My Adventures in XCom 2

I got myself a new computer. I didn’t want to. I was perfectly happy with my old one. But you can’t always get what you want, so here I am, new computer in hand. Lap. There you go.

One of the important things to do with any new computer, of course, is to find out just how much it can handle. After all, if you’re going to be investing into any games for it, you need to know just how leet it is, else you could buy something above your system. And also, you get the hackerz casting hardz as to the spex of your system. You can’t have people hardzing your spex. Sure, you can just look at the system requirements, but that doesn’t give you anywhere near the knowledge on frame rates and specific graphic quality that a practical test does.

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That drew me to XCom 2. A current gen game I actually wanted that I could get for cheap with a bunch of mystery gems on top through the recent Humble Monthly Bundle. If it worked on my system, and actually played well, I could comfortably get other modern games. If not, well, at least I got some other games I could play.

So when I started XCom 2 up, I really wasn’t planning on playing for long. My gaming schedule is rather full. Like, I need games to make reservations to get themselves in my immediate playlist. I played it for an hour, was satisfied with my system’s performance, and shut it down. But I couldn’t get the game off my mind. So I figured, you know what, Time? You can’t tell me what to do. I still have this super packed gaming schedule, so I wasn’t going to commit to a full runthrough, but given the nature of the game, I thought I’d give it an ironman run until it wasn’t possible for me to continue anymore. Continue reading

Actually not dying for a little bit in Dark Souls

Last time on our adventures through death and pain in Dark Souls, we met a dude who didn’t immediately hate us on sight, took a dragon’s tail in exchange for its life, killed a boar in the cheapest way possible and took its skull as a trophy, and triumphed over the return of our greatest fear. Join us once again, as we lay siege to the undead’s church and try to ring bells because some guy who hates us told us to!


So, at this point, I’ve got a bit of a reputation. I’m kind of a big deal. Undead the world over are filled with fear at the knowledge that the Best Chosen One is coming for them, and only Geezer Zeus can save them. Case in point, this little zombie loser starts running away from me as soon as I take the stairs down into the basement of the parish. I rush down the corridor after him, but stop short as he enters this open area. My Chosen-Senses are tingling. Sure enough, fear was only half the reason he was running from me. Well, maybe two-thirds. 80%. Ok, whatever, the point is, he was totally scared of me and crying like a little baby, but he was also trying to lead me into an ambush. Another undead leaps at me from the left as soon as I enter the room. Luckily, I am a genius and expected this move, so I block his attack and make short work of him.

I’m assaulted by a bunch more of these guys, but really, let’s be honest here. The undead in this room are of the same class as the one they used as bait. You probably can’t tell by the picture very well, but these guys aren’t exactly the heavily armed soldiers we’ve been dealing with so far. They’re not even the leather-armored warriors we fought in the Undead Burg. No, these guys are pretty much the same as the hollows we fought in the Asylum; armed with only simple clubs and protected by nothing but the clothes on their back. If they swarmed me, then sure, they might be able to do some damage, but I’m able to keep them separated and mostly toothless.

However, there’s something much more sinister than these hollows lurking underneath the parish, trying to sneak up on me. I see it though, but I pretend to lay unaware. I wait until it comes close, then like a viper, I swiftly turn and strike.


The battle against these sinister barrels is over in just one strike. Know that you may walk a little more safely at night, for the world has been saved from their evils.

My civic duty thus completed, I scour the room. I find a mysterious key on a dead body laying in the corner. What is it with dead bodies and keys? Keys can go in other things as well. Like a chest. Or on a table. But no, if this game wants me to have a key, it has to be on a dead body. Even that knight at the beginning of the game had to drop a corpse in my cell to set me free rather than just giving me the key itself.

Anyways, having successfully defeated an ambush from the weakest enemies in the game, I rise through the light and head outside.


I’m confronted with this new type of enemy. He’s definitely undead, but he’s even more heavily armored than the soldiers, although he carries lighter and faster weaponry. Luckily, he’s just as vulnerable to pointy things entering his spinal column as the rest of his hollow brethren, so I kill him with a single backstab and move on. This guy was watching over a dead body, apparently waiting for it to rise again. That doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon, so I steal the corpse’s shield. Hey, given the demographics we’ve seen so far, chances are this guy’s either going to want to kill me or he’s going to be a total dick when he rises again, and in either case, I’d rather have the shield than him.

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Preparing to Die in Dark Souls

Last time on Aether Fails at Dark Souls, we escaped from prison and became the Best Chosen One. We arrived in the land of total dicks and had to go ring some bells for reasons that probably make sense to someone somewhere. We traveled to the Undead Burg and kicked zombie butt for a while then traded in our badass cloth armor for some chainmail that makes us look like a total ninny. We got thrashed by a Black Knight for a couple of hours before triumphing in a glorious way and taking his awesome sword that we can’t even use. Then we stabbed a giant minotaur in the face, found a dragon, then got killed in a stupid and worthless way. Will Aether be able to rise from his lack of skill and actually achieve something? Will those bells ever get rung? Will we find any sort of armor that doesn’t look like someone poured metal spaghetti over our head? The answers to at least two of these questions can be found in this post!


So, between last post and this one, I’ve cheated a bit by checking some things out on the internet. Turns out I actually do have enough strength to wield the Black Knight Sword, so long as I do it two-handed. Basically, I can use this awesomely powered weapon and glorious trophy, so long as I sacrifice my shield arm and most of my defensive ability to do so. I take it out for a few practice swings, and it can be seen clipping through the ground in this picture. I’m impressed with that damage output, but really, I can one-shot these enemies with my basic blade without having to give up my shield to do so. I worked really hard for that sword, but I can’t justify using it right now, so grudgingly, I put it back in my pack.

I make my way about to the place where I died last time, just before the bridge the dragon and a bunch of undead are guarding. Across from the bridge, there’s a knight, who I avoided like the plague last session with the memories of the Black Knight still sore on my hide. This time, though, I’m feeling a bit more ballsy, so I approach. This guy sees me coming, but in something I forgot was even a possibility for this game, he doesn’t attack me.


Solaire of Astora! The first friendly face I’ve seen since leaving the Asylum. He’s on a journey to ‘seek his very own sun’. He figures that I’m on a quest, and he’s on a quest, so we should be best buds and help each other out and probably wingman for each other at bars or something like that. I gladly agree, and he hands me a stone that lets me partner up with other players.

With that transaction done, I turn my attention to that bridge once more. There’s that dragon on the other side giving me the evil eye, but it seems to let me go halfway across with little issue. I wonder if it would just let me walk across the bridge?


Downstairs it is. I head down to the lower level, unlock a shortcut to the checkpoint, kick myself for not finding it earlier, then slowly creep my way along the bridge’s underside. And hey, look what I’ve found?


I wonder what will happen…


Perfect. As long as I’m on the lower level, the dragon can’t reach me. Oh, it’ll jump on the bridge above me and roar, but it can’t seem to reach me down here. I’ve got 200 some arrows, let’s see how many it can take to the tail before bleeding out.

After about 40 arrows or so, I blow its tail clean off. The dragon seems to be mildly irritated. Maybe it’s like the average lizard, and the tail will just grow back, so it’s not too bothered. I seem to magically retrieve the tail. And the tail has transformed into a sword. Ummm….


Well. It’s just 20 points less powerful than my glorious trophy sword, and still 2.5 times as strong as the blade I’m waving around now. I still can’t wield it in one hand, but I’m much closer to the strength requirement for this sword than I am the Black Knight Sword.

Obviously, this is a gift from the dragon, showing that it recognizes me as the Best Chosen One and begging me to spare its life. This offering pleases me. I shall let it live for now. And, of course, so the dragon saves face, I shall make my way across the lower part of the bridge. So that nobody sees the dragon cower from me and make fun of it later. It is for those reasons. Not because I can’t find any other parts of it to shoot from safety and I’m afraid to take it head on. Those are crazy thoughts, and you need to get them out of your head immediately. I am the Best Chosen One!

Thus satisfied with my new toy, I cross the bridge’s supports, and come face to face with… rats. It’s always rats, isn’t it? I just brought a dragon to heel! I am the Best Chosen One! And you seek to face me against mere rats?! I’d normally just ignore them, but they’re kind of in my way. So I raise my shield, ready for a quick battle. And it is a quick battle. It’s over in one attack. A rat strikes my shield and pushes me off the bridge. That was… slightly unexpected.

Okay! Again, I go to the bridge’s supports. This time, I get out my bow and shoot the rats from partway across the bridge. My way clear, I climb a ladder, take out a hollow, and find myself behind the gate the dragon was guarding. I have officially entered the Undead Parish. Considering it has about the highest tower I can see, I’m figuring there’s a pretty good chance I’ll find the Bell of Awakening here.


I pass by a small tower as I head towards the parish’s gate, and am confronted with what you see here. There’s a good seven undead knights, in addition to that armored boar. Something tells me I don’t want to take them all on at once, so I start luring the knights out one by one. By shooting them in the face. They take a bit of an issue with that. All’s well and good until I start going after the two on the bridge above. They’re armed with crossbows and, well, the bow controls in this game are really ill-suited for return fire. I can’t defend myself and shoot back at the same time, so I’m either going to have to charge them and risk drawing the ire of the boar or aggro the boar and move the battle out of their range. I do the latter. Not that it helps me. The messages on the ground said to use fire, so my strategy involved large amounts of firebombs. Did you know that other players are liars? The fire barely did any more damage than my blade, which could barely scratch it in the first place. The boar, on the other hand, could toss me around seemingly at will. I took it’s tusks about three times, then it was back to the checkpoint for me.

Okay, if that way’s blocked off for me, let’s see what’s up the tower I passed by earli…. No! No! NO! NONONONONONONONONONONONONONO!


Let’s just… let’s ignore the Black Knight for now, shall we? Boars are… they’re actually pretty cool things, right? Right?

Okay, strategy time. The boar’s strong. Stronger than me. I can barely do any damage to it. But it’s big. And there’s some stairs to the side of that entry way, that it probably can’t fit up. So I dash for those, drawing a trail of knights behind me. I end up facing off against three knights at once. It’s pretty rough going at first, but I play it defensively, and I’m able to take them down by picking my moments. I draw in the rest, take them down too, and it’s just me and the boar, who hasn’t made a step towards me.


Turns out, it’s just the front that’s armored. The boar’s hindquarters? Perfectly vulnerable. So I rain arrow after arrow down on her from above. The boar can’t make it up the stairs to reach me, and she doesn’t run away, so she’s at my mercy as I completely chip her to death. I take her helm as a trophy.

And you know what? That gives me enough souls to bump my strength as high as I need it to wield that Drake Sword. And all was right in the world. Well, not all.


I still need to test this blade out, right?

So this Black Knight uses a different weapon than the last one. His sword is quite a bit larger, and that gives different attack patterns. I recycle a bit of my strategy from last time, drawing him into an open area to start with, then running away and moving to a new area every time he gets a few hits and I need to heal. However, the timing of the parries with always really finicky, and this guy’s moves are more predictable, making it almost impossible for me to pull them off reliably. Plus, at one point, he clips his sword straight through a stone wall to stab me. How is that fair?


My counterblow game is out. I just can’t get his moves down well enough to use it reliably. Luckily, the Drake Sword gives me enough power that I don’t need it anymore. I can do enough damage with my regular attacks. Instead, I duck and weave, evading his attacks and striking at him when his guard’s down.


The first Black Knight took me two hours to conquer. This one falls in my third attempt.

With the Knight gone, there’s nothing more keeping me from the Parish proper. Well, nothing except a giant portcullis, anyway. The basement’s open, though, and I enter there.  And there I have all sorts of adventures and everyone finally realizes I’m truly the Best Chosen One and it’s all so very exciting, but unfortunately I don’t have the time to get into that now.  We’ll cover that in our next post.  ‘Till next time, everybody!

Next:  I manage not to embarrass myself for a while.

Breaking into Dark Souls


I started playing Dark Souls recently.  I know, I know, don’t worry, my family and friends have already been notified of this self-destructive behavior, and I’m sure the interventions are being planned as we speak.  In the meantime, however, I figured I’d do something productive and chronicle my experiences with this famously difficult game.  This will last until this game breaks me down and leaves me in a weeping wreck, or I just get bored with the project and stop doing it.  Let’s see how long that lasts, shall we?  In the meantime, here’s a short-form stream of consciousness play-by-play of the game.  It’s almost like you’re right there with me, right?

So I’m playing the game on PC.  Steam mentioned something along the lines of a controller being strongly but really, it’s a 3rd person action game, I usually prefer WASD-mouse controls for those.

Time to create a character!  Yeah!  I love having homemade PCs!  Except the facial generator sucks!  Boo!  Even so, I make the most of it, and create a character with as close to my beauty as the engine is able to muster.  I know, it’s going to be a good long while before computer hardware gets advanced enough to be able to truly replicate my good lucks, but I’ll keep trying in the meantime.  There’s a couple different classes to choose from, who each have their own loadout of equipment and stats.  I pick the Wanderer, not for any tactical reason, that just fits best with the characterization I have in my head for this guy and YES I AM THAT TYPE OF PLAYER SHUT UP!!!

And now I get treated to the intro cinematic.  These things usually set the stage for the game, and… Dark Souls does not really do a good job of that.  It’s mostly stuff I can’t really make sense of at first.  But let’s summarize.  In the beginning, the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the earth, and there was nothing except rocks, trees, and dragons.  And probably lots of metal music, with a setup like that.  Then something happens, and all of a sudden there’s fire, and a bunch of dudes who are probably going to be important later come to take it.  There’s the Dead Dude That’s Made of Dead Dudes, Hot Witch, Geezer Zeus, and the Pygmy that nobody cares about and even the narrator says so.  Then Dead Dude, Hot Witch, and Geezer Zeus kick some dragon ass with the help of a traitor Fairy Dragon and everyone’s all happy and it’s a new age of fire, except that the age of fire has passed and everything’s starting to die.  Also, people are getting the Darksign which turns everything undead.  Then the game starts.

So, I had spent a good amount of time constructing my character’s face into something that’s actually nice to look at.  Well, the jokes on me, because the game spawns my character without any skin.  There’s nothing I can do to prevent him from looking hideous.  You win this one, Dark Souls.

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Doing Difficulty Right: Ninja Gaiden

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So, the posts have kind of slowed down a bit, haven’t they?  Yeah, about that… Life’s been kicking my ass pretty good lately, and I haven’t had much in the way of time.  What time I did have for the blog, I’ve been devoting to the next post in my Saints Row Retrospective series, which, as you may guess, take a little while to finish up.  With luck, that should be coming down the pipe sometime this month.  I know that’s not going to be good enough for you, though.  I know you’re just pleading “Please, Aether!  I love your wit and intelligence and beauty!  Please give me some or your glorious content!”  Well, don’t worry.  I haven’t forgotten you.  In fact, I wrote this entire post, all just for you.  Yes, you personally.  This one’s yours.

I beat the Xbox Ninja Gaiden recently.  It’s kind of a hard game, you may have heard.  And it expects you to be just as hard in return.  However, there’s a lot of hard games out there.  That’s not unique.  What is unique is that Ninja Gaiden actually makes its difficulty fun.  It’s easy to make something hard, making that difficulty engaging takes a lot more work.  In this world of video games, there’s good difficulty, and there’s bad difficulty.  But what makes that difficulty good or bad?  Well, there’s a lot of ways to do it.  Let’s dive into Ninja Gaiden, and figure out how they made it work.

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