Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: fromsoft

Waiting in breathless anticipation with Sekiro pre-loaded

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which hereafter shall be known as Sekiro because that’s what it was intended to be called until Activision shoved its nose into the–I’ll get to that in a bit–is coming out tomorrow (or today by the time you read this). Or rather, tonight since it’s coming out at midnight EDT (are we DT or ST now?) which means 11 p.m. here. I had to uninstall Dark Souls: Remastered (the current DS game I’m replaying) to make room for Sekiro, which I bought last night. Pre-ordered it. At full AAA price.

If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I’m cheap as hell. I don’t mind waiting for a game to go on steep sale before buying it, which means I’m usually playing a game a year or two after it’s released. I bought the original Dark Souls a year and a half after it was released, the Prepare to Try edition, for ten bucks, I think. Maybe twenty. I did play Dark Souls III in real time, but that was because Ian bought it for me along with the season’s pass. After DSIII, I said that any future game by FromSoft was an auto pre-order for me, and this is also amazing because I am very against pre-orders for a few reasons.

One, before Steam instituted its return policy, you were SOL if you bought a game and didn’t want it for whatever reason. Now, if you buy a game after it’s released, then you can look at reviews and whatnots of it in order to get a better feel if it’s for you or not. With the sheer volume of games being released these days, it can be overwhelming if you’re not the type only to play, say, Collar Duty games. If you are the type to only play COD BlOP or whatever, then I can absolutely see pre-ordering the next iteration. I can also see paying full price because console games don’t go on sale nearly as often or as steeply as do PC games.

Two, I don’t like this move to making games a service thing rather than a one-time product buy. I hate that a game can be released broken with the idea that it’ll get patched in time. Honestly, I would rather wait until a game is fully functional before it’s released, even if it means the game is delayed months. I will say that waiting for Eitr to come out has tested that theory, though. I first heard about it…I want to say three years ago, but it might have been six months more or less. Anyhow, they are the exception, and I would rather the game come out later fully intact than to be released a broken mess.

In other words, I don’t want to reward companies for bad behavior. Continually pre-ordering games that turn out to be broken, incomplete, or just downright bad gives said companies no incentive to do better. If they’re going to make the same amount of money either way, why not just released a broken game? I’m not even blaming them because it makes business sense. I also know I can’t make other people wait to buy games, but I don’t want to play into that system.


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A confession from a FromSoft fangrrl

I have a confession to make that will probably get me kicked out of the Souls community, but YOLO.

Bloodborne is my least-favorite FromSoft/Soulsborne game to play out of the four (still haven’t played Demon’s Souls) for a variety of reasons.

Before I get into the reasons why (and why I’m writing about it again), let me clearly state that I think Bloodborne is a brilliant game. It’s gorgeous and lush, and all the intricate mapping that Miyazaki is known for is amply present in this game. If you can see it, you can get there, and it gives you something to work towards. I love the Hnter Axe even though it’s basic, and I will admit to having oodles of fun hitting an enemy in the face with the Augur of Ebrietas and yelling, “Tentacles to the face!” In fact, the only time I won a PvP encounter was when I followed this formula for massive damage and the kill. Granted, I was in the area way later than I could have gone so I was pretty OP for the area, but still. I was pretty satisfied with killing an actual player in this manner. However, it was not recommended that you go in with an arcane build on your first playthrough, but I’m stubborn. I’m a caster until the day I die, and it’s how I play all the Soulsborne games for the first time. I will say that I’ve changed to being a strengthcaster, but that’s for subsequent playthroughs.

Anyway, I can objectively say that I was amazed by Bloodborne. I wish I hadn’t watched countless playthroughs of it before playing it, but I never thought I’d buy a PS4, so I thought the only way I would experience the game was by watching it. I do sometimes wonder if I would have a warmer feeling for it if I had played it through unspoiled, but I go back and forth on that. I think I would have been completely frustrated if I’d gone in without any prior knowledge because it’s different in several ways to the Souls games. On the other hand, one of my favorite parts of these games is the exploration and discovery.

Side note: The boys of RKG nee Prepare to Try celebrated their 3rd birth-i-versary yesterday with a seven-hour stream. They were passing the sticks on each death, and Gav was saying how he had practiced for a couple hours before the stream because he hadn’t played much of the games before. He said that he thought for him some of the fun of the games was having Krupa there to explain the lore and to guide them. Gav and Rory had said more than once that they never would have gotten out of the Undead Asylum (first area of the original game) without Krupa’s help. Their goal was to see how far they could get in the original game (remastered) during the stream. They put a call-out for summons, and I was sad they were playing on the PS4 because that meant I couldn’t be summoned, but it was so cool to watch people in the stream get summoned. With all the summons and the shit they dropped for the boys, they made it well past Biggie & Small. They said they’ll do another stream in which they finish this playthrough which had a Finchy (all their characters are named Finchy) with a magic build.


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Miyazaki the brilliant storyteller

One of the things that irks me the most when people talk about the Soulsborne games is when someone glibly says, “Oh, there’s no story there.” I’ve heard actual games journalists say this, and it irks me every time. There is a story to each game–a pretty deep story with several NPC storylines. It’s just not handed over to you in cutscenes (though there are a few of those. The ones in the beginning are surprisingly explicit); you have to dig it up mostly on your own. Or, if you don’t have the patience for it, read up on it on the wikis.

I will say that you don’t have to understand the story in order to play the games and have a satisfactory experience. The gameplay itself stands up if you’re willing to put the time and effort into learning it. I’ve learned from ‘the community’ that the controls are shit, but I didn’t know that because it was the first time I’d ever used a controller. Any control scheme would have been foreign to me, and now, the Souls schematic is the one imprinted into my brain. I reinstalled MHW because Ian is powering through the end game, and his enthusiasm has perked my interest again. It’s hard getting back into the controls, though, because I’ve been playing Souls games in the meantime.

I was switching back and forth between Souls and MHW  for a bit, and that was really hard. When I go back to Souls games, though, it’s like coming home. It’s one of my biggest gripes about Souls clones that they would copy everything about the formula EXCEPT the controls. If you’re going to be a Souls clone, then copy the control scheme. B is forever roll, and I will fight anyone on this.

Anyhoooooo. Back to the brilliance of Miyazaki, and this is specifically related to him. In each game, there are several NPC questlines. You have to do them in a specific, byzantine order in order to fulfill the quests. I’ll give you an example. Solaire is one of the most famous and beloved NPCs in the whole Souls series. The whole ‘praise the sun’ and ‘do you even praise the sun, bro?’ memes are about him, and the funniest part is that he never says the phrase at all. It’s the emote you get when you join the Warrior of Sunlight Covenant (his covenant), and you perform it by crouching slightly, then raising up as you hold your arms up in a V. If you’re summoned as a SunBro (nickname for the members of this covenant), you perform the gesture automatically as you enter your host’s world, and you’re a brilliant golden color as opposed to white.


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The one game to rule them all award

*BONUS POST*

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?

::double-checks::

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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Take It Easy On Me

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.

 

Bloodborne: Seeking the Blood Moon

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.


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Bloodborne: Praise the Moon

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.


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Bloodborne: Nightmare Slain

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.

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Bloodborne: A New Day (Game Plus)

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!


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Bloodborne: A Deeper Look

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.


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