Monday, May 25, 2015

Here's this really dumb thing I did in the Witcher 3

I’ve been playing the Witcher 3 a fair amount in the past week, though due to work and youtube stuff I haven’t had a ridiculous amount of time with it yet. Once I reached the larger overworld I immediately set to exploring as much of the world as possible with no regard to my miniscule level; and lo! I found a pretty interesting quest line that was level 24. So I decided what the hell, let’s give it a shot. And somehow it worked, big assist to NPC helper buddies. The quest reward wound up being pretty crappy since I was so low level but it was really fun just being able to dick around 30-40 hours past where I was supposed to be.

Eibhear Hattori, an elvish scumbag, wants you to help him secure supplies so he can go back to being a smith, which apparently he’s pretty good at. However he was forced into the dire trade of “Master of Dumplings” (“mmm… tasty” says Geralt) and amusingly enough this has proven to be quite profitable; however he grows tired, hence the initiation of the quest. Eventually you wind up negotiating a la the Departed or something, but the guy you’re negotiating with really isn’t that unreasonable so you kind of just realize that Eibhear is a moron; regardless (I believe) you wind up fighting about 6 level 24-25 dwarves, all of which could kill me in one hit. So I went and cowered behind some boxes until the NPC guy did all the work. Hell of a guy that King of Beggars assistant.

This then leads to a few amusing scenes and Eibhear eventually runs, terrified, back to his shop. You meet him there and he keeps whining for a bit; but suddenly has a bright idea (why wasn’t this the plan all along?) to send you to Sukrus of Skellige; who you have to fight outside a bar. Took a while for the NPC to actually load in so I just sat around for about 45 seconds. Fortunately fist fighting isn’t scaled to your level so I still managed to kick Sukrus’ behind; and then we had a chat in the bar. Turns out he’s just a super cool dude; way less of a douche than Eibhear himself. I love the Witcher’s depiction of these kinds of characters that runs totally against the standard generic oaf.

Anyway you help him out so that he eventually helps you out, then you meet a guy who makes a Witcher 2 (and possibly book) reference, I wound up just getting level 3 in Axii to make this go smoothly. After this there’s a big rumble outside, but true to form the game provides you with more allies so you don’t actually have to do anything. Foolishly I decided to try to participate and died to the last guy when he had about 2-3% hp left or so (in one hit naturally), then it took me a few tries to find a safe afking location; but pacifism eventually won the day.

After bidding Sukrus good day I went off to see the smith and collect my shit, unfortunately even though the quest scaled to level 24 the loot didn’t and I wound with a level 2 “relic” sword that was worse than a random drop that I found on the quest. It’s possible the sword is upgradeable and it does look cool, but naturally this was a bit of a bummer; one that you’d expect a douche like Eibhear to provide. However I still immensely enjoyed screwing around with the game’s difficulty systems and unlocking a master smith super early on for the hell of it. I’ll revert to an earlier save just so the sword isn’t useless but this game’s pretty good; even if it seems like you’re directed on a particular main route you can still dick around wherever the hell you want and might even be able to finish elaborate questlines to boot.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mad Max - Fury Road

Mad Max is easily the best pure action movie to come out in well over a decade, that doesn’t mean everyone will like it equally but the first 2 action sequences are amongst the best ever put on film. The final action sequence is almost as good but I think the audience will be very slightly weary of the same basic setpiece, even if it’s an incredible fucking setpiece. Also the leadup to the denouement is just a little bit too long, it’s certainly not tiresome in that process but if you want to compete with T2 your pacing has to not only be good or great but absolutely perfect.

So how does it stack up to Terminator 2? Well they both have ridiculous trucking fetishes that I’m sure most people will appreciate, they both have female badass characters, and they both have motorcycles and lots of explosions. T2 is mostly actually stuff they filmed though (including a helicopter flying under an overpass) and Mad Max is probably about 50/50 or 40/60 on CGI (which is certainly much better than most movies at present). I actually like the annoying kid from T2, I freely admit it, but for all the people that don’t this movie’s closest analogue is not that young and has so much gusto it’s very hard to dislike him. Nicholas Hoult, the guy who plays Beast in X-Men, plays this character and shows quite a bit of range so doing.

Just how metal is this movie? I think it’s probably the most metal you can fit in 2 hours before you ascend to Chrome Valhalla Heaven. As a Man’o’War fan I really appreciate the obsession with Norse Mythology and the fucking incredible vehicle/character designs going on. I suppose it’s worth mentioning that Mad Max himself (played well by Tom Hardy, I get the feeling this is the Bane voice minus audio editing) looks amazing when he has an iron imprisoned mask on and just looks sort of bland afterward. I mean the villain has a gigantic fuck off army of 60-70 vehicles ranging from Mustang-Tanks to VW Beetle Monster Trucks to a rival Semi the likes of which the legends speak. To prepare yourself for this movie I highly recommend this video:

It’s just so fucking cool, I don’t have any other way to put it, one admires the raw industry of the villain and his methods of controlling the populace. There isn’t really a comparable movie out there, every Super Hero movie follows a very similar arc so they’re inherently predictable; which ones are vaguely close to Mad Max in some way? Iron Man 3 is probably the best comedy in the past 10 years, the first Avengers is the best CGI action movie but still certainly vastly inferior to this on most fronts just due to the nature of CGI, Edge of Tomorrow is a much more interesting movie fundamentally but can’t stack up on the action side of things, The Dark Knight is probably a better movie but does flipping a semi in real life compete with blowing up 3 or 4 semis with explosive spears and the aid of CGI? I dunno. In a world where Furious 7 grosses 1.47 billion to actually have a good car movie come out is kind of shocking to be honest; sometimes the movie industry just pulls magic out of the hat and you really feel like there’s some originality and creativity left in the world. As long as there’s milk farms consisting of giant fat ladies the world is safe and sound.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Breaking Down a Game of Thrones Action Sequence

So this past Sunday the beloved Barristan Selmy was presumably slain at the hands of the “Sons of the Harpy”. This was particularly surprising considering he’s still alive in the books and is probably one of the more likely characters to not die for quite some time. I actually applaud this decision and the willingness to stray quite clearly from the path that the lethargic George RR Martin has set, it means the show will be less predictable and it also means that Peter Dinklage will likely have a more interesting role in the future; which can only be a good thing.

However in eliminating an exalted combatant such as Selmy one needs to take special care that the audience doesn’t lose faith in his skills in the process of him dying. In this case 7 Unsullied + Barristan fought around 20 knife guys and apparently everyone died except Grey Worm (Grey Worm himself being another of the foremost warriors in the world), this wasn’t an ambush in favor of the 20; no no no in fact the assassins were chased down and caught essentially, which in any case would put them at a severe disadvantage.

Non Orthodox troops, such as guerilla fighters in modern wars will only have a functional advantage when fighting regular Orthodox troops if they have the initiative; if the ambush is laid by them and triggered as they expect. Orthodox troops will absolutely annihilate non-Orthodox in a straight fight, and must be worn down over time. The Unsullied are supposed to be amongst the best troops in the world so naturally they would have an enormous edge in this fight, even when outnumbered. For the whole “Dagger beats spear” in close quarters argument, yes that’s true but Greek Hoplites also wielded swords and it’s rather farcical for spearmen to be roaming the streets as police when they could easily be using their swords instead; however even if they used spears they would probably still have an edge simply due to superior training and teamwork.

However in the show they really don’t have any teamwork, in fact there’s little or no communication at all once the fighting starts. The Unsullied could have easily held the hall with 4 or so men abreast on either side (reminiscent of Winfield Scott Hancock’s stand at Chancellorsville that secured the Union retreat); but instead they split up for no reason and just acted like morons in general. Even accepting that the Unsullied somehow lose this impossible to lose fight you still have Grey Worm and Selmy backing them up, and presumably these 2 could probably take a whole shitload more knife guys unless they were incredibly capable (from the shows’ depiction they just seem to be fanatics and not ably trained warriors).

For Grey Worm I’ll draw a comparison to one Zhao Yun or Zhao Zilong, Zhao Yun is historically one of the greatest Chinese warriors who ever lived and his most famous accomplishment was riding amongst a 200,000 man host with only a few companions and wreaking havoc for about 5 or 6 hours, saving the totally worthless Liu Shan in the process and even nabbing a really nice sword for more killing. This is ably discussed in Three Kingdoms but as far as I know this is not a fabrication, there are certainly elements of RoTK that are but Chang Ban is an historical event and Zhao Yun really did lead a cavalry charge through enemy lines reminiscent of JEB Stuart’s performance during the peninsular campaign. So essentially Zilong was worth say 200 guys or so on that given day, if he is capable of that then surely a fictional character in a universe with dragons and undead ladies is capable of taking on 10 chumps with daggers.

As far as Selmy goes he even has it worse, he gets in there right near the end of the fight which should have been quite a surprise for the Harpy bros and immediately starts murdering fools. But the harpys don’t even give a shit, they’re not taken aback by his presence instead they seem to fight with even more fervor; this is not how this supposed to work. He only had around 7 to fight and he could easily eliminated 3 of them with his opening salvo so there would remain 4 or so, and these 4 would not really be up for fighting immediately if he doesn’t give them a chance to catch their breath and pushed his advantage; he might take a few wounds so doing but this is the best warrior on the planet surely he can handle some random guys. Nope.

If we want to go more in depth with the numbers game we can look at more Three Kingdoms examples, such as Zhang Liao’s 800 man rush into Sun Quan’s army of 100,000 which led to the defeat of the Southern army. Yes perhaps in actual history Sun Quan only had 10,000 men or so but that’s still over 12 times as many troops; so yes 8 elite warriors can take on 20 knife wielding scrubs and even do so easily as long as they’re not in a horribly disadvantageous position. The preposterousness of the scene just eventually caught up to me, despite my appreciation for killing off Selmy randomly.

So, what options do we have to make the scene better? Well I count three. The first is simply to add a shitload more Harpies, hire more extras you cheapskate bastards, if there were 80 of those guys in there I would have totally bought what happened; but it just wasn’t compelling enough as is. The choreography could use some work as well but that’s beside the point. Though of course 8 guys could probably take 80 in a narrow hallway where the number advantage was largely negated, so this option is not really that great.

The next option is to let Selmy and Grey Worm win the fight, however as they reconcile and gradually walk off into the sunset out of the blue an individual harpy runs up from behind and stabs Barristan through the heart. Selmy is enraged by this impossible event, turns around and decapitates his assailant. He then says “I am a Knight” and dies in Grey Worm’s loving arms. This is a little silly but it does work, the only situation where the Non Orthodox troops will win in a straight fight is when they catch the opponent unawares.

The third option is a lot more interesting and would show a level of tactical thought that neither George RR Martin nor whoever directed this episode possesses, however one can dream. The Unsullied chase down the Harpies, who briefly fight and lose a few men and then run (as Non Orthodox troops would always do in this situation), the Unsullied give chase and wind up in a large empty room. Suddenly over a hundred Sons of the Harpy close in from all sides and bumrush the Unsullied. They still fight poorly in comparison but the positional advantage combined with the surprise leads to their eventual victory after taking many casualties (think Tet Offensive numbers); Selmy bursts in and the tide seems to be turning in favor of him and Grey Worm, but Selmy is mortally wounded in the proceedings.

This is called a feint, a simple action to pretend an offensive measure only to lure the opponent into a more dangerous trap; feints are a thing of beauty and something that Satellites have kind of ruined as far as major wars go. In executing this tactically brilliant maneuver the Sons of the Harpy seem much more threatening while Selmy’s erstwhile invincible reputation remains undisturbed and everyone’s pretty much happy in the end.  Except Bronn because he really is invincible.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Avengers - Age of Ultron

This film is odd, it comes out after literally millions of other marvel films have hit the market with the exact same template; only it has the Joss Whedon template as well which is also very similar between movies. The first Avengers may have had that issue going in but it had some really amazing action sequences and the movie didn’t really drag at all; there were a lot of characters in the first film but they didn’t feel the need to make every one of them feel super special and unique or anything so there wasn’t a shitload of idle dialogue.

That’s not the case here, almost every major character has roughly the same amount of screen time and they all have backstory (yes, backstory) embedded in the movie as though that’s what you’re looking for out of an Avengers flick. Aside from the villain I really don’t think anyone needed backstory in this movie; maybe Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver but that’s about it. Essentially the film has mountains of “Mass Effect” style dialogue where the characters are just kind of standing around performing very similar animations that you’ve seen before and talking about cool stuff that doesn’t actually take place in the movie. So yes a Black Widow origin film could be good Mr. Whedon, but I don’t really give a fuck in the context of this movie so please just let me see some badass shit happen; that’s why I’m here after all.

It has to be almost an hour between the first two action sequences and the entire time is filled with exposition, backstory, or vaguely interesting but still somewhat terrible romance sideplots. So, how is the action, you ask? Well it’s good but it’s not the best which is what I would have expected from this movie. The coolest bits aside from Hulkbuster are when Thor and Captain America do a “team super” but those are each about 2-3 seconds long so it’s not like the whole movie carries that intensity. Jeremy Renner is fucking incredible in this because he’s Jeremy Renner and actually a good actor, but at one point he’s like “you know I just kind of have a lame bow and arrow” and while the line delivery is fantastic he’s absolutely right as well; to make Hawkeye work he really needs to be doing crazy/impossible trick shots at every turn or something but he only has a few in the movie and they linger for less than a second so the audience could blink and miss them.

How are the new characters? Again I think they’re alright, James Spader performs acceptably in his role; in fact with a better movie surrounding it I think his role would be perfectly functional; but he would really have to be intimidating/super awesome to negate some of the lethargy of the rest of the film. Scarlet Witch is played by Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister of Mary Kate and Ashley), who has been in a lot of movies and I know for a fact is a talented actress but she’s just underwhelming/disinteresting in this; I’m sorry. Quicksilver is okay, he sucks compared to the dude from X-Men though, who was in that movie for like 3 minutes. Paul Bettany’s role is improved I suppose and should be relatively interesting in future movies.

This movie kind of just starts and ends with no impetus on either side and only a little bit of legitimate tension throughout; in fact I think the trailer made moments in the movie that are underwhelming seem intense. There isn’t really an action climax to speak of; the end has 15-20 minutes of action that’s all pretty good but it doesn’t build up in a satisfying fashion and the pacing isn’t the greatest throughout. The movie kind of just ends with your stereotypical Joss Whedon plot twist thrown in there, but just due to the context of the film they couldn’t actually make that interesting or use someone important in the machinations (whereas the plot twist in the first Avengers worked rather well and didn’t just randomly happen at the end, even if it was also predictable).
In some sense this movie feels like Serenity, a movie where the characters are already beloved and you’re going to be seeing them for the last time anyway. That is obviously not the case for most of the characters in this film. Also Serenity had a 28 million dollar budget so the fact that it didn’t have a ton of action was understandable. For this movie they must have just spent way too much money on actors without actually bothering to put together a cohesive plot; so with 300 million dollars you don’t actually wind up getting all that much of that bombastic, ridiculous action that you go in expecting.

Alright so I don’t think this movie is bad, in fact I think it’s pretty good but there were 3 Marvel movies that came out last year that were better. There was Edge of Tomorrow last year and it completely obliterates this in every way imaginable (there’s a movie with 2 characters and it crushes your 15 character movie). The most interesting part of this movie is just going to remain how well it does at the box office; and if 30% of the audience feels that it’s underwhelming then presumably it won’t do totally insane beyond the first weekend. But we’ll see I suppose. Hopefully they learn some stuff from this and the third movie is fantastic again.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Does Mortal Kombat X have the lowest average skill level ever in Fighting Games?

Note: This isn’t intended to be inflammatory, it’s purely a matter of science and curiosity. I’m ignoring the launch of Street Fighter 2 for obvious reasons.

As a remarkably slightly above average fighting game player I somehow was in the top 40 of Injustice about a month after launch; and my win rate was about 3.5 wins to 1 loss; or 78%, as was almost everyone else on the list. My secret? Well Injustice’s playerbase wasn’t too hot either; also I played a supposedly low tier character and bodied everyone; and even had backup characters for bad matchups. But in MKX the top 100 is almost exclusively around 95-98%, now you say 78-98’s not that big of a deal man; it’s only 20%! Not so sir, as anyone that plays Freecell knows, if you played 500 games at 78% you would lose 110 matches, if you played 500 games at 98% you would lose only 10; 11 times as many losses. So basically MKX’s playerbase is eleven times worse than Injustice’s; okay 98% probably not fair; let’s stick with 95%, you get 25 losses for those 500 games and that’s still 4.4 times as many losses.

I didn’t play Street Fighter IV at launch so I’m not sure how bad it was there, probably closer to Injustice’s tick. But let’s have some fun and compare with other games. If you look at Guilty Gear Xrd’s top 100 the average win rate is about 55-60% (mine is personally about 40%, which I’m damn proud of), sure there’s a handful of people that farm lower ranked players but for the most part almost everyone that plays that game is super legit; a lot of this has to do with the tiny, though quite devoted, playerbase.

I also played KoF XIII to around a 50% tick, matching up with 60-65% players or thereabouts at the top; though that wasn’t that close to launch. Tekken 6 is yet another game I played recently, inspired by my success on the free to play circuit, and boy did I get completely massacred by those guys. A pretty old game so naturally the only people left playing were pathologically insane monstrosities who took my soul out and ate it. I won 1 game after about 50 matches, good enough for the platinum trophy.

MKX is a fucking huge game and all those people that played MK2 like five centuries ago (myself included) are playing it for whatever strange reason and pretty much all they know how to do is uppercut and hold that block button. Additionally EVERYONE in the FGC is playing this game, and all of them are pretty damn K-Bradlike. So the sheer size of the game has compounded with nostalgia, E-Sports, Twitch, and the power of friendship to create a completely insane, ridiculous top 100 filled with assorted random familiar players from a whole bunch of different games, and all of them have 80-140+ winning streaks going right now.

I’m happy that MKX is so big, but it’s also pretty amusing and I hope you take this in good humor.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Bloodborne Week One - Adjustment and then Happiness

Before we get started I have to answer one very important question, “Is this a Souls game?” Of course it is, I submit this irrefutable evidence:

Bloodborne is a lot better than I thought it would be, and yet for some players they might not ever even see the best content in the game. A very interesting design, though I respect the commitment to making Chalice dungeons superb while still making the main game solid. Most of the issues I had on Day One were adjustment issues, though there is some oddity to having bosses where locking on half the time and then not locking on for the other half is the best way to fight them just because of how dodges work. On the other hand it’s possible (don’t know how this would happen blind) to mainline the game and not even fight the final boss.

 Additionally there’s the added obscure layer of Insight, which is basically a difficulty meter; more insight = more getting murdered essentially and at some point you will have a preposterous amount of insight if you play enough with not much to spend it on. So is the game harder than Souls game X? Dunno depends on your insight/how many bosses you fought/doing the chalice dungeons/blah blah blah. It’s a curious thing. Some areas are also much more difficult when done out of order.

The main route after Blood Starved Beast (who is optional as far as I know) is very obscure, even for a Souls game. Thankfully I did find this one on my own, but there were certainly several areas to come where that was not the case. Basically they took the obscure path to Drangleic Castle and put it in 4 or 5 different optional and main areas in this one, not really sure why but if you’re going totally blind be prepared to get lost. There’s a couple of ways forward but the main one seems to be falling down a ton of beams on the way down to the other side of the Cathedral Ward.

This is actually one of the only spots in the game where falling to death is a serious issue, and this is one thing that Bloodborne does amazingly well that pretty every previous Souls game has had problems with; very little potential for falling to death in most situations. Gravity no longer being the gravest enemy is a shock and a delight at the same time, though perhaps not as amusing as a spectator. There’s still plenty of ridiculous setpieces and towering areas. However for the most part you’re safe in a way you might not have been in a prior game. Even in pitch black Chalice Dungeons you can easily pull out a torch and light the area up nicely, torches are very well implemented in Bloodborne while they were mostly an afterthought (though thankfully so) in Dark Souls 2; despite not being in any of the promotional material.

After you’ve finally unlocked the other areas of the Cathedral Ward the game finally splits in a reasonably satisfying way, offering several different routes though some of them are still ultimately blocked off; however it stops feeling as suffocatingly linear as the first 5 hours or so of the game can. Players are faced with fighting a very difficult boss or going on side routes to explore different areas, though admittedly one of the methods of exploration is pretty bizarre. Dying to a “Bagman” as I like to call them transports you to a lategame area that you can’t access otherwise and faces you with difficult enemies as well as an optional boss (who I didn’t find particularly challenging); but there’s some pretty cool stuff in this area and it’s totally different than when you go there later so I definitely recommend going there as soon as possible. In my case the death was non-intentional though I was aware of the consequences of dying prior to it happening thanks to the magnanimous Bradley Shoemaker.

This is one of the big times where I felt the game was feeling a bit static but dying to one enemy fixed this and suddenly I was in a new place to explore with new, challenging enemies and some environmental variety. It is very bizarre trying to figure out what the developer’s intended path for players is in the game as it quite clearly isn’t simply to get straight to the ending. Yet even when the game feels a bit stagnant there’s still something oddly compelling about it, no matter where you are.
I think it’s mainly the atmosphere, which holds up strong throughout. This is probably the creepiest game I’ve ever played. Incidentally I watched Event Horizon shortly before Bloodborne’s release and that was a reasonable approximation of the insanity to come. There’s something here that is extremely interesting but yet totally intangible and it definitely isn’t the metroidvania-esque quality of the first Dark Souls. In Dark Souls you’re exploring the world and it feels interesting and alive. In Bloodborne you’re exploring a nightmare and it feels horrifying and unsettling and unmistakably detailed. Even when the game takes weird to another level in ways that would be flat out comical in other games it still works somehow, it’s just a perfectly crafted creepy ass universe.

It wasn't me, I swear

After the Hypogean Gaol as it were I went off to the woods adjacent to the Grand Cathedral. The first area here is really fantastic, there’s a very large area riddled with snipers and dogs (they really like dogs) but if you approach it carefully enough you’re never in an unfair situation and pretty much always able to seek cover from enemy fire while still making progress. As far as the main game goes this is probably the best “room” as it were and it’s definitely something I’ll look forward to every time I go through the game with a different weapon.

Shortly after this you’re in Hemwick Charnel Pass, an area with some relatively nonthreatening enemies that become dangerous through their sheer volume. Bloodborne isn’t scared of throwing dozens of enemies at you in places where you might fight like 3 or 4 in a Souls game; you might be able to methodically pull them all and keep it to a Souls-ish level but it really does feel a bit more action-ey in these places. If you’re good enough at dodging you really can run amuck through as many enemies as you want occasionally taking potshots, you don’t have to play this game passively and you don’t have to be overpowered to play a more active approach. Hemwick has a fairly unusual boss fight which I suppose could be termed a puzzle boss. Not particularly difficult, but interesting enough all the same (probably the least dangerous boss in the game). The fight becomes a bit more interesting/tedious in NG+ with high insight.

The boss of the Grand Cathedral, Vicar Amelia, seems to be a bit of a trouble spot for some people and I think this is why the game opens up a bit, as you don’t have to fight the boss immediately. Additionally the opportunities for co-op are much more frequent. I personally didn’t have much trouble with the boss but I had gone off and beaten 2 other bosses before I even opened the door to her room, I suppose this highlights the value of not just trying to bumrush through the game as fast as possible.

Of course after Vicar Amelia is where things start to be very confusing. A very vague cutscene gives you an oath/password thing and you’re meant to find a door off the seemingly vast number of spokes out of the Cathedral Ward. Many people simply won’t find this immediately and thus not find the way forward. For my part I looked it up and after some fuddling around eventually found it, though I still got lost at this point in NG+. The following door puts you in the Forbidden Woods, an utterly vast area perfect for extensively long sessions of PvP. My first trip here all I did was find two ways forward to other major areas and left through the ladder from Snake Eater (probably the coolest shortcut in the game); come to find out much later that both areas were optional and I had to continue down in the Woods to get to the main area (which again isn’t really clear at all in the game).
The woods have a large-ish upper area with your typical peasant barrage and then a much, much larger lower area with literal piles of snakes and larger piles of snakes as your main opposition. This lower area is pretty much impossible to find your way in without getting lost unless you strictly follow the lamps in the area (which aren’t always apparent); but at this point I started doing PvP and it was extremely fun invading other players as well as getting invaded. PvP basically has an on/off switch now in the form of beckoning or sinister bells, which will spawn a corresponding NPC in your world to ring its own sinister bell and bring invaders. This means that invaders have a tougher time of it but it also eliminates the many boring sessions of PvP versus inexperienced players and isolates your experiences to either someone with help or another invader; in either case using the environment is an entirely viable option.

Whenever you finally find your way there you’re faced with the Nazgul and presumably the longest walkback (could never figure out if I missed a lantern here) in the game for every death. The Naz are pretty tough, especially with high insight and in NG+, the fight is quite enjoyable though. Each one has its own weakness and the enemies power up by how much damage you have done to them instead of simply by when one dies (though there may be a mixture for the last mechanic); this forces you to be tactical and pick a specific target instead of just whittling them all down at once, however the enemies really stay on you here so it isn’t always a simple matter of isolating the opposition.
The two optional areas I visited both also had extremely obscure methods of discovering their entrance; though immediately following the snake-eater ladder is perhaps the most impactful area of the game. People might say there’s no “Anor Londo” moment in the game but instead it has moments that defy explanation and sort of just sit in your memory, horrifying and captivating at the same time. This is one of those moments; you take a ladder up and find yourself on the roof of the first area of the game, Iosefka’s Clinic.

Making your way across the roof you find a way into the mysterious upper floor. Strewn about the hallways are some extraordinarily bloody operating tables and a complete absence of enemies or NPCs. Going further in you make it back to the original room and see a mysterious grey who doesn’t react to your presence at first, of course you kill him because it must be done. And then there’s a letter on the table that tells you you’re invited to Cainhurst Castle… but yet you must fully explore this area. Eventually you wind up in a room and are greeted by a perhaps familiar voice; rambling for a bit then telling you to leave or face the consequences. Undeterred surely you climb the stairs and fight Iosefka, who just has even more crazy nonsense to spew. I should note it’s possible to send NPCs here to be “treated” and you might even get rewarded for it, basically you could have sent NPCs to a weird looking guy or a friendly sounding voice in a creepy building to get dissected for the benefit of uhh… moon aliens or something. The fuck is going on in this game.

Alright well enough of that, time to get dressed and go to the ball! Ah Cainhurst, that land of noble elegance and “Nothing but sobbing here” messages. This whole area, save one sore spot, is fantastic and is basically Gothic Snowy Anor Londo, complete with obscure methods of advancement via perilous ledges. The first part is pretty dangerous as there’s incomprehensible spider enemies and snakes (fuck snakes); but just ignore them and you’ll be on your merry way to the much more satisfying screeching ghost ladies. Essentially if you rush in this area without knowing where to go you can get easily decimated, but if you take your time none of the enemies inside are overly threatening, even at low levels. A cool mechanic here is there are enemies that shoot “Red Eye Ring” darts that give you a much larger aggro radius, forcing you perhaps out of your comfort zone for those sections.

There’s also gargoyles here that supposedly can drop Chunks, I've yet to see it, in fact I’ve never seen a chunk drop off a normal enemy period. Sadly there’s no preposterously numerous gargoyle boss, though a lot of the places where you fight Gargoyles could be deemed similar to their heritage. They’re pretty easy though, just knock them on their ass for double damage. Toward the end I couldn’t figure out where to go and then it hit me, of course hug the tiny ass ledges and drop down onto more tiny ass ledges. Yessss… despite this it isn’t really that much of a falling hazard as there’s no Anor Londo archers to screw you over.

And now for the weak part of Cainhurst Castle. The boss here (one Martyr Logarius) is fantastic, with one severe issue; he somewhat randomly becomes impervious to bullets. I believe this is actually a mechanic in the game and not a bug which is even more concerning, but for the later portions of the fight you’ll have a hail of swords flying at you and no way to achieve invincibility frames, so essentially the boss is a giant pain in the ass just because of the anti-parry mechanic. However if you stand in for his transition phase it seems to negate one entire sword section of the fight and that at least resolves some of the issues, though the parry problems still persist. At higher levels I’m sure the fight is relatively easy even without parrying (even on NG+) but it just seems like that’s how you should fight him, like that’s the cleanest way to do it and the game just doesn’t let you 75% of the time. This isn’t like Gwyn where it trivializes him, the boss is still difficult even with parries at lower levels but From decided otherwise for some nebulous reason.

After this you get a nice hat and can then reveal the way to the first (at least, first for me) covenant of the game, which doesn’t do a whole lot other than let you buy more stuff from vendors. However the covenant NPC is interesting and uh… well… you see I may or may not have gotten her killed. Not to worry though I still get covenant items from slain players/NPCs masquerading as players but a little old friend with his wheel and funny hat came to say hello. And gave me another badge for getting a fantastically silly weapon! This is another one of those moments I was talking about earlier, this normal looking guy was apparently a psychopath all along, that’s just what the hunt does to you man.

Fresh out of Cainhurst I went down another route I had been blocked on before and a mysterious portal took me to Byrgenwerth at last! Except not the Byrgenwerth I was supposed to go to. Nope this is just straight up dream world with real world items and general weirdness. Hurray! At the end of this rather excellent little area is a door to another section of the Nightmare; a vast and pretty nice looking expanse with perhaps the least offensive poison swamp in the Souls series to date. This is one of the larger pvp areas in the game because there’s already a sinister bell lady to start with, but the thing is hardly anyone knows where everything is here so you can pretty much hang out wherever you want and mess with people that way. This zone’s quite fun.

The boss here is Amygdala, who I’ve now fought 5 or 6 times all told between chalice dungeons and NG+, for your first playthrough the boss is relatively non-threatening but it quickly becomes much more dangerous in different environments and when you only have half health and so on. Hell the very size of the boss seems to increase every time you fight it (not really it is just super fucking huge). My tried and true method of the moment seems to be bait specific attacks from the front and punish accordingly, but when the boss expands its range by twice as much things can get a little hairy.

Back on the main route of the game, ye old Byrgenwerth. This is a fantastic zone I think, very brief but has nice scenery and unique enemies that fight just a little bit differently than your average foes. I believe this is likely to be your first point facing Frenzy in the game which is sort of like bleeding and perhaps the most annoying status effect. Presumably it isn’t the entirety of the campus, just a lone “Lunarium” as it were complete with a telescopic room. There’s a reasonably difficult NPC fight here but nothing too hard, also you could probably just bypass him.

At the end there’s an old guy in a chair (one assumes this is “Master Willem,” but he never says shit so who knows) and a lake with a moon reflection. I think if you’re playing offline this will be very puzzling but the friendly neighborhood online messages tell you to take a leap of faith and you wind up in this gorgeous lake area with a cuddly pill bug or something a ways off. Naturally you just wander around aimlessly for a bit before the beasthood takes you and you attack the poor bug. This is Rom, one of the most difficult fights in the game (though fairly easy to overlevel for the first playthrough); basically Rom calls down little spiders that hit unbelievably hard and are heavily armored against frontal attacks, so to fight them you have to dodge behind them. Rom does nothing at first but eventually starts casting massive, difficult to avoid spells that do large amounts of damage. My first go around all I did was Rambo the boss and that worked well enough but for later playthroughs and especially in Chalice Dungeons that’s not going to cut it. It’s a brilliant fight, totally unique in the series and basically takes the concept of Freya and makes it much more interesting.

As you wake up after this fight having seen some weirdness you discover even more weirdness has begun. The moon is now red and a giant ominous door is now open. Now you descend into  Yahar’gul for real. The first part of this area is a giant pain in the ass pretty much, but it is relatively brief and easy enough to bypass; I’m sure this is where most deaths will be incurred in general and it does feel much different than the rest of the game. Basically there’s a ton of infinitely respawning enemies (think Catacombs except the enemies aren’t pathetic and there’s a lot more of them) and your standard “spawner” types that are also annoying and often very well hidden. To progress forward you have to run past an Amygdala that shoots a giant laser beam of death which is our equivalent of the Hellkite Dragon/Bridge Dragon/Blue Dragon in previous Souls entries (Hydra doesn’t really count), this isn’t too bad once you get used to it but I could see that taking a few tries; and considering this can be a hotbed of invasion if you’re not playing solo it can get to be a bit tricky.

After this the area becomes much more tame, you still have a couple more infinite spawners and a new, bizarrely fast giant blob coming out of a box enemy (as well as sniper variants). You might be inclined to just rush through this area but there’s also a ton of blood chunks around if you explore and those are extremely hard to come by in this game; so have some patience. You might notice that past the big door in  Yahargul that you weren’t able to get through there’s literally hundreds of petrified corpses piled up against the wall trying to get away from something; a very reassuring sight to be sure. While this area might not be the most fun to play it’s certainly extremely atmospheric.

As you come to the end you’re faced with a boss fight, a preposterously large entity of corpses strewn together in weird ways. I think the intention of the fight is that it’s like Tower Knight and you go up and fight snipers and stuff but at least on base difficulty the boss is simply too easy for that; you’ll take damage for sure but nothing you can’t just heal through. On NG+ it’s a bit dicier but it still worked out the same, I’ll try out different strategies on my next go of it. Basically this boss is the Rotten/Nito in terms of visual design except not as challenging, I don’t really have a problem with it because if they made it harder it would probably just be really annoying given the often continuous attack motions it has.

After this you wander into a building and see an assembly of skeletons in chairs with bird cages on their heads; evidently the high council of idiots that let loose whatever fucked up everyone in this area. You approach the main one and are back in the lecture building for a bit. At this point you can go say hi to Patches, or Spider Patches as it were; same voice actor and demeanor, different looking thing. Still seems like a nice enough guy though. If you go out of order his dialogue doesn’t really change that much so don’t bother. A door at the end leads to the next area.

This is the final grandiose area of the game, Mensis’ Nightmare; and it is rather sizable. Rivaling and perhaps surpassing Lost Izalith in scope this area can be very frustrating and is another hotbed of invasions; but in general you should be alright assuming you’re not extraordinarily low level. Basically Mother Brain has taken up residence in a tower overlooking the first area and you’re pretty much perpetually faced with constant frenzy status until you make it through or take cover. After this you get a giant room full of spiders (which are a lot more annoying than you might expect), as well as the bell lady who’s pretty close to the entrance all things considered. Then there’s Harry Potter, who seems to reck a whole lot of people from my experience in invasions; I don’t think he’s that bad but who knows.

After this you have a reasonably clear route to the boss, the trolliest boss who ever lived (except one boss in the Chalice Dungeon of course). Meet Micolash, apparently some still alive version of the dead guy who teleported you here. This guy seems to be just a little bit insane, but as long as you’re losing a fast weapon he doesn’t get many attacks off; then he runs away and you have to find him in this relatively elaborate labyrinth of hallways and fogginess. I didn’t really have much trouble here and I think the design is interesting enough, however if you opt to use a slower weapon this fight can get extremely annoying in new game plus with high insight, as he has spells that will pretty much one shot you no matter how much arcane resistance or health you have; oh and they have a huge area of effect. This won’t be a huge issue for most, no doubt, but fair warning to all my wheel brothers out there.

At this point I went and recovered a ridiculously obscure key that opened up the Upper Cathedral Ward, a troublesome area with some of the most annoying enemies in the series. Meet “Brainsuckers” as the game so wisely calls them, these enemies send instant stun projectiles at you then implant enormous pulsating tentacles into your brain and suck out 2 insight whilst doing a bunch of damage. Oh and you have to kill them to progress in the area.  At this point I was still in the “exploit the 2 hand axe charge attack’s wall invincibility” mode and killed them off very slowly. However I eventually learned the best way to fight these guys is to get close and parry them, the timing isn’t difficult but avoiding the projectiles can be.

When you finally make your way out of that infernal room, finding the key and the door it goes to (challenges in and of themselves) you make your way into a large open plaza, home to the next boss fight against a bunch of Roswell Aliens. Yep. Roswell Aliens. People seem to have problems with this design choice but the game is so fucking weird anyway it doesn’t seem like it matters. The fight’s just Royal Rat Vanguard in a larger area, fairly easy but novel nonetheless. After the boss there’s a lamp and not much else, except if you’re online you’ll notice a message that says break a window, and there’s another boss almost immediately.

Ebrietas is either the second or most difficult boss in the main game despite appearing relatively simple from the outset. Essentially the boss has a ridiculous charge attack that’s not only hard to spot but virtually impossible to evade if you’re too close to him, so to negate this I never lock on and always roll toward the camera and to the right. The boss also has a very slow head smash attack that’s simple to punish, so even though you’re not always in melee range it isn’t too difficult to get some damage in. After it reaches 50% the shit more or less hits the fan and now the boss has insanely powerful projectiles that prevent you from using the previous strategy. At this point I just lock on and go nuts and hope for the best, dodging and healing as best I can. If he uses the projectiles (only rarely at short range) you have to use audio queues when close and time the dodges perfectly, it’s not easy but if you do it you sort of feel like a Jedi Master so there you go. This variant is far from the most difficult version of Ebrietas in the game, but still quite challenging on weaker characters.

At this point I was actually kind of bored since I was spamming invasions incessantly and while the combat is better the players are still pretty tedious to fight. But there was one saving grace remaining and that’s Chalice Dungeons. I’m going to write a much more extensive post on them within a few weeks but you can safely say they’re the best part of the game and ultimately the most compelling thing to do repeatedly ad nauseum as well. If you ever find a main portion of the game tedious just go hang out in the chalice dungeons for a bit and reinvigorate your interest so doing. There are is a rather large number of totally unique fights in here as well as several fights that vary between themselves, and easily the best normal enemies in the game reside here as well; the most terrifying being the Crazy Screaming Bitches (canonical title) that are just fucking murderous when you have half HP. The most fun perhaps being the naked fat guys (a type of Merciless Watchers) that roll around as you wished the Ironclads did in Dark Souls 2.

Bloodborne taken only by what is in the main game is going to appear somewhat underwhelming to Souls devotees, that’s why you have to dig deeper, pay more attention, and by jove (?) do those Chalice Dungeons. The game is easily the most atmospheric in the series and is maybe even better at being scary and unsettling than something superb like Alien: Isolation, so relish in that, don’t just play through it and try to bumrush everything if you want to really enjoy the game. The game has less builds for sure but they’re all so different from one another that it doesn’t matter that much, and if Lords of the Fallen can be a good game with 3 builds then Bloodborne can certainly be a good game with 20-25 builds, just because there’s not 200+ builds in the game like Dark Souls 2 doesn’t mean the game isn’t perfectly competent in its own right; and in some sense actually being able to experience everything the game has to offer within a 200 hour period is nice.

For my part at this point I just went on a 30 hour Chalice adventure and it never got old in that time frame, yes the very early and easier chalices aren’t quite as interesting as the later ones but that’s going to be where you spend the bulk of your time anyway. This shit doesn’t get old by the way, the loot is actually very compelling even though you’d think it wouldn’t be; having access to some ridiculously overpowered gems and runes is pretty damn cool to be honest. Finding a Blood Rock basically means you get another +10 weapon on your present playthrough for free whereas normally you’d have to play through the whole game again (a la Dark Souls); they’re rare but so valuable when you get your hands on one. I’ve done around 50-60 hours of Chalice Dungeons at this point and I’m still finding new enemies and variants on rooms that I thought I had seen the limits of.

Eventually I decided to return to the main game, now around 70 levels higher than I was previously. Actually it was still reasonably challenging despite this, which is testament to the overall challenge of Bloodborne. I beat the next boss on the first try but it definitely had me on my toes the entire time; and while said boss has gotten easier on future attempts there’s something to be said for the first ever attempt being a hairy one. I had become aware of the game’s ending structure by this point and decided to go for the secret ending, however some previous deeds of mine had locked out one option. Yet another option remained, and an NPC that I thought had died had simply moved to a different location and had a very precious item.  Thus I was able to trigger the secret ending.

After Mergo’s Wet Nurse you arrive back at the old homely Hunter’s Lodge, now ablaze. Undeterred you surely walk into the burning building and continue about your day; never mind that whole open gate and Metal Gear Solid 3 arena. More Chalice Dungeons! Okay, fine game I’ll play along. So you wind up talking to the old G Man and turns out he’s a crazy motherfucker too, who’d have thought. Gehrman is actually the most difficult “required” fight in the game and sort of feels like Gwyn with a more elaborate attack pattern. You can parry him but it’s pretty difficult to get the timing down and he varies up his attack strings quite a lot, so basically it’ll be dodge city and hope you don’t get one shot in the process. He doesn’t seem to dodge projectiles much so you can exploit that if you want but if you’re aiming for a melee dance it’s a really fun fight and even reminiscent of the hallowed Vergil fights in DMC3. This game does feel more action-y at times, though you have to really play well in most situations to not get rocked if you’re going to be more aggressive; and this fight is probably the ideal in that regard. Even the Bloodborne naysayers like this one, that means it must be fucking incredible, as any Souls fan who whines about whatever new game is almost impossible to please.

After Gehrman some ugly ass headless thing (who if you’ve done Chalice Dungeons might look somewhat familiar…) descends from the moon and trys to hug you, but lo your status of having eaten not one, not two, but three umbilical cords has protected you! Of course! It all makes sense now. This boss is difficult immediately after fighting Gehrman since you probably won’t have much healing left, but on its lonesome isn’t too bad. The most interesting mechanic the fight has is a “Megiddo Flame” attack that sets your HP to one, however the boss kind of just sits around for a while after that and you can recover the life and even get some attacks in later (or both simultaneously if you prefer); I rocked his ass with the Wheel as any sensible person would do. Begone moon creature alien thing, and let us live in peace while we all kill each other and stuff. Roll Credits.

So, overall, I think the main game is around an 8.5-9/10 and the Chalice Dungeons are 10/10; most of the problems I had with the game initially were adjustment issues and not actual problems with the game. Basically the game has a new learning curve even for long time players of the series, you might avoid all the optional stuff and only die like 20-30 times or something and then immediately walk away from the game for no reason, but that’s not how you should play it. This is a game you should enjoy, explore, expand upon. Chalice Dungeons await! Don’t just ignore them because you’re “above” random generation or something, they’re there for a reason, that’s the best stuff in the game by a reasonably wide margin.

Death Count:

Wolf – 1
Random Dashboard – 1
Wolf Guy – 1
Generic Guys – 1
Spaz Guys – 1
Cleric Beast – 3
Blood Starved Beast – 4
Father Gascoigne – 1
Bigass Axe Dude – 1
BP equivalent – 1
Sparkles and Shotty – 1
Fat Guy – 1
Molotov Lady – 1
Bag Dude – 1
Witch – 0
Paarl – 0
Amelia - 0
Hippos – 3
Snakes – 2
Spider Ladies – 2
Logarius – 5
Shadow of Yarnham – 2
Amygdala – 1
Rom – 1
Blood Villagers – 1
Laser – 3
Brainsuckers – 3
Celestial Emissary – 0
Ebrietas – 4
Rock Lobbers – 1
The One Reborn – 0
Fat armor guy – 1
Micolash – 0
Mergo’s Wet Nurse – 0
Gehrman – 2
Moon Presence – 0.5
Chalice Dungeons – 75
PvP Record40-5

Youtube Shenanigans

This section is just for comedic value/random interesting things if you’re curious, it isn’t intended to promote my youtube channel or anything. I’ve uploaded a lot of stuff in the past week from Bloodborne and some of the videos have received large numbers of views, in a lot of the cases the reason for this is entirely obvious; the video is good, it involves something unique, and so on. However the most viewed video (now sitting at13,000 views, I shit you not) is just a random ass video that I uploaded after dying in an interesting way. I thought as I was posting the video "well that seemed to be the first part of this area" and titled it “Forbidden Forest Entry Area,” and instead of just going the way of any other random youtube vid and having 50-100 views or whatever it just skyrocketed because no one knows how to find the Forbidden Woods and some people search for entry area instead of how to find or where is or whatever. Basically the video starts like 30 seconds away from the actual entrance and this was enough to draw the extreme ire of a wide variety of individuals, this video now sits at a whopping 67 dislikes to 4 likes. Compare and contrast with this video of similar status.

Now, I’m something of a troll so all of this pleases me immensely of course. As any good troll will know the finest trolling moments always explode unintentionally and you kind of just roll with it, maybe this was just a normal video but now it’s an opportunity to mess with people for no reason; even without trying. Time will tell how this continues on but damn, that’s a lot of traffic for no particular reason.

Okay, okay I do actually have good videos as well and the most notable is this simple clip showcasing most of Logarius’ Wheel’s attacks:

The comments in this video were most inquisitive and wanted me to show it off more so I did and eventually did a whole playthrough using itif you’re curious. Something that I didn’t get out of Dark Souls II (which I do think is a superior game) was the community aspect because the game just flat out didn’t work online in my house, but with Bloodborne I not only have messages, pvp, and co-op content to explore I also have the random youtube audience and that has made the game considerably more enjoyable. So yeah, use that share button if you like, it certainly has been a rewarding experience for me. I’m far from the best Bloodborne player, but I am reasonably competent and simply being so while being willing to listen to the demands of the people as it were has led me in entirely new directions. For the first time I actually feel compelled to play through a Souls game all the way to NG+7 right off the bat and I’ll always have more chalice dungeons to explore to finally get a good roll of an Abyssal Gem or what have you.  If all else fails, remember Wheelchair.

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