Dark Souls Hurt My Soul.

24 12 2011

Dark Souls Review

Let me begin this review with the honest statement that I did not care to finish Dark Souls.  I didn’t play Demon’s Souls, it’s predecessor, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into and had heard that Dark Souls was one of the hardest games of the year.  I’m good at most games, have a pretty decent amount of patience (I beat Catherine on Easy and Normal, so that has to mean something) and really wanted to see what Dark Souls was all about.  Well I found out it’s all about frustration.  I don’t understand how this game is rated so highly.  I’m going to try to make this an unbiased review and not just some troll session, so please bear with me.

Dark Souls starts slow, with one cut scene trying to describe the story to you, because after that, there’s nothing.  Just you wandering around reading bloody scripts on the ground as a half ass tutorial.  The menus are confusing, with descriptions of objects that just tell about their lore and not how they benefit you.  Oh, square means I drink this stuff for HP, thanks for not telling me that bloody scripts.  You begin with character customization where you choose your combatant, anything from a knight to a mage, the choice is yours.  I chose the knight, powerful with a good deal of HP.  The customization has a few faces to choose from and some body types, nothing too detailed.  After that you’re thrown into the unforgiving world of Dark Souls.  The first thing you notice is that the graphics are unimpressive.  Very circa 2000 Dreamcast style, I don’t normally let poor graphics bother me, I enjoyed the hell out of Deadly Premonition, so wandering around this jagged edged world wasn’t it’s downfall.  The relentless combat style was what killed Dark Souls for me.  Timing is everything and apparently I didn’t have it.  Every monster strikes differently, faster or slower, once or with combination strikes.  Needless to say I died, a lot.  I was determined to not let this bring me down and continued to trudge through the trenches.  But in the end, Dark Souls had defeated me, defeated my will to continue to play.

I had read many other reviews and people’s opinions on Dark Souls and have come to this conclusion.  People who claim that Dark Souls is their “Game of the Year” are A.) Liars, B.) Attempting a humble brag saying their really good at games, or C.) Being a gaming Hipster by liking what the gaming norm says isn’t worthy of being a GOTY.  “I was playing Dark Souls before anyone liked it.”  STFU hipster.  Dark Souls is challenging and unforgiving, the combat is responsive but lacks fluidity, menus are clunky and unhelpful, and character customization is lacking depth.  I had a hard time wanting to play Dark Souls, a game that frustrated me to no end, when I could be playing titles that were fun and made me happy such as Saints Row: The Third and Star Wars: The Old Republic.  A punch to the gut would be less painful.

I was going to finish Dark Souls…but I took an arrow to the knee.

Enjoy hours of unrewarding drab gameplay, Dark Souls scores a B-.



Where are the Creative IP’s? The Rebuttal

4 12 2011

Earlier this week Srsbizniz pondered the question, “Where are the creative IP’s?”  As I did agree with many of Srs’ observations, I did find it necessary to defend the developers and titles that have broken down the wall of complacency and brought us new and creative IP’s.  I’m not a game developer and I’m not a video game publisher, hell, I’m not even a business man.  I don’t know the first thing that goes into running a successful business.  I am a consumer.  Plain and simple, I know what I like and I know what I want.  So when Srs’ also asked the question why we keep getting fed the same reheated leftovers time and time again, I can only assume it’s because people buy it.  It does seem hard to find those new IP’s during this holiday season filled with hordes of third installments from popular franchises.  But trust me, they’re out there, you just have to traverse the gaming universe to find them.  Like an astronaut preparing to enter space, you have to do your research, study uncommon topics, and take risks.  This goes for both the consumer and the developer.

What if Quantic Dream didn’t take risks in creating the story and game play style of Heavy Rain?  And what if Atlus didn’t believe in Catherine?  Those are just two examples of new and creative IP’s that had both critical acclaim and financial success.  It can be done, you just have to go looking for it.  And somewhere out there, you’re missing a creative game that hides within larger successful genres: the first person shooter, RPG, music game, open world and even the classic side scroller.  A small excerpt from a Thomas Edison quote says, “…I never pick up an item without thinking of how I might improve it.”  I love when developers, publishers and consumers embrace this ideology, it almost always leads to stellar ground breaking titles.  Ken Levine’s Bioshock is my immediate first thought followed quickly in succession with Gearbox’s FPS/RPG, Borderlands.  Both games grabbed hold of the first person genre and shook the foundation until it caved in.  Metro 2033 is a lesser known title that I hold as one of the most under rated games of last year.  Metro, influenced by Bioshock and others, still has the silent protagonist, but added special game play mechanics that made this game a stand out title among other FPS.  The Fallout series hopped out of it’s top down dungeon crawler mode and dove head first into the FPS/third person RPG and had world domination like success.  Fallout 3 is still one of my favorite games.

Before this turns into some lovefest over every game I think is the bees knees, I just want to make my point that the risks that are taken are what drives the success of this media.  I’m very grateful for people like Tim Schafer and Ken Levine, and developers like Gearbox software who aren’t afraid to take chances, having a connection with their community and always trying to improve our gaming experience.  Now that they’re doing their part, it’s time for us, as consumers, to do ours.  WE MUST BUY THE PRODUCT!  Steam, PSN, and XBLA are filled with small, large, independent, and non independent developers who are flooding the market with new creative content every day.  Take the plunge and try something new, you never know, you may just like something you’re unfamiliar with.  Everything can’t continue to be Call of Duty, the media must progress if it’s going to survive.


Catherine Review

13 08 2011

Catherine is many things.  Catherine as a game is a mind bending, wall climbing, block pushing, emotion roller coaster…ing puzzle game to the core.  Catherine, the person on the other hand, is an attractive, seductive, flirtatious, emotion driven succubus.  Together they make a force, both intriguing, and at times extremely frustrating and emotionally exhausting. 

Catherine’s story revolves around Vincent and his relationship with his long time girlfriend Katherine.  Vincent has been having terrible nightmares where, if you die in the dream, you die in real life.  From stage left enters: Catherine (the killer), who stumbles upon Vincent in his mellow bar, The Stray Sheep.  She’s provocative, and at that point and time in Vincent’s life, has the perception of life that Vincent want’s to have.  From here, Vincent can strengthen his relationship with Katherine, or stray from his “safe” path with Catherine.  Vincent meets many men in relationships through this story, all of which have one dark secret in common.  Enter stage right: The Nightmares (a killer).  Vincent can choose to help those men in need, or continue to help himself.  The strength of Catherine streams from it’s deep story and many endings connecting these decisions through an emotion meter you think is between right/wrong or good/bad.  

Catherine’s actual game is a puzzle based semi-platformer where you climb by strategically moving blocks to avoid plunging to your death.  The game is not easy, and I suggest, no, insist you play on the “easy” mode first.  The concept may seem simple, but in the later nightmares the puzzles become very complex with gaps and special boxes that aim to assist your imminent failure.  I personally would have liked more camera controls.  I’m unsure if Atlas wanted the player to have less control of the camera to add to the difficulty or anxiety of each level.  At times the general controls were even difficult, moving, pushing, and climbing blocks when you didn’t want to, forcing you to “undo” moves (an option only available in easy).  And it’s hard for me to explain how difficult it was navigated behind the blocks with no camera and constantly having to change unneeded directions.  The difficulty of Catherine almost made me put a venting post review of  “F” over my frustration with the last boss.  I had maxed out my lives at 99, spent 38 of them, and played the final boss over, and over for an hour and 15 minutes.  I was literally pulling my hair out over this extremely difficult final boss battle.  If you moved one block incorrectly after the last checkpoint, you were essential forced to retry.  But, I did succeed, and it was a sigh of relief, maybe similar to what Vincent was feeling, knowing he had survived his final restless night.

Catherine almost gave me a brain aneurysm, but she has seduced me back into her arms, with promises of more outrageous emotional endings.

Catherine scores an A-.

I take Catherine for a Spin.

16 07 2011

Catherine for the Playstation 3 is arriving on shelves next week on July 26th.  And since I’m assuming you don’t really know anything about this bizarre/erotica game, take the time to download the demo from the PSN store right now.  That’s what I did, and here’s my impressions of that demo.

I really didn’t know what to expect from the demo, I had only seen trailers featuring single’s and couple’s talking about relationships, and a bit on the interwebs about a patch for the Japanese version of Catherine because it was deemed “too hard” even on the “Normal” difficulty.  So naturally it caught my curiosity hook-line-and-sinker.  

Let me start by saying this game is really nothing like I’ve ever played before.  You play as a character named Vincent who’s having nightmares about actually dieing.  And in these nightmares is where the gameplay takes place.  You are climbing a mountain of blocks you have to pull into place and climb, while the blocks below you crumble and fall, or are swiped off by angry female arms that may, or may not be Vincent’s long time girlfriend’s Katherine.  In these dreams you pick up pillows, money, and see walking horned sheep…don’t exactly know their purpose yet, but I bet it’s legendary.  The principle is very simple, but I quickly came to find out that even on the demo’s “Easy” mode, I found myself dieing multiple times.  Nothing is going to be easy about this game.

But I think what really sold me on Catherine is it’s whole relationship meter.  Every decision you make in each conversation, whether it be in person, on the phone, or by text, defines how the rest of the game will play out.  I had a chance to text a few conversation bits, and put my relationship status towards the “good” end.  This part of the game just intrigues the hell out of me.  I love seeing multiple endings, seeing different choices actually affect the game as a whole.  That’s why I completed 100% of Heavy Rain, and that’s why I’m going to pick up Catherine day one.

Catherine looks insanely twisted, dark, and random.  And I’m totally looking forward to it’s release.  Except for the actually gameplay that I’m sure is going to frustrate the shit out of me.