Dark Souls Character Loss

You might be wondering why I’ve been playing WoW and/or LotRO instead of continuing my re-plays and re-re-plays and re-re-re-plays of Dark Souls 1, 2, and 3, the greatest three games in the history of the universe. (Not to be hyperbolic or anything.)

It’s because I setup and moved to a new gaming PC. Guess what? You can’t move your characters from one installation to another with the PC version of Dark Souls 2 and 3. So all my plentiful characters remained on my old PC, which is kind of a bummer. (I was able to copy my Dark Souls 1 characters though.)

In truth, it won’t take that long to run through the games again, but it’s something I wasn’t counting on. I was planning to record blind playthroughs of Dark Souls 3 DLC when they come out (allegedly the first, Ashes of Ariandel, is coming in October), but before I can do that, I need to build up some new characters.

And before I do that, I need to setup my microphone and audio gear in the new house. I tried to record some Doom with my old USB headset but it sounds too awful to meet my rigorous audio quality standards.

Doom Impressions

I bought Doom when it was half off on Steam a while back and have been playing it here and there. I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

On the positive side, it’s a beautiful game, and it runs beautifully on my new gaming PC. It’s suitably fast and violent and hard on Ultra Violence. The chainsaw had me giggling like a kid when I found it. (Remember how the world thought the original Doom was over-the-top gruesome? Pretty funny to think about now.)

On the bad side, Doom has annoyingly long load times. This is a trend that I don’t like in newer generation games. I want to double-click the icon on the desktop and be playing in less than 30 seconds. Doom takes minutes to load up (on my new PC!), which makes me not want to click on that icon. Not to mention how long it takes between dying and respawning, a process that is supposed to be instantaneous in these kinds of games.

A game called Doom from id carries with it a certain expectation, and that expectation is running and gunning. But I feel like it strays too far from those roots. There will be 10 minutes of exciting shooter gameplay when you enter a new area, but it’s often followed by 10 or 20 minutes of trying to puzzle out where to go next or fiddling with weapon mods or worst of all, listening to 5 minutes of exposition from some unknown persona on an intercom. That’s not a component of shooters that I find enjoyable. It’s the, you know, shooting that’s the enjoyable part.

I’ve only played a few hours so maybe I’m missing something. (I wouldn’t expect a Doom-style game to be super hard to figure out though.)

Regardless, I’m still having an overall positive experience and plan to finish it.

Dark Souls III First Playthrough Complete

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I finished my first playthrough of Dark Souls III Sunday morning. I think it took around 84 hours and 87 levels, using a Knight build based mainly around strength and vitality. All bosses defeated solo, although I almost cracked and summoned help on the Twin Princes. (After the rather dismal experience I had with the Dancer of Boreal Valley, and when it looked like I might be heading in the same direction with the Twin Princes, I did summon help twice, but both times I died very quickly, which I took as a sign that I should stick with my original plan to get all the bosses solo on the first playthrough.)

If you’re interested I recorded the whole thing and I’m putting it on my YouTube channel, all 96 parts.

Dark Souls is a very alt-friendly kind of game (in the sense that the gameplay is completely different depending on which weapon you use and how you build your stats), so I plan to play through again with a sorcerer build and a dexterity build. (Or perhaps I might combine those two, since my sorcerer is currently tearing up the Undead Settlement with a rapier.) Naturally I missed a bunch of things the first time through, including about 5 optional bosses and a few areas, so I’ll be looking forward to uncovering those things.

It also makes me want to play Dark Souls 1 and 2 again, too. Have I mentioned how great these games are? They’re really great, if I haven’t mentioned it.

Okay, that’s the end of my Dark Souls evangelism.

But oh my god you guys Dark Souls is teh greatest!!!

That being said there are a few things that I found troublesome about Dark Souls III:

Disconnects. The absolute worst thing about Dark Souls III that I hadn’t seen in previous games is that when it disconnects from the network, it throws you out of what you’re doing and sends you back to the main menu. Yes, including in the middle of boss fights. Though it didn’t happen to me, it could have happened as I was swinging the final blow that would have otherwise ended the fight.

Crashes. It crashes a lot. I mean, not like ten times every play session but it crashes a good once or twice a week, which is a pretty bad track record in my opinion.

Lag. The network play is very laggy, far worse than previous games. I assume it’s because everybody in the world is playing now, but still. It sucks every bit of the fun out of the online play. The completely seamless online play was one of the best features of previous games.

UI. While the tool belt is a very nice addition in DS3, there are still some areas of the UI that are a bit clunky. For example, they still haven’t worked out how to let the player efficiently crush a lot of souls in your inventory at once.

Low Energy Gaming Week in Review

The past couple of weeks have been really trying at work. I’m in the process of training other developers, writing documentation, and frantically trying to tie up loose ends before moving to another project in May. It involves spending pretty much all day every day doing things that I’m not particularly good at, i.e. interacting with people, leading, making decisions, and generally trying to be a role model for everyone who stares at me with big round eyes wondering what to do after I’m gone. It feels a bit like acting in a play.

The point is that I haven’t had much energy for gaming. I haven’t given up on Black Desert Online per se, but I don’t login very often and I don’t do any offline activities which means that I’m falling farther and farther behind. It’s not a big deal of course since it doesn’t cost any money, but the less I play, the more I realize that I don’t “need” to play it and the less inclined I am to log back in. (To be honest, it’s hard to see what to do next even if you just want to go hit some monsters for a while, so I just stand there staring at the quest list for a while and then log out.)

BDO Harpy Castle

For the record, at last count I was level 33, and the last story location I saw was the harpy-infested Delphe Knight’s Castle. That was a pretty amazing place. I can’t think of any other MMORPG I’ve seen with such a visceral depiction of a battle zone. (Except that the harpies completely ignore you unless you attack them.)

Instead of the brain-draining BDO, often I’ve chosen to play more “lightweight” games like Far Cry Primal. I like the Far Cry games overall, and this one is definitely a refreshing change of pace, but it’s nowhere near the “survival” game I was hoping for. (One day I will publish a post on the essential ingredients a game needs in order to call itself a survival game.) Still, it’s fun, and doesn’t require much thinking.

Far Cry Primal

I tried to get into Terraria for a few days, but I still don’t understand why that game was so popular a while back. (Someday, after a future Steam sale, I will probably say the exact same thing about Stardew Valley.) I find the interface and controls very clunky. I generally dislike overhead or side-scrolling games where you move with WASD. As far as the look of the game, I kept waiting for Lemmings to drop in and start walking back and forth. Anyway I managed to dig a big hole and lengthen my playing time from about 30 minutes to about 2 hours.

This week, I also returned to another low-energy game I picked up on Steam for $5 last year: Enslaved. One day I’ll write a post on it, or post the videos I’ve been recording of it, or something. It’s a fun, Tomb Raider-eseque puzzle-solving, jumping, button-mashing game with a dumb story, but I find it charming.

The highlight of this past week by far was the arrival of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Blu-ray. Coincidentally, a new Blu-ray player arrived at the same time, since, in this modern disposable world in which we live, it was far more convenient to buy a new player than to try to find and hook up my PS3. It’s the first time I’ve watched a Blu-ray in many, many years, and holy jeepers do those things look amazing compared to Netflix, Amazon Video, and the blotchy, grainy, distorted jumble of pixels known as Verizon FIOS Video-on-Demand. I recommend them. :)

2015 Winter Steam Sale List

This was a post I intended to publish somewhere near the beginning of January.

Steam Winter Sale

I bought a lot of things in the 2015 Steam Winter sale, but I kept all of my purchases to 7.99 or less, so I consider that a relative success. I even installed some of them. :)

Undertale. 7.99. It didn’t look like my kind of game, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. I installed and played it briefly … but it isn’t really my kind of game. At least in my current frame of mind.

Shelter 2. 7.49. I loved the novelty of it, and had it on my wish list for a while. Installed and played about an hour. I loved it right up until I experienced the trauma of not being able to save one of my kittens from starvation. The game does a fantastic job of making you feel a strong emotional connection to the lynx mother and her kittens, which makes watching one of your kittens starve to death about as much fun as watching someone kick puppies to death. Since “losing” the game is so devastating, I imagine “winning” it would be a triumphant, joyful experience, but I don’t think I have the fortitude to get there.

Frozen State. 6.99. Another survival game I’ve had on my wish list for a while. Early Access. Haven’t played yet.

Ryse: Son of Rome. 6.79. Saw it before and thought it looked cool. It came up on the front page so I impulse bought it. Haven’t played yet.

Lego: Star Wars. 5.99. I got this because someone at work kept talking about the Lego games and I happened to see it in the sale. Haven’t played yet.

Remember Me. 5.99. This one came up on the front page and I thought it looked cool. Haven’t played yet.

Dawn of Discovery. 4.99. A city-builder kind of game that had been on my wish list for a while. Haven’t played yet.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. 4.99. I saw this on the front page and thought the setting looked interesting (who doesn’t love post-apocalyptic stories–not me, that’s who). I didn’t expect much when I installed it but it’s actually a fun (if not very deep) story-driven game in the vein of Uncharted or Tomb Raider. Definitely worth 4.99, although I only got halfway through before I lost interest in the gameplay. Still haven’t uninstalled it, though.

Guns of Icarus Online. 4.99. Saw this one on the front page and remembered it was a game I’ve heard about and wanted to see. I installed and played it for about an hour. It’s a neat concept with beautiful visuals but unfortunately it’s entirely multi-player and I don’t particularly want to enter that community this many years too late.

Lord of the Rings: War in the North. 4.99. Saw it on the front page and thought I’d give it a try. Haven’t played yet.

Creeper World 3. 4.94. Saw it on the front page and thought it might be an interesting twist on Civilization-style games. Haven’t played yet.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted. 3.99. I think I had this on my wish list, or if I didn’t I’ve wanted to try this game since I first saw it in Early Access, and the price was finally right. Played a few hours and thought it was cool, although stealth games aren’t really my thing so I probably won’t play much more. The big problem I have with stealth games is that it just takes too long to do things.

Spelunky. 3.74. Platformers aren’t my thing but I’ve heard a lot of good things about this game so I had to give it a try. I played for an hour or so and it turns out … it’s not really my thing.

Never Alone. 3.74. This stylish-looking game had been on my wish list for a while. I just wanted to see it, but I haven’t played it yet.

CivCity Rome. 2.49. Another city-builder from my wish list. At 2.49, I figure all that is required to recoup my losses is a decent loading screen. Haven’t played yet.

Fallout 4 – Wrapping Up

I finished the main story in Fallout 4 (I think) and I don’t see myself going back very much any more.

I reached a point where I almost decided to quit the game. Like a lot of people, and like the game almost forces you to do from the beginning, I kept trying to maintain my Minuteman settlements. I was under the illusion that it was a side quest chain that would eventually end, at which point I would resume the main story. Well at some point it dawned on me that I was on an endless treadmill. I’d go out and rescue a hostage or help a settlement or build a radio beacon, then come back to Preston Garvey only to discover another settlement in trouble. It became pretty obvious that the cycle would never end and they were random quests intended to keep me busy forever. When I started having to clear out the same places over and over again, I got fed up with it.

After that I turned back to the main story until the end, which saved the game for me. The main story gives you a lot of interesting choices to make. So if you’re getting bored and/or irritated with the game, I recommend just sticking to the main story. Once it’s done, you can still run around in the open world if you want to.

Fallout 4 Torso

While I enjoyed the story of the game, I started to notice more and more gameplay problems the longer I played. For one thing, I was a bit too complementary about the game engine improvements. While it is definitely better than Fallout New Vegas, which I had played a little bit (for the first time, if you can believe it) in the weeks leading up to Fallout 4, there were plenty of situations where I felt like I was playing a very old game. Particularly if I tried to play it like a first-person shooter. I got stuck on terrain a lot, which is my number one pet peeve of any 3D game.

Of course the most glaring problem with the game was the loading times. I mean holy geez did it take a long time to “fast” travel around, and I dreaded walking through doors. That’s probably the biggest reason I don’t feel like loading it up again. There’s some stories and places I’d like to visit, and I enjoyed just wandering around, but I feel like I need to clear my calendar and block out a whole afternoon to sit down and play it, and that’s just not going to happen.

The Pip-Boy interface became a little frustrating over time too. So many different buttons to press to get anywhere. (I was playing on a controller.) I tried the iPad app for a little while, which was a neat concept, but it took me out of the game and I found it a bit of a cop-out that they chose that route instead of trying to improve the actual interface.

I had quite a few companions disappear on me, especially Dogmeat. I was always terrified to dismiss him for fear I’d never see him again. Paladin Danse got stuck inside a warehouse once and I had to track down a workaround on Reddit to get him back. (Solution: Use the summoning bell.)

I also realized something about myself: I don’t like games where you have to explicitly save your progress. I guess this is a side effect of playing MMORPGs for so long, where you just log in and log out and the “saving” is all automatic. It just feels so antiquated to have to save your game. And there’s nothing worse than getting killed and realizing you haven’t saved your game for an hour.

Trying Bound By Flame

Normally I would write about a new game I tried, but since I never have the time or energy to write anymore, I thought it might be fun to record my first hour of play instead. (Fun for me, at least.) This time I tried out Bound By Flame, an action RPG I got for around $5 in the recent Steam sale. In short, it’s pretty average.

Fallout 4 – Better Than Expected

I must confess that I did not like Fallout 3 and New Vegas as much as everyone else did. To me, Fallout 3 was exactly the same game as Oblivion, which I had already played enough to be tired of it. So after I finished the main Fallout 3 story, I was done with it. (Steam reports that I played some crazy number of hours, but that was only because I left it running 24/7 on a secondary PC.)

So I haven’t been that excited for the release of Fallout 4, because I was expecting it to play exactly like Skyrim, a game that also played more-or-less exactly like Oblivion and Fallout 3 before it. But then on the night of the 10th I was watching the Steam trailers and noticing that it looked different from Skyrim. It looked like, you know, a new game. And by pure coincidence I had the next day off of work. So I took a chance and bought it.

Codsworth and I during the time that my dog had disappeared from the world. The glasses give me +1 Charisma. :)
Codsworth and I during the time that my dog had disappeared from the world. The glasses give me +1 Charisma. :)

And lo, it’s actually a great game. A great, new game. It plays well. The shooter parts feel like you’re actually playing a decent shooter. (That was my biggest complaint about Fallout 3.) The RPG parts feel like an evolution on the standardized boilerplate Bethesda dialog trees. The Oblivion-style zooming-in-on-NPC-faces that jarred me completely out of the game is finally gone.

I don’t have any comments on the story yet, except to say that it started out a lot darker than I would have expected. (I think of the Fallout franchise as fairly whimsical.) But I haven’t completed much of the main story… just enough to leave the shelter.

I’m taking my time and exploring the world piece by piece. Well, side quest by side quest actually. I find the world pretty dangerous so I feel like I need to spend time building up my character before going too far from the starting point. I like the crafting and base-building aspect of the game–it’s a lot like State of Decay, which I loved–it’s a great addition to the franchise. I’m so glad to finally have a reason to pick up all that junk out in the world. (Although I wish I had an AoE loot key like Guild Wars 2 or a loot vacuum-cleaner like WildStar. :)

And you get a dog! With possibly the best dog AI I’ve seen in a game to date. Just be careful he doesn’t disappear on you. (If he does, you might have to load a previous saved game to get him back.)

P.S. If you find the game suddenly running on the wrong monitor for no apparent reason, this Reddit solution worked for me.