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Trails of Cold Steel, Parting Thoughts

After playing probably over 400 hours of these games, some final parting thoughts on the Cold Steel franchise. I tried to organize this into a good part/bad part format so that it doesn't seem like I'm just ragging on the games. I truly enjoyed these games more than pretty much any JRPG I've played in recent memory (well other than maybe Undertale), and even though I do think Cold Steel is not as well written as Sky or Crossbell, I would happily recommend people play these games.

Is Big

There are very few games that have as both wide and deep as the Trails games have, and Cold Steel is no exception. Both in the sheer size of Erebonia as a country and the sheer amount of locations and characters that exist across the land, and in this large land Cold Steel absolutely nails one of the most beloved aspects of the Trails series: a focus not just on the star studded protagonists, but detailed little arcs for the myriad of NCPs you meet across your travels.

This feels most poignant during Cold Steel 4 where a Draft is slowly draining all the towns of their characters, which over the course of the game is felt more and more as there are simply less people to check in on as time goes on. This really drives home the urgency of the oncoming war, and weaponizes this aspect of the games against the player in a very clever way.

Harem? Barely Know 'Em.

The Harem aspects of Cold Steel suck and are a drag on the entire arc. Beyond just the normal aspects of why Harem writing is problematic at best, the constraints that the Harem stuff puts on the narrative hurt it in various ways.

The most prominent frustration caused by the Harem structure is that Rean is, for all intents and purposes, a flawless perfect person. This results in him not really having a character arc. The game attempts to force a "flaw" on him by arguing that he's too self-less, but thats a bit like saying your too good at your job when asked what your only flaw is on a job application.

This really comes to a head for me in the final game, where the first third of it is every member of Class VII old and new is going out of their way to rescue Rean. On its own this story wouldn't be bad, having a period of a game where your party has to go rescue the Main Character is a classic JRPG situation as old as Chrono Trigger, but in the context of the Harem writing it just feels so self-serving to the player in a way that feels really off-putting to me.

Geo-Politics Man

One of the greatest aspects of the trails series, and something Cold Steel nails, is its insistence on keeping the geo-political aspects of any conflict front and center. Of course, at the end of the day, resolving whatever conflict that is going on in each game is up to your rag tag group of adventurers, but on their way to solving it the game will constantly remind you that theres more at play here than just beating some evil monster. Their are other countries, other governments, other political entities that are constantly both invested in and working either with/against your goals depending on what is in their best interests, and the game constantly weaves them in and out of the story as necessary.

Someone get me off of this Escalator

One not so great change in the Cold Steel series is that it really struggles with handling escalations of threats.

In previous games (Sky in particular), the games for the most part stayed heavily grounded for the vast majority of the story, only spiraling into that classing JRPG escalation towards attacking and dethroning god late into the games. This rubs some people the wrong way, but in my opinion, this slower way of telling a story gives them more room to properly build stakes and make it so when things truly go off the rails it matters.

Cold Steel clearly took feedback from people complaining about previous games being "slow" however to heart, as every game in the series tends to escalate things much faster than the previous set. This does manage to keep tensions high, but it also doesn't leave them a way to de-escalate situations reasonably, resulting in a lot of situations where you fight like some of the most powerful people in the series and then magically get away before either of you conclude the fight.

Compare Sky in which you fight Loewe (not in disguise) exactly once and his loss and subsequent death is a huge fucking deal, vs in Cold Steel how many times you fight McBurn or Arianrhod. They are two supposedly much more powerful characters, but ones that you somehow *keep* running into and sort of winning against (or at least not losing against) and they don't really resolve into a real fight until the final game.

Order Me A Battle

I think by the end of the series the battle system got to a pretty good point.

Now I'm not gonna sit here and tell you a fully turn based system is great, but for a fully turn based system its pretty interesting.

I think the Order mechanics add a real nice way to shift up battles without having to fully redefine your team, and the turn bonuses that have been around from Sky give battles just that little bit of randomness to make them more interesting. I'm not sure how well that system held out over 4 different games, definitely got a bit tired near the end, but it held out better than expected.

There are also lots of options for you to customize your characters and many builds that all work, which makes it fun to mess around with various quartz and equipment combos. From perfect evasion builds to super speedy "you never get a turn" builds, the game isn't super hard to break, but I think thats a good thing.

Too Many Dicks On The Dancefloor

My final thought: There are probably too many characters and arcs going on between the 4 games.

Part of this is a problem of them wanting to reference and shout out the previous games as much as possible, resulting in a cast that includes probably far too many guests characters by the time Cold Steel 3 and 4 roll around. Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved every bit of Sky and Crossbell story I could get out of Cold Steel 4, but it definitely feels a bit odd, especially as the game nears its climax and it feels like the older games should be moving to the side to give space to Cold Steels story.

A good example of doing cameos well is actually in the Crossbell games. In Zero, Estelle and Joshua play a major part in the story, and the arc between them and Renne is resolved. This serves as a good continuation of the Sky story for fans of Sky, but also by having it happen in Zero (the first game), it allows them to move totally out of the way for Ao, giving Crossbell the full spotlight.

Beyond the references and the guest casts though, even just the regular cast of Cold Steel feels a bit too large. There are 11 members of the original class VII and 4 of the new Class VII, plus the supporting characters who are in that inbetween area (e.g. Sara, Towa, Angelica).

It's pretty daring to try to juggle such a large cast, and in a lot of cases It actually works. They manage to give a lot of these characters their own arcs, distinct personalities, interesting relationships. However, I think overall it makes the games feels less focused in some sense. Especially when your concluding like 6 peoples arcs in a row near the end, it starts to just feel crowded.

Ultimately I think the culprit lies with the original Class VII, I think they just made that original cast far too large, and I suspect part of the reason its so large is because of the Harem structure (in order to give the player many different options to date from)


2019 Had Too Many Good Games

This year had too many good games in it, and I wanted to write too much about all of them. However, writing is hard and I'm lazy, so I just picked my top 5 and wrote a lot about them instead. So heres a bunch of words about my top 5 games of this year, and below that, I also have my 6-10 without a bunch of words because I got tired of writing.

1. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 3

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I skipped the Trails games for a long time for a really dumb reason: The name sounded so generic that I figured it was some low rent budget type of game that wasn't worth the time to play. Every time Steam would pop it up in my recommendation feed and insist that I would really like this series, I laughed it off and took a pass on it.

Then last year, on a lark I decided to play Trails in the Sky FC, because I had nothing better to do with my time. Shortly after I proceeded to binge every Trails game I could find (in spite of them being 70-80 hour games), because I discovered that someone had made a JRPG series that targeted the *exact* things I wanted out of a JRPG.

There is a lot to love about the Trails games, but the thing that makes it somewhat a rarity in the field of JRPGs is the commitment to having a long running continuous storyline that spans many games. That may be an odd statement in a genre known for its lengthy games, but in the JRPG genre most sequels do their best to separate themselves from their predecessors in order to make sure that they can bring in new players with each new game.

With the Trails games, however, there’s an assumption the players have played most (if not all of) the games and as a result are bought into the world enough that they can be written with that assumed knowledge. The end result is a series of games that have the kind of long term World Building and interwoven Plots and story Mechanisms that you just don’t see in a lot of game franchises.

Which is all to say, the writing of Trails of Cold Steel 3 is excellent. Not without its flaws (the Cold Steel series in general leans too much into certain modern anime tropes that it doesn’t need too), but still one of the best in the genre. On top of that, the game brings a lot of improvements to the Cold Steel battle system, general improvements in the quality of graphics, and just a lot of nice little polish and upgrades on top of previous games.

This would be a hard game to recommend anyone to actually play, given how much of a time investment this series is, but I can think of very few games that payoff that investment as consistently and as well as the Trails series does.

2. Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers™

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Another game that requires quite a lot of time investment. This year felt like somewhat of a watershed moment for FFXIV, and a large part of that is thanks to this expansion.

Most people are probably familiar, by now, with the story of the death and rebirth of Final Fantasy XIV. However, while the player base has seen steady growth over time, this feels like the first year where the larger mainstream audience (and media) has started to realize that XIV isn’t just impressive for its revival, it’s impressive because its one of the greatest Final Fantasy games produced.

A large part of that shift in view is due to the excellent writing of Shadowbringers™. You even have people out there claiming that ShB is perhaps the best story of a Final Fantasy game. A claim that I would tend to agree with! (In part because I have a lower opinion of the average FF story than others, but also because ShB is quite good!).

One of the most incredible aspects of Shadowbringers™ is how every part of it just feels like the development team was just 100% nailing it. The cutscenes? More detailed than ever. The battle system? Everything feels great. Fight mechanics? Some of the most fun yet. The music? Incredible. (This game was robbed not being on the VGA list)

It just feels like, in so many ways, with this expansion the development team has really hit a strong stride, perhaps due to the confidence gained at how much praise has been heaped on the other expansion as well.

As with Trails, XIV can be a hard recommendation due to the time investment it requires, but also as with Trails, that large time investment is paid one hundred fold.

3. Kingdom Hearts 3

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No one likes reading about Kingdom Hearts, mostly because at this point your mind is probably already fully made up on how you feel about the series. So let me write about Kingdom Hearts.

I loved this game. In one of Tim Rogers video reviews of this game, he decided to use the word generous to describe the Kingdom Hearts series as a whole, and I’ve started to steal that from him when talking about the game, because I have realized that’s what makes me care about these games.

In spite of the kudzu plot, in spite of the weird Disney integrations, in spite of the wacky names and weird concepts, what has always struck me about the KH series, is how intent it is on getting you to feel *something*. The game does not shy from large moments where it just piles on the feelings incredibly thick, and those moments work for me. Sometimes those are incredibly cheesy, sometimes they make your eyes roll, but if you open up your heart a bit, the sheer earnestness of KH can overwhelm you.

Late in the game of KH3 (Spoilers), there’s a moment where a bunch of keyblades representing the users of KHx help Sora fight back one of his enemies. That sentence probably makes no sense to anyone who isn’t bought in to KH, and is probably even off putting. However, that moment moved me to tears, because every single one of those keyblades had the actual character names of the people who played KHx attached to them. Thinking about these long time fans playing the game, getting to this point, and seeing their name show up brought me such joy that I couldn’t help but cry a bit.

To me those kind of moments are Kingdom Hearts.

4. Disco Elysium

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For a long time, the western RPG world has been obsessed with trying to give players Choices in their games, but Disco Elysium is the first one I’ve played where it feels like every choice I make actually has weight.

One of the hardest struggles with making a game around Choices is not telegraphing the result of those choices before you do them. After all, if you don’t make it clear to the player that The Choice they are about to make will cut them out of content, they may get angry or feel tricked.

Additionally often times as well the actual results of these Choices will be suspiciously similar, or be suspiciously limited, due to the practicality of not throwing away resources you’ve spent money developing during your game.

Disco Elysium solves these problems with a shotgun approach to their choices. Pretty much every single thing you do in the game affects something else in the game. From the smaller, a dialogue choice ingratiating you to a character improving your conversation choices in other branches, to the bigger, permanently closing off any further dialogue with a character. Every little dialogue option you choose in this game has the potential to cascade out to many many other areas.

The result is something that feels incredibly stressful to play in some ways, but incredibly exciting as well as you see these choices slowly compound and influence each other. It also adds an incredible amount of weight to every dialogue option you chose, forcing you to sit through and really think about how the characters your talking to will respond to your actions.

Disco Elysium is definitely not a game for everyone. I think a lot of people will bounce off this game from the stress of just how many options your presented with at every moment, or from the general cynical tone of the world/story and its ideological stances. However, for me the sheer scale of the way every choice in this game propagates throughout it has me in awe.

5. Super Mario Maker 2

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Super Mario Maker is an incredible concept. So many people play and love Mario games that giving people the ability to make their own levels and share them in retrospect seems obvious. In spite of that, Super Mario Maker for me, kind of floundered under the weight of its own ambition.

While the concept of the original game was great, it struggled in its implementation. You could create levels, but (unless you were internet famous) likely couldn’t find many people to play them. You could try to play levels, but finding *good* levels to play was a nightmare. You either needed to have levels recommended to you by other people (good if you had an audience), suffer through 100 man (no quality control, mostly garbage levels), or just play the most popular ones (easy levels, almost all auto levels or music levels).

These problems are what ultimately made me sour on SMM1 as a game. When you could find good levels, it felt incredible to play, but the frustration of finding those levels was just too great. Similarly, creating levels could be fun, but then when no one played them or gave you feedback on them… well that wasn’t much fun at all.

With Super Mario Maker 2 however, these problems have been reduced considerably (although not necessarily thanks to Nintendo). On the level creation front, there are now many places online you can go to share/talk about your levels, in large part thanks to the strong community the game has built. More importantly, though, is that it is *much* easier now to find levels to play at a difficulty that matches what you want, thanks to the options/filters that have been added to the course world section of the game.

On top of all that, SMM2 just has so many more tools and settings than MM1 had. I won’t list them all here, but the addition of Night Mode to tilesets and the On/Off switches alone have exploded the possibilities for level creation. Resulting in a lot more variety in the type of levels that are out there to play.

The end result of all of this, is that every week this year I’ve been able to jump onto SMM2 and find 10-12 good levels at the difficulty I like to play at, and that still blows my god damn mind.

The Rest of my GOTY that I got tired of writing long blogs about

6. Links Awakening

7. Pokemon Sword and Shield

8. Monster Hunter: Iceborne

9. Dragon Quest Builders 2

10. Cadence of Hyrule

EDIT: Yo I forgot Celeste Ch9 was earlier this year. If I had remembered it would be #4 on this list and push everything down one


Hidden Eastereggs in Ys: Memories of Celceta

Hey y'all, I've been playing through this wonderful game Ys recently, and ran into some cool little easter eggs the localization team put in there, and wanted to share them to people.

Ys is an action RPG similar to Secret of Mana, but in 3D, and somewhat far into the game you run into these little creatures called Roo.

Roos have been in several of the games before, and in many of them they have their own Runic based language, and this game is no exception. When you first meet the Roo they talk in this language, and it is not until later in the game you receive an accessory that translates that language for you automatically that you can understand them.

However, it is possible to figure out the language before that point, either by guessing/reversing it from the in game dialog or by looking up the language used in the other games as they are the same. If you do so, and then manually translate some of the scenes with the Roo, you get some neat little Easter Eggs that the localizers threw in there.

So since I did that, I figured I would share these easter eggs with you. All of these dialogues are taken either from the in game Roo Memory or from talking to the Roo in the village the first time you meet them.

Have you heard about Ys?

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This conversation takes place between the three Roo in the scene. In the normal scene they are talking about the Great Roo's rumbling stomach ache, but if you translate it manually you instead get this neat little conversation trying to upsell you on the other Ys games (which I might add, are very good!)

Great RooProoseEmbarroosed
I got nothin.
Come in and know me better man!
Have you played the other Ys games?
Felghana is fantastic. Really great map design and super difficult.
Origins is more linear but has three main protagonists and a really good story
Seven is the game that introduced the engine you are playing now.
And Chronicles is the game that started it all. Bump to the beat!
Available now so play them all and buy them for all your friends!
Proose stop trying to sell them things! They already know Ys is great!
The Great Roo is waiting.
But I still have to tell them about Trails!
... okay. Fine. I will let them go. But you owe me Embaroosed.
It Is showtime!
(Great Roo Soooo Old!)
(Thank You)
(All hail Great Roo!)
(Great Roo is life!)
Haha... big time. I am on my way. I am doing it.


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This Roo does some quick shout outs to community people who presumably helped the localization team with this game.

Shout outs to brandchan. mp eighty three. deuce. kawaiisara. holychan.
zealboy. beeandcat. And special thanks...
gamemusicfreak and omgfloofy. You guys were a huge help.

I think I have a problem

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This dialog is actually somewhat close to the real dialog this Roo says when you can understand the language, but taken up to a much higher degree.

Listen listen. You like roda fruit?
Roda fruit is tasty.
Super sweet! Like honey!
Maybe even more than honey!
Like pure sugar. Made me super bouncy!
I think I have a problem.

The Next Generation

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This Roo spouts of the name of several episodes of Star Trek: TNG.

Cause And Effect. The Nth Degree. The Inner Light.
Remember Me!

It could be a Boat!

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Here we find a Fortune Teller Roo that gives the most predictable of fortunes, that Adol will likely Shipwreck in the future. (Many Ys Games involve Adol shipwrecking somewhere)

I am a fortunetelling roo. I read the leaves or some such thing.
Adol. You will have many problems with boats.

An Ill-Fated Love Triangle

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In this scene there are three Roos who appear to be competing for one's love (One of the Roos is of camera). This is also similar to their actual dialog once you have the translation bracelet, but ratcheted up to 11.

Romancing RooMaroolynObserving Roo
Maroolyn is beatiful. I want to rootire with her!
I am pretending I could not hear you.
You could not hear? I said you are beautiful!
I am going to stand over here now.
Talk to the paw!
Ooh Maroolyn yes yes yes get angry. I like you when you are angry.
More vibrations! Shake me more!

One Liners

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There are also several Roo that just have one off lines referencing other things.

If you can read this I am standing behind you with a crowbar.
One of these days Great Roo. Pow! Right in the kisser!
You will feel my fists of fury!
All of life is pain.

Anyways, I thought this was fun to see, and hopefully anyone who reads this does too! It's always good to see when a Localization team can inject a bit of their own spin into a game.

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2018's Top Ten Monsters from Monster Hunter

There were some good games that came out this year, but none of them were as good as Monster Hunter, so instead of a Top 10 list of games this year I decided to create a list of my Top 10 Favorite Monsters from Monster Hunter This Year.

This list includes monsters from Monster Hunter World as well as Monster Hunter Generations which, between the two, had a total of 95 unique eligible monsters. Quite a few to whittle down, but I managed to find the 10 best!

Finally, if you really want a game recommendation, go play CrossCode the best RPG released this year or play Celeste the best Platformer this year (or just go listen to its music cause its the best OST this year as well).

1. Bazelgeuse

The Over Affectionate B-52.
The Over Affectionate B-52.

The Bazelgeuse stole people's hearts with Monster Hunter World, becoming probably the most recognizable Meme from the game. However, aside from being a hilarious Meme this monster represents the best of the design philosophy behind Monsters in the Monster Hunter Games.

The Beauty of Bazelgeuse is that as a monster it is designed to do one thing and excel at it: Be an annoying interrupter into your fights. Every part of this monster is designed to do this. From its annoying ability to fly into any part of a map, its uncanny ability to wander into any high rank fight (as well as being on all of the maps), and its abilities that leave behind traps and surprises that other monsters can activate. The insistence on this singular design is what makes it so effective at its role, much more than the equally meme worthy Deviljho, and is a large part of why I think its the best monster this year.

2. Kirin

Kirin is always looking down on its opponent.
Kirin is always looking down on its opponent.

A classic Monster, Kirin is one of the deadliest Elder Dragons for players new to the Series. In Monster Hunter World a tempered version of the creature stands as the final test before the game allows you to unlock your hunter rank. That they chose Kirin as that final test is no coincidence, the beauty of Kirin as a monster is how the design of the fights with it feel incredibly fair.

Putting aside random weird bugs like Lightning killing you at base, when in the thick of the fight, everything move Kirin does is telegraphed to tell you exactly how you will die. This is what makes it the perfect final test, any deaths you accrue on Kirin you know are your own fault, because the game shows you where the moves will land. All of this fits neatly into the Aesthetic of the fight as well: Kirin is a proud beast, one that is so sure of its victory it will give you the chance to dodge its attacks, and you will probably fail anyways.

3. Tigrex (Nargacuga/Barioth)

He's Hungry For You.
He's Hungry For You.

No top monster list would be complete without some variant of Trigrex on it. The monster and its various incarnations have become beloved among the fanbase, and for good reason! The beauty of Tigrex is in the fight. It's an incredibly difficult monster, but doesn't rely on any gimmicks. Instead its just fucking hard. Winning against a Tigrex feels like a real achievement, because the game doesn't give you any room to fail.

On top of the fight, the aesthetics of Tigrex are great. It's a big old hungry monster, that wants nothing more than to eat. The way it frantically scurries around the battlefield drooling at the prospect of eating you enforces this. There's not a whole lot more I can add here that wasn't said better by Gaijin Hunter's video on the beast, so I recommend checking that out.

I included Nargacuga and Barioth in this one because I didnt want to just have half my list be Tigrex Variants, but they are different from Tigrex.

4. Malfestio

How many licks does it take to cart a hunter, Mr. Owl?
How many licks does it take to cart a hunter, Mr. Owl?

Malfestio my beautiful bird boy gets big points on the board for not just being a lizard or a big ape thing, but more than that it gets points for having one of the few blights in the game that will actually mess you up!

Blights in monster hunter are basically status effects, and the majority of them arent really that impactful, usually only resulting in some mild damage over time or stamina drain and easily cured. In fact some blights are actively helpful (looking at you Magala)! However this monsters blight is both incurable and endlessly frustrating: it totally reverses your controls!

Obviously other games have used that concept before, but I believe this is the first time its showed up in Monster Hunter, and its a real mess of a time if you get hit by it! Monster Hunter is such a precise game that reversing your controls is just a mess, and it adds a lot of variety to the fights with this monster.

Plus this is a giant Owl Boy, big bonus.

5. Tzitzi-Ya-Ku

Tip: The stun can be blocked with a shield.
Tip: The stun can be blocked with a shield.

At first glance Tzitzi isn't anything too special, filling the weakest monster in the food chain role for its area as many other raptors have before it. However, there is one thing that propels this monster to greatness: its propensity for showing up in other monsters fights to paralyze them.

Much like the Bazelgeuse, this monster seems intentionally designed around this funny little interaction. Often it will show up in the middle of fights, randomly paralyze an enemy, and unlike every other enemy in the game it will simply run away. Satisfied it probably got both of you.

This leads to many enjoyable moments in hunts and for the smart hunter, many opportunities to gain the advantage on your target.

6. Chameleos

He comes and goes.
He comes and goes.

Chameleos holds a special place in my heart for being just such a strikingly weird design. Both visually stunning and mechanically perplexing this monster just is always a good time to fight.

The main gimmick of Chameleos is that it can go invisible, often disappearing and then immediately ending up behind you ready to strike. A monster you always need to be on guard for lest you end up its meal.

The real wonder of this Monster though is the way it animates. The movements of it in game are just so unsettling and jerky. When combined with the unsettling design, it leads to a tension in the fight that many other monsters just don't have. One of creepiness.

7. Zinogre

Sneak Preview of the Sonic The Hedgehog Movie.
Sneak Preview of the Sonic The Hedgehog Movie.

Zinogre is just Rad. I don't feel like I even need to explain why its up here, its a giant lightning dog that charges up and does rad attacks against you.

On top of just being a Rad monster, Zinogre also has some of the most rad looking armor in the game.

I don't have much more to add here, it's just fucking rad.

8. Paolumu

Really I just want to hug this thing.
Really I just want to hug this thing.

If Zinogre is on this list for Being Rad, then Paolumu is on this list for being Cute.

This monster is a cute little puffball that flies all around in a frantic way that makes for a very interesting fight. It really shows off some of the more innovative designs behind the Monster Hunter World monsters now that they have the power of a Console to back them up.

If the Zinogre had the most rad armor, the Paolumu has the absolute fluffiest.

9. Teostra

Are you ready to Rock?!?
Are you ready to Rock?!?

Teostra is a classic Elder Dragon that is just fun as heck to fight. From anecdotal experience, it is probably the hardest elder dragon for players to defeat in Monster Hunter World, and thats because it hits like a truck with its Supernova and Fire Breath attacks.

What really makes this Monster shine though is the level its in, the Elders Recess and specifically its lair in it. Fighting Teostra in Monster Hunter World is probably the most Metal fight in the entirety of the Series. You will find yourself inside an active volcanic area while lava erupts around you and this giant Fire Beast explodes like a Star. Even the Hunting Horn this monster makes is a frigging Guitar.

10. Diablos

Diablos is in fact ready to rock.
Diablos is in fact ready to rock.

No list would really be complete without including either Rathalos or Diablos, arguably the two most iconic monsters of the series, and while I like Rathalos, Diablos has to take the cake.

What makes Diablos great is that its the first monster in World where the game lets you know its not screwing around. For many its the first real wall in the game, being just hard as heck because Diablos hits like a frigging truck.

The monster forces players to pay more attention to monster patters, to consider bringing items (sonic bombs are your friend), and to learn how to lure monsters away from groups.

Additionally Monster Hunter Generations included some really amazing variants/deviants of this Monster.


Monster Hunter: Questions I had when First Playing

So first off, before we start:


Monster Hunter is not a complicated game, though it may appear so from the outside. It bucks certain conventions in games like these, which can seem intimidating, but ultimately the beauty of Monster Hunter is that its a set of incredibly simple systems that come together to make complex/interesting encounters.

This thing is a list of Questions I had when I first got into Monster Hunter with MH4U. I am not an old school Hunter, I got in fairly recently, but I have put in a lot of time, and hopefully this will be helpful.

As a note: This wont go super into detail on specific weapons because all of that has already been covered in great depth by people such as Gaijinhunter and Arekkz. In general those two produce a large cadre of great videos going into some great depth on Monster Hunter. These are more just questions that weren't covered by those videos I had. first starting out.

It's more than possible I missed questions some may have in this list, or that I just didn't think of. So if you have any questions, feel free to post a comment with the question and I'll try to respond to the best of my knowledge.

I've also gone ahead and broken this into three different categories: General Questions, Specific Questions, and Light Bowgun Questions (my area of expertise).

General Questions

1. What even is Monster Hunter?

It's hard to describe what the game is in terms of other games, because its a niche genre. Instead I will just lay out the gameplay loop.

The main loop of the game is simple. You start in a Hub, Select a Hunt, are sent to a map for that Hunt, find and kill your Target, gather parts from their body, and then return to the Hub to craft gear/armor from those parts.

The overall progression of the game is through what are called Hunter Ranks. You start at Rank 1, and after you do a subset of Hunts that are required to progress (which in World will be marked), you are given a special quest to test your skills, and if you succeed at that quest you progress to Rank 2. Rinse and repeat until maximum rank.

2. That's it? You just hunt monsters rinse and repeat?

Yep that's the core game loop. You also end up hunting monsters to get better gear, or doing small side quests to unlock certain buffs, but in general the game loop as described above is the majority of the game.

3. Is there a story?

Yes. Each hunt does not have its own story, but typically the story of the game is told during the quests that you complete to upgrade to the next rank.

4. Is there multiplayer?

Yes! In fact its better than ever in Monster Hunter World. In previous Monster Hunters the single player and multi player portions of the game had completely different progression routes, and if you wanted to do everything you had to do both!

In Monster Hunter World this is no longer the case. Now any quest can be done in single or multiplayer mode, and progression is recorded in both.


I imagine this is the most intimidating part of Monster Hunter world for those coming to it for the first time.

The reason there are so many weapons is because Monster Hunter does not have classes or skill trees. Instead the way they achieve different game play is by making all the weapons play differently!

6. O.K. ... but I still don't know what weapon to use?

There isn't really any single weapon that's outright better than any other (unless your going for World Record status), so the general advice is to pick a weapon that feels good after trying it out for a bit.

My advice is just to pop into the training room with each weapon and get a feel, whichever one feels right to you go with it.

If you're still unsure, generally good beginner weapons belong to the Light Weapon category: Sword and Shield, Dual Blades, Long Sword, and Light Bowgun.

7. What if I choose the wrong weapon?

Don't worry about it!

One of the best parts of Monster Hunter is how easy it is to change what you use in terms of weapons. Unlike other games monster hunter does not have a skill tree or classes, instead your strength is determined by the weapon your using and the skills on your armor.

The armor skills are all generic enough or tied to non weapon related things that they are interchangeable between weapons.

As a result, if you want to change what weapon you use all you really need to do is craft a new weapon! You should be able to hit the ground running with no disadvantage in terms of gear.

In general: Play what feels right, and don't be afraid to change weapons. I've changed what weapon I "main" no less than 3 times in just 2 games, and its been great!

8. Wait... armor skills?

Yes Monster Hunter does have a skill system, but instead of being on your character its tied to your armor.

This was recently changed in Monster Hunter World to make this even more simple.

Basically each piece of armor has one or more skills on it (Attack Up, Longer Dodge Frames, More Sharpness), and if you equip armor with the same skill they typically stack to increase the effect.

9. Should I spend a long time farming for armor in the early game, for the best skills?


Typically Monster Hunter is broken into 3 levels of ranks: Low Rank, Hi Rank, and G Rank. In Monster Hunter World we do not appear to have G Rank yet (possibly DLC), but Low and Hi do exist.

Armor from a lower rank is basically useless in a higher rank.

This is done on purpose. Low Rank is kind of a time to figure out the basics of how to play without having to worry about grinding or armor building or any of that nonsense.

In general, when just starting focus on learning how to play, and worry about Armor later. (The game will indicate when you have reached High Rank)

10. How worried should I be about gear?

Gear is incredibly helpful for not dying, but you can do any hunt naked if you wanted to. As long as your wearing gear that's within a rank or two of your current Hunter rank, no one has a right to complain about what you're wearing.

Many people when reaching the end game of Monster Hunter treat gear as a fashion game, not a skill game. They can do this because even at the highest levels of play the most important thing is your skill as a player, not the things you wear.

11. Is there anything else to do in the Hub?

Yep, the hub typically has services that can be used to help out in hunts or speed up some of the boring parts of the game.

For example there is typically a farm in the Hub that will let you generate common gathering components so you don't have to do it yourself.

12. Whats gathering?

Typically armor requires more than just monster parts to craft. Often you'll need metal/plants/mushrooms or some other non monster related thing.

These are simply gathered on the maps you play on when hunting. Monster Hunter World has made this easier by making it easier to gather and less dangerous mid fight.

13. Is there any non armor/weapon crafting?

Yes. There are a handful of useful items you can use while hunting: potions, traps, bombs. These can all be crafted with things you gather on the maps.

Although typically the most important of these items are also purchasable from the shops in the Hub, so you don't have to be very up on this mechanic.

(Personally, I forget to do this kind of crafting all the time and have been fine)

14. Why am I not doing as much damage to monsters as my weapon says I should be?

I'll go more into this in the gear section down there, but in general this is a combination of the numbers on the weapons being inflated and the fact that not every move does 100% of that damage.

Don't worry if your weapon does 14 damage even though its listed as like 200 or even 2000 (I haven't seen the numbers yet), that's normal the way the math works out.

As long as your using a weapon within a rank or two of where your at, your good.

15. What is "mounting"?

In certain situations you can do a leaping attack a monster (typically when jumping off a ledge), this sometimes has a chance to knock the monster over.

If you were the one who initiated it, you get to play a little mini-game. If you succeed the mini game the monster is toppled over and everyone can wail on it for a bit consequence free.

If you did not initiate it: DON'T ATTACK THE MONSTER.

If you attack the monster, the mini-game the mounter is playing gets messed up and you fail the mount. Just take the chance as a time to heal/sharpen your weapons.

16. Why are people getting mad at me for hitting them?

Several of the larger weapons have large sweeping attacks that can do friendly fire. They can hit people and knock them out of their attacks.

In general its considered bad etiquette to knock people around with these abilities. Its usually easy to identify which they are, and generally no loss to the player to just not use the abilities.

So in general avoid them if possible in multiplayer, or at least try to make sure your out of range of your fellow hunters.

17. What is the point of blade sharpening?

In monster hunter Blade Weapons have to sharpen their weapon over the course of a hunt to keep it sharp and doing maximum damage. They do this by bringing whetstones and sharpening the blade mid battle.

The sharper a blade is the more damage it does, and the higher levels of weapons have lots of levels of sharpness. So keeping them sharp is useful.

In general this is easy enough to do safely. Monster will typically run between areas, and when they do give you plenty of time to sharpen your blade.

There are also plenty of skills that change how quickly your weapon dulls or how quickly you can sharpen it.

It may seem odd, but one of the main parts of the design of Monster Hunter is asking you not to just wail on enemies, but becoming familiar enough with them to know when you have chances of respite to heal, sharpen, reload, or any number of things.

18. What are palicoes?

Palicoes are NPC cats that come along with you on hunts. Each hunter in Monster Hunter World will have their own palicoe.

In general they are a weaker player character controlled by AI that can support you when hunting. They can do things like heal, buff your attack, aggro the monster, etc.

If there are empty slots in your party those slots will be filled by the party members palicoes if possible.

19. Are hunts harder with less people?

The Hunts in Monster Hunter World will scale with the number of people in your party. So doing them solo or with a party is more about the joy of jolly co-operation.

Specific Weapon-related Questions

These are a set of questions specific to how weapons work in Monster Hunter that confused me for a long time.

1. Why are all the numbers on the weapons crazy?

Yeah so if you start comparing weapons you may notice the numbers compared between different weapon types can be wildly different!

The reasons for this are simple: The numbers are bullshit.

They are based off stuff, but they use a bunch of math to convert them from real numbers to inflated/fake numbers per weapon for various reasons.

Instead of getting into those reasons just go with this advice: Weapons of the same rank are generally of the same strength, but if comparing within the same weapon category, higher number means more damage.

2. Why do all the elemental weapons have more damage than the non elemental weapons?

This confused the heck out of me for a long time. You may notice when you look at elemental weapons, if you add the base damage to the elemental damage the total is almost always higher than the comparable non-elemental damage weapon.

Unfortunately its not that elemental weapons are super strong, it's just a case of bad UI.

The elemental damage listed on a blade weapons is not applied on every hit. Instead you have a % chance (base 20 I believe), to apply that elemental damage on every hit you do.

The number listed on the weapon is the damage it will do if the elemental damage is triggered.

If you do the math you'll find that the expected average damage will be similar to the non-elemental weapons. Sorry, no super elemental weapons here.

3. Why would I use elemental weapons then?

The main reason to use elemental weapons is that most monsters are weaker to elemental damage than regular damage. So if the elemental damage does trigger it's possible for you to do more damage than a non-elemental weapon.

If you like those odds.

4. Why do people say to use elemental weapons on Dual Blades or Bowguns?

Well for Dual Blades the reasoning is expected values.

If your weapon is slower, you will get less hits on a monster over the course of a hunt, giving it less chances to activate. On the flip side Dual Blades get much more hits per hunt, so your more likely to be approaching the expected average.

Bowguns are a different story. Unlike blade weapons elemental shots always deal their elemental damage, and typically the elemental bullets just do more base damage than non elemental ones. So depending on the weapon its generally just a better idea to be using elemental shots if possible.

5. What about Status Damage on weapons, how does that work?

Status damage works the same as elemental damage in terms of % chance to activate on blade weapons.

As for how they are applied to monsters: The best example is Dark Souls status bars.

Essentially every monster has a different status total they have to hit to be affected by a status. When you deal status damage to them that bar increases, but it degrades over time. If the bar fills the total the status effect is applied.

Every time you successfully apply the status to a monster the size of the bar grows bigger, so it requires more damage to apply the effect next time.

6. What the heck is "Affinity"?

Affinity is Monster Hunters way of having critical hits.

By default weapons can't have critical hits, only weapons that have a positive or negative affinity value can.

The value on the affinity is the % chance you will get a critical hit, and what type of critical hit it will be.

If the affinity is a positive number, then you have that % chance to do +25% damage.

If the affinity is a negative number, you have that % chance to do -25% damage.

In general elemental damage is not affected by critical hits, unless you have an armor skill that changes that.

7. What the heck is a "Motion Value"?

First off: congratulations on watching one of those channels I talked about earlier in my post, or visiting a resource site for Monster Hunter! Good Research instincts!

You won't see the term Motion Value anywhere in the actual game of monster hunter, but you will see it references all over the place in external resources, so what is it?

A Motion Value is the % of your nominal attack a specific move does. Every move has a motion value, so you are never doing 100% of the attack listed on your weapon.

This is typically used as a way to encourage doing combos (longer combos tend to have a total combined motion value that is larger than just spamming one move), or by making longer riskier moves more powerful (charged attacks tend to have high motion values).

8. What is Monster/Part Toughness?

Every part of a monster has a Toughness. This is the damage reduction on any incoming damage to that part, and is a straight percentage reduction.

There is a different toughness on the part for every type of damage as well: raw, fire, lightning, dragon, ice, etc.

Typically monsters will have one or two areas that have lower toughness than the rest of their body, and so its a good idea to try to aim for those parts.

In Monster Hunter World this toughness information will now be available in the game itself, through the new encyclopedia feature on monsters.

Non Light Bowgun Users Look Away...





Light Bowgunners Hello

1. What makes the light bowgun distinct versus the heavy bowgun?

The main feature of the Light Bowgun is its "Rapid Fire" move, which allows you to shoot multiple bullets but only use one of your shots.

Rapid Fire is a bit of a misnomer in this case. The Heavy Bowgun is much better at doing high raw DPS because of their ability to load their full clip into their weapons.

Where the Light Bowgun excells is Effeciency.

Rapid Fire essentially multiplies your shot total. The additional shots from Rapid Fire are not typically at 100% damage (aside from fixed damage shots like status shots, which are at 100%), but even so you are increasing your shots by some % even if its not a simple 2x or 3x increase.

As a result the defining feature of a Light Bowgun is that it can more effectively use specialty ammo that is typically restricted by the # of bullets you can bring in a hunt.

2. What the heck is "Critical Distance"?

Every shot type that you can use in a bowgun has a different critical distance at which they do maximum damage.

You can tell if your in that critical distance because there will be some sort of on screen indicator when you hit the monster that you've done more damage, such a shaking screen or a noise indicator.

There is actually more than one critical distance as well. Theres a 1.5x damage one, 1.25x, 1.2, and 1x damage one, each have different levels of indication.

There's no great way to teach these distances, other than just using a lot of different shots and getting a feel for it!

3. Do all shots have a critical distance?

Nope. Only certain shots do.

You can either look up which ones do, or simply use them to figure it out. Typically shots that do not have a critical distance instead have a distance where they simply disappear off the face of the planet. (Elemental Shots, Status Shots are the big ones).

4. How does a Piercing Shot Work?

Most shots when they hit a monster simply explode and dissapear, piercing shots continue through the monster.

If the monster is big enough the piercing shot will hit multiple times while traveling through the monster.

5. What about Normal Shot Lv 3?

This is kind of the weird bullet in the bunch. This shot has a special feature where when it hits a monster it can split and bounce on the monsters.

This is different than a piercing shot because it bounces on the skin of the monster. It requires a monster with a large surface area, but not necessarily a deep body.

6. How does Shrapnel work?

Some ammo is shrapnel based, like a shotgun. When you shoot the bullet it actually shoots a spray of bullets that generally require you to be close to the monster to do maximum damage.

7. I always hear I should be using elemental shots on LBG, why?

Because you do the most damage with them.

Elemental Shots have a higher base damage than non Elemental Shots in general. Additionally, because of Rapid Shot the LBG can often fire more of the higher level Elemental Shots in a given hunt than a HBG can.

Once you add that to the fact that monsters tend to be weaker to at least one element than raw damage, typically elemental damage is your best bet to achieve high damage.

8. Ok but I've also heard that Status shots are important on LBG?

Yes, because Rapid Shot is incredibly Effecient with Fixed Damage shots.

The main limiting factor for bowguns using Status Shots is that typically you are only able to bring a handful of shots into the hunt.

This works out that, if your gun can even carry both types, with Lv1 and Lv2 shots you can maybe get 1-2 applications of the status on with a regular Bowgun.

With a LBG with those shots as a rapid fire, that increases to 3-4 due to the effeciency of rapid shot.

9. Does this apply to other fixed damage shots?

Yes! Lots of Light Bowgunners out there will run guns that have rapid fire on explosive shots, or shots that simply do a static fixed damage, because the extra bullets from rapid fire do not take a penalty on fixed damage.

10. What about these shots that heal or buff party members?

Personally I don't use them. They don't stack, if I remember correctly, with the equivilant items that give the buffs they give. Most Hunters if they want that buff bring those items with them, so seeking out a bowgun that is good at these buff/healing shots tend to be a wasted investment.

That being said it is a viable path to take. Your group of friends can maybe save time on buffs by just having you buff them.

11. O.K. whats "Deviation"?

Bowguns have a stat on them called Deviation. Deviation refers to how far the bullets tend to right or left. No deviation means they go exactly where your arming. L means left, R means right.

12. What about "Recoil"?

This is a bit more complicated.

Each shot has its own recoil level at which your gun needs to be to experience "no recoil". If you are within 2 levels of that, you shoot with medium recoil. Any farther is high recoil.

The recoils levels are: High, Average, Some, Low, V. Low, Minimum.

There are tables out there for what each shot has, but as you play the game you can get an idea for what each shot requires by feel.

13. What about "Reload"?

Same as above, each shot has its own level your guns reload speed needs to be at to reload it at its best speed. If you do not meet that level the ammo reload slower for those shots.

14. That's a lot to keep track of?

Thankfully Monster Hunter World has made this easier, with the new gun attachment system, you will be able to see the levels or reload/recoil for each shot in game in a handy table.

15. Attachments?

Yes in previous monster hunters you could add attachments to your guns to customize it slightly. Generally you could change the reload/recoil/deviation slightly.

The system in Monster Hunter world is a bit more robust than this now, I suggest watching the Arekkz video on this to learn more.

And there you have it, those are the questions I had when playing MH4U and the other Monster Hunters over the last 2 games. Hopefully this was useful for anyone reading it, if there's any questions I missed I'm happy to answer through the comments.

Start the Conversation

Dark Souls 3: Breaking the Tank

Hey there, I've been playing a bunch of Dark Souls 3 recently, and have been enjoying it immensely. However, while playing it seems like one of my favorite builds in DS is not quite as useful as it used to be. In fact I would argue that its almost completely useless in DS3.

The build I'm referring to is the classic Tank build of course. The build where you wear heavy armor, big shields, big weapons, and do little damage, but you survive huge hits by being like a giant rock. Every fight in this build is a battle of attrition, you don't do a ton of damage, but neither do they.

Now it's hard to talk about something being broken in dark souls games without being accused of just complaining due to losing fights. So to sidestep the subjective feelings on Tank builds, I decided to do some frigging math.

What follows is a quick and dirty mathematical breakdown of how much the "Equip Load Tank Build" really does just suck in DS3.

Lets do some math

So to do this math we need to understand the damage formula and how it interacts with various defense values. The first important thing is understanding how you even get armor numbers. There are two sources of armor in the game:

  1. Damage Reduction from your stats. This is gained from your soul levels or from points in VIT. Every couple of SL you'll automatically get some DR, while points in END will give you more DR per level. This number is unaffected by the type of armor you wear, just that you wear armor. The number of pieces of armor you wear affect how much of this DR you get, if you wear all 4 you get 100% of it. This number is a flat damage reduction. I.e. it just subtracts from the damage that would have been done to you directly
  2. Absorption from your armor. This is the only thing your armor contributes to the damage formula. This is a % reduction in damage and is applied after the flat damage reduction is applied. Some people claim that it has diminishing returns past 20%, but my testing did not prove this out.

With that in mind I went out and tested some damage to confirm the damage formula. This formula is guessed to be: (Damage - DR) * (1 - %of reduction).

I did this by standing and taking fireballs to the face, and calculating the damage. Why fireballs? They don't crit and they had a similar damage ratio as a small dagger did from enemies in the same area.

When doing this I had three armor sets, No Armor, the Starting Armor of the Knight class, and Heavy Armor on the same level as Havels (Top Tier Weight):

  1. Armor set 1: No armor, HP after hit 402/764, DR of 77. Damage Taken: 362. Original Damage: (362/(1 - 0)) + 77 = 439
  2. Armor set 2: Knight Armor, HP after hit 517/764, DR of 131 + 22.019%. Damage Taken: 247. Original Damage: (247/(1 - .22019)) + 131 = 447
  3. Armor set 3: Heavy Armor, HP after hit 547/764, DR of 131 + 31.568%. Damage Taken: 217. Original Damage: (217/(1 - .31568)) + 131 = 448

Now obviously this is a low data set, but it gives me confidence that the damage formula works as guessed. Its the most straight forward formula and seems to provide consistent results (variance in values should be expected from random damage multipliers).

We can't extract too many conclusions from this data yet, because I had an over inflated VITstat in order to wear the 3rd armor set, which gave me a larger flat DR for the 2nd set than it would normally have. But now we have a damage formula, so we can do some more hardcore math planning here.

Now to theory craft

So for theory crafting to compare how useful the heavy armor is, were going to start with these premises:

  1. We will do the math for 450, 900, and 1350 base damage. These represent a small hit, a medium hit, and a major hit. Based off of the 450 fireball doing about as much damage as a quick knife hit. But now we will do the math involving physical defense of these armors.
  2. We will do the math for the minimum build you would need to wear these armor sets from deprived state (with some error since I cant get exactly the right DR values, may be off +/5 DR)
  3. We will also compare what would happen if you poured leftover stats in Vigor for HP
  4. All of these builds are assumed to have a base weight of 19.6 (From a Greatsword, Shield, and Rings, which are all light tank equipment, builds that use Greatshields or Ultra Greatswords would require even more VIT).
  5. We also will assume all builds will be using a ring that gives them a 15% increase in maximum weight
  6. While some people may be fine playing with Slow Roll, most tanks still try to achieve the medium roll, because even with the tankiest build you still need to dodge. So all math is done assuming we need a 69% weight ratio. (Not 70%, that is a slow roll)
  7. Finally our final measurement will be the number of hits one can take before dying. Anyone who is familiar with D&D or DR in other things knows that its more useful the more hits you take, so just comparing damages directly is meaningless. What's more meaningful for players is how many hits they can take before dying.

With that in mind here are the four builds we will be calculating numbers for. The required VIT numbers are calculated from the rules above, they are left as an exorcise to the reader. The corresponding flat DR values were calculated by respeccing in game, and may be off by a few points due to me not being a deprived.

  1. Armor Set 1: Basic Knight Armor, No Vigor. Weight: 45.9 VIT Required: 18. VIG: 10 HP: ~400 SL: 9 Physical DR: ~94 % Reduction: 26.557%
  2. Armor Set 2: Basic Knight Armor, Vigor. Weight: 45.9VIT Required: 18. VIG: 50 HP: 1300 SL:48 Physical DR: ~110 % Reduction: 26.557
  3. Armor Set 3: Heavy Armor, No Vigor Weight: 78.5VIT Required: 58 VIG: 0 HP: ~400 SL: 48 Physical DR: ~146 % Reduction: 31.266%
  4. Armor Set 4: Heavy Armor, Vigor Weight: 78.5 VIT Required: 58 VIG: 50 HP: 1300 SL: 88 Physical DR: ~161 % Reduction: 31.266%

There are a few things you may notice in these builds. Such as the fact that the flat DR you gain from END is noticeable, but the % reduction between armors... not so much (there's a 39 level difference between 1 and 3 and a 5% reduction difference). The final build is included as an end game build, as to reach that soul level you would need to be basically at the end of the game, with almost no bosses left. It is included to see how tank compares at the end of the spectrum.

Now that we have these builds, LETS DO SOME MATH. Starting with the 450 damage scenario.

  1. Armor Set 1: (450 - 94) * (1 - .26557) = 261. Hits till death: 2
  2. Armor Set 2: (450 - 110) * (1 - .26557) = 250 Hits till death: 6
  3. Armor Set 3: (450 - 146) * (1 - .31266) = 209 Hits till death: 2
  4. Armor Set 3: (450 - 161) * (1 - .31266) = 199 Hits till death: 7

So, looking at these numbers. the third option performs VERY BADLY. Even though its SL 48 it survives about as well as a SL 9 build! You could essentially pump into VIT for half of the game and practically make no actual progress towards being tankier (not even counting that finding heavy armor in the game is a pain).

The fourth build also doesn't perform spectacularly when compared against its analog: build 2. You only get 1 more hit before dying for a difference in 40 levels. That's 40 levels you aren't pumping more into HP or into Stamina, Strength, or Dex. Is that single hit really worth that many levels?

But lets do some more math, this time with 900 damage:

  1. Armor Set 1: (900 - 94) * (1 - .26557) = 592. Hits till death: 1
  2. Armor Set 2: (900 - 110) * (1 - .26557) = 580 Hits till death: 3
  3. Armor Set 3: (900 - 146) * (1 - .31266) = 518 Hits till death: 1
  4. Armor Set 4: (900 - 161) * (1 - .31266) = 508 Hits till death: 3

Weirdly enough this basically susses out to the same as above, except that build 4 actually performs worse. This makes sense on some level, flat damage reduction is better for smaller quicker hits, and while the % reduction is more it doesn't eclipse the flat DR at this level.

Let's look at the last scenario. These are like BOSS levels of damage, so hopefully the fourth option here performs better:

  1. Armor Set 1: (1350 - 94) * (1 - .26557) = 922. Hits till death: 1
  2. Armor Set 2: (1350 - 110) * (1 - .26557) = 911. Hits till death: 2
  3. Armor Set 3: (1350 - 146) * ( 1 - .31266) = 828. Hits till death: 1
  4. Armor Set 4: (1350 - 161) * (1 - .31266) = 817. Hits till death: 2

Even at this level of damage, the reduction you get from the % reduction just doesn't outpace the extra health your getting from VIG.

Conclusion on Damage Reduction from Armor

Based off all this theoretical data, here are some conclusions I have come to:

  1. While these damage values represent end of the game levels of damage, I have a feeling that these numbers ultimately aren't that different from the early game. This is because the difference in % reduction is so small that it wouldn't be noticeable at a small level, and while you would have more flat DR, it still gets outpaced entirely by just having more health!
  2. The only situation in which the heavier armor build is better than the medium armor build has nothing to do with the armor. It's better in the first case because the flat DR from the VIT stat, and because the damage done is through small multiple hits.
  3. While at higher damage values the % damage reduction starts being noticeable (a difference of nearly 100 damage in the last scenario!), this difference just doesn't fill the gap made up by the Vigor stat. The effective number of hits you can take still remains the same. This is because the difference of 5% in reduction is just too small to make up for the stat gaps.
  4. Endurance is basically a useless stat until you've maxed your other stats. Once you've maxed out HP then endurance will be the only way to get reduced damage, but until then it's really just not worth focusing on.
  5. Going down the endurance path will lead to incredibly unsatisfying progression. This is because unlike other stats it's benefits aren't linear! While you get some flat DR from it, you really don't see a big difference in using it until you hit a point where it lets you wear new armor
  6. If your willing to take a fat roll these numbers may be a bit better for you, but I doubt it. If you want to take the fat roll, you'd need less VIT to be able to wear these armors, but If I were to take a guess, I think having fat roll would hurt you more than you'd benefit from a lower SL here (especially since you'd miss out on flat DR from extra VIT, the one area it did improve!)
  7. Focusing on this stat makes blocking/dodging harder. This is because you have to focus on VIT or VIG, but there is a third stat essential to tank builds: Endurance. In Dark Souls 3 monsters tear through your stamina while blocking with your shield, if you want to be able to block at all you'll need to pump some levels into stamina, making this build even more unfeasible.
  8. Finally this isn't even a full tank build. Most full tank builds in other games included a great shield (Havels) and a heavy weapon, which would require even more VIT.

So from all this the only conclusion I can come to is: If your on your first run through DS3 and are used to playing a tank build, just level up your vitality enough to not slow roll on some medium armor, then ignore it. You really won't get much out of it, and it will feel like your character is stagnating if you focus on it.

What about Poise?

Those of you out there who have played a lot of tank builds in the past may have noticed I left out all discussion of Poise. This is because honestly, no one knows how Poise works in Dark Souls 3 yet, so I can only really give me subjective experience on it.

For those who don't build Tank. Poise is a stat in the Souls series that determines if you can take a hit and not be interrupted. It's essential for tanks because it allows them to use slower weapons without being interrupted, and lets them do things like drink estus flasks while getting hit. Which is essential when your fat rolling or when your just not doing a lot of damage (a lot of tank fights are battles of attrition).

Poise in DS1 and DS2 is rather simple. Your character has a poise value determined by their armor, that poise value is a meter that gets drained every time your hit. Different kinds of attacks drain poise differently, and it refills over time. If your poise drops to 0 you get stunned (enemies get free hits on you), and your poise gauge immediately refills. DS2 introduced "Hyper Poise" as well, which is a mechanic that temporarily boosts your poise value while swinging certain weapons. They use this to essentially make it so those HUGE slow weapons are harder to interrupt.

Now in those games the values for poise on the high end were somewhere in the ~100 range (Havels Set in DS2 gave 132 poise), and attacks would do in the range of 5-30 poise damage depending on the type of weapon. It was possible to take hits from bosses and still not get knocked out of animations. This was essential for tank builds in boss fights as it let them heal mid hit.

Now in Dark Souls 3 the poise number seem to be much lower. The Knight armor gives you 21.68 poise, and the Heavy Armor I was using gives you 32.75.

These numbers are so much lower than they used to be that I have to hope that the system just works differently now (maybe its percentages based?), because if it worked the old way it used to then poise would essentially be useless.

So without some solid formulas all I can really give you is some anecdotal evidence, which is that poise seems to affect very little. Even with the heavy armor on I regularly get interrupted by thieves with daggers. I have to imagine its useless in boss fights. Either way it doesnt seem predictable as it was in the older games, which makes it much less useful, and the difference of 10 poise between the two armor sets really doesn't seem worth 40 Soul Levels.

Some final thoughts

From all of this above, I think I've laid out a decent case for why tank builds in DS3 are unsatisfying.

Before anyone comes into talk about how all these changes were intentional to discourage tank builds, even if you accept that premise how they achieved this is poorly designed.

In Bloodborne they achieved removing tank builds by just not giving you heavier armor, and by making all armor have trade offs. In this game there's a specific stat for being able to wear heavier armor that you can dump into, and just get nothing out of. It's easy for people who either played tank builds in old games or want to try heavier armor in this one to be tricked into essentially pouring stats into a useless area.

It feels like in this game they decided to make armor weight as constrictive as it was in DS1, but keep the stat changes in DS2, which results in a mess.

In Dark Souls 1, your maximum equip load was very hard to manage (there was a ring to increase it, but numbers were much lower than 2), but increasing your max load also increased your stamina. This let you be better at blocking with shields and dodging.

In Dark Souls 2, they separated equip load into its own stat to force tank characters to commit to a build, but they gave you two rings that increase your equip load and in general more soul levels to make up for the new stat. (So you could still pump your stamina for shields or health for hits)

With Dark Souls 3 they seem to have reverted to the weight balancing/soul level range of DS1 but keeping DS2s separate stat. As a result, like DS2 you have to really commit to equip load if you want to wear heavy armor, but unlike Dark Souls 2 you have to greatly sacrifice your other stats to do this, which really just makes it not worth it.

Anyways I look forward to someone who points out how I did some math wrong or Im missing some essential part of the equation that makes tanks work, but for now I've respecced my once proud tank warrior into a medium armor wearer with lots of stamina and health.


2015's Quick and Easy Dump Games and More (GOTY 2015)

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It's the most wonderful time of the year. The time where we all rank the games we loved or just liked this year and then yell at each other about how that one game should really be number 4 not number 5. Last year's GOTY I tried an excursive where I only wrote a sentence or two per game, this year I'm not doing that! You all get to get my full rambly and often grammar error riddled opinions on each of the games on this list. On top of that I'm not doing a top 10 list this year! Every year I look at my last years top 10 list, and I realize that about half the games on the list are just in a different class than the other half. This isn't because those games aren't good, I just wasn't passionate about them. This year I'm doing away with those "stocking stuffer" games and only putting down the games I really do care about. As a result this list is only about 5 games long, but thems the breaks! I definitely played more than 10 good games this year, but these 5 stand out above that crowd as games I will continue to care about in the future.

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1) Undertale

At this point I don't know if there's anything I can write about this game that you haven't already heard. I feel like every possible opinion about this game has a thinkpiece about it on medium somewhere. If your a big enough gaming nerd to be on this website reading this top list then you've likely already formed an opinion about this game. Maybe you played it and you liked it, or maybe you didn't, or maybe you did but didn't understand the hype, or maybe you were turned off by the obnoxious fanbase, or perhaps you've decided to rail against it for political reasons, or whatever.

Given all that, all I can say about this game is that it really connected with me. The humor really hit with me, made me laugh quite a few times. The characters are so adorkable (You gonna put a skeleton that I just want to hug in the game, Im gonna be happy), and the greater story and meta story really made me think about the games I play and how I play them. Few games have done that for me, so this game isn't just my favorite game of this year, but one of my personal favorites of all time.

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2) Hacknet

Hacknet is a game dripping with style. It does an incredibly good job of making you feel like your a hacker in a 90s movie. There are a lot of games in this pseudo-programming/IT gaming category. A lot of those games make the mistake of trying to be edutainment. Games like Hack N Slash, TIS-100, etc all present you essentially a training simulator for how programming works. The upside to these games is you learn something, the downside to those games is programming is kind of boring. There's also only so many problems you can present in those kind of games. How many times do you really need to solve the Tower of Hanoi problem?

The genuis of Hacknet is that it doesnt really expect you to know anything about computers. The most it asks you to do is know how "cd" and "rm" work, both which it explains. The reality of it is that the gameplay is dead simple, often just timing button presses while a timer ticks down. However, it drapes all of this in a super thick veneer of movie hacking nonsense. This is what elevates it from fun litte game to an amazing experience. Everything about this game is so perfectly on point with its style, with special shout out to the musical integration (the "Sequencer" mission in this game is one of my favorite things in all games).

If you've ever wanted to feel like a hero in a hacking movie sequence give this game a shot. It's just close enough to reality to be really immersive, without requiring you to actually know anything about computers.

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3) Tales From The Borderlands

Like a lot of people, I think I was a bit bullish on Taletall this year. For most people the Game of Thrones game this year had them wondering if Telltale was running out of steam. For me, I was never that invested in the action adventure game format they started with The Walking Dead. The last Telltale game I really enjoyed was Sam and Max.

Enter Tales From The Borderlands, a series that enough people were telling me I should play that I had to check it out. It does not disappoint! This may be the funniest thing Telltale has put out. I know some people aren't huge fans of the Borderlands universe, but don't let that put you off! All of the humor in this game is of its own distinct flavor, and it's often couched in genuinely serious moments that make you wonder how this could possibly be a Borderlands game.

On top of the amazing humor, the style of this game is just amazing. Every episode contains what might a well be a music video for some amazing pop music in the intro act. The story of the two dumbest con-artists in the universe trying to get theres is oddly compelling. All of it just comes together to create an experience worth playing.

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4) Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

This is a game that kind of snuck up on me this year. I had never really played the Monster Hunter games before, and the idea of playing a game with minimal story, focused mostly on gameplay, and one that requires such a large time investment really put me off. This is because, if were being honest, most games can't survive on their gameplay alone past like the 30 hour mark. Even the best gameplay focused games, your Mario games etc, get tiresome once you play them for that long. After playing Monster Hunter though, I can say that this is one of the few games that breaks that rule.

The complex systems of Monster Hunter readily make up for its lackluster story. The beauty of the systems is that their complexity is so easily and readily understood and so incredibly fun when you interact with them. The weapons all feel super unique, and for most people they will easily find one that fits their preferred style of fighting. The mechanics of how fights work: limb damage, traps, smoke, weather, etc; All of these have a basis in reality, so they are all readily understood. The way the loot system works seems weird at first, but you quickly understand how incredibly powerful it is. The equipment doesn't just increase arbitrary stat numbers, they give you abilities that literally change the way you play the game. The diversity of these skills ensure that there isn't just one single "best" set, the most powerful sets of equipment are determined by your play style not by arbitrary greatness.

I ended up playing Monster Hunter for over 200-300 hours right after it came out. The only other game I can think of that has managed to get me to invest that much time in it on gameplay alone is Nethack. Don't let that comparison scare you though, Monster Hunter is so much more accessible than it seems, and its the kind of game you can come back to over and over again.

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5) Pillars of Eternity

I'm going to admit this right now: I have a soft spot for Obsidian. They're gameplay is often not as good as it could be (Alpha Protocol), and their games are regularly riddled with bugs (New Vegas), but I feel like their one of the few companies out there invested in actually advancing the Role Playing genre in ways not directly tied to their gameplay. These days when we talk about RPGs we regularly focus on the story, which is either a prebuilt tale or one entirely driven by your characters BIG CHOICES, and the gameplay, which is often just a new take on how Cooldowns and Buffs work, but we ignore the "Role Playing" part of the games.

Enter Pillars of Eternity. The gameplay of Pillars is actually pretty sound on its own. It's essentially a new take on some old DnD systems, mixing in elements of 4th edition D&D with 3rd. The new takes on classic classes, Chanters for Bards and Ciphers for Spell Thieves, all work really well. It also manages to really capture the spirit of those old classic infinite engine games. On top of all that you get a pretty classically weird Obsidian tale. It raises some questions that it fails to answer, but its weird in a way thats nice.

The arena that this game shines though in my mind is the Reputation system, something Obsidian has been evolving and developing throughout all their games. I'm not even sure how many times it really comes into play in Pillars, but when it does come into play its a reminder that the world your in isn't static, that it's not just moved forward by the few big decisions you make. Essentially the way the system works is that it keeps track of the ways you respond to quests. Do you respond honestly to questions? Do you lie to people? Are you generous in your rewards or violent or greedy? These all feed into a system that then determines how people react to you, and how you can respond to them. The classic example of this working in practice is that if you are regularly honest to people, then sometimes you can skip parts of quests by just telling people the truth and having them believe you.

It's a rare thing in RPGs today to actually *encourage* roleplaying through mechanics, and even though its a small thing it left a big impression in my mind. I'm excited to see Obsidian continue to develop these ideas about roleplaying and reputation in games, and Pillars is the next exciting step in that direction.


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.


Types of Roguelikes

Ive been playing a lot of nethack guys
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

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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

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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.


Nethack, Spelunky

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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.


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
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.
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.
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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