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

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.