I played some Dark Souls.

It was OK.

I didn’t start the Dark Souls remaster intending to go all cheevo-mad, but the problem was that the very first Channeler – the one in Undead Parish – decided to drop the Channeler’s Trident.  It was kind of a sign that I was destined to collect every last rare weapon.

On a COMPLETELY unrelated note, I have some pretty unkind thoughts about Seath’s tendency to always be turning in the precise direction he needs to turn to have his tail clipping through the walls of his arena.  Completely unrelated.

When I played through Dark Souls on the PC, it had been out for several years and the online was being particularly glitchy, so I did absolutely no jolly co-operation.  I also tended to be really short on humanity, so I almost never took advantage of any of the NPC summons.  I did it The Hard Way, and I feel good about having done that.

Once.

This time through, I did a lot more co-op, and it was a good time.  I particularly enjoyed hanging out at the Centipede Demon and making sure that the host got the lava-walking ring. We didn’t always win, but it was a good feeling to know that the guy was going to have a much easier time on his next attempt.

I even put up with PC invaders for most of my first play-through, and I have to say that I can’t recommend the experience.  The last straw was being backstabbed, from the front mind you, by someone who was – on my screen, at least – well outside the reach of the massive 2-handed sword I was trying to flatten him with.  After that, I set the game into Offline mode, only switching back online when I was actually standing at a fog gate.

The older versions of Dark Souls didn’t have the ability to play offline without actually disconnecting from the internet, so if you needed justification to buy the remaster, I’d say that’s a pretty good one.

Griping about gankers aside, it’s still just about the perfect remaster of one of the best games I’ve played in the last… well, ever.  Now we just need… ah, never mind, I won’t even bother saying it. 🙂

 

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Solo: A Star Wars Story: Mildly Snarky Comment

Apparently “mildly snarky” is my phrase of the day, and I apologize for using it in consecutive posts.  Also there will be the tiniest of spoilers for Solo in this post, but they’re quite a ways down.  This would be a good place to stop reading if you haven’t seen it and want to go in completely blind.

I added to my growing collection of IMAX commemorative tickets today by taking in a showing of “Solo: A Star Wars Story”.  This was one of the stranger ones I’ve gotten, if I’m quite honest, being a collectible ticket that doesn’t actually have the film’s main character on it anywhere.

Maybe there are a few different versions?  I know they did different tickets for The Last Jedi, where weeks 2 and 3 got new art.  I only went during week 1 and was pretty happy with the particular variant that was passed out during week 1, since it features both Rey and Grouchy Old Man Luke.

Anyway, I am not really here to talk about IMAX collectible tickets.

I am required, as a boy type person who grew up in the 70s, to love all things Star Wars.  And, to be clear, I liked the movie quite a bit, though  I kept being bothered by not being able to place where I’d seen the actress who plays Qi’ra before.

For the record: I have seen all seven seasons of Game of Thrones.  I have a problem with faces.  I’m not sure if it’s actually prosopagnosia, but I have literally walked past my own mother without recognizing her, so maybe?

Anyway.  Despite liking Solo, I do think they could have cut back on SOME of the callbacks to previous movies.  It’s great that they did an origin story, and I absolutely LOVE Splinter of the Mind’s Eye so I was gobsmacked that they set some scenes on Mimban, but…

Look, maybe I should just give an example.  If you ever watched The Empire Strikes Back and really wanted to know the story behind this incidental bit of C-3PO dialogue:

Well, then you will probably be just as happy as I was about Mimban.  On the other hand, there’s an argument to be made that maybe spending too much of your movie trying to explain EVERY off-the-cuff comment made throughout the original trilogy is not a great use of screen time.

I’ll still see it again, mind you.  I’m not actually THAT bothered. 🙂

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A Cautionary Tale About Amazon Prime Pre-order Discounts

So, my copy of Dark Souls: Remastered arrived on Friday, and it is absolutely brilliant. I’ve just finished ringing the second Bell of Awakening and it’s off to Sen’s next for some swinging-blade action.

But that’s not the point of this.  The point is that, along with the disc, I got an email from Amazon telling me that they’d charged me $39.88 and that I had saved 0.11 with their pre-order price guarantee.

This… seemed odd.  One of the reasons I order games from Amazon is that, as a Prime Member, I generally expect to get 20% off on pre-orders.

So, I went to their chat support expecting to get an apology and an $8 credit and maybe a free month of Prime added on to my existing subscription.

Instead I got linked to this page of “cases where the 20% pre-order discount does not apply”, which I have reproduced below for your convenience.  Note rule #6:

So, apparently “re-masters” are now not eligible for the Prime discount, which is a weird and arbitrary rule.  It also doesn’t seem to be applied consistently – for example, I looked up the impending Switch version of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and that is showing me an available discount.  So this rule probably only applies to games that actually have “remaster” in the title.

This is the second time in a row I’ve had a bad time with their customer service, which historically has bent over backwards to make me happy.  The last time was when I had a $300 processor delivered to my neighbor two houses over, and the chat support agent told me that it had probably just been marked “delivered” by mistake and that I should wait a couple of days before talking to them about it again.

Anyway, it’s a small enough thing that I’m not going to go down to Best Buy and buy a copy with my GCU discount to return to Amazon to get my 40 bucks back, but it’s apparently annoying enough that I’m going to write a snarky blog post about it.

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I May Have A Souls Problem

So.  Dark Souls: Remastered comes out tomorrow, and I preordered the PS4 version ages ago.  Of course, between people who got their copies early and people who bought the PC version off Steam when it launched early, there are an awful lot of people already playing it and posting about it online.

I have commented in the past that one of the best things the Souls games teach is patience, so it is ironic that I am have been champing at the bit all day to get my hands on my copy so I can tear into it.  I confess that I checked the mailbox a couple of extra times just in case it had showed up.  This is not, by any definition of the word, a great display of patience.

So, when I got off work tonight, I decided that I was going to load up the original release of the game and mess around with a few different weapons that I’d picked up on my first play-through.  I went into Dark Souls fresh from playing through Demon’s Souls, and I had pretty much made exactly the same sort of character in both games – a lightly-armored, dex-heavy character who spent 90% of her time hiding behind a shield.

So, I took my end-game character down to the Kiln of the First Flame and spent some time hitting Black Knights with various weapons.  I figured the most important thing to do was to get in some practice with the Drake Sword, because it’s just so convenient to pick that up once you have a bow and a few dozen arrows, and I would grab that and then run to the Undead Parish and farm Balder Knights until I got a swag sword and…

…and that was EXACTLY what I had done last time, come to think of it.

So, I went through my Bottomless Box looking for other weapons that you can get early on, and I stumbled across the Zweihander.

I’ve never been a Big Damn Sword person.  Frankly, running around with a slab of iron that would make Cloud Strife blush seems just a little… brutish?  Not terribly appealing, anyway.

BUT.  I’ve seen an awful lot of people who absolutely rave about the Zweihander, and it’s not quite as ridiculous as the Ultra Great Swords, so I figured, you know, what the heck.  I’ll give it a try.

Several dead Black Knights later, I was in love with the thing.  I just wasn’t sure that it would actually work at low levels, so I was a little nervous about committing to going for a Big Damn Sword build.  I don’t remember if you can respec in DS1 or not, but memory is telling me that it’s Not A Thing.

Then, I remembered that I’d tried to get a friend interested in the Souls games by setting him down in front of my PC with a controller, and that I’d been shocked by how far he’d gotten with what seemed like a lot less effort than I’d had to put in… and his saved character was still sitting in the Undead Burg at like level 9.

Well.  It didn’t take much effort to run back to Firelink and make the mad dash through the graveyard to pick up the Zweihander, only to find that I couldn’t actually USE it without getting several points of strength, but some grinding took care of that…

…and then I blew through both of the early Black Knights, and the Taurus Demon, and the Bell Gargoyles, and let Lautrec out of his cell and pushed him off a cliff before he could go murdering anyone  and frankly I had to stop there because I probably should leave some of this for when I actually have the game I’ve been so impatiently awaiting.

It will be here tomorrow.  It had better be.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Gaming, PC Gaming, Souls | Leave a comment

Some thoughts about digital distribution.

One thing I didn’t expect to get out of starting this blog, a little over 11 years ago, was the ability to look back and see how my attitudes had changed over time.

One of the big things I’ve done a 180 on has been the virtues of physical media over download services.  I used to be incredibly averse to owning digital copies of things; it felt so ephemeral compared to having something physically in my hand and I loved the look of a crowded shelf of (books/movies/games).

Also, I felt that the phrase “digital distribution” was, in itself, absolutely the dumbest phrase ever.  I actually still believe this.  It’s right up there with using “DRM” to mean only SOME copy protection schemes.

But, times change and the joy of having shelves full of Things has faded.  I’m also a lot more confident that digital services will probably be around for the long haul – I’ve lost one or two things to rights issues over the years, but the only major service I’ve ever used that is now completely inaccessible is Desura.  And, I mean, Desura.

The last physical disc game I’m planning to buy is the Dark Souls Remastered edition, which will be arriving this week, and I’m only buying THAT in physical form because, well, in this case I DO want it on a shelf.

I am still, however, buying Switch games as physical copies.  This is mostly because I don’t trust Nintendo with anything online.

Anyway.  This is all a lead-in to talk about a page that I stumbled across on Microsoft’s site.  It isn’t, in itself, anything all that interesting – it just shows your Xbox 360 purchases in purchase order – but I found looking at the last page to be a fascinating look back at the bygone days of roughly a decade ago.

One thing I did NOT notice at first is that there is at least one thing missing, which does lend some credence to my worries about the Great Digital Holocaust.  Specifically, I’m missing “Boogie Bunnies”, which was a really cute puzzle game that came out in the early days of the 360.  It’s still on the Microsoft store, however, and I have the option to buy it for $4.99… so I think that I may have bought it when signed into the wrong profile, or something.  A little weird, but let’s move on to talk about some of these.

Space Giraffe was actually the reason I caved on the whole buying digital games thing.  It’s a shooter by Jeff Minter, and that’s all you need to know if you’re my sort of people.  It was 400 Microsoft points, however, and you couldn’t buy point cards for less than 800 points, so I bought Geometry Wars Evolved to use up the rest of the card.

Triggerheart Exelica and Omega Five and Rez… well, all of these are Japanese shooters of various sorts, and all of them excellent.  I actually owned the Dreamcast release of Triggerheart Exelica, so this may mark my first instance of buying a game a second time so I could have it on a new platform.

Undertow and Carcassonne were free games from Microsoft, for some reason.  I think Xbox live went down for a couple of days and they gave everyone some free games to apologize.  I’ve played like 10 minutes of Undertow.

Aegis Wing was another free game.  I think it was the winning game from some internal garage games competition or something.  It was OK, and free.

Oh, I just noticed one other thing missing from this list.  There’s no Yaris.  Man, that was a stinker, even for an advergame.

After that, we have Braid.  I didn’t pay for this one either, I actually won it from a Mountain Dew promotion.  Yeah.  Braid is about as far as you can get from the Dewritos stereotype, so I don’t get that either.  I didn’t particularly like Braid, but I’m told I have poor taste.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was a very fortunate purchase that came out of “I have a friend over, so let’s see if we can find a couch co-op game to play”.  We blew through the entire thing in one sitting.  There may actually have been some Mountain Dew involved, come to think of it.  I still have never gone back to play the single player mode.

Perfect Dark was the only game I even came close to finishing on the Nintendo 64, and I’d always regretted getting stymied by the final boss, so I bought the remake.  Eventually, I even played it.

And, finally, El Shaddai, which seems to have been the first full retail Xbox 360 game I bought in a digital version.  It was crazy cheap, if I recall correctly – I think it was 3 bucks or something, which was enough to induce an impulse buy.  It’s one of a few games that I’ve tried out, hated, forgotten about for a few years, then come back to and loved, and it really deserves to make its way to the Xbox One backwards compatibility program.

So.  I bought Space Giraffe in August of 2007.   El Shaddai was February of 2013.  This one little page of results shows five and a half years of digital purchase history, and a third of the things on it were freebies.

Five years on from El Shaddai, I want nothing more than to have a library that I can sit down to without ever needing to find a disc.  If you told me that ten years ago…

Well, anyway.  So that page exists and it’s an interesting look back.  I’d be interested in hearing what other people see when they look at the same thing, or if anyone else has had the same change of mind, or if you’re still in the take-my-discs-from-my-dead-hands mindset.

I should do the same thing with Steam sometime.  Hmm.

Posted in videogames, Xbox 360 | 2 Comments

E3 2018: Hopes, Wishes, and Dreams

It’s almost exactly one month until this year’s iteration of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, and gamers all over the world are starting to Get Hype about the futures of their favorite corporations and how they certainly will not be announcing that the next release of your Favorite Game Series Ever will be a wacky kart racer.

For mobile.

Free-to play, with Gacha elements.

In the spirit of the season, I would like to offer my own humble wish list, talking about those things I would most like to see and some more realistic expectations.

Sony: I’d like them to remember that they started putting out PS2 classics on PS4, and continue the series by releasing Fatal Frame 3 and Silent Hill 3. I’d also like to see announcements for Gravity Rush 3, a Bluepoint-remastered Demon’s Souls, and maybe a teaser for Horizon: Zero Dawn 2: Dawn Harder.

What I expect: Knack 3 and an announcement that they’ve given Yoko Taro a lot of money and a new foam head to make Nier: Automobiles: 2B’s Krazy Kart Racing.

Microsoft: I’m a huge fan of their backwards compatibility push and I think this is the year to announce Dreamcast BC, with Blue Stinger and D2 leading the list of games.  For bonus points, they should release a peripheral to let me plug in my VMUs so I can hear them scream.

No, really. I want to play Blue Stinger again.  I WILL go looking for Taco-Pen.

I’d also like them to add the Xbox versions of Fatal Frame 1 & 2 and Silent Hill 2 & 4 to their Xbox classic selection, and Onechanbara, X-Blades and Blades of Time to their 360 compatibility list.

I guess they could announce some Xbox One software, too, but I’m cool if that doesn’t happen.

What I expect: Halo 6, only now it’s a wacky kart racer and you can only play as Master Chief on a third of the tracks.

Nintendo: I’d like to get a new Fatal Frame game and remastered versions of Fatal Frame 4 and 5. I’d also like to see more unexpected crossovers like Mario / Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, because that was a mashup that just worked brilliantly, and up-scaled versions of the Metroid Prime games so I can play them with modern dual analog controls.

What I expect: Mario Kart, only now it’s a brown cover-based third-person shooter.

Bethesda: I really don’t care what they release, as long as they put out some games. They said that they had three projects to ship before the next Elder Scrolls game, and frankly they can release Dovahkin Karting if it gets them one step closer to ES6.

What I expect: Skyrim for AppleTV, and some random five-to-ten-year-old shooter ported to Switch so 30-something tech bloggers with young children can play it on their commutes and rave about how it’s brought them back into gaming.

Electronic Arts: I’d like to see another Titanfall game, EA Access for Playstation and a remastered version of the original Mass Effect trilogy, even though I just finally broke down and bought all of the DLC for the Xbox 360 version.

What I expect: Mako Kart Racing.

Actually I would play this. Please make this game.

Sega: You know, I don’t really have a lot of demands for Sega. As long as they revive the Panzer Dragoon, Shining Force, Phantasy Star, Streets of Rage, Golden Axe and Eternal Champions series, and maybe announce an epic trilogy of Ecco The Dolphin games, that will be enough.

What I expect: God, I don’t even know any more and I think I’ve driven the kart racer gag into the ground. Maybe they’ll put out another Yakuza.

Ubisoft: I unironically love the “Ubisoft Formula” so I’m cool with whatever they put out, as long as I can slowly unlock a map covered with icons and then check every one of those icons off a list.

What I expect: I expect to get exactly this.

Square-Enix: Look, I just want a release date for Kingdom Hearts 3, and maybe a series of videos I can watch to catch up on which characters are the Heartless or Nobody versions of which other characters and to remind me what the deal is with Organization XIII. Oh, and a new Deus Ex game that isn’t a prequel would be neat. Give me that.

What I expect: A montage of Lara Croft being impaled, eviscerated and fed through a wood chipper, in glorious 4k.

Koei-Tecmo: Biggest wish: DOA 6 is announced, and you can bring forward all of your purchased DLC from DOA5: Last Round

What I expect: DOA 6 is announced and you can bring forward none of your purchased DLC from DOA5: Last Round.

FROM Software: I want to see more of whatever it is they were teasing at the Game Awards in their “Shadows Die Twice” trailer, and I would like it to be another Souls-like action RPG.

What I expect: We will get another teaser trailer and still know absolutely nothing about the game.

Blizzard: This will finally be the year Starcraft: Ghost gets revived and re-announced. Also I want an Overwatch spin-off starring Mei.

What I expect: Loot boxes, and an on-stage announcement that they’ve decided to just remove the Alliance faction from World of Warcraft because – despite years of them trying to make their intentions very clear – players haven’t taken the hint yet.

Daybreak: If the staff can pool together and afford cab fare to the convention center, I’d like an announcement that they’re actually making Everquest Next, this time for sure.

What I expect: A hilarious road-trip movie where they don’t actually make it to E3 but learn valuable life lessons along the way.

…well, I’ll just cut it short here. Regardless of what YOU’RE looking forward to from this year’s E3, I think we can all agree that it’s a magical time of year and that, once the dust has settled <your personal favorite megacorporation> will obviously have “won” E3.

Posted in videogames | 4 Comments

Hello my baby, hello my Dharlu, hello my ragtime gal

So, in an effort to avoid ever sticking to a single theme for this blog, today’s post is another one about comic books from the 1970s and how plot elements that seemed to make perfect sense as a small lad are actually kind of terrifying when looked at through adult eyes.  It’s a direct sequel to yesterday’s post, so go ahead and read that one first if you have a moment.

If you haven’t, the short version is that the JLA – that’s Justice League of America, emphasis on the Justice – solved a tricky computer problem by kidnapping a pregnant alien and keeping it locked up on the JLA Satellite.  You could easily argue that the laws of Earth don’t apply to aliens, or that they don’t apply to objects in orbit, but there’s still a high WTF factor there.

Anyway, I got curious as to whether the Dharlu situation – that’s the alien in question – had ever been resolved, or whether this had just been a one-off thing that had been forgotten.

Here’s the thing about comic books, though: nothing ever really gets forgotten, and the Dharlu does show up again.  The first time is only about a year later, in Justice League of America #141, cover dated April 1977.  This is the second half of a story featuring the Manhunters, a group of androids who were the precursor to the Green Lantern Corps but who got decommissioned for pursuing their goal of Galactic order with just a tad too much zeal.  If you made it through that sentence without just closing this page and finding something else to read, my hat’s off to you.

Context: At one point, the Manhunters trap The Flash and Wonder Woman on the JLA Satellite, surrounded by an energy field that will kill them in a few minutes.  The Flash could disrupt it, but he’s injured.  Fortunately, Wonder Woman remembers that there are actually THREE people on the satellite:

Let’s take a moment here, and consider the origin of the Amazons, Paradise Island, and technically Wonder Woman herself.  While I’m not sure if it had been explored as of the time this comic was written, the Amazons were originally slaves.  They revolted against their captors and escaped, eventually finding Paradise Island and building a world Free Of Man’s Tyranny.  So, here’s Wonder Woman admitting that she knew that the JLA was, well, keeping a woman in chains, which is just a little off but whatever.  At least she’s finally busting it out, even if it’s just because it happens to be able to sub in for the temporarily-incapacitated Flash.

I’ll skip the bit of the comic where the Dharlu does, in fact, save the day, because it really isn’t important and we should get right to the point where Wonder Woman apologizes to the poor gal for her involuntary confinement and bids her a tearful farewell OH WAIT.

Nope, it’s back in the freezer for you.  But we feel just super bad about it and we promise to get it all fixed soon, just as soon as those parts we need to keep the JLA computers running arrive.

I can’t find any references to the Dharlu after this point for quite some time.  The next time it shows up is actually in an issue of Detective Comics, during the time when DC had started publishing “Dollar Comics” (64 Pages! No Ads!) in an attempt to get newsstand space back from magazines, whose higher profit margins were displacing comics.  Yes, Virginia, there was a time when you didn’t need to walk into a specialty comics shop and face the judgemental eye of…of…well, of someone who would write long blog posts about the horrible things that the Justice League used to do to aliens.

Um.

A little self-inspection might be useful on my part, here.

Let’s get back to Detective Comics, issue #489, dated April 1980.  Dollar Comics were almost always made up of several short stories, sometimes to keep less-popular characters in the imagination of the comics audience, which explains why there’s an Atom story in the pages of a comic more typically associated with the Bat-family.

Short summary: The Atom is on “monitor duty” in the JLA Satellite, which is a polite way of saying that the JLA was off on important business and had no use for a guy whose power was… ah, heck, let’s just let the Omnipresent Comics Narrator cover it.

Not an AWFUL power, but yeah.  It’s going to get you stuck on monitor duty a lot, at least until Batman drops something that rolls under the fridge again.

Anyway, the JLA computer is having problems, so Ray shrinks down to go inside and check it out.  Let’s not fuss about the details, because they would drive you mad and we’re mostly here to talk about alien slave girls.

Anyway, the problem with the computer is immediately evident:

It’s got a bad case of aliens.  Specifically, the Dharlu has finally given birth, and now there’s a whole bunch of tiny purple guys floating around inside the computer and causing problems.  I know the feeling, really.  I frequently have computer issues that could easily be blamed on tiny purple guys clogging up my RAM.

Now, this is only a five page story, so I’ll just sum up the next three pages as a kind of mediocre fight scene.  The Atom’s powers don’t exactly lend themselves to cinematic action sequences, and it’s mostly him running away so he can get out of the computer and back to normal size.

Then he purges the Dharlu babies into outer space and all’s well again.  Note that, while he escaped from the computer by growing back to full size, he felt the need to shrink back down again so he could push the “Run Program” button.  At some point, Ray, we need to have a talk about your obsession with being the size of an action figure.

We also need to talk about these charges to AmiAmi on your JLA-issued credit card.

To the best of my knowledge, that’s the end of the Dharlu Saga.  It’s not a happy ending, but I guess there’s a tiny positive note?  She’s still locked in the JLA computer, but at least her kids got out to make their own way in the universe – and there was never a story where the baby Dharlu grew up and came back to get revenge for their mother, so I guess some things in comics CAN be forgotten.

That was over a thousand words to say “comic books are weird”.  I need to find more productive things to do with my life.

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