Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: Elden Ring

What Elden Ring means to me

I love FromSoft games, but they don’t love me. Ian and I have a long-standing discussion about whether the games are meant for people like me or not. He thinks they are whereas I think they are not. He believes the struggle is the purpose and people who can beat bosses in one go are not going to get the full experience.

I see his point. There is nothing quite like struggling for hours against a boss and then finally beating that boss. I have never felt as exhilarated as I did when I beat Isshin, the Sword Saint of Sekiro. Normally, I swear and curse loudly as I beat a boss. With him, I set down the controller and had a little cry. I felt a sense of awe that I had done it, and I knew I would never feel it again.

Sadly, I knew i would never beat him again, either. Sekiro is so fucking hard. People keep saying once you click with the combat, it’s the easiest of the games. I never clicked with it because I was physically unable to deflect at the proper time. My reflexes are shit. I tried and tried and tried to get it right. I could not. My niece’s husband said, “I didn’t realize you could play the game without learning to deflect.” My response, “Oh, you can, but it’s not fun at all.”

I don’t think normies understand that I physically cannot do the deflect. Or rather, I can do it roughly 50% of the time and not on purpose. That meant I had to chip away at the health of every enemy instead of doing the deflects. I’m justifiably proud of myself for never parrying in any of the From games, but I would have if I could for that one.

It’s frustrating that people dismiss my experience with the game because they think it’s just a matter of ‘git gud’. “It’s a rhythm game!” Yeah, well, I suck at those, too. I love the game, Night in the Woods. It’s probably my favorite indie game of all time.  But I will never get the plat, and it’s in part because there is a rhythm game in it that you have to perfect, which I’ll never do.

Elden Ring was my anticipated game of 2022. I was hyped back when it was first announced–I think it was in 2019. Then, the pandemic happened. All hell broke loose. There was no more mention of Elden Ring. on Reddit, there was a really sweet thing where people made up their own areas of Elden Ring and made up enemies, weapons, etc. It was sustenance during a time when I doubted that Elden Ring would actually be released.


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Having fun in Elden Ring

I hadn’t played Elden Ring (FromSoft) in some time for reasons. Just wasn’t feeling it, mostly. I watched a few videos on the best and most rare armors in the game and decided to give it a go. That means farming, which is not fun. One of them was fairly easy to get, but another, I had trouble getting the head piece. It’s an armor that has both an altered and unaltered helm and chest piece. Different sources gave conflicting info as to how to get the pieces. These enemies (Banished Knights) are in a few areas, and there’s one at the entrance to–oh, spoilers for the whole game, I guess–the Cathedral of Dragon Communion in Caelid. They are a bastard hard enemy, and I normally just avoid them. I wanted their armor, though, so this time, I backstabbed them and then slashed them once, and they were dead. I did that over and over again and got most pieces to armor set. The chest armor (unaltered) is supposedly one you can only get from the Banished Knight in Sol Castle, which is really late in the game and twice as hard as the regular version of the enemy because it can disappear and teleport.

The way to do him is to get above and spell him rapidly so he can’t teleport. I didn’t manage to do it the first few times, and he killed me handily. I was told in a video this would take hours, but to persevere. I was thinking I might have to give up because there was no fucking way I was going to farm this asshole for hours. I got the chest piece the first time I killed him, though, so that was a boon. I went back to farming the other guy for the rest of the armor, and I look fly now with the altered helm and the unaltered chest piece.

It took me an hour or so to get the whole set, and I can see how people would get into farming for hours. It’s soothing in a way, and farming one guy over and over again isn’t a big deal. There was another armor set that you could get by having the enemy break a tent in a late-game area, and I found out something neat about the area as well. It’s a platforming section that for some reason didn’t faze me. Talking about it in the RKG Discord, many people took hours to get down it. I got it in ten minutes or so, which is nothing for me!


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Elden Ring, GOAT? No, but definitely GOTY

I’ve been watching videos of Elden Ring (FromSoft, natch) because why the hell not? I’m currently rewatching Eurogamer’s co-op during the Closed Network Test. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve played the game, and I’ve been thinking about why it’s not calling me back the way Dark Souls III does (which is still my favorite game of all time by a hair).

Before the game came out, I was concerned about a few things. One, the caves and catacombs, which seemed like the Chalice Dungeons of Bloodborne. Which, by the way, were my least-favorite part of that game. I tried them out fairly late in the game, which meant that I didn’t have much trouble with the first few of them. They don’t scale with your level; they are as hard as they are ever going to be. So, the first depth of dungeons are fairly easy. The second depth are that much harder, etc. Each Chalice Dungeon had three or four levels and a boss at the end of the level. There were set Chalice Dungeons and you could also randomly create them. The set ones were the same every time you went into it.

By the third or fourth dungeon, I was bored out of my skull. They all look the same and I got hopelessly lost more often than not. Plus, I felt there were way too many mobs, too many traps, and they just weren’t any fun. I gave up and never went back.

Until the plat. There is a unique boss at the end of one whole set of dungeons. You have to defeat this boss as part of the plat. I had just watched RKG do the Chalice Dungeons and followed Krupa’s Ted Talk guide. Then, as I was quite far into it, I realized that I didn’t need to do all the Chalice Dungeons–just the one chunk of them that had the unique boss I needed to beat. So I abandoned the other Chalice Dungeons because I just couldn’t be stuffed to do them. I still haven’t. I hate them. I honestly do.

Back to Elden Ring. I was concerned that the caves and catacombs would be like the Chalice Dungeons (CDs). They were for the most part, but not as annoying because they were spread out across the lands and because they weren’t as long or as elaborate as the CDs.

I did get bored of them after a time, though. I appreciated that they had different tricks to some of them, but they were pretty samesy for the most part. Tons of incredibly hard imps that did massive damage, including bleed damage. I hated these imps so much. They were way OP for being a simple enemy. Then, there were mobs of low-level enemies that chased you around. There are a few bigger enemies that you have to chonkbonk or avoid. There is some kind of status effect like poison or scarlet rot.


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Bits and bobs about Elden Ring

I’ve been watching people fighting

::spoilers for the whole game::

 

Malenia, Blade of Miquella, who later becomes Malenia, Goddess of Rot. She is well-known as the hardest boss of the game, if not the entire series. In fact, I would say the whole series. Well, I wouldn’t because she’s not in my top ten, but she is considered to be the toughest boss in all FromSoft games.

It’s one of my favorite things about the games–that different bosses are difficult for different people. Unless you are my young Canadian friend from the RKG Discord who doesn’t find any boss difficult. He had the most trouble with the Guardian Ape of Sekiro–taking 8 times to beat him.

8 times. That’s me not even warming up for that fight. I can’t tell you how many times I died to that boss. I honestly wonder what the Canadian guy gets out of the games when he cruises through them with such ease. When I was doing the plat in Bloodborne, he decided to go back and play the DLC again because he had lost to Ludwig when it first came out–and he was twelve. I championed using the Hunter Axe because that’s what I use. It’s a starting weapon, but it’s my favorite weapon of the game. He loved it and used it to beat Ludwig in one go, and the same for the rest of the bosses in the DLC in honor of my plat. And then to plat the game for himself using save-scumming. I was so damn proud of him, flattered, but also jealous. He was doing me better than I could do me!

He reminded me of a YouTuber whom I watched playing the DLC of Bloodborne. They were really good at the game and beat the bosses in one or two tries. When they took three on, I want to say Lady Maria, they apologized. I stopped watching because they were just too good.

I felt similarly watching my young Canadian friend fight the bosses in Bloodborne (he uploaded the clips). It was incredible, and there were many tense moments. They are a good watch. But, yeah, a tinge of jealousy for how fucking good he is.

I’m watching videos of people playing Malenia, and I can’t get enough. She was so notorious that everyone who runs into her knows who she is immediately. It’s hilarious to see people go from scared to angry to upset to tearful to joyous relief when (if) they finally beat her. She, more than anyone, is the boss who teaches you the stages of fighting a FromSoft boss.


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Being the weirdo…again

I love FromSoft games. They are amazing and Miyazaki is a genius. I think Sekiro is brilliant and an incredible stand-alone game. It’s also my least-favorite of the games with Bloodborne just above it. This is a controversial opinion in the community as most people worship at the altar of Bloodborne.

Before I continue, I have to address the elephant in the room. There has been a lot of debate about the accessibility of the games. Usually, this breaks down to the question of modes and the advocation of adding an easy mode. I don’t believe that’s the answer, but it’s also not an interest of mine because it’s clear that FromSoft will never do that.

I am more interested in the other things they have and have not done in order to make the games more accessible to people, but that’s also not something I’ll really be discussing this post. My interest right now is how much should FromSoft have to adapt in order to be accessible and in what areas?

For example, I’m terrible at platforming because I have depth and spatial issues. Add a horse to that and, well, I cannot tell you how many times I plunged Torrent into the deep abyss of nothing. It doesn’t help that he’s not very precise and FromSoft continues to insist that you can turn on a dime while jumping–even on a horse.

In the RKG Discord, there is a Soulsborne channel, of course. People were gushing about how great the game is and how when it clicks, it just clicks. Which is what many people who love that game say. But here’s the thing. It doesn’t click with everyone. I found ways to get around my issues with Bloodborne, but I never actually liked the game. Yes, I found a way to beat it, but I was never any good at it. Not having a shield is such a handicap to me, that I will do what I can to mitigate it. In the case of Bloodborne, using my Hunter Tools including the Augur of Ebreitas to TENTACLES TO THE FACE! helped, but did not wholly negate the damage of not having a shield.


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Dark Souls for days

Continuing on with my thoughts on how I’ve changed concerning the FromSoft games. Here is part two. The last time I played the game, I was breezing through it like it was nothing. I had the Zwei maxed out and all the most powerful Pyromancies. I went in the back way to Blighttown because I could, and I took down O&S without even sweating. I was shadow-matching Ian as he made his way through the game for the first time. I quit when I hit the Tomb of the Giants because I just couldn’t be stuffed and because he was crushing it.

Did I do the DLC? I don’t remember. Probably not because I normally wait until right before Gwyn to do that. I was frustrated because there’s a glitch in the remaster version that doesn’t allow for saving or connecting online, which I don’t care when I play for myself. But if Ian had needed to summon me, it would have been a problem.

It’s incredible all the different way you can play the game. Games, really. I watch videos and the amount of people who just mess around is insane. Fists only runs, Soul Level One runs (onebro), no hit runs, bows only runs, and more. naked runs, and more. I am proud of myself when I can kill Kalameet and it only takes five or six tries.

I tried a onebro run in Dark Souls III, which I read later that it was much harder to do (and technically can’t because there is no level one character) than in the original. I made it about a fourth of the way into the game (to the Deacons of the Deep) before conceding defeat. I just did not want to go on any further and gave up the good fight.

Side Note: I made my onebro a male character because I always play as a female. I thought it would be fun and much to my surprise, one of the NPCs, Anri, is a different gender depending on which you chose to play as. They are the opposite gender, I mean. There is a reason for this (spoilers, I guess). You ‘marry’ Anri and stab them in the face, so I guess we have to reinforce the het norms that men and women can only marry each other.

Imagine my surprise when I met Anri when I was a onebro and she was a woman. I had only known the male Anri, so it was weird when she was a she. I don’t watch playthroughs of the current FromSoft game until after I’d played it, so I didn’t know that was a possibility until I did my onebro. Then, of course, once I started watching playthroughs, it was 99% men who played as men so their Anri was a woman.


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New phone, who dis?

In the last post, I was talking about Malenia, the Blade of Miquella. They are twins, but Miquella never really grew up or something? I’m not entirely sure because FromSoft lore is very dense and opaque. I haven’t watched many lore vids, but I will at some point. I do know that…

*SPOILERS*

Marika and Radagon are the same person. But Radagon is also the consort of Marika. They have the twins, Malenia and Miquella. Because they were one person, their children were cursed. Or something. Marika was also married to Godfrey and had three children, Godwin, and the twins, Mohg, Lord of Blood, and Morgott, the Omen King. Morgott is the actual form of Margit, the Fell Omen, who is an early boss. Optional, but most people will face him as the first boss.

Fun fact: George R. R. Martin was brought in to write the lore of the worlds. Many of the characters have names that start with G, R, and M. Make of that what you will. It’s hard to tell what is under his influence in the game, but it’s not unreasonable to wonder why invite him in to do what Miyazaki is brilliant in?

Anyway. The finding out that Radagon is Marika is supposed to be upsetting and a shock. But, honestly, I just nodded and accepted it because why the hell not? It’s no more unrealistic than any of the other lore in the FromSoft games. That’s similar to when people say that you know you’re not supposed to fight the Tree Sentinel at the beginning of the game because he’s so hard. You don’t have anything to judge it against so you just accept that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

It’s like with the first game. After you fight the Asylum Demon, you get dropped off at Firelink Shrine. There are three ways you can go. One is the graveyard with hard-as-nails skellies. Another is down to New Londo Ruins with ghosts you cannot attack*. The third is the right way to go with Hollows who are manageable.

From fans argue that it’s the genius of Miyazaki on display because the first two ways are demonstrably too hard. The third way is hard, but not impossible. But, and this is something you forget over time, you have nothing to judge it against when it’s your first time playing. I’ve gone into this at length several times, even in the last post, but it bears repeating. This game is marketing as being extra-hard. That’s their whole schtick! The complete version with DLC is called the Prepare to Die Edition. What do people  who’ve never played the game know about it? It’s fucking hard! So, yeah, going up against skellies who can kill you in one hit or bleed you out before you can do chip damage to them? Sure, why not? Ghosts you can’t touch without a certain item, which is never explained to you? Why wouldn’t you think you weren’t supposed to run through the area?

It’s all obvious once you’ve played the game, but when you have no barometer for what is reasonable and what isn’t, well, you’re going to just assume that you’re supposed to die a million times and not just a thousand. Everyone forgets how difficult it was the first time through. That’s normal and human.


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Gatekeeping in Elden Ring

*SPOILERS*

I’m not sure how needed a spoiler tag is for Elden Ring now, but I’m slapping one on this post, anyway, because I’m going to talk about a late-game boss in some detail. She is widely accepted to be the hardest boss in the game, and she’s optional. All the hardest bosses in the FromSoft games are optional bosses. Well. That’s not exactly true. There is usually one boss mid-game who is a hard skills check. Ornstein & Smough in the original Dark Souls. Genichiro in Sekiro. Both of these are unavoidable. The first made my life miserable for a week. The latter, I have wiped him from my mind.

“You can’t beat Sekiro without learning how to deflect.” That’s the mantra about the game. My niece’s husband, when I said I never learned how to deflect, “I thought you couldn’t beat the game without learning how to deflect.” My response: “You can, but you’re not going to have a good time doing it.” I have long since given up on learning the main combat mechanism for any of these games. Parrying for the Souls games, viscerals for Bloodborne, and deflecting for Sekiro. I can’t do any of them, and believe me, I’ve tried. And tried. And tried.  I devoted hours to parrying the Silver Knights in Anor Londo in the first Dark Souls. I got to the point where I could do it 75% of the time. That’s not nearly enough percentage, but it was as good as I could do.

In each DS game, the parry system is juuuuuust different enough to fuck me up. I didn’t even bother trying in the second and third game. Bloodborne? I gave up on the gun pretty quickly. Then I found the Augur of Ebrietas and that changed everything. You can use it at the cost of one bullet, just like the gun, and it shoots a tentacle out that staggers the enemy. Then, I can get the riposte just as if I had used a gun. For the Dark Souls, I just used Pyro and strength, mixing it up while ignoring that parrying even existed. Then came Sekiro. Oh, Sekiro. Once again, I tried. I spent so much time trying to master the deflect. I could not do it. Or rather, I could do it maybe 1 out of 4 times. I got it by accident from time to time, but not with any consistency. So I gave up and just grimly chunked down the health of each boss throughout the whole game.

Is this a fun way to play the game? Hell, no. Is it doable? Yes. I should know because I did it. No one believes me when I say that I did it that way, but I did. I never learned to deflect with any consistency and my god the Isshin fight took me f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Four phases. Me whittling away at his health. If I had to swig a…uh…gourd at all during the Genichiro phase of the fight, I let him kill me. Ten gourds plus a few other healing items for four phases is nowhere near enough.

When I finally beat Isshin, it was transcendental. No lie. I was floating out of my body and was in tears. But, unlike other bosses, I did not curse my head off as I beat him. I felt almost reverent and just quietly set down my controller. Would I be able to beat him again? Probably not.

I went back to Sekiro just before Elden Ring dropped. I tootled around for a bit before jumping into Owl (Father) on NG+ because I had the vague idea of getting the plat. After a few hours with only getting to his second phase twice or three times, I gave up. Could I have done it? Maybe. Did I want to? No. Let me rephrase that. I do want to, but I don’t want to put the effort into doing it.

Sekiro is the one game that has lost it’s luster over time. Let me be clear. this is an amazing game. I have always said that it’s probably one of their best-made games. It’s pristine with a strong vision. But, for the first time in a From game, you can only play it one way. It’s not an RPG. There is one weapon. The only choice you have is what to attach to your prosthetic arm, and that’s it. that’s not much at all.


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Looking back on Elden Ring

Elden Ring. I’m back to playing it instead of Dark Souls II (Scholar of the First Sin). Why? Because I miss it and because I’m at the DLC for SotFS. I am in the minority, but I think the DLCs are too try-hard with too much emphasis on being HARD. Also, as a very squishy caster, I had a really bad time the first time I ventured through them. So many deaths. So. Many. Deaths. I hated it. I hated it so much. I don’t hate it now, but I still don’t like it, either. I think the idea of three distinct DLCs with a different king/story to each one is neat. I love leading a squad into the Ivory King fight.

But. I hated the gank runs in each DLC. I did them with the NPCs because I just didn’t care. Watching Rory from RKG take them on solo was amazing, but I know when something is above my abilities, and more to the point, I know when I don’t want to try to push that limit. Especially when the runs are clearly meant to be co-oped.

So, yeah. My SotFS playthrough is on the hold right now. I’ll probably get back to it at some point, but I need a break from it right now. I decided to dip back into Elden Ring because it’s been a few weeks, and it was my life for months. I ate, slept, and breathed that game, and I was happy to do so.

Even when I stopped, it wasn’t because I was sick of the game. I just wanted to get back to the other ones for a bit. And, man, but SotFS suffers in comparison. I wrote many posts about this, but I’m shocked at how much my mindset about that game has shifted. I was one of the people who thought it was a good game, even if not a good Souls game. In my personal ranking, it was before Bloodborne and Sekiro in terms of From games I liked to play.

Side Note: I always rank the games in terms of how much I enjoy them because I don’t believe in objective rankings. Mostly because rankings are never completely objective. I mean, we can say objectively that the first Dark Souls is a better game than the second, but there are qualifiers to that. Also, up until a certain point in time, I would say that I enjoyed playing the second game more than the first because of fast travel from the start. Yes, that’s the whole reason I preferred to play the second game over the first.

I went into my replay of SotFS with low expectations and because I had just rewatched the RKG lads’ series on it (their first as an independent company). I played as a sorcerer because it was the closest to a pyro that I could be. I still have no idea why they took away the pyro as a character class. It’s in every other Souls game and Elden Ring, so why not this one? I can’t help but think it’s solely to differentiate them from the first game.

The first time I played this game, I hated the  first few hours. As a sorcerer, you have a crap shield and a itty-bitty stabby dagger that is useless. In this game, too, the durability of the weapons is shite. There is one area in which you pretty much cannot make it through with just one weapon unless you use a Repair Powder. That’s not fun. No one is playing the game in order to worry about the durability of weapons–no one.


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The FromSoft Multiverse

FromSoft released Demon’s Souls in 2009. This was before I was into video games and I wouldn’t have been able to play it, anyway, because I don’t have a PS3. Now it’s because I don’t have a PS5, but we’ll get to that later.

Dark Souls was released in 2011. That’s over ten years ago. I had started to play video games by then, but nothing hard. I heard about the game from Ian because his brother mentioned it to him. For years, I joked that I owed Ian’s brother a kick in the shins (or a punch) for mentioning the game to Ian.

I started playing it a year or so later (probably longer than that because I got the Prepare to Try edition, which was released in late 2012), and I was immediately lost. Not physically, but mentally. Up until that point, I had played games like Borderlands and the sequel, Torchlight, and Diablo III. Trying Dark Souls with only those games under my belt was an exercise in frustration.

I started as the Pyromancer because I love fire, which is unwittingly the most newbie-friendly class. I did everything wrong in that first playthrough because I wanted it to be pure. I didn’t want to look anything up, which was to my detriment.

Side Note: Many people say you should go in raw to a FromSoft game. No videos, no trailers, no articles, no nothing. That’s the way to get a true experience, they insist. If you can’t tell by how I’ve worded that, I don’t agree. When you land at Firelink Shrine, there are three ways you can go. The graveyard, down to New Londo Ruins, and to the Undead Burg.

The right way to go is the Undead Burg, but it’s the most hidden of the paths. The staircase down to New Londo Ruins is right by the bonfire. The path to the graveyard is fairly open and straightforward, but you do have to go through an empty room. The path to Undead Burg is a bit more bendy, but you’ll get there eventually.

When I first played, I went to the graveyard and got ganked immediately. Many fans say, “You’re supposed to see how hard it is and go another way.” It’s fucking Dark Souls! Their tagline is ‘Prepare to Die’! Their whole thing is being hard. For someone who has never played the game before, what is the meaning of ‘too hard’? So, no. I don’t think that’s a brilliant move of Miyazaki’s (and don’t get me wrong. He’s definitely brilliant). What is ‘too hard’? If you’ve never played a From game before, you have no barometer. Yes, OK, the Northern Undead Asylum is the tutorial and not as difficult as either the graveyard or New Londo, but there’s nothing to indicate that the jump up is unreasonable.

Many people quit at this point. Some people looked up what they were supposed to do. I’m fairly sure I was one of them, and isn’t that the better answer? In the first case, you have people who quit the game and never look back. In the second group, you have people who actually play and finish the game.

I look shit up all the time now. I try to be as pure as possible, but I’m not above looking up tips on beating a boss I’ve been fighting for hours, for example. Or how to make sure I don’t fuck up an NPC questline. In addition, the community coming together to find secrets in the games has become an integral part of the experience itself. There’s something thrilling with dishing about the current From game with hundreds if not thousands of other people who are just as enraptured by the game.


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