Monday, March 3, 2014

The Only Constant

I outlined in my last post the upcoming handoff from Dark Souls to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, and that has happened, but with some other unexpected developments, as well.

I've missed my Spelunky daily run a number of times over the last week, either out of fatigue or forgetfulness. Once I was just too absorbed in Dark Souls, and played right up to my hard cut-off for the night. Another time I completely forgot about the run playing Castlevania, and finally last night I was just too beat by the time I could have played to actually go ahead and do so. Will I ever actually beat Spelunky? Despite how much I've played it, I have yet to ever get past 4-2, and to even finish it the easy way, I have to finish 4-4. Meanwhile, since I learned how the City of Gold is accessed, I've been trying to fulfill the reqs for that each game, and that more often than not spells an early death that might otherwise be avoided. It's a tough time for Spelunky runs, right now; I'm only scoring in the 40-thousands when I do a daily, and I don't really ever do anything else.

I was in the Titanfall beta for PC for a few days; it's a pretty fun game. It is definitely more of a giant kill-churn sort of game, with rapid respawns and highly lethal weaponry. I may pick it up for cheap at some point after release. I mention it because it also segued into playing some more Battlefield 4 over the last week. I do think BF is still my multi-player shooter of choice, but being an ultra-casual player, I am no good at it at all, and overwhelmed at the amount of stuff in the arsenal. I am just trying to stick with the most basic stuff in each kit until I figure out what any of it is good for, or until I nail down some sort of role I like to take on the battlefield. I think I like the vehicles more than anything, save for the jets. The maps are just too small to make flying a jet anything more than a bunch of turning and looping maneuvers, as far as my abilities go. Maybe I'll try to practice flying more, because on paper doing so should be a blast.

Another unforseen event in the last week was the appearance of the Diablo III pre-expansion patch with the Loot 2.0 and Paragon 2.0 updates. I hopped back into the game, now with a completely different difficulty mode assortment, and picked up my Barbarian again. Within just a couple of hours I have geared him out to a strength exponentially better than what I had before, and also withint a couple of hours I had found 3(!) legendary items, where before I had found the same amount in 200+ hours of playtime. And these new ones were even desireable! So, thus far I am thinking Loot 2.0 is a success, if what Blizzard is looking for is to drive people to gear up by actually playing the game as opposed to playing the auction house. Not that we will have any choice, soon, but that is another discussion.

With these new changes to the game, I am more excited to play it, and for Reaper of Souls to come out, than I have been in quite some time. At release, I think I may create a Crusader and jump right ahead to Act V to play through that once, since that should be completely doable with the way monsters now scale to your character's level, and difficulty levels have more to do with how well your character is kitted out than anything else. The progression idea seems to be to play Normal until you have some decent magical equipment, and then switch to Hard and gather some good rares, then switch to Expert when you are well gemmed-out, and so on and so forth, staying in a difficulty mode until you are so geared as to just steamroll over everything, and then moving up for more challenge, gold, experience, and possibly better drop rates in the later, higher difficulty modes.

A Dark Souls update on where I left off for Castlevania: after my last post, I proceeded to test out some of the ultra-greatsword class of weapons, and I have fallen in love with the Zweihander, a huge greatsword that, while it has a lower max damage than others, is faster to swing, and does incredible damage to the enemy's poise, staggering, and in some cases, knocking them down. Knocking a silver knight or darkwraith into a faceplant is an awesome feeling. I've also leveled up to the point where I can use it along with some of the heaviest armor in the game, in fact I have also leveled up a couple pieces of the Giant armor set to the maximum to replace Smough's set in some instances. I also ascended the Zweihander to +15, as well. The Souls games have some of the most satisfying character building of any games I can think of. Progression-wise, I fought through the Catacombs and Tomb of Giants and killed Gravelord Nito, and then went into the Painted World in Anor Londo, where my character now awaits my return.

This brings me to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, the long-awaited sequel to 2010's epic action-adventure series reboot with a twist. Without attempting to spurn the sequel, I wonder if maybe they should have just left off after that amazing epilogue to the first game. It was the type of thing to set the mind spinning with all sorts of grand ideas for the type of game that could follow, and what could conceivably live up to everything their hints might inspire hope for?

Well, for better or worse, they went ahead and actually made the game that logically follows on from said epliogue, and I'd like to just take a moment here to appreciate that they actually went ahead and did it--this absolutely mind-blowing thing--they actually went and tried to realize it. I think that took balls. Real balls. Just upending the confused morass of what Castlevania had been prior to Lords of Shadow, incurring the wrath of thousands of nostalgia-blinded and dependent fanboys took balls. But this--holy shit. I can't imagine Konami was on board with the idea right away--it's just not the sort of thing you see in large-scale AAA games, especially ones using an established franchise or brand. So, plaudits to Mercury Steam for that.

As for how the actual game has turned out; my overal impression so far is pretty good. It retains a good deal of what the first Lords of Shadow had, and adds some great combat moves with the new Void Sword and Chaos Claws that replace the light and shadow magics of the original. The combat is fun, the boss battles are cool, the graphics and art in the gothic areas are great. The modern areas are weaker, of course, probably due to the fact that modern environments are inherently less interesting than dark gothic fantasy ones, but there is also an embarrasingly amateur scaling issue in the modern areas. Dracula appears to be about 3 feet tall in the modern era, doorhandles towering above him. Trash cans and industrial liquid totes are neck-high on the Prince of Darkness. It's sloppy, and immersion-breaking, and ridiculous, but at least there is no functional detriment to the game, otherwise.

I have been ejoying the game so far, but I have to admit that my general ambivalence to this whole genre and its contrived puzzles, arena battles, and improbably designed spaces with inexplicably extant collectables grates on me. I kind of just wish all of my favorite parts (which, if I'm honest, are just the story-related bits and cool art and environments) could be presented to me without all the filler. I'll keep the combat, since that is fun, but I could easily lose much of the rest.

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