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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How Anita Sarkeesian is Saving Gaming (By Being A Terrible Person)

Being a video gamer comes with a degree of defensiveness like liking anime or really anything society wouldn't consider the norm. On the one hand you love this thing and want others to love it too while on the other you know people will outright dismiss what you love and that can come with some mixed emotions. While detaching yourself to be able to take 'criticisms' is the best option its difficult to maintain. My mom and I disagree on this wholly. I use my time to play games while she says that I should be improving myself. I want to unwind and she wants me to do work. As hard as I try, sometimes I just snap back if only to end the conversation quicker.
But this isn't about me, rather a figure more caustic than my mom when it comes to the subject of video games. Anita Sarkeesian is pretty well known by this point but basically her story is that she became internet famous for 'discussing' women in video games. She blew up a few years ago and has kind of died down since. The White Knights of the internet have stopped defending her after more about her was revealed, specifically how she doesn't play games at all yet feels she can commentate on them. While I will hold my peace on her, at least for now, her videos are actually pretty intelligent and touch on some things I would consider to be good topics. While women in video games isn't a new concept their presence could use a bit of an update. While we have our now fair share of action heroines and complex female characters not simply there for sexual purposes we still have a bit of a ways to go.
The last thing I heard about her was before the release of Overwatch. She complained that there weren't enough females with diverse body types. Blizzard responded with the news that Zarya would be added to the roster and thanked her for her comment in so many words. Zarya is a... full figured woman. She's bad ass, strong and not overly sexualized. While I'm entirely sure she was planned to be launched with the game at the beginning Blizzard's response was spot on, which brings me to what I'm actually talking about. Demagogues (the people who speak the loudest) unfortunately will always be heard. Using what little fame she had she directed it to a problem and the problem was... 'solved'. This kind of thinking is like if you yell at a politician long enough they'll have to listen to you and solve your problem. The more people who join in the better.
Since Ms. Sarkeesian has been introduced to the world there has been a steady albeit slow up rise in female characters being put front and center or at least nearby their male counterparts in some equal capacity. Call of Duty Black Ops 3 released with the idea you could create your own character, male or female, to play in the world they had created. I just got an issue of Game Informer magazine in the mail not too long ago and the cover was for the new Call of Duty with both a male and female character each sharing a proportionate amount of space together. No one being greater or lesser than the other. While its not entirely thanks to her the market has now become more inclusive of the opposite sex when it comes to featuring roles, at the very least on the surface level. The new Mass Effect trailer released with, presumably, the female default character and no main male character. At least none that has been confirmed. This is a step forward from Mass Effect 3's cover which had a flip able cover between the two faces of Shepherd but featured Male Shep in all of the ads.
Part of the criticisms against gaming is the lack of complex female characters. While we haven't seen much of female villains (I believe the villain in the new Doom game is a lady) we're still taking great steps in the right direction. Each new step we take cuts down another one of these arguments that people use to cut down gaming as a whole. Not every game is a violent shooter, games can have complex narratives and now a balancing point for each gender is being struck. The new TellTale Walking Dead game is set to come out soon with Clementine still as the main character like the previous game. As little as you may like the woman she has brought forth a pretty decent dialogue. While places like Japan do have their own female driven games in greater supply than pretty much everywhere else (despite the sexual content they may contain) now American developers are getting in the groove with this. I remember not too long ago Ubisoft said there wouldn't be any female co-op characters in Assassin's Creed Unity because they "-couldn't get the character models to work with a feminine figure" (which is total bs btw) and then they released Assassin's Creed Syndicate which featured a brother and sister duo who were both playable from the start and the female twin, Evie, was almost completely non sexualized in favor of creating an interesting character.
To make an antivenom first you need the venom. Something caustic and pretty bad, but what can come out of it will be more beneficial than was before the venom itself.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Mighty No. 9 PC Review - 6/10

I'm going to start off by saying that firstly if you came here to see me absolutely destroy this game then you'll be disappointed. Second, I'm going to be reviewing this based on the game, rather than the time cycle that it took to make it as well as how much money was given to make this. A bad game is a bad game regardless of the people behind it, the intentions or even how long it took to make/how much the product actually is. With that being said...
Mighty No. 9 (or Mighty Number 9) is a game made by the original creator of MegaMan. The game is clearly influenced by it intentionally as the creator felt his original game was underutilized by the company that now owns the rights so he formed his own studio to make essentially the same game minus the name and brand recognition. Its a platformer and a sidescroller.

The Good:
I do like the concept designs for all of the robots to say the very least. They're interesting and make sense based on their powers and such.
The game runs pretty well on my PC. I always hate it when I purchase a new game and its choppy or doesn't run well. So at least there's that.

The Bad:
Honestly this game is super floaty. Platformers should feel direct and purposeful. Its hard to explain in words but basically the main function of the game to go from left to right and get over obstacles is not as well as it should be. I finally stopped playing after I couldn't figure out how to get up on top of a platform as I tried to walk across a conveyor belt as boxes fell on my head. Maybe this would have told me I needed to go fight the other robot masters, or Mighty Numbers as this game calls them, to gain a new ability but just about every single MegaMan game before this allowed you to progress regardless of what abilities you gained at least the original games. The powers should enhance the experience rather than be a necessity.
The majority of the sprites just look awful. Beck's initial design was pretty decent but his in game sprite is just awful. Sprite refers to a model in the game that usually can move. Kind of like Pokemon as they just stand there or move. Its not the design rather the fact they decided to go with a 3D style for the graphics. 2D would have been much more welcome as well as been better for processing and for the general look of the game. My favorite MegaMan games have been on the DS and they were all in 2D and looked awesome. It really just doesn't make any sense to me why they went with this style other than the idea that it was done to make the game more modern looking. Though that's just my personal thought. Though this doesn't just go for character models but... well, everything else. Explosions look terrible, the backgrounds look bland. The only thing I can actually say looks decent are the human models and even then Dr. White just proves to be the exception.
The voice acting is just so... hit and miss. While there's not an abundance of bad there's definitely a lack of good, if that makes any sense. Look, actors are probably expensive to hire but I honestly could have done a better job that most of these people. The mighty numbers aren't terrible but I'd be reaching pretty far just to make that comparison. The actress (I presume, I'm not going to look it up) for Call speaks all her lines in monotone. You have no idea how annoying that is to constantly hear that all the time. Dr. White is probably the best considering he sounds pretty bubbly about everything and optimistic. Again, far reaching.

My scoring might be a little generous but honestly its really just a "You could have been worse" type thing. This isn't the worst game I've played and it isn't even the second. 6 for me is Mediocre. Its just sort of... there. Honestly it doesn't even seem to have its own identity. The intention behind the game is noble at the very least to the fans who wanted more from MegaMan and I've seen worse reasonings for making a game. If you want a decent MegaMan clone try Gunstriker Gunvolt. Its probably cheaper than this game.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ways They Can Make Assassin's Creed Awesome Again

As E3 has rolled around and left once more I did my best to not notice the cool new games coming out that I can't afford or the games coming out on systems I don't have and certainly can't afford. In my spare time I picked up Assassin's Creed Unity knowing full well how bad people said it was. Why? Well at heart I'm a masochist when it comes to games (I bought the same terrible, terrible game three times and each time I said, "It couldn't have been that bad!") and I saw it on sale for eight bucks. Cheap and stupid!
I kid really. Personally I wanted to see what the problems were about it. I've been a fan of the series ever since it came out though my love died out a little when Revelations came out. Yes I know Brotherhood was one of the best games in the series but did we really need to see Ezio again? But while Revelations was just... kind of boring in a way with some redeeming qualities, I can see why Unity was so poorly received X amount of time since it was released (I'm not going to spend the energy looking up when). I picked up Syndicate a while ago and was happily surprised to see it was actually pretty good. The two main characters were both cool in their own ways while not being faultless, the scope was grand enough, there was plenty to do and the toys. Oh the toys! Seriously, I need a grappling hook in every AC game from now on. So, while I wait until my next paycheck to see if I can finally buy a new game at all I thought, why not make a list?

1. Grappling Hook (I was not joking)
"But part of the fun of these games is the climbing!" No! No one likes the climbing! Well... okay maybe a little. But I don't want to climb all the time. Its a simple addition and it really works... sometimes. And who doesn't want to feel like Batman. Throw down a smoke bomb and then zip away. This addition, while simple, changes up the game in a nice way. I suggest adding the ability to freely control it like aiming it like a gun and having some uses in combat like the rope line did in AC 3. I would definitely pick that game up again just to hang some British red coats from trees just to frighten a guy. So awesome!

2. Alright, enough Europe
I say this not as an American but also as a tired gamer. I would list off how many games in the series go to some place in Europe but it'd be easier if I just counted the ones that don't take place there on my finger. Seriously, I know its a big place and most of the stuff in the world happened there but I don't need to see anymore. If you really feel the need to stay there, go to a time period extremely early. Or...

3. The World Wars
Yes it was bound to happen. In Syndicate, you can actually visit the World War 2 time period through a descendant of the Frye twins. While brief, it really shows how awesome the concept could be. WW2 is a bit... controversial, but the first war could actually work. Not a lot of people know it off their head so it would make for an interesting setting. Unity also had a World War type segment but Unity is annoying so I'm not counting it. Side note: yes this game needs more guns. I know that would kind of ruin the pacing when it comes to automatic guns but honestly guns are a cool idea to keep up with. Especially if we get to play as an Assassin who is also a sniper. YES. Maybe... maybe even some cars? Hm? Maybe a tank?

4. The Assassins need to be assholes and the Templar can be good
A glaring plot hole in the series is how Abstergo, the Templar front, shows the Assassins as being these altruistic bad asses who are also super handsome and get all the ladies while their Templar counterparts are weedy creepy weirdos who eat babies and kick puppies. If you want to be seen as the good guys then show us some stupid Assassins and awesome Templars. It makes even less sense now that Desmond is dead and we've got faceless protagonist living out these memories. They're making it like a VR game to show to the public like some type of game. Alright, ya the Templars are trying to rule the world, but its a whole lot easier if you make your one enemy look like a bunch of tools. Barring that, why can't we have an idealistic and noble Templar? "If the world is to be saved, great men and women must rule it!" See?

5. We need more present day
This may be just me but come on, I need more story! The games have been set in the present day... but we focus about 90% on the past. Ya, I get that we're looking for clues in the past so we can find them in the future but my biggest problem with the titles is that they're very linear. If you've played the game once you've played it enough. There's no choice whatsoever under the guise "Well that didn't happen in the past." Ya. And you keep telling me this ancestor didn't kill civilians. I get it, but that doesn't change the fact that I am doing it now! Look we've all done it. Anyone who's played a Grand Theft Auto game has gone on an insane rampage only to be gunned down by the police or killed via gravity and every single person who's played AC has gone on a melee rampage on those annoying ass civilians. Now, I'm not saying that would be the whole game. Of course your assassin buddies wouldn't be super open to you killing randos left and right but I mean choice like as in killing an enemy or letting them live. Does this Templar agent really need to die? Or perhaps I see the villain early on and I kill them and the game has to play around that. That would be awesome! Is this main villain dead? Or was it a robot? So many possibilities!
As a side note, I want my own assassin character. This new present day assassin would resemble me and I would control them as they rise in the order. Killing Templar agents, buying new gear, actively shaping the future. I NEED THIS.

6. JAPAN ALREADY
Come on! The one place where THE MOST FAMOUS group of REAL ASSASSINS and you choose NOT to go there? WHY?! I'm not saying every ninja NEEDS to be a member of the order. Maybe the order was trying to fight against some samurai the Templars were working with and the ninja rose from that. They helped the disenfranchised farmers pick up their tools and use guerrilla warfare to quell a rising threat. And I'm not making this up! Most of it anyway... The ninja were farmers and the lower class put down upon by their samurai masters as they stood above them on the scale of class. While not being stupid pompous weak noblemen of Europe, they were trained warriors skilled in the art of killing. Knowing this they took up their farming tools and made makeshift weapons and items that allowed them to kill silently like they were ghosts. They even developed their own poisons and smoke powders to convince people into believing they had magical powers. They built their own villages filled with ninja operatives who would go and carry out spy and assassination missions. They were contracted killers and dO YOU SEE WHERE I'M GOING WITH THIS???
I feel like Ubisoft is just screwing with me at this point. China. China gets it before Japan does. I'm not saying China isn't great but... I swear if they make Assassin's Creed: Korea next I will literally never play another game in the series. So much potential!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Watch_Dogs 2's Lofty Goals: Can it actually work?

So... damn. Ya, I'm actually kind of looking forward to Watch_Dogs 2. My brother asked me if I wanted it and I gave him a disgusted "No!" We both played the game and it was... bland. Sure a lot of the ideas there were pretty novel and decent but the game ended up being 'do this, do that' and not much else. It was really evident it was trying to be a Grand Theft Auto killer (which ALWAYS goes well) or at the very least in the vein of GTA with a different spice. The story fell flat, they tried to make a completely boring character the main focal point with his own entire DLC where I latched onto another character who was killed off unceremoniously at the end of the game. Alright, I've gotta keep an open mind on this.
So watching the trailer I saw a lot of things they wanted to do and wondered if it was actually possible. I'm going to say it right off the bat, ya the game isn't going to look like that. Don't even bother. Its less about the game being able to look like that, rather how well the game will run. As a person who still unfortunately has a potato for a PC I have to look into the specs of a game before I buy it or risk having a choppy mess or something that just is straight up unplayable. Xbox One and PS4 are pretty relatively powerful when it comes into comparison with PCs. Of course a hyper modified PC with all the latest specs and tech will absolutely annihilate any console but that's pretty standard. You have a lot of freedom to modify a PC at will, though at great cost to you, and consoles are very set in their specs. Even when they are first released it doesn't take too much to overpass the current capabilities. So that's a scratch on the graphics department. Its not going to look like that. Try thinking GTA 5 and you'd get a pretty good ball park on how the game will end up looking.
Watch_Dogs was very rigid when it came to... most things. The hacking was one note at best, albeit functional, and the driving mechanics left much to be desired in terms of its competition. The places where it really shined was combat. Enemies seemed fluid and, unlike GTA, they didn't immediately know where you were if you engaged in combat. On a personal rant for a moment: What is the purpose of silent weapons and silencers in GTA if they immediately know where you are and react as if they weren't silent??? So stealth is a possibility in that the first game actually had it. I'm not going to get into too much of the specifics but expect the sequel to function similar to the first in terms of combat and movement. Though usually given the rule of sequels they will probably add a few new features that might not be immediately noticeable/enhancing what has already been established.
The one feature I'm actually pretty excited to see is the drones. Now you have a two wheeled hopping RC car with some minor functions and a portable RC helicopter drone. From what they showed you could simply pull these items from seemingly nowhere and they began to function. They also seemed to have some racing mechanic with the helicopter so that's probably going to be a new game mode of some kind.
If I had to say the two biggest iffy things for me were the idea of 3D printing and how the world simply acts without player agency or input. These two were really the reason I wrote this article. 3D printing weapons (and hopefully gadgets) sounds like a really awesome idea and you might even be able to mod them. The problem I have with this is its probably going to be a bit rigid in the sense that you can craft a few things like weapons and possibly gear and that's it. The big problem being that once the game is finished that this tool isn't going to have much functionality other than "You made this and that's it". To give an example it would be like in Skyrim if you could only craft one of each weapon and they didn't get better or worse via player input, they were just static items and there was a clear better versus worse item. You only need one Iron Dagger and that's it. If this is the case that would be terrible and I really hope you can do a bit more. The world reacting is also a big problem in some ways. Speaking of the Elder Scrolls again, Oblivion had this really interesting way of making the world feel alive. The game ran scripts that gave the NPCs their own tasks to do throughout the day which made it seem like they were actually doing things instead of just being there for the player to see and talk to. The problem arose in where a few bugs occurred though that's not really the problem here. The problem would be in the sense that by its very nature a program is somewhat set in stone. What I mean is if you haven't programmed something in the program just won't do it. The idea behind artificial intelligence is that it can learn from experiences and form new ideas from simply learning. Video games, unfortunately, can't do that now. So its really a matter of "Yes this is possible but where will the cracks show up?" Will we see the same interactions being repeated through the game? Will these interactions actually affect anything, say if someone has an argument with someone and attacks them will the other NPCs react in a sensible way or not? I would say the technology is kind of there. Rockstar has proven that GTA 5 can do this to a degree though they spent years and years on their game, though its entirely possible most of that time was spent perfecting the engine.
Really its more of an idea of how great is the scope of the team behind Watch_Dogs 2? All of these can be implemented into the game, though with varying degrees of success. I'd say wait for more info on the game. I'd probably like to pick it up when it comes out though time will tell in the sense of how the development progresses. If I had to guess I'd say the game was in pre-Alpha right now, though definitely not in a playable version, at least to the public. What that basically means is the game isn't completely finished and given that there's about an almost half a month gap till the game (presumably) releases we have some time to learn more.
Thanks for reading and I'm definitely looking to hear more.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Sims 4: Inclusion Add On

Hey, sorry guys. Its been a long time since I've posted anything. I've been pretty broke the last few weeks so I haven't picked up any super new games as well as too busy to get into them.
There was a recent update to The Sims 4 which added in the ability to have transgendered characters, or at the very least gender nonspecific characters. It was enough to make me redownload the game again. While I don't feel Sims 4 is a particularly bad game whenever a new title comes out I feel its a bit bland at the very least in comparison to the previous game. While the cycle shifts down and the new game is about to be released the previous title has a massive amount of DLC content and stupid little packs which add a whole bunch to the game so the new game will feel watered down in a way. Though Sims 4 was a bit more considering that they left out some content that 3 had to begin with.
However, this isn't about that but rather the new add on so I'll keep those opinions to myself. Its definitely a hot button topic right now, especially with the bathroom laws allowing transgendered people to enter the bathroom they most identify with. I'm not going to share my views on this in detail but I will say that moving forward has always been my personal view. That the freedoms of people ultimately shape the society we live in for better or worse.
From a purely economic standpoint, EA really hit the nail on this one. At the very least adding in a new and free update to get people to talk about the game for the first time in a while and might even get in some potential customers who were less than overjoyed by the lack of gender options for their personal identity. On a technical standpoint... this is where I kind of drop off. So the way to access this is in the character creation. You need to choose a binary set of standards. "Can this sim use the bathroom standing up?" "Can this sim get pregnant or get others pregnant?" Stuff like that. The main problem isn't those first three rather the fact that you ARE however limited to wearing female or male clothes. I created a new character as best to my likeness and started messing around with the outfits only to see that all the female outfits (I'm a male) were blocked out for me. I thought it was weird to say the least. While I'm not transgendered or even a person who wears clothes that wouldn't necessarily be classically be for a person like me, the idea that you have to limit yourself doesn't really seem all that... sensible. I'm not trying to start something but I personally feel the option should be left open and the player is the one who decides. Sims don't choose clothes at random like we do. The player sets their outfits and they just alternate based on the situation like everyday to swim wear and to work out clothes. Unless you change them, your sim will wear those until they die or until you decide to stop playing. So I'm kind of wondering why my sim can't wear classically male clothes for everyday life and then a dress on formal occasions? Maybe I want to do it to make it funnier or maybe that's how a person acts in their normal life. Maybe they stay home and dress as a man but when they go out they prefer to be seen as a woman. Again, I'm not the right person to be addressing these things as I do not identify as them.
I'm not saying EA screwed up but its definitely going in the right direction. I often joke with myself, usually on hot days, wishing I could wear a skirt. Its not really a gender thing I just think the freedom on certain days would be nice. Rather than have a slider that says I can or can't wear it, why not just allow me to choose as I please? Another interesting thing I noticed is that you can have a masculine or feminine body type as well as change your voice to be more feminine or masculine. The first is new but I always thought the second was pretty standard for the beginning release of the game. Sims had (and still have) a slider to make their voices higher or lower in pitch. It didn't really seem like the feature was necessary to be added in, though its not a big deal personally. I'll just end saying that I hope this stays a thing and every other Sim game from now on keeps it as a standard feature and (maybe) other games adopt the idea. Its less of a human rights thing just more of a way to help people identify better with the characters they create to give them greater immersion.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Dark Souls 3 Retroactive Review

The dust has settled and the game has been released. I've had some time to play it and really chew into the game a bit more. The problem with RPGs in general is that they take far too long to see all the content available from the time of release to the time when the review is posted. Since this site isn't terribly famous, I'm not able to ask for review copies of games, forcing me to stay up all night playing the game and churning out a review as quickly as possible. This is the first but probably not the last time I'm going to to do something like this. The purpose of this post is really just to point out some things I was unable to mention in my initial review, further clarifying other points I wish to put out there without having to change my review. I often say that a game will hook you within the first twenty minutes. You've gotten past the tutorial, played what can be played and generally the game has begun to reach its overall stride. Its not indicative of the overall experience of the game. I will say that I've stopped playing a game because I wasn't feeling it but picked it up later out of sheer curiosity or just simply good reviews on the game months after it was released.
The game has been a mixed bag so far. The PC port of the game has been sketchy at best. Most people with better PCs than I have been saying that the game is laggy in the weirdest possible ways and places. I actually asked Steam for a refund on the game and have been since playing it on my Xbox One. I was playing online with some friends on a particular boss fight against the Crystal Sage. The boss has a second phase where it spawns these dopples that can be killed in one hit. While we were doing this and got the boss to about 10% health, the boss disappeared and only a dopple remained that became unkillable. Another attempt the game made the frame rate choppy like I was playing on Ultra settings for a computer. Most of that should have been alleviated in the ports. The game also has a few other bugs that vary from minor, hilarious and frustrating. Before the Crystal Sage fight, I was attempting to summon two of my friends to my game. It didn't work. Nothing worked. They put their signs down and each time I saw it, it would dissolve away. The idea of a password system was to allow cooperative play between friends or acquaintances not only more possible but with less hassle, neither of which I could see. Enemies sometimes teleport into walls. I've seen a dog go through a wall, a skeleton jump through a wall into oblivion, a lizard exit the game world entirely and even had a few enemies land hits that I could see should not and were physically incapable of landing on me making for some cheap deaths or simply damage that should have been avoided. All of this can be fixed later, but its really annoying when they basically did a country wide beta test when they decided to release the game to Japan about a whole two weeks earlier than everyone else yet didn't seem to fix any of these issues for the North American release. I recently picked up a new weapon and was trying to work it out, when I found out that if you have it in your offhand while using a bow completely fuzzes out half of the entire screen until you decide whether or not you want a weapon you worked so very hard for if it means dying because half of the game is obscured from your vision.
A lot of the pacing sort of goes out the window after the Catacombs. Enemies spike so high in difficulty its astounding. You go from skeletons who have relatively low poise, yet do considerable damage and have their own unique styles of combat to a bunch of knights who not only have high damage weapons, considerable amount of poise but also do about five hit combos regularly. So you get the shaft if you're anything other than a pure ranged class and playing with others who can take the aggro. Weird thing is you can actually skip this area for the moment and go to another area which is the new Lost Izalith or demon area. And the demons are less powerful than these knights. How does that make any sense? I could understand if they were quick and had considerable poise but to offset that, the weapons have to be scaled down. If an enemy can kill you in a single combo regardless of your gear and stats, there's a huge problem going on. And when demons are far less difficult than these near generic knights, this is also a huge problem. In fact the bosses difficulties are switched too. The boss for the knight area is also quick, has high damage weapons that hit in multiple stun locking combos that can kill you in a single hit. While the main demon boss is slow but to make up for it he hits like a truck and has considerable amounts of fire attacks that punish you for getting too close or too far. And no, the demon area is supposed to be after this area. I lead a bunch of people who summoned me to this area and they cleaned house.
All of what was said before may seem like a bit of nit picking and to be honest it kind of is. Though my points are solid as far as I'm concerned. However, the one thing I cannot give way on are the press release copies of the game. Like I said before, I wasn't able to get a review copy since this site isn't too well known. A few people did and what they got is anything short of unusual and almost infuriating. They got a massive wooden box that not only game with the game but also a bunch of 'free' items that any major fan of the game would shell out at least two hundred dollars for in a special collectors edition. Is it available to the public? Not through the legitimate sources, no. If you want it, you'll have to look on Ebay and shell out about six hundred dollars for it. That is if you're lucky. The whole thing seems like some sort of bribing idea to get reviewers to give better scores. The only way I found out about this was via a YouTuber I've been subscribed to telling a bunch of people. Their response was about as 'positive' as was mine above and they have said they will be sending the items back. Honestly, I would have done the same thing. I'm not entirely sure what possessed Bandai Namco to make this decision, but I think it was the same mindset that made them release the game two weeks in advance in another country without any sensible reason, and the same mindset that made them use the excuse that "the game wasn't completely finished" to be a sensible option in their eyes.
Its a good game, don't get me wrong, but this is beyond Bethesda levels of beginning game glitches. Especially when they begin cutting into the pace of the game, ruining it for a lot of people.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Dark Souls 3 PC Review - 9/10

Let me start off by saying I have a... past with the Dark Souls series. I started with the first game after I heard so much praise about it but quickly scrapped it after the experience and difficulty was so jarring from the other games I had previously played. I picked it up again when I felt I didn't give it much of a chance after I saw a bunch of devoted YouTubers who dug into the game's code and found some interesting cut content or stories I had never bothered to even try to grasp... and then got rid of it again after many many deaths.. Where I truly picked up on the series was the second game and really loved it. Which I felt was a shame since most everyone else felt it wasn't a good sequel... which I can admittedly see why in some respects. Though personally I felt the atmosphere of the first game was superior yet the gameplay of the second was better. So while neither game gave me what I felt was the perfect experience, I had high hopes for the sequel. While I wasn't one of those lucky YouTubers that got to play the game early or those who got the Japanese version, getting the game with everyone else is still a treat.

The Good:
Absolutely gorgeous. Just about any screenshot will show you that the game looks amazing. Not only are the levels and environments diverse, but the sky boxes are just a treat in and of itself. Kind of like getting to Anor Londo from the first game. Not only do these sky boxes look amazing but they are also giving you a preview of what is to come. While the world isn't super interconnected like the previous games, these sights alleviate this some by giving you something to look forward to. I haven't been through most of the game as I've been playing it from launch so I have this ice place to look forward to like the DLC from Dark Souls 2.
Being more of a fan of the second game is definitely something not everyone shares with me. A lot of the mechanics were weird or at least different from the previous title and it all around felt like a different game. This game seems like the proper sequel to the first game blended with the graphics (albeit amped up) and weapons from the second. A good sequel should elevate the previous, building upon ideas and mechanics that were introduced previously.  Dark Souls 2 may have been a good game in my opinion, but it falls short of being a good or otherwise faithful sequel. Dark Souls 3 really looks and feels like a merger of the two. The visuals better than the second, weapons of both the first and second, being a sort of spiritual successor to the Demon's Souls franchise as I believe it was always meant to be. Add in new mechanics like weapon arts, new items a long with some returning, interesting story filled with varied enemies and bosses, building upon the lore of the game's and giving a unique perspective on the world by adding in new ideas that also pull into the gameplay perspective. A lot of the items expand upon the new mechanics, offering varying gameplay styles that could pop up later in PvP or just items good for PvE use.
I'm a person who doesn't like PvP... like at all in any game. Though Dark Souls has always been... decent about it. What I mean is there's always avenues to get out of it, use the game's mechanics to your advantage or the ability to get others on your side. The previous games have been halfway decent about this. One funny story I have is that I was in the forest area for the first game exploring when I was cut off by a fog wall, meaning I was about to be invaded. I'm a pretty bad player so I knew I would just end up dead. Fortunately I was in a pretty secluded place so I opened up the chat and started spamming, "The legend never dies!" After a while they got annoyed and left. Time was all you could do to avoid PvP was be in the right covenant or turn off your internet. With the second game, they allowed you to have the chance for help against a Red invader by Blues (Blues attack Red invaders because Red invaders kill other players who are just trying to get through the game). Ultimately this left you very limited in what you wanted to do. Say you wanted to be in the Sunlight Covenant so you could get the rewards from killing bosses but you were afraid of a Red attacking you. In this game you're able to switch covenants on the fly. While I don't know if this has any repercussions, you're given a whole lot more options on how to play the game. And since the universally criticized Soul Level mechanic is gone you can farm areas at your leisure and get all the items for your covenant without having to leave an area you're particularly good at.
There's been a serious overhaul to PvP and other player interactions. Dark Souls' PvP has always been a bit lack luster for me. You're either the invader and having fun or you're not. Dark Souls 2 tried to alleviate this a bit with the covenants and how they operated but it just never really clicked for me. You had more options for healing but that was about it. Scholar of the First Sin added in more players that could PvP at a time which seemed like a great idea but adding more doesn't necessarily make it better. This game seems to be the culmination of all of that. The game actually rewards proactive players, both invader, hosts and co-op buddies. Not only did they add in different variations for covenants but the fights themselves. If you kill a phantom, invader or otherwise, everyone gains an Estus charge. Every person can chug that good old Sunny D free unless you use a Lloyd's Talisman, making fights more interesting. There wasn't really any sensible need for an invader to kill another invader instead of the host, apart from a few souls, but the game rewards that kind of behavior. Sure, its stupid but you might be able to get a better chance at the host with that extra Estus charge. A lot of the covenants have remained the same, apart from a few name changes, but with a little extra. Now a brother of the Sunlight covenant can invade another world and gain a Sun Medal. Previous games only allowed you to get these from helping a host and that was spotty at times where the first game made it so you had to kill the boss with the host and the second game added a timer but Soul Level screwed everything up royally. I never used Cracked Red Eye Orbs or just the Red Eye Orb before, but now I can actually get a use out of it.
I wasn't entirely sure I would like the almost complete lack of fog gates that they introduced into Bloodborne but I've gotten used to it. In fact its actually a really nice addition. Before it would be just, "Don't go there yet". Now you actually have to be wary and watchful. The game makes sure you know not to run around like a maniac, rather take in the surroundings. If you don't like it, every time you die to that particular boss the fog gate appears when you respawn so you won't easily make the same mistake again.
The game has what I would like to call 'The Mega-Man Tutorial'. If you're not familiar with the term, the original Mega-Man games did this really novel and cool idea of not immediately telling you everything at once. If you want a further analysis of this, check out Egoraptor's video on Mega-Man, but basically what it means is the difficultly goes up in spikes. You get shown a particular enemy or a new mechanic head on. You usually encounter a new enemy in a great position. Further in they introduce an enemy that sets itself on fire and lunges at you. However, the game designers put the enemy a decent way away. Unless you rush in or use a ranged means of killing it, the enemy will notice you from pretty far off and will ignite itself. It will then run at you at a far off distance, giving you enough time to prepare for what to do. Roll, backstep, sprint, mad dash, attack it or turtle up, you as a player are able to make your informed decision early on without having to listen to a tutorial. As an added bonus, after the suicider enemy is a bonfire so any damage you take can be negated and then reinforced to make you remember that enemy type and look out for it in this and other areas. Previous games didn't do this so well. The first and second both had their own things you could read to get the information. You could completely ignore them but they never prepared you for it. The first one just sets you down a long hallway and then throws the area's boss at you and the second just gave you punching bags to test out the methods on. Point is, this game teaches you mechanics about the enemies without having to stop the game and give you a guide on what was going to happen, ruining the surprise, but rather did it in a natural setting.
The game is relatively quiet which I feel is actually a positive. You'll be hearing nothing more than the sounds of battle or even the subtle breaths and movements of nearby enemies which makes the game feel a lot more alive. That isn't to say there isn't any. Once you're in a boss fight, get ready to hear some of the most amazing soundtracks since John Williams in Star Wars. Bombastic, rising, demented. When the sound needs to illicit a feeling of "Shit just got real" it knows exactly how to. It also gives a greater feel. Rather than having music all the time or constant ambient sounds, you start to notice the small things that can lead you to interesting secrets like the slight tug at chains or even softly weeping, a rushing of wind or a snarl in the distance. The music turns to a fever pitch in boss fights, giving you the epic climax you know you need to go with a properly tough fight. If I had to use one word, I'd say "Memorable".

The Bad:
This game may not be for you. What I mean is that every single game From Software has made, from Demon's Souls to Dark Souls 3, they are very niche games. Difficult as all hell, unforgiving and controller breaking frustration... and that's kind of the point. 2 tried to alleviate some of this with more healing items but even that faltered in it's own way, as fans were concerned, making the game a little bit easier. If you're reading this, it probably means you're a person who wants to pick it up and isn't a fan, and by all means you should. Its a great game. But I'd personally say you should play the other games, at least Dark Souls 1 and 2 in order to get in the right mood for this game. They're probably pretty cheap by now given that they came out X amount of years ago. Then again, if you did feel like picking it up immediately, don't let me stop you. Point is, not everyone is going to enjoy this game. Its difficult, unforgiving and a lot of the times doesn't make sense and you'll have to use a walkthrough at certain points. This may detract from the game for certain people.
If you haven't read one of my previous posts, this game came out about two or three weeks before in Japan and then everyone else got it. I'm not going to go into immense detail about how much I really really hate this, you can go on my previous post and see why this is so terrible. There I talk about how this detracts from the game in certain ways or at the very least how it takes away from the experience that players WOULD have had.
The game runs like syrup on my PC... WITH all of the settings turned to the lowest possible point. I don't mean the game was choppy in certain places, I mean that it was like I was running a high powered game on a low powered PC. I put this in the negative because, as far as I remember, it wasn't like that before. If you could play the first game on your PC, the second one could play just as well. While the graphical leap is nice it sucks when everyone isn't able to have the same experience gameplay wise. Looking nice is... well nice, but playing nice is amazing. A side note, the game will actually force you to play singleplayer mode if your FPS is too low, which I thought was a nice touch. I was clocking about 12 at best in the first area. Firelink Shrine was also pretty garbage considering it was around like 20. Windowed mode, lowest possible graphics settings and the lowest possible resolution barely got me anywhere.

The Meh:
This game is definitely harder. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Enemies are tough and varied. There's not a lot of humanoid enemies but a bunch of varied types from bestial, draconic and even a hybrid. Not only that but you're going to find a lot of other types of difficulty. In one area there will be and endless mob of slow enemies that can put a persistent bleed effect on you. Directly after that area is a lot of quick but squishy enemies along with some archers that you can't kill from where you are without ranged attacks. Bonfires get fewer and fewer the more you go on. Sometimes you won't even find one close to a boss room and have to fight through difficult enemies. This can be frustrating, but you can always go back to later areas to level up and upgrade your equipment if possible. Areas are very open and spaced out. Going through a place once will get you about 70% of all the items and you may need keys or find alternate ways to get to different places and finish side quests. Not everyone is going to like this and, while I don't like every single thing about this, there's a lot in this game so it should keep me fairly busy until the DLC comes out.

All in all a good game. I've got a few gripes but ultimately it might just be from my perspective. They really seemed to have pulled out all the stops for this new/last entry and it shows. I'd definitely recommend buying it.
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