Monday, February 17, 2014

This Blighted and Forgotten Land

The land of Lordran in Dark Souls has fallen on tough times when the events of the game are set. The flame that drives the world is guttering, its denizens are mostly gone or hollowed to the extent that they are mad, zombie-like creatures, and it's infrastructure is crumbling. It needs to be burned, flooded, or otherwise demolished and allowed to be grown over.

In the meantime, though, there are adventure and loot to be had, friendships and enmities to be established, and many foul demons to be slain. This is where I have been spending the brunt of my free time over the last couple of weeks or so.

My character, Fridge, started off in the undead asylum as a knight, and I have mostly focused on building a mix of strength, vitality, and endurance, such that, at soul level 65, now, I am wearing the heaviest (and ugliest) of armors--Smough's set--and can still move and roll with at medium quickness. With Havel's ring, of course. This doesn't leave much unused equipment burden potential, but thus far I've been very happy with a longsword (now +15). A more experienced player and friend recommended I try some of the heavier weapons, since I have the strength for them, and just dial back the thickness of my armor to allow for that. I may give that a go, at least temporarily, while I continue to spec out my character for hard and heavy hits, both inbound and out.

Progression-wise, I am somewhere around halfway through the game now, I think, DLC included. I have rung the two bells, gotten the Lordvessel, gotten Artorias' Covenant, and re-visited the undead asylum. That leaves entering the painting in Anor Londo, going to the DLC areas, attaining the four Lord Souls, and defeating Lord Gwyn to end the game, along with many other miscellaneous optional goals I might like to take on.

I'm not sure what the time frame on actually doing all that is, though. It's not likely to happen in the next week, before the release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, which I feel it is my solemn duty to play as soon as possible. I may sort of bookmark my current place in the overal grand structure of Dark Souls, and play the game farming souls and humanity and forging weapons and armor for the next week before some time away from the game. I might be able to knock out some smaller objectives, like the painting and the DLC in there, as well.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Where the Wind Takes Me

I've been kind of flitting from thing to thing for the past three weeks, not really committed to any one game, but dabbling in quite a few, some even for more extended periods.

Super Mario 3D Land saw a few minutes' play, as did my replay of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow on the PC.

I wanted to play a little more Morrowind, but the install was corrupted, so I ditched that once more, and instead started Skyrim. The fifth Elder Scrolls game feels a whole lot like the fourth, but with some quality of life improvements. This is my first time really focusing on a bow-wielding in this series, though, and together with stealth, it's working out pretty well, so far. I would guess Skyrim would see a lot of play time, but to be honest, that is scarce these days, so I'm not too sure about that.

I've spent a little time with Shogun 2, trying to crack that game, somewhat half-heartedly. I've got it in me to give it a few more honest tries, when the wind is right. It was right for Dota 2 last week. I played three or four matches, the first in quite a while. It's still great fun.

I caught a not-so-fresh whiff of Terraria, though. It just strikes me as a flat Minecraft. I don't care for the way it handles, and I feel no motivation to build or explore as a consequence of that. I know it has dissimilarities to Minecraft, but I can't help but feel like I'd rather play the latter, and spend that time in game with a world with more depth, if you will. Rather than play Terraria any more, maybe I'll check out Starbound sometime in the future. The space exploration angle has caught my eye.

The Spelunky daily challenge is still part of my routine, and doesn't show any signs of fading from it. I keep getting further and collecting more treasure; I think I might complete it at some point--through the temple, anyway. Another game I might complete at some point, because it really is very interesting, is Dark Souls. I've gotten back around to my quest there, and made some good progress in the last week or so. Namely, getting through the Depths and the Gaping Dragon, and on into Blighttown, on my way to wherever that second bell is. I doubt I'll be done with this game by the time the sequel is out, but I'm not too concerned with that.

Another very challenging and interesting game I've dipped into is La-Mulana. It's got a fun look and feel, and great music, too. Imagine if the combination of Metroid and Castlevania occurred on the SNES rather than the PSX, and now dress that in an Indiana-Jones-by-way-of-Japan style, that is about what you're looking at with La-Mulana. It is known for difficult bosses and even more difficult puzzles. I'm drawn to explore its ruins some more.

It would be remiss for me to not mention The Banner Saga here. I'm a few hours in, and have been really very impressed with all aspects of the game. It's a war story set in a frozen Nordic fantasy land where you play the leaders of two refugee caravans traveling the land in search of safety and salvation, and it's very well done. It makes an interesting companion piece to games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre. It shares many themes and motifs with those, though the execution is quite different.

On the book front, I'm about 365 pages into Red Storm Rising now; still under the half-way point, but it's pretty good, so far. It's wild seeing a presumably realistic take on how World War III might have played out in the mid-eighties.