Nintendo’s Dastardly Scheme to Sell more Switch Units: Dark Souls

You ever get mad at a game and throw your controller? I bet you have. We’ve all done it once or twice. Well, i think i just figured out Nintendo’s plan in increase revenue for the foreseeable future: Dark Souls. With the announcement that the incredibly difficult game will be coming to Nintendo’s portable system, i can only imagination they are hoping people are going to throw the entire thing at a wall when playing in portable mode, forcing them to buy a new Switch console after every few bosses. It’s just the kind of evil genius we should have expected from the company that first leaned to weaponize nostalgia.

Okay, before Nintendo sues me into oblivion, no i don’t really think that’s their plan. But that headline was too good not to use and you know, you just know, that story’s like that will start popping up right after release. But if i’m being completely honest, i’m okay with this but i don’t really see the point as much as i do with other ports the Switch has been getting lately. The games that have done the best are the ones you can play portable, and i don’t think that’s true for Dark Souls. Boss fights can last for a while, and simply getting to them can take just as long. That kind of extended play session runs counter to the reasons portable gaming is a thing. I’ll be the first to say i could be wrong here, hell i’ll even go so far as to say i hope i am. But for right now that thought is hard to get rid of. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in a few months.

Dark Souls Trilogy Box Set Announced. In other news, Heaven is Real

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Something something ports of last gen games are bad something something….look, i’m biased here, ok. Dark Souls in my all time favorite game and this is a simply stunning collection. A Remastered Dark Souls 1, along with the other two games in the franchise, 6 CD set of the soundtrack, plus bookends art work and an item encyclopedia….yeah, i’m into it ok. What i’m not into is the saddening $450 price tag and the fact that this has only been announced in Japan for the moment. So even if i could afford it, there’s no grantee it’ll even be available to me. However, i’d be lying if i said i expect this to stay only in Japan. Dark Souls began life as a niche title for hardcore games who wanted a little more bite in their games, and then became a worldwide sensation. Simply look at how often Dark Souls is used as a point of comparison (for good or ill) and it’s hard not to say it’s the most influential game of the last generation. As such i’m sure From Software is going to ring as much as they can out of the franchise while they can. And so long as they are providing material as extravagant as this, i’m ok with that.

Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City DLC Trailer and Impressions

I have a confession to make. For as much as i love the SoulsBorne games, i have never played any of the DLC. At all. Not once. Part of that is because i’m a cheap bastard and don’t want to spend money i don’t have to. But another part is that…well….i’ve never felt the need too get the DLC. I’m not against the DLC or anything, but with how much i miss each play through, i don’t see how adding more content (content i have to find in order to make use of nonetheless) is going to do much to make the experience any better. Dark Souls 3 is different. While there still was a ton i missed after my two back-to-back playthroughs, it was mostly in the realm of rings and spells. I don’t care as much about those as i do the bosses and areas. In two playthroughs i had beaten every boss and in one more i would have gotten every boss weapon. Hell, i even completed at least half the side quest at least once, which i never did before.

Because of all that, my inability to get the new content for Dark Souls 3 really does feel like a wasted opportunity. Even though this looks like more of the same Dark Souls 3 i played back in April, that just means more Dark Souls 3 to play. Maybe that should means Dark Souls 3 was too thin for its own good, but for me it just means i have yet another reasion to cry over how empty my wallet is.

Dark Souls: The Board Games Boss Demo and Impressions

When i first heard about the Dark Souls board game was skeptical whether or not the people making the game could translate the Dark Souls experience properly. After seeing this demo, i have to say i’m pretty impressed. I think the best part was how they handled pattern recognition, which is such an important part of the games boss encounters. If nothing else this shows an awe inspiring amount of creativity that i personally think pairs well with the source material. I have to be honest, this has me wishing i had friends to play this with. I really thought this was going to be dumb, but i’m pretty well won over at this point.

Lab Noted #6: Dark Souls, Dark Metal and Dark Thoughts

I’ve beaten Dark Souls 3!!!! That’s the big news for this week. For the last few days i’ve been going through in New Game Plus doing co-op, so if you’re playing on PS4 and meet a guy dressed as “Solaire” named Atlus, that’s me!!!! Feel free to have me help out in a boss fight. Also, if you see a message next to a bonfire pointing out that it is indeed a bonfire. Something about the sarcastic yet unharmful nature of the joke has been giving me a kick lately. And for the most part, I still agree with everything in my review: mechanically it’s the best game to date, but I’m just not into the overly linear nature of the world design. There are a few branching paths, but by the time most of the shortcuts have opened up I found I didn’t need them much. Once I finish this run I’m going to finish up Metal Ger Solid 5 for review before finishing Bloodbourn.

And Speaking of Dark Souls, I think I found my new favorite band: Soulmass. These guys are a Florida Death Metal band who’s music is all bassed on Dark Souls lore. And they fucking slay. While i’ve always liked death metla, i’ve always favored the genres more melodic output like Amon Amarth and Dark Tranquility or it’s Doomier side with bands like My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost or Novembers Doom. It’s been a long, long time seine a pure death metal band has really done much for me. But god damn Soulmass is great. If you like metal and dark souls, give them a listen.

I’ve also got to editorials in the works, one about game length, the other about accessibility. I’m hoping to get one up by next week, as well as the MGS5 review, but that may not happen as MGS5 is stupid long. I’m already in the second half and I can tell you I’d probably be done if so many missions weren’t repeated.

I’m also half way through this quarter at school, and in 6 more weeks i’ll be halfway through community college before, hopefully, moving on to a university. And things have been going rather well too. I passed two of my midterms with an 80% and my grades have yet to drop below a 70%. I’ve been doing so well in fact that when I look back at my first three quarters of school, back in 2013 I feel kind of embarrassed I was having such a hard time with everything. I do still wish things would calm down a little so I was able to post more through out the week, and once summer comes i’ll be strapped for cash, but in fairness I’d rather get the school work done first. But as time goes on i’ve been getting kind of worried to tell you the truth. If I can just keep on top of my school work load and post only a few times a week, how bad will things be next year, or once I transfer? I want to believe this is me freaking out over nothing, but at the same time I can’t help but feel like a screw up already and often find myself thinking I should just quite now.

Well, that’s all for this week, hope things are better next time.

Nioh Alpha Demo Impressions

I’ve been saying for a while now that i’ve wanted to see a Dark Souls like game set in a non western setting, so when I heard about Team Ninjas “Samurai Souls” game Nioh I was interested right from the start. After spending a few hours with the Alpha Demo, I’m reasonably happy with it. Although there are a few ideas I hope either change or get nerffed altogether, I enjoyed most of my time with the game even though i’ve never been much of a fan of Team Ninja’s other work.

Unfortunately the demo didn’t start off on it’s best foot. Nioh seems to be taking Dark Souls’ lack of sign posting to a simply ludicrous degree. Upon starting the game I fought another players phantom thinking it was a tutorial enemy. It took me way too long to figure out that wasn’t the case. It also took too long to figure out the games controls. I’ll admit that it’s been a while since i’ve played an action game where you primarily use the face buttons to attack so maybe it was my fault my first few deaths were due to me doing nothing but running around like an idiot, but I still feel like there should have been something there to teach players how to not die. Another thing that needs a change is the number of one or two hit kills enemies have. Even as I was gearing up to fight the boss at the end of the demo basic enemies could still kill me in no time. Not even in the Dark Souls way were you have to pay attention or risk death, I was literally getting killed in one hit from the first few foes even after a few hours in. This is bullshit. There’s really no other way too put it. But as much as that pissed me off, once I got use to how the game played, I rather enjoyed myself.

New weapons and armor drop rather frequently, pushing the player to switch between Swords, Axes, Spears and Hammers often. On top of that there are three different stances with light and heavy attack that change damage output, stamina usage and attack speed. While there are wet-stones that can repair weapon durability, I hardly found myself using them. The constant switching of weapons, armor and stances kept the combat interesting as I could never quite get comfortable with my current equipment.

Enemy encounters play out in ruffly the same way as they do in dark souls: you want to draw out enemies and fight them one on one as groups can easily overwhelm you. However, there are too many times when the game forces you into fighting multiple opponents at once. With only a limited block that’s easy for groups to flank around and a dash as your only defensive options, these encounters become increasingly more frustrating. Luckily the combat itself was rather enjoyable once I had a real understanding of how to play the game. Just like you the AI enemies all have a visible stamina meter under their health that you can use to your advantage, just like they can do to you. When stamina runs out you and the enemies have a short period where you can’t move as you recover. If you hit the enemy with a heavy attack you can do what amounts to a visceral attack that does massive damage. Be careful though, as your enemies will also pull this trick should your stamina deplete.

As you progress you also unlock new skills for each weapon as well as magic abilities and secondary throwing items. The weapon skills add something of a combo system to the combat, making the game play more like a mix between Dark Souls and Ninja Gaiden had Ninja Gaiden not been a pile of wank. Magic abilities so far are more like limited use Resins, but I found them rather useful, even if a little cumbersome to use. Once you unlock the ability to use magic, bombs or shurikens you then have to go back to a shrine (the games version of a bonfire) and equip it. And should you upgrade these skills to give yourself a higher allotment, you then have to go back and make sure the upgraded skill is equipped. For skills with divergent upgrade paths, like adding poison or fire to shurikens this makes some sense, but why on earth would I not want more earth or fire magic as soon as I upgrade it?

As dumb as this may sound, those shrines are possibly my favorite change from Dark Souls. Not only can you do the usual stuff like level up and attune magic, but there are a few new ideas that I really enjoyed. Scattered throughout the game world are lost deities that you can send back to the shrine for in game bonuses to choose from. You also have the option to change your “guardian spirit”, but I couldn’t figure out what exactly that did so I choice not to mess with it. But the best part of the shrine was the “make an offering” option. Here you can sell old or useless equipment for the currency used to level up (I never did learn what that was called), but you also get gifts regularly as well. So while only 3 life restoring Elixir are replenished after death, I had a full stash of 10 for most of my play time after selling junk I wasn’t going to use, whist keeping competitive equipment on reserve for when my current stuff began to break, then I’d sell that off and the cycle began anew.

As of right now, not everything the game has to show for itself works in its favor, but I had fun and with a few tweaks I can see this becoming the first real Souls-like competitor to really rival From Software’s beloved series.

Dark Souls 3 Review/First Impressions

By William Shelton

Release Date: April 12, 2016

Systems: PS4(Reviewed), Xbox One, PC

Developer: From Software

Publisher: Bandai Namco

Rating: M

Obtained By: Purchased

I’ve never thought that reviewers had some kind of obligation to beat a game before reviewing it, but I’ve always liked to be at least approaching the end before reviewing. Here however I didn’t even make the attempt. In 13 hours i’ve gotten so far as the first Major Boss and i’ve got 3 or so more to go before the games over. Meaning I’m expecting at least another 39 hours of play time to go. So i’ll just do the review now, and should anything really change my opinion in the hours to come, i’ll do a revised review.

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Dark Souls 3 does not break the franchise mold of withholding major story details from the player. The game opens with a brief explanation: the Lords of Cinder have forsaken their thrones and as an undead it is your job to return them to their rightful place so they may rekindle the flames once more. If you want more than that you have two choices: read every item description or find lore videos on youtube. While that’s unnecessary to enjoy the game, I’m personally looking forward to the lore break downs because the story that’s here is quite interesting once you get into it. And that’s one of From Software’s greatest story telling strengths: the story is as deep as you want it too be, but is never a barrier to enjoyment.

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Also not quite the barrier to entry this time around: the difficulty. The game still lives up to it’s name, and is definitely not “easy”, but for the first time in the franchises history I think they got the difficulty curve just right. Within minutes you’re at the games first boss and he serves as a pretty concise tutorial of what the game is expecting, and what it will be throwing at you. Like with Bloodborne you can’t progress and level up until you’ve beaten the first boss, but he’s close to a bonfire so you don’t have to spend too long between facing him should he kill you, and as monstrous as his second form is, you learn fast that you have to get in close and attack. The next boss (which can be found not too long after the first) reinforces this idea while increasing up the difficulty back to those classic Dark Souls levels. All of this combined makes this the most accessible of the franchise without the game ever having to lower it’s standard difficulty.

Also helping matters is the improved feel of combat which is closer in speed to Bloodborne than the original Dark Souls while still retaining the Dark Souls identity. You can’t be as hyper aggressive as Bloodborne wanted you to be and you still have to commit to each action, be it blocking rolling or attacking, but I found that I was getting into and out of scraps a lot faster than in previous entries in the franchise. Creature design is much improved over the underwhelming Dark Souls 2. Each boss (and even some regular enemies as well) has two forms that change the battle in interesting ways and even the common foes begin to move away from “common knight” or “hollowed zombie” after the first few areas (although they haven’t left entirely in my time with the game).

this asshole

But there is one aspect of the game I just do not care for: the level design. Exploration is still rewarded, but it’s overall too straightforward in my opinion. I was hoping they’d go back to the Metroidvania style world from Dark Souls 1, but I would have dealt with the spoke layout of Dark Souls 2. Instead all you really have to do is keep moving forward and you’ll eventually get to the next area. In my time with the game I missed the feeling of praying for a dead end so I could start exploring one of the other dozen of paths I found along the way. As much as the level design bothered me, the levels do impress visually. This game is damn beautiful. Even when the game is filled with death and decay, there’s a beauty in it’s morbidity. I remember hearing something about how creative director Hidetaka Miyazaki wanted to make sure the creature design had a certain dignity to them and not move too far into “gross out” territory, and you can really see that idea throughout the game. The music is also pretty damn good too, even if it’s relegated to boss fights. The absence of music is never an issue, as it helps establish the tone of sole crushing isolation. It’s just you, the sound of steel hitting steel and the screams of either your fallen foes or your own woeful death rattles.

lord of cinder

Even having only beaten one major boss, I’m looking forward to playing more. The only real question I have is once I’m done, will I start a New Game Plus or start a new character? While I still think the first game is the best in the franchise, this is a close second.

Story: 8/10

Game Play: 9.5/10

Music/Sound: 8/10

Visuals: 9/10

Replay Value: 9/10

Reviewers Tilt: 9.5/10

Overall Score: 8.63/10