Palantas's comments

Posted by Palantas

More complaining follows.

I can barely be brought to even care about this, but I don't see why anybody else would either. Anyone who has been wandering around in Oblivion or Skyrim thinking "Boy, this would be so much fun if a hoard of other players were wandering around with me" has obviously never played an MMO. Having a hoard of human players wandering around the world with you is not fun. It's so not fun that pretty much every modern MMO uses instances. They do this specifically so that there aren't a million other people trying to ruin you or your party's fun while you kill critters.

Secondly, I didn't know there were many people itching to explore Tamriel in an MMO. If you don't know what Tamriel is, then A.) Thanks for making my point, and B.) Tamriel is the world in which the Elder Scrolls games take place. Tamriel does not have the same appeal of Star Wars, Middle Earth, or the Forgotten Realms. Even if it did, guess what? There are half a dozen games that already exist where you can explore Tamriel. MMOs aren't about exploring a world and reading lore books anyway. They're about grinding to max level for a year, then raiding high level dungeons with your guild, until you get bored and cancel your subscription.

Finally, the mechanics of Elder Scrolls games do not translate to an MMO. The leveling mechanics won't work without drastic overhaul. I can grind my Blade skill in Oblivion to max level in a day. Most people who play an Elder Scrolls game to its conclusion probably have high levels in a number of skills. That doesn't work when trying to set up classes in an MMO. The open world setting doesn't work in an MMO for the reasons I mentioned above. When you take away the leveling system and the open world, what you're left with is not an Elder Scrolls game.

It will however say "Elder Scrolls" on the box, so I'm sure Bethesda will make a fortune on sales and subscription fees. Go gamers.

Posted by Palantas

Complaining follows.

So I turn on my Xbox to play my 160th hour of Dark Souls, and I'm greeted by this on the main dashboard page:

Sleeper hits. Far Cry 3 is a sleeper hit.

:|

Xbox dashboard editor: Fuck you. Shove your article up your ass. Far Cry 3 is not a sleeper hit. It's a game with a budget, marketing effort, and production staff larger than many films, and it's developed and produced by one of the biggest companies in the industry. It is the polar opposite of a sleeper hit.

Where does nonsense like this come from? Do some gamers want to pretend that they're appreciating something artsy and independent, while they are in fact playing the very definition of a mainstream title? Here's what this reminds me of: In college, about 50% of the girls I ever went out with claimed to love "hole in the wall bars." When asked to identify a "hole in the wall bar," they would invariably list some gigantic monstrosity of a bar on Bardstown Road, one of the main nightlife areas in Louisville. Guess what: If a bar has two separate dance floors, four bars, shot girls wandering around everywhere, and a line at the door, it's not a goddamn hole in the wall bar.

So yeah, I think that's what it is: People want to imagine that they are a connoisseur, someone who appreciates things rare and subtle, even if they are in fact a common, mass-market consumer. And also, Xbox dashboard editor: Fuck you. Take Far Cry 3 and put it where your article goes.

Posted by Palantas

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted anything. My days have been spent: A.) Working, B.) Working out, and C.) Playing the hell out of Dark Souls. According to Raptr, I'm at 130 hours in Dark Souls. Wow. That's over three hours per day since I got the game. I will post all the elements of the game I like sometime here, since I've already complained about it.

On a lighter note, my birthday passed recently (or what I claim as my birthday while pretending to be a human) . Look what I got: 20 free Microsoft Points from Xbox Rewards. Sweet! I even got a little e-card in my inbox, announcing my free points. If you are not a member of Xbox Rewards, sign up today. The reason should be obvious: You get free MS points.

Posted by Palantas

Issues that annoy me in Dark Souls:

I mentioned last time how this game reminded me of a very old school RPG experience, what with its lack of in-game reloads. Here's another one: There is no pause button. Think I'm kidding? I'm not. Due to this game's "you're always online playing a mostly single player game" nature, you can't pause it. If you get a phone call or have to run to an elementary school to stop a shooting, you're only option is to quit the game. And keep an eye on your controller's batteries. If they go out, you're screwed.

More old school "fun" in Dark Souls: Nothing is obvious in this game. How do you cast spells? You buy a spell, select it, and press the "cast" button, right? No, dear reader, not at all. You cast spells by following these steps:

  1. Buy the spell.
  2. Buy a talisman.
  3. Go to a bonfire (rest area) and "attune" the spell.
  4. Assign the talisman to either your left or right hand.
  5. Select the talisman (instead of your sword, shield, or whatever).
  6. Press RB or LB to use the talisman in your right or left hand, respectively.

Real obvious, right? Right, but making this better: None of this is in the manual. Let me repeat that: None of this is in the manual. What does the manual say instead? Nothing. Magic is not mentioned anywhere in the manual. When I said the other day that Dark Souls was a Wikia game, boy howdy was I correct. Other than possessing that nice new videogame smell, the manual is completely useless.

The voice acting in this game is terrible, laughably bad. Reader, we could get together, write better dialogue, and record better voice samples than From Software did for this game. As you know if you read my publication here, the other game I'm playing currently is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Deus Ex has BioWare-level voice acting, so the effect of moving from that kind of quality to Dark Souls is quite jarring.

Not only is the voice acting bad, but the script is poorly written. A guy just said to me "I can share some spells with you if you'd like...unless you find magic unsavory that is." The game prompts "How do you respond?" with the options "Yes or No." Okay...am I answering to "Can I share some spells?" or "Do you find magic unsavory?" The two previous times this has come up, I picked "Yes" to get what the NPC had to offer. "Yes" is a positive response, so I just assumed that was the right choice. But no, of course not. In this case, I was actually saying "Yes, I find magic unsavory." WTF?? Again, this is the sort of ambiguity I've not seen in any RPG developed in the last 15 years.

My final complaint is the lack of story. Again, back to this being an old school RPG, the "story" here is the minimum you can have in a game and it even be called a story: The protagonist has an end goal that he wants to achieve that in some way relates to the human condition. Your character experiences no development, at least not that I've seen 50 hours into the game. NPCs are few and far between, and as I've already mentioned, are incredibly shallow. There are next to no meaningful choices to be made that affect yourself or the people around you. The few choices that are present are not obvious. Let me say it again: Nothing in this game is obvious. There are a couple people who you can help and then gain assistance from later, but it's extremely easy to miss these opportunities. There is no quest log in this game. There is no automap. There are no hints in any form as to where NPCs are located. I've already found by reading a Wiki that I could have rescued a knight earlier in the game who would help me later on. I didn't even see him. As if the lack of hints weren't enough, half the NPCs aren't even in plain sight; they're literally in areas you would think of as "secret." Finally, there are factions in this game, but again, nothing is obvious. I joined my first one by accident, and from what I can tell, it has absolutely no effect on anything. Since then I've joined two others. There are no questlines associated with these factions. At best, they open up a new merchant.

Ultimately though, this lack of story is the least of my complaints. Story is not what this game is about. This game is about the gameplay and the RPG elements (e.g., the grind). Frankly, I'd rather a game just ignore the story than make a hackneyed one like in Wolfenstein and waste my time. The game certainly could use some more direction however. After all this complaining, tune in next time, and I'll tell you what I actually like about Dark Souls.

Post Script: There are some stability issues with this game. Dark Souls has crashed twice on me in about 50 hours. Admittedly, that's not much, but considering I've recently played three games from start to finish without a single crash, I think it's worth mentioning.

Posted by Palantas

Today I'm going to share some more Dark Souls impressions, both good, bad, and weird. I'll probably split this into several entries.

Dark Souls is an odd game. In some ways, it's a very old school RPG experience. And I don't mean Final Fantasy old school; I mean Rogue old school. First off, you don't get to save and reload your game. I know you're thinking, "I must not have read that right." What I mean is that in a lot of old-timey PC RPGs (CRPGs), save/load didn't work the way it does today. You could save your game so that you could exit and turn your computer off, and then load when you started up the game again. However, you couldn't reload in the middle of a game (because you died, lost a valuable item, said the wrong thing to an NPC, et cetera). In-game actions were permanent. Dark Souls functions in precisely this fashion. Rarely is this an issue, but let me tell you a little story. I had a special item that's supposed to increase the effect of healing potions (all of them, permanently). This is obviously pretty sweet, so I used it. Instead of upgrading my potions, it manifested a different and much less valuable effect. Apparently, I wasn't supposed to use it. I was intended to give it to some NPC instead, even though there was no in-game clue to do this. Then it hit me like a kick to the dick: I can't reload my game and take the proper action with that item. That was a harsh realization. I'm still not sure how I feel about this.

PvP (Player Versus Player) is handled in Dark Souls in a fashion I have never seen before. Other players can "invade" your game as "evil spirits." You'll be killing monsters, minding your business, and a giant warning will appear at the bottom of your screen "SoAndSo Has Invaded!!" Then they find you and kill you, usually when you're in the middle of fighting some tough enemy. Once they kill you (or you kill them), they are removed from your game. This is just bizarre, and I have never played anything like this. Imagine if you're playing Halo, killing enemies, then the screen flashes "Douchenozzle117 has Invaded!!" Now in addition to worrying about all the normal enemies, there is some human player somewhere in the level, who is deathmatching you! Does that sound like fun? No, it doesn't!

This invasion mechanic is one of the strangest I have seen in any game ever, and a glance at Dark Souls forums reveals its controversial nature. Personally, I do not care for PvP; I enjoy co-op or solo gameplay in RPGs. If I want to PvP, I'll go play shooter. Every since Ultima Online, there are a small but vocal group of PvP fans who want to ensure that everyone gets to "enjoy" PvP. Naturally, these people exist in Dark Souls too. At present, my inclination is simply to disconnect when someone invades me.

I've been killed twice through these stupid invasions. The first time, I was in the middle of fighting some very tough enemies. The other time by some guy with way better equipment than me, who literally killed me in one hit. As the system exists currently, it just seems like a way for people to troll. I've read online there are a lot of cheap tactics involved in getting good at invasions. Why From Software didn't include an online arena or PvP zones, I have no idea. They took an otherwise solo or co-op game and just tacked on this PvP element in a fashion that seems like it would only please people who like to ruin other peoples' fun.

In the next couple days, I'll talk about some things I dislike and like about the game. I don't care for those invasions, but it's so strange and unprecedented that I file it under "weird" instead of "bad."

...

On an unrelated note, it appears everything is still here, on Earth I mean. The world has about five more hours to end so I don't have to pay back that loan shark.

Posted by Palantas

I'm playing Dark Souls:

This game is...hard. It's got a steep learning curve, and you die a lot. It doesn't help that right next to the starting area is a graveyard full of skeletons that are extremely tough. They take about ten hits to kill (and I'm playing a knight), while they can kill you in half that, plus you fight two at a time! Then I come to find out you weren't supposed to go to this graveyard. You were supposed to go to a less obvious area that's the actual starting dungeon. There enemies die in a couple hits, and do far less damage. I wasn't supposed to go to that damn graveyard until many levels higher. Nice.

That lack of direction itself in an issue I have with this game. It is not at all obvious where you're supposed to go or what you're supposed to do. The first NPC in the game makes some reference to a couple bells I need to ring. He doesn't say why I need to ring these bells, and he gives only the vaguest directions. Modern RPGs have a little overabundance of directional help (e.g., a compass that tells you exactly where to go) which removes some aspects of exploration. This game has the opposite problem. Not only is there no compass of any kind, there is no:

  • Automap
  • Actually, no map of any kind
  • No conversation log
  • No quest log

Imagine playing most any RPG you've ever played...with no quest log. I feel like I'm eight years old, playing The Bard's Tale, or some other old school game where you needed a pad of paper to actually play the game. Dark Souls is what you call a Wikia game. :)

Death has two penalties: One, if you don't make it back to your corpse, you lose all your money. So, die twice in a row, lose all your duckets. Secondly, in this game, you collect "humanity," which is dropped somewhat rarely. You can use this to turn from undead back to a human. This gives you various bonuses, notably higher drop rates. The catch is that when you die, you revert to an undead form. Usually, getting back to your corpse and collecting your money isn't too hard. However, the humanity mechanic ads a significant level of tension to the game.

Like when...

I was human, and stumbled on a boss battle on the roof of an abbey, against two gargoyles.

And... I beat them on my first try!! I'm so happy right now. Sometimes, life is good. There are some tense fights in this game, and it's definitely a grinding game. I certainly succeeded in finding a grind to replace Too Human. Go Palantas.

Posted by Palantas

I am now playing:

Yes, I finally got it. I've been looking forward to this one for a while, obviously. I was a little worried about Square making it, but so far...it's pretty damn good. There are some tiny, bizzare quirks, like the X button selecting things in menus instead of the A button (WTFs up with that??). However one thing I can definitely say about this title: It is a Deus Ex game. The story is already invovling, the setting is plausible, and the characters feel real. I'm becoming more critical of stories in games, and this one is making me very happy so far.

Posted by Palantas

Thoughts on Doom 3 for 360...

I'm fairly happy with this bundle. When I said I beat Doom 3 yesterday, I should be more specific: I beat the Doom 3 campaign of the Doom 3: BFG Edition. The BFG Edition includes:

  • Doom 3
  • Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil (an expansion pack released in 2005)
  • Doom 3: The Lost Mission (a new expansion)
  • Doom (specifically, the four-episode Ultimate Doom)
  • Doom II

That's a healthy amount of content for a budget price. I paid Amazon $20 for BFG Edition (though oddly, it's gone up to $23).

As to the game itself, I had a pretty good time. It had a lot of scares in it. The game became a little formulaic towards the end. Virtually every appearance of a monster is an ambush of some sort. Monsters appear in one of the following ways:

  1. They're already in the level, showing up when it loads, and you encounter them naturally (e.g., the way most shooters work).
  2. They pop out of the walls.
  3. They teleport near you, accompanied by appropriate audio and visual effects.

Those are in reverse order of frequency. Towards the end, most monsters teleport in, and it's pretty standard that one will appear in front of you and one behind. You come to expect it. There are a few cheap deaths, like a floor tile collapsing into lava, with no prior indication it would do that. There are a handful of platforming bits, which are annoying, but thankfully rare. The final battle, against the Cyberdemon, is a cake walk.

Doom 3 has save-anywhere, which is rare these days. The back of the box laughably boasts a "new check point save system." That's BS. The game has an auto-save system, which saves quite rarely, and at odd locations sometimes. You'll want to be saving manually at regular intervals, which is fine.

Artistically, this game is great. The technology was amazing in 2004, and is obviously nothing special now, but the art direction holds up. The Mars base is legitimately creepy. There are a few sections where you walk on the Martian surface, which looks great. Hell is scary and disturbing. If you glanced at the game during the Hell levels, you'd think it was a fantasy RPG (except for the plasma rifle in the middle of the screen). Hell in Doom 3 is far scarier and "Hellish" than any of the Oblivion levels in, you know, Oblivion. Graphically, this game is inspired.

Conclusion: Check out Doom 3: BFG Edition if you like shooters, particularly classic shooters.

Posted by Palantas

It's national sound check day: 12-12-12!! Sort of an odd holiday. I was planning to complain about annoying achievements with this issue, but I decided complaining would be innappropriate on this festive occasion.

Instead I'm going to share a personal issue with you: I always need a game to grind. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, grinding is a term typically applied to RPGs, meaning to engage in repetitive, usually mindless gameplay, playing the same levels, killing the same critters, for a purpose indirectly related to progressing in the game. This purpose is usually gaining XP or finding a rare item. If you've read my blog recently, you know I just finished a 100-hour grind in Too Human to get some epic armor.

I sat down at my Xbox the other day, and it occured to me, "I have nothing to grind on." I was in the mood to play a game, but I didn't wan't to pay much attention to either the gameplay or story, and I wanted to watch a film or show at the same time (I often do this). So it's Christmas time, and I need a grinding game.

I'd been considering Sacred 2 for a while. However, I learned recently that the studio behind Sacred closed. I really don't want to deal with unpatched bugs.

Then I heard about Dark Souls. Dark Souls has excellent reviews, but what really sold me was 360a's description: "This game is not for the casual gamer. It has quite a steep learning curve to it, but if you manage to adapt to it, this game is very rewarding and fun." That sounds right up my alley, so I decided to buy it for myself for Christmas. I got it for $16 new on Amazon; I'm sure the story and gameplay would have been much improved if I'd paid $60 one year ago, but that's life.

So, anyone have experience with this series? This is the first Japanese game I've purchased in years. Will this make a good grind? Am I gonna like it?

Posted by Palantas

Bragging time...

On the First Day of Christmas, my Xbox gave to me...a really hard achievement. (Sorry, I couldn't think of something that rhymed.)

I just got the achievement "Relics of a Forgotten Past" in Too Human. The description for this achievment is "Complete a 7-piece Elite armor suit." This is an insane achievement. The drop rate for each piece of this armor is incredibly low. The highest that can be arranged is 4%, after killing the first level boss, which require that you play through the entire first level, a process that takes at least a half hour. Do the math on how long that should take.

I have been working on this achievement with my current character for literally two years, off and on. It's taken over 100 hours of grinding to get this. Only 3% of people on Raptr who have played Too Human have this achievement. In the process of getting this achievement, I have killed 77,578 enemies.

The following continued bragging will only make sense to people who have actually played Too Human...

I got this achievement with my Human Champion. I have 152 hours of play time with this character. I have never died. That's right. On my status screen, under deaths, it says zero. What's more, I don't yet have the "Valkyrie's Folly: Die 100 times" achievement. I'm going to make sure that's the last achievement I get. Yes, I have managed to get that good at an obscure game. :)

Thank you for reading.