Underneath my yellow skin

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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 three

With the horrific news coming out of Atlanta recently that has hit hard and has underscored the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes since the pandemic started, thanks in a large part to the inflammatory rhetoric of the previous president and his acolytes, I’m trying to find ways to stay on top of the rage that I am feeling. By the way, that’s an unexpected reaction, but not necessarily unwelcomed. In the past, I would have been heartbroken (still am), fearful (a little, but not a lot), and bitter about the lack of visibility of Asians in this country (it’s been mitigated by the outrage I’ve seen over the murders, and for the right reasons). Rage, though, would have been waaaay in the back of my brain and I would have tried to tamp it down. This time, I liked the rage flow through me. Once the spin started trickling in, which was roughly a minute after the suspect was said to have been arrested.

Anyway. One way I’m doing that is retail therapy. I went to TWO places yesterday (pharmacy and bank) for the first time in ages and deposited two checks. I’m eying this baby to match my twin broadsword set and an outfit for an important upcoming Zoom event. I haven’t worn anything other than t-shirts/sweatshirts and sweats in a year; I could do with a nice new outfit. The other thing I’m doing is playing Dark Souls III. I used to alternate between playing Dark Souls and Dark Souls III, but since defeating Biggie & Smalls, I’ve fallen off playing DSR(emastered). That’s not surprising given that the second half of the game is decidedly worse than the first half. I’ve reached my least favorite part of DS III as well (the DLCs), but I’m still powering my way through it because I’m a bit of a completionist. I’m doing the second DLC at the moment and am going to switch over to the first DLC because story reasons.

More on my dissertation as to the negatives of the Souls series. Here is part two of the series which has a link to the first post in it. In fact, the DLCs of the third game are a great representation of what is wrong with the series and the mentality of the hardcore fans. The DLCs have always been the hardest part of each game by far. They’ve been praised to high heaven for their difficulty and their design. Even the players who hated the second game gush about the DLCs. I’ve mentioned before that the second game’s DLCs stamped the beginning of FromSoft buying their own hype. Yes, the games were difficult, blah, blah, blah. But they were playable with any build if you put time and effort into it.


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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 dark side of Dark Souls, part one

I love Dark Souls. I think that’s not going to be a shock to anyone. It’s my favorite series of games by a country mile and Dark Souls III is my favorite game, bar none. By the way, I’m happy that I can play DS III again, which I’ve been doing. I had to take several months off after the non-plat because it was ridiculously grueling* to get the covenant items and the thought of starting up a new game just did not do it for me. About a month ago, I started getting the itch again and I made a new character. Well, I say new, but I mean the exact same character I always play. Pyro starting out with the Hand Axe, switching to the Executioner’s Greatsword when I get it, then my beloved Lorian’s Greatsword near the end of the vanilla game. I use the Great Chaos Fire Orb until I can buy and use the Chaos Bed Vestiges. That plus Hidden Body and Tears of Denial are my spells. Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring, Lingering Dragoncrest Ring, Witch’s Ring, and Saint’s Ring are my base rings.

Stats-wise, I have to have 26 Strength 10 Dex to wield Lorian’s Greatsword. 20 Int and 10 Faith for the CBV. 18 Int and 18 Faith for the Crystal Chime (which I can use for both spells and miracles). I like to have 30 V and 30 End, but that’s not possible until the very end of the game given how many points I have to pump into other stats. I keep my Vit at 15 until the end game when I like to push it to 20. I have to get my Int up to 25 and my Faith at 20 so I can use a spell (Pestilent Mist) and miracle (Dorhy’s Gnawing) that take 30 Int and 25 Faith respectively. There are rings that add +5 to the important stats (individually, not all) so that’s why I need five less than the number stated.

In the past several days, I’ve been playing both Dark Souls Remastered and Dark Souls III every day, though not for very long on either one since I’m still dealing with a gamy thumb. Funny story: I went through DS III not getting any human summons and I shrugged it off, thinking it was just that I was playing at weird times or that people had moved on. I did get invaded, though, so there’s that. It was only after I had fought the Twin Princes several times with the NPC summons that I realized I had the password setting still on from when I was not-platting the game. I cracked doing the farming for vertebrae shackles and begged Ian to let me kill him over and over again while I had that covenant on, which was why we set passwords. I turned it off and voila! Human summons once again.


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The replayability of Dark Souls

While I’m dealing with the issue of my sore and tender left thumb, I haven’t been gaming much because I would obviously need my thumb to use my controller. In some games, it’s not actively involved, but I need it to at least hold the controller. In my favorite games (Dark Souls, duh), I need it to maneuver the D-pad and the left stick, of course.

Speaking of Dark Souls, which we are because there’s no hint of a whiff of Elden Ring in the near future except for this and I can’t go for an appreciable amount of time without talking about something FromSoft-related, I’ve been watching videos of Dark Souls playthroughs. One is a n00b from Outside Xtra who is being guided by the Dark Souls ‘expert’ in the group. He’s not an expert by far, but he is the only one who has finished the game–and Bloodborne. And, I think, Sekiro. Oh, and Demon’s Souls Remake. I watched the first two episodes, but I doubt I’ll watch the rest. Ellen, the one playing, is actually pretty good at the game, but…she has a bad attitude when she plays these kinds of games. Luke is guiding her and she gets really impatient every time she makes a mistake, but always blames the game. It’s the camera or the mob or the corner, but it’s never her. She’s extremely competitive and it shows when she plays. It’s one reason I don’t like it when the Oxbox plays competitive games and she’s one of the players. She’s a very sore loser and a smug winner.

I actually couldn’t watch Luke’s Bloodborne playthrough because he was too fucking good at the game. He one-shot several bosses and rarely had much trouble with them. He had more difficulty with the areas and would get overly upset/frustrated when he died. He didn’t blame the game, but it was stressful to watch him play. Plus, my jealousy at how good he was at the game.

It’s difficult for me to find someone I like to watch play FromSoft games because my specific requirements are very picky. One, no sexism/bro behavior. This one is really difficult to clear, even by female gamers. There was one I stopped watching after fifteen minutes because it was ‘take that, bitch!’ when she killed every fucking enemy. I can deal with the occasional bitch, but the frequency was really annoying, especially as I felt she was just trying to be the cool girl*.


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Watching the sausage get made

so that's how they make it.
Mmmmm, sausage!

We’re coming up to the end of the year–a really weird year, by the way. Doom Eternal was released this year? The Last of Us 2? Animal Crossing New Horizons? ACNH came out near the beginning of the lockdown which is probably the biggest reason it was such a hit, and to me, that feels like ten years ago. But also like yesterday. Time is meaningless at the moment. Anyway, normally, I do a few posts about my games of the year and give cute categories to each winning game. I’m still going to do that, but first, I thought I’d take you behind the scenes as to how I make these decisions.

First of all, I don’t play that many games a year. I wrote a few years ago that I would rather have three games a year I really liked than play a couple dozen ok games. Ideally, it would be more like four or five, but three is basic. I hit that floor this year, but just. In the meantime, I played a bunch of games that were meh or worse for a variety of reasons.

I would like to point out that I did both the Dark Souls not-plats this year. That took up a lot of my time and effectively killed my love for Dark Souls III for some time. I’m back in it again at a casual rate and it’s good to be home. It’s funny how it takes less and less time to snap back to my Dark Souls controls, which is the first game I ever played on a controller. The first time I went from Hades to Dark Souls III, I nearly decked NPCs more than once because RB is light attack in DS and interact with someone/something in Hades. The next time, it took less than a minute. The next time, it didn’t take any time at all.

Anyway, doing the Dark Souls not-plats took quite a bit of time. I also ended up 100%ing Spiritfarer and Hades because I was so close by the end of the game that it seemed a shame not to finish them off. I will say for Spiritfarer there was an achievement that you could only get by doing both the options for one certain quest. I was able to go back to an earlier save to choose the other dialogue option to proc the achievement (and it made no difference), but had I not been able to do that, I might not have bothered playing the game again just for that achievement. Oh, hell. You know I would have. I also cheesed a few of the Hades achievements by doing them on Heat Zero because I was not about making it any harder than it needed to be.

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Hades is one hell of a good time

In my quest for the next meaty game I can sink my teeth into, there have been misses and there has been one game I’ve been keeping my eye on. It’s called Hades, and it’s a rogue-lite-like by Supergiant Games. Supergiant Games in an indie company that is beloved in the indie community as it were. Their previous games include Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre. All three games were hailed when they came out, and I’ve tried each of them. I’m sure you can tell that I did not fall in love with them by the tone of what I’ve written, and you would be right. I tried. Honestly, I gave at least the first two a fair shake. I could see why they were held in such high regards, but neither of them clicked with me. The third just wasn’t my type of game at all, which I knew before I bought it.

I will say that each game looks gorgeous. Supergiant Games does aesthetics well, and while you can tell an SG game by the look of it, they change it up with each game. They all have vivid color palettes and a dreamy-like look to the graphics. From memory and a few stills, Bastion has earthy tones, Transistor is pastel-y, and Pyre has a more intense but darker color palette. Hades is just bright (but with the same richness of colors). I love the cartoony without being cartoonish feel to the characters (another staple of the games) and I love the theme of this game. I was obsessed with mythology when I was younger, so this is a nice way to scratch that itch.

I gave all three of their prior games more time than I normally would because they were so well-regarded in the indie community. I wanted desperately to like them, but I didn’t. Or rather, I didn’t feel compelled to keep playing. I thought each game was well made and could absolutely see why people were gaga over them. I couldn’t make myself like them, however, and I reluctantly moved on from each. Each time, I felt as if I were the problem, not the game, as if it were a personal failing that I couldn’t really get into the games.

This is the reason I was apprehensive when picking up Hades. In fact, I avoided it for a bit because I was worried that I would feel that way yet again. This game is more beloved than the others, if that’s possible, garnering outstanding scores across the board. The worst Metacritic score is 8.5. That’s the worst. I did watch a YouTuber try it out and liked what I saw, but who knew if it’d be the same when I actually played it? Still. I needed a game and it recently came out of Early Access. That meant it was on sale, so I picked it up. I was hoping it’d be like Binding of Isaac: Rebirth in that I’d be able to play it endlessly despite frustrations with it. BoI: R is far from a perfect game, but there’s something really comforting about playing it.


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Floundering in the mist

Still feeling pretty shitty, though my migraine is mostly gone. Still lingering nausea and headache, but nothing I can’t power through. The thing is, though, when I feel like this, I can’t really play anything difficult. Or rather, it’s not something I want to do. Mostly, I just loll on the couch and watch videos on a low volume, trying not to vomit. Or at least just dealing with the feeling of nausea because I don’t involuntarily vomit.

There are some games I can play without really thinking about them. One is DemonCrawl by Therefore Games, which is a Minesweeper rogue-lite about fighting, naturally, demons. It’s too random, and it feels like RNG Jesus has to smile down on you in order to actually win a run.  There’s too much guessing, and there is not enough tutorial. There is still a bunch of stuff I don’t understand, and I haven’t gotten any of my crafting slots or whatever they are unlocked. I looked it up, and you had to beat the game on normal  in order to unlock them. Just did that, but you also have to find blueprints in chest? Apparently? Who knows? Look. I’m used to playing games with opaque or no tutorials. I’m a FromSoft fangrrl for fuck’s sake. But, there’s a difference between a tutorial that is just goo through it and learn (FromSoft) and, what, a tutorial that actually explains the mechanisms about the game? Hahahhahahahha (DemonCrawl). Or maybe I’m Stockholm Syndrome with FromSoft games, which is entirely possible.

Speaking of, I finally got summoned in Krupa’s plat-run. It was weird because I got summoned on my TV, but I didn’t see it on stream. I assumed I had been summoned by someone else (though it would have to be someone in the stream as we were using a password), but then, ten seconds later, I showed up on the stream. I was watching my TV screen more than the stream, and I was confused because the person who summoned me was wearing the same hat as me–as was Krupa. That’s when I realized he had probably summoned me, and I needed to get my head in the game.

I sucked as a summon. I was pretty sure I would because my way of playing the game is very stealth-based. It’s harder to do in someone else’s world when you’re going through the area with him, and we were in the dreaded Catacombs. I had my Hidden Body/Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring combo going on, but it’s harder to tell when it expires in ghost form. Two of the whirling dervishes (Carthus Swordsman Skeleton) were on me the second I became visible again plus the invader who decided to go straight for me. Krupa had three summons, but one died immediately. The other one didn’t appear for whatever reason, so it was just me and Krupa. I knew my duty was to protect him, so I kept the enemies engaged (and the invader) and immediately died.

I felt really bad and embarrassed because I didn’t help at all (cold comfort that the other two summons didn’t, either), but I also had suspected that would be the case. You get less health, half your Estus, and nerfed to the level of the summoner. All of which makes sense, but it means that I am not great, even with my beloved Lorian’s Greatsword. the problem with my character is that I’m not really powerful until NG+ and beyond when I’m maxed out on all my spells. I’m sitting at the end of NG with my PS4 character, but I don’t know if I’ll put down my sign again. I honestly think I’m better in chat, but it’s a bit depressing because it’s my favorite game.


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Hodge-podge by gosh

So. I’ve been trouncing my way through Lothric again, this time on the PS4. I’m doing it so I can help Krupa on his DS III plat run for the very first time ever! Usually, I’m the ‘well, actually’ gal in the chat, asking him if he has a moment to talk about our lord and savior, Vamos. He was a blacksmith in the original game, and he was the one who turned your weapons into fire and chaos. So, we pyros decided he was our god. After the last stream, I decided to try to tone it down a bit because it can be too much. In addition, in an aborted session, he mentioned that this run was mostly just to finish NG. He said if he was about to miss something important to tell him, but not something that can be had on a subsequent run. I think it’s because we were all shouting at him about the Sage Ring last time, but it’s really good for a caster.

But, yeah, I’m marching merrily through the game, and I’m up to the Duke’s, er, Grand Archives–right before the Twin Princes and my beloved Lorian’s Greatsword. I have the stats to wield it, and I have all the base stats I want. Well, maybe I could throw a few more into Dex so I can use Black Knight weapons in the DLCs, if I do the DLCs. I don’t need to do them to help Krupes, but I don’t like skipping. Plus, it’s a good way to beef up my stats.

Krupa is up to the Cleansing Chapel and promises an extra-long session on the Fourth of July. I find it amusing that he’s doing it on America’s Independence Day, but that’s a Brit for you. I was ready to go last time (for the aborted session), but I wasn’t feeling great about it because my character is so damn fragile in the beginning. I have to get 12 levels of Attunement for my spells to start. Then, to use my favorite pyromancy, I need 6 in Intelligence. One in Faith for  Tears of Denial, but if I want to–wait. I’ll get to that in a minute. I like to use the longbow for many things, and that’s 5 in Dex. My base for Vigor and Endurance is 20, and I start with 11 and 10 respectively. My Vitality starts at 8, and I drag it up to 10 to begin with. Ideally, I like it at 15.

Let’s get even more specific. Strength-wise, I need 19 for my beloved Executioner’s Greatsword. By the way, shout-out to an overlooked weapon. It has low necessary requirements for a greatsword, and you get mana back with each kill. Focus Points, yeah, yeah, yeah. My even more beloved Lorian’s Greatsword takes 26 in Strength, and I have that. I was behind in Faith, however, because my favorite chime, Crystal Chime, takes 18 points of Faith. When I found it in the Grand Archives, I eagerly went back to upgrade it and realized to my dismay that I was one point short. I was able to level up one more time, and I’m set.

Here’s the thing. From now on out, I can level whatever I want. This is the point where I finally feel as if I’m swinging in my weight class. To be clear, I haven’t had much trouble with the game. I mean, I’ve played it so much that I can do it in my sleep. Oh! I will say, though, that with the help of a message, I found a chest I’d never known was there before. Or if I had, then I’d forgotten and hadn’t opened it in the last dozen or so times I played the game. That’s one thing I adore about FromSoft games–there are so many secrets, you can go for years without knowing them all.

I’m back to loving the game after my month-long hiatus. The not-plat run nearly broke me, so I’m overjoyed that I can play the game again and with pleasure. Still don’t love the PS4, but I’ve gotten used to it. I still can’t play for more than an hour or so, but that’s because of my outdated TV.

I’ve been trying out games that have caught my eye for one reason or the other. Summer Steam sale is a go, and I’ve been picking up things with abandon.


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