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Sab Sabbington
Sep 18, 2016

In my restless dreams I see that town...

Flagstaff, Arizona


Phenotype posted:

What was the nerf to the last level? I played this ages ago with my roommate and I remember giving up in frustration at what was probably the final jump or two of the last level -- you were climbing a circular fence and it felt like you had to jump off and somehow swing around in a U shape to catch the next section of fencing and we just. couldn't. do it. We might have just missed the ACTUAL spot you were supposed to jump to, but after an hour trying and failing I think we ended up just watching the ending on Youtube.

e: Yeah! It was this jump here -- we just COULD NOT get it done. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AioJ3kWTZPw#t=1043s Mad cuz bad I guess.

Yeah, in addition to pretty much that exact issue the rising water was slowed down as you progressed upwards. I vividly remember how absurdly tight the time requirement was as a kid and how much of a welcome change that ended up being.

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dumby
Oct 25, 2007


Lol I also quit Psychonauts at a jump in the meat circus. I don't think it was this one, I remember a super tall spring jump being impossible to land. Couple hours of trying a single jump and I decided I'd never finish that game.

Gynovore
Jun 17, 2009

Forget your RoboCoX or your StickyCoX or your EvilCoX, MY CoX has Blinking Bewbs!

WHY IS THIS GAME DEAD?!

dumby posted:

Lol I also quit Psychonauts at a jump in the meat circus. I don't think it was this one, I remember a super tall spring jump being impossible to land. Couple hours of trying a single jump and I decided I'd never finish that game.

Yeah, I quit after fighting a boss for an hour and failing due to horrible controls.

Josherino
Mar 24, 2021



Honestly, I could spend hours trying to go back and forth with myself over which game is the best; for some reason I just can't stop thinking about "Backyard Baseball"... so I'm just gonna go with that.

Fly Ricky
May 7, 2009

The Wine Taster

I am legit interested in a full-fledged effortpost about that. Please sell me on it.

PNGYAKUZA
Apr 21, 2021

I'm not a monster, it's just a mask.


For me it's 100% Killer7


Because it's the kind of game best gone into completely blind I think if you have any interest in this game you should seriously just play it.
Any SUDA fan or even fans of other similar directors like Yoko Taro or Kojima really owe it to themselves to play this masterpiece.

However if you're not in those groups I'll do a quick rundown about why this game is so amazing.

Graphics:
Whilst not the absoloute highlight the game has aged really well due to the cel shading style and looks pretty nice on the PC port imo. Not much else to say about it thoufg.

Gameplay:
This game has weird gameplay for sure. The core combat is an on rails movement where you can then swap to a first person mode to shoot the enemies, hit them in their weakpoints and they die, keep hitting them they die etc. Each character has different stats and weapons. The game also has quite a few puzzles to solve, some needing certain characters out of combat abilities. None of them are too hard but some are quite fun imo.

Characters:
The game focuses around the titular Killer7, this is a group of 7 assassins who are all part of the player characters psyche. Because of this some characters do not get as much dialogue or cutscene involvment as others, however through small lines of dialogue, visuals etc. you get a clear understanding of what each member of the Killer7 is like. The only member who gets prominent screentime throughout the game is Garcian as he is the primary protagonist of the game.

Story:
I won't go into story in too much depth as it's quite strange and hard to grasp upon first playthrough and tbh I don't think I have the time or energy to go into it even if I was to discuss spoilers. It's definetly the highlight of the game though and has had me thinking about it for months. There's many fantastic moments in the story and I personally think it's the best video game story of all time.

Acerbatus
Jun 26, 2020



One thing I always find funny about Killer7 is how everyone talks about how deep and meaningful Killer7's story is yet nobody will ever go into detail.

I'm not entirely sure how much of the symbolism is meaningful and how much just sounded cool (like the sentai squad killing a guy named Pearlharbor might not actually mean anything? The whole 'seeing people differently through TV cameras because of how the media distorts things' probably is intended, though), but I think there's so much symbolism that the actual surface story ends up not meaning much.

Would've been nice if everyone got more spotlight but it ends up just being Dan for the regular 6 playable K7 members.

Polo-Rican
Jul 3, 2004

emptyquote my posts or die

I want a Psychonauts remaster / remake more than Psychonauts 2... take the original game, pump up the graphics, adjust a bunch of the platforming to make it less painful, bam, you've undoubtedly got one of the greatest games of all time

haveblue
Aug 15, 2005




Toilet Rascal

The main thing I remember about Killer7's story is some guy posting a 200 page explication of it on GameFAQs and then having a meltdown when the studio dropped some supplementary material that contradicted a lot of it

Acerbatus
Jun 26, 2020



haveblue posted:

The main thing I remember about Killer7's story is some guy posting a 200 page explication of it on GameFAQs and then having a meltdown when the studio dropped some supplementary material that contradicted a lot of it

To be fair, other things Hand in Killer7 contradicts include Killer7 and Hand In Killer7. I'd probably go crazy trying to sort it out too.

HMS Beagle
Feb 13, 2009




Polo-Rican posted:

I want a Psychonauts remaster / remake more than Psychonauts 2... take the original game, pump up the graphics, adjust a bunch of the platforming to make it less painful, bam, you've undoubtedly got one of the greatest games of all time

I also want this. During one of the making of Psychonauts 2 videos released they showed a remastered version of the starting camp area they'd made to test out their tools and it looked gorgeus.

punk rebel ecks
Dec 11, 2010

We dance for socialism!


PNGYAKUZA posted:

For me it's 100% Killer7


Because it's the kind of game best gone into completely blind I think if you have any interest in this game you should seriously just play it.
Any SUDA fan or even fans of other similar directors like Yoko Taro or Kojima really owe it to themselves to play this masterpiece.

However if you're not in those groups I'll do a quick rundown about why this game is so amazing.

Graphics:
Whilst not the absoloute highlight the game has aged really well due to the cel shading style and looks pretty nice on the PC port imo. Not much else to say about it thoufg.

Gameplay:
This game has weird gameplay for sure. The core combat is an on rails movement where you can then swap to a first person mode to shoot the enemies, hit them in their weakpoints and they die, keep hitting them they die etc. Each character has different stats and weapons. The game also has quite a few puzzles to solve, some needing certain characters out of combat abilities. None of them are too hard but some are quite fun imo.

Characters:
The game focuses around the titular Killer7, this is a group of 7 assassins who are all part of the player characters psyche. Because of this some characters do not get as much dialogue or cutscene involvment as others, however through small lines of dialogue, visuals etc. you get a clear understanding of what each member of the Killer7 is like. The only member who gets prominent screentime throughout the game is Garcian as he is the primary protagonist of the game.

Story:
I won't go into story in too much depth as it's quite strange and hard to grasp upon first playthrough and tbh I don't think I have the time or energy to go into it even if I was to discuss spoilers. It's definetly the highlight of the game though and has had me thinking about it for months. There's many fantastic moments in the story and I personally think it's the best video game story of all time.
I'm playing this game right now and am shocked at how good it is and how well its aged.

Like you could have told me the game released last year and I'd have no problem believing you.

Oldstench
Jun 29, 2007

Let's talk about where you're going.


Sab Sabbington posted:

Hell yeah, I'm gonna be riding this dopamine hit for at least a few weeks, appreciate it.

I hope you enjoy it--the platforming is pretty dated but gets easier once you get a feel for the broader way the movement works and unlock some of the upgrades. I still think the most frustrating part of the game for me--post the nerf to the last level in rereleases--is a tightrope section in the first mental landscape you go through.

If I can give any advice: try and find the various vaults in each level, and if you don't naturally look them up at the end. They give little backstory vignettes by way of stylized slideshow that adds, imo, a whole lot of interesting context for each person you encounter. You can also talk extensively to the various characters around the camp for some very funny dialogue, but none of it is mandatory or all that important, so if that's not your thing don't worry about it.

Most importantly, please update with your opinion on whether you're Team Firestarters or Team Levitators, there is only one right answer and picking the wrong one might get you singed.

Just FYI, Steam had this for $5 so I grabbed it. I'm kinda sucked in to Monster Hunter World right now, but as soon as I come up for air, it's Psychonauts for sure.

Sab Sabbington
Sep 18, 2016

In my restless dreams I see that town...

Flagstaff, Arizona


Oldstench posted:

Just FYI, Steam had this for $5 so I grabbed it. I'm kinda sucked in to Monster Hunter World right now, but as soon as I come up for air, it's Psychonauts for sure.

Yoooooo I'm hype, enjoy both of those things, I'm about to do my yearly playthrough soon here myself, I'm excited to see how you feel about it.

PNGYAKUZA
Apr 21, 2021

I'm not a monster, it's just a mask.


punk rebel ecks posted:

I'm playing this game right now and am shocked at how good it is and how well its aged.

Like you could have told me the game released last year and I'd have no problem believing you.

Yeah on the whole it's aged really well. I only played it last summer but I absoloutely fell in love. Definetly looks like the kind of style a modern indie title would use.
Hope you enjoy the rest of the game.

PNGYAKUZA fucked around with this message at 06:46 on Apr 22, 2021

The Breakfast Sampler
Jan 1, 2006




The various iterations of Mario Kart 8 are my favorites that I've played in the last few years, it's nice to just pick up and run a couple races, and it's straightforward enough for my dumb oldbrains that the controllers are muscle memory and I don't have to track a bunch of tangential systems like crafting and inventory stuff.

Lampsacus
Oct 21, 2008



Sid Meier's Civilization for MS-DOS.
It's missing so much. It lacks unique civs and units. Every playthrough has a similar story structure. The AI reminds you of a cow. Sometimes you fight a tank war over a continent but mostly you are spamming diplomats to purchase enemy cities. In the year 300AD the Aztecs will land three knights and take two of your cities with wonders and you'll say gently caress now I have to restart. You will spend a long time on certain turns, making sure no citizens are going to revolt and collapse your democracy. Indians will take Pyramids and that will suck because now you have to spend ages researching suboptimal techs.

But my gxd. You can play it in dosbox on a laptop, with the other side of your screen watching a downloaded movie or the office or lost. And its so simple, its like catan. its simple enough that you can be really flexible with your strategies and tactics. you don't need to worry about following the one 'proper' way to play. you can just riff. you can try colonise the ice tiles at the bottom of the map. you can make the perfectly irrigated, railroaded island empire. you can exploit the 1991 game mechanics and play god with the other civs. one simple way to do this is to simply make peace and then delete all your units. they will never declare war until they encounter them. you can fly to alpha centauri and win the game, or nuke every mother frizzing badly positioned ai city until you feel sad again. oh, you can just have a good time. civ1 is definitely my favourite, best game ever and i love that its literally civ. civ is played so much and is so popular, but its civ that will work on any laptop, on your ds, and its civ that is so elegant and classic and completely misses the modern game design choice of trying to balance so many mechanics and cram in so many bonuses for each civ but somehow making them fair and nerfed and buffed and its like balancing scales but heaps of stuff, way tooo much stuff on the scales so the slightest unbalance has the whole game crashing down. civ1 is a simple dish but its literally everything you need in a civ game, to me. i also think i like it because i've just played it so much and for so long. really, any game somebody plays heaps and heaps eventually can become quite a comforting, familar experience. i'm sure many people reading this can think of a game that is their version of civ1. i know on the civfanatics forums there are people still hooning civ2, writing their little stories about their games; ignoring the lovely ai and the fact they know they could easily beat any game if they really tried. but i don't play my video game to 'really try', life has enough of that. I play sid meier's civilization for ms dos because i know i'll get a good story, enough randomness and weirdness to constitute an interesting experience, but a good measure of exactly what i know so well. I love the perils of transporting five ARMOR across a sea full of menacing CRUISERs and BATTLESHIP and dumb FIGHTERs. and the ai, for all its faults, actually tries to attack and colonise you and does poo poo and acts weird and makes epic conquests of other ais. I mean, the ai in the new civ games is so stagnent and its like the developers were scared to actually threaten the player with death by ai so they just made everybody sit around clicking their skinner boxes argh. anyway, civ1 is good and i like it. its a bit niche.

Lampsacus fucked around with this message at 11:44 on Apr 24, 2021

Shine
Feb 26, 2007

No Muscles For The Majority


Lampsacus posted:

The AI reminds you of a cow.

You remind the AI of a dairy farmer.

Dominoes
Sep 20, 2007



Oh poo poo

Josherino
Mar 24, 2021



The Breakfast Sampler posted:

The various iterations of Mario Kart 8 are my favorites that I've played in the last few years, it's nice to just pick up and run a couple races, and it's straightforward enough for my dumb oldbrains that the controllers are muscle memory and I don't have to track a bunch of tangential systems like crafting and inventory stuff.

For some reason I just haven't been able to shake off "Double Dash" as my favorite MK.

morallyobjected
Nov 3, 2012


Josherino posted:

For some reason I just haven't been able to shake off "Double Dash" as my favorite MK.

I have no idea how I'd feel about it now, but I loved Mario Kart Wii when it came out, and I played it exclusively with the Wiimote wheel. pretty sure I even got three stars on all cups for all CCs.

CTR will always be my favourite though, and the remaster that adds Nitro Kart tracks is great

SardonicTyrant
Feb 26, 2016

BTICH IM A NEWT
熱くなれ夢みた明日を
必ずいつかつかまえる
走り出せ振り向くことなく
&





Zybourne Clock posted:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zGrAWABcw0

Before reading on, briefly close your eyes and picture in your mind the platonic ideal of a video game. What happens if -- assuming your ideal uses a controller -- you press the A-button? If you're like me and your first console was a Nintendo 64, the answer is probably 'the character I'm controlling jumps six feet straight into the air.'

A Hat in Time does not follow this convention set by previous 3D platforming collectathons. By default it expects you to press 'B' instead, which is about my only gripe. In every other aspect, A Hat in Time is the best parts of Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, thrown in a blender on high speed and made into a delicious smoothy. Though to describe it by its ingredients undersells its freshness.

The plot and overall goal of the game are simple. You play as Hat Kid, a space-traveling girl five lightyears from home, who wakes up one day to find a blue-suited member of the Mafia bonking on her spaceship window, demanding she pay a toll. When he tries to come in, the space ship's interior decompresses and scatters its time pieces - its fuel - onto the planet below. It's up to you to find and retrieve all forty of them.

But the game throws constant twists and turns on how you're supposed to get them. I don't want to spoil any (because what good is a surprise if you know it's coming?) but they're incredibly varied. What, you insist on examples? Well, in one chapter you're infiltrating a movie studio run by a train-loving owl (or so it claims) and a disco-dancing penguin, locked in a bitter feud with eachother. In another you're escaping a train that's about to self-destruct, and in a third you're locked in a Luigi's Mansion-style haunted house. You might notice a wink or two to other old-timey platformers.

In case you're wondering how these disparate parts function together, they work well. Hat Kid has a modest move set, but all of the game's challenges are built to fully make use of it. Not once in my playthroughs did I feel I was doing 'more of the same.' It even has engaging boss battles, which I feel few of its cousins have.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_WX52cA9EI
You know that's not how contracts work, right?

Time pieces are the main collectible by which the story progresses, but there's more immaterial things to collect. The developers polished this game to a mirror-shine, and if you take a moment, you can't help but notice the tiny details present everywhere. For instance, in a treasure chest aboard her ship, there's a drawing of Hat Kid's parents. It's of no consequence to the story and you can only see it through careful camera manipulation, but someone took the effort to put it in. Or the million different facial expressions Hat Kid has. Bonk into a wall and she looks hurt. Run out of time on a certain mission and she looks worried. Or the dedicated taunt button that lets you blow raspberries any time you want. Or the double secret taunt that lets you dance real smug. Tiny things, and too numerous to list, but they show how much love was poured into the production process.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVTx4B-u0oU#t=14s
That first idle animation is my favorite. Some grade-A characterization in 24 keyframes.

You meet a number of characters on your journey. Most try to exploit or kill you, usually both, and they're not the least bit coy about it. All have these larger-than-life cartoon villain personalities and their lines of dialogue are pure gold; you almost can't wait to hear what outrageous thing they're going to say next. They're not the kind of characters you'd expect to find in the Mushroom Kingdom. (The Empress - a cat who runs a jewel smuggling ring - would rob Peach blind. The Snatcher - a malevolent forest spirit - would probably turn Mario inside out because he can.) As a result they're all pretty memorable.


Yes, that RPG launcher fires diamond grenades.

The music deserves a special mention, both for its length (the soundtrack is over six hours long) and its bangers (click the video at the start of this post to inject 10 cc of nostalgia into your earholes for a game you're yet to play.) But much like the game itself, the music is characterized by its variation. It's difficult to describe, but in some levels the tracks mutate and evolve as you progress further into a level or do certain things. Instruments get added, or melodies become more complex. For instance, take the Nyakuza Metro level. Jump on a train car and there's a wooshing sound effect as the BPM picks up, a subtle reminder you're going fast. There's even a few remixes which don't play unless you're driving a scooter, something you might very well miss on a first playthrough.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDxS8oK6hCc
Forcing me to pick a favorite track is like forcing me to pick a favorite kidney. Impossible, and quite possibly illegal -- depending on your intent.

This game is witty. Its jokes land, are funny, and don't become tired like so many games which try to be humorous on purpose. This game is pretty. Its aesthetic is like a more colorful Windwaker, and the levels are all unique and don't follow the woods-desert-beach-ice-lava progression philosophy of the genre. I can't possibly list every reason why I like it. Not only because there are too many, but because some are purely emotional and would only leak through the holes in the imperfect container that is the written word.

A Hat in Time was announced when I was finishing up my master's degree. Medically speaking, I was in a pretty bad state. My joints ached constantly, and I was tired all the time, and over the years my symptoms worsened. I stopped being able to eat, and at times I felt like I had swallowed a knife. What's worse, my doctor had no clue what was wrong with me. Watching this game grow from its original kickstarter demonstration offered a welcome distraction from the pain.

In 2015 I woke up one morning to find myself unable to walk. I got wheeled into the nearest hospital, and the last thing I remember is receiving a shot of morphine. It wasn't until years later my mother told me I spent some time in the intensive care unit, and that she believed I was going to die. These days I'm doing a lot better. My disease was diagnosed, and I now have the proper medication to mostly be without pain.

One of the hats you collect lets you stop time for a bit. Its description reads: "death is inevitable. Your time is valuable." I don't know if I ever got close to the brink of death, and quite frankly, I don't care to know. All I know is I'm glad I lived through it, and playing this game helped symbolically cap off that terrible time.
No praise for A Hat In Time is complete without mention of the best mod of all time:

https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1168604805

Senerio
Oct 19, 2009

Ooh! Are we messing with Adora?





SardonicTyrant posted:

No praise for A Hat In Time is complete without mention of the best mod of all time:

https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1168604805
You posted the wrong mod.
https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1681003402&searchtext=Mustache

VideoGames
Aug 18, 2003

^Current Game^


2021 COMPLETED GAMES:
DS1, DS2, DS3, Sekiro,
TLG, Demons Souls,
TLOU, TLOUII,
Outer Wilds, Returnal,
Return of the Obra Dinn




  2021 is the year of Dark Souls.

  I finished Bloodborne at the beginning of December 2020. I craved more of that game and went looking - the Surge, Nioh, and Code Vein to name three examples, but whatever I tried I just could not scratch that itch that Bloodborne had burrowed into me.
  The PS5 had just come out and I wanted to play through the Dark Souls Trilogy on that, but as we all know, the PS5 does not exist. So at the end of the year I tried a bit of Dark Souls.

  It was fine. Bloodborne to DS1 is a little rough and I am sad to say I was not quite enamoured from being a speedy zippy hunter into a slow and cumbersome cardinal roller. It was tough and I played a few times before Christmas.
  I had fun, but I did not have Bloodborne fun and I stopped because a couple of important things in my life came to the front and were needed to be done before I could return to Dark Souls.

  That break was the wisest thing as it gave me enough time to forget about Bloodborne combat, but not lose the love I was kindling for Dark Souls. I set myself a schedule for streaming the game (as this was my secret weapon in getting myself to finish games) and I would play Dark Souls every Tuesday evening, Friday evening and Sunday afternoon.
  I beat it and then immediately started Dark Souls 2 and then I beat that and immediately started Dark Souls 3, and beat that and now find myself in Sekiro - continuing the Fromlike journey ever onwards.
  I am a little empty for not having any more Dark Souls to conquer but am overstuffed with a lot of joy for discovering the truth that eluded me: That the Dark Souls trilogy is a master class in not only how to make a game, but how to not coast on successive sequels, create an engaging spanning storyline and test a player consistently with each encounter until a final boss makes you prove your mettle.

  I want to get deep into what I love about each one of these games and why it has meant so much to me despite playing so many years after initial release.
  The past few months have been a whirlwind of frustration and joy and contemplation and confusion and only ever the souls series has had this kind of effect on me.

  People use the term soulslike to describe games but as a descriptor I think it misses what the actual core of a 'soulslike' is and it has a very simple answer.

  A soulslike, at the very core, is a game made by FromSoftware.

  That is all it is.

  The Dark Souls trilogy is a collection of soulslike in that all three are Dark Souls games but all three are noticeably different to each other. They share similar ideas and similar systems but the biggest consistency across all three is that FromSoftware made these games.
  This is also why games made by other companies try to emulate and fall short. It is the studio itself that imbibes them with the 'Soulslike' feeling. This is shown even more drastically when you factor Bloodborne and Sekiro into the mix. There is a core feeling in all five of these games despite the quintet being different to each other.
  That core comes straight out of the FromSoftware studio.
  So I more often than not use a different term: Fromlike.

  Fromlikes have a feel that is easily imitated and rarely captured. At the time of writing this I am playing Sekiro. As mentioned earlier it shares very little in common with the Soulsborne games that came before it but the core familiarity is still present.
  This is most certainly a game made by FromSoftware.
  Their influence and experience permeates throughout the games they make and it is an indelible quality that strives people to copy it.

  As of right now I played the Fromlikes in this order:
  Bloodborne, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II, Dark Souls III and Sekiro. I have seen a distinct evolution of the kind of game they wish to make throughout my Dark Souls trilogy run and seeing the growth of a studio and their concepts refine is a joy.

  I have spoken, at great length, about Bloodborne previously and I will speak about Sekiro at another point in time. This essay is about the Souls Trilogy as a whole because while they are three separate games, they form a whole package to me and complete a small section in my heart for one of the best trilogies of all times. They also share more in common than Bloodborne or Sekiro so it makes more sense to me to discuss them as a group.

  So this is the story of how a simple game player found a hidden power inside and beat the whole of the Dark Souls Trilogy in 120 hours.


Part 1: Dark Souls (or I should probably heal)
Playtime: 27 hours

  As I mentioned earlier, I moved from Bloodborne straight to DS1. (I nearly jumped straight to DS3 or Sekiro but thank goodness I did not - more on that later). I originally held it against the game. The movement set of Bloodborne is specifically tailored towards a certain kind of style that does not exist in Dark Souls and I had a very real struggle to get used to it.
  One example is the rally mechanic. In Bloodborne I would make mistakes, get hit occasionally and gain my health back by being aggressive. I was absolutely aggressive in Dark Souls and I was punished because I forgot to heal or look at my health gauge. It became a running joke throughout the trilogy that I had to be told to heal because I brought my successful playset into a world where the benefits did not exist. I did not use shields in any of the Dark Souls aside from wearing the crest shield on my back to give me a stamina boost. Instead I preferred to dodge and run around and get hits in.

  Blocking? No thanks!!

  Eventually I got used to the big changes. Dodging in only cardinal directions, slower movement and more variety to levels and equipment. I felt a tad overwhelmed at the choice to Bloodborne's rather sparse setup but I played more and more and Bloodborne fell away from memory. Dark Souls began to consume my thoughts and the game started speaking to me more and more.
  Eventually, after 29 hours I finished all of Dark Souls 1 and its DLC. It had been a ride and one I was eager to remain on.
  Dark Souls 1 was the beginning of a slice of gaming magic that will endure long into the future. We will look back at it the same way we look back at Mario and Pacman and it is very easy to see why.
  The game on the surface is a third person action rpg but to distil it down to this is to do what it actually does a disservice. Dark Souls 1 and the two sequels are reimagining of an approach to gaming that was lost for a while.
  There has been lots said about the way Games hold hands nowadays; with pointers at the top of the screen and mini-maps, and direct statements from npcs telling you were to go and what to do.
  Dark Souls eschewed this in a year where some of the biggest games were all about that (Uncharted 3, Skyrim, Rage, LA Noire, and Assassin's Creed Revelations to mention a few).
  Dark Souls being a game where you are plonked into a world and left to decipher it on your own was so reminiscent of games from the earlier generations that for a lot of people it was quite alien. Coupled with how tough it was to face even regular enemies if you were not focused you could see how it would put off a ton of gamers and attract only a small set of others.
  Not everyone enjoys a slog through a kind of game you had not really been playing since the late 80s - early 90s. Approaching this needs you to think more in the Ghouls and Goblins route.

  Myself attempting this series 10 years later and all in a row gave me a rather unique experience compared to those who faced the Souls trilogy. Each hour spent in each game trained me and prepared me for the battles to come in each hour afterward.
  This is true of every game but the Dark Souls methodology feels like a bigger accomplishment because of the lack of hand holding. It is a tight balance walk the line between obtuse and enigmatic and it is far easier to hide mechanics and story than to trust that the player will learn and discover them for themselves.
  The game walks it with confidence.
  It hides a complex narrative within an interconnected world that is exactly as engaging as you want it to be. You get given a lot of freedom to make the path through the world and be the character you feel like being without any detriment to the story.
  To pull off this kind of storytelling, where the character decides how to approach these things, is always a feat and FromSoftware have demonstrated time and again just how adept they are. All three Souls games are open to any player picking up any weapon and set of armour and making their way of their own choices through the crafted worlds.
  Dark Souls has probably the most tight of the three worlds and the DLC fits into the game more a little more seamlessly than the others (with the exception of the ringed city from DS3). Adding chunks of game after the fact often feels like a suddenly visible point on the game map that you go off and visit.
  Oolacile, as a version of the past that has a tangible effect on the story that you may not even realise thanks to the exploratory nature of the narrative and npcs you can talk to, is completely optional and contains more for people who want more but fits firmly into the world as part of the multitude of magical things you will run across.
  That it contains one of the two best bosses in the game is icing.
  Dark Souls giving you viewpoints where you can look across the world and see where you need to go and reach it and look back up, like the undead parish and berg, is what goes such a long way to enhancing the 'realism' of the game world. Things like that have a subtle effect on your mind. Knowing that downstairs is a real downstairs and not just low poly textures as a background fleshes out how your mind recalls your journey and gives you the knowledge to run around the world without that pesky mini-map.

  There were a LOT of great bosses in this game and my three standouts were Artorias, Gwynn and the Bed of Chaos:
  Artorias was tough and besting him felt extremely satisfying. I would say he was one of the toughest in the game and that made the solo victory against him in only eight tries one of the sweetest.
  Bed of Chaos might be a controversial pick, but is one of my favourites due to the fact that I had been getting the hang of jumping in the game before this point. Having to run around and miss the sudden chasms with some funny jumping was refreshing and different and was a great change from a one on one battle. It did help that Lost Izalith and the demon ruins are my favourite areas in the game from a visual standpoint.
  I did not use quite a few mechanics in the game, but it turned out I did not need to. My trusty axe, lightning great sword and great club were all fantastic weapons that helped me get through the whole game.
  I like summoning friends and this is an aspect of the game that is a really wonderful idea. Other games should copy this because letting another player drop into your world to help you goes a huge way to fostering friendships and a game community. Likewise the trade-off being that you can be ‘invaded’ by users intent on causing harm feels like a good way to prevent the game from being a steamroll. This whole idea is better executed in later souls but works well here.
  I am still sad I accidentally ate the Firelink Shrine maiden's soul for my estus flask by mistake. I beat Lautrec to avenge her but it still stings. Maybe on another play through I will put right this wrong of the past.
  Estus healing is a great mechanic. Having a limited health regen system that is replenished on death is how I originally thought Bloodborne did its healing. Turns out if you die to Father Gascoigne 75 times but keep all those blood vials collected along the way stored in the bank, you will never run out and it will look like the Dark Souls method of healing.
  The messaging system is a big plus. I always laughed when they would trick me with statements of illusory wall and I would often read aloud what they said before my brain would catch up with the words But and Hole used together so much.

  Well played Soulsians, well played.

  One of the themes that runs through the trilogy is that of loneliness. There are npcs that you can talk to for sure, but the amount of enemies are sparse and the world you run around is large and quite empty.
  You are at the end of civilisation and the sound design works to confirm this feeling of isolation.
  I always noticed how little music there was in the main game and that in the places where you are guaranteed to hear some it is for a specific purpose. The calm but saddened tones of Firelink Shrine to let you know this is a safe haven, but a safe haven in a world that is close to death.
  Whereas the boss battles generally have bombastic, frenetic and thunderous orchestral sounds to keep you anxiously on your toes as you know you are about to make irreversible changes to the world.
  The one track that combines the two deftly is Gwynn's theme and the best track in the whole game. The final boss and when you meet you are expecting a thunderous and loud roar to go alongside the battle. Instead you face this King who controlled the first flame with a gentle tune played only on the white notes of the piano. It is haunting and stark and makes it worthy of being the final thing you do in a game that has been building to such a poignant moment.
  Gwynn was a very special moment to me because defeating him meant I had beaten a souls game. He tested me well. His arena being these loose piles of pale ash, the music so harrowing and knowing what it meant for the story was the culmination of the very atmosphere that the game had been cultivating. Everything lead to this point and I will not quickly forget the outcome.
  Dark Souls, from beginning to end, was a game that seemed to subvert the preconceived notions of what games were at the time and it succeeded tremendously.


Part 2: Dark Souls II (or Clubbed to Death by Rob D.)
Playtime: 57 hours.

  Near the end of the first Dark Souls I had switched my weapon over to a great club. I found it at the bottom of blight town and once I started levelling my stats into it, I discovered the joy of pummelling things right into the ground. It was a powerful and slow weapon and fit my playstyle. I had slowed myself down dramatically from Bloodborne and being able to judge distances and do a huge whack helped me rejig my muscle memory.
  So I created my character, named Ruckus, and went out into the world of Drangleic in search of a great club.

  From the very start of my Fromlike journey there were people who said to skip DS2 or that DS2 was terrible or made by a B team or not really a Dark Souls game and many other things. I admit when I started I genuinely was unsure what to expect. You hear all this gushing about the first and then all that is turned upon its head for the second and you feel a little worried.
  Finishing Dark Souls it is obvious that any follow up to a game like that would be under severe scrutiny and would have been properly hyped up in the years between releases. Three years is a long while for people to think of what their perfect sequel might entail.
  I did not have any idea what to expect. I went straight from DS1 to DS2 without a single clue in the world. I think my sheer obliviousness was a super power.
  I like Dark Souls II much more than Dark Souls and throughout the 57 hours it took I had so many more highs that I was even uncertain if Dark Souls III could compare to it.

  Dark Souls II could easily have been a cash grab kind of sequel. They struck gold with Dark Souls and releasing the same game with a different map would have been the easiest thing to do in the world. Dark Souls II said 'Nah. I am going to do my own thing.' and for that reason alone I respect it.
  The reason I love it is due to the things it did caused me to fall head over heels again for Fromlikes as I did when playing Bloodborne.
  Dark Souls II feels like it is approximately 3 degrees off from Dark Souls.
  Some of the same mechanics are here: Bonfires, estus flasks, levelling up of the self and equipment but they are ever so slightly different.
  Bonfires are plentiful and right from the bat you can use them to travel to any other bonfire you have found. There is also a helpful menu showing you the number of bonfires in any given area by making them misty, but also showing you the ones where your soul level means you are more likely to get invaded. The warping between bonfires mechanic was in Dark Souls but only to specific bonfires. This makes sense as the world of Drangleic is considerably larger than the world of Lordran.
  To make up for this, the change to levelling a character and an estus flask means having to return to Majula, this game's Firelink Shrine, and talk to the Emerald Herald (who I accidentally kept referring to Esmerelda). She will take your souls and level you up, much like the doll did in Bloodborne.
  Estus flasks only being upgraded when finding an item in the world, as opposed to using humanity to kindle bonfires, is also a change I like. It being a reward for exploring the game world is never something I would shy away from. If a game world is good then I like diving fully into it and finding things. In this regard, Dark Souls was a sprawling behemoth of a world with much to find and locate.

  The world not being as sensible or interconnected as Lordran from Dark Souls is often used as a point against it, but for me the fact that it is this way fits with how I absorbed the story.
  I said earlier that a pervading sense of loneliness and isolation filters throughout the trilogy but Dark Souls II brings an extra dimension to its fear: memory loss.
  From the opening cinematic of a family melting away there is a palpable fear of forgetting the very being of what makes you, you. This is a fear shown by many of the npcs you talk to throughout the game. One of the most memorable is a fighter named Lucatiel.
  Her questline requires you to meet and befriend her, then bring her to three boss fights as a summon and keep her alive in all of them (one being the Smelter demon, who she absolutely trounced with me). At the end of her questline you find her in an abandoned shack outside Aldia's Keep. She is struggling to breathe and keep herself from going hollow. She almost begs you to remember her name because she is aware that she is close to the moments when she will no longer be able to, but if there is just one person out there who can say the name Lucatiel then in some way she still lives.
  It is a heart-breaking moment. An npc begging to be remembered in a world that is surely crumbling is a beautiful bit of storytelling and make no mistake: Drangleic is crumbling.
  The game is set thousands of years after the end of the first game, in a world when the first flame being kindled too much has led to where we are now. This idea that deliberately preventing the age of dark and prolonging the age of fire is a mistake made over and over is fully realised at the end of Dark Souls III but it properly takes root in the series here and the story is stronger for it.
  The world is a mess and nowhere is it shown more than the lift from Earthen Peak. Earthen Peak has a windmill sat atop it, and within the windmill are poisonous floors leading up to a circular arena where you fight a boss called Mytha, the Baneful. Think a sort of Medusa kind of creature. Once slew, you go to a small room behind her and into an elevator which begins to rise. What is at the top of this elevator?
  Well. While walking into a lava filled world with a castle so heavy it is sinking into said lava would not be hidden at the top of a windmill does not make sense at first glance, it does make perfect sense in the broken world of Drangleic.
  So much of Dark Souls 2 is reminiscent of past adventures in Lordran but like I said earlier, off by a few degrees. It is as the world is trying to form from foggy memories but they are so well forgotten that the form ends up misshapen. Earthen Peak may have had a road that lead to the Iron Keep at one point, but it was not via an elevator and it does not matter. Drangleic needs to end is what matters. The first flame needs to be extinguished because letting it be rekindled over and over brings us to this. An elevator into a sky full of lava.

  I love this story so very much. Battling half remembered bosses in oft familiar locales is realised in a way that does not feel like a reskin of the first game; it feels thematically relevant to the point it is trying to get across.
  In terms of the gameplay, much about it is improved. Being able to roll in more than just the cardinal directions is sorely welcome and allowed for a little more movement than one, even if I discovered very late into the game that my adaptability had been a bit of a hindrance. (That is definitely a weird move that I do not get). Walking and running 'feels' heavier somehow despite being quicker.
  This crosses over into combat. Greatly improved upon, dual wielding weapons work so much better and there is a wealth of moves for your character based on what you are carrying. You can also power stance your dual weapons to combine them into a series of extremely powerful combo moves. At one point I was powerstancing two great club and while the move was slow when it connected it absolutely connected.
  Being able to equip four rings instead of just two was very welcome indeed and considering just how many items you could find in game made experimenting with your build midgame a very pleasant affair.
  In terms of the actual story, I blitzed through the game with my club, every session giving me more fun than the last. There were a ton of bosses and unsurprisingly to me all the best ones were in the DLC. There is something about the way FromSoftware is able to focus on making superb DLC after the fact. Again the DLC was part of the world itself and you could find the keys to open the doors to the places you needed to go with exploration. It is very easy to beat the game having never found them, but you would miss out on some of the best environments and moments in a Souls game.
  Walking along a giant metal link chain to a tower full of ash, or stepping into a blizzard on the outskirts of a walled off castle, or seeing an ancient pyramid like structure with the base surrounded by water are environments that rival every other place in the main game.
  The DLC is also easily the point where the games' difficulty ramps up - far more than the DLC for the first did. They know that if you are wanting more then you probably need a challenge. Fume Knight and Sinh are two of my most favourite bosses in the whole series but both required me to summon for them. I needed that extra bit of help.

  Aava and Burnt Ivory Knight, however, I did not summon. I managed to beat them both solo and I have to say that the feeling of overcoming bosses in Dark Souls II garnered even stronger feelings within than Dark Souls.
  Dark Souls II can be accused of going overboard with bosses as there are almost double the number if you factor in the DLCs but as someone who likes facing the unstoppable foe I do not count this as a negative. I believe the majority of Souls' bosses are tests for the player to ensure they have been paying attention to things in the game and keeping you on your toes.
  One of the best memories I have of Dark Souls II is beating the Dark Lurker. I struggle exceptionally at bosses where the numbers are skewed against you. One versus One fights are something I can handle. Two (and higher) versus Me is a weak point of mine and the Dark Lurker splitting itself in two midway through removing its health turned it into a boss where I struggled. Did I ever struggle! I had done a lot of the run up to the Dark Lurker but was conscious that every time I made an attempt I lost a human effigy, and I had already bought out the supply from every merchant around. This finite resource plied pressure on top of me because it required me to make my way through the gauntlet of blue coloured enemies to then get to the Dark Lurker. They became a bit of a White Whale (alongside another boss that was 5 versus Me) and due to both being optional I had sort of resigned myself to perhaps not facing them.
  On the day I beat the game I made a conscious effort to face them both. I had spent an hour on Aava and was feeling buffed by my successes. The Dark Lurker run had a couple more fails and I only had 10 effigies left.
  The health mechanic in Dark Souls II is one thing that does not fully work. The more you die, the more you lose a chunk of maximum health until it stops at around 50% of your health bar. You can see the missing chunk and using an effigy brings it back to full.
  I ended up never removing a ring that prevented this from being a big deal but it requires you to give up a ring slot until you get so good that you never die.
  That taunting missing chunk can have a negative psychological effect and I do not bemoan anyone who dislikes the way they changed health. I did die a lot and even with the ring equipped I would still need to use an effigy to bump it back up to full now and then. A finite resource I was using to fight a boss that I was very weak to.

  Effigies are also burned in bonfires to prevent invasions.
  One of the biggest changes occurs with PvP. In Dark Souls you had to have become human in order for other players to invade and attack you. In Dark Souls II they can do it whenever they feel like (providing they are around the same soul level.) unless you have used up one of your finite resources.
  In my very last session I ended up being repeatedly invaded by another player named TheCoolSmelt. Firstly, I was amazed at the name. Secondly, he absolutely destroyed me. I am not good at PvP. I am unable to hit people no matter what weapons I use and am always resigned to the fact that if I get invaded then I will die at their hands. People are so much less predictable and being able to tell their move set is not something I could ever manage. This is fine and while I tried, TheCoolSmelt too me to task.
  About ten minutes later I was invaded by TheCoolSmelt again, who this time was wearing a completely different setup and proceeded to demolish me. We laughed again at the return of Smelt and went on with our way. Then I was invaded again. At this point we on the stream thought perhaps he was focussing on me. He kept appearing, always dressed differently, and always up for a battle.
  TheCoolSmelt, though, lived up to his name and was exceptionally cool at how he approached me. He would leave me items and teach me tricks, all before battling and vanquishing me. He gave me a shield to use when my great club broke in the middle of a battle and waited for me to equip it and then fight with only shields. (He won of course). He gave me the items needed to transform myself into other forms after chasing me as a big chunk of ice and we had an impromptu prop hunt battle around the castle in DLC3.
  We imagined he might have been watching my stream and laughing at my ineptitude but truthfully TheCoolSmelt popping up all over my game for those seven hours was proof that FromSoftware’s approach to PvP in games can be magical.
  I could not use effigies to stop TheCoolSmelt from invading, and not because I needed them to fight the Dark Lurker, but because this was a living and breathing version of the Shadow of Mordor nemesis system in action and I did not want it to stop.

  My effigies had another purpose. I needed them for the rest of the game in case there was a boss tougher than The Dark Lurker but I also was feeling down about this one boss being such a stumbling block.
  I was forming a negative feedback loop. Every death to the Dark Lurker was two losses; a chunk of health and the means of restoring it.
  With ten effigies to go as well as the end of the game I decided that it would be a mistake to keep bashing my head against this boss. I gave myself two more tries, just in case, but had little hope.
  The following video is the end of that first try:

https://clips.twitch.tv/OpenPlainOwlPMSTwin-n3FLlEpHtbnkEfuI

  Whenever I see this moment I remember exactly the elation I felt at crossing off that enemy. This enemy that had been plaguing me taken down in the luckiest and ballsiest of moves. A twin club smash.
  It inspired me and in that one session I smashed every last boss left and finished the game. The defeat of the Dark Lurker spurned me forward and gave me confidence and truly this is at the heart of why when these games work they really do work. Overcoming adversity is an emotion we can all feel in many different arenas of life. The Dark Souls trilogy has perfected the art of handing you out these moments of confidence building while overcoming struggles.
  Dark Souls II was where I started to understand the reason these games were SO beloved by SO many people.
  All in all, Drangleic was more than a jumbled recollection to me. It was a place I briefly and happily called home.
  I will always remember you Lucatiel.



Part 3: Dark Souls III (or Twin Sells Words)
Playtime: 37 hours.

  As I said earlier, after finishing Bloodborne I craved more Bloodborne. This kind of reaction happens to many who finish that game. Something about the way it was made grabs you like an Amygdala itself and drives you to want the experience to last forever.
  At the time someone mentioned Dark Souls 3 as being the closest to Bloodborne and I admit I was tempted to play the Souls Games in a wonky order just so I could have more BBesque adventuring.

  Not doing that was one of the smartest gaming decisions I could have made.

  Dark Souls III is, in my opinion, the best Dark Souls game and as a capstone to a trilogy so incredibly influential it sticks the landing it knew it would have to make better than if the floor was metal and its feet magnets.
  Dark Souls III is the last FromSoftware game to have a specific kind of Souls DNA and is the second most recent game they released.
  Sekiro does its completely own thing from this point on so you can look at Dark Souls III not just as a cap to the story started in Dark Souls but as a cap to the kinds of games FromSoftware had been making. If Sekiro is a sign of things to come then Elden Ring also has the potential to be something drastically different from what came before.

  Dark Souls III is a blendered version of all previous Souls games and Bloodborne and comes out with a mixture of their strengths and weaknesses. You would think it would suffer from it, but that is the beauty of this studio. They get their products much more than the average studio and were able to pick apart the majority of the high points of the previous games and assemble a 'best of' that stands just as tall as those before it.
  Dark Souls III is confident about the kind of Souls game it wants to be, wears it proudly and scoops you up to bring it with you to the end of everything. If I want to be grabbed by a game, I want it to have the audacity and pride that Dark Souls III has.
  Of all three this is the game where the combat has never been more refined and more in tune with how I played Bloodborne. It would have been so easy to switch from Bloodborne to Dark Souls III and I would have barely given it a second thought.
  The speed at which you are able to attack enemies and move around the most stunningly realised environments in a souls game is unmatched and the environments in this game have never looked better.
  Working my way through the trilogy though gives me the ability to appreciate it far more and that is the ultimate reason why I think this game is the best. It is something it shares with Mass Effect 3. Both games are superb but only because they have the foundation laid by those before it. If I had jumped straight to Dark Souls III I would have missed a story that takes into account two full games and explores the themes of finality.

  Loneliness, Memory Loss and Finality are spread around the three games, but each one concentrates on a specific one for its main theme.
  The finality of Dark Souls III is draped across the opening areas tantalisingly and grows with every step you make to the final boss where the cyclical nature of the games takes its final form.

  Nothing lasts forever.
  Nothing is meant to last forever.

  The player in all three games (when completed) has been the one to protract the age and with thousands of cycles and years passing it has caught up to the Soul of Cinder, a boss surrounded by a chaotical map where cities rest upon other cities. Alternate universes collapsing in on itself because the age of fire is extended over and over and over. Everything in this world must end because it cannot keep revolving around reigniting the flame that has weakened with every cycle. The overlap of worlds between all three games is shown upfront.
  You can probably tell how proud and happy I was to discover Lucatiel's armour description explain that this armour belonged to a hollow who implored a comrade remember her name. That her memory still lives on, even in this collapsing world, is a comfort to me.
  However, the references to people and items from Dark Souls and Dark Souls II strewn about the world of Lothric is a not just fan service to those who liked them but there to expound upon the message that 'This MUST Stop'.
  I suspected this was the case in Dark Souls, I thought I may be able to do this in Dark Souls II and I made it happen in Dark Souls III.
  Seeing the world as it had become, a kaleidoscope of broken realities leading to a final boss that was the amalgamation of every kind of player character you could be in phase one, thus kindler of the flame, and Gwynn, the first to prevent the end of fire, in phase two was truly inspired.
  You are fighting against your worst nature and the originator of Dark Souls.

  When I beat the boss I got the ending that was neither continue the age of flame, nor extinguish the first flame. My character absorbed the flame and brought about the Age of Hollows and thus ended the continuing cycle.
  As an end to the series I dig this finality so much.
  I did the DLC after the main story and as an epilogue, I could not be happier with the way it turned out. While the main game deals with finality, the DLC involves the idea of leaving behind creations to move on elsewhere. It can be seen as the desire for the team at FromSoftware to tell another story and the danger of, again, continuing the same thing over and over.
  The painting piece that Gael holds outstretched in the Cathedral is the reality in which the Dark Souls universe resides and both Ariandel and the Ringed City deal with the obsession caused by clinging on to this worn out universe.

  It is no mere coincidence that Dark Souls has the painted world of Ariamis and Dark Souls III has the painted world of Ariandel.
  Both these words start with an unusual combination of letters. The word meaning a self-contained piece for one voice as part of a larger body of work reflects upon the truth to these two places. They are one and the same just at differing points in the collapsed upon itself universe.
  These painted worlds are parts of the larger body of work despite being solo adventures to one side.
  Ariamis and Ariandel are cold and inhospitable places but in Ariandel it matters more, for nothing can survive in such conditions and should not. Friede knows that you alone have the power to end the painted worlds, just like Crossbreed Priscilla before her and this is why you are told to go back. She is under the impression that Ariandel is safe as long as the painting scrap it is part of no longer contains you.
  Gael's quest to find more 'paints' to bring the picture back is the obsession that dooms him and allows him to 'save' FromSoftware.
  Getting through the ringed city, 'safe' from the collapsing of the universe will bring you to Gwynn's lost daughter who has been in a slumber and kept this broken universe together all this time. The player reaching her and touching the fractured reality she guards brings you to the final moment at the end of everything. In a wasteland where existence itself has reached its own finality you stand atop mountains of dust from the erosion of everything. Corrupted from a long and uncertain amount of time feasting on the hollow souls of those in the ringed city stands Gael, desperate for paint to recreate the painting at the very end of eternity.

  This battle is for the future of FromSoftware.

  Should Gael (a boss who straddles the line between Dark Souls and Bloodborne) win, then FromSoftware is 'stuck' making the same game over and over. In a way they are Gael, looking for those paints to make their pictures. They are unrecognisable from the Gael you met in the cathedral and he has become a large unstoppable tank with his chest ripped open. His insides are visible and you can see that his heart is no longer there. His heart is not in it anymore.
  You must win this, not just for your sake but for FromSoftware’s sake.
  You must overcome a challenge that stacks everything you have absorbed from the first game onwards to help them defeat their avatar.
  Gael is an extremely tough fight and requires you to be on your toes for the whole time, (perhaps a little bit of foreshadowing about what Sekiro was to bring to the table). He was a boss that pushed me further than almost any other boss and then when he fell a cathartic release overcame me. This was to be the last proper challenge of the souls game. This was me letting go of the Souls trilogy.
  Taking Gael's dark soul to a lone painter back in Friede's chapel and granting her the permission to paint a new reality in my name, freed FromSoftware from having to return to the Souls universe.
  Letting go is something that many people struggle with. Think about the numerous pieces of media that have been spoiled by continuing through extra series or sequels. Or the whole idea of sunk cost fallacy where you have put a certain amount of time and money into a venture or relationship that you no longer feel anything for but would hate to have feel you wasted.
  This is FromSoftware and essentially you the player letting go of the Souls Trilogy and becoming content that these three games will be it. From here on FromSoftware will do newer things because you helped them move past.
  It is poignant and complete, and if I was ending a trilogy responsible for changing the face of gaming then I could only hope to create something this memorable.

  And now here I sit at the end of it all.
  These games are masterpieces and the praise they get is deserved.
  I can take pride in being able to say I did it, I overcame these games. It has been a true journey and there have been so many moments where I thought perhaps I was simply unable to progress further and that the next ledge of progress was beyond my grasp.
  Never giving in to those doubts and tackling every single challenge head on taught me that even if I had not had the confidence in myself at the time, From Software did.

Sway Grunt
May 15, 2004

Tenochtitlan, looking east.


I will eventually go back and read that entire post but as I'm currently playing through Dark Souls for the very first time (and it's my first From game) I only read the intro for now because I want to stay mostly blind (apart from whatever bits I've naturally picked up through osmosis over the years). I will say that it's absolutely hooked me, pretty much immediately, and it's interesting to think of why/how that's happened. I think the first thing that did it was the map design of Undead Burg, that labyrinthine nature of it. The engaging world combined with the absence of a map and the way the save system works is a potent way to get the player to inhabit the world in a way that contributes massively to its sense of place. It's exactly this that captured me in Hollow Knight as well (obviously it took a lot from Dark Souls), and also a primary reason for why I love the exploration in Morrowind so much. They are games that force you to be in the world, rather than just chase UI markers and such, and make it worthwhile.

It's also a little wild to me that you beat it in 27 hours because I've played 13.5 hours so far and I've only just entered Blighttown, and I sincerely doubt I'm even close to halfway through. But I am a slow player in general, and might also be bad. It's okay, though, it just means I get to spend extra time in Lordran. I'm totally fine with that.

Escobarbarian
Jun 18, 2004




Grimey Drawer

Veeg sped through Dark Souls 1 and 3 like crazy. Only 2 took him a regular amount of time

An excellent post, with fantastic analysis and I really loved remembering so many great moments through you recalling random stories on your way through the trilogy. I can safely say that watching VideoGames stream the Dark Souls trilogy has been my favourite game of 2021 so far! (the game is trying to guess if he’ll heal or not and it’s really easy cos the answer is ‘he won’t’)

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?



God now I wanna replay them all over again. The first is still my favorite (even if 3 is the "best"), it still evokes that same feeling of astonishment I felt the first time I played it and things finally clicked for me. At first I found the dying mechanic annoying, having to redo everything I'd just done just to die again because I didn't have the solution to how to progress yet etc, but then you hit that moment where you go,"Oh!" and it all makes sense. Bizarrely enough that moment for me of all things was kicking down a ladder, climbing down it and realizing where I was which caused the entire vertical structure of the gameworld to come into sharp focus for me, and from that moment on all I wanted to do was explore and explore and see everything and how it connected and where it was going next. 2 is a fine game, and the major point I held against it - that lack of verticality AND sense of seamless continuity between areas from 1 - falls away after the context of 3 made me realize there was a (perhaps unintended at the time) greater point being made: that things were making less and less sense as time went on.

The ending of 3, where the Shrine Maiden realizes that keeping the dying embers of the first flame going was blinding them from all the other lights burning out there is so beautiful and optimistic and hopeful. I love that the constant refrain from 1 and 2, always viewed with suspicion, to just let the flame die ended up being - in my opinion - the absolute right call and what should have been done all along.

Great write-up, VG, and I can't wait to read your Sekiro write-up. I adore that game.

fridge corn
Apr 2, 2003




Beautiful post Veeg

Luceo
Apr 29, 2003

As predicted in the Bible.




Thanks for that post, VG! Before playing DeS on PS5, BB was my only From game, having platinumed that a few years ago. After DeS though, I hungered for more and am working my was through DS1R, and you've convinced me not to skip DS2 when I finish it.

Klaaz
Sep 23, 2003



That post made me buy the first one, never played a DS game before because hard games scare me

Harrow
Jun 30, 2012


VideoGames posted:

  In my very last session I ended up being repeatedly invaded by another player named TheCoolSmelt. Firstly, I was amazed at the name. Secondly, he absolutely destroyed me. I am not good at PvP. I am unable to hit people no matter what weapons I use and am always resigned to the fact that if I get invaded then I will die at their hands. People are so much less predictable and being able to tell their move set is not something I could ever manage. This is fine and while I tried, TheCoolSmelt too me to task.
  About ten minutes later I was invaded by TheCoolSmelt again, who this time was wearing a completely different setup and proceeded to demolish me. We laughed again at the return of Smelt and went on with our way. Then I was invaded again. At this point we on the stream thought perhaps he was focussing on me. He kept appearing, always dressed differently, and always up for a battle.
  TheCoolSmelt, though, lived up to his name and was exceptionally cool at how he approached me. He would leave me items and teach me tricks, all before battling and vanquishing me. He gave me a shield to use when my great club broke in the middle of a battle and waited for me to equip it and then fight with only shields. (He won of course). He gave me the items needed to transform myself into other forms after chasing me as a big chunk of ice and we had an impromptu prop hunt battle around the castle in DLC3.
  We imagined he might have been watching my stream and laughing at my ineptitude but truthfully TheCoolSmelt popping up all over my game for those seven hours was proof that FromSoftware’s approach to PvP in games can be magical.

This story brought a smile to my face, and is something I absolutely love about the invasion system. The system lost some of its teeth from its original Demon's Souls incarnation over time, but with the ever-expanding available player options, I think it also became a really cool medium for player expression.

In Demon's Souls, invasion is meant to be a deal with the devil. You have significantly fewer maximum HP in soul form, and the items you use to reclaim your human form are fairly rare. If you are in human form, you are open to invasion, much like in the first Dark Souls. If an invader kills you, the invader themselves becomes human, and is themselves now open to be invaded. That lowered max HP is meant to push you to be desperate, to want your body back, and therefore to be tempted to invade--but if you do, and you succeed, you've just painted a target on your own back.

That sort of fell away in Dark Souls, where the rewards for successful invasion became more general and less urgent. It started to feel like invasion was just there to let players be dicks to one another.

But there's also so much potential for fun there, like what TheCoolSmelt was doing by invading you. Gimmick invasions, invaders who just want to screw around or have fun little goof battles, things like that, they're all a blast. As much as I've sometimes wondered what place invasion really has, I think I'm glad it stayed in because it really does have the potential to create some magical moments.

VideoGames posted:

  However, the references to people and items from Dark Souls and Dark Souls II strewn about the world of Lothric is a not just fan service to those who liked them but there to expound upon the message that 'This MUST Stop'.
  I suspected this was the case in Dark Souls, I thought I may be able to do this in Dark Souls II and I made it happen in Dark Souls III.
  Seeing the world as it had become, a kaleidoscope of broken realities leading to a final boss that was the amalgamation of every kind of player character you could be in phase one, thus kindler of the flame, and Gwynn, the first to prevent the end of fire, in phase two was truly inspired.
  You are fighting against your worst nature and the originator of Dark Souls.

This is something that I absolutely adore about Dark Souls III. I felt like the callbacks were not only earned, but necessary. There are some reactions to Dark Souls III that sort of rail against it as a sort of "greatest hits album" or just fan service, but I think the returning areas, items, and NPCs do build to something and are important to the overall thematic point. They point to the cycles and to the world's decay. There are multiple returning areas from Dark Souls that have changed in fundamental ways, and it's less a "subverting expectations" thing and more of a stark illustration of how this world is ending, like it or not. Without returning elements, I don't think that would land quite as hard.

Dark Souls III is the FromSoft game that, to me, most effectively drove home that the point of the lore isn't to be catalogued, studied, or assembled into a literal or understandable timeline. It's there to create a backdrop. It's a sketch, with splashes of color, pieces of a picture that can never be assembled fully but whose shape you can glimpse and feel. I think if a player approaches Dark Souls III's world intending to construct that literal narrative, I can see how its callbacks and returning elements can feel gratuitous. But from a standpoint of feeling, or as Jacob Geller puts it, "running on vibes," it all absolutely works and is integral to creating that thematic backdrop.

It's a really good, special game.

Escobarbarian
Jun 18, 2004




Grimey Drawer

One thing Veeg didn’t mention was that it turned out TheCoolSmelt actually WAS watching the stream. They only made themselves known at the very end. It was awesome

VideoGames
Aug 18, 2003

^Current Game^


2021 COMPLETED GAMES:
DS1, DS2, DS3, Sekiro,
TLG, Demons Souls,
TLOU, TLOUII,
Outer Wilds, Returnal,
Return of the Obra Dinn


Escobarbarian posted:

(the game is trying to guess if he’ll heal or not and it’s really easy cos the answer is ‘he won’t’)

*Makes the face in my avatar again*

(and thank you)

Jerusalem posted:

Great write-up, VG, and I can't wait to read your Sekiro write-up. I adore that game.

Thank you!

As a brief preview, I already think it is better than all three DS games and possibly better than Bloodborne but I am still sorting through my feelings and I still have lots of game to go!

fridge corn posted:

Beautiful post Veeg

Thank you!!

Luceo posted:

Thanks for that post, VG! Before playing DeS on PS5, BB was my only From game, having platinumed that a few years ago. After DeS though, I hungered for more and am working my was through DS1R, and you've convinced me not to skip DS2 when I finish it.

I hope you have as much fun with DS2 as I did. I genuinely think coming to the series much later and not really having any notions of what a sequel might be was a huge boon and part of why I loved it so. I had no time to imagine what a sequel might be let alone three years. It was simply end credits of DS1 right now we start DS2!

Klaaz posted:

That post made me buy the first one, never played a DS game before because hard games scare me

I really hope you manage to get into it

Harrow posted:

Awesome DS stuff

This is so cool and you should also write more long form stuff I am just an interested. Plus tonight I can watch that video you linked me!


Escobarbarian posted:

One thing Veeg didn’t mention was that it turned out TheCoolSmelt actually WAS watching the stream. They only made themselves known at the very end. It was awesome

Yes! I forgot to mention that. They also stuck around after all the invasions to watch me beat Dark Souls II. That whole stream was the most powerful amount of gaming I have done so far (the sheer amount of bosses and progress I made in that seven hour window has yet to be surpassed).


Thank you to everyone who read and enjoyed that long old post

Jerusalem
May 20, 2004

Would you be my new best friends?



VideoGames posted:

As a brief preview, I already think it is better than all three DS games and possibly better than Bloodborne but I am still sorting through my feelings and I still have lots of game to go!

DS1 is my favorite Dark Souls game and DS3 is the BEST Dark Souls game, but I really think that Sekiro is both my favorite AND the best From game, though thanks to the monstrous horror that is console exclusivity I've never gotten to play Bloodborne or Demon Souls, so my knowledge is incomplete.

Killed a Girl in 96
Jun 15, 2001


Demon's souls was a magical experience when it first came out and there were no guides, no direction on where to go, and no real understanding of weight caps or stat break-points. You didn't know what items were worth leveling or where your next big weapon change would be. Nothing was ever explained except "here's a sword, here's the first level". And then to find out that there was this hugely important Poise stat that no one even knew was there...was mind-boggling.

PvP was rudimentary as there were no builds or armor optimizers. People didn't know that blocking had an unseen threshold which may or may not falter at any given point. People were just guessing and trying to hit each other with the biggest club or spamming spells. Sometimes they'd pull out a nail instead of a sword, and although it seemed laughable, you were about to acquire a status effect that would probably kill you while you helplessly watched.

You could only unlock the best male armor by beating a super unfair boss. You could unlock the best female armor by dying, becoming human, dying again, becoming human again, etc. 5 times and then going back to the very first level to see a little hidden alcove at the very beginning that was now unlocked. The world was packed with secrets, but because dying would lose so much progress, you were always balancing out how much you'd dare to explore. The world felt hostile and you'd never know who to trust. You'd get paranoid from so many betrayals that it would be safer to kill your allies than risk them turning. And sometimes, that was the right choice.

The lore itself was never directly explained. Rare drops would give hints. NPCs would give bits of dialogue. Nothing was ever explicit and the entire world existed in a state of vague ethereal horror.

And when you died, the game didn't just kill you. The game killed you and then made itself harder. Less health. More dangerous enemies. And help wasn't incoming. gently caress you - get better or give up.

The Zombie Guy
Oct 25, 2008


That effort post about was excellent. It is one of my favourite modern games, and I'm always happy to read about people's experiences with it.

To add to the praise heaped on Psychonauts, I wanted to bring up a little touch that demonstrates the love and attention to detail that went into it.
Lots of items can be carried around, and if you talk to an NPC while holding something, they'll comment on it.
Near the end of the game, there's a unique quest item that you need to pick up, and then carry it about 5 steps away in order to advance the story. HOWEVER, it is possible to instead grab the item, leave that room, and backtrack through the level, and eventually travel all the way back to the very first area in the game. If you do, the NPCs there will notice the unique item, and have observations about it. There's no reason for the player to do something like that, but the devs included dialog options for those characters juuuuust in case somebody did it.

Now I'm off to work on my own Effort Post.

Shine
Feb 26, 2007

No Muscles For The Majority


The Zombie Guy posted:

To add to the praise heaped on Psychonauts, I wanted to bring up a little touch that demonstrates the love and attention to detail that went into it.
Lots of items can be carried around, and if you talk to an NPC while holding something, they'll comment on it.
Near the end of the game, there's a unique quest item that you need to pick up, and then carry it about 5 steps away in order to advance the story. HOWEVER, it is possible to instead grab the item, leave that room, and backtrack through the level, and eventually travel all the way back to the very first area in the game. If you do, the NPCs there will notice the unique item, and have observations about it. There's no reason for the player to do something like that, but the devs included dialog options for those characters juuuuust in case somebody did it.

Extra Credits had a video on this sort of thing, some years back:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnxVOUSzX4A

The Zombie Guy
Oct 25, 2008


Time to gush about my favourite SNES game, Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen, also released on PS1 and Sega Saturn.


I'd describe it as a Fantasy RPG War Strategy game. You build small units of various characters, and guide them across maps, taking territory and fighting enemy units.



There is also money management aspects, because your soldiers don't fight for free.



Combat is turn based, and mostly automated. When 2 units meet, every character gets a certain number of actions, and whichever side does the most damage wins. Simple, right?




The plot is pretty standard fantasy tropes: 25 years before the game took place, the continent of Zetegenia was thrown into chaos. The royal family was killed, and the brutal Empress Endora seized the throne. The player takes the role of leading a small rebel army to push back against the Empress and her evil minions. Sounds super cliché, I know, but bear with me for a bit.

One of the things that addicted me to Ogre Battle is the sheer variety of units that can make up your army. The basic building blocks of your army are Fighters and Amazons. As they battle and gain experience, they can become different classes. Now this is where it gets tricky; certain character stats can affect which class your character can become. After gaining a few levels, your Fighter could become a Knight. Or maybe they have a decent Intelligence stat, so you make him a Wizard instead. Maybe your Fighter has a high Alignment (basically a Goodness stat), and becomes a noble Samurai. Perhaps they tend to low Alignment, so make him a Ninja. Once they've branched off, other class upgrades can be made by gaining more levels, or finding certain items. Since the game is in the Fantasy genre, there's also some bigger critters that can form part of your army. Griffins, Giants, Dragons, even giant Octopi. Then you get into some really cool stuff. Skeletons. Ghosts. Werewolves. Weretigers. Angels and Demons. Witches and Liches. All with different special abilities, and tactical considerations. High Alignment characters fight better in units with other goody goodies, and the same goes for low Alignment units. Every character has a preferred terrain that they fight better on, and move faster crossing. Mermaids do great in Deep Water, not so much on Mountains.
Another big factor as you play is your Reputation meter. This is a quick way to see if the populace support you, or if they just see you as the next brutal dictator. Reputation has an effect on which hero characters you can recruit to your cause, including many of the unique boss characters. There are 13 different endings to the game, depending on things like side quests completed and characters you've convinced to join you.
One of my favourite endings takes some setting up, but it has a neat payoff (spoilers, just in case).
If your Leader is on the path of goodness, and you have a high Reputation, a monk may gift you with the holy Brunhild sword, as a symbol of your righteousness. Later in the game, you run into a boss named Galf. Galf is a powerful demon, who has been bound to a small region, thus keeping him from running amok. If you have a goody goody army of Clerics and Paladins, you can steamroll Galf and his army without much trouble. However, if after receiving the Brunhild sword you decide to do a heel turn and become an evil rear end in a top hat, Galf may consider joining your conquest. All he asks in return is the Brunhild sword, which will allow him to break free of his imprisonment. After recruiting Galf, you'll have a powerful demon as your ally, who will help you stomp Empress Endora into the ground. After winning the war, Galf possesses your rebel Leader, and begins an even worse reign of terror.

I really love the variety of units you can create, and the huge range of play styles that can be used. It is still one of my all-time favourite games, and I absolutely regret not stealing it from my local Blockbuster before it closed.

aparmenideanmonad
Jan 28, 2004
Balls to you and your way of mortal opinions - you don't exist anyway!

Fun Shoe

I'm partial to the sequel, Ogre Battle 64, but I also love this game and they both have great replayability. In addition to all the high rep/low rep decisions that can affect endings and special character/hero availability, you can focus on different team comps or things like all-hero or no-hero runs to keep it interesting. Figuring out how to play either game at least somewhat optimally is fun, but carefully planned out optimized runs result in the back half of each game turning into easy stomp mode. Wiping out entire maps worth of enemies with Warren and Saradin liches behind undead or golem frontline can be pretty amusing, but it's also rewarding to try to win with more mundane units.

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Furnaceface
Oct 21, 2004






Ogre Battle: MotBQ is one of the greatest games ever made. I have played through and beat it at least 20 times, its one of those games that you can just pick up and go back to over and over despite its age and dated graphics. I was planning on doing a write up for it at some point, but Im glad Im not the only one who loves the classics and did it first. I love all the tiny systems that interact in sometimes unexpected ways. It helps having 9 (I think?) possible endings.

OB64 was good too though it had more of the hidden under the hood stats that made customizing your armies a bit tougher. There is also 2 Tactics Ogre games, one is great the other not so much.

e: I forgot some classes have special attacks depending on terrain too which can be fun. Also fun/cheap things like killing the flying units in a group over a chasm and watching it fall to its death. So many little things that add up into one great package.

Furnaceface fucked around with this message at 23:31 on May 13, 2021

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