Underneath my yellow skin

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Dark Souls can still surprise me

I love the Souls games. I’m sure I’ve said that a time or a hundred, but it bears repeating. One thing I love about the games is that no matter how many times I’ve played them, they are still capable of surprising me. For example, I’m shadowing Ian in Dark Souls (my character is doing what his character is doing in case he needs a summon). I just killed the hydra for reasons before realizing that means he can’t summon me for the hydra. Whoops! That’s not what surprised me, though. That was just me playing on autopilot doing what I needed to do before heading down to Blighttown. Ian is sat at the bottom bonfire ready to take on Quelaag. I have the master key and can go in the backway, which I shall. It means I won’t get the best pyromancy in the game (Power Within), but I can get it later.

What did I need to do? Get my pyro flame up to +10 so I can trigger the secret pyro trainer in Blighttown. That meant grinding for 12,000 souls to go from +9 to +10. I also want to do the Hidden Body/Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring combo, which meant killing the hydra to spawn the golden golem, killing it in order to spawn Dusk, then buying Hidden Body from her. What I’m saying is that it’s a lot. I did it, though, and then realized to my horror that I had killed a boss before Ian did.

Anyway, none of that is what surprised me. One, I talked about before. Summoning Lautrec for the Bell Gargs made him disappear from Firelink Shrine. That annoyed me because I hate invading him for Anastacia’s soul (don’t ask) and wanted the Ring of Favor and Protection as soon as possible. Imagine my surprise when I went to FLS after killing the Gaping Dragon and finding Lautrec sitting across from Anastacia again! I summoned him for the Gaping Dragon along with Solaire (same as the Bell Gargs), so is the game saying he chills at the FLS until it’s time for him to murder Anastacia? That would make sense. Some people speculate that he romances the Fire Keepers, then kills them for their souls. For the goddess he serves. Fina, the goddess of fatal beauty. That’s why he’s found locked up in the Undead Parish where there’s the soul of a dead Fire Keeper on the altar. It’s an interesting theory and one I can get behind.

At any rate, I’m pleased I was able to murder Lautrec in FLS and not have to wait until Anor Londo to invade him. I mistimed my kick and had to actually fight him, but that was no thing. Three or four swipes of my Zwei+10 and he was gold dust! I was tempted to do a quick run into New Londo to get the Very Large Ember so I could upgrade my Zwei ever further, but I’m not trying to get TOO large in this run. I don’t think levels matter if you play with a friend with a password, but still. It’s tempting, though. If it were closer to the beginning of New Londo, I’d do it. But it’s a fair bit of a way in so I’m going to wait.

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Getting cozy with Cozy Grove

me in a peaky blinders black hat, purple mask, chilling with the mayor
Looking peak Peaky Blinders while socially distancing.

Since I finished the DS II (SotFS) plat, I’ve been mainlining a game that, well, isn’t meant to be mainlined. I mentioned it in my last post (the one about the plat) and it’s called Cozy Grove by Spry Fox. It’s Animal Crossing with a sprinkling of Spiritfarer and it’s been the perfect antidote to the plat. Speaking of which, Spiritfarer by Thunder Lotus Games had an update with some new ‘gameplay’. I put that in quotes because it was not gameplay, exactly. It was Stella’s (main character) sister, Lily, showing up to flesh out Stella’s character and backstory.


Stella is a nurse who takes care of end-of-life patients and then gets cancer herself. The whole game is an allegory for what’s happening in her life. None of this comes through in the game and while there are hints now and again, I didn’t know about this until a newsletter from Thunder Lotus after I finished the game. I did know that Stella was dying because she’s the last person you take to the Everdoor, but I didn’t know the details about her death.

Anyway, the update is Lily’s spirit talking to you about family history and spells out the above paragraph in photos and memories. You can tell it’s Lily and their mother visiting Stella while Stella is in the hospital dying and Mom is asleep. Lily wants to take a walk down memory lane and in order to do so, you have to go to the different shrines across the world. The thing is, you can only do it at night and I just missed getting to the first shrine on the first night. I haven’t played this game in several months and had forgotten the mechanics to a certain extent. So I had to waste a whole day waiting for nighttime in order to access the new content.

After a few memories at this shrine, I had to go to another shrine to get more memories. I get why they did that, but I internally rolled my eyes as I set off. Then another shrine. Then, the fourth shrine. The one that almost made me quit the game the first time around because of how difficult it is to access–and this is at the very end of the game. There’s a bunch of platforming that is very fiddly and requires a combo of different moves. I had to look it up because I could not remember how to do it. Once I was reminded of the Dash, I was able to get to the shrine with fairly little effort. Still. Was it worth it?

Look. This was one of my two co-GOTY last year. I platted the game and cried several times while playing it. Gwen will stay with me forever and I loved almost everything about this game. This update, however, fell flat with me. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve moved on from the game, but I didn’t really get much from this update. There was nothing bad about it, mind you (except having to go to several different shrines), but it just didn’t add much to the game experience for me. In addition, Lily is…I hate to say it…a bit of a brat. I get that the devs were trying to show a sister/sister relationship that was both loving as well as somewhat contentious, but it just felt off to me. I think it’s because we have no history with Lily so when she comes in and puts Stella down, it feels bullying. Especially as Stella can’t respond. I think it’s meant to show the enormous pain Lily is feeling, but, again, I don’t know her from Rose. I am very protective of Stella and it irritated me to hear Lily put her down.

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A tale of two games–not-platting Dark Souls II and getting Cozy Grove

I finished the not-plat for SotFS/Dark Souls II and it wasn’t nearly as painful as the other two, especially DS III. I found out that the best way to farm for the Sunlight Medals (and I can say this because I platted the game) is to put on all your best item-finding gear, go to the first bonfire in the Brightstone Cove Tseldora area, and use your best magicks/biggest sword to mow down the seven Falconers in the area. I didn’t do this at first because it’s so annoying to have to draw out each one without getting swarmed. I could still get two-shot by these assholes, which was frustrating. Plus, with the extended length of the enemy range, it was too easy to proc more than one of them.

The problem was that the rate of getting the Sunlight Medals in the other areas was extremely low. In this area, once I got my routine down pat, I was able to get one medal almost every loop. The answer was to use Heavy Homing Soul Arrow to draw one enemy to me without alerting the others. I used Soul Spear to take care of two of the archers. For my sword, I used the Black Knight Ultra Greatsword which has the added bonus of setting things on fire. Here’s the last post and this is the continuation of that post. I was able to get the last ten or so Sunlight Medals in less than hour, which was amazing.

Once I was done with that, I made sure I had all the magicks I could get in NG+. It was a good thing I checked because I missed two–a sorcery and a hex. If I had had to go into the DLC in NG++, well, let’s just say I would NOT be happy about that at all. I was miffed as it was because I had to run through more than half the game again. Or did I? I looked up the fastest way to get to Drangleic Castle because there is an alternative to getting the four big souls and opening it that way. I knew about it from the first time I played, but I never thought about it because it seemed ridiculous. It’s getting a million souls and opening the door that way. Riiiiight. A million souls? Well. That was much more reasonable in NG++ with the boss souls I was carrying around with me. And all the other consumable souls, too. The most common way to get a great amount of souls as fast as possible was…

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Back to not-platting: Dark Souls II (SotFS) edition

item discovery outfit including jester hat
Now who looks like a fool?

Back in the Dark Souls meta. So. On that not-plat tip. I read more about the Benhart of Jugo questline because I reeeeeally did not want to have to do it on NG+ or start another playthrough. I wasn’t able to keep him alive for the Throne Watcher & Throne Defender fight (not even sure that one counted as there were varying accounts as to whether yes or no) and I did NOT want to fuck it up. It was so easy to fuck up, too. I’ve mentioned before that when I first started the original game, I was stubborn about not looking things up. When I really got stuck, I’d peek at a Wiki, but I really didn’t want to do it. By the third game, I was looking shit up after irrevocably changing my game in a way I didn’t like. During the not-plats, I was constantly looking things up because it was so easy to miss tiny details that would fuck everything up.

In this case, Benhart’s questline goes something like this. I am not looking it up right now so this is off the top of the head. You run into him in a path that is semi-hidden (but necessary) right in Majula. You chat with him there and move on. Then, you run into him again at the bonfire outside the Mirror Knight and you chat with him again. Then, you can talk to him outside one of the Memories later on. Supposedly, you can summon him for the Giant Lord fight, which is in another Memory. I don’t think I’ve done that and I don’t remember where his summoning sign is. Anyway, I read if you kept him alive for the three boss fights before talking to him at the Memory point, he gives you his equipment when you talk to him there. Otherwise, you can summon him for the Memory Giant Lord fight and have him survive that, but you have to talk to him outside the other Memory first and then talk to him…at that same place? Maybe? Maybe somewhere else? At any rate, I preferred to get the three fights done before talking to him the first time outside that Memory. I bought the Redeye Ring I mentioned in the previous post, used a Bonfire Ascetic on the Mirror Knight bonfire, and slipped on the ring. I killed the four horsemen outside the boss room before summoning Benhart and Ashen Knight Boyd, who is an absolute beast. Oh. Right. The boss is officially the Looking Glass Knight, but was formerly the Mirror Knight.

I went in and to my surprise, I actually found it a lot easier this time. I’m not sure why except knowing that the boss was going to be more targeted at me meant I went in with a more aggressive attitude. I think I might have went with better armor, too, as I normally rock a light armor so I can be faster and roll better. The boss focused on me for roughly 75% of the fight, which meant Benhart was better able to stay alive. In fact, he had more than half his health by the end of the fight. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to kill the Looking Glass Knight, but I was more than happy to accept it. I ran to where Benhart was supposed to be and there he was! He started mouthing off about this, that, and the other thing while I impatiently mashed the A button over and over again. I didn’t give a shit about his family or his traditions or whatever. Give me your fucking equipment!

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Not enjoying the not-plat of Dark Souls II (SotFS)

I love Dark Souls. I probably don’t have to say this, but I will, anyway. After I not-platted the third game, however, I was heartily sick of Dark Souls III, which is my favorite game ever. For a few months, I couldn’t even think about playing the game again–or the other FromSoft games, either. Many months, actually. Oh, sure, I played a bit here and there, but nothing like my normal play it every week if not every day. It’s only in the last month or so that I’ve been able to play the game again with pleasure. In the last few weeks, I’ve been watching the RKG’s playthrough of Dark Souls II, otherwise known as Scholar of the First Sin, the one Dark Souls game I haven’t platted or even not-platted. To be honest, I haven’t played that game in a year because I knew that once I started it up again, I’d start thinking about the not-plat.

After I finished the DS III plat, I did check SotFS to see if it had cloud sync. DS* does and DS III, bafflingly, does not. I had to use my saves on my old laptop to finish the DS III plat, which was annoying. DS II also does not have cloud sync and I only have one save on this computer. I was roughly halfway through the main game on that save. And, I was annoyed because one of the achievements I should have had is bugged and only pops if you get the final piece of it online. It’s one of the more straightforward achievements, too. It’s Maestro of Gestures, and you get them all by talking to NPCs. I think you get the ‘Praise the Sun’ emote from joining the Heirs of the Sun covenant, but other than that, it’s NPCs.

I have gotten all the gestures a half dozen times at least, but I play the game mostly offline because I hate PvP. I hate it the most in this game because you can get invaded when you’re not human and there’s a weird mechanic that under some circumstances, the less human you are, the more likely you will to be invaded. Back to the  bugged achievement. There is a similar bug in DS III in which you have to have one of every type of infusion. Meaning lightning, fire, crystal gem, heavy, gem, etc. I rarely do that because you take a huge hit to physical if you infuse your weapon with anything, so I had plenty of the stuff I needed to infuse my weapons. I went to Andre and infused one of everything. No achievement. I read you have to do it online, so I went online and tried again. Nothing. I read the forums and they suggested that I buy fifteen daggers and do the infusions on them (to keep it the same). I did that as well–nothing.

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The dark side of Dark Souls, part five

I am writing about the dark side of the Dark Souls series (very slowly as I get sidetracked by everything I love about the games) and this is part…five? Here’s part four and many of my issues with the DLCs of the third game. Having said that, I have finished NG, including the DLC. I got summons on the Champion Gravetender & Gravetender Greatwolf, Darkeater Midir, and Slave Knight Gael. One for CG & GG, two for DE, and one for SKG. On a Monday afternoon! It’s heartwarming that people are still playing the game. Ian showed me how to check how many people are concurrently playing and it’s roughly 14,000 at a time. I didn’t think that was THAT many people, but Ian assured me that many MMOs would kill for those numbers.

On the downside, that means that there are people still invading as well. I play the game offline until I reach a boss because I’m usually embered up (human form). I have gone on record several times that I hate being invaded, though I’ve accepted it’s part of the game. I’ve had people try to change my mind about it to no avail. One person in the RKG group got pretty earnest about it. We were talking about platting the game and I said that the pain of grinding for the covenant items made me not play the game for some time. He said that it was because I did it the wrong way–I needed to invade for the items and that would make it less grindy.

Now. Is he right? Yes. Invading for the items would have made it easier. How many items? Let’s chat. 30 Proofs of a Concord Kept for the Blade of the Darkmoon Covenant. 30 Pale Tongues for the Rosaria’s Fingers Covenant. 30 Vertebra Shackles for the Mound-Makers Covenant. 30 Wolf’s Blood Swordgrass for the Watchdogs of Farron Covenant. 30 Human Dregs for the Aldritch Faithful Covenant. 30 Sunlight Medals for the Warrior of Sunlight Covenant. Oh my god. As I was writing this list, it all came flooding back. I had repressed much of it and forgotten two of the six covenants I had to grind items for. There are a few of each item found strewn around the world, but not more than five of each.

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The dark side of Dark Souls, part four

In the last post, I talked about why I don’t like the DLCs of the third game, which is my favorite game in the world. I have played it dozens of time, and, yes I play the DLC every time except for the not-plat run on NG+ and NG++. I will say that I recently started not fighting the Champion Gravetender & Gravetender Greatwolf duo because I can’t get a summon for it to save my life. Can I beat them solo? Yes, I can and have. Do I want to? No. It’s a boring fight and it’s mostly so you can get an item for PvP. You can get that same item in the second DLC,  so it renders the boss fight moot. It’s just really uninspired and more to the point, it includes the worst of all the negative tendencies of FromSoft games. Starts with the gravetender and three wolves. That’s bad enough because I hate adds in a boss fight. It just seems like a lazy way to add instant and artificial difficulty. Then, when you get the gravetender down to a quarter health or so, he whistles in the greatwolf. If you’re a squishy caster like me, it’s difficult to finish off the gravetender before the greatwolf materializes, but it’s what you need to do. Otherwise, gravetender will cheese you from afar while the greatwolf bum-rushes you.

There is nothing new in this fight nor is it memorable in any way. As much as I loathe the DLCs for the third game, all the other bosses are memorable for one reason or another. Sister Friede is epic and one of my favorite bosses though she’s not fair at all. Demon Prince–ok, he’s not that memorable but there’s still the gotcha factor of it going from two demons to one after you kill the two demons. Midir is grueling and a test of your patience/skills. Gael  is fucking amazing, but also unfair. So I’m not saying they’re great, mind you, but just that they are noteworthy in one way or another. Champion Gravetender & Gravetender Greatwolf is a boss fight that doesn’t stand out in any way. So I’m not motivated to do it even though I can beat them.

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The dark side of Dark Souls, part two

in my last post, I started a list of grievances against Dark Souls games to countermand all the ‘Dark Souls is perfect’ nonsense that gets tossed around. In this post, I’d like to start with the difficulty of the games. The first game is noted for its difficulty and it is hard. Fuck the people saying it’s not. I had to stop watching the Oxtra playthough because Ellen was like, “It’s not difficult; it’s methodical.” While hefting a zweihander before going to Blighttown and ten levels or so more than you’d normally be at this point. With someone giving her tips before each area and boss. Rory from RKG said the same thing playing Dark Souls with Krupa guiding him every step of the way. Cut to the third game and Rory complaining that the third game is much harder than the first game. Yes, because Krupa wasn’t guiding him every step of the way.

People in the Oxtra chat saying it’s gatekeeping to say the games are difficult. It’s not. They are hard! I agree that anyone can beat them–if I did, so can anyone else–but I also don’t blame anyone for quitting. The qualifiers that Krupa put on anyone beating the game were something like grinding, careful dedication, and reading the wikis (community). Rory did joke that having a Daniel really helped. Well, yes. But the people in the chat saying it’s not that hard…first time I played the original game, it took me nearly 150 hours to beat, including DLC. Now, I can do it in 30 or so hours and that’s because I like to grind a lot and fuck around. So, yeah, the games aren’t hard for me now, but the first time? I found the first game nearly impossible.

My point is that for most people going into the games, they don’t have any of the knowledge we have now. Or rather, back when the game first came out. Even trying it out now, though, probably most people aren’t Googling it before going it or watching tons of Let’s Play. It’s fucking hard if you try to go it alone as I did. If I knew anyone trying to play the game, I’d give them as many tips as they wanted to keep them moving along.

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The boy has grown on me

The queen of all I survey!

So. I think I’m reaching the end of Syndicate. Not the end of the game as I’m only 50% through the story, but the end of my interest in it. It’s such a huge game with so much to do, but it’s all repetitive. It gets very samesy, and this is my breakdown:

Sneak up, shiv, loot.
Air assassination, shiv, loot.
Beat the crap out of someone, shiv, loot.
Hijack a cargo, shiv, loot.
Sabotage, shiv, loot.

See the running theme? And, yes, the animations are stylish as hell, but they get old after a while. In addition, there are, like, five versions of the mooks, so I get pretty damn tired of seeing the same faces over and over again. Your mooks also have the same faces, so that’s unintentionally funny as well.

I will say the biggest surprise is that I don’t hate Jacob any longer. In the beginning, I wanted to punch him every time he opened his big gob. Now, however, I just sigh and roll my eyes at Jacob being Jacob. He’s toned down the sarcasm a bit and doesn’t seem to be trying so hard, but I think it’s just resignation on my part. I will saw that I’ve taken him out more because he’s my brawler and until very recently the one with the carriage buffs, so he got the fighting and the driving duties. Plus, most of the story beats have to be played by him, so there’s that as well.

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Dim sum video gaming

Waiting for it to go boom!

I’m still searching for the one true game, but I haven’t found it. Instead, I’ve found a flock of games that I’m playing in rotation right now, which is not like me at all. Normally, I play one game at a time (and BOI:R as the relaxer every day), and then call it a day. In the past, when I wasn’t obsessed by a new game, I’d be playing a Dark Souls game as my main. Now, however, I’m in a unique situation that has me somewhat flummoxed.

I’m playing…one, two, three, four games at the moment (and, yes, one of them is a Dark Souls game) in addition to BOI:R. Five games! That’s unfathomable. I also tried the demo for a game called Death and Taxes by Placeholder Gameworks because it was touted as a game similar to Papers, Please, by Lucas Pope, which was an incredible game. I’m still sad I can’t play his follow-up, Return of the Obra Dinn because of motion sickness. I had seen NL play Death and Taxes, and I thought it looked interesting enough to give it a try.

I wanted to love it as much as I loved Papers, Please, and it had a lot going for it. The artwork is great. It has a jaunty tone to it that I really grooved on. There’s a cute cat in it! And the comic book style presentation slaps. But, the gameplay itself, is…lacking. You’re the Grim Reaper, called up by Fate, and you have to decide who lives and who dies from your desk in…wherever you are. Fate gives you the dossiers of a group of people, and then tells you how many have to die. There are conditions to be met, such as, “Save all the scientists”, which is how the game pushes you to make hard choices.

The problem is that the jaunty tone, while appreciated, does not fit the purpose of the game–if the purpose is to wring pathos at making hard choices. That was the purpose of Papers, Please, and that game did it brilliantly. This demo is only the first seven days, so maybe that’s not the purpose of this game. At any rate, I didn’t find it very difficult to meet the requirements, and I didn’t care at all about the humans save one. Who I had to kill.

The other issue is that they don’t use gender or ethnicity for the people, but they still physically ascribe gender and race characteristics. I can see why they did it that way, but it rubs me the wrong way. It’s a small gripe in the grand scheme of things, but I could see it getting more annoying over time.

I feel bad for saying I didn’t gel with the game, but that’s the truth. It’s not a bad game by far, but it just didn’t hold my interest. I still have it on my wishlist, and maybe I’ll grab it when it’s a few bucks. For now, though, I have plenty on my plate.

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