Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: Sekiro

Bloodborne and Sekrio NPCS meh

More FromSoft NPC realness. Yesterday, I outlined my faves in Dark Souls II (Scholar of the First Sin). Today, I’m going to mash together Sekiro and Bloodborne because I’m pretty sure I cannot do a post each even if I don’t give a targeted number for each. I have played each of the Dark Souls games a dozen times, but I’ve only played through Bloodborne completely twice and Sekiro once. I’m very close to the end of NG+ on Sekiro, but that will not happen.

Let’s start with Sekiro as it’s my least-favorite From game for reasons I have enumerated several times in the past. Honestly, when I think of it, I can’t remember very many NPCs at all. My favorite is someone who is a boss if you go for the bad ending. Let’s get to it.

1. Emma. Emma is the equivalent of your level up lady in the game. Not that you can level up. But she’s the one you give your gourd seeds to in order to strengthen your gourd. Which is your Estus Flask in this game. She’s the adoptive daughter of a doctor and learned from him.

I will say thatt the story is much more straightforward in this game, probably because Activision was the publisher. It’s also probably why there is a hidden shitty map in the game because they insisted there be one (not a shitty one, but a map). Everything about the game is streamlined in a way that I did not appreciate.

Emma is interesting in that she’s loyal to Isshin. She’s his doctor, but she was also rescued by him on the battlefield. I think. She’s the one who drops a letter to you so that you’ll come save Kuro. She knows secrets that she’s not telling you, but you can eavesdrop and overhear her talking about them with the Sculptor.

It seems as if everyone but you know what is happening. That’s another thing that I dont really like about the game. You’re just the pawn. I mean, it’s true in all the game,s but it’s so blatant in this one that you’re being manipulated and used.

Here’s one thing about Emma that sets her (and Isshin) apart from other NPCs (I mentioned it earlier). If you choose to go for the Shura ending, which means to forsake Kuro and follow Owl, then Emma becomes a boss fight, followed by Isshin. She turs from Emma the doctor and gourd lady to Emma, the Gentle Blade. And she’s pretty badass. Oh, wait. There’s a third NPC who becomes a boss. The Sculptor. He’s an on optional boss, the Demon of Hatred, and one whom many people consider the hardest boss in the game. I’m not sure if I’d call him the hardest, but he’s certainly one of the most tedious. Wait! Owl is like this as well. So there are four in this game that go from NPCs to bosses!

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Ranking the From games

I love the FromSoft games. This is something most people know about me. We have an unhealthy relationship in which they repeatedly kiss my ass, and I go back for more.  I’m a sub, yes, but this is taking it to the extreme. Just kidding! I used to be a sub, but now I’m a switch.

Anyway, back to FromSoft games.

I had the list of my favorites from before Elden Ring. Once I finished Elden Ring, I wanted to rank where I would put it, but I couldn’t. Why? Because I was overwhelmed by what I had experienced. 225+ hours for one playthrough. I had seen everything the game had to be seen (I hadn’t, but I thougth I had), and I didn’t know what to do with it.

Now, nearly a year-and-a-half laater, I have put over five hundred hours into the game. I’ve completed it three times for the plat (hundo chievo), and have four total characters. By the way, no matter what kind of character I make in the beginning, they end up being a strengthcaster. My current charracter started as a samurai and now is a strengthcaster with two grave scythes.

But, I’m ready to rank the games. I think. There are six that I have played (not Demon’s Souls), and I will rank them from least-favorite to most-favorite, with my perennial reminder that favorite doesn’t mean best.

6. Sekiro. I never clicked with the combat. This is the most restrictive of the games, and you either get it or you don’t. I didn’t. I have never been able to parry with consistency, and that’s all you can do in this game. Or rather, it’s the best way to play the game. I could get the deflect once every four or five times, which meant that I had to whittle down the health of each boss. Which was not fun. At all. I’ve watched people play it, those who can do the deflect with ease. It’s a completely different game when you can master the main combat mechanic than when you can (I assume).

In addition, you can’t level up. Well, you can, but not each individual stat. There is no customization in this game besides what you can attach to your prosthetic arm, and that seemed very underbaked. You had one sword and one ‘armor’, which I put in quotes because there were no stats for it. You had to play the game on its terms, which meant that you actually had to git gud. This is the least accessible of the From games, and it’s a shame because it’s a brilliant game. Really. I think it’s an amazing game–but it’s the least player-friendly and the one I probably will never get the plat in–unless they add co-op.

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Life is not like video games

In yesterday’s post, I was going to try to pair weapons with From games. I did not get there because I meandered all over the place as is my wont. In addition, there really isn’t a one-to-one comparison. Dark Souls III is my favorite From game, and the Double Saber Form is my favorite weapons form (sorry, Sword Form!). Could I make a tortured analogy between the two? Proboably. Am I going to? Probably. Does it make it right? Nope.

Here’s the thing. I have terrible reflexes and spatial issues. Both these things cause me problems in From games. They insist on putting platforming in their games, which makes me deeply unhappy. I haev banged that drum for a long time, but I’ll do it again. If you are not making a platforming game, for the love of all that is beautiful and holy, please do not put platforming in your game. Yes, I am a huge From fan, but this enrages me every time. Platforming is a precise thing that takes very talented people to do correctly. From is good at a lot of things, but platforming is not one of them. And yet. They put platforming in every fucking game. Like poison swamps, but that’s another subject for another day.

The thing is that I simply do not have the reflexes to do the perfect deflect in Sekiro, for example. I tried for hours after my medical crisis, and I could not do it. It’s not a question of try harder or better. I. Cannot. Do. It. Despite what Westerners have been told, you cannot do anything you set your mind to. Nobody can! It makes sense when you exaggerate it. I will never bin in the WNBA. I will never be a rocket scientist. These are things I cannot do because of the capped nature of my abilities. At this point of my life, I could not be a gold-winning medalist in gymnastics. I could not be a supermodel. I’m using extreme examples to just prove my general point–I literally cannot be anything I want to be. (No, I don’t want to be any of those things, but you get my main point.)

Now. In real life, reflexes don’t mean lightning-quick. When I was in a minor car crash, I saw the car coming at me at a high speed. I realized I was going to get hit. I even said it in my head–I’m going to gct hit. I instantly relaxed, and walked away with nothing but a huge bruise on my stomach. That was a real life instance in which my reflexes served me well. There was no way I could have avoided the crash, so I did the next best thing–came out of it unscathed.

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But my pride, tho

I want the Sekiro plat/hundo chievo. There I said it. I won’t get it, but I want it. Here’s the thing. if I want to do it, then I have to do both endings at least once. Why? Because I did not think to save-scum. So I have to do each ending (good and bad, I mean) at least once. I have never done the Shura ending. And, I have to kill my nemesis–*SPOILERS* Owl (Father) again. I tried him for a few hours post-hospital, and I did not fair well. *UNSPOILERED* It was probably the biggest evidence of my even slower reflexes because I could not react to his combos. Not that I ever could, but it was even worse post-medical crisis.

I will admit, I cheesed him the one time I beat him, anyway. I baited out the one attack I knew I could deal with and then countered it and only it. It was slow and tedious, but it got the job done. There was one attack he did that I just could not get into my brain that I was reacting the wrong way. I would move to the right when it should have been the left every goddamn fucking time. Honestly, it was the cheese that was recommended in videos–and it’s pretty much the cheese for all the bosses in this game. Find the one attack you can reliably counter and bait it out.

So. If I want to get the plat, I have to do it on my first save. Which is already on NG+ and past the point where I can choose the bad ending. That means I have to do my nemesis on this playthrough and then do the Shura ending on NG++. Plus one more ending. Honestly, if I can actually manage to get to the point of choosing an ending, I will definitely try to save-scum. But I doubt I’ll get to that point, which is distressing me. There is no reason I should be upset about it. I mean, I have done all the things I need to do to get the plat except beat the bad ending bosses. I can grind to get the skill points with a lot of time. There’s no reason for me to be cranky about it or to think it means I’m lesser because I haven’t gotten it.

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Difficulty in FromSoft games

Two posts ago, I wrote about the Sekiro plat. It’s niggling at me because I have all the rest. And it bothers me that if I had planned it from the start, I could have it by doing the bad ending and grinding for XP to get the skills I needed. Here’s the thing about Sekiro. When you die, you do not have the chance to recover your lost stuff. You lose half your XP (which, by the way, I mistok as you losing it all. Meaning, if you get enough XP to gain a skill point, you ‘bank’ that skill point. You lose half your sen as well, but that never bothered me. Sen was eeasy to get, especially the further into the game you got. I was dripping with sen by the end of my NG+ run.

There’s something called Unseen Aid. If it kicks in, you don’t lose anything. You start with a 30% chance for it to tprock, and that goes down the more you die. Not because you die, necessarily, but because of the Dragon Rot. Once I realized that you could bank skill points, I felt better, but it was still annoying. When people talk about the plat, they mention two trophies that suck. One is the ‘do all the bosses on one save’ trophy (Man Without Equal) and one is the get all skills trophy. Because there is a skill that takes 9 points to get and by the end of the game, it takes forever to get one skill point, let alone nine.

I wanted to like Sekiro so much. I mean, I want to like every FromSoft game so much. But the fact that it was set in feudal Japan really piqued my interest. I was a bit worried about the system even before it came out, and it was with good reason.

One thing I love about the Dark Souls games and Elden Ring is that you can play them in a multiple variety of ways. You can be a caster or do melee. You can dual wield or go with a massive two–hander. You can use incantations/miracles or sorceries. You can tank everything or you can be a glass cannon. There are so many possibilities.

With Sekiro, there is only one way to play. You get one katana for the entire game and you can’t level up stats. I mean, you can, but not individually. You need four prayer beads in order to do an upgrade, and it spreads evenly among your stats. You can also boost yourself after you beat a strong foe (i.e., a proper boss), but it’s so limited.

When I played for the first time, I could not beat the mini-bosses. that mean I did not get prayer beads or gourd seeds, so I was severely under-leveled and had fewer health gourds than I needed.

When I made it to Madame Butterfly, I had one Gourd. One. Maybe two? At any rate, not enough. She kicked my ass so many times and in so many ways. I was contemplating giving up. I did not know she was optional at that time. I think I went away and game back and still could not beat her. I looked up cheese and used it to get her, and I feel just fine about it.

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You don’t know what you know

I’ve been watching a Sekiro (FromSoft) playthrough and I am reminded of how people think their level of skill is normal. This is Nath from Playstation Access, and I was watching his plat run first, but then switched to when he was playing the first two hours (for the second time). In the plat run, he talks about finding the rhythm and he makes it look effortless as he whizzes through the game. He only needed two trophies with one of them being the ‘kill all bosses on one save’ one. Plus the all skills one. The former means you have to play it at least two times through (meaning NG+) and save-scum as there are four different endings and…well, ok. See, you need all four different endings as part of the plat. You need to do different things for the different endings, obviously.

One of the endings is the ‘bad’ ending and there are two unique bosses. I have not done this ending or fought these bosses.  This is called the Shura ending. The other three endings are variants of the good ending. This is not uncommon in FromSoft games, to have three or four different endings with one being the ‘bad’ ending, but this is the first time you have to fight different final bosses for the bad ending.

The first good ending is just go through the game and do the things and you can choose the vanilla good ending. For the second good ending, you have to fight my worst boss of the game and get an item from him, plus do the basic good ending last bit path. For the final good ending, you have to do all that plus a bunch more. If you are smart, you will set up everything for this ending, save, and scum the other endings. I  should have done (or at least tried. Save-scumming for Elden Ring didn’t work), but I didn’t even think about the plat at that point.

Oh, all of this is before fighting the BRUTAL final boss/es of the good ending. Who is the second or third hardest boss in the game. There is an optional boss who is just a pain in the behind. Here’s the thing. I took a peek at the trophy/achievement list and it’s brutal. You have to defeat all the bosses on the same save, which means at least two playthroughs on the same character. In my case, I would have to go to NG++ on my current save because I’m past the point of going to the bad ending in NG+. It’s really frustrating. If I could summon, I would be all over it. But because I cannot, it’s all on me. And I just cannot play the game enough to do what needs to be done.

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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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You say cheating; I say it’s in the fucking game

If there’s something that drives me absolutely batty as a Dark Souls fan, it’s all the hardcore fans who bleat about what is or isn’t cheating in the game. I’ve written about this before, but I’m doubly annoyed as we make our way to the release of Elden Ring. Here are just some of the ways you’re playing Dark Souls wrong, according to the hardest of hard Souls fans (who insist the games aren’t that hard, anyway). It’s a bit different with Sekiro because you’re very limited in how you can play the game, but there are still some things that are considered cheating. There are definitely cheeses for the bosses and the propensity to say such-and-such boss isn’t that hard, anyway. Git gud, n00b! And so on. And there’s always the flex that the game in general isn’t that hard; you just have to learn the rhythm of the game. Anyone can do it!

Side note: I’ve thought about this a lot because I’m so terrible at the games. I heartily disagree that anyone can play the games for a variety of reasons, whether it’s simply they don’t want to put in the time, disabilities, or any other reason. It’s really frustrating when Souls fans* refuse to acknowledge that the games are hard and not for everyone. “Anyone can play them!” Stop saying that!

I went back to Sekiro recently because I needed a game and it’s one I feel like I never really gelled with. I wanted to give it another chance because I could see what a brilliant game it is. An I’ll admit that I had a gander at what I needed to not-plat it. Because of what I’d have to do to get the not-plat, the smart thing to do would be to continue the NG+ playthrough (of my first game) that I had going. The problem with that was that I was stuck at Owl (Father), one of the top three hardest bosses in the game for me. It took me many hours to beat him and I didn’t think I could do it again. Going right back to him was not smart so I did a few other things first, like grinding for skill points. Why? Because one of the trophies is to get all the skills in the game. That takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r so I did some grinding. then I tried Father (Owl and…it didn’t go well at all. Not only that, I was too impatient to want to do it the way I hid it the last time (the long way. By baiting out one attack and ignoring the others). It brought back how I was done with him after five tries the first time I fought him, which was not a good sign.

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More about dem souls

Dark Souls III is my favorite FromSoft game. I probably don’t need to say that by now, but it’s worth repeating. By the way, I’m in NG+4 at the moment and was playing a bit for funsies. One of my favorite things to do is break everything once I’m this far in the game. I just cheesed the Curse-rotted Greatwood with Pestilent Mist which is the shit. It eats away at the humanity of any non-dead creature–including the caster. So ,with the Curse-rotted Greatwood, it is, indeed, a big  tree. It has, ah, shall we say, danglies between its legs. In other words, great big balls. And you’re supposed to hit it in the balls. Pustules. There are clusters on its back and limbs as well. You can break any or all of the cluster of pustules. Once you break a certain amount of them, the tree breaks the floor and we both fall down to our death–no, of course not. We just fall down to a level below and continue the fight.

Here’s the thing, though. With Pestilent Mist (which taken 30 Intelligence and used to be massively OP when it was Pestilent Mercury. So much so, they nerfed it), the tree doesn’t break the floor. No idea why, but my guess is because you’re not actually breaking the pustules with it. But, the thing is, you can do the same thing with pyromancy. With the Chaos Bed Vestiges pyromancy, I’ve managed to also have the tree not break the floor. But Pestilent Mist is funny because you’re not actually attacking the enemy–you’re engulfing them (and you) in a mist that eats away at them over time.

Anyway, I decided I might want to try killing–*spoilers*–the Dancer because why not sequence break? But I also didn’t want to fight her alone even though I rarely have trouble with her. So I went online to see if I could summon someone. The second I went online, i was invaded. I let a tough-ish regular enemy kill me because I like robbing the invaders of their kill (even though they still reap the rewards) and went about my business. I have many many humanities so I don’t mind wasting one now and again. But I hate invaders. But I’m impressed that people are still playing this much later. And I love that I can get human summons with regularity, especially on weekends. Anyone who’s still playing at this point is very good. Me? Not so good, but I’m a decent summon for a few bosses.

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I did it my (bad) way!

I love FromSoft games, but they don’t love me back. Ian and I have an ongoing argument about whether FromSoft games are for me or not. He says I’m the target audience. Someone who likes the game, but isn’t great at them. I maintain that it’s the fanbois who are the target audience, especially for the DLCs (which are as hard as balls). I think we have to clarify which game we are talking about, too. I’m catching up on other-Ian’s (Eurogamer) Sekiro playthrough. I like watching him because he’s good at it, but not preternaturally so. There’s one episode where Aoife from Eurogamer is guiding him through the game. She’s saying you have to learn to deflect and once you do, it’s makes the game almost easy. She likened it to a rhythm game, which I hate as well. She said that you cannot beat the game without learning to deflect. She also said that anyone could beat the game. So transitive property….

It’s the lesser-known result of the Dunning-Kruger study. People who are good at something underestimate how good they are in comparison to other people. Because it’s easy for them. Or rather, because you only know your own ability. So however you are at the games, well, that’s the norm. So people who are good at the games don’t know what it’s like to suck. I watched someone play the BB DLC and kill the bosses in two or three tries. I gave up after watching him apologize for taking three tries to kill Lady Maria. So Aoife repeatedly saying anyone can play Souls games is not uncommon, but it’s still frustrating.

I mean, I do think anyone can play. If I could beat the first game, then, yes, it’s possible for anyone who wants to devote time, blood, sweat, and tears to it. But no shame if you don’t. Also, it took me 150 hours to beat the game the first time around, including the DLC. But, there’s no shame in not wanting to put in the work to beat the games. It’s not easy for many people and more to the point, it’s not enjoyable. I had a Twitter friend tell me she tried the game, but then attacked the Crestfallen Warrior at Firelink Shrine because there was a note saying to do so and now she can’t rest there. I felt so bad because that’s a very important bonfire and one you do not want an aggroed NPC lurking around. She did not want to start over from the beginning, so she quit. Which is completely valid.

I recently watched Outside Xtra do a Christmas Challenge to see who could get to the Taurus Demon faster. I was intrigued and tried it myself. Even now, I take my time and over-level on my way to the Bell Gargs. I can take hours in the beginning bits because I want to make sure I can use the Zwei, which is 24 strength. Plus, I want a +5 weapon by the time I reach the Bell Gargs and/or the Drake Sword. Oh, and it’s beat the Taurus Demon, not just reach him. Luke did it in 11:30 or so. Ellen did it in 14 minutes or so. I decided to try it because it’s so not my style. Starting from the very beginning and getting to and beating the Taurus Demon as soon as possible? Alrighty then.

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