Good news, folks! I’m 95% recovered from the lurgy, and the aliens have decided it’s time for them to return to their home planet. One or two of them have stayed behind to nosh on my face, but they’re mostly full by now. I can actually run errands without having to take a nap afterwards, and I should be able to start increasing my morning routine again until I’m back to where I used to be. My appetite is back to normal, or, at least, what passes as normal for me, and I can interact with people again without it taking an enormous toll on me.
More importantly, I can game again! Hardcore game, I mean. While I was sick, I played a lot of solitaire because that’s as much as my brain could handle. Now, I can play my beloved Souls without it being too taxing on my body or brain. Granted, Souls, especially the main game of DS III, is what I consider relaxing now, but still. It does take more energy than solitaire. I recently tried a game called Davyria, a Souls-inspired game that was on sale on Steam. I watched a few Let’s Plays before I bought it, and it looked like it might be up my alley. It’s VERY similar to Souls, but with an even worse UI. That’s saying a lot because Souls UI are well-known for being trash. DS III‘s UI is the best of the lot, but it’s still nothing to write home to Mom about. Anyway, it was cheap, and I liked the cell-shaded look to it, even if I wasn’t in love with the top-down perspective, so I bought it. I realized after I bought it that there was a free demo, but it was too late. I installed it, then tried it, eager to have another Souls-like experience.
Side note: Souls-like has become a genre of its own, and it’s been a frustrating genre for me. If the game is too much like Souls, but not as good, then I think, “I could just play a Souls game instead.” If it’s not like Souls at all, then I feel ripped off. I have yet to find one that hit the sweet spot of being enough like Souls to satisfy, but different enough not to be a pale imitation.
Back to Davyria. It’s made by one guy, Sebastian Groll, so I didn’t expect much from it. You start as a nameless (male) Eternal Warrior, and I immediately ran into a problem with the controller. Even though I said I was using the controller, the prompts were for the keyboard and my character would only look in the direction of the mouse cursor. There aren’t many options, and I kept clicking controller again and again. It didn’t work, and it seemed as if my foray into Davyria was over before it had even started. What’s even more frustrating is that the prompts had been for the controller, but then suddenly reverted to keyboard prompts. In desperation, I went back to the options and clicked on controller with my mouse (rather than my controller), and it worked. I shook my head at having to use the mouse to select controller rather than the controller, but I brushed it aside and jumped into the game.
I was immediately put off by the fact that the perception shifts as you walk around, but I got used to it. I started with a stone sword and a shield, and the controls were very familiar. B* for roll and holding down B for sprint. Right bumper is attack, which is both the same and different. Right bumper in Souls is a light attack, whereas right trigger is the heavy. There’s no differentiation in Davyria, which is fine. What’s not fine is that the heal button is Y, rather than X. It’s a weird distinction in a game that is almost slavishly loyal to the source material.
The first bit felt fairly familiar, and I went through it rather easily. I came upon the first boss before no time, and even though he killed me, I knew it wouldn’t be much problem. Afterwards, I got transported to another area, and within minutes, boss number two! I wasn’t pleased with that, but I persevered. I also didn’t like that the hit boxes (boss on you) are VERY generous and there are environmental effects that last way too fucking long. One of my problems as an older gamer is that my reactions are slower and my eyesight isn’t great, so these two factors greatly dampened my interest in the game. Still, there was enough to make me soldier on, and boss two was down with some determination. I got a minor euphoric rush, and it was enough to carry me into the third part.
I ran into boss number three within minutes, and after fighting him a few times, I was done. It’s not because I didn’t think I could beat him–I could, eventually. But, it would have taken a lot of grinding, and that’s not why I play these games. There is grinding in the Souls series, but it’s always optional, and it’s not nearly as punishing as this game feels. It’s partly because the resource balance is off. In Souls II,** a lifegem (consumable healing item, basic) costs 300 souls. You can make that easily. In Davyria, you can buy food that is a one-time healing item, but it’s like $160 gold, and gold is very hard to come by, at least right now. You start with three eternal stones (the equivalent of Estus Flasks), and so far, I haven’t been able to get any more.
I think it’s a solid game, but it doesn’t compel me to play it. I have no desire to go back and beat this current boss, and I don’t like the grind. I may be missing something because there’s no tutorial, but this isn’t a game for me. In part it’s because I play as a caster, and that’s not an option in this game. I understand why, by the way, and am not mad about it. Playing this game has shown me that there are intangibles into what makes a game click for me and not. This game is very similar to Souls, and, yet, it just misses the mark. I don’t regret buying it, but I probably won’t return to it.
So. In contemplating which of the aforementioned three games to try, I have a difficult decision. There are three games I’m contemplating buying, and there are three different parts of me, each rooting for a different game. I preface the discussion by saying I’m cheap when it comes to game, and I rarely play more than ten bucks for one. That’s usually because I play them several years after they release, but these three were all released at the end of February, so that’s really new for me.
First up is Unexplored. It’s a ‘roguelite action RPG’ with generated dungeons. I’ve always wanted a cross between Souls and Binding of Isaac with a dash of Diablo III, and this looks like it would be right up my alley.
I’m not crazy about the graphics, but the gameplay should be something I’d enjoy. I was leaning towards buying this game when I stumbled upon two others. The first is Night in the Woods. You play as a black cat, Mae, who has dropped out of college and returns to live with her parents. I love the graphics with all its vibrancy, but don’t be fooled by the colors. The story has a grim undertone to it, despite how flippantly some of the lines are delivered. This game is more about exploration than gameplay, and I really liked the first hour I saw of it.
The last is Hollow Knight, and it’s a Souls-inspired platformer. Now, of all the genres in gaming, platforming is one of my least favorite. I’m terrible at it, and it’s just not fun to me to jump around and hit shit whilst jumping. I had it on my wishlist, but I had serious reservations about it. I took a look at a Let’s Play, and I fell in love with the graphics. I mean, I liked it already, but seeing it in motion immediately grabbed me. It’s dark and moody and mystical, and, yes, it’s reminiscent of Dark Souls. The protagonist looks like a cartoon bunny, and, yet, there is something soulful about them. I was surprised by how much I loved this game, even though I really dislike platforming. However, I’ve only tried platformers like Spelunky and Super Meatboy, both of which are notoriously brutal. The platforming in Hollow Knight doesn’t look as demanding, and have I mentioned I absolutely love the art style? I am utterly charmed by this game, despite all the reasons I shouldn’t be.
So, here’s the split. My brain says I should get Unexplored because it’s the game I’m the most likely to enjoy gameplay-wise. My sense of storytelling tells me to buy Night in the Woods because the narrative is very compelling in its darkness. My heart is telling me to buy Hollow Knight because I just love it so much despite the fact that I don’t like platformers. I’m not sure which I’ll get, but I’m sure I’ll write about it extensively when I do, so you’ll just have to wait and see!
**I think it’s fair to make the comparison because the dev wears his Souls inspiration on his sleeve.