What I’ve Been Playing This Week

Dark Souls 3: First run is in the books! I haven’t gone into NG+ yet as I’m hanging around gathering whatever rings and gestures I can. I’m not sure I’m ready to say that Dark Souls 3 is better than Bloodborne, but it’s certainly near that level. Although I am willing to say that so far the Grand Archives is my favourite moment in gaming this year. If your new here and wondering why I’m so giddy over SoulsBorne I got a PS4 last Christmas. It was my first console since the PS2. So for everyone else 2017 is the year of BOTW, Nier and other things for me 2017 is the year I discovered From Software. Video gaming hasn’t been the same since.

I have to leave a gap between open world games. If I play them back to back the bloat really becomes apparent after the well crafted worlds of Yharnam and Lothric. Big enough to explore yet concise enough as not provide an annoying commute. Before these games, I never minded cut scenes too much. Now I just want story through game play and the environment. I don’t hate cut scenes, I just dislike an excess of them. I just adore the way From Software tells their stories. And the harsh but fair game play just ties everything together. These games are difficult but not stupidly so. All they ask is you pay attention to what’s going on and not to get greedy. You are going to die, but you’ll get there eventually. And when you get there, it’s pretty damn great. Again, we are talking good difficulty, not crap like Cat Mario here.

But right now I’m pondering my next run. The initial plan was a run as Knight Artorias but I recently re-watched some fights with the Abyss Watchers and I forgot how fun their sword looks to fight with. Because I haven’t played Dark Souls Artorias really is some legendary figure to me because I only know him through item descriptions and lore. And to me that’s really cool. That brings me to something I really like about From games and that’s playing the role of an archaeologist. Just finding relics from older civilisations (particularly the pyromancy tomes) is one of the things I never thought about when getting into Dark Souls. The item descriptions just add to the whole experience. There’s just so much I love about these games.

Thank you From Software. You’ve given me a lot of joy this year.

Now that I’ve come to an end (The End of the Fire – which I really enjoyed – it felt touching and heartfelt for reasons I can’t quite identify, but they are there) here’s a boss run down with number of attempts taken. Bosses that stood out will have additional comments. Here we go (Obvious spoilers);

Iudex Gundyr – 1 (The miracle that is panicky dodge rolling.)

Vordt of the Boreal Valley – 2 (I actually have some footage of Vordt, so here is. He’s cool.)

Great Cursewood Tree – 3

Crystal Sage – 2

Abyss Watchers – 2 (One of the best presented boss fights. When they start fighting each other it’s pretty damn great.)

Deacons of the Deep – 1 (Not a difficult fight, but mechanically it’s really cool. It is a very unique take on a mob enemy style of boss.)

High Lord Wolnir – 4 (When I look back on this, I have a very distinct feeling of stupidity. Maybe attack the giant glowing weak spots from get the go, eh?)

Old Demon King – 3

Pontiff Sulyvahn – 8 – 9 (Where in all of us learn that back dodging can be a very bad idea. Also stamina for blocking doesn’t last forever.)

Saint Aldrich – 6 – 7

Yhorm the Giant – 5 – 6 attempts (I’m still sorry for killing you Yhorm. Your story is a tragic one. God speed sweet prince. Your machete is pretty great.)

Dancer of the Boreal Valley – 6 – 7 attempts (Where in lessons learned from Pontiff Sulyvahn are reinforced. Also the way she moves. It’s gorgeous and sinister at the same time.)

Dragon Slayer Armour – 1 (Somehow. Don’t ask me how I did it. Also, the Dragon Slayer Armour Axe is amazing. Pretty much saw me though the Ringed City DLC.)

Oceiros, the Consumed King – 1 (I wandered through his fog gate and killed him. A fine night’s work.)

Champion Gundyr – 6 – 8 (Let me down and let me heal.)

Ancient Wyvern – 2 (I missed a plunging attack. Luckily it’s not on film or anything.)

Nameless King – 6 – 7 (Hard work but very rewarding. His delayed attacks really take some hard work and patience to work through.)

Prince Lothric – 6 – 8 (I really dislike bosses that teleport. Quite possibly this is just a personal thing, but teleporting bosses annoy me. This boded well for the DLC.)

The DLC

Champions Grave Tender – 3

Sister Friede – 17 – 18 (First time I got her down to half health on the 3rd phase. I struggled to repeat that for quite some time. Also we both died at the same time so this is technically a draw so I have to go again.)

Demon Prince – 18 (I never figured out how to dodge the Demon Prince’s fire storm meteor move. Panicky dodge rolling and running didn’t quit work.)

Half Light Spear of the Church – 1 (on both occasions) (This is a really cool concept for a boss with an invader coming in.)

Slave Knight Gael – 6 – 7 (Cool fight but the Great Shield of Glory pretty much let me stop Gael’s attacks stone dead. On another play through I’m guessing it will be a different story.)

Darkeater Midir – 25 – 30 (He straight up violated me at points. That did result in a very satisfying riposte. Then I read his souls item description and felt bad. From, please stop but don’t stop making difficult bosses that make me feel guilty at the end.)

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice: Some things have happened since I last played Hellblade. It leads to a life lesson: no matter how innocuous it seems do not read things concerning a game you are playing, even a reddit thread about a trailer for the game. There’s always a post that will ruin the whole thing, without warning or spoiler markers. I should have known, but I just wanted to see what other people felt about the game.

And to be honest without the story to keep me pressing on, I just don’t want to play this anymore. It’s not a bad game by any means but I feel that the story and game play worked in tandem. Now that one of those things has been crippled the other thing while being good is not enough to hold up the game by itself. Basically the thrill is gone, and that is really hard to get back.

Sorry Senua, but I’m not sure I’m going to able to finish your quest. (Light spoilers here – see, it isn’t that hard) You might be stuck in that place with the monsters who failed the Silent Hill 2 auditions for a long time.

Entwined: I’ve had this game for a while. I bought it on the Vita then transferred it to my PS4 to save memory card space. And a few nights ago without any particular game in mind I started playing it again. The game is pretty damn fun. So much so it has re-entered my regular game rotation.

It’s a level based game where the player takes control of a fish and a bird as they fly/swim in attempt to come together. The fish is red and the bird is blue, meaning that the each one can only pass through their respective colours. Which sounds easy enough but the twist is that the fish is controlled by the left stick and the bird by the right. As the levels advance the sequences increase in complexity and start to require a decent degree of dexterity. There are also green gates where the two have to be brought together in order to pass through successfully.

The game has both a story mode and a challenge mode. The story mode is 9 levels long (which is a little on the short side) and the challenge mode only has 5. But the challenge really ramps up the difficulty but I’ll get to that later.

Speaking of the bird and the fish coming together providing enough sequences have been passed through in combination with enough power ups collected to fill an energy bar the two can come together but for a moment. This also requires holding L1 and R1 at the same time to maintain that bar, which is a surprisingly cool test of dexterity and controller handling.

What follows is beautiful and fun sequence where our two animal friends come together but for a moment as a dragon in order to access the next zone. After the sometimes hectic game play it serves as a rather cool come down and some well earned quite time. Collect a few power ups and paint the sky in glorious neon.

The challenge mode essentially strips out the story mode and dragon sequences replacing it with tests of skill. The patterns grow more complex and longer, requiring far more stick control and dexterity. Also, while the story mode allows for infinite attempts (all failure does is knock the power bar down) the challenge mode allows only 3 lives. It ensures that exact movements must be executed and upon success there is a tangible feeling of joy. I would guess that this mode really allows good players to show off their skills. I on the other hand have the ability to unlock the next challenge, but not much more.

The graphics are simple but really do the job. Bright and colourful, and with constant movement they provide a wonderful show. Both our protagonists have a distinct origami quality to them which works really well. Worth a mention is the music. A good selection of electronic and smooth techno (I guess?) that increase in pace as the levels get faster.

On the complaints front, sometimes when there are a lot of colours to pass through sometimes it’s very hard to tell where you messed up. There have been times when I am convinced I have missed a colour yet not been dinged for it, and vice versa. I just wish some situations where a little more clear is all.

I’ve had the game a while but playing again has been a good experience. It’s not very expensive, so it’s worth the shot.

Koi: A pleasant diversion. It’s an okay little puzzle game with a nice graphics. There’s a little story about fighting pollution and it’s all very pleasant. You play as a koi carp and help other koi carp to find there flowers. There’s some looking for things puzzles, some colour matching puzzles (coloured koi and coloured fish) and memory puzzles as well with sequences to be memorised and patterns to be matched up. Completing these puzzles opens up passages to the next level. But stopping you are bigger fish and in later levels (as you enter human places) electrical currents from ill maintained technology. Some levels have flowing water which is hard to swim against and brings in elements of timing.

There are some collectible items to find which introduces elements of exploration. They do open the game up, and tell their own story along the way.

The game is, well, it’s not bad. But it’s not great. It’s a thoroughly pleasant experience but there’s no real depth here. The art style is nice and there’s a wholesome story about stopping pollution. It’s just that the game never goes beyond this. Everything’s functional but simple. There are nice little explosions of colour whenever a flower and koi are matched up. And finding the collectibles shows some pretty artwork. There is also a frog who you can talk to, and it’s fun to see him during your travels. But it is all just nice, and nothing more.

I do have some quibbles with some game mechanics.

The memory puzzles can be a bit annoying though. There’s always a message on the screen saying what to do, even when you are messing up. And given you know what to do but you are just being a bit forgetful it comes across as really condescending.

Also the AI of your koi friends isn’t always brilliant. They can swim in wide arcs and sometimes get caught out when they really shouldn’t.

I would really suggest waiting for a sale if you are considering it. Koi is a nice game, but that’s it. And if you are a serious puzzle fan the depth here is probably not going to be enough for you. If you are looking for a nice little puzzle game then yeah, go for it. At a sale price though. I would have a hard time recommending this above a sale price.

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