Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bloodborne Day One Impressions

And the day has finally come! The fifth game in the Souls series, continuing on from Lords of the Fallen. This wasn’t necessarily a game that I had the highest of expectations for, other than it being good but it’s actually turned out pretty well so far. The game doesn’t leave a particularly strong first impression as you quickly discover that you can’t level up immediately and wonder as to why. A safe assumption is that killing the first boss will get you to magical level up land, but that’s not it either. Nope, at least for the majority of players dying to the first boss is what will give you the capacity to level up.

That is the game obfuscates the levelling system just to say fuck you and then when you have the capacity to level it says “hahaha dumbass, you don’t have any souls.” A lot of people accuse the Souls series of being unfair and for the most part that’s not true, but in this case it really is just being a dick for no reason. Another big mechanical thing is that locking on changes your dodges to strafes which behave completely differently than your traditional Souls roll (which is what you get when you’re not locked on). The strafing is okay in some circumstances but in general the roll is superior, thus locking on is gimping yourself in a fair number of fights, and not just because of the camera like usual. “You want to lock on? Okay then, now you can’t dodge, have fun dumbass, hahahaha.”

So, the game has some problems but it’s still a fun and interesting Soulsish experience. The first few areas seem to be a lot more linear than Dark Souls or Dark Souls II, you can explore in various directions but they all kind of go to the same places. I’m not sure if this changes later on (one would assume it does) but the game feels more like Lords of the Fallen did, which is to say you’re exploring a small environment instead of a large one.

Of course a major redeeming factor here is that there’s randomly generated dungeons, I’m not sure how random they are nor if all of them are random (there’s several different kinds) but they’re very interesting and have a different set of enemies than you find in the main game and bosses galore. I’m definitely extremely underleveled for the current boss I’m fighting in my level 3 Chalice but it’s kind of fun just knowing I have a shot at beating him.

Because there’s no shields in the game Stamina is no longer immensely overpowered. I’m sure it is still quite useful but most enemies don’t have particularly long openings for you to attack them, thus the traditional spam R1 strategy has fallen by the wayside in favor of slightly more frenetic action in which the enemies attack much faster and you… don’t really. For some reason it still works, just the pace and number of enemies you have to fight is a bit higher than what you might be used to.

Spoilers abound ahead:

To start with I died on my first character to what I assumed was a tutorial “boss” and it immediately teleported me to another area. Not to be dissuaded I made another character and bypassed that enemy, only to find out it didn’t matter at all. I didn’t die with the new character for about an hour, but randomly my PS4 went to the dashboard midfight and so ended the streak. This made me not care too much about dying for a while so I had a fair number shortly thereafter, losing a fair amount of souls in the process. Of course I had no idea what to use the souls on other than weapon upgrades since there wasn’t a way to level yet.

Eventually I made my way to every new player’s two best friends, a couple of giant wolf men (hereafter referred to as wolves); I like to call these guys Fuck You and Fuck You Too. The wolves aren’t too bad if you’re soloing them one at a time but for a fresh character they just completely annihilate you in a group and it’s fairly inconsistent luring one out at a time. Lo’ I discovered a masterful method to deal with this situation!

Yes that’s right, don’t even bother fighting them; you’ll need enough endurance to fight either the very difficult “first” boss or the not especially difficult “second.” This game also seems to have extremely long walkbacks for most fights (outside of the magnificent Chalice dungeons), which is pretty annoying in general. In Demon’s Souls usually you had a bunch of shortcuts to make it quicker but usually the shortcuts in this game just make a really long walk into a pretty long walk instead. I don’t mind a handful of long walkbacks per game but if there’s another 15-20 in store that’s going to be rough.

After I beat the first boss (who might as well be the Vanguard Demon from Demon’s Souls in difficulty level) I straight up had no idea where to go, having exhausted what I thought were all my options. Thus I was about to use the magical mini guide pages I got for pre ordering for some reason, but I had a better idea, which was to summon assistance. One gigantic, amazing, game of the year improvement this game has over Dark Souls II is that the online actually works at my house!
Wow. So I summoned a buddy into the area where the first boss was already dead, baffled my newfound companion slowly followed me around as I eventually meandered my way to finding the correct path (oh but it was down this nebulous identical pathway!). Another summon joined us and we went on to fight the second boss. Wait a minute fuck that shit, I quit to the main menu midfight. To summon help in this game you ring a bell and it costs you 1 influence (I believe you get 3 for killing each boss and 1 for discovering each boss), but in turn I’m pretty sure you can just get infinite summons until you die or kill the boss; which is neat.

The second boss actually got me once on my brute forcing attempt, then I parried the shit out of him and he went down pretty quick. Near the beginning of the game you get to choose a weapon and a gun for yourself, so naturally I went down the Axe and Shotgun route. And of course this boss had the exact same weapon layout demonstrating my deep understanding of the Souls series. After this I was finally “locked in” as it were and didn’t die for quite a while.

Each area in Bloodborne is reasonably sizable to this point and the next area is no exception. Descending into “Old Yarnham” is actually fairly refreshing after having cramped quarters for most of the first parts of the game. Now you get a large, vertical and expansive section in which you have to take cover from a gatling gun. Fret not, it isn’t as bad as it sounds and there’s creative ways of dealing with the enemies in this area. One thing to note is that this area has “Crystal Lizards” which are now basically just regular ass enemies that run away and disappear; they don’t sparkle or make a sound effect and often tend to lead you toward hidden pathways. This area is probably the first point where I just started enjoying myself immensely and adjusted to the new systems (other than parrying) more effectively.

The boss of this area was fairly easy, until it reached its enraging point and completely murdered me a few times. I wouldn’t mind if the rest of the fight was the same difficulty level but it really forces you to backload your resource management which can get pretty annoying. “Gold Pine Resin” as it were makes an appearance here and naturally if you take too many attempts you lose that potential advantage. After this I received a Chalice, aka the reason why this game is great.

I took a short break but was quickly enthralled by the wonderful design of these smaller, bite sized areas that still had challenging sections and potentially very difficult boss fights (perhaps I’m a little low level to be doing this). The layout of the rooms is very similar to something like The Binding of Isaac, perhaps showing some direct roguelike influence; but the rooms have quite varied enemies and much different hazards than the rest of the game to this point. Don’t worry too much about overlevelling here, just have fun exploring as you won’t get a ton of souls so doing, instead you’ll get more chalice materials and upgrade materials. At some point I’m sure most players will reach a brick wall in terms of progression and have to continue with the main game, but Chalice Dungeons seem like they’re a fantastic diversion.

I don’t mean to sound overly down on the game, it’s really good but things like having to farm for items and 2 loading screens for fast travel (I don’t care that much about the times in and of themselves) are a bit of a bummer. One thing to note is that you should absolutely try to write good or humorous messages as you get healed when your messages get a “fine” vote, which can be a really huge deal if you’re low on healing or even if you’re conserving healing for a future fight.

Death Count:

Wolf – 1
Random Dashboard – 1
Wolf Guy – 1
Generic  Guys – 1
Spazzy Guy - 1
Black Knight Equivalent - 2
Cleric Beast – 3
Father Gascoigne – 1
Blood Starved Beast – 4
Chalice Floor 1 – 5
Chalice Floor 2 – 5
Chalice Floor 3 - 7

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Diablo 3 Gem of Ease Powerlevelling

With patch 2.1.2 D3 released a few new legendary gems, the most interesting being Gem of Ease naturally. At first glance it looks interesting enough but eventually you realize that you socket it into weapons not jewelry, so effectively as long as you can get it to 25 you’ve got a 5 minute trip to level 40 with any class. The process of getting a gem to level 25 is pretty difficult, have to do around 8 Greater Rifts and at least the last few have to be in the mid to high 20s which is significantly more difficult than Torment VI; probably not a huge deal for people that have been playing forever but I did it on hardcore with a fresh character so a bit more interesting.

Somehow or other I got really lucky with my fresh character and could really murder even those high torment rifts, so I quickly got the gem up to level 25. Immediately I made a Demon Hunter and got to level 20 in a couple minutes… and then died. Turns out even with a comical amount of health the Torment VI regular ass zombies hit really hard. This was just comic gold to me despite the amount of time lost. Also the “Hall of the Fallen” has a rather amusing addition:

Not to be deterred I quickly started re-levelling another gem and got it up to 22. In the higher Grifts you can try to turtle up but the amount of damage that goes out is generally too much even for an extremely tanky character (there are builds that can tank it but they do literally no damage) so I figured I’d be safer with a powerful build and did reasonably well up to around 29. At 29 I had a few close calls but for whatever reason I didn’t revert to turtle mode and eventually got frozen/desecrator/thunderstorm/jailer or something and died. God rest her soul:

For whatever reason I did not just give up at this point, death is inevitable in Greater Rifts on Hardcore and most of the better Greater Rift players have at least a few backup characters with that in mind. So I set about leveling with the merely level 22 Gem which did not let me use level 70 weapons at level 1. Still it only took like 4.5 hours to get back up to 70 and the first character was so damn lucky that I had a whole backup set of gear for the next one that immediately put me back in Grift 26-27 range (instead of 29-31, admittedly a rather large gap in difficulty). Finally I finished the second gem and set about levelling with new insights in mind.

The main thing to note is that you need both vitality and your primary stat of choice (Dex/Int/Strength) on whatever weapon you plan to use. Generally a 2 hander is better which does actually make DH the “weakest” for once since you don’t have a ridiculous quiver or anything yet. For my first attempt I did not have dexterity so stuff actually took a little while to die which is not what you want before around level 45ish. Marvel at how slow the skill unlock screen goes:

For this second character I decided to go to the main powerlevelling area of choice immediately instead of continuing on the Torment VI route, perhaps a mistake but here’s the “slow” version of the 27-36 grind:

Eventually I decided to just do the first area at Torment VI some more on sequential characters, dangerous perhaps but also much faster. At level 41 I had an Aughild’s Authority ready to go with a Royal Ruby in it and used that across multiple characters, eventually this got upgraded at least for strength characters by an unbelievably lucky drop in the form of a Mempo.

Around level 50 the Torment VI killing speed is very slow on most characters (though for something like a Witch Doctor your cooldowns reset every time you level so you basically have infinite fetish army/big bad voodoo), so I tend to put it down to Torment IV until level 55. At 55 I had another marvelous item ready, a Leoric’s Crown with a perfect 100% roll, which sadly took around 250 rerolls to get to “Level requirement reduced by 15.” I also eventually had a Leoric’s signet for another 21% bonus experience, all of this stacking multiplicatively with the Gem of Ease’s innate +1750 experience per kill.

Around now the other powerlevelling method is much faster so I just do a string of Cursed Chapel bounty runs at Master difficulty. Why Master when you’ve just been doing Torment IV-VI? Well firstly Silver Spire 2 is probably the hardest fixed action RPG level ever and even in its presently neutered state it can be quite brutal (playing on console helps, you can actually quit the game before you die horribly!). Aside from that killing speed is what matters the most and even with all the bonuses higher Torments just take too damn long at higher level ranges.

All in all it takes about 1.5-2 hours to reach level 70, I’m sure you could do it faster depending on how familiar you are with the class and so on. Obviously this still isn’t as fast as just getting beefed up by your Torment VI level 70 buddies but for a solo experience it’s quite ridiculous and really that first 5 minutes to level 35-40 is extremely entertaining. I’m still not close to  500 bounties despite all this but I’ll probably just keep making characters until I’m at the limit because why the hell not? Here’s an appropriately quick monk run:

If you want to see the other classes (of which I’m only competent with a few) here’s Witch Doctor, Crusader, Barbarian, and Wizard. D3 still has some fun stuff to do in it despite all the various flaws that are well documented and I’m still pretty excited for Season 2 in a week, though it’s doubtful I’ll be as lucky as I was with my first character this time around.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ni No Kuni

Ni No Kuni is a fantastic game and probably the best thing Level 5 has produced since Dragon Quest VIII. The game is very similar to DQVIII but has a better combat system, better characters, and a more interesting story; on the other side it has slightly worse music (admittedly still excellent) and the world exploration progression doesn’t feel quite as natural. Dragon Quest VIII is a mammoth game clocking in at around 90 hours and Ni No Kuni is merely around 40 or so, so maybe it is slightly easier to pace a much longer game in a notoriously lengthy genre.

We start out with Oliver in Motorville, home of douchebag Phil. Douchebag Phil makes Ollie go and crash a car which mysteriously kills his Mother somehow or other and then his doll comes to life and they’re transported into JRPG land. This all sounds a fair amount dumber than it actually is and truth be told they handle the emotional aspect of the game extremely well, making the vast majority of the game a fun, exciting experience with only a brief handful of moments being particularly emotional one way or another. This isn’t on par with something like Vagrant Story, Xenosaga, or Final Fantasy Tactics in terms of storytelling but it certainly does much better than various games (almost every Final Fantasy, Rogue Galaxy, Grandia, and so on) that fall short of the titans in the genre; and as far as the last generation goes it is probably in the top 5 of best storylines in games.


What really does shine is the game’s incidental dialogue, the stuff that isn’t in cutscenes, isn’t voiced. Almost all of it is extremely self aware, humorous, or interesting in one way or another. As a small example Oliver has an imaginary friend effectively in the “real world” that his other imaginary friends aren’t aware of so they mock him for having one. This is the second version of Ni No Kuni to be released and said imaginary friend is not in the original game; it is simply brilliant that they actively make fun of their own design decision like that, and it all adds an additional layer of levity to almost every conversation. Mr Drippy really is a fantastic character just for comic relief, and most of his best parts aren’t voiced, they’re simply written or translated extremely well.

The plot itself is sort of weakened to start out with due to the obvious over arching additions to the original storyline. Basically the game has 2 final bosses spread 10 hours apart or so, but for the first 30 odd hours of the game it’s all about the main guy from the original game. However you have these random scenes with a council of dudes and the titular White Witch who constantly make fun of how incompetent Shadar is, which makes Shadar a lot less intimidating than he could be. However, the main additional character is legitimately good so it kind of works out in the end anyway.

Speaking of 2 final bosses this game’s difficulty is a little bit all over the place (I don’t think I died once without really grinding at all, but I’m pretty good at JRPGs so this is mostly a thought on how much of a pain XYZ battle was, or how much I had to abuse items to succeed). Most battles are fairly simple press the X button affairs, but randomly you fight a tank that’s resistant to physical attacks and that shit doesn’t fly anymore. After a while every boss has a massive aoe damage spell that’s next to impossible to interrupt (even though the game wants you to) because the enemy gets it off so fast; so you just wind up defending with your main guy and hope your relatively stupid AI buddies manage to defend (they won’t). Ultimately the healing abilities that are in the game are vastly inferior to the restorative items, which means you just have to stockpile a shitload, and I do mean a shitload, of recovery items.

For the first final boss fight you have to go through the hardest dungeon in the game by far, then 3 boss fights, then immediately after this you’re transported to another dungeon followed by another boss fight. You can’t go to the world map in this process once you begin the first boss encounter. Like any good Level 5 game there’s a casino to abuse, and I did abuse it however taking a mild sum of 15 “restore 200 health to the party” items (the maximum health endgame is around 300-400); which I thought would probably be good for the rest of the game. Wrong. The dungeon ate up at least 2 or 3, the first boss fight (probably the hardest fight in the game) took up another 7, the next phase another 2 or 3, then randomly an MMO boss where you don’t stand in fire and win, then a boss that spams his AoE like no other in which it was completely impossible to keep the party alive; lucky for me I had dozens of cheeseburgers to keep Oliver alive and you can kind of abuse the recall familiar feature to dodge physical attacks. The actual last boss is a pretty decent challenge, though there’s random mega experience mobs that I somehow got 3 of and that might have made it a fair amount easier; still plenty of using those healing items because the actual aoe healing spells are garbage.

Look, I prefer difficult games and I wouldn’t even classify this game as difficult, but for the love of God just keep it consistent. Easy at the beginning, hard at the end? Good. Hard as fuck at the beginning, Harder as Fuck this game at the end? Even better.  Randomly difficult at more or less unpredictable spots? Not good. I can’t even imagine what you do to the stupid anti physical boss if you somehow don’t have an air caster in the party, you’d have to use virtually all of your consumables up to that point in the game to succeed. Sure the not last boss was difficult but did his dungeon have to be a ridiculous gauntlet of much harder regular battles than anywhere else in the game with the longest distance between save points in the game? Backloading a totally random dungeon at the end of the not last dungeon for no reason? What the fuck? The game is definitely better than Rogue Galaxy (easy first dungeon, randomly hard as fuck second dungeon, super easy for the rest of the game) at managing difficulty, I’ll give it that. But I still don’t understand what’s so difficult about tuning bosses in a single player game. Rant over.

Overall I definitely recommend the game, I don’t know if I’ll go back and grind out the Platinum (not really a challenge, just a grind), but I enjoyed it and now I get to say my most shameful backlogged game is finally cleared out. If you’re a scumbag like me then go back and play Ni No Kuni, don’t let it just sit there forever. JRPGs are rare enough you might as well play the good one.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Inherent Vice

I’m something of a connoisseur of weird drug movies, despite having absolutely no interest in partaking myself. There’s something weirdly novel about having a vicarious experience of a drug addled person, and this is a decent enough film in that regard. PT Anderson directed this, and he doesn’t do movies particularly often. Anderson is often cited in the same category as Christopher Nolan and David Fincher of the young, best directors; personally I have only seen There Will Be Blood aside from this. That film was excellent mostly due to Daniel Day Lewis’ performance (I drink your milkshake, I drink it up!), but I haven’t seen the majority of his work so hard to judge.

This film is solid enough but doesn’t hold up in comparison to higher end Nolan stuff or anything (not much does). Inherent Vice is based on a novel by Thomas Pynchon, who I had just read a different book of prior to watching this. Essentially Pynchon books are a random series of events with many of the characters involved randomly appearing and disappearing for chapters at a time, some having only one appearance. Each of these characters is memorable but not impactful enough to drive the story forward. The protagonist is simply an observer of these strange events and he wanders about somewhat aimlessly, perhaps accomplishing something, perhaps not. In this case our protagonist is “Doc” Sportello (played admirably by Joaquin Phoenix), a perpetually high PI in the 70’s hunting down some sort of conspiracy that involves the FBI, the LAPD, Dentists, a 70’s Brothel, and a boat amongst other things.

If all of this doesn’t make much sense to you don’t worry, that’s the essence of Pynchon; it’s still fun enough to read or watch but as far as substance goes it may be somewhat difficult to find. Yes Josh Brolin delivers a fantastic performance, but he’s only in like 35 minutes of this 2 hour and 40 minute marathon.  Apparently every PT Anderson movie is ridiculously long so fans of his surely won’t complain, but as a neutral observer you could probably cut out 25-30 minutes and have a better movie.

There’s a few characters in the film that are just not all that interesting. The initial inspiration for Joaquin’s quest is driven by his preposterously tall former girlfriend who tells him there’s a plot to kidnap a rich land mogul in the area; however said girlfriend is not a particularly good actress and basically all of the scenes with her drag on for too long for no reason. Additionally Doc’s other main protective interest is played by Owen Wilson, who is not a terrible actor by any means but in this he’s simply boring; even though his wife delivers an excellent, totally random 5-10 minute role and then vanishes.

Inherent Vice is not one of the best movies of the year and shouldn’t be treated as such. It certainly has its interesting moments but compared to something like Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans it falls well short. Perhaps if Brolin was the protagonist and in every scene this could have been an excellent movie, but as is it’s relatively underwhelming. The film is still worth watching despite its flaws, particularly if you’re primarily interested in an entertaining, humorous experience.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

X Men: The Last Stand

So I just watched this again since my friend rented it for no readily apparent reason. Like many others I saw this and was immediately disappointed after the first go-around; however 8 years later with a less scornful eye I somehow managed to find enjoyment out of the film. Many will remember the infamous “I’m the Juggernaut, Bitch” scene as the one highlight of the movie, and it still is; however the rest of the movie sort of follows that accord. This movie just doesn’t give a single fuck, much like a Roland Emmerich disaster movie.

Major characters get killed off randomly, hundreds of civilians get murdered; and in general it’s just a ludicrous action movie. The movie’s not horrifically awful like Batman and Robin or anything though, it really has some interesting scenes and is toying with themes far above it that could have worked in a better film. The CGI holds up pretty well so provided you’re up for a silly big budget action film I would recommend it.

Perhaps the film’s most egregious error is not allowing Wolverine to say “Bub,” because as Steve Blum fans know Bub is the height of all Wolverine discourse. However in the absence of Bub we get the disposal of asshole Cyclops, terribly acted Mystique, and Jean Luc Picard who’s obviously too good for this movie (Gandalf was not so fortunate). There’s a certain charm about the absurdity of the film reminiscent of Independence Day, while it doesn’t hold up quite so well as that masterpiece it doesn’t deserve the amount of disdain that it still has to this day.

Far from a formulaic Super Hero movie, this film strives to have as many explosions and B romance plots as possible. Ellen Page, the matriarch of female video game characters, is even in this film at the ripe old age of 19. Vinnie Jones plays Juggernaut flawlessly, and pretty much everyone else sucks to one degree or another; but for some reason it kind of works anyway. It’s not quite as baffling how this got through production, this has all the charm of a 90’s action movie minus Bill Paxton. Keeping in mind how horrible most Super Hero movies were in that decade this one towers over them as the true ascendant heir to the 90’s.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Interstellar is not a perfect film despite the Nolan touch being present; but it is damn good. The audio and visual experience is absolutely top notch and much better than anything else in that regard. I’d put the soundtrack up there with Road to Perdition as one of the finest scores of all time, just amazing stuff. Plotwise we’re in semi-near future Earth in a more realistic than usual but not entirely realistic doomsday scenario where we need to evacuate the planet within a century or so. So Matthew McConaughey is tasked with saving the world, after a very good exposition and introductory sequence.

I don’t wish to spoil too much of the film but the overall premise is McConaughey promises his daughter that he will return from an impossible journey through a wormhole. A dubious promise to be sure, but this being a movie you should have an idea of how that works out; since it’s Nolan there’s some let’s call it “interesting” stuff that happens along the way. I could read this film pretty well, at some point I've just seen too many movies and have a rough understanding of what has to occur; but it still had some surprises in there.

There are some amazing emotional moments in this movie and it makes no sense how they work so damn well with so little. And then there’s some bits that aren’t quite as great. However, this isn’t a movie where you wonder “what could have been” because it’s still pretty damn good anyway. Sure, sure it’s probably not as good as Inception but it’s also more philosophically interesting than Inception and maybe less of a technical showpiece. The film is definitely superior to The Dark Knight Rises, though the technical achievement here is primarily a digital one whereas in the Batman films the most impressive shots were practical (how do you film 200 police cars in unison converging on a tank in a major city? That’s a 20 million dollar 15 second shot.).

My Dad’s reaction was to compare it directly to 2001 and I have to say it compares quite favorably. Whereas 2001 kind of goes off the deep end eventually this one stays in the realm of possibility maybe? I mean based on what we know maybe not but who the hell actually knows. Robots are scumbags in 2001 and in this they’re the best (goofy looking) fucking character; I’d have a beer with that robot level of comradery. On that note: Fuck Matt Damon, what the fuck are you doing in my movie you fucking asshole; get the fuck out.

This is a really interesting, compelling movie and I’ll probably have to see it a few more times to get an overall read on it. There’s obviously the one negative sequence everyone’s going to point to but it’s not different than Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight (which is still by miles and miles the best movie in its genre). It’s not strictly predictable but it has simple, effective foreshadowing that leads to the eventual conclusion. As to what happens in between; well that’s up for debate, you can try to figure it out I guess, it’s not complicated it’s just hard to say whether it is plausible enough, for some it will be and for some it won’t. Is it better than Edge of Tomorrow? Well, Edge of Tomorrow is not going to get Oscar consideration so I’m inclined to favor it and I imagine over the course of time I’ll probably watch Edge 20-30 times and I might only watch Interstellar like 6 or 7; but Interstellar might be slightly better just for the audio/visual combination. Fuck Matt Damon.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What is Power?

So I recently saw both Sin City and it's new sequel, and the esteemed Powers Boothe is excellent in both films (though only briefly in the first). His most wondrous line was "Power is is Power does." Because who knows more about Power than a man named Powers? Well, as much as Powers Boothe knows to most of us power is a nebulous thing. However the easiest way to describe it is one's ability to influence another human being, whether voluntary or involuntary. Power translates fairly evenly to natural resources, military strength, the sheer number of humans under one's control, and one's skill at manipulation through fear, deception, and even positive reinforcement.

Power does not however, automatically translate to money itself. Sure money can theoretically equal power but money itself is a nebulous, flowing thing that doesn't actually signify something in and of itself; it is a simple stand-in for a barter system. A marker as it were. To have enough money to achieve something appreciable as an individual (i.e. be the sole financier of a major military conflict or revolution) is functionally impossible; as that figure is in the trillions of dollars; thus these vast fortunes that people accumulate are functionally more or less useless. You can have billions of dollars, sure, but you can't actually effect change with that sum due simply to the sheer preponderance of wealth in the world (JD Rockefeller may have had some capacity in his era, however) and the logistics of controlling millions and, indeed, billions of people.

Thus wealth itself is largely meaningless beyond a certain point, the most expensive sum of things an individual can buy that is actually useful is maybe ~$30 million, anything beyond that does nothing beyond slightly influence election campaigns (for which there are major restrictions) or give to a charity and help a few people in the short term. So, if it isn't wealth you should strive for in the pursuit of power, what is there to pursue? Well in America it's very difficult to say, much of the elements that would make one powerful are simultaneously divided and institutionalized in such a way as to benefit those that already have power (which is the nature of humanity); in broad terms to pursue power you need to be able to influence people rapidly and effectively.

For one: Have a message, it doesn't necessarily matter what that message is as long as you're able to make it resonate with others through speaking, motioning, or demonstrating en masse (not in small numbers mind, in vast and broad numbers sweeping across the entire society). Power can be created with eloquence, however more often the best messages are simple and easy to understand; these messages largely focus on single human emotions, anger, hate, fear, love, and reconciliation being amongst them. Anger is most common and generally the easiest to utilize.

What makes a seemingly small and archaic organization such as ISIS powerful? Well they seem to be competently organized for one; structured effectively with a zealous devotion to their cause; however that zealousness is organic rather than a symptom of the systemic design. You can not create that kind of passion in people through training, you have to produce it from some other means; generally with some kind of emotional resonance. Thus Iraq's military fails even with a vast superiority in numbers and materials; the smaller, more aggressive force is functionally more useful than this country-wide organization. Obviously a larger force from the US or Canada (wouldn't that be something?) or whomever could easily repel and hold basically all of the territory ISIS has, naturally they wouldn't be able to eliminate them due to the nature of Guerilla warfare and invading an opponent's homeland; but that sort of feverish devotion to a cause is one of the symptoms of power.

Power is situational, fleeting even; it doesn't hold in one place for long. Some men have borne the mantle for their entire lives, but once they die the message rarely gets passed on effectively to the proceeding generations. To make an organization sustain extraordinarily levels of influence for more than 20 years is an extremely difficult task, but it is one that can happen through communication and faith in the particular cause. While some small handful of men have had the term "powerful" applied to them in a non-erroneous fashion, we need some way to translate this down to a lower level so that the followers of such men can still maintain that power in their passing. So what is ultimately the answer here? Who really wields that kind of power? Why, God of course! Religions are the only organizations in human history that sustain power throughout time; and the reason is simple, there is a Nietszche-identified trait in humans to pursue some sort of belief about the end of their existence; it is universal, even in those that deny it. Powerful groups must embrace some sort of over arching faith or belief in a cause beyond themselves and all such causes are founded not on logic or reasoning but in simple emotional resonance.