Bringing it Back to Dark Souls

Last time, on Aether’s Adventures in Barely Hanging On, we got sucked into a painting with no way out and very limited supplies, and had a hard time. Seriously, we’re starting this episode at the same bonfire we started the last one at. We’ve made no real progress. However! We’ve gained some knowledge, about our enemies, the area, and our tactics! And as G.I. Joe taught me, knowledge is power. So this time, now that our muscles are all full of knowledge, we’re going to put it to good use!  We’re going to steamroll our enemies with knowledge!  We shall make sure that every single strike has all the knowledge we’re able to muster behind it!  We’re ready to give all our enemies a nice blast of knowledge! Right to the face!

Basically, what was really holding us back last time were the engorged zombies and the toxic explosion they go through when you kill them. After playing with my equipment for a while, I found myself a good way around that status effect: using a lightning spear, which allows me to attack while keeping my guard up, and a spider shield, which can block poison entirely. In this game you can have two pieces of gear equipped to each hand and switch between them as you see fit, so I’ve still got my pyromancy and my Black Knight Sword at the ready, in case I fight an enemy far enough away or strong enough to need either of those, but for the most part, it’s the shield/spear combo that’s going to be carrying me through this area.

And carry me through it does. Now, both the shield and weapon I’m using now are far less effective than my standard gear, even after I’ve upgraded them with what titanite I had on me. The spear is weaker, taking me longer to kill, while the shield’s a lot smaller than my usual and can’t negate damage entirely. Still, the combination makes me pretty much immune to the engorged zombies toxicity, which is really what’s been sending me back to the bonfire repeatedly. I take more damage than I used to, but I still breeze through the area much quicker than I had been before.

Engorged Zombie Fireball

Now that I don’t have to worry about my enemies so much, I can explore some areas I completely missed before! For example, the rafters in one of the larger buildings I passed through on my way to the tower. This guy seen here has usually either completely missed me or dropped in on me while I was slaying his fellows on previous runs. Now that I’m climbing up to the rafters, he seems at a bit of a loss as to what to do. I make that decision for him. He can burn and die. There’s not a whole lot else going on in the rafters, although I do find an Egg Vermifuge. This is a sour-tasting, fuzzy chestnut that will purge any parasitic eggs that have been laid in my body. I sincerely hope I never have to use this. I take it anyway, because as my adventures in Ariamis have been demonstrating, only a fool goes unprepared. Besides, you can never tell what people are doing to my body all those many times I spend dead.

The rafters also lead me to a window with a ladder heading downwards, overlooking the fortress wall. I descend, and travel along the wall until I find a stairway descending into yet another room. Inside, I find a few more enemies to kill, and a chest containing a set of Painting Guardian clothes. You remember those guys in white that I killed by the bundle outside of this painting? The outfit they were wearing. I briefly ponder slipping it on myself and seeing if I can sneak by them, but I drop the idea quickly. As any woman who’s seen me would probably tell you endlessly, I’m really beefy. The waif-like Painting Guardians would probably be able to tell I don’t belong in a heartbeat. They’re probably all hollow anyways, and they seem to be able to tell who’s lost their mind already. Interesting fact in the description of these clothes, though. These guardians are charged with protecting the paintings of Ariamis, meaning there’s either more than one entrance to this world, or that Ariamis is the artist and has created several different worlds. Also, hollow or no, nobody remembers why they’re supposed to be guarding the paintings anyways. They just do it, probably because there’s nothing better to do in Lordran if you’re not the Best Chosen One.

Dark Souls Engorged Zombie Pyromancy

I make my way back to the beaten path, heading towards the tower that’s been my stopping point thus far. Now, I want to take a break here to show off something. I’ve killed these engorged zombies dozens of times before. You know this, you read the last post. But have you ever seen anyone burn so beautifully as this? Seriously, just look at that! Exquisite! I am an artist, and flame is my medium!

Dark Souls Crow Demon

Anyways, back at the tower, we go through our usual song and dance. First step, lure the crow demon out and engage him. He doesn’t have a whole lot of moves, and only one really dangerous one. Now that I know his tells he’s not much danger. He goes down after a few hits. He leaves behind a blood-stained, shrunken human ear. A Souvenir of Reprisal, it’s supposed to be proof that someone who has sinned against the gods have gotten their supposedly just desserts. It’s a human ear, though, obviously not from this demon.

Dark Souls Undead Dragon Fight

With the crow demon out of the way, it’s time to slay the dragon! Just like last time, I begin my march down the bridge, and the undead dragon charges me. From there, the fight unfold much like last time, although I’m playing a lot more defensively and keeping a better eye on him now. He only has two attacks, one where he vomits toxic sludge at me, and another where he tries to stomp on me. By paying attention, and staying out of the way when my stamina runs low, I’m easily able to avoid both. I simply swipe at whatever body parts are available until I run out of breath or he starts to move, then stay out of the way as he attacks before pressing forward once again.

This time, the dragon falls without doing much damage. He was barely even a challenge the second time around. He leaves behind a dragon scale, which will allow me to upgrade dragon equipment. I also find a Bloodshield behind him, a solid piece of gear that might be worth replacing my current shield with, should I bother to upgrade it.

Turns out that when the dragon charged me, well, only half of him actually did anything. All of him from the waist down is still waiting at the end of the bridge. It does nothing as I approach. I’m able to stand it upright, hitting the legs with a leaping attack, but all that’s behind it is the broken remains of the bridge. I could drop down to the bridge below for a shortcut of some sort, but I decide against it. There’s no telling where that will end up, and the fall’s going to hurt.

Continue reading

New Eden Page 2: The Pagening

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words.  In a lot of cases that’s true, but drawings do a piss poor job of conveying dialogue.  And I often like to make my characters talk.  There’s a lot of times over the course of New Eden where conversations need to be had.  Traditional graphic novel tactics are to either fill pages with word balloons or have a new page for every few lines spoken.  Neither option works for me.  The first, because that’s just not visually appealing and it’s really wasting a lot of the medium’s potential, and the second, because I’ll be damned if I’m going to draw several pages where everything is pretty much the same.  Luckily, I’m not working entirely in print here.  So generally, when conversations need to be had, we’ll get pages like this, some sort of relatively simple visuals, with the dialogue written out in a single, long, document.  Not entirely sure if it’s easier to consume like this, but it’s a lot easier on the author and I hadn’t intended this work to be read when I was creating it.

Also, writing teenage chatspeak is a lot harder than I thought it’d be.

New Eden Page 2

18:41 *** exodust joined #fullmoonmidknights
18:41 <Lorelei>and i don’t know what i can do for it
18:42 <exodust> heyyyy there are actually peepl here!
18:42 <exodust> u hav no idea how long i’ve been trying 2 get at least som of you talking =)
18:42 <@BigRed> I know.
18:43 <@BigRed> We’ve all been getting your e-mails.
18:43 <exodust> yay! sooooooooo….
18:43 <exodust> wat r we goin 2 play?
18:43 <@BigRed> …And you haven’t been reading ours apparently.
18:44 <exodust> or wen r we goin 2 play, mor like =)
18:44 <exodust> i ben reading em
18:44 <exodust> but not evry1 is 2 busy
18:44 <exodust> we cn start and te other peepl will catch up wen they cn play agn!!!
18:45 <Lorelei> i don’t think now’s the best time
18:45 <exodust> we hav 11 midknights
18:45 <exodust> some peepl hav 2 b availble
18:45 <exodust> like u guys!!! =)
18:46 <@BigRed> I don’t know that now’s the best time to get the group together again.
18:46 <exodust> come on!!!!! =(
18:46 <exodust> we havnt takn a game on n 4evr!!!
18:46 <exodust> wats da point f havng a clan for domn8ing games f we dont domn8 games!!!
18:46 <@BigRed> Hate, you know most of the group has better things to do right now.
18:47 <@BigRed> The Midknights will rise again, I promise, but now’s really not the best time.
18:47 <exodust> so!!! jus bcause som cant make it dosnt mean the rest of us cant play!!!!
18:47 <exodust> deres the 3 f us
18:47 <exodust> n i bet tsukami will play!! he alwys has time
18:48 <Lorelei> not me sorry
18:48 <exodust> so 4 of us
18:48 <exodust> wat!! y not!! =(
18:48 <Lorelei> i’ve got a campaign this week
18:48 <exodust> that only takes a cple days rite?!
18:48 <@BigRed> Isn’t Shaun starting college soon?
18:48 <exodust> we start now
18:48 <exodust> you start ltr wen ur dun
18:48 <exodust> we’ll powerlvl u so u cn catch up!!!
18:49 <exodust> and yah tsukamis goin 2 college
18:49 <Lorelei> … we’ll see
18:49 <exodust> n a couple months!!!! he can game now =)
18:50 <exodust> n mikey!! he’ll play 2
18:50 <@BigRed> His wife was just deployed again. I really don’t think he’s up to it.
18:50 <exodust> that jus means hes lonly and needs stuf 2 do
18:50 <exodust> itll be perfect 4 him!!
18:51 <exodust> hammer wont stay l8 @ work 4evr
18:51 <exodust> n wat abou r 2 mystery men
18:51 <exodust> angiel and silver
18:52 <exodust> nobody nos wats up wit them
18:52 <exodust> well cept u wit silv annie
18:52 <exodust> mebbe theyd be gud 2 game
18:53 <Lorelei> silver is really not available right now
18:53 <@BigRed> And Angiel hasn’t talked to us in months. I wouldn’t count on either of them.
18:53 <exodust> still!!! dats enuf peepl
18:53 <exodust> n we havn’t dun ne games in 4eeeeeeeeever!!!!!
18:54 <@BigRed> Yeah. Fine. Hate, I’ll get into a game with you. And we can put it to the rest of the group. We’re not going to get the full group here, but whoever wants to can pick it up with us.
18:54 <exodust> yay!!!!!!!!!!!!! =)
18:54 *exodust gives redman a big hug!!!!!!!!!!!!!! =)
18:55 <@BigRed> Did you have a game in mind?
18:55 <exodust> yes!!!!!!!
18:55 <exodust> new life!!!!
18:55 <Lorelei> …
18:55 <@BigRed> I don’t think I’m up for that.
18:55 <exodust> come on!!!!!!!!! =(
18:56 <@BigRed> You know there’s talk about banning that game here in the states.
18:56 <@BigRed> There’s all those missing person cases associated with the game, and nobody seems to know exactly how it works.
18:56 <exodust> u shud no how it wrks!!! u made the game didnt u?
18:56 <@BigRed> I don’t want to be the next person to get distracted by the holograms, or whatever it uses, and chase them into traffic.
18:56 <@BigRed> No, my team never worked on that game. It was some Japanese company, wasn’t it?
18:57 <exodust> but it has rdman n there! u put hm n all ur games rite?
18:57 <@BigRed> The Redman is just a basic test character. Lots of games put something like him in there to test out their programs before they develop their characters.
18:57 <exodust> oh!!
18:57 <exodust> well te gov is alwys talking down on vidgames n ur always talking down on them 4 that!!
18:57 <exodust> we jus gotta play before t gets banned!! cuz fter we wont get a chance!!
18:58 <@BigRed> I really don’t think it’s safe. Besides, I don’t have New Life.
18:58 <@BigRed> You should really stay away from it too. We’ll play some other game.
18:58 <exodust> but!!!!!! =(
18:58 <exodust> new life s supposed to hv <3exodus<3 n it!!
18:58 <Lorelei> exodus?
18:59 <exodust> yah!!! from neon dreams!!! they’r the best!!
18:59 <exodust> n the singer s sooooo smexy <3
18:59 <Lorelei> why would exodus be in a video game?
18:59 <@BigRed> Probably some product placement agreement. Those are popping up more and more in games these days.
18:59 <exodust> “thes days” hehe old man
19:00 <@BigRed> Smexiness of some metal band’s product placement aside, we really can’t use that game, Hate. I’m not playing it, and I wouldn’t imagine any of the other knights would be up for it either.
19:00 <exodust> y?!!! =(
19:00 <exodust> its new tech its cool n its cheap!!!
19:01 <Lorelei> is the new life tech really so bad, red?
19:01 <@BigRed> I don’t know, and that’s the problem. Nobody knows how it works.
19:01 <@BigRed> The company that makes it claims it reads brainwaves and sets holograms in front of your eyes, but nobody I know in the industry who’s tried it has any idea how it works.
19:01 <@BigRed> On top of that, there’s been a lot of disappearances after people have started playing that game.
19:01 <exodust> dats jus an rban legen!!!
19:02 <@BigRed> Police don’t get involved in urban legends. It’s dangerous. We’re not playing this game.
19:02 <exodust> ur not fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
19:02 <@BigRed> We’ll play something else. Don’t worry. It’s just a game.
19:02 <Lorelei> changing the subject……
19:03 <Lorelei> before hate gets really ticked off.
19:03 <Lorelei> did either of you get a package from agla?
19:03 <exodust> agla sent you a package??!!!
19:03 <exodust> hes got a crush!!!!
19:03 <@BigRed> No, I haven’t gotten a package.
19:03 <exodust> silv is gon 2 b jelous!!
19:04 <exodust> wat was n it?!
19:04 <Lorelei> silver and i aren’t together.
19:04 <Lorelei> and it doesn’t really matter what was in it. i was just wondering if you guys got one too.
19:04 <Lorelei> it came with this weird letter, seemed like he thought it was really important for all of us to get one of his packages.
19:04 <Lorelei> it was weird.
19:04 <exodust> he hsnt ben roun n 4ever!!!!!
19:05 <exodust> dat s werd!!
19:05 <exodust> mebb i get a pack 2!!!
19:05 <exodust> dats xcitin
19:05 <exodust> y did u get it 1st, tho?
19:05 <exodust> meb ur closer 2 him?
19:05 <exodust> meb he livs in nedderlans 2!!!
19:05 <Lorelei> i don’t know. it doesn’t have a return address. the stamp is japanese, though.
19:05 <exodust> agla s japnees?!!
19:06 <exodust> i wudn hav gessd
19:06 <@BigRed> How did he get your address?
19:06 <Lorelei> i don’t know.
19:06 <Lorelei> silver had my address, but he wouldn’t have given it out.
19:06 <Lorelei> none of the other knights have it.
19:07 <@BigRed> That’s odd.
19:07 <Lorelei> guys, i have to go.
19:07 <Lorelei> it’s getting late, and i have a shoot tomorrow.
19:07 <exodust> bye annie! gud luck!!! play sum games wit me sometim!!!
19:07 <@BigRed> Goodknight, Anke.
19:07 *** Lorelei left #fullmoonmidknights

Detouring in Dark Souls

Last time, on this, we were mightily questing through Anor Londo, the city of the lords, trying to fulfill some ancient prophecy or other about being the Best Chosen One, when we got waylaid by accidentally getting sucked inside a painting with no way out. Will we be able to fight our way our of the Painted World of Ariamis, or will we finally succumb to the difficulties this world’s been throwing at us and end our adventure here? I’ll give you a hint: I’m very awesome. Now join me in applying that awesomeness to our enemies, and see if we can break through!

So a bit of background on the Painted World of Ariamis. This was actually the first area developed for the game, used as a proof of concept to get the whole project approved. As the world of Lordran was developed, it was determined that this specific area didn’t really jive with the rest of the setting, but the developers were still determined to include it after putting all this work on it. So they added it in as an optional section, created by artifice and accessible by being transported through the painting, rather than as a real-world location within Lordran. To get in, you have to possess the Peculiar Doll we got when we visited our old cell back at the Northern Undead Asylum.

The description of the Peculiar Doll references an “abomination” that didn’t fit in with this world, and so the doll drew her into a painted world. Meaning that if I was smart, I probably could have expected this when I saw that giant painting. Alas, I did not. I also was totally unprepared for being dropped in a completely isolated location. Did you know there aren’t any shops in Ariamis? Did you know I’d been running a little lax on keeping my supplies filled? Once again, I can’t get out the way I came in. We’re going to have to find some other way of leaving the Painted World, and we just have to hope my supplies can make it long enough. In any case, I imagine we’re going to come across that abomination before we’re able to leave.

Dark Souls Ariamis Fortress

Across the broken bridge and around the bend, this is the sight that greets me. A bunch of hollows impaled on pikes before a ruined castle. The only path I can take leads right through the castle gates. Looks like I’m going to have to lay a one man siege here to make it through. Just me and my old undead self against all the fortress and everyone within it. I’d complain, but honestly, have you checked me out lately? I’m pretty much a wrecking ball given human form! I am a walking natural disaster! I am the world’s best chosen one! Ain’t nothing can hold me down! With the power of my self-assurances, I pass through the first gateway.

Dark Souls Ariamis Zombies

A few zombies try to rush me. Yawn. I’ve been killing these guys since I first broke out of the asylum. So long as they don’t rush me all at once, they’re absolutely no challenge.

Dark Souls Ariamis Zombie Archers

Pressing onwards, up some stairs and onto the castle wall, I’m given cause to rethink my previous statement as I come upon these withered hollow husks actually utilizing some tactics! An archer at the top of the staircase, ready to fire as I approach. He’s easily taken care of, but not only is there another zombie waiting in ambush at the top as I kill the archer, but his position is covered by yet another archer, giving me two attackers to deal with from two different directions after I deal with the first. I’m able to deal with this by taking shelter in a narrow stairway and forcing them to adjust to me, but I take a few hits from their initial ambush.

Continue reading

New Eden, Page 1

So here’s something I’ve been struggling with for a while.  I sometimes talk about writing here on this blog.  I’m fascinated by storytelling in a lot of different forms, both as a consumer and a creator, so it’s only natural that’d I’d like to discuss some facet of the craft or other.

Thing is, I feel like if someone is going to talk about writing, you really need to know where they’re coming from.  If someone has these big grandiose ideas about the art of creation, yet is a hack writer, that’s really going to color your impression of what they say.  On the other hand you’re going to take the words of someone who’s great at storytelling a lot more seriously.  I feel I owe it to those who’ve read my writing posts to give them a glimpse into my own work, to at least let them know where I stand in reading over my ideas and concepts.  But the only really creative work I’ve put up here has been my Let’s Plays, and really, those are just telling other people’s stories.  To fulfill my obligation, I need to make some of my own creative work public.  And therein lies the problem.

I’ve got a bit of a creative complex.  To me, only my current work is worth anything.  Once I’ve moved on from something, I start seeing all the flaws, and find it hard to look past it, whereas I’m convinced my current project is my best.  And who knows, I may be right.  It’d only make sense for me to keep growing with each work.  The one I’m on right now, though, is a little… different.  I’ve been trying to work on my meager skills in visual arts for a while now, and when I started my current project, I was wanting something that would give me a lot of practice in that area.  The story I was really wanting to write seemed to translate really well to a graphic novel, so everything worked out.  I’d write some kickass comic, draw the pages myself, and get both my writing and drawing practice in at the same time.

I just never intended anyone to read them.  To date, I’m 26 pages into my graphic novel, and only Harliqueen and Matt Harris have ever laid eyes on any of it.  Well, that ends today.  I’ve decided to take a stand against my own insecurities and start posting them here.  I’m still very much a learning artist, so the visuals are pretty rough and in several cases incomplete.  Compounding the problem, I don’t really have a great way of getting the images off paper and onto my computer.  But I’ve been enjoying this story than I have any other to come out of my head in a long while, and if I was going to be sharing any one of them, it’d be this one.  So, here’s New Eden.

New Eden Page 1

Transcript:

What if, as many believe, there are worlds beyond our own?

Not just other planets or galaxies, but completely new realms, universes, and planes?

And what if, in all these infinite possibilities for these infinite peoples in these infinite worlds, something, just once, went horrible wrong?

What if this disaster was not limited to the realm it started in?

And if that source world, its own cause lost, sent a warning cascading through the planes, would anyone else be prepared?

Would any other realm be able to stop it?

If even they couldn’t stop the calamity, with all their time to prepare, what would happen if there was one world…

that the message…

didn’t…

quite…

reach?

Running through the Haul: Steam Summer Sale 2014

I’ve only had a computer worth its salt in the gaming world for about a year and a half. A collective gift from several members of my family, I got it when I was in the midst of a rough patch of life that I knew was going to last for some time. This was a great investment for me, one I was particularly excited to fill up with new forms of electronic delights, but I was concerned as to how well I’d be able to take advantage of its gaming prowess. Even when I have money, I’m notoriously frugal; how was I ever going to get my gaming goodness on while going through times with my budget already stretched to the breaking point?

For once, though, it seems God is on my side. How else could you explain a world where Steam exists? One platform, with thousands of games, constantly going on deep, deep discounts. If you’re patient and observant, you can pick up pretty much anything on the cheap. And luckily, I have both of those qualities. There, you see? The good lord wants me to play some video games. It’s almost as though it was written in the holy word “Yea, did Aether visit sweet ruination upon some foul sucker, and dubbed him ‘noob’.”

And nowhere else is Yehowah’s calling for me to indulge in those interactive electronic delights stronger than in the seasonal Steam Sales. A period of weeks when nearly everything is significantly marked down, with daily or flash sales pushing prices even lower? How can a man resist? I did end up buying a bit more than I intended, but still managed to go without breaking the bank. I figured, why not indulge in a celebration of capitalism by sharing details on my loot? So here we go. Brief reviews of what I bought on the Steam Summer Sale.

Let’s go!

Betrayer

betrayer

Indie horror title by some of the guys who worked on F.E.A.R. Now, I’ve heard about F.E.A.R. and… well, I just never really cared. And I was totally prepared to never really care about this game, either! But then I saw a video about it, really loved the visual style and the setting, and found it for a really low price given how new the game is, so I decided to pick it up.

The most striking thing about the game is the artistic direction. Most everything’s in black and white, with one other color, red or blue depending on which version of the game’s reality you’re in, marking off enemies and important things. The contrast is striking. With normal colors, the game’s graphics would probably be completely average and forgettable, but with a visual design like this? The game looks a lot more attractive than it has any right to be.

The setting is interesting, not one you see in very many artistic works. The unnamed you washes up without any backstory in what seems to be barely colonial America, where the colonists have been here just long enough to drop off their luggage and piss off everyone around them, which is the American way. The land is decidedly empty, save for a fort populated only by an amnesiac woman in red and the benign ghosts of the British, and hordes of Spanish Demon Zombies.

Gameplay’s got a lot of what we’ve already seen in other games. You find items in weird places because this is a horror game and that’s how they work, and assumedly use them to solve puzzles. I don’t know, I didn’t play very far, could be they just sit in your inventory forever. Combat’s a little interesting, because you’re dealing with 17th century armaments, meaning they all suck. After the hour or so I played, I picked up a bow, which was weak but “useful” for the game’s “stealth”, which we’ll get to in a bit, a musket, which was powerful but noisy and takes an eternity to reload, tomahawks, which seem to instantly kill an enemy and are great against charging foes, but you can only hold one of, and bombs, which demonstrated my glorious and intelligent habit of using when enemies were less than a foot away from me. With relatively weak and/or limited weaponry and the number of your foes, stealth plays a really important function in this game. Shame that it’s broken. Your bow is your most stealthful weapon, yet even that is next to useless. No matter how sneaky you are, no matter how hidden, as soon as you hit anybody, every enemy in your vicinity magically knows exactly where you are, and will charge you en masse. It really serves to break what they’re going for here.

Also, it’s not very scary. Your mileage may vary, as I imagine not everyone’s spine has the strength and consistency of tempered steel as mine does, but it just did nothing for me.

Dungeons of Dredmor

dungeons of dredmor

Yes, a game that’s normally $3, and I still waited for it to go on sale. That’s just how I roll.

Not quite sure what to say about this game. I wanted a roguelike, and this fits the bill to a T, being extremely reminiscent of NetHack and all the other classical games of the type I’ve briefly meddled in. Except, you know, with graphics. It’s got a sense of humor that, while not exactly driving me to riotous laughter, I’d still like to see more of. And roguelikes only ever show their true quality after long hours of play, which I didn’t put into it here.

I intended to, really. I was actually excited for this game. It does show an incredible amount of depth, as is needed for quality in the genre. I ended up going over the first level in the course of about an hour or so, and it just wasn’t resonating with me. Part of it was the challenge, which wasn’t really there although it did pick up once I descended to the next level. And what the hell is a roguelike that’s not even hard? A stupidfluffygameforfoofoolittlebabieslike, that’s what. Part of it was the inventory system, which is really ineffective considering how much loot I picked up. And I do so love my loot. However, my loot needs respect, which wasn’t really happening here. Also, my time was a bit limited for a game of this type, so back to the library it goes, waiting for when my mind may be a bit more open to what it has to offer.

Gone Home

2014-06-24_00001

Ah, now this is an experience. It made me feel. Feel emotions. And as a rock hard stone cold jaded hunk of human being, that’s a real achievement.

So, as the game goes, you just came back from a year-long trip gallivanting around Europe, which is really the only type of gallivanting that can be done. Your family moved to a new home inherited by your father while you were gone, and this is your first time seeing it. However, when you enter, the place you’re presented with is ransacked and completely vacant. All you have to point you to what happened is a note from your sister asking you not to investigate.

So of course you do. A mean, what else is going to happen here. And in so doing, you learn about what your family, especially your sister, have been up to while you’re gone. It’s a tale of love, of the challenges of youth, and of how STUPID STUPID DUMB teenagers can be. It’s far from perfect, and can be heavy handed at times, but it did pull my heart strings. I found myself actually feeling for the characters. It’s a great example of how interactive media can truly pull of some indirect storytelling efficiently.

You do have to know what you’re getting into when buying this, though. There’s quite a few horror undertones, reminiscent of recent indie horror titles like Amnesia and Slender. It’s a dark and stormy night, everyone has mysteriously disappeared, and the ransacked state of the house suggests someone or something aggressive stole through. The game’s not a horror game, though. There’s no enemies, no monsters, no danger. It’s all about just exploring your home and mentally piecing together what happened to your family and learning more about them.

One thing I do have to make note of. Yes, the house is incredibly detailed, and it’s obvious a massive amount of time and care went into putting the setting together. Yes, I really appreciate having gone through this experience. Twenty dollars, it’s normal price, is still waaaaaay too much to ask for a game like this. You’ll have seen all the content in two to three hours, and the story’s clear enough that there’s very little replay value if you’re not someone completely stupid who is going through it again in an attempt to properly analyze it for an overly presumptuous blog post.

Yeah, I’ll probably have that up sometime in the mid-future.

The Walking Dead, Season 1

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Yeah, if you’ve been paying any attention to video games at all over the past couple years, you know about this one. This game is made to make you sad. And it will. If you play it at all. You will be sad and you won’t be able to stop yourself. And you’ll be thankful for every last bit of it.

Steam has given me an odd habit, one that I’m not entirely in favor of. Ever since I’ve got this computer, I have bought a great many copies of games I already own on consoles. I now have two copies of Saints Row the Third, Fallout New Vegas, and more, simply because with Steam Sales it’s often cheaper to buy the whole blasted all-inclusive “ultimate edition” or whatever than to shell out for the DLC on consoles. On the one hand, sweet, I’m saving money. On the other hand… well, my library’s getting cluttered, both physical and digital.

Anyways, yes, I bought this one for the 400 Days DLC, and so I can have my choices carry over when I inevitably pick up Season 2 when it’s cheaper on steam once again.

The game is an excellent tale exploring hard choices and dealing with doom and inevitability. It’s a beautifully organized work… your first time through. It loses something with repeated playthroughs, as you start to realize the game’s choices don’t really matter and you start seeing how contrived a lot of the negative twists are. Still, it’s one that I’m looking forward to going through again. I’ll just need the tissues handy. Umm!  For… for my girlfriends! All of them! Not me. I’m manly.

Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People

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This one was a no-brainer for me. I like cool things, I’m about as attractive as it’s possible to be, and I happen to think Homestar Runner was one of the best things on the internet while it was running.

Speaking of games I bought when I already owned… looks like Telltale’s got a hold of my wallet twice over. This was one of the flagship games on WiiWare back when the service was a possible contender in the console digital distribution arena. With Nintendo’s stubborn management of the service, though, there were no sales to be had, and I was only buying episodes on special occasions. Have I mentioned I’m cheap?

I’m still missing the last one or two on my Wii. Then this pops up on the Steam Summer Sale. Nintendo doesn’t allow prices to change, so they’re still charging ten dollars per episode, as if the game was new. Here? I got all five episodes for the price of one on WiiWare.

It’s a shame, because this game seems poorly optimized for PC. Modern PCs, at least. I kept running into odd bugs, the resolution doesn’t go quite as high as I’d like, and there’s no support for widescreen. Still, with the amount of money I’ve saved over the Wii version, I can’t complain at all.

These are traditional adventure games. Find objects then use them on every other object in the world until you’ve beat the game. The puzzles aren’t very compelling, but the main drive of it is that it’s authentically written and overseen by the creators of the Homestar Runner web animations. The design, humor, and everything else fits in perfectly with the traditional Homestar Runner toons. And with us only receiving one update over the past 4 years? I’ll take whatever content I can get.

 

Visual Novel Theatre-Re: Alistair++

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It’s always a little odd, experiencing a story that connects with something in your personal life. Whether it’s about a subject that relates to your job, speaks to something you do as a hobby, or includes something you’ve been through in the past, it’s like you’re experiencing it on a level somewhat different than the average viewer. You’re seeing the same things, but absorbing something completely different. I had that feeling recently when I made my way through the freeware visual novel Re: Alistair++. There were three things that called out to stuff I’ve been going through in real life, in fact. First, it’s about video games, which anyone who reads this blog knows I’m well immersed in. Second, a large part of it is about exploring how relationships between people online transfer into the real world, again, a subject I have experience in. Third, it really calls back to that one time I was a high school girl in some vague setting and had to go get all the boys. In fact, that’s probably the strongest connection I have with this game. Re: Alistair++ gives me the freedom to relive those days, to linger in the memory of having the wind blowing in my hair, of the constant sleepovers and pillowfights, of the eternal fight to spend as much time as possible shopping, or whatever high school girls are supposed to be into. I don’t know, I wasn’t in that state very long.

Re: Alistair++ is a freeware visual novel put together by sakevisual. You can download it here! It’s an otome, a game targeted towards the interests of young Japanese ladies, which I’m sure you’ll all agree fits me perfectly. In this game, you play as Merui Lucas, a short-tempered but otherwise average high school student with a deep passion for the MMORPG Rivenwell Online. And it is during one session of the game that our adventure starts. Merui and her online partner in crime have been taking on a boss above their level, hoping to get the precious Blessed Stone it drops. After a grueling fight, they’ve got it ready to fall when some total knobhead, known as Alistair, killsteals it out from under them, landing the final blow and taking the Blessed Stone for himself.

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Of course, Merui’s not one to let things go, and an argument follows. It’s cut short, however, as Merui’s school, where she’s playing the game over lunch, is struck with a network outage. As Merui finds when she’s able to log back on, Alistair was affected by that outage, too, meaning she knows he goes to her school. Further investigation reveals that only three other people were logged onto the school network at the time of the outage. Merui’s got quite the lead onto who he could be. In response, Alistair lays down a bet. If Merui can figure out who he is in real life within one month, she gets her Blessed Stone. If not, he gets all the gold she makes in that month. Merui, not one to turn down a challenge, begins the investigation.

In game, RuiOfTheSword may be a mighty knight who answers to no one but herself, but in meatspace, Merui is a high school girl, with all the responsibilities that entails. You’ve got your investigation ahead of you, sure, but you also have to work on homework, maintain your social life, go shopping (see! I told you!), and, if you’re lucky, get yourself a boyfriend. It’s only by managing all of those that you’ll be able to find success in your endeavors.

The three boys who may possibly be Alistair are also your eligible bachelors, and naturally, you’ll be getting closer to each of them as you investigate who Alistair may possibly be. It’s already hard forging bonds, knowing that any one of them may be a rampant dicknostril in disguise, but to make matters worse, all three of your potential suitors/future punching bags play Rivenwell Online but are somewhat cagey about it, for various reasons. However, as the game progresses, the search for Alistair takes more and more of a backseat, and your goal becomes more about growing close to these potential mates.

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Enjoying that Dark Souls View

Last time, on a Dazzling Display of Dark Souls, we kicked some ass. Like, seriously. Did you see the fight against the Iron Golem? I haven’t seen anyone lose so humiliatingly since the Netherland’s victory over Spain in the World Cup. Ha ha! Topical humor.

Anyways we got dropped off in Anor Londo, city of the gods and, now that I spend most of my time in my undead form, one of the last places in Lordran where you can find true beauty. I head down the staircase to explore this new destination.

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These sentinels are the only beings still seeming to reside here, at least in these upper levels. I’m not wanting a fight before I’ve found a bonfire in the area, but luckily, these guys don’t seem to be looking for one either. Judging by their posture, they’re definitely guards, but mayhaps they’ve already heard that I am the Best Chosen One, and that I have honorable business here? Or maybe my reputation has preceded me and they want to avoid the thrashing I’ve been giving half of Lordran. Whatever the case, I don’t bother them, and they don’t bother me.

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Two more of them inside what looks to be some sort of temple or shrine. Again, I’m not looking for a fight, so I don’t get close.

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The shrine opens out onto a large landing. I take some stairs down from there, and find a bonfire, tended to by a fire keeper. I talk with her first, before settling down. She gives me a bit of direction, telling me that a revelation will visit the Best Chosen One if he visits Geezer Zeus’s old keep that’s just across the way. She also tells me a bit of life as a fire keeper, referring to herself as “a gatekeeper and a guide”, saying that she sticks with the job because otherwise, there’d be no beacons in Anor Londo. Turns out, the bonfires tended to by the keepers are special beyond just giving me a bit of extra estus. They’re linked to one another, somehow, and shall never die as long as the keeper lives. However, it seems keepers can’t leave the area around their bonfires.

Thus enlightened, I rest at the bonfire and level up before moving on.

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I’ve said it before, but this area is absolutely gorgeous. It strikes me as a bit odd, in fact. I’m just a little over 30 hours into the game now. Usually, game makers will blow their visual design load pretty early on, catching as many players as they can before some will drop out. I’m impressed that From Software has held out for so long. Hopefully, this is a sign that they’re still holding plenty of other great sights in reserve.

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Now that I’ve got a checkpoint, I think it’s time to mess with some people. I start by seeing what those sentinels are really guarding. I want to see what’s worth protecting. Turns out, the sentinels are aggressive, although you have to get fairly close to trigger them. I do with the two of these. There were treasure chests behind them, although it seemed to me they’re defending the statue more than the loot.

Their shields are the most annoying part of the fight, completely blocking any attacks that so much as brushes up against them and leaving their fronts and sides absolutely invulnerable most of the time. That means I have to brush up my counter game, but unfortunately, their attacks don’t leave them open for long.

Particularly when fighting two of them at once, the openings to attack are rare. It only takes two or three attacks in sequence to deplete my stamina and knock my guard away. I might be able to handle one of them, but two is just too much, and working in concert, they wear me down. Continue reading