hated the original game by the time I was done with it, and I never wanted to touch it again. It’s only in preparation for playing DS II much later that I tried the original again and was blown away by it. I had enough distance on it to appreciate it, and I wasn’t as insistent that I beat every boss on my own*, so it was much more enjoyable. I will say as a point of pride that I’ve beaten every boss in Dark Souls solo, including all the DLC bosses. There are a few bosses I haven’t beaten solo in DS II because there are So. Many. Bosses., and the few that I haven’t beaten are early in the game (comparatively) when you’re relatively weak or in the DLCs. I’ve beaten every boss in the third game solo, except for a few in the DLCs.
Anyhoooooooo….what do I love about Dark Souls the original? Let me count the ways. Before I start, though, let me say that it being difficult isn’t one thing I loved about it. That’s the problem with many of the clones (including DS II); they think the difficulty is the end game, not part of the journey. What I do love about the difficulty is how good I feel when I beat the thing that I previously thought was unbeatable. Whether it’s a hard enemy or a really tough boss (looking at you, Nameless King), the exultation when they finally turn into white dust is indescribable.
What’s also good is finding a way to cheese a hard enemy/boss. There is a boss in Dark Souls II, King Vendrick, who is really…not hard, but sturdy. He has physical defenses that is berserker hard, and you have to get a bunch of giant souls (it makes sense in context) to make him easier. He’s so hard, you have to be able to do a certain amount of damage just to start the fight. I have a special fondness for him because he made me change the way I played the first time through (as a caster, of course). Here’s the thing. He hits like a Mack Truck. Even with my not-fragile melee character, he could kill me in two hits. With my caster, yeah, it was pretty much one and done. After dying to him many, many times the first time as a caster. So many times! I decided I had to get radical. I stripped off all my armor so I could have the lightest roll possible, and then I did the classic, “Stick to his left side and smack that ass!” This is what you do with large beasts, which he kinda was. Since I had my shitty Battle Axe as a weapon, it took forever to kill him. It was much easier with my melee character this time around, but it was still circle around the left side and smack that ass. Anyway, beating him melee as a caster while wearing no armor (since one hit killed me anyway, why wear armor?) is one of my fondest DS II memories. Continue Reading
I love the Dark Souls series. Longtime readers will not be surprised by this as I can natter about it for ages–and have. In fact, I have to bite my tongue from raving about OMIGOD HOW FUCKING AWESOME IS THIS SERIES AND YOU SHOULD LOVE IT AS MUCH AS I DO WHY DON’T YOU YOU FUCKING WEIRDO? Seriously, this game changed my life. It’s…OK. Calm down, Minna.
This post is not about that, though. It’s about the fact that I’ve been replaying Dark Souls II (the red-headed stepchild of the series) as both a caster and a melee character (both SO fun in their own ways) and something amazing happened. I was romping through Brightstone Cove Tseldora as a pyro and doing the Pate/Creighton questline (#TeamCreighton, yo!). Once I was done helping Creighton kill Pate, I finished the rest of the room, and then…
First of all, some backstory. I have played each of the Souls games several times and know them like the back of my hand. Of the games I’d say I know Dark Souls II the least, but I’ve still finished it at least four or five times (including NG+), so I know the areas fairly well. When I replay the Souls games, I like to switch up spells and weapons I use along with other equipment loadout factors, but I follow the same path of how I do the areas more or less. It’s to the point where I can go into a room and think, “OK, there are seven or spiders in this room with a bonfire. Then, I open the door and there are two bastard mages, five more spiders, and a basilisk that pops up from the ground. Then, Ornifex is in that room, and there are two spiders and one spider-man in the next room.” Sometimes, I forget the specifics of a room, but I know the general layout.
Anyway, once I was done with the Pate/Creighton questline, I finished up the other stuff in the room, and was about to leave when, wait. What’s that? There’s a hallway I’ve never seen before. I know it’s not a patch thing, but how the hell is there a hallway I’ve never seen? I was gobsmacked, and I was fucking excited! Another room? What? I went down the hallway, and then I was in a small room I’d never been, then another hallway, then outside trying to kill a spider-man, and then I fell, and there’s another room with two spider-men and a spider, and what??? I repeated the process with my other character to get a better handle on this new mini-area, and it just fucking blew my mind. How the hell did I miss this my five or six other times I’ve played this game? I vaguely remember seeing a video of this area before, but I thought maybe it was from the original version, and I’m playing the Scholars of the First Sin (SotFS) edition.