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The importance of being Dark Souls

Dark Souls. 

The first time I read this name was on an italian magazine named Playgeneration. Perhaps few of us in Italy will be able to remember it nowadays, yet I gaze at the last copy I bought of it 5 years ago. Become curious about this highfalutin name, I leafed through pages until I finally got to the article I was looking for. A banner headline followed by numerous grotesque photos of the game. It was priceless and I still remember it. The critique underlined the extreme difficulty of Dark Souls everywhere. “You’ll fight undeads, demons and even dragons! Beware, because death is around the corner!”. The only thought I had was a childlike “I want it”. Luckily, my birthday was soon, so I had the chance to ask my mother for the game as present. The big day finally came and I was super excited to start the game on my Playstation 3. I have to admit it, that was a real epiphany.

I think I had spent something like 76 hours only on my first run. I struggled against a lot of bosses, especially the first ones. I had a hard time fighting Quelaag and all I was thinking back then was: “Why can’t I defeat her? I forged ahead from the Depths until the end of Blighttown, going through dozens of deaths and is it here that my journey will come to an end? Is this what really is going to be like?”. I am a stubborn player, so I would not ever accepted a disgraceful defeat as that, so I took back the controller and fought. After Quelaag only Ornstein and Smough gave me serious problems. To be honest even Gwyn, but when you realise you can parry him, it’s not a big deal. So it came the ending scene. Get closer to the bonfire, “Link the first flame”, press X, burn and… “Dark Souls”. I was dazed. I was not able to comprehend the ending of a game I waited and loved so much. I turn off my Playstation and switched to the PC, surfing on the web to find an answer about my doubts. I was dazed again after i realised I was not the only one whom was not able to understand the ending scene. That quick search was useful though. A guy posted something about a “secret ending”, which occurs if you do not link the fire.

I was thrilled, so I decided to start another run with a different character. It was a long run, I like to create a story behind my character. I reached the ending again, I listened to the wonderful Gwyn’s Ost, then I laid down my controller. I searched for a prompt in the entire arena, without finding anything useful. I am not the kind of player whom search info on the internet. I like to discover stuff on my own, yet I was perplexed. I decided to return to Firelink Shrine, hoping that I would have found something useful. I left the arena and… cutscene. “Cutscene?” I thought. The Dark Lord ending. After I watched it, I was even more dazed than the Linking one. I was happy, it didn’t matter if I had a clue about the endings. I enjoyed the game, each run. I was thrilled after I discovered Youtube channels, telling about the Lore of the game.

Dark Souls has been a masterpiece for me. It is still nowadays, one of my favorite games, even though I will have to write about several problems Dark Souls have (and its sequels inherited). But, that is the focus for another article, one day…

LucasTheHig©

Featured post

Dark Souls 3 The Ringed City

Welcome back, kind travellers! It has been a while since last time we spoke, am I right? You know… Innkeepers sometimes has to rest, reorder stuff for the Inn, maybe visit relatives far far away, travelling by chariot. So, the Inn is open again. Any ale?

Now, now… let’s be serious, this topic deserves respect. This is not a spoiler free article, so pay attention if you proceed forth. As you may know or not, The Ringed City DLC has divided the crowd. Many believes it is a success, many others don’t. Plus, quite peculiar to be honest, even believes that this is what we should have expected after 6/7 years of Dark Souls. My humble opinion? Well, it is not easy… not at all. I am among the ones who think that The Ringed City had many epic moments combined with many disappointments, especially inside the Lore. About the gameplay, I have to rise up a toast to From Software. It was amazing. I had for the first time a real fear to die and rematch a bossfight. Fighting the “last boss”, also known as Slave Knight Gael, gave me “conniptions” (heyo Hawkwood). I was afraid to die, really I was. I tried my best to pull back his attacks, even using composite bow to low down his HPs. I have to admit that it was the hardest Boss I’ve even fought in a Souls game. I’m being honest, I’ve ever had so many deaths like fighting Gael. Probably I should “Git Gud” I know, point taken travellers. Plus, seriously, how many of you have been disheartened looking at his HPs bar? I was using a Hollowslayer Greatsword +5 at NG++. It was a chafing fight. I was wondering who would brake first, my will or him. I am not even considering the epic OST during the entire fight. It is a real masterpiece!

Secondly, I did like even the fight agains the Demon Prince. The first phase of the fight is quite easy, not much of a fight to be honest. You have to face the Demon from below and the Demon in pain If you can split them, they will lose all their power. I really appreciated the little secret about the “real” fight. If you slay first the demon with less HPs, then the next stage of the fight will effect the style of combat of the Demon Prince. It reminds us all to Ornstein and Smough, am I right?

Lastly, let’s discuss about the cons. Kind travellers, I am disappointed by two aspects. The first one is about the gameplay. I hated the “Angel hide&run part”. It was hideous, considering that I didn’t even noticed those “creatures” strictly linked to the angels. I was really disappointed when, after consuming 70 arrows, the angel was just revived in front of me. If he could speak, he would have said something like “I’m back madaf*cka”. If you understand how to beat angels, it’s not a big deal, I know. Let’s just assume that you have to know where the summoners are located though. Plus, I’m still on my opinion that you have to get to them and it is not funny when you have something like a Gatling shooting at you. Djura one on Bloodborne was more fair than this one.

The last major issue is about the Lore. We know many stuff about it thanks to Dark Souls, am I correct? Well, let’s say that having an NPC just met in the previous DLC (Gael) as the final boss of this DLC was a real bond choice. I am not saying that it is a mess, but I would have appreciated something more about highly figures such as Lloyd, Flann, Velka, Kaathe and Frampt, and so on… Then we have the Blood. Why the blood? Why it is so important now? Plus (maybe I am a bit “confused” but…) do we have a real clue about The Ringed City being for real Londor? Why does this name is never mentioned throughout the entire DLC? So many things left inside a mist, discarded into the Abyss.

I guess we’ll never get an answer to these questions and maybe it is better this way. I loved Dark Souls, I grew up with it as a gamer. Despite of all cons, I appreciate the pros of this “Trilogy” and I am proud and happy to have played such amazing games. Never forget what Dark Souls meant for us all, please kind travellers, remember it as a moment of joy, because now it is all gone… faded, ended, like Lordran is at the end of the DLC.

©LucastTheHig

Shift it, Shifter! – Gravity Rush Remastered

Here we are again, kind travellers! Welcome back! Today we will discuss about another Playstation exclusive, born on PSVita and now on Playstation 4. Its name is Gravity Rush. How that…? Don’t you know it? Have you ever heard this name? No? No worry! It is easily forgotten, but I have to say this game dazed me… in a good way of course!

Now wait. No need to rush (haha pun). Gravity Rush is a game developed for the PSVita system as I have previously mentioned. Being born as a portable game, Gravity Rush carries a lot of problems, especially about longevity, differentiation of challenges, objectives and, sadly, plot. These major points will be discussed later. I do prefer to explain now the reasons why I enjoyed it so much. Gravity Rush is funny. I know, I know, it might look a cheap answer, but it is true. I loved to play it, because you can literally do whatever you want to do, no matter what. You are not obliged to follow the story, you are not forced to complete side-quests in a row, you are free. I have personally completed all the challenges before even get to the last 5 quests of the main story. Exploring the world of Gravity Rush is something amazing, because you can feel the will to know more. You can only visit a little old town in the beginning, yet this old town is full of secrets and gems to collect (we will get to that in a moment).  I enjoyed to improve Kat skills, thanks to a very cool system of upgrade. You can improve your basic skills like health, gauge usage (the gauge is the ability to shift gravity), kicks and gravity kicks (your main stats of attack), but you can even improve skills about your movements, for example when you fly through the sky or slide on the streets to reach a certain point faster. Plus, you can even improve your Special Attacks that you gain throughout your Playthrough. To improve your character you have to collect gems. These gems can be found exploring the city and its various districts/locations. Another good pro is the dialogue system. It is majestic. I really appreciated the quality of the drawings and the way developers decided to show it! Masterpiece!

Now it is time to have a look about the major problems of this game. First, the challenges. I like them until I got to the fourth or fifth one. The problem here is that they all look the same. Time attack: kill as many enemies before time runs out. Race: complete the path on time to get the gold. Energy Race: You cannot use your shifting power unless you get gems to fill it. Slide Race: complete the race using only your slide. The End. There are 30 challenges. Just imagine how boring this could be. I have even to mention another crucial aspect about these challenges. If you improve your skills, they get ridiculously easy, mainly because your speed and attack power is so strong that enemies won’t stand a chance and the time for races won’t be a problem. The other major problem is the plot. Gravity Rush has a great potential, but it is wasted. You acknowledge few stuff about the world and Kat’s possible past. It is basically impossible being surprised by what is happening, because you can foresee everything. Sometimes I even disliked Kat as character. It is way too gullible, not mentioning it’s behaviour, acting childish. But she is probably one of the best “waifus” if you like that kind of stuff (smirk).

I still have not played Gravity Rush 2, but I am truly looking forward to play it. I read articles about it. Several problems still persist in its sequel, but many aspects have been improved. Gravity Rush was a huge surprise. I enjoyed it, yet it feels too much like a portable console game! Better luck with the 2, but I suggest you to play it anyhow!

LucasTheHig©

We the Helghast: A Killzone quick insight

Let’s face it. Without the Higs (name given by Vektans to the Helghast), Killzone wouldn’t be such a great game. I am not going to state that with a different kind of “antagonist”, the game would be bad, heavens no. Yet, this is undeniable, Helghast play a major role inside the plot and story of Killzone. We all love our red eyed fellas, unless you are a dirty ISA or UCN rat… ehrm, fan. Here’s the thing. Why did Killzone gained so much popularity around the world? Easy: the story. I have to be honest, probably this will be one day even a reason of its failure, but this is about another article, kind travelers.

The story of Killzone is huge and we only play a little section of it during the four main games. I bet that a few of you know about the origins of the Helghast as “people” or “members of a whole”. We have to look back at their past, possibly getting closer to their point of view. Many of you might be surprised to find that Vekta, the planet held by ISA and where Vektans are living their life, was the Helghast homeland. Helghast grew in power and they became aware of their strenght. Resources, money, power. They had all they needed to succeed in their own economy. Their big mistake was to believe UCN would let them live as an independent galactic superpower. UCN, soon after Helghast (or should I say Vektans) declared their will to be freed from Earth’s control, launched a massive military attack to Vekta, conquering it and annihilating every man standing against them, being them soldiers or civilians. This led the UCN to the decision of deporting the “nationalists” to another planet, not so far, yet so close to their safety zone. They choose Helghan. It was (and it still is) a harsh world. Helghan atmosphere is breathable, but it is not healthy because of some gasses. Nationalists soon understood that they had to working hard to escape a quick death. That’s how Helghast begun to construct facilities and buildings, gathering together. After they adapted to the new world, their legacy, sons, daughters, nephews and nieces grew differently from their relatives. They developed a different body, mostly losing their hair and gaining a pale skin, but they even grew taller and stronger than an average human. Adaptability was not enough. They had to protect themselves, wearing goggles to protect their retinas and using life-support systems to be able to breath clean air. That’s the time Helghast reborn. They began to like their new world, gaining knowledge about a new idea of a Helghast race, stronger than the weaker human one. They took an oath that day… to get back what was their by right and get a retribution against UCN. Helghast’s plan was to conquer back Vekta and launch a massive attack against Earth to subjugate it to a new idea, where Helghast played the major role among everybody else. Yet it was not easy. They had to solve inner riots between “pacifists” and “reactionist”. No need to say that the latter won, executing everyone who turn their back against the new Helghast Ideology. Thus came Scolar Visari, thus came Killzone one, thus came the intro for the story we all know how began: “My people…”.

LucasTheHig©

(Yup, now you know why my nickname is that)

The Last Guardian: The boy and the Trico

The Last Guardian has been under the spotlights for a couple of months before and after its release. Today is largely considered a great game exclusive for Play Station 4, yet many consider it a huge flop. Is that true? Which side is wrong and which one has exaggerated its opinion? We are going to unearth this deep truth kind travellers, since this huge gap among fans and haters has gone too far on the web. Please do keep in mind that these will be my personal opinion, but I am not a fan nor a hater of Fumito Ueda.

Now let’s uncover the why The Last Guardian is a bad game for many players.  The main reasons for that, is the camera or movement controls and the AI of Trico. I have to admit it, sometimes the camera just does not work as we players want it to do. Narrow paths and Trico’s movements can jam the camera controls, causing a black screen for few seconds. When Trico is jumping or running, if the camera gets stuck into a pillar or inside a wall, we could even get many black screens. Moving the right stick won’t be of any help, because we would probably cause more problems to the normal track of the camera. Yes, you get it. The camera has a pre-defined track for specific scenes or locations, so any movements of the right stick to take control of the camera, would result in a possible catastrophe. Fright not, fret not kind travellers. You can peacefully play the entire game without fear of fighting with the camera at any corner. Considering my full playthrough it only happened four times and only for the time of a blink. Haters usually love to overstate this issue, yet you have to be warned that this problem might happen to you either. The second major problem which grip the players is the movements of the boy, protagonist (together with Trico the cute animal) of this story. If you played both ICO and Shadow of the Colossus you won’t be new to Fumito Ueda ideas of character movements. The controls reply late to the input, sometimes causing the boy to jump with a delay or to start running without stopping him in time. Many complain about the way the boy runs or dodge during the fights, because he easily falls or stumbles. I personally consider it a big quality of the reality of the game, because we have to consider that he is probably not a warrior, a trained boy who knows how to handle a fight or challenge an enemy. In my humble opinion, I never found it frustrating, even though it might be a poor quality work when Trico is fighting the magic armours, cause Trico could repeatedly stomp its claws/paws into the ground and let the boy stumbling over and over again.  Here we are to the major problem many players found hideous or frustrating as being whipped with a whip something like one hundred times: Trico’s AI (Artificial Intelligence). At a specific point of the game, you unlock the ability to give orders or command Trico by pressing a combo of input with your controller. A quick example is the possibility to order Trico to jump over an edge by pressing R1+Triangle (you’ll need it a lot, trust me!). The only problem is that the AI of Trico may not receive that command and get jammed. If this happens, you would need to get off its back, get on it again and press the buttons correctly. You could even mess up its AI only because you have not aimed to the specific point it is meant it has to jump. It happened hardly on my run, maybe I was simply lucky, but it happened twice on my second run, soon after I learned the ability to control Trico. Obviously, forget to give it two or more orders, you would get stuck in seconds, losing Trico forever (or kinda).

Since we discovered the cons of The Last Guardian, which are the pros? Firstly, Trico. “Wait, but why, mister innkeeper? You just said that Trico AI is a mess!”.  Yes, I did. Here’s the thing. Trico might be a mess with its AI, but it is for sure amazing for its behaviour, movements and empathy. Trico actually behave like a real animal would behave. Trico has, probably, the best RIG a character has ever been constructed in a video game. Its movements are perfect. Trico walks and jump as a real animal would do, sniffing stuff, exploring the scenario, acting worried, happy, frightened for what is happening around him and about the boy. The first imprinting between Trico and the boy, and the way they will learn to trust each other, fighting together and working to reach the “White Tower” is something precious nowadays. You can feel their bond, you can empathise with them while petting or cuddling Trico, or when you can help him by removing spears from him. I got tears in the ending scene and it was not even the best ending or the most emotional ending I have ever seen. No spoilers, don’t you worry kind travellers. Another big pro of The Last Guardian is the environment and the map that the Team Ico created. You can feel the height of a peak by simply listening to the wind, without even need to look down into the huge gorge. You can feel the nature surrounding you in the open balconies, birds, lizards and leafs flying about in the wind. In a narrow path inside a temple, you can listen to the drops of water falling from the ceiling or you can see a feeble light trying to reach you out of a crack of the wall. Torches, statues and crumpled doors, long corridors and massive iron gates, you can feel it. I am not exaggerating right now. The Nest, as it is called, reminds me of ICO’s Castle. If you played ICO, you cannot forget that castle. Fumito Ueda and his team is always top notch on this aspect. Lastly, I would like to spend a bunch of words about the story. The story might be foggy at the beginning, but you can link all the points when reaching the ending. If you payed attention to the details, you can track down a path of what actually happened. I only felt insecure about one point, but I do not want to spoil your playthrough, so I will keep it for myself.

Kind travellers, The Last Guardian has been an amazing experience for me. I am not going to say that it is perfect, because it is not. It has severe problems that had to be fixed before the launch, but sadly things went differently. That is not a reason to throw rubbish and massive critics upon Team Ico or the game. It is a pearl inside a oyster, a gold nugget under the mud, something precious we have to protect, but even wisely criticise. I hope you liked this quick review of the third opera of the Team Ico, a true Tr-ico (Third Ico). See you soon, kind travellers! 😉

LucasTheHig©

Dark Souls 3 is funny!

I already wrote an article about a Soul game, yet I felt the desire to move a huge critique to a very bad aspect of Dark Souls 3. I loved this game, that’s why I even got the Platinum trophy and completed my runs with four different characters. Alas, there are many issues and problems about Dark Souls 3, two of them really hard to stand. Let’s check the worst one out in this article.

Blade of the Darkmoon Covenant: 

I know. I’m not the only one who struggled to gain 30 Proof of a Concord Kept. Blade of the Darkmoon Covenant in Dark Souls 3 is one of the most hideous thing to do for gaining the Platinum trophy. Darkmoon Covenant, in a nutshell, rewards you with the Darkmoon Ring after you get 10 Proofs (important to get the “Master of Rings” trophy), plus another 20 Proofs to get the Darkmoon Blade Miracle (useful to get the “Master of Miracles” trophy). Now let’s assume that I am a neophyte of the Souls game. I have a good internet connection so I can play online and collect trinkets for covenants. I would be able to collect everything I need, from Human Dregs to Sunlight Medals, yet I would find myself terribly lost trying to even find Company Captain Yorshka, the NPC which unlock the Blade of the Darkmoon Coventant. This is the first big problem about this covenant. I read thousand of threads where people acted like smarty “piece of muffin”, arguing with players (like myself) who were not able to find Yorshka. I mean, we are not dumb, we all saw the bonfire on the balcony of that belfry. The way you have to get there is the problem. A conscious player would try to get there starting from below the belfry. After realising there are no ladders or elevators I, and here I am audacious, probably everybody else, tried to turn the Anor Londo bridge over and over again, hoping it would help us to reach that bonfire. After you lost your sanity and become hollow, searching on the internet a way to solve this riddle, you understand how to reach that spot. Now, dear travelers, I am sorry if I already spoiled you about Anor Londo in Dark Souls 3, but here it is the solution. Ready or not… you have “only” to walk straight forward from the turning bridge to the balcony. Here you might ask: “But, Innkeeper, wasn’t it a Belfry? Why haven’t you died of gravity?”. Nice question. Because you have to imagine an invisible bridge like the one of the Crystal Cave in Dark Souls to reach Seath the Scaleless. Now hold on a minute, kind travelers. I liked the invisible bridges in Dark Souls, truly I did. The point is that in Dark Souls one you have snowflakes falling (or maybe they are small pieces of crystal), hitting the bridge, so you understand that there is a passage. If snowflakes do not hit anything, then there is no bridge. In Dark Souls 3, despite the fact it’s snowing, the snowflakes do not seem to hit anything, so it is hard to comprehend the way you can reach the balcony. Now let’s move forward to the second point of why this covenant is enjoyable as much as staring to a blank wall. Getting the Proofs is almost impossible if you care about your sanity. The main reason is that the summoning of this covenant do not work as intended (pardon me about what I am going to say… “At least Poise works as intended”).

To be summoned as a Blade of the Darkmoon is impossible. I had during my entire second run the covenant glowing but I was summoned only once in the entire playthrough. Luckily, you can farm proofs even offline, but do not get hyped. Here’s the second big issue. Silver Knights can “rarely” drop one proof. Please note that you have to be a very patient player. I had the Covetous Serpent Gold +2 ring, the Symbol of Avarice and a Luck stat around 23. The item discovery was around 320/330. It was an inferno. I tried to calculate how many times a Silver Knight dropped me a proof and I can assure you that is only rng. Bad rng I would add. From Software, here you failed. I can understand that proofs are a rare drop from foes, I can even get that it was meant to be farmed online, but come on! After hundred of patches, you could have at least improved the drop rate of Silver Knights! I literally had to kill those two knights at Anor Londo bonfire, something like (when the Goddes of Fortune supported me) 13/14 times per Proof of a Concord Kept. That is unacceptable. That is really a bad game design. I cannot struggle hours to farm trinkets like that. Players on the web were (and still are) upset, complaining about how From Softwar dealt with this situation.

Dark Souls 3 is an amazing game, no doubt. Yet people claiming it is the best game ever made are terribly wrong. It is good to enjoy the game, I liked it. Yet I cannot pretend that it is perfect. There are several issues, not mentioning the camera control, the poise, the multiplayer, the frame dropping and the Ashes of Ariandel DLC (which I will describe later in another article). So please, kind travellers, enjoy the game, but do not pretend that everything is good about you favourite title.

LucasTheHig©

Stand, Rise and Resist: Resistance 2

It is hard to find a player who actually played Resistance 2.

No offence to all players who spent hours on this game. Trust me about what I am going to say… Resistance 2 is my favorite game of all time. I, literally, spent two years of non-stop playing on this game. It was (and it still is) a pearl for me, no doubt. To have a clue about what really is Resistance 2, we have to look back at 2008. On November 2008, I was watching thousand of trailers about war games or first person shooters. I checked the last news and there was a thread where people suggested this game. Now, players will for sure remember the Resistance 2 trailer “History”. It was probably one of the best trailer for a game. The hype that it gave us was priceless.

But here you might ask: “But it’s Resistance 2. What about the first game?”. Yes, I know. I am a player, I like to follow the storyline from the beginning to the epilogue, yet I was far too euphoric to play Resistance 2 that, back then, I did not even thought to the possibility that I was going to lost a piece of the story of the game. But why I consider it so important for my player experience? Quite hard to fully explain, but it is thanks to Resistance 2 that I started to play online. I had the chance to play on the net with other video games, but I never felt the will to do so. After I completed the campaign (even on the maximum level called “Superhuman”), I realised that I wanted to get all the trophies and get the platinum. There was only an obstacle to it, to start to play online. I needed to get various trophies and, players like me will remember it, I needed to get one of the hardest trophies I have ever achieved, the “Killing Machine” trophy. I had to “Score 10,000 kills in ranked matches in Online Competitive Multiplayer”.  It might look easy to get… wrong. I spent months to get it. I am not complaining about its hardness, otherwise I would not have kept playing the game for almost another year. It is thank to Resistance 2 and that trophy that I had amazing times on that game, meeting people worldwide, starting to chat and speak with the mic, exchanging stuff by messages and so on. It was hard for me. As an italian teen I was not able to speak or write a proper english (not that nowadays I am better, I still commit many mistakes writing or speaking), but I am not blaming Italy or Italian school system for my failures about the english language. It was hard, as I said, but only in the beginning. I grew up self-aware that while I was playing, I was even learning something new, it might be even a new word I have never heard  before. Thanks to this “career” online that lasted 2 years, I found myself interested in the english language, something that I would have ever thought before. I was really sad when Insomniac Games shut down the Resistance 2 servers back in March 2014. A piece of my heart just vanished away.

Now, forgetting that melancholic part of this article, which one were the strong points of this game? I would for sure put to number one spot the multiplayer. You could play Deathmatches or Team Deathmatches 30 vs 30 players for a total of 60 players on the map. Masterpiece. It was chaotic, frenetic, enjoyable. Something I still cannot find in video games nowadays. The Competitive Multiplayer Mode even had a Skirmish and a Control Core (similar to Capture the Flag). Then you had the Cooperative Mode which included missions in various locations of the game, plus two maps of the first game (Resistance Fall of Man). Gaining experience allowed you to unlock new characters and enemies.

Resistance 2 has been a masterpiece for me. Not the best game of all time, it had many issues related to the gameplay and glitches, but I still love it and even play back the campaign mode if I am somehow sad thinking to it.

LucasTheHig©

The picture is from GameWallpapers.com all right reserved to it.

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