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Errand Days, the Wonder of Kinship, A Love of Good Flavour Text and the Ministry of Silly Jumps

The beauty of the Errand Day: There are lots of things to do in video games. Often these things are important things. There are bosses that need defeating, a region that needs to be discovered and other such serious matters. But there are those days that aren’t quite as epic, but see lots of little things accomplished. Some of these things are necessary for the story and some of them aren’t but are nice to do. This is the errand day.

As an example, whilst playing Dark Souls III instead of pushing on like I normally would I set about retrieving the Lothric Divine tome, getting some short cuts sorted out and making sure that I praised the sun. Another day saw me break Karla out of jail, sort out some leveling and generally making sure everything was good to go for when I eventually made out for Archdragon Peak.

Those days in gaming are pretty good. Days that help balance out the action and that really help with world building by getting you out exploring and finding some cool items, useful or not.

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When even Dark Souls is telling you.

The Joy of Good Flavour Text: I’m playing Breath of the Wild and while it’s very fun something has been bothering me. Going out and exploring is pretty great but no matter where I go, I seem to find a shrine. And quite frankly I’m sick of finding shrines. I’m sick of finding something cool, just for it to be another shrine quest. What I’m missing is finding somewhere, and finding something there with really good flavour text. Everything in BOTW has rather pedestrian item descriptions, and everything has to have a use. Like when I find walls to blow up, and it’s a treasure chest with topaz or something – I have lots of that already; give me something different, something akin to the Banuk Dolls of Horizon Zero Dawn. Or any number of items in the From Software games, where great flavour text is abundant. I don’t do magic builds, and I was actively seeking out Divine Tomes and Scrolls just to find out more about the world. I now realise how much I dig that stuff.

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Love the writing in that last line.

Crying over a video game: I recently replayed Journey. It has been on my mind lately to give the game another run through, mainly because Journey really really really good. What was meant to be a half an hour start before going to bed at an appropriate time turned into a full play through and a thoroughly emotional experience. This was because during the second chapter another player wandered into my game world and we ended up going right on through to the end of the game.

I’ve played with other players before, but it’s never lasted. One of us has always exited the game, sometimes near the end rather frustratingly. This time however we kept together chapter after chapter. That resulted in a strengthened emotional bond. The act of waiting for each other to jump up to a platform became an odyssey in and of itself. Running over to each other after being clobbered by those flying machines in the winter section felt akin to actually helping an injured person. And frantically sending out signals when lost was a real cry for help in this vast world. I must state here that was mostly me. I hadn’t played for a good while and my partner bailed me out on many an occasion.

It was some time in the closing credits when I lost it. Crossing the final frontier with another person was a wonderful feeling of kinship. To however you are, thank you for an utterly sublime experience.

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In time.

Wait, how do you get up there? There are lots of things that catch a player’s eye when playing a SoulsBorne game. From the level design to enemy placements there’s a lot of good stuff going on. Then there’s the reading of player messages, and there’s always that one message in a place that makes one think “wait, how? How’d you get there?”

This is just some left over invasion footage I figured I’d use. There’s one below this as well.

Jumping in a Souls game isn’t the best. It can only be done while running, and it’s not really multi directional. Thank fully jumps in Souls games (well, at least Dark Souls III and Bloodborne) don’t really call for too much complexity, but what it does result in is the gloriously silly practice of figuring out where you can jump, and once there leaving a message in that location.

It’s something I’ve had a great deal of fun with. Figuring out how someone else got there is pretty great, but finding a place and putting a message down there when there isn’t one there, that’s a brilliant little feeling.

Like I said, it’s silly and pretty much a waste of time but nonetheless I love it. Praise the jumping.

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What I’ve Been Playing This Week

Hob: The theme this week is games that insist of being brilliant while also managing to infuriate me. There is a lot to like in Hob. Love even. Unfortunately Hob also comes with a lot of jank. Some of that will leave you needing to respawn to continue the game. Well, let’s get to laying all of this out.

I had issues with this game, both with bugs and issues with the camera. I have managed to get stuck in bushes on more than one occasion and I have warped into a pipe and found myself unable to get out. The camera can also turn some platforming sections into isometric ones and platforming in an isometric space isn’t brilliant. There have been jumps where it appears I’m going in a straight line only to find the path is diagonal and I’m falling to my death. Also, I had a long playing session (about 3 hours long) and towards the end the frame rate had dropped to what look like 10 – 15 FPS. There are also sections in the game where the frame rate will drop.

What the game is also in need of is the use of the right analogue stick to look further ahead. There are some places where it’s not clear if Hob can jump there or not, and a quick look would remedy that. Also, the difference between Hob landing a jump and Hob splattering from a great height isn’t that clear cut which can lead to some slightly gruesome trial and error.

I’m detailing all of that up front because these are some of the things you may have to put up with if you want to play through Hob. I’ve managed to get one of the two endings in Hob so I thought it was worth it. But I would advise buying this on Steam rather than a console (I have a PS4 Pro). With Steam you have that refund window, and so if any of the above happens you can see how much it would affect you. Now that is cleared up, let’s talk about the game.

Hob has a story to tell, but it does it without words. Everything is told through game play, the environment and character gestures. For the most part it works. Relationships are established and past events are laid out in clearly understandable ways. There’s a point near the end where I feel this falters a bit, but I’ll get to that in due time.

The basic story of Hob is some catastrophe has befallen this world and the player character (who I am assuming is called Hob) sets out to fix it. And fixing it is one of the best things I’ve seen in a game. The game world consists of puzzles with involve pulling things, pushing things and switching things on. Once this has been done, the game world reveals itself to be a massive Rube Goldberg-esque machine, with plateaus and forests shifting into place. There is just something ridiculously satisfying about machinery sliding into place. I haven’t seen anything like this in video games for a while. It really feels amazing watching it, this coming together. It reminds me on some level of Richard Brautigans poem, All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace.*

Also in this world are native flora and fauna. The fauna are particularly well designed each one unique and if you hang around them long enough, you get the chance to pet them. It is not a major thing, but it is a nice little touch. One other nice thing in Hob is vistas. These are little green discs that Hob can sit on and take in the world around him. They really help with the pace of the game, bringing about pleasant moments of quiet contemplation.

As for the rest of the game play I’d say it’s pretty good. There’s combat with enemies, and while it’s a bit on the simple side, it does feel good and cathartic which I feel is a good way to go. If it’s not going to complex, make it feel good. There’s simple sword combos and a punch attack with can be charged up.

The sword is only weapon in the game, but it can be upgraded via finding sword fragments scattered throughout the game world. In addition there are secrets to find as well, that provide access to new skills, health and energy bar power ups. Many of these are well hidden, and as of now I’ve still got a few more to get. The skills are tied to that energy bar, so they cannot be used all willy nilly. Also, the upgrades are bought with currency, and this is collected from fallen foes and hidden terminals around the game world. Health is found in similar way, along being found while cutting down long grass whilst Hob isn’t at full health.

In addition to this, and tied into upgrading with the sword are lore rooms. These are unlocked with the sword, and in keeping with the rest of the game, tell stories without words. The sword changes shape as it is upgraded, and the rooms need the different shaped sword as they progress. These rooms are really rather cool, and make heading off the beaten track worthwhile.

Now, to return to something I brought up earlier. In regards to the story telling, right before the ending (there’s two of them) for at least one of them there’s a boss fight. It’s a good one, and makes sense. But it just feels that the setup has been inadequate. The pay off, and the cathartic feel of a great boss fight just isn’t there. As for the ending I’ve unlocked, that felt good but the preceding boss fight is fine mechanically but emotionally it’s lacking.

For the most part I had great fun with Hob, but the bugs are there so to repeat, buy on Steam so you can take advantage of refunds. Normally some of the problems could be patched, but Runic Games (the developers) unfortunately went out of business, so what we have is what we have got. Just want to say thanks to Runic here for giving me a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It’s just a shame there isn’t more to come.

Zelda Breath of the Wild: I’ve been thinking about this a lot. How I feel about playing it, how I am supposed to feel when I play this and a bunch of other things have passed through my thought space during my play time. It’s one of those cases where you can try to avoid the hype but with this game, that’s hard. Even casual browsing will show up teen “Game of the Year” threads, meaning there was always some sense of expectation.

In an attempt to get my thoughts down in a coherent manner, I’m going to start with things about the game I’m not too fond of. These aren’t necessarily bad things, just things that aren’t to my taste.

I feel like I am doing the shrines out of a sense of obligation more than a sense of want. Since levelling of health and stamina is tied to them, I honestly feel like I have to do them more than I want to do them. In addition to that, I am not the greatest fan of puzzle games. Now in Hob’s case, the game is a lot shorter than BOTW, and the effect the puzzles have on the world is pretty amazing. BOTW is a significantly longer game with significantly more puzzles. They are beginning to grate. Also, I wouldn’t mind seeing some changes in the Shrines aesthetic designs. They all look very uniform, and that’s a little bit disappointing. In addition to this, when I found out that the Divine Beasts are essentially glorified shrines that were a bit of kick in the teeth. Well, glorified shrines and a disappointing boss fight combined.

I need to mention here that I absolutely loath motion controls. Completely and utterly loath them. Just let me use the analogue stick. I much prefer that. Those motion control shrines are the bane of my existence. I’ve tried them, I’ve engaged with them but I … god I hate them. I either tilt too far, or not enough and the whole thing is an exercise in frustration.

In addition to this, every time I solve something I do not need a little cut scene playing the Zelda jingle and showing a door/gate opening. I know that’s going to happen, just let it happen. Then there are the combat shrines, which brings me to my second dislike.

I am not the greatest fan of this games combat. Coming from a background of From Software, this honestly feels somehow both clunky and floaty, so much so that I now avoid combat the best I can. The lock on feels very archaic, compared to Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and most weapons make the same noises with the same cartoon hit effect which doesn’t make the combat feel that great. In addition, I really want a dodge roll. I really miss the dodge roll. God I love dodge rolls. And while I understand the weapon durability system and what it’s meant to achieve, it still manages to annoy me. I’m in the bizarre situation of not using things just in case it breaks. I’d rather has a choice of great weapons rather than being forced into using stuff. Again, Dark Souls and Bloodborne loom large here. And again, this is my preference as opposed to something being intrinsically bad. Also, when I fail a combat shrine I don’t need to see the animation of the guardian activating over and over again.

And last but not to be the least, the story. I am aware of the John Carmack quote, but I am someone who does like story and purpose in my games. Here, the story is bare bones and very lacking. It’s just hard to get enthused over another good vs evil story, with the added bonus of a princess rescue thrown in. What compounds this for me is the idea that calamity Gannon is this all powerful being that needs stopping and here I am bowling in the snow and riding downhill on a shield. Again, it’s personal preference but it just seems silly to have all of this messing around while in the background there’s a great evil just sitting there, biding its time instead of swatting Link out of existence. Which brings me to Link himself.

This is my first Zelda game so I have no nostalgia for Link. He is unfathomably blank, and devoid of human characteristics. I find it really hard to justify the guy’s existence. If he were to be replaced by a piece of say, walking tofu I’m not sure too much would change. And I don’t know if it’s seeing the world through his eyes, but the side quests and characters aren’t that memorable to me. And that brings me to another, rather bizarre point. The lack of story combined with Link’s inner void have made this less of a grand adventure, and more a series of great video game moments stapled together. I’ve covered a great deal of ground, yet the majority of it hasn’t been that memorable.

I have other bug bears, mainly tied to the open world system. That is to say, problems I have with open world as a genre. Resource gathering, crafting, tower climbing and all that stuff is something I’m not all that fond of. It must be said these are problems I have with every open world game, I just push through the best I can.

Now you’re probably sat there thinking that I hate this. But that is not the case. The core game play of exploring and climbing is so fantastic and fulfilling, albeit somewhat fleeting that I am more than willing to push through my dislikes in order to enjoy it. The addition of climbing is a wonderful thing. Once it becomes apparent that most everything can be climbed the world opens up in a great many ways. There are now multiple paths to a destination, both vertically and horizontally. Enemy encampments can be climbed over, which in some cases is most preferable. And it becomes very possible to navigate by sight alone. Simply climbing to a high point, and seeing your destination in the distance is a pretty empowering thing. Also climbing up high let me run alongside a grand old dragon, which is pretty neat. It’s more game play that works in the moment than sticks with me, but for the moment it’s pretty damn incredible. Combining that climbing with the paraglider leads to all sorts of fun. And whilst the divine beasts themselves are disappointing, the skills gained from them are not. Revali’s gale sends you shooting skyward, and gliding from high to where ever you need to be is pretty damn great.

To briefly return to the towers, in relation to the climbing mechanic. For the most part, they are towers. And again, please let me skip the canned animations at when I update the map. But a few towers are really amazing. I want to highlight my experience of climbing the Citadel Tower. I climbed up the short side to avoid the outer patrols. Then I had wait out the passing thunder storm. Using Revali’s gale got me up to another section, with weapons strewn about the place, remnants of a battle long passed. Then during the final section I had to hide from enemy patrols again as Revali’s gale recharged before shooting skyward to complete the final ascent. That entire section was glorious.

Ah, that’s a thing. The weather here actually matters. Metal attracts lighting so in a rain storm metal armour and weapons need to come off. Don’t worry, there’s a period of sparking that lets you know Link’s about to get fried. And the lightening slamming down is pretty awe-inspiring. Link can’t climb with the rain coming down, so be ready to light a fire to wait out the storm. Lighting a fire is a special, intimate moment. That must be the Dark Souls player in me coming out there.

And while I do not like the combat too much, I am fond of the bow mechanics. The bow’s handle very well, and slowing down time whilst in mid air to aim is a really cool thing. Although seeing “your bow is badly damaged” flash up on screen is always annoying. There is one slight issue. Once a triple shooting bow is acquired, and combined with bomb arrows, everything may as well be dead already. At that point the combat is a turkey shoot.

And that brings me to the final joy of the game. Just figuring out how different things interact with each other is pretty good fun. What exactly can I set on fire? Which bits of the landscape can be rearranged with bombs? The realisation I can spread electric current through the water. I can roll a boulder downhill and if someone is in the way, oh well. And god knows how much more stuff.

So yeah, despite my issues with it I really like BOTW. Due to my preferences as a gamer, it’s not going to be one of those great games for me but it is a great. It’s like a turbo powered Just Cause 3, a game where I just have fun on, even if it is fleeting. And if a game’s fun then it’s done a good job.

Dark Souls III: Invasions are awesome. I have been doing other things on Dark Souls III, but invasions are so good I want to write about them. Again. But seriously invading is great fun. Before this I only ever invaded as part of a covenant. But lately, feeling a bit bored of this and wanting something new I decided to finally use my red eye orb, join the mound makers and see what this invasion lark was all about. Why did I put this off so long?

Part of the draw is not knowing what’s going happen. Many invasions end with frenzied stabbing but there’s always the odd ones. A particular invasion stands out. I invaded at Archdragon Peak, and no fighting occurred. We just took our clothes off and messed about with weapon arts. There’s no other game that’s letting me do that.

And if fighting breaks out, that’s great fun as well. There’s a certain rush that PVP has that a boss fight doesn’t, and combine the thrill of the fight with looking for the enemy and it’s a wholly unique game experience. I do try to be a nice invader and wave before anything happens. But if it’s 2 vs 1 or above, I tend to leave that honour at the door. Or join forces with Havel. Havel’s a great dude.

But yeah dude, Invasions. Invasions are the best.

Some Thoughts on This Blog

This blog sprang/slid into life on 03/04/2017. The first post on this blog detailed my adventures in Bloodborne. The next post, concerning my divorce from the Pokemon franchise (there has still been no reconciliation) was published on 01/04/2017, almost a month’s difference between dates there. However after this the next post came up on 12/05/2017. There was something approaching a sense of rhythm. Now, barring a two week trip to Norway this blog (including this post) has seen 33 weeks of consecutive posts on a Friday. Which I feel isn’t that bad of an achievement.

The purpose of this post here is to take a good long look at this blog – As the blog stands right now, where this blog is heading and the joys and frustrations of this as a hobby. It’s just that I’ve been doing this for a while, and I want to take a look at what has been achieved so far and what I can improve on, because there will be stuff that needs improving.  This post has been on my mind for a while now and with a break in my posting schedule I figure this is a good time to do this.

The Current Status of this Blog: It’s pretty good. There’s a constant supply of content, and I meet my Friday deadline constantly these days. And on top of that I’m making gifs and taking screen shots to complement the writing. And for the most part all of that is a blast to do. There’s a level of commitment here that I would like to take forward.

Joys and Frustrations: Writing about video games is a lot of fun. An in-depth look at a video game mechanic or a game world that inspires feelings of wonder lust is always great fun. And making a great gif, when it starts and ends at the perfect points it’s one of those great little victories. And when I’m not utterly obsessed with SoulsBorne this blog really does incentivise buying and trying new video games. Both of these are good things, and the urges to play new games lead me to buying From Software games, so yay for that.

There are some obvious frustrations. Viewing figures have always been low (if I get 5 in a week that’s good) which brings in very little in the way of discussion and feedback, both constructive and critical feedback. I do some feedback and discussion and I am eternally grateful for that but for the most part my writing goes very much without critique and discussion. And truthfully this frustrates me quite a bit. I want to get better at this but I have little in the way of knowing what my strengths and weaknesses as a writer are.

And sometimes it is a little hard to keep on writing when I know only 2 people are going to see the post (if that). I know that I shouldn’t let this get to me and that I should keep on writing for the love of it, but it does get to me from time to time. Some weeks I just have to push through the fact that all that writing and gif making isn’t going to get any traction. Again, I shouldn’t let it bother me, but again sometimes it does.

Where this blog is heading: Barring any sudden change in circumstances I should still be writing on this blog for the foreseeable future. There will always be new games to play which means more games to write about, more games to gif and more worlds to explore. What I would like in addition to this is for the blog to get more exposure, and get that discussion and critique I spoke about earlier.

I would like to maintain the posting schedule of the blog. One week of games played during the week, and the other week for in-depth discussions should keep the content varied and allow for a long term look at certain games. One of my favourite things about the last year was being able to look at Bloodborne and Dark Souls III over a great many weeks. There’s just so much more to see and write about with a game in that span, as opposed to a one and done approach.

The goal now is to get more traffic, while maintaining what I’ve got going on. There are a few things I can do to try and get more traffic. One would be covering more recent games. As someone who sat out the PS3/Xbox 360/Wii generation and only got a PS4 late into its life cycle there has been (still is) a fair degree of catch up. But everything I’ve played for the most part has been covered extensively so maybe people are sick of that. Another thing I could do, even though I would not be fond of it is posting links on reddit and the like but that feels an awful lot like shilling, and that feels just a little bit dirty. I’ve done it once for a Bloodborne piece on r/bloodborne (a really great community by the by) but that was a long time ago. Despite the positive comments I’ve never tried this again, which I feel shows how I see this. Maybe I’ll have to try it again. It’s not a great thing to do, but I might have to try things like that.

Next week will see a return of What I’ve Been Playing This Week, and there are some slightly more recent games on there. This was a one off post, but something I’ve wanted to write mainly for myself. Any feedback will be appreciated. I really do appreciate what views and comments I do get, so to all y’all, a thousand thanks.

Next week should see my thoughts on Breath of the Wild, Hob and the wonderful world of invasions in Dark Souls III. Thank you for reading, and see you all later.

A little update, and Happy Holidays

I’ve not written a lot this week. It’s been Christmas and everything that goes with that. I now own a Nintendo Switch so I’ve been getting used to that. And there’s a bunch of other games I’m playing so I’ve been getting used to them. And I’ve finally started doing non-covenant invasions in Dark Souls III and that has been so much fun.

So going forward I want to write something akin to the state of the blog (as it stands now, where I want it to go, joys and frustrations and so on) and hopefully I’ll have it ready by next week. After that it should be a return to the bi weekly What I’m Playing This Week posts and the individual topic posts that go between them.

So all that’s left to say is Happy Holidays to all y’all, and to celebrate here is Santa Claus being knifed in the back in a Crucifixion Woods invasion.

Have a good one folks.

An end of year thing

It’s about that time. With 2017 shuffling off into the abyss of years gone by a year of gaming has gone with it. And with that comes some reflection on games liked, games not so liked and new discoveries made along the way. This won’t be a list so much as little discussion on games. A list is ranked and some games simply aren’t comparable. A walking sim is trying to do different things to an action role playing game. Making a list just feels a bit silly with that in mind.

The rule here is that any game I’ve played in 2017 (without having played it before) is eligible for consideration. Which means that a game was released in 1982 it would still count if 2017 was the first time that I had played it. So with the preamble done here are the games that shaped 2017 for me.

The (objectively) Best Games – Bloodborne/Dark Souls 3

I have no idea what to say here. That’s because entire weeks and months of this blog has been dedicated to these two games. I guess the only real thing I can say is that everything I think of as a positive in a video game, everything that makes me want to pick up a video game is present in these two games. Any time I play a game now, it generally contains at least one or two things I adore in Bloodborne and Dark souls III. My top 10 moments in video games could just be picked from these two.

I even got on board with online game play with Dark Souls III, and that almost never happens.

I’m aware this is just gushing now, but as good as a time as I had with other video games, nothing really came close to these two. Both games are just outstanding through and through. Now I’m looking forward to Shadows Die Twice, and catching up with Dark Souls I and II. It’s just been the From Software year.

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Gateway game of the year – Salt and Sanctuary

This was my way into the From Software game. Salt and Sanctuary is essentially Dark Souls on a 2 dimensional plane. After some initial push back by the game I got on board and found it to be rather great. And by push back I mean 40 tries at the Sodden Knight (it never got quite that bad afterwards). Actually I hold that knight in very high esteem. He taught me a lot of great and important lessons.

The world the game takes place in is interconnected and well designed, with some nice lore to match. The game has an excellent skill tree that tells its own stories and it remains my favourite skill tree in games. Not only does it look good and afford a great many play styles, but those stories are very well written for something that could have been throw away. And there’s plenty of wonderful boss fights and perhaps more importantly, lots of Fashionsalt to go around. Its only real failing is not being quite as good as the games that inspired it. Still, it’s a hell of an effort.

The reason I went to Norway (and had a great time) game – Jotun

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That title is actually fully legitimate. I did go to Norway on the basis of really enjoying a video game about Norse mythology. And for the record you too should go to Norway, because it is a wonderful and beautiful country. There’s a museum with two long ships. That’s awesome.

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But let’s get back to Jotun. It is a game of immense beauty with Thunder Lotus really hitting it long with the art style. And in a game focused on boss fights those really delivered. The sense of scale with the Jotun is really something and coming out on the positive ends of one of those fights feels suitably like one of the colossal fights from the saga’s themselves.

The game worlds can be seen as empty, but they give me the same feeling as hiking alone on a mountain side which is a feeling I really dig. And going exploring will lead to little bits of Old Norse lore, and I just loved finding those. All in all, being a good game and getting me to go to Norway means Jotun did good. And a special shout out to the voice actress who portrayed the game’s protagonist, Thora. I really thought she delivered an exceptional performance, full of character.

(Yes, I’m aware the game has Icelandic dialogue. But I had my heart set on Scandinavia for a while, and Norway particularly and this game just gave me the push I needed.)

Fun times with Robot Dinosaurs – Horizon Zero Dawn

Let’s be clear here. There is far more going on in Horizon Zero Dawn than just the robot dinosaurs. But they are incredibly great. They are the draw. But upon closer inspection there’s a mighty fine open world here with varied environments and the honest to god feel of a journey and an adventure. I didn’t take long to get invested in Aloy as a character, and finding out about her and world she inhabits was something that lingers beyond the completion screen. The collectibles actually had some great lore behind them so collecting them wasn’t the chore it normally is, and the combat just topped all of this off. Bow and traps give the player plenty of scope for experimentation when taking on the mechanical fauna.

But it’s not just the combat where the mechanical beats shine. Some can be used as mounts and they control responsively and if one lasts long enough, you can easily form a strong bond with your ride. In fact I loved the mechanical horses so much that I often eschewed fast travel just to have a ride around. And just watching the larger ones lumber around is something that brings back memories of watching Jurassic Park was an 8 year old. But in robot form obviously.

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Just Cause 3 and the Human Sugar Glider

Rico Rodriguez has the single most fun method of getting around in a video game. The hook shot and wing suit combo honestly carry this game from generic base liberation sand box extravaganza to, well okay it still is that. But the movement is so responsive and exhilarating that I forged past all of that. And it actually makes the base liberation fun as well. Particularly when flying in sight unseen and setting a cluster of fuel tanks a blaze. Also, honourable mention to hooking shotting in and laying explosive charges before wing suiting out to watch the ensuring carnage. Hell, even just flying around with nothing in mind is a pretty great experience. So much so I found the collectibles, simply because I could fly to them. Wing suiting through a canyon is pretty great.

That being set, just fucking around in Just Cause 3 can be pretty fun.

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Let’s be honest here. Glitches are bad and shouldn’t be around. It’s inevitable that some will show up in games, but they do take you out of the game and in some cases break the game. But sometimes they are funny. The trains of Just Cause 3 everybody. Long may they completely ignore the laws of physics.

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Excellent story telling in the form of What Remains of Edith Finch

There are many great stories in What Remains of Edith Finch. So when Lewis’s Story stands out as much as it does you know it’s something special. It’s the perfect coming together of game play mechanics and narrative. And the clashing together of the whimsical fantasy world and the drudgery of Lewis’s day job is something that is extremely relatable. I deduced the ending long before it happened, but it still left a mark similar. In this way it felt like Flowers for Algernon. Something you desperately don’t want to see happen, but remaining powerless to stop it yet feel enraptured enough to plough on through regardless. This really was outstanding work from Giant Sparrow.

Oxenfree and the wondrous dialogue system

I had initially had Fire Watch down for both storytelling and dialogue. But What Remains of Edith Finch and Oxenfree were such a great one two punch that they essentially displaced Fire Watch. While Edith Finch brought with it a great mix of gameplay and story, Oxenfree while having decent gameplay really shone with its dialogue. I need to state here that Fire Watch also has exceptional dialogue and voice acting but Oxenfree’s dialogue feels even more natural and mostly human. What helps this is the dialogue system, we answers can be delayed and pressing a prompt early will cut other characters off. It’s the closest I’ve seen a video game dialogue system come to replicating actual humans speaking. Combined with the neat horror/mystery plot, and the really nice mechanic of aligning radio signals to hear things, Oxenfree was a great experience. Also, patchy radio’s with voices from beyond always seem to work.

Nier: Automata and the curious case of the colossal disappointment

This didn’t work out well for me. And after thinking about it for a while I can pin point the exact reasons. I really fell out of love with the game play and the amount of side quests. The combat really didn’t gel with me and I will say the side quests are very well written, but the accompanying game play that mainly consisted of killing things or collecting things really felt mediocre. In some cases you had to talk to a character, travel half way across the map to talk to someone else, and travel back again to continue the story line. And the quality of the writing was not enough to overcome the banality of the game play. This eventually bled into the main game, and by Ending D (which is apparently where the game gets amazing) I really didn’t care about the characters (aside from Pascal and Engels – make a full game about them), I didn’t care about the story and what happened next became of no concern. I told myself I would come back the next day and finish it all off. That was about 5 months ago.

The combat didn’t mesh with and the open world felt very basic, with an alarming amount of invisible walls. It probably didn’t help I was playing Horizon Zero Dawn at around the same time which featured a far more dynamic open world, along with far more dynamic and unique combat. What helped even less was the shadow of Bloodborne and everything that achieved. In fact there was a few times I just stopped playing Nier to do another Bloodborne run. To expand on the combat, it’s okay and perfectly functional. What put off a lot was how it felt. To go back to another game mentioned here, Jotun has very basic combat but it feels good. Thora’s axe feels heavy to swing and hits as hard. In Dark Souls and Bloodborne, fast weapons feel like they are lacerating flesh and heavy weapons hit with femur shattering force. In Nier, I didn’t feel any great sense of impact. The combat just felt really inconsequential, even in the boss fights. It really felt like I was whittling down health bars, and nothing else beyond that. And since that is a lot of the game, combined with the at best okay open world meant I really struggled to maintain interest. And I give it 35 hours, so I feel that was a fair go.

I really should give the game a second go around but I really don’t want to play the first part again. So if anyone reading this has a good video that spoils roughly up to ending C/D (assuming ending C is somewhat similar to ending D) that would be great. But as of right now, Nier: Automata just feels like a really bloated game which could do with a lot of cutting down.

Game that I did like but then unmarked spoilers ruined the whole thing. I mean it’s not that hard to mark spoilers for fuck’s sake. I mean it’s really fucking eas… By which I mean Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

I think Hellblade really benefits from its melding of gameplay and narrative. They complement each other really well. The slight problem I found is when one of these is compromised the whole thing can come down. Once the story came undone, I really didn’t want to play anymore. It felt like the game play needed the story, and with that gone honestly it all felt a little basic. And pushing on after that seemed pointless because I knew the ending. Never read reddit threads while you are playing a game. Even ones about trailers.

Maybe I’ll come back around and finish Hellblade some time. But right now, the thrill is gone.

Game that I absolutely fucking loathe – The Witness

I am fully aware that The Witness isn’t a bad game. It’s a very good game. Great even. But never have I hated my time with a game more. I did my research and I knew what I was getting in to. I thought I could find something resembling enjoyment. The game intrigued me. It turns out I severely underestimated my capacity for line drawing. In the end I lost any urge to solve anymore puzzles. Hell I had been brute forcing puzzles for a good while by drawing enough lines to come up with a solution. I have read of people who found as they solved more and more they felt a sense of enlightenment and knowledge flowing over them. Never once did I feel that. I didn’t for see the game becoming a tedious as it did. I didn’t think I would grow to loathe the puzzles as I did. Along with the environment which is utterly bereft of life. Eventually I just put the game down for the sake of my own happiness and well being.

I got the feeling of knowledge and enlightenment form Bloodborne and Dark Souls though by figuring out the story and deciphering the boss attacks and patterns. That felt full of life, full of soul. The Witness felt devoid of that. At one point I had to grab some head phones and play the Shovel Knight soundtrack to make the whole thing bearable. I really felt like I gave it a go. 250 panels solved and at least 25 hours of game play. I just couldn’t get over the hump with it.

Fair play to you if you do enjoy the game. Please keep enjoying it. I just couldn’t get on board with it.

Surprise of the Year – AER: Memories of Old

This was a rather glorious surprise. Going in I knew it had elements I would like. What I didn’t expect was to love every part of it. The combination of movement mechanics that resembled Rico’s wingsuit in ease of use, and a game world filled with lore and interesting things to find really resonated with me. The protagonist can transform between bird form and human form, even in mid air. It’s pretty great turning into a bird to fly on high and shifting into human form to gain momentum before shifting into a bird again to gain control and fly through the smallest of gaps.

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While not being the biggest or most complex game I still found plenty to see and much to do. For its size (4 – 5 hours) it did everything it needed to.

And falling from a great height, and then transforming and soaring ever higher feels great every time.

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And as an honourable mention for surprise of the year here is Absolute Drift. Clean, simple and pure. Who knew that drifting and drifting alone could be so much fun.

And that’s 2017. There’s a Nintendo Switch coming on Christmas day with is neat, and there are more games to catch up on in the New Year. Thank you for reading and visiting, it’s really appreciated. See you on the flip side.

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What I’ve Been Playing This Week (AKA the From Software appreciation hour)

Dark Souls III: Dex brings the fun back! After the attempted pyromancy run broke down in a heap of anxiety and loathing it honestly feels great. The Sellsword Twinblades have been something else. And now that they have combined with Pontiff’s Right Ring they’ve gone on to even greater things. There’s combo’s to mix and match, with a variety of weapons to match with a lot of them reaching A/S in Dex scaling. Also, a great many of the weapon arts involve spinning around in great big circles and that is never not fun.

It honestly feels like spending ages without washing, and then stepping into a warm shower. And that’s a great feeling. I do want to state again though, the pyromancer save file is still there, and I will return. I’m just not good enough with that style right now and my mind isn’t in the right place to get better at it. But one day I will be. Right now here’s more of the twinblades. God I do love them.

With all of that said, I’m not fond of the drop rate of sharp gems (material used to improve Dex scaling). In fact I find it downright infuriating. There’s also a bunch of weapons that have really rare drop rates as well, and they annoy me as well. In a game that’s about pushing on and discovering new things – spending one hour killing the same dudes over and over again to get something to drop seems at odds with that. I guess this plays into my personal dislike of loot systems in general. But it is something in games I really could do without. Luckily for the most part in Dark Souls and Bloodborne it can be left alone, but if you want to sort out a few weapons it can be troublesome.

Aside from that Dark Souls III is going swimmingly again. And to be honest, I’m just playing a lot of Dark Souls III right now. I am playing other games but not enough to form impressions of them. It’s like when I went mad for Bloodborne.

You how we have BC/AD? Pre-Renaissance/Post- Renaissance? Well my gaming life is now Pre-From Software and Post- From Software. WordPress blogs have an about page, and I figured I’d write down there what I don’t like and what I do like about video games. So that visitors could see my preferences up front. Which reminds me, I still need to do that. But what stood out to me when I was trying to write that list was that everything I liked in video games was something that From Software does well. The way From Software tells its stories was something of a revelation to me. Piecing together the world and the characters within that from lore and environmental details constantly excites me. The characters were something that caught me off guard with how good their story lines are, along with their dialogue and design. It’s truly something that caught me completely off guard in these games.

The midpoint the game worlds occupy between the open world and Metroidvania is something I feel works superlatively. They are big enough to explore and find a great many things yet tight enough to eliminate lots of down time. Combat that is always clean, tight and varied – so many weapons and build options to go around. There’s a good amount of challenge, and that challenge is fair and reasonable. They have left an indelible impact on my gaming habits. One I think will be very long lasting.

There are certain genres and types of games that From Software have crippled for me, if not outright killed. I can only play a new open world game once every four months or so. Playing them back to back just chains the collection busy work together and just kills the game for me. I left Just Cause 3 alone about two months ago and now I’m holding out till Christmas when I get my Switch so Zelda can go through more or less safe. I have a distinct memory of downloading the Tomb Raider demo the day after running around Old Yharnam. There I wandered around, got myself into trouble and got myself out of it. I found things by chance and curiosity, pushing ever deeper despite knowing I was putting my blood echoes in danger. It felt good, and organic. Finding a bonfire after a period of exploration and struggle is still a great feeling.

I’m sure that Tomb Raider is a great game, but the quick time events, button prompts and go down this way directions just killed the game for me. Before Bloodborne and Dark Souls this wouldn’t have been a problem but afterward, just let me walk around and find where I’m going. And if I die, well I’ll go again. It’s also quite probably the reason I haven’t touched the Uncharted series.

It’s almost as if From Software invaded Tomb Raiders world, made friends with it and as Tomb Raider turned to admire its game world From Soft back stabbed it, kicked it off a ledge and ran away cackling into the night. It’s done that to a lot of things.

Even games I enjoyed were subject to this. I really only started enjoying Horizon: Zero Dawn when I stopped running it up against Bloodborne. As much as I liked HZD, Bloodborne was something else entirely.

2017 has meant a lot of things to a lot of gamers. For me personally this is the year I got back in the non handheld console game. And that brought with it the year of From Software. It’s been a pretty great year in gaming for me.

Dark Souls III, the First Character

Everyone has a favourite run of a game. A preferred style, a cherished weapon or just the fun times that where had. But I don’t think anyone forgets the character that made it through the game first. There’s always something special about the first run, and the character that makes it through the challenges. The one see’s the world for the first time. The one who slogs through that 20 attempt boss fight (or in some cases multiple 20 attempt boss fights). That first run has something about it, regardless of quality.

Unfortunately for my first successful Bloodborne hunter Kaneda, a save corruption wiped him out. As an aside, as much as game progress can be recovered, moments can’t. And sometimes, even though these “people” are just pixels, you still miss them sometimes. The things they helped you achieve, and the moments of joy. But now that I always back up my saves in From Software games, my first character in Dark Souls III still remains and I’m going to have a wander through her adventures in Lothric, going through her evolution from beginning to end, through the lens of important boss fights.

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Thora is a warrior from the Northern realms. This is entirely because Eitr wasn’t out yet and I needed to experience Nordic Souls in some way or form. It was going to be a strength build from the get go, looking at using Axes and Hammers. Somewhere along the line she had a fondness for Ultra Greatswords.

Her first major confrontation (as is every ones in DS III) was Iudex Gundyr. Looking back at this fight, many of Thora’s tendencies during the first run are here. The shield is a protection tool rather than a parrying took, and attacks are based around the enemies whiffs and cool downs. That’s all here, with some moments of aggression sprinkled in. At the end I clearly went hell for leather and luckily it worked out, so that Thora could continue her journey (more or less) unscathed.

The next moment in Thora’s development isn’t a boss fight, but an item discovery. Somewhere in the Crucifixion woods is the Twin Dragon Greatshield which is the first great shield found in the game. Great shields aren’t there for the parrying. They are there for blocking. With the right amount of stamina and stamina management they can block for days. Given Thora’s proclivity for blocking, this shield made perfect sense.

This leads into the Abyss Watchers fight. This is the fight were the style that was hinted at in the Iudex Gundyr fight came to fruition. The Abyss Watcher’s were blocked out, and whiffs and cool downs were efficiently punished as the Watcher’s could not break Thora’s guard. Complemented by some smart kiting, the fight only took two attempts. And the fight had a certain poetry to it. The item descriptions point to the fact that the Abyss Watcher’s viewed carrying a shield as a defeat in and of itself. Yet here they were, unable to break the guard of one and eventually falling before it.

This combat style was carried throughout the base game up until the Ringed City (with a revolving cast of weapons) but there were two boss fights that opened up the possibly of using a different combat style. Pontiff Sulyvahn and The Dancer are two bosses that show the dangers of being caught blocking. Both have long combos that drain stamina resulting in either a guard break or no stamina left for counter attacks. Particularly in Sulyvahn’s case there is very little time to punish whiffs or cool downs. He doesn’t bounce off shields much so the whiff option isn’t there, and his cool downs are so small that there isn’t much to punish. The emphasis is on dodging and positioning, and perhaps carrying a weapon two handed for more damage. And if you can parry then that makes Pontiff’s fight that much easier. Thora kept the shield after both of these fights, but there was the thought of leaving shields behind.

However, it took until the first boss fight of the Ringed City for the idea of a fight without a shield to come to fruition. After a great many attempts it was becoming apparent that the shield was nothing more than vestigial against the Demon Prince. It took some courage to drop the shield, being so used to it but Dark Souls will put forward situations that altering a play style necessary and here was Thora, dodging and no blocking, finally slaying the demons three. The shield made a return, but Thora’s path forward was laid out in its entirety in this fight.

It is in the final two fights of the Ringed City that we see the shields final stand and its final rejection. Slave Knight Gael saw the shields final stand, with the Great Shield of Glory effectively stone walling Gael, letting Thora punish his cool downs. That blueprint laid out in the Abyss Watchers fight was executed here perfectly, and represented the pinnacle of early Thora’s play style.

The Darkeater Midir fight features the shield, but it might as well not. The thing is functionally useless in this fight and watching the fight again, it begs to fought two handed. And given it’s the Great Shield of Glory it means Thora’s stamina is coming back slower than normal. It is clear now the shield is merely being held as a crutch, a security blanket. Something that is familiar, and held only for that reason. It’s time for Thora to begin two handing weapons full time. It’s the way forward. I feel the need to mention that the Great Shield of Glory came back to the Soul of Cinder fight, but nothing beyond that.

This is the fight against Sister Friede in NG+. This is the fight that best represents Thora’s current play style. Incidentally I feel this is the best I have every played in a From Software game I (I am a thoroughly okay Dark Souls player at best). We have the weapon being two handed, we have the shield reduced to its passive effects and we have a dedicated strength weapon in hand. It all seems a far cry from that early style of tuttling and only hitting on the cool downs.

So that is Thora. From her humble beginnings as a warrior from the north to the two handed ultra Greatsword/Greataxe/Greathammer user who became the Lord of Hollows. And that’s a pretty neat journey.

Other Ramblings:

Thora’s weapon progression goes as such: Starting battle axe does work up Dragon Slayer Armour. At that point Yhorm’s Great Machete see’s off the Twin Princes, Oceiros, Champion Gundyr and the Nameless King. The Battle Axe returned to finish off Sister Friede in NG. The Dragonslayer Greataxe dealt with the Ringed City and the Soul of Cinder. Coming into NG+ I was enamoured with the Fume Ultra Greatsword, with occasional uses of Havel’s Dragon Tooth. Right now I switch between the Fume Ultra, the Dragon Tooth and the Dragonslayer Greataxe.

Thora’s shield progression: The starting round shield gave way to the Twin Dragon Greatshield early on, and in the Ringed City the Great Shield of Glory took over for a limited time. Now Thora carries the Grass Crest Shield, for the sole reason of upping stamina regeneration.

A confession about Gael: I went into the DLC blind as I could but I had heard of Darkeater Midir who I thought was the actual final boss. So after killing Gael I ran around his arena for a good 20 to 30 minutes trying to find a way out to get to Midir. After finishing the game and doing some reading I finally realised Gael’s brilliance but in the moment, I honestly thought he was just the gate keeper to Midir which if I’m being honest, took away some of the brilliance.

What I’ve Been Playing This Week

Dark Souls III:  I have a comfort zone in From Software games. Melee weapons and comedy oversized weapons have been what I have favoured for the longest time. As such, with my previous build being one of pure strength I decided to embark upon a journey of arcane magic and joyful fun and seek realms beyond the comfort zone. I became I pyromancer.

After playing with the build for roughly about 20 hours, well, mistakes have been made. Okay, I’ll level. The entire run has been a mistake. Barring a few choice moments the whole thing has been a complete and utter shit show. I’m not good at this build. I’ll admit to that. The stat balancing has been way harder than I thought it would be. There have been times before boss fights I have felt a very real sense of anxiety (the sort of I play games to avoid). Improvements have been very incremental, if not negligible. This all reached a peak when during the course of one day I managed to die to the Deacons twice, pushed on through a two hour waking nightmare with the Abyss Watchers (I really don’t know what happened there) and various assorted deaths throughout the game. Actually with the Abyss Watchers when I went back to two handing an ultra great sword and completely abandoned any pyroing (aside from one flash sweat) it only took 5 or so attempts.

(I have no real good footage of the (attempted) pyro run, so there will be other gifs)

So for now I’m abandoning that run. The character file is still there, so I can go back to it when I’m feeling more confident with that style of play. I did manage to one shot Wolnir this time around so that’s a plus point. And there was that co-op against the Great Cursewood Tree. That was pretty good.

I will return to this at some point but good god I felt like absolute shit while playing the game. And I’ve never felt like that in a From software game. Sure, my first run of Bloodborne had some nightmare moments, but I always felt that I could overcome them. That in time Ludwig would fall. That in time and with perseverance the Orphan would be toppled. That at some point Micolash would stop being a complete and utter annoyance. Never once during that pyro run (well, during some early moments of enthusiasm) did I have or feel that confidence. It just never materialised.

I’ve gone onto a Dex run. I’m having a lot of fun with swords in both hands. We’ll see how that progresses. But it’s so far, so good. Bosses have died, and advancements have been made. And spin slashing is jolly good fun.

AER: Memories of Old: After the stress, annoyance and general sadness of the previous experience I went back to AER and flew around the world for a while. It really is such a freeing feeling. I’m also one trophy away from a platinum trophy so I should sort that out at some point.

The flight mechanics here are so fun, enjoyable and controllable that it is really easy to hop back into the game and just fly high above the land, and then dive down just to see things that interest me. Sometimes I just challenge myself to fly through and under arches without hitting things. One of my favourite things to do is to fall off the end of the world and drop through the clouds before transforming into the bird form and soar skywards. That doesn’t get old.

I do like AER so very much.

What gets me to go and out explore in a video game

Exploring in video games is something I am rather fond of. And by rather fond of I mean I love it. One of the first things I’ll do in a video game is to see how far I can wander off, even if the game itself isn’t open to it. But thinking about it more, some games encourage and do exploration better than others. There are certain things that get me to go out and explore a game world. They will vary from person to person, but without further or do, here are the things that get me to look for the road less travelled;

Finding cool things: This doesn’t necessarily mean things that are important to my specific character. As an example my current character is a pure strength build. She possesses no knowledge of magic. Yet after finding one pyromancy tome I sought out all the tomes and scrolls. The lore notes are just a treat to read and give off the glorious feeling of being an archaeologist scouring a fallen civilization for artifacts and knowledge. Also, for further runs I know where to find things. That’s pretty damn great. Another game I really enjoyed for this was Jotun. Going off the road most travelled would like to some more of the games great artwork and very interesting bits of Norse legend and lore. They aren’t necessary to finish the game, but they were so well done I just had to find them. And in AER: Memories of Old there’s a ton of stuff to be found that could freely be ignored in regards to the main story, but it all interested me so much I had to find it. Everything from the skeleton of a giant beast to a little island of crabs. I just really like finding fun stuff in video games.

New Environments and New Enemies: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night does both of these things brilliantly. The variety of enemies is quite frankly enormous (even accounting for the pallet swaps) and the amount of rooms and spaces to explore in Dracula’s Castle left me with the urge to explore the entirety of the building. In some cases I found dead ends with weapons that were objectively inferior to the one I was carrying (you never drop Crissaegrim) but that was of no concern. I wanted to explore the entire castle; I wanted to see everything in it. It is such a well crafted and realised world. Bonus points for things in the distance the player can actually go to. It’s one of the reasons I love the From Software games so much. If I can see it I can explore it. That is so much better than the vast majority of sky boxes in games and in comparison to some open world games, there’s a distinct lack of design bloat.

This is the video that inspired the “in the distance point”. God I do love Yhatzee.

And with new environments come new enemies. It’s fun to learn how to deal with new enemies, and just seeing new designs is in and of itself a worthwhile experience.  As mentioned above, SOTN has an extensive menagerie of critters (practically every mythology gets a look in here). And I’ll never forget getting to Cathedral Ward in Bloodborne and seeing that first Church Giant wandering through an archway. Central Yharnam was pretty far gone now.

Great Transitions: The change from one part of the game to another can be an amazing experience in and of itself. Going back to Dark Souls III, there are two brilliant shifts from one place to another. The first one is upon exiting the Catacombs and gazing upon Irithyll of the Boreal Valley (shout out to the first view of the Smouldering Lake as well). The second on is the leaving behind of Irithyll Dungeon to get to Arch Dragonpeak. They both show the leaving behind of dank, confined spaces that are genuinely oppressive only to arrive in wide open spaces of immense splendour and beauty (particularly the Catacombs to Irithyll – the sight of the city after the Wolnir boss fight in almost pitch black is pretty much perfect). *

Finding out more of the story: This one applies to the From Soft games a lot, and ties in with the finding cool things section. Watching all the environmental details and the lore coming together to reveal truths about the world and the characters in it make pushing on thoroughly satisfying. And then there’s the joy of seeing suspicions confirmed, of being wrong footed in out assumptions or just being surprised. This also often results in characters as well, and that can be pretty damn great. Alfred’s quest line in Bloodborne is a favourite of mine (its conclusion is the best example of raving insanity I’ve seen in a game), and in Dark Souls III I will always bring Karla back to Firelink Shrine.

A sense of a journey well traveled: There’s something about seeing everywhere one has traversed. Seeing the entire map of SOTN fully navigated is something to behold, and be proud of. And then there are the parts of the map that bring forth fond memories. Like that time Crissaegrim rendered a corridor of werewolves and skeleton horsemen asunder. Then there’s the vertical level design of From Software games, letting players see everywhere they have been, and where they are going on to. There’s a moment in Bloodborne where a bridge is visible in the Cathedral Ward. Later on when accessing upper Cathedral Ward we cross that bridge, and then we see everywhere we’ve been down below. It’s a nice reminder of ground covered and challenges over come. While back tracking through Dark Souls III I caught a glimpse again of the view after finishing off Vordt. I’d come a long way since then. There are just nice reminders of how far we have come, and the challenges we have overcome, and the sights we have seen.

*This point was inspired by the Let’s Play series Prepare to Try and a conversation that occurred between the players. If you can find the time, watching PTT is a great experience. With three wonderful hosts and joyful hijinks and the occasional game play moment that will both frustrate and inspire laughter it’s a brilliant series.

What I’ve Been Playing This Week

Dark Souls III: The NG+ run is now in the books. I managed to get the Lord of Hollows ending (very cool) and now I’m hanging around for co-op because I’ve found I really enjoy that. It is nice exchanging gestures, and the feeling of helping someone out it pretty damn good. I also finished Sirris of the Sunless Realms quest line and in the process came across what is quite possibly my favourite suit of armour (Creighton’s set).

One thing I’ve noticed about Dark Souls III (and maybe this is unintentional) is that most rooms where a boss run starts have an abundance of destructible furniture. After a stress inducing series of boss attempts it genuinely feels good to smash apart every bit of furniture in sight. Again, no idea if this is intentional but it’s something that makes me happy regardless.

I am still trying to figure out a new character. At first I really wanted to do something Artorias related but then I found I liked the scythes and their move sets. And then black flame really caught my eye. But I’ve never done a magic build before. Ah the curse of choice. I’ll figure something out. I think.

I’ve also been thinking about Bloodborne again. In comparison to Dark Souls III, I would say Bloodborne has the more powerful highs. But I think Dark Souls III is a more consistently good game. Maybe this is the fatigue of 8 completed runs talking but (spoilers) the return to Yahara’gul honestly just makes me sad. As an area it’s a lot smaller than early impressions let on and it has an utter disappointment of a boss. And then it leads to Mensis and Micolash has just become a waste of time and an annoyance. Dark Souls III doesn’t have an area or boss like that for me. It just seems to be consistently good and has no areas I really want to avoid again.

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AER: Memories of Old: I love this game. I adore this game. But that comes with a caveat. Everything that makes this game great for me can easily be a point of criticism for someone else. But it does seem lots of things I like in video games were put in this one. Which is nice.

On a basic, attempted non-spoilery telling of the premise of the game the world has been broken apart in the aftermath of the great catastrophe(resulting in a land now floating in fragments) and our protagonist must set out in order to bring it all back together.

The story is told through bits of lore scattered around the world, which I will always dig. One thing that is very cool is by using the lantern on various symbols about the world you will reveal phantoms of people passed, and see how various events unfolded in the past. It’s just a really cool story device. There are things of interest to locate in the game world. There’s a reward for finding them but I often found them out of curiosity alone, no reward in mind, which I dig. The world is a little empty, but that just gives me the feeling of hiking alone on a mountain side. That is a feeling I really dig. And then there is the method of traversal in the game. I need to mention a few things here. My favourite part of Just Cause 3 was the wing suit. One of my favourite parts of Gravity Rush was when I finished the game, and I could fly around without a care in the world. With that in mind, let’s continue.

In AER the protagonist can shape shift between human form and bird form. This requires no levelling up. There is no endurance meter accompanying it. Essentially, it functions without limit. And I love it. There is almost an unparalleled sense of freedom when flying. The best thing is just to drop off into the void and fall as long as possible until transforming into the bird and soaring heavenward, breaking through the clouds. It’s a glorious feeling. The bird form also controls very well, being sharp on turns, quick on a straight and just supremely responsive.

When returning to terra forma, the game doesn’t quite work as well but I still get a kick out of it. There are keys to find, along with artefacts. These are located in temples scattered around the game world, which puzzles within them that need solving in order to receive said keys and artefacts. They aren’t the most complex puzzles but they do require some work and thought. A lot of them are platform orientated. I liked them enough, but my dedication to hard core puzzlers isn’t great so the fact I enjoyed these puzzles may decide on how you feel about them.

Visually, the game has a rather simplistic graphic style, but I feel it really works. The world is colourful and bright, and seeing land on the horizon as you soar across the sky is pretty damn great. And the temples really do feel like ancient, abandoned structures with your footsteps being the first in millennia.

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AER: Memories of Old_20171103132018

Also, it’s worth mentioning how objectives and locations are found. Things cannot be marked on a map. You have to pay attention to dialogue and remember directions. I find that to be a nice change of pace from objective markers. And failing that you can just fly and explore by yourself, which I also find to be enjoyable.

The game world isn’t the biggest. You can fly end to end in about 10 minutes. But there’s a lot packed in there to see and find, so that is something I can dig. There are NPC’s to talk to, but not many of them. And one of them is recurring throughout the journey. But I can dig that as well. They fill in the gaps in the lore pretty well. There is also very little threat of death, only really flying to high or low with enter a so called fail state. But you can just continue from there. Again, in a game like this that’s fine by me. Basically I do love this game. But everything I love can easily be disliked by someone else.

But yeah, for me, one of my favourite games this year. And semi-spolier here, but the game ends of an ambiguous note. Maybe it’s going for a sequel. Guess we will have to wait and see on that.