Following a light downpour of rain earlier, the clouds have moved on and it's been surprisingly sunny outside this afternoon. Here I sit, next to my open window, while a nice Spring breeze carries the inspiration my way to write about some video games! A couple in particular: Dark Souls and Uncharted. Let's start with the former.
I've been chipping away at Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition for a good while now. Well, as of a few moments ago I've officially beaten it, and I'm pretty excited about that. The "Souls" games have always had a bit of a stigma attached to them. It seems that people are often scared off by the difficulty of these games, but friends, I'm here to tell you that your fears are misplaced, and are probably holding you back from an experience you'd actually really enjoy. I'm not some masochist. I'm someone who gave up on the Xbox Ninja Gaiden games when they became frustratingly difficult. I'm someone who gave Monster Hunter a legitimate shot and eventually found it to be too complex and unforgiving to hold my attention. But Dark Souls? I was able to not only stick it out until the very end, but I really enjoyed myself in the process. It can be difficult, but in a way that makes you want to uncover the secret of why it's difficult, and then proceed to tear it apart. More often than not you do exactly that, and it's immensely satisfying.
It's funny, I spent a lot of the time between my failures googling terms from the game and instantly having it autofill to exactly what I was looking for. Clearly quite a few people were searching for the exact same things I was. It's a game that demands that kind of research, and that's okay, as long as you understand that. Maybe there are people who'd enjoy the laborious process of complete self-discovery in this game, but at a point I found that you're not losing any enjoyment to occasionally nudge yourself in the right direction, whether that's by finding out where the next boss is, or what a particular special item can do for you. There are so many ambiguous aspects of Dark Souls that the process of uncovering and learning about them is rewarding in and of itself. Dark Souls is a game that largely disregards common convention, and piecing together the logic and systems in the game, whether by simply playing or through an online wiki, is a fascinating process. Dark Souls almost feels like more than a game in that way. It really feels like an adventure on multiple levels, and that's a rare thing.
I really enjoyed the process of building my character. Going into the game I really had no idea how to build a successful demon slayer, and yet it all turned out alright--another testament to this game not being impenetrable. As my ridiculous title alludes to, I named my character James Dean, for no other reason than his name randomly popped into my mind. Is that weird? Probably. That's okay, because after about 50 hours, my James Dean ended up looking just about as cool as the unflinchingly cool actor:
I guess the point that I'd really like to get across is this: don't fear Dark Souls. Embrace it and it will embrace you back. And then you will cry into each other's shoulders as your failures pile up around you, only to be knocked down by the fleeting moments of sweet success, which make it all worthwhile.
Being a new PS3 owner, I figure there's probably no exclusive series more worth experiencing than Uncharted. I could be wrong. After playing a bit of the first game, I'm actually really questioning myself on this. I get it, the second game is the high mark and greatly improved on the first, but I was shocked by just how dated this first game feels. And looks, for that matter.
The opening scene on the boat instantly delivered a hard blow of reality and I realized how far things have come within this single console generation. I wouldn't say the game looks bad, but everything about it looks flat. More work was clearly put into some facial textures, but almost everything else looks shockingly bland by today's standards. The smoke effect coming off of explosions as you're blowing up pirate boats looked like an effect strait out of a budget television show. Some of the later jungle environments look pretty good, but I was just taken aback while realizing just how far developers have been able to take this console hardware between the release of Uncharted and now. Maybe it was partly a result of inflated expectations after hearing so much about how good the second game looked when it was released. I just assumed they'd be comparable.
But back to how the game plays, and feels: I don't like it. Movements seem slow and awkward. The jump and roll animations in particular are just goofy. Drake's run animation isn't much better. It all just seems a bit cartoony. Or, like a cartoon trapped inside the confines of reality. Everything about the physics and momentum of movement seem just off enough to make it all feel weird. The controls really become an issue in combat. Cover and evasive movement isn't handled particularly well. It plays like a less polished version of Alan Wake, and Alan Wake of course was far from perfect in this regard. Shooting is unsatisfying, and I found myself wishing I could pull a Red Dead and just run up on people and pull the trigger to murder them with an animation. I think earlier enemies took three shots to kill, but as I've progressed they're taking more and more, and their weak stagger animation just makes the shooting bits (of which there are many) a total chore. I assume this is all fixed in the second game. I hope to god that it is.
Negatives aside, I really like the tone of the game. It's a bunch of silly non-stop action with witty characters and a plot that's at least vaguely interesting. It's just fun, and I appreciate that. Right off the bat I enjoyed Drake's laid back attitude while in the face of danger. The lighter tone is a nice break from Tomb Raider, which I've also been playing through lately.
I'm confident that Drake and friends' wit and light-heartedness will keep me trucking along in this game despite some disappointing aspects. I bought the dual pack that includes the second game, so of course I'm looking forward to seeing how that one can improve on some of these rougher spots.
I've been playing a few other things. As I mentioned I've been playing Tomb Raider, and that's worth writing about. I've also been making my way through Runner 2, and trying to savor every moment. But let's wrap this one up for now. I have a tendency to go on too long, so those can wait for another blog.
The sun won't be out much longer for the day, so I'm going to go and enjoy it.