Demon’s Souls

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Moving into the next stage of my quest to defeat all the games I own, I knew the first game I conquered had to be a statement piece. Something that would make all the other games of this generation, who had been previously watching from the sidelines, quake in fear knowing the unstoppable domination that was coming for them. It was very purposeful that the first game of this generation I chose to target was perhaps the harbinger of a wave of pointedly very difficult games, Demon’s Souls.

I did a bit of research online before diving into this game. From what I understood, the goal of this game was to ‘git gud’. Every single challenge everyone brought up was met with the command from other players to simply git more gud. So by my understanding, as you defeat the challenges throughout the game, you collect more and more gud, and once you collect enough of this ‘gud’, the magic governing this world then transforms your player character into an amazing asshole that posts on the internet without providing anything of value.

Hmm… maybe I’m halfway there already.

Luckily, playing the game, I found that the internet has a very different understanding of the game than what it actually has to offer.

Demon’s Souls is Dark Souls’ somewhat less cool older brother. I love the Souls series’ design philosophy, the idea of building a huge challenge, but having it all centered around the idea that no matter how skilled a player they are, with enough preparation, practice, and patience, anyone can beat any challenge therein. That’s absolutely interesting to me. Things are absolutely tough in Demon’s Souls. At no point is success a given, and there are always true threats available. But everything is made to be overcome. Things are hard, but never overwhelming.

Demon’s Souls also carries with it a very interesting variation in combat design too, one that did carry over to later games. In nearly every combat oriented game out there, offense is key. In most games, your main advantage over AI characters is not that you’re better equipped or innately stronger than they are, although that is often true. It’s that you’re more aggressive than they are. You will launch more attacks per unit of time as one person than they will as a whole horde. You will attack while dodging. You will attack while navigating obstacles. You will attack while maneuvering between cover. You will attack when you wake up, when you eat your breakfast, when you brush your teeth, when you go to work, and every single moment throughout your day, your attacks are key.

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Now Playing: Mission Complete

If I’m going to do this, I need to commit to just doing this.  While I’ve got the time here, let’s get at least one real post down.  One thing that happened over my little hiatus here, I have successfully conquered the next stage in my little quest here. For those who don’t remember, I have been on a quest to beat all the games I own, grouped by console generation. For more than half a decade, I’ve been working my way through the PS2/Xbox OG/Gamecube era. Lots of games in my collection. Many of which take 40 hours plus to conquer. And I have finally, after a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, done it. This is a big moment for me. And in celebration of it, let’s take a look back at the games I have conquered since my last check in on the topic.

X-Men Legends

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I said last time that I hadn’t played this long enough to have a solid opinion of it. I’ve beaten the game now, and that’s still true. I remember having a mostly enjoyable if occasionally frustrating time with it, but it really doesn’t leave much of an impression. Back when it was new, I remember hearing a lot of word of mouth about this game, but I guess it just hasn’t really aged well.

It does have what I’m now recognizing as a level of jank that was common with a lot of multi-platform releases of its day. Graphics a little muddy and unclear, controls a little simplified and sloppy in a very familiar way, loading a harsh and sudden stop to gameplay. It’s like these game have to take all the minor flaws of every console they’re on and port them to the others to make a game that works on all three. That one of the things I’m most glad the industry overcame in the following generation.

Valkyrie Profile 2

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I have to confess, I didn’t beat this one. This game beat me. 20-30 hours in, after getting through the slow parts of the game and reaching the point where it really kicks things into high gear again, Valkyrie Profile 2 goes through a pretty serious difficulty spike, and I ran into a boss fight I just couldn’t overcome. With the right moves, the bosses were one-shotting me. After too long of trying, I had to put this back on the shelf. Which is a pretty similar story to what I faced with the first Valkyrie Profile earlier on in this quest, come to think of it.

I feel the game’s combat system is a little too ambitious for its own good. It’s definitely unique, planting you on a 3d field where enemies only move when you do, you can see their areas of attacks in advance, and your goal is to get close enough to make a strike of your own while weaving through their danger zones. But there were too many parts working against each other for this to come through. Stages were a bit overcomplicated, which made navigating this system a pain, and the fact that your companions could both trigger attacks and weren’t entirely controllable by you was absolutely ridiculous. So many times, someone on my party wouldn’t follow through on my dash, start walking towards the rest of the group, and get every caught in an AOE attack they triggered. The system ended up being more frustrating than deep.

Psychonauts

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It’s a creative game, I’ll give it that. But I’ve noticed that if a game doesn’t control well, I’m not going to enjoy it. And Psychonauts is a pain to navigate.

It was worth going through to see all the interesting ideas they crammed in there. Their design really had a lot behind it. The worlds were absolutely interesting, and they threw some really off the wall ideas in that I delighted in experiencing. I can’t say I was really having fun with it, though. The game never felt quite comfortable to move around in, and there were several times where I tried something to get past an obstacle, failed horribly and decided that wasn’t the solution, only to look at a walkthrough later and find out that was the correct thing to do, it just didn’t work for reasons that weren’t really apparent to me. Wasn’t a fun way to get through the game.

Metroid Prime 2 Echoes

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Used to be, I didn’t like this game. I know, they named the planet after me, but flattery only gets you so far. It’s funny how much just changing my playstyle with it made a difference.

It’s an odd problem you’ll find every now and then, where the optimal way of playing a game is the most boring way of playing. If you follow along with that, the pace of the game completely grinds to a halt when you reach Dark Aether, where the best play is to avoid the damaging environmental areas and spend big chunks of time in the healing safe zones. That’s how I played last time, and ended up with a miserable time for it. This time around, I decided to be a bit more aggressive, not play it so safe, and the pacing ended up a lot better off for it.

It’s still probably my least favorite Metroid Prime game, but that’s because the series is just really, really good. Played right, it’s a pretty good game on its own. I learned from Red Metal that this game was rushed through in a crazy short amount of time. It’s miraculous how little you seem to see of that; it feels as complete an experience as anything else you’ll find.

Beyond Good and Evil

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Beyond Good and Evil is a really interesting game to me. A frequent complaint about it is how short it is. I think it’s as good as it is because it’s so short. Stretching the game out further would make it worse.

Beyond Good and Evil is a very creative game, but you can tell it didn’t have the budget it needed to fully realize those ideas it was bringing. It’s full of gameplay that isn’t exactly well executed, but comes alongside features to help mitigate it. The combat isn’t exactly well developed, so they keep it up front early on when things are simple, then move it more and more to the background as things get more complicated. Piloting and hovercraft combat aren’t super precise, so they keep the world concise, give you lock-on features so you don’t need that precision, and have several upgrades shake up the system so you don’t stick with the same frustrations long enough for them to burn. The plot is really bad, so they just ignore it for most of the… ok, never mind that last one. In any case, if it were any longer, the flaws of their limited gameplay would shine through, and it’d feel worse. As is, they always presenting new and fresh ideas, there’s a lot of variety in what you’re coming across, and you’re always have to think in new ways. I’ll take a short game that always feels fresh well over a long one that just drags on.

Level design is really top notch here. The stealth system works pretty well, too, once you get used to how it functions. The game is really at it’s best when it’s having you sneak into hostile territory, navigating your way safely through complex obstacles and avoiding detection from enemy forces. It actually loses intensity and excitement when it gets you into the fight scenes.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake Eaaaaateeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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I was shocked to look back over my save files, and find that I only played this game once, over ten years ago. This game made such an impact on me. I clearly remembered the order of events, quotes, plot happenings, characters, so much of it has a strong hold on my memory. I can remember it so clearly that I would never have guessed I’ve only been through it once. I guess it’s a testament to how well-presented it is, that it’s gained so much adamance.

Anyways, you know this game already. It has gained a lot of market share in the gaming sphere, and it’s well-deserved. This is one of those momentous games, one of the ones that hits it right on nearly every cylinder.

Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean

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This used to be my favorite game. I’ve beat it a bunch already, although the last time was a few years ago. Coming back to it this time around did give me a different perspective on it, though, which is really why I’m doing this whole quest in the first place.

Frankly, the game hasn’t aged well. Or maybe I’ve aged beyond it. The normal gameplay is still great. The deck-building, card-based combos, getting things to the point you can reliably double or beyond your damage by stringing the right numbers together, it feels so, so satisfying. But the slow-paced, turnbased system really drug it out of me. And I used to be enamored by the plot, and the characters. While they still definitely have their moments, I feel the years since have raised the storytelling standards of videogames, and Baten Kaitos is merely average, now.

Still, though, I enjoyed this a lot more than I did many of the other JRPGs of the time. Which is really saying something. Time has revealed a few more flaws, but it really is a gem.

Shadow of the Colossus

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The player sphere speaks of this game as if it’s a masterpiece. And make no mistake, it is. That may give you the impression that this is a flawless game. It’s not. Far from it. But that’s not the point. This is a game that, flaws and all, is still an utterly amazing experience.

You see this game pop up all the time when people talk about games to introduce non-players to the medium. Which is a big mistake to me. I mean, walk before you run. If you’re looking for an example of ludic storytelling, of a game that uses the unique features of being a game to bring you into a story and to explore it from all facets, there are none better than this. And it doesn’t require the twitch reflexes many others do that often serve as a barrier to completing a story. But it does require a level of coordination and at times, an understanding of video game logic that I don’t think someone unfamiliar with the medium will be able to muster.

I imagine it’s a very different experience after your first time through. More of the challenge of the game was in figuring out how to damage the colossi, which often relied on rather inconsistent mechanics, than it was in actually doing the deed. Playing the game already knowing how to do that with all of them, that would change things quite a bit.