Bloodborne: The Good And The Bad

Warning: Don't read this if you aren't done with Bloodborne, spoilers ahead

Disclaimer: I like Bloodborne, really, its a good game. I mostly writing this because every time I mention I didn't like it as much as the other souls games people ask me what I didn't like about it in particular. So since this will probably come off as hella negative, I feel like I have to say I really do like Bloodborne!

Ok warning and disclaimers out of the way, this is a quick list of the things that I thought were good about Bloodborne and the things I thought were bad about it. I'm going to do this in a format of saying one good thing, and then one bad thing (until I run out of either side, then it will just chain together).

For a little perspective before I start, I beat Bloodborne about a week ago, it was my 7th run through a souls game (DeS, DaS, DS2 + NG on all of those), and after thinking about it for a week I think I'd rank it as my least favorite of the souls games.

Now without anymore preamble, here are the good and bad points about that game:

Good: Incredible Atmosphere

Of all the souls games, Bloodborne nails its atmosphere and aesthetic more than any of them. The original design of the game is supposed to be based off of the Asylum from Demons Souls, and they nail that. The game is creepy and unsettling to a fault, and has some of the darkest and disgusting segments in the Souls series. On top of that, the variance in level design is nice, and the monster designs get nice and disgusting the way you'd expect out of a Souls game. (Although DaS might have some specific monsters that are more disgusting).

Bad: Aimlessness in Goals

One of the most frustrating things about Bloodborne is that its never really clear what the hell your supposed to be doing at any point in the game. The game starts with some simple instructions ("Seek the Paleblood"), but those never pay off (at least I still have no idea what the Paleblood was?). You often feel like your just doing shit in the world because thats just how you play Souls games. The two "bells" (to borrow from DaS) of the game are something you just sort of stumble on. The first one (Vicar) is in such a weird place that its kind of easy to skip her for a long time, and the cutscene you get after beating here barely makes any sense. Its supposed to give you the password to get past a door earlier in the game, but none of that is obvious from the cutscene itself.

Now all the Souls games are vague in some way. Usually when it comes to the story of the world itself or the backstories of specific characters, but the goals of the player are always explicit in the other games. DeS: Kill the Archdemons, Break the Cycle. DaS: Ring the Bells, Get the Souls, Light the Fire. DS2: Get the Souls, Kill the King, Ascend the Throne.

All of these games have various levels of success on directing the player (im looking at you DS2), but at least you know the general goals of the player character, even if you dont know where to go. BB is obtuse about this in every way. I never really understood what I was supposed to be doing at any given point of the game, and just did things because I figured thats how you would do them in a Souls game.

Good: Faster Combat

This is probably the biggest change to the combat in souls games in a while. The combat in BB is markedly faster than any other Souls games, and all the systems in the game encourage faster play styles. From the parrying system, the health recovery system, and the general lack of turtling gear, the game tends to reward you for just going in and attacking, and punishes you for staying back guarding.

This makes the game feel a lot faster, and generally makes exploring the regular world a bit more fun. The other Souls games are about slow animations and plotting combat, this one is about just mowing monsters down and more twitch style combat.

Bad: Lack of Play Style Choice

Unfortunately to achieve that faster combat and quicker feel they had to sacrifice a lot of the choice the player has while playing the game. Almost all the differentiation in the play styles of BB come from which trick weapon you chose to use. The trick weapons are all cool, but thats a lot less variance than the other Souls games provided. After all the previous games had that kind of variance as well with their weapons (even though none of them are as cool as the switch blades).

In the previous Souls games you could be a fully ranged character, a magic man, a miracle worker, a plodding tank, a big weapon user, or an agile weapon user. Some of these things are nominally in there but basically aren't. For example yes there are ranged weapons, but those are mostly just a new parrying system. The few that aren't that are more gimicky weapons used in support of melee. Similarly for magic, it's used in a much more supplementary manor than a main play style.

On top of that, theres significantly less variance in Equipment than in previous souls games. The first set of armor you find in the game is likely to be the one you wear 90% of the game, because theres only like one other set that has more defense. The difference in armors is mostly just in resistances, which can be cool for some bosses, but for the most part just means you wear the same armor most of the game. It's just a bit disappointing from previous games, where you could spend time making your perfect set of armor/weapon that worked for you. In BB your much more railroaded in what your equip is and how you play.

Good: Multiplayer with Friends

This is something I took advantage of a lot. For the first time in a souls game you can intentionally play games with your friends! I remember with DaS having to find hidden areas to drop signs in and hope that your friend just happened to see them. That was really the only way you could get your friends to help you. The passcode mechanic works real well at making it just much easier to play with your friends.

There are some kinks with it (looking at you chalice dungeons), but for the most part this is a good add to the series. It's always fun being able to help your friend out of a frustrating part, or to just hang out together and clear areas.

Bad: Boss Design

This is one of the more frustrating parts of the game, because it starts out so well. Overall though I just really dont like the boss design of this one. There are basically two tricks they rely on over and over again for the bosses, and they just get boring real fast.

The first trick is that almost all the bosses have 2-3 "phases" that they reach upon being injured. The first time this happens its kind of a cool way to shake up the boss fight, the 10th time this happens its just too predictable to be interesting anymore. The practical result of this for most bosses swing from a part thats just boringly easy to a part that is just stupidly hard (or the opposite in the case of the Martyr). As a result theres usually some section of a boss thats just borin because you feel like you havent gotten to the real part of the fight yet.

The second trick is, much like Dark Souls 2, they just throw a lot of bosses with minions or multiple enemies in it. Some of these are actually really clever (the Witch in the forest), but most of these just feel lazy. Just like the phases idea above, this is one of those tricks that works best if used sparingly, but just feels bad when you see it the 5th or 6th time. (Example DaS, S+O work because there are almost no bosses with multiple enemies in that game).

Finally the last problem I have with the bosses is that they seem intentionally designed to be trivialized in co-op. It's hard to describe this idea generically, because it tends to be specific from boss to boss, but almost every boss's gimicks and such kind of become trivial with 2 people. I know every souls game is easier with co-op, but for some reason this one just feels like they are even more so. On top of that the game feels designed for you to be playing co-op (with things like the insight system in place).

Good: Interconnected World

This is something that they took to heart post Dark Souls. They did a real great job interconnecting all the areas in strange ways. They are very sparse with the bonfires, and instead prefer making you unlock shortcuts to previous areas. On top of that some of the overall areas connect in some super interesting ways (forest -> clinic), that are just super interesting.

It's a breath of fresh air after DS2 where all the areas feel very separated. The only weird connecting point in DS2 just feels kind of meaningless (giants castle -> lost sinners area). Whereas with BB everything feels interconnected in a real fun way.

On top of that there are some real good ways they block the "hidden" areas (they arent really hidden as you discover they are all areas you have to go to anyways, but you can get to them early). The bag men trick in particular is just really nice.

Bad: Reversions to DeS in core gameplay

I was going to split these out, but I guess at the end of the day they are the same problem. The Hub World and the Blood Vial systems are terrible. They both harken back to the DeS style of doing things. However, unlike DeS, Bloodborne is coming out after Dark Souls exists, and therefore has no excuse for reverting their systems back to a shittier model.

The Hub World stuff is baffling. DS2 did the same thing, forcing you to teleport back to the Hub World in order to level up, manage storage, and other menial tasks. This is a pretty big downgrade from Dark Souls where you can just do all of that in the world itself. It has real impacts on the gameplay as well, thanks in part to the load times, in that you very often don't want to teleport back to try new weapons, equip new runes, or level up. It's just a pain.

Similarly, the Blood Vial system is a reversion to the way DeS works. Instead of just giving you healing potions whenever you hit a bonfire, you have a static # of potions that you have to farm from enemies. Unlike DeS though, there are a lot less you can carry (20 vs 99), and there are less variations. As a result you end up running out a lot more often than you did in DeS (and yes people I know that they auto refill from storage). Especially later in the game when you hit areas where enemies just don't drop any at all.

I don't know a single person who at some point had to farm these vials. Wether it was being stuck on a boss, or struggling with specific areas, everyone I know eventually ran out at some time. There is nothing more frustrating then having to farm for fucking potions when your already stuck in the game. It's just an unnecessary punch in the gut, especially with the load times as they are.

There doesn't seem to be any practical gameplay reasons for the system to be this way. Dark Souls kind of figured out how to handle potions perfectly with Estus Flasks. The Blood Vials don't add anything more strategic over the flasks, other than just sometimes you have to spend your time farming them because you ran out. Fun Fun Fun.

Bad: Loading Times

Ok this is the last parting blow I have for this game, and I acknowledge that this may eventually be fixed in a future patch for the game, but right now its still a real problem. The loading times in this game are terrible. You'll spend anywhere from 30-60 seconds on a loading screen in this game. Combine that with having to go to the Hub World to do shit, with having to farm Blood Vials, and with the general difficulty of these games leading to a lot of deaths, and you just have a storm of gameplay directing you to these load screens.

I think I probably spent a full hour on load screens in this game, but I won't beat this horse to death, I think we can all agree that its bad aspect of the game. Hopefully they fix it.

Nightmare Slain

And there you go, those are my thoughts on Bloodborne, and like I said at the start of this thing I'm sure this will come off as super negative, because anytime you focus on the bad parts of something it will come off as negative.

I have to stress though: I really do like this game. All of the negative aspects of this game ultimately don't outweigh the fun you have while playing it. This list is more just a breakdown of why I didn't like it as much as the previous souls games.

Anyways, if you've reached this point, thanks for reading through a huge wall of text.

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Types of Roguelikes

Ive been playing a lot of nethack guys

Whenever I mention that I like to play nethack, or that I am still playing nethack, I often get questions asking if I have played "X" roguelike. The most common one being Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.

While I'm alway happy to answer peoples question, these questions I often find kind of curious. The reality is that roguelikes like DCSS and wildly different from Nethack, and are even more different from the Modern style of roguelikes. So asking this question is a bit like asking "Do you like Baldurs Gate?" after someone has mentioned they like Final Fantasy.

Anyways, because I get those kind of questions often, I figured I would at least explain how these roguelikes are differnet, and what I kind of view as the three major types of roguelikes that exist today.

So here they are (in no particular order).

Modern Rogulike (The Roguelite)

FTL, Rogue Legacy, Crypt Of The Necrodancer

The Modern Roguelike is currently the most popular kind of rogulike. The term Roguelite actually captures a lot of what separates this sub-genre from the other two, but people sometimes do not like the term, thinking that it's used to put down this style of roguelike (which admittedly it may have been originally).

The two main key components that define a Modern Roguelike are: Low focus on the meta-game as a core part of the game, and a design that encourages short quick plays where randomness greatly varies the experience and provides difficulty.

A good example is Rogue Legacy. That game is very much designed for a player to replay the dungeon it generates over and over again in quick succession. You can tell that this is a core philosophy of that game by the Trait mechanic, a mechanic that only really makes sense if the player is going to have to play a lot of the game over and over again.

Rogue Legacy also introduced the cross-run progression mechanic which more of these Modern Roguelikes are adopting. This lets the user feel a sense of progression over time, and with enough perks/upgrades it helps reduce how much the randomness can affect a game.

As the term Roguelite implies, these games are meant more for short playthroughs with little attachment to any one playthrough. In fact, with many of these games, extended playing of the games can be frustrating, as the more one plays the one more gets frustrated at how much of the game is determined by randomness.

Classic Roguelike

Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, ToME, Dungeons of Dredmor, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon

The Classical roguelike is the second most popular type of modern roguelike. These are the closest of the current style of roguelikes to the original type of roguelikes. These are often RPGs, but do not have to be.

The main defining characteristics of the Classic Roguelike are: Low focus on the meta-game as a core part of the game, and designed for long and involved runs that can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 20 hours.

These roguelikes are the closest to the modern Dungeon Crawler. Think Diablo and other loot games, except with random generation of dungeons and perma-death. The games are designed for players to find lots of loot (which is randomly variant), and to progress through a lot of levels. They also tend to include many different roles that players can play with large variance between roles.

For example, Tales Of Maj'Eyal (or ToME), includes a very large world with multiple areas and dungeons. All of these areas are randomly generated, and the game includes multiple quests and plenty of monsters to kill for random loot. The main goal of the game, and most of these games, is progression for the sake of progression.

As I mentioned before, if what I'm describing doesn't sound that different from a Diablo or a Baldur's Gate, but with turn based mechanics, that is because it isn't that different. These are essentially similar to those style of games, but with perma-death and randomness.

Hacklike

Nethack, Spelunky

The Hacklike is the rare unicorn of the roguelike spectrum, both in terms of modern roguelikes and older roguelikes. This style of roguelike caters to a niche audience, and requires a significant investment from both the developer and player, and as a result these are somewhat rare.

The main defining characteristic of the Hacklike is: The meta-game is the game, all of the game is more or less designed around the player learning the ins and outs of the mechanics. Once enough of the metagame is understood, the game is consistently beatable. The randomness exists mainly as a variance to allow the player to learn the meta-game, and not to provide actual difficulty.

This style of roguelike is also sometimes reffered to as "puzzle games pretending to be roguelikes".

Another thing that defines a 'Hacklike' is what is called the 'YASD', or 'Yet Another Stupid Death'. Once a player has learned sufficient knowledge of the metagame, any death or loss of the game is often followed by the player thinking 'that was my fault'. This is a consequent of the strict meta-game that exists, and deaths that feel this way are called 'YASD', as they often make the player feel stupid.

Spelunky, the most modern incarnation of this aspect, introduced a new idea of the "Daily Challenge" to the genre. This was something that nethack communities had actually done before, but Spelunky was the first game to introduce it as a built in mechanic. The concept of this challenge is to provide the same dungeon to different players, and see who can do the best trying to beat it. In other words, the challenge is in who can figure out the puzzle that is the game the best.

That's all folks

And there you have it, those are the major types of roguelikes that kind of exist today. Now obviously these divisions are getting more and more fluid (Crypt of the Necrodancer for example has some modes that seem to be inspired by Hacklikes), and the genre is constantly evolving. However, I think this at least captures the major divisions between roguelikes.

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Case For Final Fantasy XIII-2

Well Lightning Returns, the new game in the XIII series, is about to be released and as a result I have been thinking a ton about FFXIII-2. It’s a weird game that I feel like either slipped under the radar for a lot of people, or more likely got purposefully ignored because of how bad FFXIII is. While it’s totally fair to ignore a sequel to a game that was by all accounts pretty bad, it’s a real bummer because FFXIII-2 managed to be so good. Heck it’s in my top 3 Final Fantasy games. So since I’ve been thinking about it a lot, I decided to make this blog to try and make the case for XIII-2 and why its worth checking out.

The gameplay is solid

Commander Noel Shepard

The gameplay of XIII-2 is pretty much the same gameplay from XIII, with a little bit of Pokemon fused in. Instead of having a 6 member group (with 3 member party) you have 2 permanent party members, and a third one that can be filled by a captured monster (and rotated through). Otherwise gameplay has all the paradigm shifting, staggering, and other stuff from XIII. Which is actually a good thing, because that gameplay is probably the only thing that XIII did really well. It flubbed up pretty hard by blocking that gameplay behind hours and hours of tutorials, and frustratingly failed to open up the gameplay fully until nearly the end of the game. However, when it did open up the mechanics in XIII were pretty solid. Managing to keep the game feeling active and challenging.

The Characters are better

Don't cry Hope. You're actually not that bad in this one.

One of the weakest parts of XIII were the characters. While there were some characters in the mix who were genuinely interesting (Looking at you Sazh) there were also some characters that were downright horrible (Looking at you Hope). One the best things XIII-2 does is throw pretty much all those guys under the bus. The main characters are a new guy (Noel) and Serah, who was a minor character in XIII. XIII-2 characters do get cameos, but the only one who really plays a big part in the story is Hope, and he’s generally a lot better this time around.

The new characters are all pretty good. Noel is the new protagonist, and he has a good motivation and development throughout the game. The new villain is a lot more threatening than the one in XIII, and how the whole arc concludes with him is pretty amazing. Which brings me to my third case.

The story of XIII-2 Is Insane

Noel Auditore not actually part of the story.

For those of you coming here after having watched the XIII story recap video You may be a little confused by the abrupt change of tone and story in the middle of that video. That isn’t an artifact of the recap, that’s pretty much how abrupt it is in the actual game. XIII was a pretty straight forward story, in which the characters have to fight to save their home town, and they learn to accept each other and grow together as a team. Pretty standard JRPG stuff, and besides the interesting setting it’s just a little too bland. XIII-2 tosses all of that away, and starts off with Lightning (former main character of XIII) being erased from time, and her sister meeting a time traveling hero who tells her she has to go save her. As a result they travel together, fight monsters and time traveling computers, uncover a plot to destroy all of time, and then have to foil it.

It’s hard to describe it without giving much away, but it really feels like with XIII-2 the team was kind of just let loose to create whatever they want. The strength of Final Fantasy games has always been in the settings and characters. In spite of how much people complain about the tropes of FF, they are still more varied and interesting than the tropes of a lot of other games (Oh no, orcs are attacking the kingdom, let us fight). XIII-2’s main strength is that the setting and story was just sort of allowed to go wherever they wanted it to go, and as a result it’s all over the place but somehow still one coherent and very interesting story.

It’s also the only Final Fantasy game that I can think of that actually ends on an explicit cliffhanger, which is kind of crazy.

End Remarks

So those are my main arguments for why XIII-2 is worth a look at. It may not be for everyone, but I do feel like that game is one of the best Final Fantasy games. It certainly is the first one in a long time that really tried to shift things up in a big way.

I’m actually looking forward to Lightning Returns as well. The gameplay seems to have been radically changed (like a fusion of XIII and the Tales game mechanics), and the story seems to have gone even farther off the deep end (It’s set 500 years in the future I think? And snow is like some kind of rave king? I don’t know man).

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Testing Stuff My Friends

Woah I haven't posted a blog entry in a while?

I keep meaning to write something up about Nethack or about revisiting old MMOs (used to play a lot of Tibia), but I just keep putting it off.

Anyways Im just posting this to test some of our changes on stage, really thats it.

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Giantbomb/Comicvine Changelog

Hey gang,

We did some big updates to comicvine and giantbomb today, and instead of spamming my twitter I decided just to start posting a change log here.

So with that being said, here is what changed today:

BIG DEALS

  • Comicvine now has series and episodes in their wiki, you can go over there and start adding all your favorite comic related tv shows.
  • Animated Gifs now work through our uploader, so you guys can stop embedding the images directly and making me cry.

BLUE LIGHT SPECIALS

  • Indents in the WYSIWYG are supported better now. Before if you edited something with indents it would be cleaned out when you went to edit it, no longer. (I'm not even sure indents on paragraphs was supposed to be supported in the first place, so woooo)
  • The image uploader button on the profile page should now always work
  • Non gallery pages with greater than 300 images will work in the image viewer again (I'm looking at you comicvine)
  • If you upload images by url on your gallery page, they will now append correctly to the gallery without a refresh
  • A few weird 404s (like after you sign up for a subscription) were fixed
  • When a premium chat is running and you are not premium the page now says something appropriate, rather than lying to you and saying the chat is not running.
  • The moderation queue page was fixed to look good.

EDIT:

Almost forgot. We've identified the problem with double posting/forum slow down and have a solution. We're still testing out the solution to see if its a permanent fix, but for now the forum posts should be faster.

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