Playing Assassins Creed 3 directly after Black Flag

After finishing Black Flag, the thought of another Assassins Creed game, any AC game really, seemed like a prospect best left untouched for at least a few years. While the latest entry in the long running assassin series was a great game and a ton of fun, the repetitive nature of the inherent Creed game design wore me out completely by the conclusion of this swashbuckling themed adventure. As it stands though, new games were still months away and I had a copy of the much maligned Assassins Creed 3 sitting in my Uplay account, courtesy of a new Samsung SSD I had purchased several months prior. With much trepidation I finally caved in and decided to give the game a try, how bad could it be really?

The most interesting aspect of Assassins Creed 3 is how it’s a complete polar opposite to everything in Black Flag. Having played both in short succession it’s fascinating to observe how two very similar games play completely differently thanks to several key distinctions - and it’s this dichotomy observed within AC3 that ultimately drove me onward through a campaign I mostly didn’t care about and characters I felt no affection for.

Learning to crawl before you walk, again and again.

Right away the first major difference you notice is the pacing of these two games. Assassins Creed 3 takes a staggering 2-3 hours before you’re actually wearing assassin robes and are able to roam the land freely. The leadup intertwined with story exposition and basic tutorials is excruciatingly slow as you’re once again taught the very fundamental basics of the franchise. Understandably some people might choose this 5th game in the series as a perfect place to jump into the franchise, and naturally you can’t leave them in the dark about the inner workings of Assassins Creed - but to force everyone else who has played this series many times before to undergo the same slow paced and methodical tutorial on how to free run or do a leap of faith is tragic. More tragic still is that AC3 is a game that is drowning in systems and subsystems that aren’t even explained all that well, despite this entirely too long introductory phase. Many times over I desperately wanted to quit as I was forced to play hide and go seek, hunting mini games and an assortment of other side activities that could have been relegated until the world fully opens up.

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In stark contrast, Black Flag handles this wonderfully. There is a small intro cinematic and you’re in it, you’re chasing a Templar and the game casually mentions that to chase him you have to free run without holding your hand too tightly. After the quick tutorial island that manages to distill the principles of free-running, synchronizing, leaps of faith, sneaking, foliage and the nuance of combat you’re off to explore the world. Black Flag does gate content through story progression, and you’re going to head directly to Havana in order to continue tutorializing, yet somehow this doesn’t feel as constrained and forced as it does in AC3. The game has fun with it, and you still retain a large degree of freedom in how you approach the subsequent missions up until you unlock your ship and the game really begins. In large part this is all made a lot more bearable because Edward is a lot more jovial than Connor, making your shared adventure that much more enjoyable.

Story beats

Assassins Creed 3 is incredibly serious. There is very little charm here that was so often found in the wacky side characters of games past. The stage is set against a backdrop of the Revolutionary War, liberty and freedom of the people taking center stage to relentlessly assault you in every cutscene: a theme that simultaneously reflects upon the struggle between colonists and the British empire in the foreground, as well as the ongoing struggle between assassins and templars in the background. Similarly Connor is an intense individual, lacking any sort of charm or charisma, mindlessly pursuing a singular goal with all the intensity and grace of a rabid dog. Worse yet for all the time spent on cementing Connors heritage as a native American, it hardly plays into the game at all, as he manages to ostracize himself from society all on his own with a complete lack of humor and confrontational attitude towards enemies and allies alike. In short it’s hard to like him as a protagonist, and in turn to care about his plight. Connor is similarly clueless as all previous assassins we’ve played before him, but it’s his childlike naivette that perseveres throughout the entire game which really hammers home the image of someone completely removed from the world around him.

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Once again Edward is the complete opposite: cheerful, charming, at once likeable and motivated rather than obsessed. You’re not out for revenge, you’re not saving the world, Edward simply wants to get rich and as far as he’s concerned the templars and assassins can do as they please. Unlike Connor who quite literally befriends no one throughout the entire game apart from the old man, Edward meets and befriends a lot of people who ultimately end up coming to his aid in a time of need.

Systems

As mentioned earlier, Assassins Creed 3 drowns in it’s own systems that the game glosses over. Every activity, collectible and challenge from past entries and the proverbial kitchen sink had ended up on a design document and for better or worse all was dutifully implemented for Connors benefit. Surprisingly the only thing omitted were the animus fragments, which true to my theory of opposites make a return in Black Flag. AC3 is thick with side activities. From various “clubs” that act as fronts for classic challenges, to Liberation missions in cities, Forts, Naval combat, bar games, letter delivery, fact gathering - the whole nine yards. They are all held firmly back by the utterly terrible map which does little in helping you find anything you might be interested in finding even if it’s something as banal as a General Store. At the heart of it all is the completely baffling homestead that continues the tradition set by Assassins Creed 2 of owning a home base which you can progressively upgrade. While in all prior iterations this was simply done by throwing money at it, AC3 goes the distance by instead relegating all upgrades with dozens of missions which appear all over the world for you to seek out. Tied into the homestead are other known quantities like sending out caravans and crafting, all made needlessly complex and tied into having done the proper missions.

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Black Flag takes a traditional approach to all of this. You have money? Buy upgrades. The menu’s were clear, the systems simple. In AC3 you wanted an upgrade? Well you had to explore the entire world hoping to stumble upon a chest with a recipe, then you had to make sure you did enough side missions for the homestead in order for your workers to be skilled enough to produce the parts you needed. Then you had to acquire additional parts by hunting, but the game didn’t tell you where you could find the animals you needed.. In Black Flag everything is very black and white: you want a bigger pouch, well you need 2 monkey skins, you can find monkeys on this island, go. It was easy, it wasn’t a hassle.

A world worth the trouble to explore

Assassins Creed 3 obviously was very centered around exploration. Almost nothing was marked on your map and oftentimes if you wanted anything extra you had to go into the frontier and run around looking for it. Fast Travel points were limited in cities and had to be found first to be used, and apart from conquered Forts I never found Fast Travel locations within the vast frontier to which I could warp to. The problem was that the world of AC3 just wasn’t fun to explore. I’ll admit that it was the first time I felt a forest was properly represented in a video game with tree’s growing thick and criss crossing to form various pathways for Connor to traverse - but all the areas were simply so large and often devoid of anything but the trees that running in this dense vegetation from mission to mission quickly became a chore. You’re able to summon a horse at any time but the less said about these magnificently idiotic creatures the better; you were usually better off on foot unless the road was a flat, paved, highway..

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Sailing in Black Flag was fun. The open sea would appear an awfully boring place to traverse but something about the physics, the shanties and the occasional sea battle along the way to your destination made it really entertaining. When you tired of sailing, you had a plethora of Fast Travel locations to choose from in order to quicken your journey. Likewise islands were just the right size - big enough to have something to explore, but not so large as to test your patience when getting from one end to the other. It was the Frontier from AC3 delivered in bite size chunks.

Is Assassins Creed 3 a truly terrible game? Well yes and no. There were plenty of times when it simply bored me, where I was tempted to skip cutscenes with stiff dialog, where I would sigh with exaggeration seeing that I’d have to once again traverse half the map through thick snow that added zero gameplay opportunities and only served to slow my movement. Yet, somewhere near the home stretch, for a brief moment I did feel something akin to enjoyment and even a small stab of regret seeing all the side activities I left untouched. The very first real world mission that tasked Desmond with climbing a skyscraper under construction was actually really fun as I experienced an epiphany in that these steel girders and trusses I’m running through are quite literally a modern day concrete jungle.

It’s not an awful game, but it’s poorly paced, overburdened with poorly explained fluff and based on a story that fails to hold interest unless you’re a history buff happy to laugh at clever ways the game-plot was interwoven into actual history - like Charles Lee ordering a retreat at the Battle of Monmouth because he was a Templar opposed to Washington’s success.

Assassins Creed 3 is not a game I could honestly recommend to any fan of the series unless as a novelty. For those curious about the fate of Desmond, his story could be experienced through YouTube and one would be better off for it as it’s a long buildup to an abrupt finish. I can only hope that the changes in Black Flag were a direct result of fan complaints and a lucky coincidence as that gives me hope that whatever Assassins Creed 4 turns out to be, it will be a game worth playing.

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Dragons Dogma and why you should really play it

One of the most underrated titles I have seen in a long time, and arguably one of the best RPG experiences of this generation - Dragons Dogma is a game that everyone should play. In my opinion it is a perfect blend of Skyrim and Dark Souls rolled into an action packed hybrid. The combat has weight to it like Dark Souls, but not as animation priority heavy which I thought made DS sluggish past a certain point. From the Skyrim side, it has a pretty large world to explore with unique locations and various quests, but I think it’s the exact opposite of what Patrick claimed - unlike Skyrim, the world of Dragons Dogma is filled with loot chests that reward exploration with worthwhile treasure. How many times did you explore a cave in Skyrim only to find a chest with 14 gold in it or the same exact sword with a pathetically weak elemental buff on it? Dragons Dogma has no generic loot. Every piece of equipment is unique. You won’t find 12 different versions of the same sword with different stats. Almost every single time I strayed from my quest to explore a nook or a side path I was rewarded with a chest that had something interesting in it. For the first time in ages I was fully engaged in exploring the world and not using any sort of fast travel.

Reason why you should play Dragons Dogma:

Versatile class system

Dragons Dogma has a very unique vocation (class) system. You earn regular levels that increase your stats like health, stamina, attack defense etc..but you also take on a role, or vocation, that ranks up independently and unlocks new skills and attacks for that particular vocation. You can switch vocations as often as you like - it is even encouraged as class specific passive buffs carry over. For instance, in the warrior vocation you can unlock a passive buff which greatly increases your strength, which will still be available for you to use when you switch over to the Assassin vocation. This allows for great versatility when creating your character and encourages experimentation within the many classes available.

You are presented with a plethora of vocations to choose from, each specializing in distinctly unique forms of combat. There are three primary classes: fighter, strider and mage, which offshoot into hybrids and specializations. Fighters are your typical melee class with shield and sword, but you can also become a powerful Warrior or the magic wielding Mystic Knight - both of which use completely different weapons and attacks. Do you want to engage in melee combat, getting in up close and personal? The Fighter is an agile class that has numerous sword skills like dynamic home-in lunges, shield bashing or concentrated strikes. Feel like you want more power? The Warrior wields gigantic two handed weapons that send small enemies literally flying into the air and can stagger even larger foes. Want cool armor and melee combat but also a bit of magic? The Mystic Knight makes use of a magic shield and runes that both offer unique buffs and enchantments to you and your party as well as provide offensive magical attacks. Mage, Sorcerer, Assassin, Ranger, Strider, Magick Archer.. there is literally a vocation for every playstyle and you’re not locked into one for the entire game which is great in case you want to try something else down the road.

Engaging combat

Hang on tight

The combat is simply amazing. Much like Dark Souls or Skyrim it relies on stamina but unlike either of those games it is fast paced and engaging. The skills you unlock are grandiose in animation and fun to execute. Melee classes have varied forms of lunges, spins, and focused attacks that let you dominate the battlefield. Mages possess spectacular offensive spells, one of my favorites being a literal meteor shower that rains down over the battlefield decimating anything standing in your path - double so impressive when two or more mages cast it simultaneously. When fighting human sized opponents there is great feedback for all your attacks. When a foe is armored or blocking, your weapon will bounce off with a loud clank leaving you open for attack. When your blade makes contact with flesh the opponent will stagger and enter stunlock as you rain down hit after hit on their hapless soon to be corpses. Slashing away at a helpless bandit never gets old.

The real fun begins when you face larger enemies. If you thought fighting giants or even dragons was “epic” in Skyrim then just wait till you face those very same foes in Dragons Dogma. There is a very interesting grappling mechanic in place highly reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus. While not always necessary to fell larger beast, it is advantageous to climb up and over them in order to get into position allowing you to strike at their weak spots for massive damage - like a cyclops eye for example. It is both exhilarating and plain fun to grab onto a raging manticore, trying to crawl up to it’s weak points as it thrashes about trying to shake you loose. In addition all of these creatures have different attack patterns and states. A cyclops can become enraged, swinging their giant club wildly about and will fall over stunned if you shoot at their feet or eyeball. Likewise a drake will circle you from above unless you shoot their wings to bring them crashing down. Just remember to not make the rookie mistake of clinging onto one of these flying beasts too long - unless you have enough stamina to cling on and force them to land, you'll fall a really long way down.

The companions

Playing Dragons Dogma you will never be alone. Joining you on this journey will be your very own Pawn, a special companion shaped and named as you see fit. You will get to choose their vocation and outfit them with equipment. They will learn alongside you and even offer hints along the way. In addition to your own companion, you can hire 2 more player created pawns from a special area called the Rift which allows you to browse player created pawns by level, Gamertag, vocation and so forth. Just like your own pawn, these are companions from other players games’ complete with their own equipment and behavior patterns. As you can hire out other pawns so can others hire out yours, a process through which they gain invaluable knowledge about quests and enemies you haven’t faced yet. You might employ the service of some pawns that completed quests that you haven’t which will prompt them to offer helpful advice along the way such as telling you which way to go when reaching a fork in the road, or giving you helpful hints when exploring dungeons.

The Rift

The most exciting part is that these AI companions are not incredibly stupid. In fact I dare to say they are the most helpful computer controlled players I have ever encountered in a videogame. Support mages will buff your weapons with appropriate enemy debilitating magic and heal you in the middle of combat. Melee characters will draw aggro and hold down adversaries for you to deliver the final deadly blow. Sorcerers will rain down destructive spells that can bring down even the mightiest beasts in mere seconds. The pawns will also shout out enemy weaknesses, gather loot that you’ve missed, give you directions, or even bring fallen allies for you to revive. I was never frustrated or angry with my pawns and in fact owe them my life and a great many victories. Unlike other games, the brunt of the combat won’t always rest solely on your shoulders with these AI companions running around. Quite often I’d be busy trying to scale some large beast to hack at their weak point, when my mages would annihilate them with spells before I had a chance to even get in position. The entire pawn system is quite ingenious and something I've never seen anywhere before.

I could go on and on about how great this game is but in truth my reasons for wanting you to play it are rather selfish. I want everyone to get Dragons Dogma and play it because I want them to make another one. Because this game is so incredibly detailed and unique that it’s a crime that no one is talking about it.

As a final tease I’ll just say that while the story is largely enjoyable if not a little straightforward throughout the majority of the game, the final two hours go completely off the rails in this glorious way that only a Japanese developed title could - just when you think you’re done, there is literally two more hours of gameplay that just make your jaw drop.

Dragons Dogma, catch it!

Taken from Google the Dragons Dogma -> Dark Arisen change log:

Player

-Various attacks and skills for all weapons have been rebalanced for all weapons.

Enemies

-Made the Ur-Dragon corpse's collision boundary smaller so players can now pick up drop items more easily

-Undead enemies will now come out of the ground with higher defense stats (super armor mode)

-When Saurians die after being knocked down, they will now use a special death animation for when they are on the ground.

-Goblin Shamans will appear in the Witchwood.

-Eliminators will appear on the Tainted Mountain.

-Pyre Saurians will appear on the Tainted Mountain.

-Golden Knights and Silver Knights will appear in the Everfall (before the destruction of Gran Soren).

-Gorecyclopes (condemned type) will appear in the Shadow Fort.

-Living Armor will appear in the Catacombs.

-Wyverns (strong type) will appear at Bluemoon Tower.

-Wyrms (strong type) will appear at the Watergod's Altar.

-Drakes (strong type) will appear in the Everfall after the destruction of Gran Soren.

Pawns

-Adjusted how often pawns will talk by spacing out less important lines; in effect, making them seem to talk less.

-Adjusted and balanced the equipment and skills of all of the high-level pawns that are available to a player when they're playing offline.

-Adjusted how much it costs to hire a pawn that is higher-leveled than yourself down to a more realistic scale.

-Added a Monthly ranking to the pawn's Top Ranked section.

NPCs

-You will not gain Affinity with Assalam simply by talking to him anymore.

Items & Equipment

-Adjusted how much Ferrystones cost and how much they sell for. (Purchase price: 20000 >5000 | Sell price: 3500>1250)

-Adjusted how much Premium Rings and Premium Earrings cost. (Purchase price: 1,500,000>150,000 Rift Crystals | Purchase price 3,000,000>300,000 Rift Crystals)

-Tweaked stat increases for weapon upgrades (increases weaker upgrades, decreases ones that were too strong). Tweaks affect 68 different weapons.

-Dramatically increased base stats for 12 weapons obtainable by defeating the Dragon.

-Improved base stats for 10 Magick Bows

World

-A Portcrystal that allows players to return to Cassardis has been added just outside Cassardis's gate

-A character/warp point that allows players to travel between Bitterblack Isle and Cassardis has been added to Cassardis's pier.

-Added a removable Portcrystal to the following areas: The Gran Soren Everfall (before a certain plot point. . . .), The Shadow Fort, The Witchwood, Hillfigure Knoll.

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Games are serious business, apparently.

I've been playing games for a quite a while now. I remember my family's first computer around 1994 and all those amazing games I was introduced to back then but was way too young to appreciate. The Legend of Kyrandia: Malcolm's Revenge, Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, Crusader: No Remorse, Descent and so many more! Since then I've been playing on all sorts of different systems including the PS3 and 360 as well as some PC gaming here and there. To me games have always been about having fun and enjoying yourself first and foremost.

So it has really bummed me out to see people, game reviewers included, take these cynical and harsh tone with a lot of games these days. It almost seems like a lot of people have lost focus about what this is all about - you know, having fun. While I disagree with Jeff on a lot of things, I really appreciate his no-nonsense approach to enjoying himself on a very basic and "raw" level. He played that new Syndicate reboot, had a ton of fun and gave it a high score. There wasn't a lot of hands wringing and whining about how the story is barely fleshed out and theres no character development or hows theres dubstep music in literally two spots - because the gameplay introduces a lot of fresh concepts and is highly enjoyable. Yet I keep reading stories or hearing comments that will nitpick at a lot of titles without giving them a proper chance. A lot of people wrote off Dead Space 3 completely before having even played it. If you decided that you've had enough of the franchise I can completely understand that. On the other hand if you denied yourself the conclusion to this series which you've enjoyed in the past because of the newly added micro transactions then that seems absurd. I enjoyed both Dead Space 1 and 2 and consider it one of my favorite new IP's of this generation. I wasn't about to say no to the third game just because of some business model out of my control. But you're part of the problem! - you might say, because I help fund the product that propagates this vile business practice. I don't know, I just remember a time when there wasn't a problem to begin with - companies made games, people bought them and there wasn't some holy war of fighting off these asshole publishers with my wallet because they keep trying to earn a profit from the multi million dollar titles they develop for gamers to play.

Video games pretty much

More recently it's this whole Tomb Raider conversation about narrative disconnect between story and gameplay that had me scratching my head. The idea of a "narrative dissonance" ruining gameplay seems strange to me. The developer advertised Lara as your typical female who is thrust into the belly of the beast and must learn to cope with a lot of terrible situations, growing along the way as a person. Yet a lot of people seem to be dismayed by the fact that, while that is a great story angle, at some point this thing will have to turn into a videogame which means killing a whole lot of things in a fun and mechanically enjoyable way. Most big name titles are centered around mass slaughter of baddies. Games like Uncharted, Gears of War, Assassin's Creed, inFamous, Saints Row and many others are basically big killing simulators, some which go to great lengths with their robust kill animations. Thats how games have been for ages. Sure in Uncharted you would climb something and flip an ancient stone lever from time to time but a lot of the gameplay was focused on killing literally hordes of people. In the latest Bombcast Brad and Patrick both bemoan the absence of a believable thread between the story and the gameplay aspects of Tomb Raider. Instead of touting the extremely fun and fluid game mechanics, they instead concentrate on the completely insignificat fact that Lara is sad at having killed someone and then the cutscene ends and you kill 15 more people. Granted they both, almost begrudgingly, agreed that it's a good game - but it's this laser focus on small details that really "held the game back" for them which seems so baffling and makes them appear like cynical, grumpy old guys instead of the fun and playful doods I know them to be. At the end of the day, that narrative dissonance is not going to make the game any more fun to play. It may be just me, but 9 out of 10 times I will take gameplay over narrative because I buy these things to play them, and if I get a great story coupled with awesome gameplay I consider that a huge bonus.

After meeting a creep like this you'd want to kill a thousand doods too

Back in the day no one cared how this Mario plumber went down a green tube or what that meant on a grander scale of the Super Mario Bros Timeline. Times have gone forward and expectations have changed obviously, but I think what has remained the same is that it's the fun that matters most. If you're going to have fun actually playing a title, everything else shouldn't really affect it. This is why a lot of the time you'll have people say "oh that happened? I totally forgot.." yet they'll remember that they had a lot of fun playing the game. Where has all the fun gone for most people? Why do they get so bogged down with the details that they can't see the bigger picture of just enjoying themselves. I read a person write that if the new Tomb Raider was an original IP without any association to the existing Tomb Raider franchise they'd be a lot more interested but as it stands they doesn't really care about it, because it's Tomb Raider. How insane is that? What difference does a name on the box make? When The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim came out, a game with gigantic narrative dissonance, no one cared because they just had fun playing it, even despite the fact that many agreed the combat wasn't that great. Jumping on top of a tablet and knocking off all the dishes in someones house didn't destroy any gameplay fun for me!

In closing I think a lot of people need to lighten up. These are videogames, it's not especially serious business. For the most part Jeff has the right idea - just have fun with it. I bought DmC Devil May Cry, Dead Space 3, Syndicate and the new Tomb Raider. Guess what? They were all a lot of fun in their own ways. Did Dead Space 3 have an amazing story? No but it wasn't hot garbage as many claim it to be - it was video game adequate and the act of shooting necromorphs was still fun. Was DmC crass as hell? Heck yes and it was awesome from beginning to end! So what I'm trying to say is, if people want to keep picking these games apart for insignificant details then I guess thats their gosh given right, in the meantime I'll be playing them and having a blast.

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The dark tail-end of Dark Souls

Seeing all the increased Dark Souls activity from all my friends I decided to get back in the game and complete my sacred vow of never leaving a game I paid full retail price unfinished. Having left the game hanging towards the very end, I was ready to once again dive deep into the world of Lordran. I had beaten Demons Souls on a brand new character just prior to the Dark Souls release just to get myself ready and was stoked when the game came out. In the beginning I was just as engrossed as with the original(Demons Souls), clumsily making my way through the Undead Burg and trying to find that mythical bell tower. Despite small technical hiccups, I was ready, willing and able to tackle another Souls game head on.

What struck me even back then was how much worse the game looked than Demons Souls and at first thought it might be due to me playing the XBOX 360 version. Soon enough I realized that both versions looked somewhat strange, but this didn't diminish the fun I was having with the brutal pinpoint precision needed to get through most areas. Performance hiccups and constant failed summonings were also a midly irritating issues but still I was not deterred. At the time of release another fun fact was that no one knew anything about this game. We all stumbled forward and discoveries by players such as the famed Drake Sword were huge events that happened on a weekly basis. There was a genuine feel of community driven exploration. At a certain point I hit a wall though, and not of skill mind you but rather of perseverance. Strangely enough I found myself losing steam, despite all this anticipation that had been brewing in me up until release. I had defeated Smough and Ornstein, the hardest boss fight yet, and wrapped up a few other lose ends with covenants. I had only a few boss fights remaining before facing down Gwyn, but no motivation to get to any of them. The areas simply screamed frustration rather than challenging fun.

He's about to be your cameras worst nightmare

At this point I had stopped playing, literally for a year. As I mentioned earlier the increased activity surrounding Dark Souls coerced me to jump back in and finish it so I can honestly compare it the previous game which I loved so much. At this point I can honestly say I enjoyed the Demons Souls experience a lot more. The entire tail end of the game was very frustrating. The Centipede Demon fight must have been one of the worst boss fights I can recall in recent times. Having to fight on a tiny bit of land, surrounded by lava, with a lock on point that was beyond the reach of my weapon and caused the already struggling camera to explode in clipping induced seizures was the worst Dark Souls experience thus far. It's not even the fact that the boss was hard, because at my current level and gear status it wasn't too challenging but from a technical standpoint it was a nightmare. Bed of Chaos was another poorly designed fight. Instant death if you don't know whats coming makes for a poor fight when you're forced to keep coming back to learn from your two second long mistakes. The designers themselves must have known this wasn't orchestrated too well as uncharacteristically for a Souls game you don't have to start the fight from scratch each time you enter. After these two fights I had to go to Tomb of the Giants next which was just as awful as imagined. The part where the dogs begin is probably the worst and even with the newly acquired Sun Maggot hat, navigating those depth was thoroughly unpleasant. Once again, the boss fight with Nito himself wasn't especially difficult, but getting to him was a nightmare of it's own. Out of all the possible bosses I had to get out of the way, Seath was the most painless to get to. The Dukes Archives were actually an interesting location although nowhere near as atmospheric as the Tower of Latria. The boss fight was easy and I died only due to my own stupidity.

Gwyn the Lord of Cinder

All my troubles finally led me to face off with Gwyn. The Last Kiln area was by far the best looking set piece of the entire game. The scorched earth with a crumbling mausoleum off in the distance was a sight to behold. I feel as if all the Black Knights along the way are actually there as practice for parrying, which I had not used once during the entire game. When I finally faced the Lord of Cinder I already knew that you just had to parry all his attacks and with 20 flasks this was going to be a breeze. For the most part it was, during my very first attempt I had gotten Gwyn down to a sliver of life left, effortlessly parrying most of his attacks. It's at this point that as he was getting up and I was ready to deliver the final blow, I clicked in the stick and the auto targeting completely spazzed out turning me away from Gwyn and getting slashed to pieces. I suppose this annoyed me so much that it completely threw me off balance and it was on my 6th or so attempt that I was finally able to beat him.

Dark Souls is a wonderfully unique game. I had a ton of fun initially playing it but I think in the grand scheme of things the latter sections of the game were simply not designed that well. The Undead Burg, Sens Forthress, those were still areas I was enjoying a lot. Even the fabled Blighttown was not as horrendous as most people made it out to be. Lost Izalith and the Tomb of Giants were horrible areas filled with annoying enemies and terrible boss fights which sucked most of the fun out of the challenge. I sincerely hope they make another Souls game, and will happily play it on next gen hardware, but I also wish they learn and build on the concept. For goodness sake From Software, update the targetting system! While Demons Souls to me was a great experience with areas ranging from amazing to maybe slightly less enjoyable - Dark Souls was a complete hit or miss and when it missed I feel it did so pretty hard. Despite that I am happy to have completed it and anxiously await Darker Souls in 2014 - and for those who might be curious and still actually reading, I decided to plunge the world into darkness.

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Voicing Your Opinions

There is always a rift on the forums between people who react to news in the extreme negative and the extreme positive. I just wanted to address the fact that neither extreme is favorable. You shouldn't damn anything right from the outset, but the unwavering almost-worship that happens from time to time is just as disturbing. Once in a while I'll read a comment along the lines of "these guys put all their heart into this and sacrifice and you should be thankful they're making it!" and it's ok to be thankful, but to elevate any of the crew to these messiah levels is just wrong to me. I love Jeff and all and enjoy the content they create greatly. I think most of us look on some of these quicklooks and office shenanigans and think thats like a dream job. I certainly would love to work at Giant Bomb and get paid to review games, even if you get a stinker once in a while. The fundamental issue is that it IS a job for them and you can't just brush peoples complaints aside with "they work really hard!" Not everything Jeff or Ryan say is holy and should be defended irrefutably - it's ok for members of this site to have their own opinion. If Patrick doesn't cover some stuff it's fine for people to complain about it - if this is your one stop for gaming info you'd want him to report on as much as possible especially since news are still sort of weak on the site. As much as I love the crew, sometimes I get all hot and bothered because they say stuff on the Bombcast that make me think they're fucking crazy. Thats a testament to what a wonderful community they've amassed where you get emotionally rattled by something they might say because you feel as if you personally know these guys.

So I'm just saying next time someone writes "hey there hasn't been a lot of content lately" or what is more popular these days "everything is the same I told you CBS wouldn't change them you!" let' not go jumping at each others throats. I'm sure Jeff wouldn't want an army of sycophants nodding their heads saying how great everything is even when it's not - just as much as he doesn't care for people that cry sellouts and the end of the world because of this new office move. As long as someone has an educated opinion about something, let him speak it and back it up.

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