Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dark Souls 3 Has Some Bad Design Choices

The more I play Dark Souls 3, the less I'm reminded of DS1 and the more I'm reminded of DS2. The way the phases of the boss fights are set up doesn't make the bosses more fun, it just makes them 1 phase too long. These aren't like Bloodborne boss phases, they're an excuse to mask bad game design with difficulty. A boss that has a healing spell, multiple phases, and upon killing him he regains all his health is not "good" design, it is just lazy. Adding difficulty for the sake of being difficult is not good, but being naturally difficult is good. At times, Dark Souls 3 feels like it is taking too much from Dark Souls 2, and not enough from Dark Souls - which is still my favorite of the series.

Enemy placement is something that I also think could be better. At times it felt like no thought was Putting 10 moderately difficult enemies in one small area is not "difficult" it's just shitty, bad game design. Making progression annoying is bad. If you put 10 moderately difficult enemies in an area, but spread out to a point where you're not having trouble with more than a few at a time, it is still difficult, but it is not shitty. Now granted, these are very isolated incidents, but they do exist nonetheless, and when they do happen, it seems to be especially bad, if only because the rest of the game world feels so expertly crafted. Come on From Software, I thought you learned this from the failure that is Scholar of the First Sin.

Dark Souls 3 is still the Dark Souls 2 we all wanted. It delivers well on the gameplay and the throwbacks to the other two games are also very well done. The areas are intricate, though it doesn't have the same cohesiveness that Dark Souls had, and it sometimes feels like areas are blatantly designed to trick you, but I guess that is just how Souls goes. One area, in particular, is probably my favorite of any Souls game because of how you get to the boss, but otherwise, it is pretty terrible (come on with the poison floor and the giant dog-goat things).

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Top Ten Dark Souls Bosses

Just in time for Dark Souls 3 I have my first list! Here we go, I love Dark Souls (and vanilla Dark Souls 2 was pretty good (fuck SOTFS though)

10. Velstadt, The Royal Aegis

"Velstadt was always at the King's side as if he were his lord's own shadow. After the King retired to the Undead Crypt, Velstadt followed, never to return."

One of the more epic boss fights in Dark Souls 2, Velstadt has a wide range of attacks and he just looks awesome. Decent music sets the mood for this pretty cool boss fight, and what lies after him kind of makes the fight that much more worth it.

9. The Last Giant and Giant Lord

"Apparently, the trees in the Forest of Fallen Giants are the remains of the Giants from long ago. Is this really the last of them?"

In case you didn't notice, these are the same enemy, which would explain why when you first encounter The Last Giant he hates you so much. In the Memory of Jeigh, you go back in time and seemingly kill the Giant Lord, and when you encounter him in the present you put an end to his misery. This isn't a good boss fight, but the story behind it is pretty damn cool.

8. Bell Gargoyles

"The guardians of the first Bell of Awakening."

Before you ring the first Bell of Awakening, you emerge through the fog onto the rooftop of a church, only to be greeted by a gargoyle animating and flying down to stop you from ringing the bell. As you chip its health down, another gargoyle jumps down to join the fight. After finally beating the two beasts, you ascend a few ladders and make the first step towards an amazing game.

7. Darklurker

"Soul of what lurks in the Dark Chasm. The Dark Chasm of Old is the remnant of some ancient, dissipated being."

As far as I know, this is the only boss in the souls series that is locked behind a questline. A pretty difficult questline at that. It is also the only boss in a souls game that I haven't beat, so I guess I have to respect that. Getting to the Darklurker is fun, but, like I said, difficult, and is said to be one of the hardest bosses in Dark Souls 2.

6. Old Dragonslayer

"The Old Dragonslayer is reminiscent of a certain knight that appears in old legends."

Corrupted by the Abyss, Old Dragonslayer, compared to his Dark Souls counterpart, now has darker powers; though they both have similar move sets. The nostalgia of this boss fight is really what makes it memorable. Opening the doors to a towering cathedral only to be greeted by one you've almost surely bested in the past. Just awesome.

5. Chaos Witch Quelaag

Once a daughter of the Witch of Izalith, but now a chaos demon. Special beings have special souls, and Quelaag's soul contains all aspects of Chaos.

Arguably the hottest (ha that double entendre was pretty damn good, IMO) boss in Dark Souls, Quelaag was the first time I ever struggled in Dark Souls. I probably attempted to beat her for 10 hours, and when I finally beat her, the entire game clicked and I finally got Dark Souls, I understood why it was so appealing. 

4. Knight Artorias, of the Abyss

"Soul of Lord Gwyn's Knight Artorias, who was consumed by the Abyss. The legend that Artorias repelled the Abyss only told half the story. It seems that he was defeated, and his honor preserved, by some unsung hero, who is the true victor of the Abyss."

Really my favorite character of all the souls games next to Siegmeyer, Artorias is just a complete badass, one of The Four Knights of Gwyn, and simply awesome. Said to be the first person to walk the abyss, Artorias's story is tragic. He lost his life and his dog, Sif, by being consumed by the darkness of the Abyss. Oh, and to make the fight even better, you are the true victor of the Abyss.

3. Sif, the Great Grey Wolf

"Soul of Sif the Great Grey Wolf, who guards the grave of Artorias the Abysswalker."

If you met Sif in the DLC prior to fighting her, the magnitude of this boss is only heightened. Artorias's companion in life, and guard in death, all Sif wants to do is protector her former master. Wielding Artorias's giant sword, she plans on keeping the grave safe, but in the end, she submits to you. She starts limping around and it is sad as hell, honestly.

2. Dragon Slayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough

"Soul of Ornstein, Dragonslayer Knight who guards the cathedral in the forsaken city of Anor Londo."
"Soul of Smough the Executioner, who guards the cathedral in the forsaken city of Anor Londo."

This boss fight, from a mechanical and difficulty perspective, is the best in the series. Two completely different fighting styles and two different ways to combat them. From a story perspective, it is pretty good, too. Ornstein, captain of The Four Knights of Gwyn fights with grace, and when Smough is felled, he absorbs his power fluidly. Smough, the executioner, a ruthless fighter (and person, really, he liked executing people so much he started eating them) just wants to destroy you, and when Ornstein is defeated, he just smashes the body to absorb his power. The music to go along with this fight is pretty damn good, too.

1. Gywn, Lord of Cinder

"Soul of Gwyn, the Lord of Sunlight and Cinder, who linked the First Flame. Lord Gwyn bequeathed most of his power to the Gods, and burned as cinder for the First Flame, but even so, Lord Gwyn's soul is a powerful thing indeed."

This fight is really cool, and as you can see, my favorite fight. He's not a particularly hard boss if you can parry, but just everything about the battle is awesome. The music, the setting, and the actual character are great. All of your hours of play have lead to this boss, and he is just ruthless. You defeat a literal god and choose to link the flame, or let the fire fade.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Is the PS4K Indicitave of the Future of Gaming

Sony has all but announced the PS4K, a more powerful system, and seemingly a half-step in the current console generation. The new console is rumored to boast more powerful hardware with capabilities to run games in 4K resolution and maybe even have PSVR capabilities built in. This new console is said to release by October of this year, but no dates have been solidified. But, what does this mean for the industry? What does it mean for development cycles and the games that come out? What about current PS4 owners?
Sony is seemingly trying to change that with the PS4K. Incrementally updated consoles could mean a shift in the industry as a whole, but we already see Nintendo do this with their Nintendo DS handhelds (there have been nine of them released over twelve years) and it seems to be working but are people willing to spend another $400?
As we all know, a new iPhone comes out every two years with a half step in between. Consoles come out every five to seven years and that's all we get for those five years, no hardware upgrades or anything like that (unless you're the N64 and have an expansion pack.) Yeah, we get new the iPhone every few years but do we really want to do the same for new gaming consoles every two years?
Other than more power, what does the PS4K offer to devs? Likely, the only motivation a dev will have to develop for this new system is sales and so, if the PS4K comes out, sells well, and is definitely the superior system, what is keeping the devs from completely abandoning the PS4? Is there really a point in keeping the older system, whether it be downgrading the games or just not making the games for the older system? Not that porting a game is necessarily bad, but if it turns out like Hyrule Warriors did on the 3DS, which is bad, that is not something I want to see happen on PlayStation.

It's safe to say it takes a few years for developers to get into the groove of making games for a system. Comparing GTA: IV to GTA: V, one released at the start of the PS3 life cycle and one released at the end of it; there is obviously a big difference not only graphically, but also in scope. GTA: V's map and content are much more substantial than GTA IV's. This comes from knowledge of the architecture and time. If the architecture is changing and the time is getting shorter, it makes it harder for the devs to give us quality games.
The PS4K has a really good chance of splitting the PlayStation community. About 40 million PS4s have been sold and you would imagine not all 40 million people would make the jump to this system. Gamers and the gaming industry has been used to consoles taking five to ten years to release with, usually, pretty big jumps in hardware and capabilities, when the PS4K comes out, it will need to do really well and change the industry as a whole to not be a complete flop.