This is my Blog, on it I simply write stuff that I feel like writing about. You'll find it heavily slanted towards tech, games, entertainment and the like. I write about other stuff too, and somethings I write about things. I also do photography, the link is on your right.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Dark souls (Or maybe light grey-ish Souls)


So I bought darks souls for PS3 about 3 months ago.  Ever since then it’s been sitting on my desk.  A looming danger, like a school-yard bully just waiting for the perfect opportunity to beat me up and take my lunch money.  All this time it’s been sitting there, and I hadn’t the nerve to played it.

I need to back up a bit.  You have to understand that I have some weird, possibly unhealthy fascination with this game.  There’s just something about it that keeps drawing me toward it.  I must have watched at least half a dozen let’s play’s of it on Youtube.  I’ve seen ultra skilled masters of the game, who make it look like they might be playing a Disney princess game instead of one of the most punishingly difficult games around.  I’ve also seen newbies, fighting tooth and nail for every single inch of progress they make.  What is it about this damn game?

I though about this a lot, and I think I have it.  This game simply does not give a single fuck about the player.  It doesn’t go out of it’s way to ease you into the game, doesn’t have difficulty settings, it doesn’t give you direction.

It uses unconventional controls, that force you to unlearn every convention that has been ground into players for years.  Everyone knows for action games the face buttons do the important stuff like attack, jump, shoot and the like.  The shoulder buttons are usually for secondary things, switch weapons or targets, lean, special abilities, that sort of thing.  Not Dark souls.  Now don’t get me wrong, the controls make sense, left triggers for you left hand, right triggers for your right hand, face buttons for everything else, roll, use item, switch stance.  For me, that was the first biggest hurdle.

There is a sort of tutorial at the beginning of the game, it teaches you a few of the basics, how to attack, block, and dodge.  It also teaches you how to die.  Dying is probably the single most important aspect of the game, you will die, a lot, and it will all be your fault.  There is no cheap deaths, if you die, it’s because of your lack of skill, not bad game design.  I died five times in the tutorial.  If you stick with it you will get better, and the sense of accomplishment is acute.

After the tutorial, you basically get plopped down right in the middle of this seamless, expansive and above all, dangerous world.  So, there you are, sword in one hand, shield in the other.  What do I do now?  Well, you go explore.  It doesn’t hold your hand, saying ok, now go here and pick up the treasure.  It say, “fuck you, figure it out.”  You go someplace that’s too tough for you right now?  Well, then you die, but you’ve learned a little bit about the game, try a different area.

dark souls hydra
Yes, you actually have to fight thing, and yes, it wants to kill your face.
The game also has no artificial limitations.  Most games, there are so many things that aren’t allowed.  You can’t kill the smarmy NPC who annoys you, he’s needed for the story.  Not so in Dark Souls.  If it moves, you can probably kill it.  If you kill an NPC, well, then he’s gone, game moves forward, and changes accordingly.  You kill a vendor that had a spell you wanted to buy?  Well, guess you’ll never have that spell, move on.  You can’t save and re-load if things don’t go according to plan.  The game continues to save, constantly.  Everything you do is permanent.  The world is yours in this game, granted, it’s a cold, violent, brutal, uncaring world, but it’s yours none the less. 

There is no right or wrong way to play it, but there is a LOT of ways to play it.
I’m aware that this game isn't entirely unique, the company that made this game, FROM software, released a game a few years before this one call Demon’s Soul.  In many ways, Dark’s souls is a sort of spiritual successor.  What blew my mind though, is that Demon’s soul isn't the first either.  One of the other reasons that this game draws me in is because it reminded me of something.  Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  Then it hit me.  There was a series of little know RPG’s that were released on the PS, and the PS2, years and years ago.  They were the King’s Field games.  They too, were ball-bustlingly hard.  They too had seamless non-linear environments.  They too had creepy NPC’s found in the most unlikely of places.  They too most certainly didn’t give a fuck about you, the dear player.  Lastly, after doing a little investigating, I found that they too were made by FROM Software.

This is the FIRST boss in the game (not counting the tutorial boss)

All this time, FROM software has been quietly sitting, waiting, scheming, perfecting their stellar, yet punishing game design.  Getting ready to unleash the madness to the unsuspecting gaming public.
So, I finally manned up, and started to play it.  It’s rare when a game can continually feed you a real sense of accomplishment.  Every encounter, no matter how trivial, I treat like a boss battle.  Even the lowliest critters in the game can and will kill you, but only if you let them.  Keep your guard up, be wary, think clearly, be patient, and learn from your mistakes.  If you do this, you will have a great time.  Treat the game flippantly, try to just breeze along, the game will stab you right in the dink.



Thursday, 8 November 2012

New Game Round-up

Well, it’s that time of year again.  The time when all the major game publishers start to poop out all of their AAA big budget titles for the upcoming Christmas shopping orgy.  I though I’d select a few choice morsels and dissect them right in from of you, spill out their gooey insides for all the world to gawk at in amazement.  Keep in mind the following opinions are just that, my ill-informed highly unprofessional, and possibly juvenile opinions.  Well, this train isn’t going to wreck itself, so let’s get started.
There have been many travesties masquerading as x-com games over the years, some have been unleashed mercilessly on the public, some have been shit canned before completion, all have been horrible.  In X-coms case, I would say that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but that didn’t happen.  For 18 years now x-com has been fucked with and mess around with to the point I never though this day would come.  Yet here we are, a game modeled almost exactly after the original, fully modernized.  Of course “modernized” is usually a euphemism for “dumbed down.”  X-com mostly escapes this curse, mostly.  The new control scheme is easy to pick up and play, and is adapted to work with a controller.  The base building segments are fun and flow nicely, but there are a few annoyances.  New recruits come completely unskilled, they can basically shoot, and throw a grenade.  As soon as they level up once, they are assigned a class, and it’s random!  Just by sheer luck of the draw, you could unwittingly end up with a whole army of snipers with little or no heavy’s, scouts, or assaults.  You need some of everything if you want to not die.  Second, you can’t shoot unless you have an alien in sight.  Now that may not sound like big deal, but what if I wanted to shoot a gas pump, causing an explosion that might give me an edge?  It strips away a layer of strategy for no discernable reason.  Lastly, when you get a shot, the game always calculates the percent chance of hit, but, and I might be wrong about this, I don’t think that percent chance includes the evasion skill of the enemy.  So if the games says you have 50% chance to hit an enemy, it’s more like 40%, and if that enemy is an advanced one, possibly less, 35% or lower.  Add this to the fact that the game is punishingly hard, there are most assuredly going to be frustrating moments, like your star soldier whiffing on a 97% chance to hit, then getting his face melted off.  The sense of achievement you get from winning is an almost perfect counterpoint to this though, well played Firaxis.
Ten years ago, Halo was a launch title for the Xbox-not-360.  The aftershock of the impact this had on the console gaming world is still being felt today.  People had never seen anything quite like it, and clung tenaciously to their comically oversized controllers, finally getting a taste of what PC gamers had been enjoying for years.  I picked up Halo for PC, I played it, I finished it, I really enjoyed it.  Aside from some tedious backtracking, it was an extremely well crafted game.  There’s very little I didn’t like about it.  After it was done, I felt a sense of closure, I didn’t really feel like the story needed anything else.  I’m not a huge fan of making sequels just for the sake of making them.  I love unique IP’s, and wish game developers would take more chances.  All the Halo’s since the first one have been safe and secure games, cash cows if you will.  I am however, going to begrudgingly give Halo 4 some deserved respect.  Considering that this is the first full Halo game that 343 industries has made, they did an amazing job.  Bungie couldn’t have done it better.  The game looks, and feels very much like it’s predecessors, and it is absolutely drop dead gorgeous.  It’s amazing that developers are still managing to squeeze new things out of aging consoles.  If you are a big fan of all the others, Halo 4 will deliver the goods. If you are looking for something fresh, keep looking.  Much like the end of the last segment, I cap if off with a salute to the developer, well played 343.
All I could think about when this game was first debuted last year was, “I can’t wait to tomawk somebody right in the fucking face!”  I was so excited, it’s gonna be like last of the Mohicans, only in a game.  Now I understand that it’s a pretty long and winding narrative path to somehow shoehorn Conner into the AC universe, but this is fucking ridiculous.  When you are five chapters into the game and you still have yet to see that signature white hooded Assassins cloak, you know Ubisoft is doing it wrong.  I feel like every Character in the game should be wearing a Scumbag Steve hat.  I like the hunting aspect of the game, if only because it fits.  I mean, If you are a native American death machine romping through the forest, you’re going to stab a bear or two in the neck, there’s no way around this.  What would be the perfect compliment to that type of gameplay?  I know, navel battles!  What. The. Fuck.  I wanted to like this game so bad, but it just didn’t want to be my friend.  To end this on a positive note, Ubisoft continues to blow my ass away with it’s game engine.  Everything looks fantastic, scenery, characters, sound effects, and animation.  Anyone who’s tried to run in deep snow knows they nailed that run animation for those parts.  Probably helps that they are Canadian developers, and that’s how they get to work everyday.  Running though deep snow with a rabid grizzly hot on their heels.
Oh my goodness!  I was pretty sure the glut of Lego games had worn out their welcome a long time ago.  Then along comes a gem like this.  Of all the LOTR games that have been released over the years, this is by far the coolest one I have ever seen.  All the dialog is ripped directly from the movie, so the voices are authentic.  Take the serious dialog, and blend it with the trademark slapstick humour style of the Lego games, and you’d think it would be a mess.  You’d be wrong.  Somehow, it meshes perfectly, and it’s delightful.  It’s funny, fun, looks great, and feels great.  I could easily recommend this game to anyone, young or old, based solely on the demo.  Also it’s co-op, double your fun kids!
There you go, a completely unhelpful, quick little snapshot of the games that will be occupying millions of gamers consoles this season.  In the immortal words of Wayne Campbell: “Game on!”
As a close, I’d like to make a special mention of two more big games this season.  That would be Need For Speed: Most wanted and Call of Duty: Black ops II.  Go fuck your respective selves EA and Activsion.