Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Fun

The good, the bad, and the Dark Souls

I’ve been playing an indie game called Death’s Door by Acid Nerve. It had been on my radar because of the gorgeous graphics and the fact that you’re a crow with a red sword. I mean, that’s really all I need to know because I’m simple like that. It’s an action adventure Metroidvania with more than a dollop of Dark Souls frosting. I am not just making that up in my fevered Elden Ring-starved brain, either. Both streamers I’ve watched who were playing it mentioned it more than once. There’s even a character who is highly reminiscent of a Dark Souls fave, not to mention one who is similar to an NPC in Sekiro. I will, of course, get to that later in the post.

Side Note: I have finished the game so there will be spoilers throughout the post. Fair warning to turn back now if you want to play it unspoiled.

First, I need to rave more about the environment of Death’s Door. It’s moody and dripping with atmosphere. The crow is wearing a jaunty little scarf and you can find a Discarded Umbrella that is shit as a weapon but is a great accessory. I love the crow’s quick little walk and the head tilt when they think there’s something interesting. They are a silent protagonist, but they exude so much personality.

Before I get into what I like about the game (and there’s a lot to like), I need to talk about one big thing I don’t like right from the start. It’s the combat. I’ll get more into it later, but for now, I’ll say that it’s the combination of too many mobs, not enough variety, the need for twitch responses, and not being able to heal during combat. Oh, and having 4 hit points. That’s right, 4. There are ways to boost it, but only up to 6. I’ll get more to that in a bit.

The premise is that I’m a reaper crow who is going out and getting souls. In the beginning, I’m dropped off at the Reaping Commission Headquarters. The security guard is called Baul Plarth and I know I’m in for some droll humor. There’s a typist named Agatha who just loooooves typing and Chandler the Handler who is a hard-bitten crow who is a middle management type who is constantly worried about his job being harder. Then there’s the mysterious Vaga who has a book on his head and makes cryptic statements about a better life out there.


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Something old, something new

I need a new game. Again. I say this every time I finish a game, but it’s true. I’ve given up on the Imposter Mode in Going Under (Aggro Crab) because it’s not fun at all. I tried it a few times in the past week and it just aggravated me every time. I’m not quite at the point of uninstalling it, but I’m close. I really want to plat it, but I haven’t even made it to the third boss yet. I will admit that not being able to win at the Imposter Mode has dampened my enthusiasm for the game in general. That’s not entirely fair, but it’s my honest feeling. I know I don’t have to do the plat and I got a good forty hours out of it, but the grind for plat, the one-off bosses, and the Imposter Mode have really left a bad taste in my mouth.

I decided to try Nuclear Throne by Vlambeer again to see if I was any better at it. It was the first roguelike I had played, which was diving into the deep end. It took me hundreds of hours just to make it to The Throne, let’s not talk about how long it took to actually beat The Throne. This time, I reached The Throne in less than ten runs and then promptly died when it barfed its rads all over me. I knew it was going to do it, but then it didn’t, but then it did. It was instantly deflating. I haven’t made it back yet and I’ve played probably thirty-plus more runs.

Robot is my main with Crystal my backup. The rest of them I could take or leave with Horror being more on the leave side. I think my mouse setup is not helping, but I’m still not good at this game. I had an amazing build the time I got to The Throne, but I haven’t been able to replicate it since. This game really depends on twitch reactions, which I do not have, and heavy RNG. If I get dropped into a mob, there is no chance I’m going to survive.

I think the game is really good, but the ramp-up is too high. I doubt I’ll be playing much more of it because the ceiling is still there.

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Going full Mulan Rogue

I need to stop playing Going Under (Aggro Crab) because I’m really starting to hate it. I’ve finished with the main game and have wrung every ounce of content out of it. And more. So why am I still playing? I’ll tell you why and there are spoilers now. There is a mode of the game called Imposter Mode that is not run in any of the main dungeons. It’s accessed from Jackie’s pod (home) and it’s by jumping through her mirror. She had met the imposter earlier in one of the dungeons in the second half of the game (apparently random?) and I ‘defeated’ her in that dungeon. I put defeated in quotes because of course she was coming back and of course it was going to be in her own mode.

I’ve explained before why I don’t like this mode or the big boss fights in the main game, but I’ll briefly recap. In the main game, you go into a dungeon and there are three floors before the boss floor. You pick up skills and other perks along the way. From the beginning, you can equip one ‘mentor’ (coworker) and one skill. The best mentor by far is Swomp who gives the twin benefits of him stealing an item for you in every store and starting each floor with allies. Oh, there are also Swomp Cubes with better items, but they break more easily, which is not usually a trade I want to make. Although, in Imposter Mode, I am all about more damage. The bigger benefit, however, is that there’s a Swomp’s Chill Zone every second level of the dungeon. Sometimes it doesn’t show up and I’m not sure why, but it’s supposed to be there. If you chill with Swomp, then you regain all your lost health. You can do this once on the floor, though apparently in early access, you could do it multiple times. I think once is fair.

Randy, the CEO, would have been the best mentor because he gives you his credit card and you can charge the items you need to it. Except. One, there’s a limit to how much you can charge, and two, you have to drag around a ball and chain of debt with you that grows larger the more money you owe. It hinders your movement which is so key in this game. Also, his other benefits are meh at best. Well, he does let you take his sweet whip out for a drive at the start of the dungeon until you beat it up enough for it to explode, which is maybe a floor or two. I really like how they make the benefits match up with the narrative, by the way.


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How far under do I want to go?

Side Note (yes, a side note before I even start the post): My computer went bonkers last night and I was worried that the motherboard had fried itself. I restarted it like ten times and the last time it took and the lappy is now seemingly fine. I say seemingly because it came out of the blue and could possibly do so again. Anyway, I immediately thought of my Cozy Grove file and how devastated I’d be if it got corrupted. The rest of my games? Didn’t care so much. Dark Souls III, I could just start another game. Going Under? I’m pretty much done with it–more on that in a bit. But Cozy Grove? Being on day nearly 90 of real-time days? That would have made me cry. I had been thinking about backing it up and I really should do it. Will I? Normally, I’d say probably not, but I just might this time.

Speaking of Cozy Grove (and, no, the post is not about that game), I have met the last of the spirit bears (17 in total) and she’s very interesting.

*Spoilers*

Dalia Cosgrove, a revolutionary who realized the futility of the revolution. She’s burned out and she’s carrying what looks like a white blob with eyes in her head. No idea what is it, but Ian suggested maybe another spirit–which makes sense. Anyway, she’s intriguing because the rest of the spirit bears, when you meet them, they wave their arms in the air (well, ok, just lift them, but it feels like waving) and the area around them turns to color. When I met her, she didn’t do that and her area remained uncolored. The next time I talked to her and did something for her, she did it, so I don’t know if it was a bug the first time? Or were they making a point? I have a hunch it’s the latter and Dalia is really interesting me right now. She gave me a revolution flag that I put in front of the ‘living vessel’ bear’s area from the cult I was cajoled into joining (long story) and stood in front of it wearing my revolutionary armor.

*Unspoilered*

Let’s talk Going Under. I reviewed it here after playing it for several hours. I noted that there wasn’t much to do gameplay-wise and I was wrong. I also noted that it was amusing that it was called a Souls-like when it wasn’t that hard and I was–half-right and half-wrong. I’m going to talk about the structure of the game, which necessitates spoiling quite a bit. Just so you know that from here on out be spoilers for Going Under.


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Going Under: a send-up of start-ups that is satisfying

About a month ago, I tried the demo for Going Under by Aggro Crab in a desperate attempt to find a game to tide me over until Elden Ring–FromSoft, of course. At that time, I didn’t know I was filling the time until Elden Ring (ER from now on) came out because it was before the Summer Games Fest, but I wanted something new to sink my teeth into so I decided to dive into my Pile of Shame and see if there was anything I wanted to play. Or rather, I installed a bunch of demos and tried out a bunch of games. Going Under was one of them and I wrote a brief write-up of it here. Then, Ian offered it to me out of his Humble Bundle and I accepted because it had something to it and why not? It’s a roguelike-lite that has that one more run feel to it. RNG both giveth and it taketh away as well.

The premise is that you are Jacqueline Fiasco, an intern at Fizzle Beverages.  You think you’re going to be learn about marketing and such, but you are so very wrong. When you meet Marv, the Project Manager (PM), he’s full of empty slogans and toxic enthusiasm. Not that enthusiasm in and of itself is toxic, but when it’s used to cover terrible and inhumane business practices, that’s when it becomes toxic. He immediately nicknames you Jackie and then tells you that you have to go kill goblins. He wraps it up in verbiage, but that’s the bottom line.

I have to say that they got the environment perfectly. Or rather, they were able to evoke the feeling of a start-up perfectly. There’s a giant tunnel slide that you can take to get from the second floor down to the first. There’s a cafe with a man named Swomp (yes, Swomp and not Swamp) who seems like a sleaze at first, but then turns out to be a pretty decent guy. There’s Tippi, the financial officer, who is trying to rein in the CEO while the company is hemorrhaging money. There’s Kara, the computer gal who hates computers. She has an adorable doxie, Eclaire, who is more than just a cute face. There’s a side mission of taking her for a walk through the dungeons (reaching the third floor of any dungeon) which means she’s tethered to your waist and slows you down dramatically as you fight with the Joblins.

Quick note: I really enjoy the biting satire of the game. In addition to the names of the dungeons–which, by the way, are other companies. So Fizzle Beverage is literally built on the grounds of other companies–the whole tone of the game is spot-on as a spoof with bite. I had said in my original quick review that the combat felt off to me. Part of the issue was that the framerate was locked at 30 fps (why is any game locked on the PC???) and once I changed that to 60, the game felt better.


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Running in place

Ian and  I recently talked about a thing in video games that is annoying. This is in games that are continuous, such as Destiny 2 or any other ‘game as service’ game. There is a thing that when the season ends and a new season begins, all the caps are reset and you basically have to start over again. Not exactly, but it’s close enough. I felt that way with Monster Hunter World. I took it to surprisingly and poured hundreds of hours into it. I really liked it until the Tempered Elder Dragons and quit cold turkey. Then, Iceborne, the DLC came out. I was hyped, but it was only on consoles at first. I want to say just PS4, but I’m too lazy to look it–ok, it’s both PS4 and Xbox One. I had to look it up because that’s my nature. The internet has been a boon, but it’s also been a curse. In the olden days, if I didn’t know something, I just had to deal with it. Now, I can look it up whenever I want. It’s almost a compulsion, but a benign one.

The basic armor you are given in Iceborne is better than anything I had crafted in the entire base game. Same with the base weapon. I know why they did it–because they wanted the newbies to be able to try the new content without having to grind in the base game. Truly, I understand. From a business standpoint, they want as little obstacle to entrance as possible. If newbies had to play hundreds of hours in order to even get to Iceborne, well, then it would be Dark Souls. So I can’t blame Capcom for doing that. However, it was deflating as fuck to get that good shit and realize that my time in the base game was all for naught.

I know that’s not the case. I know that the enjoyment I got from the base game is something in and of itself. But, it still left a sour taste in my mouth and I could never really get into Iceborne. Part of that was because it so much harder than the base game (which was another reason for the better gear), but it was also because it felt like those hundreds of hours I put into the base game were for nothing. N00bs who were playing for the first time had the same equipment as I did, so why even bother? If I had just picked up the game as a whole, I could have cruised through the entire game on easy mode. Again, I realize that the experiences I had with the game wouldn’t have been the same and would probably have been trivialized, but it’s hard not to feel bitter.

It’s the same struggle I have with taiji. My teacher’s teacher is changing things up, especially with the Solo Forms. I’ve explained this before, but we used to do the Long Form by Master Liang. Which I hated. Then, he developed the Medium Form based on movements by Master Choi. He decided the Medium Form was going to be the main form so my teacher put the long form aside and began teaching us the Medium Form. Her teacher also developed the Fast Form, which was based on the Medium Form and she started teaching that to us as well.


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Darkening my soul

Ian and I were talking the other day about how I was difficult to recommend games to because I was very picky about games. Not only that–it’s difficult even for me to tell what I will and won’t like before playing the game. Well, more what I will like. I am usually very good about knowing what I won’t like, but even in that I can be surprised from time to time. Such as The Surge by Deck13 Interactive. I was expecting it to be trash and to hate it (but I had to try it because it’s a soulslike and it’s in my contract). While the former is mostly true, the latter was not. Maybe it was because I had such low expectations of it, but I quite enjoyed my time with it and finished it–which is more than I can say for the vast majority of soulslikes.

Anyway! Ian joked that it was easy to tell what game I would like–actual Souls games. That made me laugh. He’s not wrong, though, and WHY ISN’T ELDEN RING IN MY HANDS ALREADY??? *Ahem* I keep thinking I’ll like soulslikes, but I…don’t. Or more truthfully, I mostly don’t. There have been a few exceptions, but the ratio is dismal. I’ve tried dozens of soulslikes and have really enjoyed two. The aforementioned The Surge and Salt and Sanctuary by Ska Studios. Having said that, there are qualifiers. I enjoyed The Surge, but it was very much in the vein of ‘this is way better than I thought it’d be so I’m pleasantly surprised’. As for Salt and Sanctuary, it’s a slavish homage to Souls and while I enjoyed playing it, I immediately forgot it once I was done. Ask me to name a single boss in either game and I can’t.

So, yeah. I don’t like soulslikes–I like Souls games. Some people are grumbling that Elden Ring is going to be basically Dark Souls IV. Which, it’s not, but if it were, I’m all over that! I’ve watched the trailer at least a half-dozen times since it dropped and I get stoked every time. I want this to be good sooooooo bad. I’m trying not to get too hyped because I don’t want to be crushingly disappointed, but this game excites me like none other in recent years. I feel for Miyazaki because there is so much pressure on him (well, FromSoft in general, but he IS FromSoft) to produce the perfect game every time. He got almost universal praise for Bloodborne, but there has been some amount of pushback for all his other games*.


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I’m as cold as ice

It’s 69 degrees (nice) and I’m a happy clam. It’s still outside my comfort zone, but after two weeks of over a hundred, I’ll take it. Being outside didn’t make me want to claw my own face off and I could actually feel a nice breeze. I fucking hate summer. We get a hundred day here and there, but nothing like the last two weeks. Even with air con, a fan blowing high, ice water, ice packs, and as little clothing as possible, it’s miserable. I can’t think in the heat–it feels as if my brain is frying. It makes me snappish, irritated, and unable to concentrate.

Even though the weather is much more tolerable, it’s still not fun for me. I’m fine with 20-50 degrees, but I prefer it under that, honestly. Down to zero is nice and then it’s a bit nippy when it gets to sub-zero temps. I talked to Kat Friday night and we reminisced about how back when we used to go out, we’d have such a different reaction to the weather. She’s a Florida gal and revels in the heat. When we went out in the summer, I would be whining and moaning about the heat, barely able to move while she would be flitting around, clearly in her element. In the winter, however, the shoe was on the other foot. She would be hunching over, shivering, demanding to know why my spine wasn’t scrunching up. I, on the other hand, would be in my element and loving it.

As I grow older, my ability to deal with cold gets less attuned*, but my ability to deal with heat hasn’t gotten better at all. If anything, it’s gotten worse. I would love to live in a place where the weather never rose about 50 degrees.

Let’s talk demos. Still trying them out and I really dig it. I can play a game for ten minutes or an hour and not have to commit to it. During the Steam Next Fest, there are so many demos! This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because I can try out any game that catches my eye without plunking down money for it. It’s bad because, well, there are so many bad games out there. That ain’t throwing shade at video games because that’s the case with, well, everything. 98% of pop culture is pure crap. That’s just the way it goes.


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Demo(lition) woman

It’s Steam Next Fest! What is that? I had no clue when Ian told me about it. I thought it was yet another Steam Sale, which, to be fair, it is, but it’s also a conference/festival/etc. Summer seems to be the time for this shit to happen, which is fine. In this case, that means many demos! I’m a casual gamer at heart and with casual games, demos are expected. Casual games are probably easier to make in general so it’s no biggie to have a demo, but it’s really nice to be able to play the first hour or the first chapter before buying. And that’s with a $7 game! With hardcore games being upwards of $70, it makes sense to want to check it out before buying.

In fact, that’s one reason Game Pass (Xbox and PC) is such a good thing. You can play the games for free and then buy them if you really like them. It’s pretty great that most of the stuff coming up on Xbox is going to be on Game Pass from day one. Which includes PC. I’m here for that and my Game Pass library is growing to the point where I have a pile of shame over there as well.

First, I’m still playing Cozy Grove by Spry Fox every day. It’s my comfort game and it’s my way of starting the day–well, continuing the day. I don’t do it when I first get up–that would be my taiji routine after feeding Shadow, but I usually do it within a few hours after that. Nowadays, it takes about an hour because I have so many resources to gather plus helping my spirit friends and, most importantly, Fashion Grove! I had to help one of my friends leave this mortal coil–look. This is difficult to explain, but they’re spirit bears who are caught in limbo. When they need help, they’re translucent as is the area around them. Nothing grows in the translucent areas and the animals are frozen. After I help them, they wave their paws in the air and become colored again–as is the area around them. Animals spring back to life and you can harvest fruits and flowers again.

Anyway, once you fill all five of their hearts, they are ready to move on. That happened with one of the characters and I was caught off-guard. I was trying to back out of it because I wasn’t ready and managed to flub it up so I didn’t get her final story scene. That bothered me and still does, but I can picture it in my mind (also, not going to play the game all over again just to get there because that  would be two more actual live-time months). I actually said I wasn’t ready for her to go. Afterwards, she turned golden and she’s still there, but I can’t talk to her. Or rather, she can’t talk to me. She still sends me on fetch quests now and again, and I can still buy/sell from/to her when she does, but other than that, she’s just there.

Today, I had a task to do for another spirit bear and he said it was one last craft. I adore him and did not want him to go so even though I had the material he needed, I refused to give them to him until I had done absolutely everything else for the day. Then, I gave him what he needed and it wasn’t actually the thing that pushed him to being released. I was relieved that he was still going to be around.


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Life is (not) like

E3 is going on right after Summer Game Fest and so far, I have been less than underwhelmed. On Thursday, I suffered through two hours before finally getting Elden Ring. There was one or two other games that sparked an interest, but for the most part, I got gloomier and gloomier because I started thinking there would be no Elden Ring. Plus, there was just so much filler. So. Much. Filler. Then, there was the Ubi conference and there was nothing there for me. Nothing at all. Granted, Eurogamer didn’t find much to get excited about, either, in part because it was all trash.

Here’s the thing. I came to the realization a few years back that I don’t really like video games. Wait. Let me expand that. I don’t like most of pop culture in general. I never watch movies–well, rarely, which is why I’m still salty about how much I hated Knives Out. My one movie last year and I was excited to see it and it sucked so much–and I rarely watch TV. When I do, it’s reality competition shows with contestants who are nice to each other.

My point is that it’s not specific to vide games–it’s just me. I don’t like most of what other people like and most of the time, I’m fine with it. Sometimes, though, it’s difficult because I don’t want to be the joykiller when other people are squealing over something I could not give two shits about. It could be Game of Thrones or the endless Avengers movies or Gone Girl, either the movie or the book. I’ve long since accepted that I am an outlier, but it wears on me.

Not only is it pop culture, it’s just me in general. I’ve listed it all before, but here are the ways I’m different than everyone else: Not married; not cohabitating; no children; agnostic; the list goes on. I’m a freak and I know it. I was able to realize and accept it for most of pop culture so I don’t know why it took so long to do the same for video games. I think it’s partly because the first game Ian suggested to me, Torchlight, I enjoyed immensely. I adored the protag because she could be Asian if you squinted. Then, he suggested Diablo III and once the disaster of launch day was fixed, it was lots of fun. Then, Borderlands 1 and 2, which I played back-to-back for over a hundred hours–each? Maybe? I dunno. It’s been a hot minute.

Then, it was Dark Souls, Dark Souls II (SotFS), Dark Souls III, Bloodborne, and Sekiro. On the indie side, Cook, Serve, Delicious! (All three), Binding of Isaac (all iterations, I guess, but mostly Rebirth), Spiritfarer, Hades, and Cozy Grove.


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