Tuesday, I was so excited about finishing an amazing game that I might have gone a bit off the rails. I don’t know that I made a cohesive whole out of my experince with the game, and instead spent a lot of words speaking only about the mechanics and portions of cool behind the game, instead of trying to really express my joy with it.

I’m going to try again. Cryx can take a rest for a little bit. its been in the spotlight long enough.

Continue reading

Well, Its been a long time since I’ve talked about anything other than Cryx and Warmachine here. I figured, with me finally, after almost 7 years of on and off play, beating Valkyria Chronicles, it would be a good break to talk about something different.

Released in 2008, Valkyria Chronicles is the first in a series of turn based strategy games released by Sega set in an eerily similar world to ours in early WWII.  Its 1935, and the Empire is at war with the Atlantic Alliance.

Gallia, highlighted in blue, is where all the action takes place. A Small and neutral country, but rich in the fuel stores of this world, it is invaded by the Imperial alliance. You follow along as Welkin Gunther, son of the famous General Gunther of the First Eurpoan war and co-creator of the Edelweiss, a tank extremely ahead of its time with many,  leads Squad 7 of the Gallian Militia on increasingly dangerous missions.

Spoilers follow, so if you want to play blind, stop here. Otherwise, both mechanical and Storyline spoilers abound.

Continue reading

Holy Jesus.

The amazing and astounding things coming out of, and around, and even near E3 this year are beyond my wildest Dreams. Every expectation that I could have had, if I had ever paid attention to E3 before, were completely blown away. I have gone from lamenting that I had a video game system at all to being overjoyed that I managed to pick one up last year. I have re-joined the Inquisition in full force, and am stoked to get to the end and move on to the next game, something I’ve not had in years.

I’m just going to run through the list by enthusiasm level. While It is not representative of when I heard the list, it is very representative of how gleeful I am at each release.

Continue reading

Valkyria Chronicles is likley one of the best games I ever put down, and it makes me sad that I am writing this 4 years after its release, and that I am writing this instead of playing it right now.

Valkyria Chronicles is, from where I stand some 6 missions in, a retelling of WWII in a alternate world. The dates are right-ish, and the bad guys are kinda correct. Also, there are tanks, primitive rifles, bazookas and light machine guns. Everything is in place!

The connection is weak, but the feel works out for me.

"France"

“Gallia”

The game’s main characters are Welkin Gunther and Alicia Melchiot, a college student and a baker, respectivly, that join the militia and fight against the Imperial invaders of Imperia. Welkin ends up with a Tank his father left him, and Alicia becomes a leader in her own right. I’m not all the way into the story, but its been fairly good for following around a bunch of youngsters, something which I generally don’t latch onto. For one, It seems that this story makes them feel younger, which I am good with.

Right. Gameplay.

I enjoy turn based strategy games, probably too much, and my love of XCOM, both new and old, is testament to that love. Valkyria Chronicles is a version of turn based strategy that I enjoy more than most. The basics of the game is, very much like a tabletop game I very much enjoy, based on orders. Each turn you get to take, you have a certain amount of orders to spend, however you so desire. If you so like, you can spend it on the Edilweiss for the whole of the turn and have your tank just try and Rambo the enemy army. Its unlikely to work, but you can give it a try! Additionally, each subsequent order spend on the same unit reduces its move stat, meaning you can’t get as far.

 

There are Six  classes of units, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Scouts: Great Movement, Low HP, Low Damage, Accuracy, and Rate of Fire
Shocktroopers: Middling Movement, High HP, Low Damage, Low Accuracy, Great Rate of Fire
Lancers: Low Movement, High HP, High Damage, Middling Accuracy, Single Shot
Snipers: Low Movement, Low HP, High Damage, High Accuracy, Single Shot
Engineer: Middling Movement, Fights like a Scout, but carries ammo and can fix your tank
Tank: Middle Movement, Enormous HP, Low Accuracy, High Damage, Single ShotGameplay

As you spend your orders and activate your troopers, you’ll move around the battlefield freely, almost like an third person shooter. If you encounter enemies, however, they will shoot at you, provided they don’t use their single shot weapons. This holds true for your soldiers attacking enemy troops, so you can really get good use out of choke points if they have to come after you. Once you get into a position you like, you can go into your aim mode, which is almost an FPS view, and choose your action to take. Once your action is taken, often by shooting the enemy, you can either end your action, or start moving again.

If a character is reduced to 0 Hp, they are downed and are no longer active. You have three turns to get another character over there, call a medic, and evacuate them or they’ll die, permanently. This can also happen if an enemy reaches them as well.

During each mission, you can call in reinforcements if you need to, from the bases scattered about the level. Once you do, a new solider will come to your aid as long as you don’t have the maximum number of active troopers on the board.

In addition to the battles and the turn based fights, there are also tech trees for each weapon, as well as some for the armors. The Eidlwiess can also be upgraded, and has tech trees for all sorts of aspects.

Finally, even your soliders gain levels, making them better and better as you go along.

I’m just starting to get into the game, so I’ll have more information and maybe some battles to go over when I come around next time. I don’t expect to get much writing done over the holidays, but we will see how it all pans out, and maybe I can get an article or two out there about the progress I’m making!

Welkin Gunther, Main Character, Tank Commander

Welkin Gunther, Main Character, Tank Commander

How Long have I been doing this? As long as I can remember, almost. Dying, reviving and dying again, battling my way through hordes of undead and their legions of lords, overseers and taskmasters, each locked in place. Now, however, I feel it. Its almost time. I am almost there.

OH. RIGHT. SPOILER DISCLAIMER. I’M TALKING ABOUT MY DARK SOULS II BOSS FIGHTS. 

Playing both dark souls games back to back has proven to me that I do not like games to continue forever. New and interesting things must come along to challenge and change what I do. I had thought, due to my years playing WoW that I enjoyed sameness. It turns out that is not so. This last leg of Dark souls has been incredibly challenging and great fun, but damn it if I don’t want this game to be done.

I don’t think, compared to the character I played last game, that I picked something different enough to help differentiate me from my past choices. Maces and spears are different, though the combat style  seems the same, and I am wearing the armor with the most numbers with a shield, though the shield is a bit less great this time.

Where was I last? Oh, the Twin Dragonriders in Dranglic Castle.

Shortly after the Twin Dragonriders, you end up in a hallway of very chess-like Knights. Make it past them and you get into a fight with one of the most hyped fights in all of Dark Souls II: The Looking Glass Knight. Supposedly, he can summon other players to help fight you on his side, but I never encountered on in the half a dozen or more times I fought him.  The boss is smaller than most, but that’s not saying much as most are just completely, almost egregiously large. It brings back memories of tanking in WoW. The Knight is fairly simple, with slow attacks that are extremely easy to dodge and a few big-windup lightning attacks as well. His big thing is, however, that he will summon spirits to attack on his behalf. I fought two different ones: one with a halberd and shield and one with a greatsword and shield. I’d encountered them both before as invaders, so I wasn’t particularly surprised by their strategies.

My first pile of tries I was skirting around the edges of his melee range, darting in when I sensed a weak moment or two and heavy-striking him with my spear until he knelt down to summon a little friend. At that point, I’d run up to him and start a free-for-all stabfest until he completed his summons. Out of stamina, I would run away and around for a bit to regain my stamina. At that point, I’d engage the add and try to whittle him down while dodging the attacks of the Knight. It was not always easy, and it surely wasn’t quick. I figured this was the best strategy for some time, and every attempt I made it further, but I didn’t feel like I was progressing. Each add was a very likely chance of getting pincered and slain. Then, after stabbing the Knight, punishing him for the audacity to summon a friend, I noticed that both he and the add were slow to react once the summon was finished. Could this be my chance. The next time he did the summon I waited instead of taking advantage of his vulnerability. Once the summons was complete I went completely to town on him, stabbing him in the back while he sits, stunned, in the fetal position. I am sure I wasn’t helping. While I did take out the add, I also managed to take a brutal, heavy attack from the Knight at the same time straight to the face. I had enough HP, though, and shrugged it off, ran away and healed. I made a mistake and he removed my head from my body, but I had a strategy. Next time I went in to fight him, I took that time when they were both stunned to unload all the damage I could on the add, and it worked. Each time I did open-chest a hit from the Knights, but I survived each one with a bit more than 10-15% of my hp and that enabled me to flee, heal and survive. It wasn’t the prettiest win I had, but I made it through the first time I tried that strategy.

Next up, after trudging through a swamp filled with magic-bolt shooting horrors and hammer wielding fanatics, I came to what I thought was easily one of the coolest bosses so far. The Demon of Song.  I have a soft spot for all things swampish, and this awesome boss is not an exception. He is, though, rather simple. His arms are insanely dangerous, as he will grab at you and smash you into the earth enough times to kill you, and he will also bodyslam you into oblivion if he gets the feeling. However, after a half dozen tries, the easiest way to kill him is to stay just beyond arms reach. He will swing his arms, trying to get you, only to have you dart in and stab him in the face when he takes a break. Seriously, the only place this thing is vulnerable is its face. Every once in a while he will stand up tall and flop down onto the ground, so make sure you start backing up and continue backing up throughout the animation. Once on the ground, though, go for the face and you’ll be ready to continue on in no time!

Moving forward from the Demon of Song, we end up in the undead crypt, a strange and absurd land of terrible creatures and labyrinthine puzzles. Fortunately, you can get to the boss relatively easy once the shortcuts are unlocked. Unfortunately, Velstadt is a monster from hell. He is a towering yet thin presence that moves with surprising speed and agility, swinging a giant bell-club-mace thing with which to kill you. He has some relatively predictable pauses, though, which can easily be taken advantage of in order to deal some significant damage. This fight all came down to timing and learning to manage my stamina meter. His attacks deal so much damage that they have to be blocked or you end up splattered, but blocks eat a ton of stamina as well. I learned here that it was better to retreat, let my stamina recover, and then go back in to try and get a stab or two in then it was to take a bell chime to the chin. Half way through, maybe a little more, he switches phases and gets a large boost of Dark damage and a better armor value. He gains a single long range attack, but its extremely telegraphed, so you can run next to him and stab him a time or two if your so inclined. Thats what he gets for trying to shoot you. There is a large timing element to this fight, so I died more than a few times before I took him down. Moving on and grabbing the Symbol of the King was all worth it, though, as it allowed me to enter the next fight.

Down deep in the Throne of Want are a pair of bosses, the Throne Watcher and Throne Defender. You fight them on a platform in the center of a pool of black deadly water. They are a very cool analogy to Smaug and Orenstien with a very different riff on it. When one or the other is killed, it is not removed from the fight. Instead, in mere moments the remaining Throne Guardian will go over and raise the other from the dead. Simply put, you have to kill them very close to each other or you get to fight them over again. This fight didn’t take long once I figured out what I needed to do. I started with the Watcher, who jumps and lunges, locking on and luring him out to get a stab in here or there. I had to be aware of the Defender, as well, because his hits hurt big time and I didn’t want to get hit without my guard up. To add insult to injury, when each boss gets down to half HP or less, they apply Golden Pine Resin to their swords and start adding lightning damage on top of their normal damage. In the end, I managed to bring the Watcher down to just above half, switch over to the defender and bring him to half, switch to the Watcher again to drop him to within a single hit of dying, kill the Defender and then take the Watcher out. It wasn’t easy, but it was a fun learning process. Figuring out these boss puzzles is really what I enjoy. With the Guardians of the Throne dead, I looked around, shrugged at the seeming pointlessness of it all, and made my way to the next Kings Gate, and took on Aldias’ Keep.

This level was a pain in the ass, but fortunately this boss was a pushover. I did pull that lever, too, even though that one sign told me not to. If only I knew what the consequences of my actions were. I’ll take that trade most days. The Guardian Dragon was very straightforward, with a simple move set of two types of fireballs and three types of physical attacks. Each fireball attack had its own position and animation so it was pretty easy to predict. Locked on, I could attack one of its two feet so that was where I took the fight to. I’d run in, stab it once or twice and it would lift off into the air. If it clung to the wall, it was going to toss a standard fireball and I would have to be under him in order to be safe. If he jumped into the air and hovered, he was going to do a line of fire directly at me, and I needed to keep moving to be safe. Once he dropped down to the ground it was back to stabbing his feet. It only took two tries to bring the big fella down.

That leaves me with the final boss fight I’ve managed to beat of the game, and this one is so sad. Wile wandering through the memories of Vammar, I came across a small alcove with a message from another world. “Sniper spot” It said ” Try ranged battle.” I took a few shots, agro’d the boss and took him down pretty far, completely immune to anything he could do while I stood there and fired poison arrows at him. I felt bad about cheesing the game this bad and ran over to try and finish him off. Sadly, he lopped my face of with a single swing. It took a few more attempts and me learning his melee ways before I realized it wasn’t a complex, cool fight I was missing, simply one of those big nasty timing fights that if you take one step wrong you perish a terrifying death. Needless to say, after that, I shot the poor dude up with poison arrows and watched him slowly die. Now I make my way into the final fight, I assume. We shall see what the story hold for me down in the throne, where the Giant Lords soul has informed me I must return.

There WILL be Dark Souls II spoilers. You have been warned. 

 

I feel it.

The game is close to finished. The time has come and that last, final grind is on.

Dark Souls II has been a very different game for me than Dark Souls originally was. In the first game I felt a sort of completion every time I pushed through a boss, slaying them and taking their souls to advance my level, my power, and my skills. Now, though, Dark Souls II feels much more like the constant grind of a millstone, slowly reducing everything you give to it, and the only way to keep going is to give more and more. While I remember many of the Dark Souls bosses fondly, with the battles playing a strong aspect in those memories, I seem less likely to remember a given Dark Souls II boss.

I also have less patience with dark souls II bosses, and I’ve not really a good reason why. Simply getting killed a few times is enough to make me frustrated with the boss design, where I was willing to bash my head against Smaug and Orienstien for days.

I’ve manage to break all of that now, and I am giddy to get in there and end the game. It could be that the last couple of bosses were fun, though not terribly complicated. I don’t even feel I Stumbled across anything particularly useful when I fought them, I just think the combination of knowing the genre and having a long, re achy weapon makes it a bit simpler on me.

The Iron King, but Older

The Iron King, but Older

 

Old Iron King was a fight I had a blast on. It was an easy fight, but it took me a few goes to actually get what I needed to do. Well, honestly, more than a few. I don’t know how to fight this guy fairly, to be honest. When you come into his arena, your edging into a lake of lava, next to a building, on its left side. There is a similar ledge on the right side of the building. During the fight, he has a number of moves, but for the most part, I limited him to three. As soon as I entered the arena, I would trigger his animation, and then run to the right side of the building, prompting his first attack, a sweeping breath of fire. The corner of the building kept me safe, and I could watch what he was doing. If he went to breath again, I stay put. However, if he Raises his arm to cast a fire-beam, which can go through the building and kill you, I would run out along the edge of the building as best I could. There was a hole with lava in it that will instant kill you, so i just skirted the edges, and if you do it well, you end up behind his fist as he drops it down to shoot the firebeam. Wack him a few good times, and as soon as he raises his hand, get the hell outa dodge and around the corner. Repeat until dead. Not particularly genius, but very good.

There isn’t much to say about the Prowling Magus and his Congregation. Its a mob style boss fight with about a dozen dudes. I ran about, spearing the two priests and the Magus to death before the mob overwhelmed me. This fight was both adorable and easy.

The Covetous Demon was a really sad little boss. He is a giant slug-hut-thing and wasn’t challenging at all. He was slow and flopped about a lot with long windups, telegraphing his every move. I died just once, when I forgot that he was going to roll over me, and man does that do a ton of damage. The next time I just stood at his shoulder and stabbed him with my spear until he gave me his glorious souls!

The Royal Rat Authority was the bane of my existence for a very long time. I tried different weapons, different strategies, and different equipment styles until I just grabbed every piece of Poison resist and ate some moss to make sure it took three instead of two attacks to get me to Toxic. Once that happened, I was able to make short work of his little friend and stay under him once they were all dead, stabbing him in his junk and leg until he, miraculously, dies.

I believe... Kill it with fire.

I believe… Kill it with fire.

Dear Dukes Freja was a fight that has me the first few times. I don’t know what happened, honestly, but two or three times, I went to fight her and got right stomped by a blue death beam or a vomit of acid and spiders. Once I realized what she did and how her fight was supposed to go, it only took me a few more attempts. With her, I stood to the right of one of her two heads while she attacked. She telegraphed her moves fairly well, so even when I bumped into her legs while strafing away from her face, I wouldn’t be attacked. I’d wait out any attacks she’d make, and then move just enough in front of her face that I could stab it with my spear. It wasn’t easy, as the spiders around her were also trying to kill me, so I had to avoid being too close to her while also not getting too far away. Once I established my tempo, even the Soul Beam and Acid Vomit were pretty easy to dodge, and I made solid work of her.

The Royal Rat Vanguard is another one of those easy, cheap bosses that the game is littered with. Simply an overgrown, mohawked rat that had toxic on his weapon, He wasn’t very difficult at all to beat. It took me a second try because I can be super dumb and get trapped by rats in a corner and gnawed until death. it was not my best moment.

I call him Tons O' Fun!

I call him Tons O’ Fun!

The Rotten was the last of my Great Souls I grabbed. He is a festering, enormous pule of corpses animated by who knows what. This pile takes the form of a humanoid and wields a huge cleaver. This cleaver does massive damage, but I was able to withstand much of it thanks to my endurance and tower shield. The room is filled with fire that damages you, but sadly does nothing to ol’ Rotten if you track him over it. The boss here has only some 3 or 4 attack animations, which I was able to quickly learn. His triple overhand attack would take out all my stamina, and his wide sweep would stun me, but his grab attack wasn’t instantly lethal, thankfully, though it does look like its dislocating every vertebrae in your back. With the reach of the spear I was able to absorb many of his attacks on my shield and retaliate back with a lunge that did significant damage.

My friend told me to dig up the Belfry Luna and try it again, and this time, after I’d been here a half dozen times, I found the ladder to the roof. There, in a re conception of a fight from DSI, I fought the Belfry Gargoyles. This was a fight that had me stumped for a while in Dark Souls I, and it felt good not to die a single time while fighting them. I had to burn through a huge, what seemed to be ever spawning chain of them, but with careful positioning, a reach melee weapon and a good shield, I was able to take them down.

The Twin Dragonriders was my most recent fight, and this one caused me a little bit of a hiccup. you enter a room where there are two knights. One is standing on a ledge using his enormous bow to fire arrows the size of lances at you, and the other is on the ground and rushes you with his halberd. Those arrows do a ton of damage, and I never really found a way to time it so that I didn’t get blasted with them every time I went to attack the one on the ground. I did, however, after a few fruitless tries, find a pillar I could hide behind. Here, the bow couldn’t hit me, and the knight on the ground got stuck trying to run through the pillar. Instead, I stabbed him a good dozen times until his friend decided enough was enough and joined the fight. Once he was off of the ledge, I was just patient, watched my stamina bar, and speared them when I could. After a long grind, they both went down.

Now, I move deeper into the castle to try and wrestle whatever it is that I want from whatever land this is.

I have been warned!

 

These last few weeks since NOVA have been killer. I’ve not had the motivation, opportunity or drive to really get into a whole lot of gaming, and I think its creating an even further slump that continues to drive downward.

What I have done, I’ve not really been doing in detail, so I’m just going to rattle over some high-view stuff on what I’ve been up to, and what I am considering doing.

Continue reading

I’ve been playing Dark Souls II for months now. And I’ve not been extremely committed to it. Something about the game has just slowed my progress to a crawl, where it didn’t in the original. Maybe I should just bulk up and approach the game much like I did the first time, but I’m not sure even that will stave off the sheer brute force I feel I need to have to beat the game.

This time around, as I’ve mentioned, I am trying to play the game as it feels it is supposed to be played. I’ve leveled up my stats in a way that seems more educated, I’m using a weapon that takes a bit more finesse, and I am wearing armor that doesn’t make me roll around like I way a million pounds. Unfortunately, that seems to not be what the game wants me to do, as I keep running into areas that routinely bash my head in.

Whats worse, and this is exacerbated beyond even the woes of the first game, is that I don’t feel any sense of wonder from the in game drops. I loathe the need to go online and check stats, upgrades and other such trivial information to make a good in game decision. I guess its how a game like this really needs to be in the modern age, reaching out and embracing the technology around it, but I find it cumbersome. What’s more is that there are dozens of stats and each piece of armor or weapon has a dozen or more attributes that you can compare and try to get the best out of the game. This simply frustrates and annoys me, and it turns into me looking at the items to see how many numbers turn blue, and therefore better, which will allow me to equip it.

Which, of course, is the wrong way to go about it. Most items don’t reach their peak until upgraded with Titanite of some sort, which seems to be in drastically short supply, so I hoard it until I think I have a piece of armor or weaponry that seems like it could be a neat upgrade to my current weapon. Excited to get a new toy, I upgrade the item only to find out that it was not better than my current gear and become disappointed.

Much of the game is in how you play it. Almost every boss and challenge is beatable given the right timing, play-style and grit. Some seem to be based on tricks and gimmicks but not every game can have awesome boss fights every time around. Instead of being excited that there is a boss around the corner, and glad to try and grind out a cool fight, I am instead avoiding or dreading the amount of time, experimentation and sheer mind numbing grinding that I will have to do to beat the boss.

Its getting to feel like a job, but it is one I continually push forward with in the light that it will become better over time. I’ve only put in a third of the hours that I did in Dark Souls I, and I already feel that I’ve been at this game longer.

Beyond all of that; beyond the frustration of the boss fights, the disappointment of the drops and even beyond the cumbersome comparisons I have to do perhaps the largest part is that the only time I have to play the game is the hours after my little one has been put to bed, the article for the next day has been written, and I get to sit down and relax. Most nights, it turns out, that time is between 10:30 and Midnight. Probably not the best time to be playing such a taxing game.