Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: Sekiro

Rambling thoughts about the state of my game

So, I’m have good news and bad news concerning my health. The good news is that all my flu symptoms are gone. The bad news is that my cough has settled in my chest. All things considered, I’ll take the trade off. It still means I’m exhausted, however, which means I stick to BoI:R and Dark Souls III these days. As I mentioned, I started another Sekiro playthrough, but I cannot play it when I’m not in top form. Whenever I watch someone else play it, I’m filled with passion to play it again. When I actually think about doing it, however, I just don’t have the will or the energy.

I can’t quit BoI:R. I’ve reached the point where I can do a run quite comfortably as long as I get some damage upgrades fairly quickly. By the way, let me ruminate on some of the most annoying things about the game. I was going to make a whole post of it, but that seems like too much of a bother. One of the worst runs in this game is one where I have a ton of health (say as Maggie), but no damage. I remember a run where I was on the Mom floor, and I had no damage upgrades, but a shit-ton of health and health regen. There was no way I was going to die, but it was taking me two or three tears to kill very basic enemies. If I don’t have at least four ticks of damage by this floor, it’s a bad run. I’ve actually ended runs prematurely because I couldn’t stand the thought of going to the Chest with no damage.

Speaking of the Chest, that’s another issue with the game. The ‘heavenly’ route (Cathedral and Chest) is way better than the ‘hell’ route (Sheol and Dark Room). I never go the latter except when it’s dictated by the Daily Run. Part of the reason is that you can get four new items on the Chest. What do you get on the Dark Room? Spiders and troll bombs, mostly. Speaking of troll bombs, I really hate them. I don’t mind that they exist. Ok, I do, but I accept it. What I hate is when I literally cannot outrun them because I’m too slow or the room is too small (and, yeah, I’ll get to that in a minute), it feels cheap.

That’s the thing about RNG–there’s a very thin line between fair and foul. I’ve said this in the past. I know that’s part of RNG, but I do think sometimes it’s the coding at fault. Yes, I know that’s my go-to when I’m displeased with something in a game, but at least I acknowledged it, right?


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The one true game of 2019

*Bonus Post*

I have written about how meh this year has been as far as gaming goes for me. There have been dozen of games that I’ve tried and stopped after an hour or less of play. There are some that I played more than an hour and actually liked the game, but then fell off it for one reason or another. In fact, I wrote about two of those games in my last post. I toyed with naming this award The best game that I wasn’t good enough to finish (again) in homage to the category I used for the last two years (for Hollow Knight and Dead Cells, respectively), but, really, there is no need to name it anything other than The perennial FromSoft best game award. Or, The take my money, Miyazaki, award. I could drag this out for several more paragraphs, and you know I can do it, but it’s the worst-kept secret if you know anything about it–and me–so I’ll just blurt it out.

The one true game of 2019

My best game of the year–and The Game Awards agree with me–is Sekiro. It’s a FromSoft game. What a surprise!

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a brilliant game. I could end the post right here, but I won’t. I have written about the game countless times as I was playing it, and I’m currently doing a replay from the very start. Why? I mean, I do have an NG+ run in the bank (fighting Bird Daddy for the second time. One of my personal nightmares, and it only gets harder from this point on) and an NG run where I’m currently sat at the bonfire in front of the Guardian Ape. I started a new playthrough because I haven’t played it in several months, and it’s not a game you can go into rusty and expect to come out ahead. At least, I cannot as I’m firmly a scrub.

Funny side note: My niece’s husband is a big FromSoft fan, and we were talking about Sekiro at Christmas Eve dinner. We were also talking about nerd stuff along with my niece, and I said I didn’t consider myself a nerd. He looked at me weirdly and said, “Not even a Dark Souls nerd?” I laughed and said I wasn’t good enough to be a Dark Souls nerd. I think we’re using nerd in different ways. I think he and my niece mean it in the more popular nomenclature which is being a huge fan of something techie or sci-fi. I was using it ironically in that the more hardcore members of ‘the community’ disavow anyone who does not play the game in the exact same way they do. Of course, they don’t play it the same as each other, so that’s fun. I like to say that I am firmly mediocre at FromSoft games, and I stick by that. I also remain absurdly proud of myself for beating all the games without ever learning to parry.


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The close but no cigar game awards

Last week, I wrote about my year in gaming–which, let’s face it, has mostly been meh. I mentioned two Souls-like games that I played quite a bit and enjoyed until I didn’t, a game that I enjoyed and finished that wasn’t a Souls-like, and a game from the past that I resurrected as my comfort game. Then, of course, there is the one true game of the year, which I’ll get to at the end. If you know anything about me at all, you’ll know what it is, but you’ll have to wait for it, anyway. Let me quickly give the other games (hopefully) amusingly named awards before tackling the big one.

Quick note: In reading my game awards posts from last year in order to write this one, I stumble across this:

I play the hell out of each game I play. I wring every ounce of content out of it, and then I squeeze it some more. I would rather play three games a year that I really like than a couple dozen that I’m meh about.

I still feel that way, and that’s why I’m a bit down about this year in gaming. When I was thinking back on the year, I couldn’t think of many games that gave me dozens of hours of engagement. I’m hoping that 2020 will be different, but I’m skeptical. This post is for the games that hit a spot to a certain extent, but aren’t the One True Game. I have a hunch I won’t get to the big one in this post, but hope springs eternal.

The game I can’t quit no matter how hard I try

Binding of Isaac: Rebirth*

I played the shit out of this game when it first came out. I tried to play the original, but it felt ungainly, and I never got into it. That game was developed by Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl. Edmund (and his wife) went with Nicalis for BoI:R and everything after. I was immediately hooked on BoI:R, much to my surprise, and I played an embarrassing number of hours. I also True Platinum Godded it before the requirements changed, and I’m only missing something on The Keeper, the worst character in the whole game. I forced myself to quit playing it and left it off for about a year. I did play again when Afterbirth+ came out, but then I didn’t. Then, for whatever reason, I  installed it on my laptop (the last one). Why? I don’t remember, but I think it’s because it’s small and I can play it with the keyboard and no mouse. I do the daily every day along with a free run (usually Eden), and it’s my comfort game at this point. When I can’t play a new game or feel up to a Souls game (which, while comforting, still takes more energy), I pull up BoI:R and escape for an hour. I’m going to give it up again soon, but until then, I’m enjoying all the weird synergies.


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The good and the bad of The Surge 2

oh dear. it's coming.
What fresh hell is this?

The Surge (the original) was a surprise hit for me when I played it back in 2018. I even gave it an award and everything! I will never argue that it’s a great game, but I had a blast playing it. The RKG group (members of the group, not RKG themselves) hates it almost uniformly, and they got mad at me for saying I liked it better than Nioh. They argued that Nioh was a better game, and they seemed befuddled when I agreed. I know Nioh is a better game than The Surge. I mean, it’s more technically accomplished, it looks better (though there are some UGLY levels in Nioh–I’m looking at you, snow world–and the combat is more complex. Actually, that was part of my issue with Nioh, though I’d be curious to see if I felt the same way now that I’ve finished Sekiro. It’s more imaginative, and I like the demon/fantasy theme much better than the sci-fi world of The Surge. However, when it comes to which one I enjoyed more, indeed, which one I actually finished, it would be The Surge.

It was such a success that a sequel was inevitable. I was hyped about it, but also nervous. Why nervous? Because I was hyped about it. See, I wasn’t expecting anything from the first game. Why? Because Deck13 Interactive’s first game, Lords of the Fallen, was a hot mess. The reviews ranged from lukewarm to downright excoriating. Me, I hated the game. A lot. It was fantasy, and should have been right up my alley, but all they seemed to take from Dark Souls was ‘heavy’ combat. They were transparent about their love for Dark Souls, but they didn’t seem to understand what makes it such a transformative game*. It’s like looking at the Mona Lisa and thinking the smile was the only thing important about the painting. Yes, it’s an integral part, but it’s not the whole. I feel the same about Deck13 and Lords of the Fallen. Yes, the combat is weighty, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Dark Souls. Also, the magicks is shite in LoF, at least in the first hour. Also also, just throwing a mob of enemies at the player isn’t a great way of making a game difficult. My biggest complaint about LoF was that they seemed to go into the game thinking, “We want a game that is hard” and built everything around that instead of having a vision that integrated elements of a challenging game.

When The Surge was announced, I wasn’t anything more than mildly interested. Nothing about it screamed, ‘come here!’ to me, and I let it go until it went on sale on Steam. Then, I tried the demo and had a reasonably good time, so I bought it for like ten bucks. I wasn’t expecting anything from it, and I was pleasantly surprised. There were several things I did not like about the game, but overall, I had a decent time with it. When the sequel was announced, I was stoked. But, as I said above, also nervous. Was I expecting too much?

Fast-forward to September 23rd when the game actually dropped. I bought it four hours before it released and pre-loaded it. I was excited and ready to roll by the time the game was installed. Graphics looked better than the last one, and the environments were more varied in the first few hours than they had been in all of the original game. I got to make my own character, and, yes, I made her an Asian woman. There wasn’t that much customization, but the fact that they allowed me to do any at all was a step up.

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Going back to my comfort gaming–Dark Souls III

back into the groove.
Fire to the face, Iudex!

I did it. I reinstalled Dark Souls III on my laptop. When I’m sick and exhausted, I can’t play a new game. I don’t have the bandwidth to figure things out, especially as I tend to like so-called difficult games. I know it’s a funny thing to say, but Dark Souls games are comfort food for me, and, yes, I mean specifically Dark Souls and not Bloodborne or Sekiro. Although, I will say the latter was pretty easygoing until the end game, but it’s not the same as Dark Souls.

I’m going to say something rather controversial in the Souls community, but I don’t give a fuck, obviously. Dark Souls III is my favorite of the Souls games to play*, and I’ve beaten it probably twenty times. Because I’m tired, depressed, and weary, I’m taking the road most traveled–being a Pyro. Then, adding strength later on so I can wield my beloved Lorian’s Greatsword.

How’s it going? Kinda rough, I gotta say. The buttons are similar, but just different enough to mess me up. Iudex Gundyr, the tutorial boss, has never given me a problem as a Pyro. He’s weak to fire, especially in his second phase, and I can finish him off without even getting close. However. A (Xbox One) is jump in Sekiro, and it’s really fucking important to use it in combat. B is dodge step, and it’s ostensibly usable in combat, but not really. I used it minimally, and I used A every fight. On the other hand, A in Souls is pick up an item, talk to someone, etc, which, obviously, has no use in a fight. B is roll, which is god in Souls. So, Iudex was coming for me in his abyss-y, snaky form, and I pressed A and did–nothing. I frantically pressed it several times until I died.

That’s been my biggest problem so far. I’m up to the Road of Sacrifices, and I’ve died…six times I think. Once to Iudex (embarrassing) and once because I forgot jump is to click in the left thumbstick, which is just bad mapping and once because my cheese for the Darkwraith at the bottom of the elevator (make him fall into the elevator maw) didn’t work the first time. One of my problems with not dying as much in this game is that there is a mechanic that is built upon dying. There is a PC, Yoel of Londor, who offers to ‘Draw Out True Strength’–which is free levels. Of course, nothing is free in a Dark Souls game, and you get the hollowing curse from Yoel.

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What is ‘normal’ isn’t universal

run, run away.
Just looking at her makes me tired.

It’s wearing to always be the weird one. I have to get that out there before I start blathering about whatever is on my mind. Fair warning: I woke up feeling as if I was hit by a dump truck (not as bad as a Mack truck, but still), and I’m slightly dizzy and nauseated. So, I’m going to write until my brain gives out, which could be in five minutes or it could be in an hour.

One common wisdom people give about depression is to write about your feelings as a way of tracking them. It makes sense, but I refuse to do it. Why? Because I write a lot on a regular basis, and I don’t want to make it a chore, rather than something I enjoy doing. Telling myself that I have to jot down every feeling I feel is a sure way to make me not want to write. I do it, anyway, in these posts, so making myself journal seems excessive to me.

Another common wisdom to counter depression is to get some sun and to exercise. I’ve heard the latter so much, it’s embedded in my brain. My experience with exercise, however, begs to differ.

Side Note: I have SAD in the summer instead of winter, which is yet another way in which I am not normal. I love winter. I roll down the windows in my car until it’s zero degrees. I used to do it sub-zero, but I’m more sensitive to cold now that I’m an Old. My thermostat is set at 62º during the day and 60º during the night. I did not wear a coat all of last winter, but I also didn’t go out during the coldest days. I think we reached something like  -50º including the windchill, which is cold, even for me. I do appreciate the sun, but in small doses. I like it better than gloomy weather, but it has to be paired with cold.

Back to exercise. I’ve heard it all my life, and I’m sure you have, too. “Exercise drives away the depression!” Well, no. That’s not true. I found that it didn’t make my mood worse, but it didn’t help, either. No endorphin boost for me, except when I did dancing as exercise. Fast walking (and I used to do four miles a day) just made me actively angry, in part because I was getting hot and sweaty while doing it. I sweat. A lot. More than most people. I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s not fun to be bathing in it. Also, being in the heat makes me actively angry. Anything over seventy is not my happy place. I read about the office temperature wars, and I have to shake my head. Most people seem to think 70º to 75º is the comfort zone. In fact, women in general prefer a higher temp than men do. Me, I would cuss everybody out if I had to be that hot every day.

People who like it warmer complain that they have to cater to people who like colder temps, but it’s because at some point, we can’t take off any more clothing. One person on this temp war thread said their dad started a new job at a place where a woman kept the thermometer cranked to 85+º. Eighty-fucking-five. PLUS. The commenter said their dad almost fainted, and I would have fainted. The dad also kept his thermostat at 62º during the winter, so he’s my kind of people.

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End of Sekiro and I can’t play Return of the Obra Dinn

I’ve been romping through NG+ in Sekiro and not being fazed by much of anything. I two-shot Madame Butterfly and got Genichiro in half a dozen tries. The boss who gave me the hardest time was a mini-boss: Seven Ashina Spears–Shikibu Toshikatsu Yamauchi. It’s always the fucking spear guys that mess with my shit. I died to him seven or eight times, and I can’t imagine having to fight him for both Deathblows. By the way, it’s still one of my irritation about the game. Most of the mini-bosses can be stealth Deathblowed to start the fight, so why bother? In fact…I’ll get to that in a minute. No, I can talk about it now. The toughest boss until the very end game was the True Corrupted Monk. In my first playthrough, I cheesed by doing a stealth Deathblow for her first two pips, then just fought her normally for her third phase. I did that by intentionally dying any time I couldn’t pull off the first or second stealth Deathblow, so I ‘died’ to her more times than I actually count as deaths.

This time, I went in for the first stealth Deathblow, and I didn’t get the big red glowing dot. I let myself be killed so I could try it again. I figured I hadn’t lined it up correctly, so I tried it again. And again. I did it half a dozen times before fighting her first phase, then dying in the second phase. I tried it several more times, and I never got it. I mean, I’m not the greatest with spatial awareness, but it wasn’t *that* hard to get the first Deathblow. I finally looked it up, and it turns out they patched it out. Well then. Good to know. I had to fight the first phase the normal way and then try for the second Deathblow, hoping they didn’t patch that one out as well. I did that, and I got her on the first time I made it to the second phase (which did not have the stealth Deathblow patched out), and I moved on.

So, yeah. I was making it through the game at about a tenth of the time it took me on my first playthrough. I did some farming to get the skills I have yet to acquire, and I managed to get the one that costs 9 skill points which took me a goddamn long time. I would do it by going through an area and killing a boss, which at this point, took me to maybe half a skill point, then I would go to Ashina Castle Antechamber and farm. Or Gun Fort. I would do this until I went past the next skill point and bank it, then I would go to the next area. I accrued a ton of sen in this manner as well, which was really pointless as I have nothing to spend it on except Spirit Emblems. I’ve ended up buying sugars and potions and such because I don’t want to lose the sen, but it’s just luxury at this point.

Side Note: I’ve mentioned that one tip I kept reading about how to survive in Sekiro was to buy coin purses to save your sen. They’re like consumable souls, and you buy them at a 10% markup. You don’t loses the purses upon death, so the rationale is that if you’re, say, going into a boss and know you’ll die a lot, better to have 90% of your sen than none of it. I understand that. I don’t disagree with that. My quibble is with the overemphasize on saving sen. In my first playthrough, I was never hurting for it. Never. If there was something that was a bit more expensive (such as Madame Butterfly’s Phantom Kunai for 3,000 sen, which is a ton at the point in the game when you can buy it), I’d grind for it. My early game grind spot, a stretch of the Hirata Estate, netted me 500 sen in 5 minutes (1,000 with the Mibu Balloon of Wealth), so it wasn’t a big deal.


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I suck at Sekiro

father 'dying' in the background.
Everything is on fire.

I was watching the RKG producer stream (for producers and posh slugs, long story), and the discussion turned to Sekiro, of course. The boys got their start with Dark Souls, and they’ve done every FromSoft game* except Demon’s Souls and Sekiro. They’ll be doing a Sekiro playthrough later in the year, and I’m profoundly grateful they waited to do it because I wouldn’t have been able to watch it if they did it at release. I won’t watch anything about the game I’m playing, and it would have made me sad to have to delay my viewing. I know they took that into account when deciding upon the timing of the playthrough. Plus, they were still doing Scholar of the First Sin (DS II), and they plan on doing the remake of Resi 2 next. In addition, Daniel has to play through the game first because he’s the lore master and the one guiding Rory through the game. The lore side of it won’t be too hard as much of it is explicitly transferred in text or dialogue. There is some subtext, and if you’re going for the best ending, there’s a ton. In general, though, it’s the most accessible of the FromSoft games, lore-wise.

Anyway, in the chat, someone asked about the difficulty of Sekiro compared to the other games. I said for me, it was by far the most difficult. Someone else said for her, it was on par with Bloodborne (she’s only up to Genichiro, but she has beaten him). Someone else said it was the easiest game because you just needed to learn the movesets. That, of course, was a guy. Dudes tend to state their opinions as if they’re facts, regardless of what the opinion or the subject is. In fact, there was a study that showed dudes (especially white dudes) thought the most expert opinion in any subject was…themselves. I’m exaggerating slightly, but not much. It’s from being the center of attention all their lives and having everything catered to them. Look how many of them lose their shit when something isn’t focused on them. A Star Wars movie dares to have a woman or PoC character? It’s an outrage! It’s giving into the dreaded ‘diversity’ ‘identity politics’ as if having all white men isn’t an identity politics thing.

I will tear myself away from that rant with difficulty because I’ve done it many times before and it’s not worth getting into again. It’s also not really relevant to this post except that I wish I had a tenth of that confidence. I know I undervalue myself in many ways, but I really don’t think I’m overstating it when I say I suck at Sekiro. With over a hundred hours put into it, I suck much less than I did when I first started, but the game still goes against everything I find instinctual. In Dark Souls, I’m a turtler. I hide behind a shield, and I rarely let it down. I’m also a caster, so then I just stay out of range and hurl my fireballs/hexes. I’ve learned not to have my finger glued to the LB, but I still tend to keep my shield up more often than not. It’s one reason I had a hard time with Bloodborne. In addition, arcane is not viable until the very end game, so I really put myself at a disadvantage when I started out. I knew I would because I had heard the warnings about not doing an arcane build on your first try, but I’m stubborn. I am a caster through and through, and I’m going to play the games my way.

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MHW: playing the OG monster hunter, Geralt

*BONUS POST*

Ed. Note: I can’t post on my fiction blog at the moment, so I thought I’d write a bonus post for this blog instead. Shockers of all shockers, it won’t be about Sekiro, though I probably will mention it. This post will be about my return to Monster Hunter: World because of the Geralt expansion. I have many thoughts and feelings about it. 

hey boo hey!
HELLS TO THE YES!

When it was announced that Geralt of Rivia was coming to Monster Hunter: World, I was stoked. I was still playing MHW on the regular, and Geralt is one of my video game baes. Playing as him in a MHW expansion? Hell to the yes!! A funny thing happened as I was waiting for the PC port, however, I started playing Sekiro. Well, even before that, I had fallen off the MHW track. Once I hit the Tempered Elder Dragons, I was out. It felt as if everything I’d learned up to that point was useless, and I didn’t have the patience nor the desire to relearn how to play the game. In addition, Tempered Elder Dragons should be multied, and while I had a fun time with multi in MHW, it all fell apart once I hit Tempered Elder Dragons. It’s really hard to multi with a random party on monsters of that high level. In addition, I specced my character to negate Elder Dragons’ ults, which doesn’t seem to matter when they’re in Tempered form. I also used my one and only augmentation for health regen, which is fine, but when an ult can one-shot you, it doesn’t really matter. The jump between Tempered Monsters and Tempered Dragons is so high, and maybe it’s because this is the first Monster Hunter I’ve played, but I wasn’t willing to put in that effort. I already had over 300 hours at that point, and I felt I got enough out of the game.

When the Geralt expansion (yes, yes, it’s The Witcher 3 expansion, but it’s Geralt! He’s the witcher! Plus, he’s faaaaaahn) came out, I was curiously reluctant to play it. Or rather, I had no desire to play it. It sat in my Steam library, calling out to me, but I kept playing Sekiro instead. It’s not even that I can’t quit Sekiro, which I can’t, but that I didn’t want to go back to MHW. I was done with the game, and even seeing my bae, Geralt, wasn’t enough to pull me back in. In addition, because I hadn’t played in a few months, I knew that I would be shit at it when I picked it up again. The controls were never comfortable, even when I was playing on a daily basis. Being away from it for a few months and only playing FromSoft games in that time meant that I would be pressing the wrong buttons all the time. I had that issue when I tried to go back and forth between the games, and since Dark Souls was the first game I played on controller, that is the button scheme that is firmly embedded in my mind. Bloodborne fucked with the formula a little by having a dedicated heal button, and Sekiro fucked with it even more by having a jump button and a dedicated heal button that was different than the one in BB. But, the main one was the same. RB for attack. In Souls games, it’s a light attack. In Sekiro, it’s the only attack button. RT is for Prosthetic Tools, and LT is for grappling hook. LB is block and deflect (same), and B is for step dodge, which is the same in BB.

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Sekiro: starting anew

*BONUS POST*

Ed. Note: I’m going to Sekiro you until the end of time. Spoilers. I guess? Sure. Why not.

same song, second verse.
So we meet again, Genichiro.

I started a new playthrough of Sekiro because I can’t quit this game no matter how hard I try. I really want to play Return of the Obra Dinn by Lucas Pope because I absolutely loved Papers, Please, his first game. It’s a game about being a border agent in a Eastern European country called Arstotzka, which sounds about as thrilling as watching paint dry, I know. Instead, it’s a tense, engaging, and surprisingly touching game that I gobbled up as quickly as I could. I had to decide who got in and who didn’t based on increasingly nitpicky specifications, and I had to decide if I wanted to let people in who shouldn’t be let in and accrue strikes against me. In addition, I had to deal with my home life, which was bleak. It was a fantastic game (and my name was in it! Lucas Pope asked for names for the passports, and mine got in!), and I was looking forward to the followup game. Why haven’t I played it yet? Well, Sekiro, obviously, but also because I’m afraid it won’t live up to the first game even though it’s gotten rave reviews.

Back to Sekiro. I started another playthrough even though I said I wouldn’t. I was so sure I’d be done with the game after my first run, but apparently, I wasn’t. I zipped through the first area (though not literally because I didn’t have my grappling hook yet) and saved my lord without a death. It was easy this time, but I did die during my first playthrough of this area, I’m pretty sure. Once I got my sword, I cut them all up including the leader. It’s amusing that he’s a mini-boss because he’s so easy. No one remembers him, but he’s really there to show you the basics. He only gives you Pellets (or maybe even just one) when you kill him, which is nothing. Most of the other mini-bosses give you a Prayer Bead and sometimes even a Gourd Seed. I made it to Genichiro is no-time flat, and I faced him with determination. I knew I was going to die because let’s face it, I’m just not that good without all my shit, but I was curious to see if I could at least get in a few good licks before he took me down. In addition, I had maybe a fifth of my Vitality and no heals. I wasn’t gonna waste Pellets at this point! You know what? I did ok. I got him down to about a fourth left of his first health bar. Hey, considering that I got maybe one block on him before dying the first time I met him in this part of the game, I consider that a win.

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