Demon’s Souls Chronicles Pt. II

ARGH!! I’m in Latria Tower now. I accumulated more than 13,000 Souls only to fall off a cliff while trying to retrieve them. So much for clearing this stage in three hours.

Why do I keep playing this game? No time to kick myself over it. I feel I’m ready to face the next Boss, the Fool’s Idol, but I had my eye on the Ring of Avarice. The stage merchant carries one, I’m sure the only one in the game, and I’m afraid if I progressed further in that World she’d either move shop or sell it to someone else. For a mere whopping 50,000, I can get my hands on this Soul multiplier. I have no better way in mind of racking up so much loot in as little time than here. There are enough big Demons in close proximity that’ll drop anywhere between 400+ to upward of a thousand Souls here. I just need to play smart and use the Stone of Ephemeral Eyes because in Soul form, my life bar won’t sustain me past one attack from these baddies. It’s either that or I have to postpone the paper chase until after at least one more Vitality upgrade. How could I be so careless after all I’ve seen? I had to have learned the lesson by now, surely. My dumbass. Continue reading

Chronicling Demon’s Souls, Pt. I

It was supposed to be every 20 hours of gameplay, but the inception of this idea occurred to me after a monumental achievement. After clocking in 23+ hours, I beat my second Demon boss. Armor Spider, I believe was its name. If you have familiarized yourself with this site, you may have noticed my video game taste borders on the masochistic. And this game is as hard as they come.

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Demon’s Souls is old shit, what with the PS4 available now, and Dark Souls II already out. So I figured I’d round up a few classics before it was time to bid the PS3 console farewell for good. The game is already into its third installment, which I also own but won’t play until I put 100 hours in. This post series will stop at 100 hours whether I wrap the game or not.

My first six hours were arguably the most futile, fruitless, and painful. Let’s take it back to the beginning, shall we? First thing, obviously, is you create your character and select its class (Knight, Royal, Warrior, etc.) each with a distinct set of default stats, or abilities, and consequently, weapon suitability. I picked Thief, made her female, and named her Newt. I figured if my character was going to spend a lot of time on its back, might as be female (Whoa, relax, ladies! It was still funny, admit it). After you pick a class you start playing in Soul form and don’t gain your Human form until you’ve beaten a stage boss, or — available after the first stage you clear — use the Ephemeral Eye stone. To start the game, the story pits you, in Human form, against a super Demon that will slay you within seconds before the game itself starts. But that doesn’t count, being a distant and brief memory, because when you play in human form again, and it will be brief too, it may well feel like the first time.

What you do next has no bearing on any canon or order. As far as I know. You have five Worlds you can teleport to by touching an engraving on a pillar. Listen, you’re a fucking specter half the time you play, you’re allowed to do these things. These walls, columns adorning a hall known as the Nexus in a semi-circle, are your way out, with something known as Archstones placed in between stages acting as your way back to the Nexus. It’s either that or an artifact called the Nexial Binding I see no use for since it sends you home pending forfeiture of all Souls (game currency) you’ve gained. Like you had any to spare. But the beauty of this game is once you’re out slaying Demons, you may want nothing to do with much of everything else — in the game of course. The game can be played with the guidance of a walkthrough, that’s gamer for guide, or you could just dive in head first. The latter approach is only advisable (it really never is an advisable approach to consider, but neutral objectivity, I guess) after you’ve mastered enough principle to tread into new areas carefully, and I assume, some basic understanding of magic power and magic defense. You know, what shield works best against what ranged magic attack. You could always go the trial and error way and not worry where each penny goes, because you will spend a few Souls needlessly on a mis-prioritized upgrade or item.

Oh, the Souls will get you weapon and skill upgrades, armor and weapon repairs and a slew of consumables. And Souls are lost when you die, but can be retrieved if you manage to make it back where you last died because you will start all over (Archstone location, remember?) and will risk life and limb for the sake of continuity. And sanity. But if you die on your way to retrieve them you lose them for good. Or rather your Blood Stain gets replaced with where you most recently died, with the number of Souls earned up to your most recent death waiting. Did I mentioned how cruelty and sadism turned inward are known as masochism?

Anyway so my first six or so hours basically consisted of learning the ropes, the hard way. I figure I must have died in Boletaria Palace twenty times before I got through the first Fog, but the kicker here is that Souls accumulate as all enemies respawn with every restart so long as you don’t break the pattern of die-retrieve-accumulate then die all over again. It was all fun and games until I lost my first fourteen-hundred Souls for good. Every stage features a large number of slouch enemies, pushovers capable of only melee attacks, punctuated by tougher ones at key locations. Key because it is precisely when you let your guard down or are in need for a much wanted respite. So I googled some game FAQs and tried again, and again.

So far I’ve noticed all the stages (haha, all three I’ve played) have two ways through to the Boss. While the enemies all respawn, the doorways you clear stay unlocked, meaning by the time you’re ready to face the Demon boss, there’s a much quicker way through. I’m willing to bet all stages involve going in a circle unlocking doors until you finish near you basically started. At least the first one of each World, which is what I’ve been doing.

I’ve finished Boletaria Palace in 14 hours and decided to give the next stage a try until I got bored with the locale and slow progress. Phalanx was dumb (the Demon boss of Boletaria Palace 1). He’s the zombie of Demon’s Souls bosses. In all fairness, I lucked out in having enough Turpentine to attack him in one go since he’s weak against fire. He could have mauled my ass just as easily. Where you kill one Boss is where the next Archstone will be placed, something of a checkpoint you respawn at when you die. I got tired of seeing that place and luckily enough, a much needed change of scenery can be coupled with the mandatory powering up to stay hooked, so Stonefang Tunnel it was next.

Stonefang Tunnel didn’t feature a tunnel per se. It was right around the time I took a liking to the Short Sword after needlessly upgrading all swords several levels just to realize only two were by miles the most effective. No harm though. The stage got a lot easier when I picked up the Wooden Catalyst, a necessary tool for casting magic spells. It escapes my memory where I picked it up, but in the first stage of the creepy Tower of Latria, I found the Silver Catalyst. Stonefang is weird and is cursed by an eternal sunset, if a sunset was ever allowed to be such. But the more you progress into the place the darker it gets suggesting passage of time. Until (ready for it) you make it full circle and realize the sunlight was obscured behind a cliff the entire time. Once you get past the first Fog, it becomes dreary with enslaved humanoid workers populating an unfinished behemoth of scaffolding, cliffside mines, workshops, and steel mill all in one. As that wasn’t bizarre enough, the game’s most skilled blacksmith decided to set up shop in the area. Blacksmith Ed. That scaley-ass fool.

Anyway, time to wrap this up because I’m almost all the way through the first stage of Tower of Latria, and that belongs to the next post. Something tells me all that time earning those upgrades is starting to pay off now. My health bar can take a few hits and still have some life.

Adios, los slayers del Diablo!

FIFA 2014 World Cup on PS3: First Impressions

It’s that time again. No, I wasn’t talking about the FIFA World Cup. That’s not til June, man! It is the month of May preceding the mega event, so that means the FIFA World Cup video game is out for all your fantasy scenarios to play out. Don’t want France in the World Cup? You can knock them out in the preliminaries. Or better yet, skip to the tournament proper and assign the teams you want and just not invite them. Win-win, correct? Wrong.

EA sports flagship title has come a long way since usurping Konami’s Winning Eleven, now known as Pro Evolution Soccer, in the soccer video game world. Make no mistake though, not since 2004 have we had a fluid, balanced release from either camp, and that was all PES. FIFA took off in 2008 and hasn’t looked back. That was all on PES. Konami’s title never quite hit the ground running on its PS3 and Xbox 360 debuts, also in 2008. I’ve stopped playing Konami when FIFA slowly began resembling the real fucking thing although I have major grievances I will discuss below. Right now, I am about a dozen games in with 2-8-2 record on World Class difficulty and about ten goals scored (numbers not accurate but I lost count).

Sliders

The introduction of sliders was a huge improvement. It may have been implemented in the 2011 copy if not 2010. Regardless. That announced user involvement in the game experience. So far, haven’t met a single schmuck who knows more about them than I do. And this not for lack of functionality. I don’t have many serious gamers as friends, and not many of such gamers exist nearby to really gauge my knowledge against. What should have signaled end user involvement, to this day, amounts to nothing more than skewing the in-game flawed physics further. What the game is trying to say here is don’t mess with perfection. The game’s animation doesn’t change with the slider, only the player positioning and game physics. Mainly how the ball interacts with the field, players, and goal posts. Also, sliders are not a mechanism for an in-between difficulty setting. While in theory they can help you find that middle ground, the AI’s true ability is not inherent in what it can do with the ball, but how it moves without it, and we’ve already established that the sliders largely pertain to ball physics in passing, shooting, first touch, etc.. Take it from me, let sleeping dogs lie and just enjoy the animation the way it was meant to played. And bear with the AI’s propensity to score conveniently at will.

AI Behavior & Difficulty

Huge one. There are distinct stages of the AI’s propensity to attack and defend throughout a game (again on World Class difficulty). I usually play six- or seven-minute halves. I am a simulation enthusiast and feel anything shorter condenses the time tactics develop in to a thrash and slash affair. The AI knows no sweet spot; Professional difficulty is too easy and World Class can be a bit punishing. This makes the Legendary setting uncharted territory, and for good reasons I’ll try to explain next.

The game allows you to toggle between five different poses on the attack-defense continuum. My guess, is you have to manually toggle up and down several times throughout a game according to the score, who has the ball, how much time is left to play. Pretty easy proposition except, any time you take your finger off the player control, a gap will open in your defense to allow a play to develop. And develop it most likely will. But it has to be done (and can be) to stand a chance.

In defense, the AI is very well organized and will rarely get caught out of shape or depth. And since most conventional defenses employ a four-man backline, you’re up against a tight alignment that is difficult to break down. Further up the field, they will apply pressure on your own backline in terrifying clockwork unison and precision that in real life is reserved to very few modern squads. This tactic will apply when you’re up in the score line and very late in the game. You will also have to deal with it when the AI is up and it is very late in the game, so as to keep the ball from you and simultaneously run it in your face.

In contrast, you can only control two players at a time; on offense, the ball handler and whomever he is facing, and; on defense, well, the player with you control and a seemingly random second “defender.” This in theory means you get to control double-teaming but the results aren’t always fair, and when you stack up bands of defenders those double teams will run into each other clearing up, you guessed it, a huge gap to make a play in. Unfortunately none of those tendencies have changed for a few releases now.

Initial Verdict

Still the best soccer game available, though the best of a small and bad bunch. Though hardly a towering achievement, I have a feeling I will enjoy the game as much as recent reiterations until the in-game mechanics become too repetitive to mask its single-player predictability.

Resident Evil on Nintendo GameCube

Jill Valentine

Visual aides will be posted from a PC later eventually.

Lying somewhere between game freak and having had a fair share of video games, I’ve had a surprisingly low number of instances of rushing home from the store to play my newest, most anticipated game. One to be precise. The Resident Evil reboot on GameCube. Long fan of the classic survival horror and eerie architecture (subjective), I learned of this one a year after it has been out. Couple that with console exclusivity deals and Nintendo’s new direction in the post N-64 generation, and it is summed up why the apprehension in purchasing decision. A seventeen year old won’t just shell out a few hundred bucks. My uncle brought with him the Xbox 360 and a GameCube when he returned from college and, presto, one half of the puzzle was solved. It had been two-and-half years already since the game was first released. Continue reading