Riders on the storm

So, it’s about five weeks until Dark Souls 2 hits shelves, press previews are starting to hit and the PR machine is in fifth gear. For a lot of people, it’s going to be their first time playing a Souls title at launch and there’s quite a bit to be discovered and said about that.

What gets a lot of people through Demon’s/Dark Souls is the community that has been built up around it, with people getting tips from people who are more experienced and for me at least it’s a very big part of the game itself. Playing at launch changes all of that. Everyone is on a level playing field right from the start. There are no Onebros, Overpowered PVP builds and forest gankers. Everyone is discovering everything at the same pace and really its that which makes you want to persevere through the brutish difficulty of these games.

When Dark Souls launched there was a rumour you could do a ninja flip by levveling up your dexterity to 35. Without any other guidance or anything else to go by, a friend of mine based his entire character over a rumour. While you CAN ninja flip in Dark Souls, it’s not done via levelling your dexterity up at all. It’s actually done by finding something called the “Dark Wood Grain Ring” which you get by joining a covenant, then talking to a translucent NPC standing behind a vendor and killing them. Thus breaking the covenant.

The obtuse nature this is what I love about Dark Souls and it’s discovering little bits like that is what I truly love about the game. Someone who tries to complete Dark Souls II as quickly as possible is playing the game completely wrong. Entire areas in Dark Souls are hidden behind invisible walls. Discovering that along with everyone else at the same time is an amazing experience.

In about five weeks time, my twitter timeline will be going wild, a WhatsApp support group of 10 people will also be at my fingertips as we all discover more about the game together. The sense of community is so strong at the game’s release and I cannot wait to go through it with everyone. It’s going to be a hell of a ride.

Roll on March.

I want to be the president in a giant robot

Way back when, FROM Software made Metal Wolf Chaos. You play as an usurped POTUS named Micheal Wilson and have to overthrow Vice President Richard Hawk in a giant bigass robot called Metal Wolf. FROM are pretty well known in Japan for making mecha games, few of which make it to the West. You have an absurd amount of guns that you can customise and every single gameplay video is rife with hammy voice acting and shredding guitars while the President of the US blows things up in a giant mech. On Paper this sounds like my IDEAL video game. The thing is that I’m probably never going to be able to play the damn thing.

There’s a lot of reasons that I’m not able to play Metal Wolf Chaos, firstly the game is absurdly expensive due to the low number of copies printed and the cult following it seems to have garnered. Secondly I’ve not got an original Xbox to play it on. There’s something to be said about the preservation of weird, old games like Metal Wolf Chaos in the future. Emulation of the original Xbox still has not happened yet and 360 and PS3 emulation is damn near nonexistent. This in itself is troubling since we have quite a few great console games that could do with the extra oomph that emulation can provide. Something to also take into consideration is that a large number of games have integral multiplayer aspects to them and that’s often lost in the whole emulation kerfuffle.

There’s a worrying trend emerging that I’m probably not going to be able to play games in their purest form anymore, emulated or not. Games For Windows live is something that people have complained about for years it was (barely) functional but Microsoft have decided to pull the plug in July 2014 and as someone who is getting annoyed at not being able to play incredible games the way they’re shipped. I’m a bit pissed. Mainly because Dark Souls uses GFWL. After the service is turned off it’s effectively shutting off a gigantic portion of the game. Not just Dark Souls but games like GTAIV are also going to be affected, for what I consider to be two modern greats this just isn’t good enough.

Some games are simply not the same with their multiplayer components stripped out of them. Dark Souls in single player mode is still an exceptional game but playing it online is how the developers intended the way the game to be played. The game instills a very human fear into you that someone can come at any time and kill you. It’s something unpredictable that can’t be replicated. This is not even counting touching other players’ bloodstains to check how others died and reading messages that other people have left. There’s a massive portion of what made the game so special to me gone right there. This is just scratching the surface with what Dark Souls offers players when played online. To say the least, it’s worrying.

With no other way to play Dark Souls as the console versions lifespans are limited it’s incredibly sad to see a game which relies on it’s online mode as a huge factor to the overall experience deteriorate and diminish as fast as it has. There’s no way to emulate it in the future, there’s no way to play the game with the same unpredictability with the online mode turned off. This is an issue that could be fixed with a great deal of work and a decent emulator. Still. Why should I have to worry about not being able to play a game I love in the same state as it was released on day one.

A trend in the Next-Gen games we’re seeing coming out of TGS, Gamescom and E3 all use a similar type of passive multiplayer not too different to Dark Souls. The big worry here is that we have no guarantee that we’re going to be able to play those games 6-7 years from now in the same state that they will be released when they come out. It means a lot because I was able to play many games throughout my childhood via emulation and would have never been able to play them until many years later.

I remember being about 8 years old playing Super Castlevania IV and loving the absolute SHIT out of it despite it already being a decade old.   I had that experience with a lot of older games that I didn’t have access to at the time by going and downloading dodgy ROMs from angelfire and geocities and playing them with an old Microsoft Sidewinder pad. This was my little hobby ever since I was little, I remember being in the Swiss alps staying with an uncle on holiday and staying inside for the majority of the week attempting to beat Actraiser. Mostly because I was a fat bastard and couldn’t ski but STILL. It saddens me that somewhere down the line a kid is going to want to check out Dark Souls and not be able to get the full experience with the GFWL switched off and no way to emulate servers.

There are many other great games that are going to be eternally gimped like this and its sad to see. There are going to be many more cases like this in the future and it’s about time that developers and publishers start thinking about how exactly they’re going to preserve their work years down the line after the game’s original release.  

I still want to fucking play Metal Wolf Chaos.

 

BEST GAMES OF TWENTY THIRTEEN

Um, so I could not think of 10 games that were actually excellent from this year so I just wrote this instead. Please bear in mind that this is all just opinion and not fact. If you don’t agree with me I will challenge you to a bareknuckle brawl. This post contains spoilers for every game I mention.

DmC DEVIL MAY CRY

I thought Ninja Theory’s reboot of the classic Capcom hack and slash title was going to be a massive pile of horseshit. Most of the plot is a ham fisted satire on modern life but falls flat because it is just incredibly adolescent. It reminded me on the time I gave an actual presentation in an English class on why 9/11 was an inside job. It follows similar levels of cringe. Luckily the game picks up the slack where it really matters- kicking the shit out of everything you see, the combat is tight and responsive. While other games in the series have bored me to death, this is surprisingly accessible and I even smacked the difficulty up on a second playthrough. It’s well worth picking up and the PC version runs like a dream.

Super Mario 3D World

Nintendo are incredible. The Wii U is incredible. Remember 3D Land from a few years back? It’s that but prettier with 4 player co-op. Don’t really need to say more.

Bioshock Infinite

Ken Levine is back with his cute looking dystopian science fiction. He managed to craft and incredible world and great but at times tame story. With some decent gunplay sputtered between exposition and heavy story beats, I did not like not being able to just explore Columbia and go off on my own thing rather than following arrows and being told most of the story through bits of tape. I feel as though they pulled some punches with the writing because Booker and Elizabeth didn’t stick the landing when they pulled an Oldboy (read: rumpy pumpy) But it’s good fun and looks absolutely INCREDIBLE. The soundtrack is brilliant too.

Grand theft Auto V

GTAV is the big massive hugest game ever that made a lot of money. It’s very good and Rockstar evidently put that massive budget to good use with 2 super interesting protagonists and another that made me want to die every time I played as him. Playing as Trevor and listening to hardcore music while pumping people full of lead is one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in gaming this generation. The Online mode is quite ropey but Rockstar pulls it back when everything finally ties together and you’re in a private crew session with 10 people causing utter chaos. The scale of what this game does is incredible. It is well worth anyone’s time.

The Last of us

Naughty Dog finally made a game where the combat makes sense in the context of the game! The Last of Us melds together the best bits of Survival Horror, Action Setpieces and emergent gameplay to make one of the most stressful games I have ever played. Writing is absolutely top notch with Troy Baker putting in an incredible performance as Joel. It takes a while to get really started but it all comes together for a brilliant experience.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance


You play as a cyborg ninja man that fights other cyborg ninjas created by Platinum Games it has a heavy metal soundtrack and you can put Raiden in a sombrero goodbye

MONSTER HUNTER THREE ULTIMATE
THE BEST GAME OF THE YEAR

This game is insanely deep. I don’t think I have even scratched the surface. I have played just over 50 hours. The monsters that once seemed insurmountable are now carrion to my switch axe. There are still other monsters that scare the piss out of me and I wear armour made out of a dragon I had to kill twenty times. You can’t buy armour. You have to kill a monster and master how it moves, where it goes and what it does to even earn the right to wear it’s hide as armour. Online multiplayer does wonders for this game as buddying up with 4 people to take on a massive fuckoff monster is just utterly incredible. MH3U is worth investing in a Wii U by itself. Forget the rest of the catalogue. Get a Wii U. Join the Hunt.


I wrote this in about 30 mins because I was bored this is not a serious criticism of games this is just what I think also I don’t think it’s morally wrong to commit jaggi genocide. Also I don’t give a fuck about grammatical mistakes fuck off

(Source: Spotify)

An Odyssey of the soul: Part one

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that briefly after playing Dark Souls that it’s one of those games that you really have to cut your teeth into. Overflowing with depth, nuance and detail Dark Souls sends you head first into a world that is not afraid to treat you like an adult. It takes everything that makes modern games what they are and shoves it up your arse and sticks it’s middle finger at anyone that wasn’t prepared for it.

Because of this Dark Souls is often played with intense concentration, focus and at the end of it all, you feel as if you have overcome a game so obscure and complex that you don’t need any achievement popups or gamerscore to justify what you have been through. After all the hardship and hours poured into slowly crafting your character and seeing the now iconic “YOU DIED” message flash up onscreen hundreds of times. Something that seemed insurmountable was finally mastered.

You uncovered it’s secrets, the tragedy of a world that has come to its natural end and experienced the melancholic atmosphere that eclipsed every single area of the game. So harsh and oppressive, yet beautiful in all it’s grandeur and scale. To have experienced everything the game has to throw at you is truly overwhelming. It’s been about 2 years since I first played Dark Souls, it’s a game that I will remember for the rest of my life.

I don’t think I’ve really loved anything as much as I have this game. Finally I think I know why. Over this past year there have been a multitude of changes in my life that left me quite downtrodden. Everything from career aspirations to emotional problems. I was unfulfilled. I felt as if I was slowly losing everything that I once loved, enjoyed and was slowly slipping away. There came a time in this past year or so where my daily schedule was; 

Go to work

Come home

Play Dark Souls

Sleep

For months, I consistently kept this routine. I’ve completed Dark Souls more times than I can count. I feel as though I could walk through the game with my eyes closed. Why? It’s because Dark Souls is so wildly dark, hopeless and mysterious that I eventually found some sort of solace in coping with my situation with it.

Dark Souls was something I could control. Despite being obscure, difficult and damn near hopeless I knew it’s something I could fix and get through. It’s one of the only games that I have played consecutively for over 12 hours. I loved every single second. It was a break from seemingly seeing everything spiral out of hand.

For me, Dark Souls was the thing to turn to when the weeks were overcast and shrouded. It was the one thing I could turn to, a major stepping point about the game was not only how notoriously difficult it was, but also knowing that others were going through the same experience as me. 

"All of you, forgive me. For I have availed you nothing"

Narratively speaking, Dark Souls may be fantasy, but it’s no Lord of the Rings clone like many big fantasy RPG’s try to be. Again it’s very low key and personal. NPC interactions in the game are short, brief affairs. A break from the relentless nature of the game. You can find NPC’s in a fair variety of places, from bonfires to holed up and stuck in an area of the game. You never know who or what is going to pop up.

Hopefully next week I should be posting Part 2 of this feature, focusing on the journeys each NPC takes in Dark Souls.