Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: fromsoft

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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Living in an echo chamber

I love the internet. I just wanted to get that out of the way because I’m about to do a thousand-word post on why I hate a certain aspect of the internet. First, though, my ode to the internet and how it’s opened up my world. Back in my twenties, I was a hot mess. I was deeply, chronically depressed and could barely drag my carcass out of bed in the morning. I am lucky that I have always had at least one really good friend to moor me (shoutout to Kat who has been there with me throughout the ages), but I still felt isolated and lonely.

The internet changed all that. While sitting at my desk, I can get on my computer and visit places all around the world. I don’t have to leave my house to visit all different kinds of communities that I might not have available in my neighborhood or surrounding areas. I can talk to anyone about anything. It was wonderful and made me feel a little less alone, but not completely. Why? Because even on the internet, I was a weirdo. I was fine with it, but it underscored that even on the wide world web, I was a misfit.

It started when I was into politics and visiting political websites. I would get really into them and then realize a few  months or a year later that everyone was saying the same thing. It was understandable, but I got bored and frustrated because I felt the conversations were stifled. I would move on and try to find something different and then it just repeated itself.


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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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WWDTAOL: The thin line between hard and unfair (video games edition, part three)

I think I need to uninstall Repentance because I can’t stop playing. This is part three of hard/unfair games and you can read part two here. I have now unlocked 9 of the 17 Tainted Characters and here’s something funny. I was trying to remember all the characters when I wasn’t playing it and always came up one short. I looked up the characters’ names and came across Apollyon. Oh, right. They’re a thing. I never remember them even though I’ve done their whole Post-it Note. They are just so boring. It made me wonder if maybe they were my least-favorite character, but, no, that’s still The Keeper. Well, maybe *spoilers will abound* Jacob and Esau (one character, technically, but two moveable bunches of pixels) will end up being my least favorite, but I haven’t taken them out for more than a short spin.

Of the Tainted Characters, I’ve unlocked Tainted Isaac, Tainted Maggie, Tainted Cain, Tainted Judas, Tainted Samson, Tainted Lost, Tainted Forgotten, Tainted Azazel, and Tainted Eden. Having to do more of The Keeper is going to make me very sad. I’ve taken each of the tainted characters out for a spin and they range from fun to confusing as fuck. Tainted Forgotten is tons of fun as you play as the secondary character, (flying blue baby), while tossing a dead The Forgotten around. Tainted Cain is confusing as fuck because every item you get is tossed in the Bag of Crafting and….profit? Supposedly, if you follow the recipes, something is supposed to come out of it, but I don’t know what. Oh, wait. I’ve been doing it wrong? Simply trying to pick up the items breaks them down into consumables. I have to swipe with the Bag of Crafting to put them in the bag. Same with pickups on the floor. Anyway, too much for me, though I will try it out again.

ETA: Ok. You cannot swipe items at all. They have to be broken down, I guess. This is just weird.

ETA II: I am completely on board now that the first time I did it properly, I crafted The Book of the Dead, one of my favorite items. Granted, it got nerfed in Repentance, but it’s still amazing. I thought it would be harder to craft something, but it’s not. I didn’t even look up the recipes–I just threw stuff in my Bag of Crafting. Will have to play with it more, I guess.

In general, though, I’m not sure I want to learn seventeen new characters and do all the achievements again.


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WWDTAOL: The thin line between hard and unfair (video game edition, part one)

In today’s edition of WWDTAOL, I want to focus on hard video games. Why? Because, well, look at the games I play. FromSoft games, to be specific. But also NL hours into Binding of Isaac in all of its iterations. That’s why it’s endlessly amusing to me that I also like games such as Cozy Grove (Spry Fox) because it’s the exact opposite of demanding and curse-inducing. I’m really digging Cozy Grove now that I’ve completely accepted it for what it is–a bite-sized chunk game in which putting an hour into a day is the way to play. I love doing my little chores¬† and making the rounds, talking to my friends and trying on the new clothes. I have a real problem with hoarding all the items and it’s only been recently that I’ve been able to make myself sell clothing that I know I will never wear. I can buy new slots, but it’s 30,000 old coins for ten spaces. That’s chump change these days, but I’m still cheap.

Anyway! Tough games. Let’s talk Binding of Isaac by Edmund McMillen. Normally, I would call the game Binding of Isaac: Rebirth because that’s the best edition of the game in my opinion. I’ve played them since Wrath of the Lamb–well, I actually played the first version, but hated it–and, man, has the game changed so much. I’ve 1001%ed the game and I played it every day as my relaxer. If I played as Zaz or Eden, I could reliable win most games. With Isaac, Samson, Judas, or Laz, as long as I got decent damage upgrades, I win more often than I lost. I knew the items like I knew the back of my hand and I could play on automatic. Then, at some point, I got burned out on the game and uninstalled it. I’ve done that before and then gone back to it, but this time, it stuck. It helped that while I really dug Rebirth, I was less than enamored of Afterbirth and Afterbirth+. I did play the mod, Antibirth, for a bit, but I didn’t get too into it.

Then there was the announcement of Repentance. I think it was before the pandemic. I noted it and moved on. In the last few months, it was announced as coming out for realsies. From what I knew about it, it was Edmund taking Antibirth and incorporating it into the game. By the time the official announcement happened, I was over the game. So over it. I messaged Ian and told him that I was NOT going to get the game, nuh uh, no way. I was so over it and I didn’t like the way it sucked me in for way too much time. He gently reminded me that I didn’t have to get the expansion, which was true. I wasn’t going to do it and the day of the release came and went without me buying it. Then, I started watching Northernlion play Repentance because, I don’t know why. I just couldn’t let go of the game. Watching NL play it made me want to try it.

Long story somewhat shorter: I bought it. I was just going to try it out–yeah, right. Who am I kidding? I know how I am with this game. That’s one of the reasons I quit playing it. Anyway, It’s fucking hard. It’s brutally hard. Now, I probably should have started out with Isaac just to ease myself into it. However, I wanted to unlock the new characters as quickly as possible. There were two new characters in the game and I know one of them was in Antibirth. Let me just say that spoilers will abound. That’s just the way it is. Anyway, Bethany was the one with the explicit requirements–beat the game with Lazarus without losing a life (he comes with an extra).


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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.

*SPOILER FOR MAJOR SPIRITFARER PLOT POINT*

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. 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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