Thursday, April 28, 2016

I Have Become Embered (The One About Dark Souls 3)

A beautiful night for hunting monstrosities!

First, my apologies for being MIA for a while; I've had a big helping of life smack me in the face on top of investing +70 hours in Dark Souls 3, so I've been a bit preoccupied!

I gotta say, the masterminds behind Dark Souls 3 have really outdone themselves.  After investing as much time as I have, which I have defeated every single boss, I can say that this is my favorite entry in the Dark Souls Trilogy.  The boss battles are challenging, the puzzles are clever, and the locations are gorgeous.  Jolly cooperation is the best of the series, and PVP is exactly what you'd expect from Dark Souls; entirely unpredictable, yet fun and grueling.

Which is why I'm somewhat upset with some of the community bashing/trash talking arguably the best entry in the series.  This doesn't seem to be coming from the "core" Dark Souls fans; it's coming from people who are either new to the series or casual players.  Mind you, there's nothing wrong with either player type...if it were nearly any other game, I would consider myself a pretty casual gamer.  And I was new to the series at one point (having dropped in at Dark Souls 2,) so I will relate to some of the new gamer frustrations with the game.  What I cannot relate to, however, is the nonsensical whimpering of those who simply don't "get it."

I would like to say that, to those claiming the game is too "easy" and made for a wider audience; you obviously didn't continue to play after the final boss fight.  This was experienced first hand by one of our members in our online group, or clan, which they now must go back through the game on a much harder difficulty and fight these monstrosities for the first time.  If you're speed running through the game to collect the best gear/armor and not spending time reading the lore and exploring literally every single nook and cranny, I feel that you're doing it wrong and should be playing more linear games (Lords of the Fallen may be a good alternative for you...not kidding...I love that game!)

The crew and I enjoying some Jolly Cooperation!  (I'm the middle back character)

This is a game full of challenge and reward...if you're willing to invest the time.  Even with as much as I've put in, I have barely scratched the surface of the underlying story.  The crew and I have done very minimal guide look-ups, only referencing the bare minimum while still maintaining the sense of awe and wonder the series is so famous for (I will admit, however, that I did look up one boss battle, but I was getting STOMPED.)  At end game, you're main hurdle is finding a good fight via PVP.  If you're finding that to be a breeze, it's time to up your game to New Game Plus.

And in regards to the complaining about stats, frame rates, etc, they're all trivial things.  The stats work near exactly as they did in the last entry, and, if you're not able to best your fellow "Embered One" in PVP because they maxed out one or two stats, you have some character leveling to do.  The frame rate rant, in my opinion, is bogus as well; with as many giant creatures, multiple minions, and up to six PVP-ers in a world at once, 30 fps was the obvious way to go to avoid issues.  Mind you, this argument is for the vanilla launch, so the horrible experiences players are having with patch 1.04 aren't being debated here.  But players knew of this before launch if they paid attention to anything that was published beforehand.

While it may be irritating, I'm not letting the whiny, yet very vocal, few cast a shadow over an excellent game.  Regardless of your previous experience with the Dark Souls series (or lack of,) this is a phenomenal game that is more than worthy of your time...I plan on investing plenty more of mine before moving on!

If you'd like, I invite you to check out my YouTube page, TheStarSmasher, or follow me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for regular updates, pics, videos, and random nonsense!  Also, there will be a central hub for everything soon (a dedicated "website," if you will,) which I will be sure to update on soon(ish)!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Destiny: The April Update

*Image is the property of Bungie: I lay no claim to it*

Yesterday afternoon, Destiny players were able to get the newest batch of content with what Bungie called "The April Update."  Since I'm still waiting on my copy of Dark Souls 3 to arrive (I bought the collector's edition, and it has to be shipped from another store...long story) I dove right in to tackle the new challenges they made for us veteran Guardians.  I'm going to assume that, if you're reading this, you've read the patch notes provided by Bungie and are somewhat familiar with the game...if not, you may want to check out the details on Bungie's website!

After waiting for the update to download and install, as well as for everyone in our group to get ready, we decided to tackle the story missions first.  I was under the impression that there were going to be 3 story missions, but I was mistaken; there were 3 quests for us to tackle, and they weren't all new missions/levels.  All in all, there is 1 new story mission and 1 new strike.  Our Fireteam took about 1-2 hours to finish these up alongside 2 of the quests.  We got a bunch of new loot, so it was worth our efforts (especially the new drops at light level 320!)

So, now that we finished the story missions, the quests, and the strike & Nightfall, we moved on to the content we were most anticipating; the new Prison of Elders and Challenge of the Elders!  Both promise greater rewards and fantastic loot, and we are all eager to hit the new light level cap of 335, so we went in, guns blazing.

The new Prison of Elders was, mostly, a breeze.  We tore through 5 rounds of enemies and 1 boss battle, with a few "diffuse/destroy the mines" tasks thrown in.  Our Fireteam is comprised of a 319 Warlock, a 310 Hunter, and a 315 Titan (ME!), so it should come to no surprise that we decimated the first challenge which has a light level recommendation of 260 (if I recall was under 300 regardless.)  We then moved on to the Challenge of the Elders, which has a light level recommendation of 320.  Our Hunter was getting nervous, but our faith wouldn't be wavered; we came to conquer!

*Image is the property of Bungie: I lay no claim to it*

We, the Scruffy Ninjas (our Destiny Clan, which is what our Fireteam was comprised of) were cautious when we first entered the new arena.  As it turns out, we were too cautious, since we were able to breeze right through the new arena despite us being under the 320 recommendation.  The modifiers this week, which gave extra damage to primary weapons, may have had a hand it this, but I believe our group is just that well put together.  Our group was able to hit over 30000 points 3 times in a row; something that we didn't feel too pressured into obtaining, especially when we did this a third time around.  We filled up our score cards and finished off our night with running the Court of Oryx over and over to obtain more loot/drops to further boost our light levels.

So, after all of that, I feel pretty good about the new content.  The Prison of Elders update has been long awaited, in my opinion, and I'm sure I'll be eager to fight new foes with different modifiers each week (and earn some sweet loot as well...looking forward to the new Lord of Wolves!)  The new weapons, armor, and shaders are nifty as well, but I'll most likely stick with my Iron Banner gear for now.

I think what I'm happiest with is that Bungie assured their fans that they haven't forgotten Destiny players, and that there will be more content coming down the pipe (squashing my fears from an earlier blog post.)  Lets just hope Bungie follows through and continues to make content that is both rewarding and challenging!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Give New Games A Chance

In my long career in retail, I find that I am passionate in recommending things to customers based on their personal tastes.  This is the thing that I love most when working at a game store; I get a chance to ask questions, get an idea as to what the customer wants, and, based on their input, offer something that they may potentially like and, often, would not have picked up otherwise.  One of my favorite experiences involved me recommending a game called "Metro: 2033" to a gentleman who, later on, came back ecstatic that they gave it a shot.

With that in mind, I would groan when I'd have a customer walk in, either a month before the game launched or within the launch week, and tell me why the latest release was garbage.  Of course, 9 times out of 10 this person had no experience with the game itself, having never bought, borrowed, or demoed the game beforehand.  They would quote what they read in a magazine or on a website as if it was their own thought, explaining why the game mechanics were terrible or that the story was lacking...none of these things being from their own time spent.

This has really turned me off from game reviews in general, especially when it's right before a game launches.  Now, the reviewer usually has access to a completed copy of an upcoming game and has spent some time with it before writing their review, so I'm not going to go so far as to claim they don't know what they're talking about (otherwise they wouldn't be at their job, right?)  What I will say, however, is that I feel that reviews for A list titles are pushed out entirely too soon.  

Take Tom Clancy's The Division, for example.  The IGN review was published a week after launch, and, while it gave it a fair rating by my standards, I felt didn't give the game a fair chance.  A couple of things I felt that it missed the point on were the end game content, how the Dark Zone works, and how character stats work.  Some of these things alluded me until my second or third week with the game, honestly, and I'm glad that I've invested the time to understand it better.  

If, say, I was an overanxious gamer and wanted to know immediately if the newest game is going to be worth my $60, I'd be all about listening or reading reviews that rapidly.  I personally fall into the category of overanxious gamer (DARK SOULS 3 IN 1 WEEK!!!) but I try my best to avoid reading my latest Game Informer or browsing the web for a podcast.  There's something to be said about giving a game a fair shot, which means that you, the gamer, must be willing to invest both money and time into a game and come up with your own conclusions.  Was the Dark Zone in The Division really only for end game players, or was the reviewer focused on the PVE part until then?  Should I judge a game's end content just on the package delivered at launch, or do I keep open minded as new missions are released and judge then?  Are the stats for characters really confusing, or have I spent some time playing with the mechanics?  

This is just an example from a recent title.  Game reviewers are quick to either praise or shun new games, and I feel that hurts the industry as a whole.  On the side of praise, a reviewer can give an excellent review to a game that, they initially thought, was absolutely amazing...only to find that it falls short on promises made a week or two later.  On the shun side, you have a reviewer telling you things like, "lack of content," and, later on, having their foot in their mouth because the developer gave out new missions (for example.)  

What I'm trying to say is this; if a game looks like something you may be mildly interested in, give it a shot!  No, you don't have to spend $60 to find out if you'll like a game or not; go and rent a copy from that big ugly box thing outside of your local gas station or invest in a rental subscription of some type.  But, please, take the time and come up with your own opinions.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The 5 Most Disappointing Boss Battles in Gaming (From Recent Memory)

There's nothing more frustrating than spending hours upon hours playing through a game, conquering difficult missions and slaying hundreds of minions just to have a "meh" end boss battle.  Thankfully, this doesn't happen very often, but it does happen every now and again.

Before I get into my list, I want to explain my two qualifications for a boss battle to be disappointing.  First, and most importantly, is the level of challenge they offer.  A boss battle should be a test of your skills and abilities obtained up to that point in the game.  And second is the boss an original creature/character, or just a knock off of another enemy encountered earlier?  There are more qualifications, but some are on a case-by-case basis (not all boss battles are the same, you know!)

Also, If you haven't played the games below, you may want to avoid this post until you get a chance.  There are some spoilers (though not many) and I do not want you to judge an entire game based on a very lack luster fight.  Go play the game first, then come back and let me know if you agree or disagree...I welcome the conversation!

So, without further delay, the list, starting at...

     5: Phogoth (Destiny)

     A fairly straight forward, and, in all honesty, bland boss battle.  The encounter itself is little more than fighting an over-sized ogre while wave after wave of enemies rush in to take you out.  Having run the mission this boss is in multiple times, I've found that the waves of enemies are way more challenging that the boss itself.  And even then, the encounter can be done without exposing yourself to the enemy, if you know where to set your team up.  If Phogoth was given an unique ability, like Gulrot and his Bile that slows players for 10 seconds, he wouldn't be on this list, but that, sadly, isn't the case here.  

    4: Spider Bosses (Nearly Every Fantasy Based Game)

     This battle seems to be the one you can expect every time you play a game involving swords, shields, and magic.  The set up is almost always the same; you fight your way through a dark cavern/cave/abandoned mine/whatever it's dark, fend off against swarms of smaller spider creatures, then, when you're about to exit the area, the mother of all spiders in the world appears to slow your roll.  Spider bosses are entirely over used at this point, especially in fantasy games, and usually offer little in variety.  There are only so many ways a spider can stomp you with it's feet, bite you with its fangs, shoot out webbing, and spawn even more spiders to hinder the player.  There are a few that have different attacks, such as the spider boss in Dark Souls 2 that somehow learned to shoot lasers, but ultimately they all follow the same pattern.  At this point, I'd much rather have one less boss to fight than to keep fighting the same 8 legged creepy crawly.

     3: The Joker (Batman: Arkham Asylum)

     Let me start off by saying this: I absolutely LOVE the Arkham series, and each one deserves to be on everyone's collection.  That being said, I felt that the end encounter with Joker, who has injected himself with the deadly Titan formula, was very lackluster.  The battle is pretty much the same as every encounter with the over-sized Titan filled minions from before; stun them, then follow up with a flurry of combos.  This fight is exactly the same, except that it is broken up into several phases and you get to listen to Joker taunt you while fighting his minions.  While I wasn't expecting to fight the Joker in hand to hand combat, I felt that the boss battle could have been handled differently (maybe Joker sends out another villain or two to finish you off while racing against the clock to keep him from releasing the formula upon the entire city?)  We didn't get that, however, and are stuck with dealing with a re-skinned, bantering Titian boss to wrap up the otherwise phenomenal game.

     2: The Destroyer (Borderlands)

     Throughout Borderlands, the end boss was hyped to be an epic showdown against an awesome entity of massive power.  What we got was a giant, pink, tentacled thing straight out of an adult rated anime film.  For a game that had amazing encounters and interesting characters, "The Destroyer" felt out of place.  The battle itself can be completed by staying far away and sniping its weak points, which, if you're at the appropriate level, won't take but a minute or two tops.  Much like Phogoth from earlier, the real threat comes from a swarm of enemies that harass you as you're trying to maintain focus on the boss itself, which has a limited number of attacks.  It's also sad that the loot gained afterwards is, in my opinion, lacking as a whole.  Maybe I didn't invest the time to max out my character, but this is one boss that could have been done a lot better all around.

     1: Lucien (Fable 2)

     This is probably the biggest middle finger to gamers who took the time to play through Fable 2.  Lucien is built up to be the big bad boogieman of the game; he controls nearly everything, has a small army that's building a tower to channel magical energy for nefarious reasons, and regularly undermines the player's progress.  So, when I finally get a chance to fight the boss, I'm hoping for an epic encounter on par with the first Fable (which, by the way, was a very enjoyable fight against Jack of Blades.)  What I got instead was the chance to press 1 button to end it.  Yes, pressing any button at the end of Fable 2 will instantly kill the big bad boss you fought so hard to get to.  Actually, that's not entirely accurate; you can press NOTHING and the boss will be defeated, because a member of your party gets a little impatient.  Absolutely no challenge here, which makes an otherwise OK game very disappointing and leaves me asking, "How could a sequel lack content in comparison to its predecessor?

This list is in no way definitive, and is purely my opinion.  I also want to point out that there are many other boss battles that are disappointing that didn't make the list.  The ones listed are the ones I find to be the "cream of the crop" in regards to being major let downs.  Disagree?  Comment and lets have a conversation!