Dark Souls: Exploring Is An Achievement

Normally, I dislike traveling in games because it seems rather pointless, but Dark Souls knows exactly how to design stages and build the perfect momentum to control the pacing of the player. Exploration serves as a preparation for the next boss fight.

After I defeated the Gaping Dragon, I spoke to the NPC, bought a Crystal Straight Sword from him. That sword helped me clear the beginning of Blighttown, until it was on the risk of breaking. In that area, I slipped and fell several times, but it wasn’t all that bad. By mistake, I fell down with the creature onto a ledge; from there I found myself a whip. Although it didn’t do much damage, so I had no choice but to use the Drake Sword and hack my way down to the bottom of that treacherous town, built on steep cliff. Eventually, I fell into the poisonous swamp as the narrowed path made it hard for me to swing and attack the Cragspiders.

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I don’t have the right stats so I was easily poisoned. I clumsily rolled on the sticky swamp, hacking my sword at every one of those giant-sucking mosquitoes that spit out a bucket of blood. They come in pairs. What a pest. Somehow, I managed to roll myself in that disgusting filth and found myself some good items, but at the expense of encountering scaly snake-like big leeches. They are so gross looking. I hurriedly found an escape from those leeches by stumbling into an opening of a tree trunk, which led me to The Great Hollow, one of my favorite areas in the game because I love trees!

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Have you ever been on a tall slide in a shape of an “S”? When I was a kid, I used to beg my parents to take my brothers and me to the neighborhood’s slide. It’s a lot of fun going down the slide. The Great Hollow reminds me of that slide, except you don’t slide, you drop below onto each branch, until you hit the bottom. Certain branches have shiny items that appear attainable, but at the same time out of reach. Most of items are materials for weapon/armor upgrade. I died several times, slipping off the branches thinking that I am so close to grabbing one. When I looked at the time, I realized I was spending about an hour or two in the area, trying to collect all the items.

Apart from falling off the branch because I misplaced my foot, I also had to face the big yellowish, orange bulging-eyes basilisks. They are cute but ugly at the same time. It released black smoke which will curse you and reduce your life to half. So you got to be careful and stay out of the smoke. Once cursed, you’d need a purging stone to normalize yourself. I don’t bother killing them with my sword. Instead, I lured them so they will stupidly jump in the air and miss the ground and fall straight to the bottom.

As soon as I made my way near the bottom of The Great Hollow, I started to get hungry for pine mushroom soup as these little cute mushroom creatures toddled its way towards me. It’s not friendly as it appear because it attacked me. So I sliced it up with my sword. It squealed and died. Then appeared the mama and papa ( I assume because they were bigger in size). I should have known better to kill someone’s children. One punch from the giant mushroom was an instant death for me because my life bar was already halfway empty. It’s back to the bonfire. I had to make my way down again.

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The more I think about the stages in the game, I had to climb down from that awful town and into the swamp to find an oasis. Out of this area is Ash Lake, a beautiful undersea-like world. Such a beautiful calming place. Exploring is a form of achievement. You never know what is at the end of that long, disgusting path that seem to never end. You will be rewarded greatly as soon you find a breath of fresh air. Likewise, I think of life the same way. There will be times you may feel uncomfortable and feel as if there is no end to your adversity, but there is. You just have to make the effort to get there. At least, this is the experience I got from Dark Souls.

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Now I don’t want to climb back to the Firelink Shrine or face Chaos Witch Quelaag. I just want to stay low underground far from human civilization with the Everlasting Dragon in Ash Lake. I have gotten so used to the solitary lifestyle of a solo traveler and I am a bit tired. For now, I’m going to curl up next to the dragon and shut my eyes because tomorrow will come another battle. Certainly, I cannot stay here for too long. Eventually, I have to report back to Quelaag as I am actually her apprentice, training to become a smoking-hot sadist. I’m just kidding!

P.S

There will be more Dark Souls content to come as I find this game to be an enjoyable pastime and a pleasure to write for this blog.

Going Back to Dark Souls

I don’t think I can last long without playing games. I was beginning to feel irritable. But more so, I was craving to play something that will prevent me from mind-wandering.  So I went back to Dark Souls Prepare to Die Edition (remastered version is not worth the purchase).  I realized the sound effects in the game are superb.  It is so soothing to my ears.  I’m in Blighttown at the moment, and I realized the sound effects can make the world in Dark Souls feels massive or enclosed.   Sound effects really matter to me more than the visual presentation.  It’s a huge determining factor whether I will enjoy a game or not.

Two things I learned from watching myself play the game.  I realized that I am not a skilled player–I just have a lot of patience.  I see my flaws on what I could have done better and how I could have killed the boss faster from watching the video clip below (sorry for the low quality clip).  The whole time I was observing my surroundings and thinking when to attack.  I do get impatient at times, if you  noticed how I swing my sword more than three times.  Two might be good, then back off.  Paying attention to your surroundings is important, especially when trying to study its move. Your environment is also your weapon.  Overall, the boss-fight was sloppy. I give myself a D+ for poor performance.

The second thing I learn about myself  is  the type of video games I enjoy the most is really just problem solving (how do I kill the boss efficiently.)  Honestly, I just want to kill the bosses in Dark Souls over and over and skip the exploration, so I can perfect at killing bosses.  I really don’t care about how difficult a game is. That sort of thing is a bit overrated. I just want to be entertained–not stressed. Okay, I admit sometimes my mindset do scare me a little, but you know kittens like to play with their food before they eat it.  I think I’m the same way.  I am just exercising my brain cells. So I expect a fun gameplay.  Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate a good story in games.  It’s just normally, if I want a good story, I prefer reading a book or watching a TV series. If video games have a mind blowing story, I might literally die from happiness because books + video games= lifelong companion.

P.S

I can’t wait to see Beauty and the Beast next month. One of my co-workers is performing.  Going there to give her my support.  So most likely, I will write my thoughts about the play on this blog.

My Thoughts on The Last of Us

I think I am quite unfair sometimes dismissing a game because of its popularity.   Back in 2013, there was this huge hype about The Last of Us. At that time, I was too busy playing Dark Souls II to drop the game to see what the hype is all about. Thanks to my purchase of the PS4 back in 2015 (the main reason I bought the console was for Bloodborne), it came with a digital copy of The Last of Us.  I decided to give the game a whirl because I want to challenge my preconceived notion about the game.

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To my surprise, I must admit, I did enjoy the game to some extent.  The biggest strength about the game is the father and daughter like relationship.  I found the father and daughter bonding between Joel and Ellie more believable than the father and daughter relationship I saw in Resident Evil Revelations 2, The Evil Within 2 and even Nier Gestalt (another topic I will go into detail at a later time).  Partly it’s because Ellie was side by side with Joel most of the time so I saw the father and daughter relationship growing closer.

Even in combat, Ellie is not useless like Sheva in Resident Evil 5.  Throughout the game, teamwork is heavily emphasized in order for the two characters to survive. The most memorable part in the game to me is when there was a switch from Joel to Ellie. At that point in the game, I didn’t know if she was all alone, until later, I found out that she was nursing Joel back to his health.  I was relief. When she drove the bad guys away from harming the injured Joel–that’s when I began to sympathize with Ellie because I would do the same for my dad without a doubt. I felt Ellie’s urgency to protect Joel. When the role was switched to Joel, I felt the very same urgency to protect Ellie from David, the potential rapist. That part really did strengthened their bond and implied how much they need each other to survive, but more importantly, how much they trust each other.

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As Joel and Ellie relationship deepened in the game, I felt sympathy for them. So towards the end of the game, my reaction when I had to shoot the doctor to save Ellie was plausible even if Joel was seen as a monster. Similarly,  Ellie is not that innocent and saintlike either when she hesitantly accepted Joel’s answer about the fireflies. For one, she trusts Joel with her life and grew attached to him. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing him, as we saw in the earlier scene where she threw a little tantrum and ran off with the horse.  But at the same time, she felt tremendously guilty for not being able to save human lives as she mentioned her best friend was the first to go, and of course there was Tess.

The story aimed at taking the realistic approach in life, depicting real human behavior. Every day humans make sacrifices and face tough decisions. With a stern face, Joel already made the decision to carve his own fate.  Any normal human being who underwent a traumatic event will never be the same.  He never recovered from the tragedy in the beginning (losing his daughter) but at least he has someone to fight for, which is Ellie.  It makes perfect sense why the title is called The Last of Us.   The game is about two people who lost everything–and they are not willing to give up on each other even at the expense of saving humanity.  From my understanding, the writer is trying to write an epic script where all human beings can relate to.   Joel is considered a romantic, chivalric modern day man who embodied the utmost masculine energy.  Ironically, some people argued that he is a bad guy.  It appears the writer must have agreed with the ancient thinkers that humans are fickle.  Joel is neither good nor bad.  But the moral of the story is not what bothered me.  The heart warming story and gameplay weren’t properly stitched together to bring out that quality game experience.  The game feels like a book, but plays like a movie.  There’s nothing really exciting about the gameplay.

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Typically,  I am not much of a stickler for story in video games.  Most of the time, if the gameplay is fun enough I will keep playing even if story is lacking.  The gameplay in The Last of Us is very stale and tedious. There were only two instances I thought was exciting.  One part is when Joel got separated from Ellie for a brief moment, forcing him to dive into the water and navigate in the dark enclosed area to find a keycard. In the area, there were clickers.  At first, I was a little nervous as I dislike dark places, filled with lurking monsters, but as soon as I realized I have many different types of weapons, my nervousness went away as there weren’t many obstacles to overcome in order to reunite with Ellie. I blasted the enemies away with my shotgun.  Once I obtained the key, I bypassed all of them and got out quickly.  Not much of a challenge there.  The other part is when Joel was hanging upside down shooting the infected. That part reminded me of a section in Resident Evil Revelation, where Chris Redfield fell from the cliff and was pinned down to the ground, having to defend himself from the approaching wolves while waiting for Jessica to make her way down to help him. The only difference between the two games, is that Last of Us gameplay is forgiving. The game autosaves frequently.   So if you die constantly, it puts you in a decent spot in the game to try again. If you get stuck in the game, push L3 button when it appears. This will give you a hint.  The game is very generous, but that consideration actually kills any challenges that the game has to offer, and what is even worse, it makes the gameplay become dull quickly as gameplay becomes predictable.  I think I would be just content watching a movie version of the Last of Us than go through all that unnecessary trouble.

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Honestly, I don’t have much to say about the gameplay in The Last of Us.  It’s very basic and simple. There was a lot of sneaking, hiding,  and some shooting.   There were plenty of  beautiful scenic areas in the game which stirred up some personal old memories, which I rather forget. Despite my personal little discomfort, the realistic setting in the game aligned well with the mature undertone of the game.  I didn’t mind the flow of the game.  I could play the game at ease during the weekdays.  I even completed the game on normal difficulty when I thought I was playing on easy mode the whole time.  Although I am not going to lie, there were a few times I died in the game.  The controls don’t feel as fluid as other games that I’m used to, which made the gameplay experience frustrating.  I admit, I  was swearing at the last section of the game when I was unfairly ambushed with flying bullets.  I rarely get mad in games by the way. The last section made it difficult to explore without getting spotted.

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To summarize my experience, the game felt very genuine to me as it amplified the American identity–a free and rugged individual who has a choice.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing? That’s for you to decide.   The more I think about it, the game is just a political statement more than anything.   I was entertained while the game last, but not entertained enough to demand for a sequel.