Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The sky(rim) is falling

So it's been awhile since my last post. And maybe the title is a little alarmist. It's not the end of the world here.

I've been playing Skyrim (mostly) with a brief run back to Skyward Sword. Skyrim is a ton of fun and it deserves all the awards it's getting. Unfortunately for me I hit a main quest stopping bug last night that prevents me from moving forward in the story. Basically I gotta talk to a guy (which the game didn't seem to register) and he sent me to another guy who gave me a quest. I finished that quest but couldn't complete it because guy 2 keeps talking about guy 1. So I go to guy 1 and he sends me to talk to guy 2. And round and round we go.

Apparently they fixed this bug for the PC, and patch 1.3 that came out last week obviously didn't fix it. Thankfully I am not at a loss of things to do. And I really, REALLY love this game. But it's disappointing that after over 40 hours of playtime the main quest is now off limits to me. And if for some reason they don't fix it, I would need to start over just to see the main storyline to its conclusion. And that would make me very sad. And a little T.O.'d.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dark Souls

I won’t spend any time telling you what Dark Souls is (the spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls and all that). If you’re reading this blog you know what it is. You’ve probably played it. What I wanted to do in this post is explain a little of my experience with it. I don’t think there will be any major spoilers, but there might be so be forewarned.

Dark Souls isn’t a casual game. I suspect that most (not all, but most) gamers who didn’t grow up on the tough games in the 80s (ie: Ninja Gaiden, Battletoads, etc.) might not last. It’s brutally difficult. But that’s something you can adjust to. It took me about 5 hours to get from the tutorial area (Undead Asylum) to the first boss (Taurus Demon) in the Undead Burg. But after 20+ hours I can breeze through most of the Burg in 5-10 minutes. Yes my character is stronger, but I know the game better. I know how the enemies fight. I know their patterns. Like the dragon near the end of Mega Man 2. Sure you were balancing on single blocks suspended above a bottomless pit, but you could learn its patterns and beat it easily. But the first few tries, forget it. Dark Souls is kind of like that.

I’m not saying Dark Souls is like Mega Man. But the challenge and memorization of patterns reminds me a little of Mega Man. But the world it places you in is very different. You spend most of the game “hollow” (basically you’re dead). And the people you meet along the way are also hollow. And boy are they depressed. Not only that but the environment, especially once you get indoors and underground, is probably the most oppressive environment I’ve ever played. Yes it’s dark. Yes it can be hard to see two feet in front of your face. But the hopelessness and oppressive feeling you get while wandering this world is almost tangible.

I haven’t finished the game yet. I’m in Sen’s Fortress right now. But having just gone through Blighttown and beaten the Chaos Witch Quelaag (basically a big, fiery spider woman), it took effort to keep going. Not that the game isn’t fun. It’s a total blast to play. But it takes a toll on you. It’s the only game in recent memory that if I played just before going to bed I laid awake for a few hours thinking about it. Not in a nightmarish way, but just some of the stuff I did and would be doing soon. “Remember those big guillotines on the narrow bridges in Sen’s Fortress that would knock you off into a pit of giant demons? Yeah, you’ll have to do that again next time. Remember how dark it was? And that snake soldier guy was shooting lightning at you from the floor above you while trying to cross that narrow bridge? And you could hardly see? Yeah. You’re doing it again because you died. Again.”

So I love Dark Souls. But it really does take effort to play. The only reason I’m not playing it now is because of a few little games that came out since then (Uncharted 3, Skyrim and Skyward Sword). But I really hope to get back to it. It’s not often that a game is rewarding as this. When you get through an area, no matter how hard it is or how hopeless and helpless you feel, to finally come out alive on the other side is incredibly rewarding. To take on a dragon that towers over you and just happens to have a giant mouth on its underbelly full of razor sharp teeth (see the hideous beast below) and to beat him in one try is extremely gratifying. You might spend hours trying to get through one area and then take out the boss easily. You feel good. Then you get instantly humbled going to the next area and killed on the front steps.

This is Dark Souls. Prepare to die.

Btw, there is an excellent review on Splitkick.com by my friend Peter Tell. You should check it out.


Friday, December 2, 2011


First off, I promise I'm not going to cleverly title every post based on the game I talk about.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way. In 93 or 94 I felt like I was late to the PC game (no pun intended). They were gaining popularity but were still outrageously expensive. I think our AT&T Globalyst (for its stunning specs, see Myst-ified post) cost around $2200. For that price nowadays you better be buying 3 laptops. Or one Macbook Pro.

Still, I wasn't new to gaming. I had the NES for years then picked up the SNES at the toy store in the mall (I didn't even know it was out). But I was new to PC gaming, especially playing against other people via dial-up. But I was at a huge disadvantage. For all its high tech wizardry, our computer's modem was also its sound card. And for some reason, according to AT&T tech support, sound wouldn't work if I was "online". Who plays online anyway though right?

So my aforementioned friend Chris, the one who introduced me to Myst, introduced me to Doom. And not only Doom, but multiplayer Doom. So here I was creeped out by the atmosphere and all the 2D blood and guts (which was awesome), but I had no sound. That actually made the game more terrifying. Not only that, I liked to hide in a mass of barrels. The kind that (unbeknownst to me) exploded when you shot them.

So there I was in my first multiplayer game, backed into a corner because I couldn't hear a thing and was trying to see as much of my surroundings as possible. I thought I was hiding in a great spot. I had barrels all around me! So along comes my friend. He can't see me. Haha! I've got you! I start shooting. He turns and starts shooting. Then BOOM! The screen goes red as I die in a blaze of 20 exploding barrels.

Lets play again.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Skyrim vs Skyward Sword

I figured I should take a moment to talk about two games I'm playing right now. They will come as a shock to absolutely no one. Bethesda Games Studios Skyrim and Nintendo's Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword.

In one sense these games couldn't be more different. One is a massive "sandbox" fantasy RPG set in a gritty and deadly world where you can do whatever you want, the other is set (10 hours into it anyway) in a bright and colorful world of talking plants and villains in unitards. With Skyrim my wife has asked me to stop and turn my character around so she could marvel at the world. She calls Skyward Sword "Candyland". But does that mean one game is for grown ups and one is for kids? By no means!

Skyrim as you probably know is the 5th game in the long running Elder Scrolls series. I put many hours into Morrowind on the PC and only a handful of hours into Oblivion (which was my fault for waiting 5 years to play it). The original Legend of Zelda was probably the first RPG-like game I ever played. I've got stories about my 7th grade self trading secret locations with my classmates on our overworld maps. Skyward Sword is the latest entry in that long running series, and most likely the last game on the Wii.

But I love both games. Skyrim, in all it's gritty, bloody, open world glory shows me how far games have come. I shape this world. I'm not just along for the ride. Those kinds of games are great too, but there's something about having impact on a world with your choices. Skyward Sword is just fun. Skyrim is fun too, and even though I feel like Nintendo is constantly holding my hand as if I were perpetually 11 years old, they know fun. And while I was starting to feel like Zelda had grown stale, Skyward Sword makes it feel fresh. It's still 100% Zelda, but it feels new, and I'm having a blast. The hardest part is finding time for both games. I'm over 20 hours into Skyrim and about 12 into Skyward Sword. I'm not tired of either one.

I'll probably devote individual posts to these games soon. They deserve it. These games remind me why it's such a great time to be a gamer.