Category Archives: Video Game Reviews

Late to the Skyrim Bandwagon; Now I am All Aboard

Your soul is mine!
Skyrim, Babby’s first solo (mostly) dragon kill

When Skyrim first came out, I knew nothing about it because I was really new into gaming at that time. I was able to play it a bit on Ian’s Xbox, but I didn’t like it because I’d never used a controller up until that point. I found the interface and controls confusing and frustrating, and I made the mistake of trying to kill an annoying brat in the first town. The townspeople did NOT like that, and I had to leave the town forever. Ian explained to me that you can’t kill kids because it gives the game an AO (Adults Only) rating, which is the kiss of death in the video game industry. He thought it was hilarious that I tried to kill the kid, but in my defense, the kid was fucking annoying. Anyway, while I liked the world of the game–I’ve always been more fantasy than scifi–and the trailers drew me in (the link is to the live action trailer, which is incredible. The official trailer is below. I watched the ‘FUS RO DAH’ part of it hundreds of times. The Dragonborn trailer is pretty epic, too. The music in the game is so stirring. Here is Lindsey Stirling playing it on violin while cosplaying), the gameplay on Xbox was a barrier to me actually playing it.

I shrugged and set it aside. There were so many other games to play, why get hung up on one? Admittedly, it was showered with accolades across the board, but still. I also didn’t want to have to kill dragons*, which is a pretty hefty part of the game.Fast-forward five years and countless games later. Imagine me sitting in front of my computer, feeling a bit lost because I’d just put in probably close to a hundred hours into The Witcher 3** and was looking for my next epic open-world adventure. At this point, I’d played Dark Souls (and beaten it. My biggest video game triumph to date.) and The Witcher 3 with controller, so that was no longer an obstacle to me enjoying games I wouldn’t have played before. I tried a few games, but none of them stuck. I stayed obsessed with Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (and then Afterbirth), but I needed an RPG to scratch my wanderlust itch. I looked over my pile of shame and my eye kept landing on Skyrim. I loved the world, and I now had experience with a controller, plus I had faster internet and a newish desktop PC that could run The Witcher 3 with ease, so why the hell not? I had played an hour or so of Oblivion in the meantime, but it was too unwieldy for me to handle. Still, something about Skyrim intrigued me, and I decided to try it again.

I installed Skyrim and created my character. As usual, I chose to be a Dark Elf, female, and a magic caster. I named my character Mulan because I always name my characters Mulan, and I was off and running. I started using keyboard/mouse, then I tried it with controller, and I felt like the former was a better fit for me. Even though I’m more comfortable with a controller these days, every game has a different setup for its buttons, and while keyboard/mouse commands aren’t always the same, you can usually rebind those. By the way, whomever at Bethesda decided that the left hand should be controlled by the Escape key and the systems menu should be mapped to the Mouse 2 (right click) button should be demoted. That is the most counter-intuitive shit in the world, and I quickly changed that to left hand being M1, right hand being M2, and Escape being the systems menu like every other goddamn game in the world. I started on Apprentice (the second easiest mode), but quickly changed to Adept (third easiest) after I killed a dragon without it even touching me. I may bump it up to Expert, but I don’t really want stressful combat as I’m exploring the wintry realms of Skyrim, so I may keep it on Adept.

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Dark Souls, Part Three: Bringing Me to the Brink

Part two of this series is here.

I need a cheeseburger or ten
Desperate measures in Sen’s Fortress

From elation to despair in a very short time span. That’s the nature of Dark Souls, man. I dusted off my disappointment as best I could and made my way back to the Undead Parish bonfire. I couldn’t help but notice that the common enemies were a breeze now, and I lit the Undead Parish bonfire with a sense of smugness.I was getting the hang of this game, I thought to myself. I knew, however, that the next area was no joke. It’s called Sen’s Fortress, and it’s filled with traps, swinging blades, and snakemen. Hissing, biting, sometimes lightning-throwing snakemen who were ugly as sin and not much fun to fight. Plus, if you fell off the narrow bridges that had huge axe blades swinging over them, you plunged into the land of Titanite Demons, a mini-boss from earlier who were now just casual enemies. That’s if you survived the fall, which you might not, depending on your vitality.

I found Sen’s Fortress frustrating because in addition to all that, it’s a maze in which I got lost more times than I cared to count. This was what made Blighttown extra-difficult for me as well. I have NO sense of direction, so once I get turned around, I’m nearly helpless. I explored almost all of Sen’s Fortress not because I wanted to but because I couldn’t figure out the correct way to go. I fought two of the Titanite Demons in the pit to get their loot, and I killed one of the Iron Giants on top of the roof, though I felt bad doing it because he didn’t attack me, and he would sit down and cry*. In addition, the first bonfire in Sen’s Fortress took me FOREVER to find, which meant I had to start from the bonfire in Undead Parish every fucking time. I grew to loath the first part of Sen’s Fortress, but at the same time, I started breezing through it rather quickly. My pyromancy helped with the first lightning-throwing snakedude, and it made me meanly glad to watch him shrivel up in flames as I hurled my fireballs/fire orbs at him.

I’ve talked about the bonfire system before. I still think it’s a genius way to have checkpoints, but I think there should be one more in each area. I understand wanting each death to be costly, but the price is sometimes too steep, especially as the game goes on. Then again, the sheer relief when you see a new bonfire and light it is incomparable. Resting at the bonfire allows you to take a deep breath and prepare yourself for the next ordeal. I don’t know if I would appreciate each one as much if they were more plentiful. One other thing I should mention about the bonfires is that there’s always one right before the boss fight, for which I’m extremely thankful. So, the run from the bonfire to the boss is usually quite short with few enemies, but it’s still a pain in the ass when all you want to do is fight the damn boss again.
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Dark Souls, Part Two: I Can’t Quit This Game

You are NOT my friend
Bell Gargoyle on the loose!

I wrote about my experiences with the game, Dark Souls, up to the point where I played through it a second time up to the point when I ragequit the first. You can catch up on my adventures so far here. Because the post was getting long, I decided to end it and start a new one as I stepped foot into new territory–Blighttown. After beating the enemy that had bested me the first time I played the game (Gaping Dragon), I took some time to buy a crystal shield that I’m still using (though it deteriorates over time and you can’t repair it), to level up, and to make my weapons better than ever. By this point, I had an impressive array of weapons, but I still stuck mostly to my +10 Battle Axe. This is one gripe I have about Dark Souls–the game gives you a lot of weapons, but because each is so different, it’s easier just to become comfortable with one or two types and forego the rest. Another gripe is that I think there are some things that are unfair about the game versus being hard, but I’ll get to that later.

Blighttown. I’d heard stories about this area and how terrible it was. I don’t know of anyone, pro (YouTuber) or not who actually liked this area. Oh, I should note that I went back to the Undead Asylum and picked up the Rusted Ring, which would be very helpful in Blighttown because it allows you to walk on ‘poor footing’ (i.e., water) as easily as you do on solid ground. I’d never been in Blighttown before, and all of a sudden, I was as nervous as hell again. One thing FromSoft (the devs) does well is cultivate a sense of dread. Because most of the big bosses are so hard and saving (at the bonfires, really, read the first part) is so sparse, you have to do most areas over and over and over again. So, while the bosses may remain hard, you get pretty good at running the paths up to the big boss. When you beat a big boss, you move on to a new area, possibly with new common enemies, and you have to relearn what you once thought you knew.

Side Note: It’s really frustrating to see people talk about how easy a certain boss is if you’re having trouble with him/her. “Oh, you just have to do this, this, and that, and it’s no problem.” First of all, that’s dependent upon build. Second, these are usually people who have played the game for many, many hours and have beaten it several times. They have forgotten how hard the game was the first time they played it, or they’re just preternaturally good at the game. Even if the boss is easy to them, it’s not helpful to the person struggling to hear how easy said boss is. Also, you can get all the tips in the world on how to beat a boss, but you still have to fucking do it. That’s often much easier said than done.
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Dark Souls, Part One: It Has a Hold on Me

Editor’s Note: I have been obsessed with Dark Souls for the past month or so and am trying to figure out why. To that end, I’ve started two series on it–one that is about my experiences playing the game and one that is about how I feel about the game in general. There’s overlap, of course, but I felt that there’s also enough separation for two series. This is part one of the series about the gameplay. Part one of the other series is here

fly me away, Snuggly!
Say hello to my friend, Snuggly

The first time I started playing Dark Souls, I was prepared to die. Or so I thought. I knew it was a brutal game that didn’t give a shit whether you lived or died–in fact, it preferred it if you did the latter, thank you very much–and I thought I could handle it. I’d seen people play it, and I’d watched them die multiple times. I can do this, I told myself. I was so fucking wrong.

I started by creating my character. Dark Souls doesn’t really tell you anything about, well, anything, so I chose the pyromancy class solely because I like fire. I made my character female and old and fat like me. I chose Far East traveler as her race, and I made her look as much like me as possible. It wouldn’t matter because she wouldn’t be human for most of the game, but it made me happy to see her Asian face, so that’s all that really matters. I named her Mulan because that’s what I name most of my characters, and I was ready to play.

The game drops you into the Undead Asylum with nothing but a Broken Sword Hilt to defend yourself. If you go into the game not knowing anything about it, this area will kick your ass, even though it’s the tutorial. One thing you have to understand from the start is that FromSoftware (the developers, from now on referred to as FromSoft) doesn’t give a shit about you. They don’t bother telling you how to fight before they start throwing enemies at you, and if you don’t know that the glowing things are items you can pick up (from corpses, no less), you will miss out on your first shield and weapon right away. The different classes start with different weapons. Mine was a Hand Axe, and even to this day, I’m the most comfortable with axes.

One thing I have to mention–you cannot save in the traditional sense of the word in this game. Instead, you light bonfires in the different areas, and when you die (and you will die, I guarantee it), you return to the last bonfire you reached. You get souls every time you kill an enemy, and souls are what you use to level up and to buy things. If you die with souls on you, they are lost to you forever unless you return to the spot you died and retrieve them. It’s one of the most infuriating things about the game because you feel as if you lose so much progress every time you lose your souls, but it’s also one of the most brilliant things about the game as well because each death means something.
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Quick Bites: Titanfall, AKA, STOMPY ROBOTS!!

Quick Bites: Titanfall, AKA, STOMPY ROBOTS!!

Titanfall was an Xbox One exclusive (now on PC as well) by developer, Respawn Entertainment, and it debuted with all the hype that a next-gen game usually garners. I didn’t pay much attention because I don’t have an Xbone nor did I have a computer that could run Titanfall (let alone store it. 50 GB!!). Plus, there is no single-player campaign, and I’m not a multi gal, as I may have mentioned once or ten times before. This past weekend, though, EA allowed you to play it for free for 48 hours and had it on sale at half-price. I have very shitty downloading speed and I had multiple problems with the download, so by the time I actually DL’ed it, the sale was over. Still, it was free, I had a new rig on which it would look glorious, and STOMPY ROBOTS. What could be better? Only if Idris Elba showed up. Ahem.

Still, I hesitated. I hate doing things I’m bad at, especially in front of other people. I didn’t want to be the n00b who let the team down, even though I know everyone plays that role in the beginning. I rationalized to myself that I could do the tutorial and never play a match if I so choose. Keeping that firmly in mind, I plunged in. I went through the pilot tutorial and then the titan tutorial to familiarize myself with the controls. Again, I have to mention that while I use the Dvorak typing system, my keyboard is in QWERTY, so seeing prompts in Dvorak really fucks with my brain. Besides, as you gamers know, when I have the claw hand going on, my fingers aren’t on the proper keys. So ‘K’ (which is V for you QWERTIES), which I need to press to call down my titan, isn’t easy to find in a glance. I probably will have to get a Dvorak keyboard, but it’s not easy to find a gaming Dvorak keyboard.

Anyway, much of the pilot tutorial was old ground. WASD for movement, C for melee, E using things, etc. Space for jumping, twice for jumping even higher. As a pilot, the hardest thing for me to remember was cloaking and parkouring. The titan, on the other hand – I feel as if I barely scratched the surface of what my titan could do. It wasn’t until late into my last match that I – but I get ahead of myself. As is my wont.

After completing the tutorial, I hesitantly entered a match. I didn’t notice who I was playing with or against because I was too busy trying to remember everything I’d just learned. Briefly, in the campaign, there’s a story, but you’re mostly doing the usual things you do in multi games. Capture certain points, kill as many of the opposition as possible, etc. There is a voice that talks to you from time to time, but, frankly, I paid it no attention. I chose to be an assassin the first time (you can be her or the rifleman) and had an Ogre titan. You don’t get to be in your titan all the time – at least not in the beginning. I think the newer you are, the less you get to use the titan, but that’s strictly going on my impressions during gameplay.
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Quick Bites: Cook, Serve, Delicious Review – It’s Scrumptious!

Quick Bites: Cook, Serve, Delicious Review – It’s Scrumptious!

I was aware of Cook, Serve, Delicious (which shall be known as CSD for the rest of the post) way before I ever bought it.  It was supposed to be a hardcore cooking sim, and all the reviews I read emphasized how hard it was. Now, I like my cooking games, but I like them casual. If I’m going to play a hardcore game, I’m going to be shooting things in the face. Amirite, fellas???? Then, I saw Northernlion take a look at it (twice, as it was released on Desura before Steam picked it up), and I was intrigued. Yes, it looked hard, but it also looked fun. It went on sale of Steam because of course it did, and I picked it up. It’s made by one guy, David Galindo, and published by indie devs, Vertigo Gaming.

What is it, exactly? Well, it is a cooking sim – kind of. You own a restaurant in an office building, and at the beginning, it’s a shithole. You can buy a few items, but you have limited resources, so you want to be careful with what you buy. Every item has its pros and cons, such as Unappreciated (negative) which means a customer won’t tip with the item, Menu Rot (negative) which will give your buzz a hit if you have it on your menu for more than two days, The Big Tipper (positive) which is self-explanatory, and The Health Nuts (positive) which is a health food that is ‘somehow not gross’. Oh, and buzz is how much people are talking about your restaurant, and you can have both positive and negative buzz, and obviously, you can put foods on your menu and do actions that will affect your buzz.

In the beginning, you can have up to four items on your menu (you have to have at least three) and four customers at one time. You go throughout a day serving customers by typing letters that correspond with the ingredients they want for their order. For example, the hamburger. They tell you how many patties they want (you start out with only meat and later can upgrade to meat and chicken), and you tap M in accordance to that. Later, after the burger is grilled (you have a color meter telling you when it’s cooking, when it’s done, and when it’s on fire), the customer tells you which burger s/he wants, say the Ryan Davis,* which is meat, bacon, two cheese, and tomatoes, and you quickly type M, B, CC, T. Here’s a funny note – I have a QWERTY keyboard, but I use the Dvorak keyboard system, so I can’t look at the keyboard as I’m typing. That makes for some interesting brain farts when I have to use a lesser-used key like Q. Which is the X key for the rest of you.

Anyway, I took to CSD like a duck to water, and it was my go-to game when I just wanted to relax. Yeah, it’s fast-paced, but once you know the menu items, it’s just a matter of typing and timing. I type fast, and i have a good memory, so it became fairly easy for me once I learned all the menu items. OK, some items such as soup I still avoid because it’s a bitch, but in general, most of the items became familiar to me and thus, easy to serve. Plus, the game is meditative, and I found myself getting into the CSD zone any time I played.
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Quick Bites: Nuclear Throne – A Damn Addictive Game

Quick Bites: Nuclear Throne – A Damn Addictive Game

There’s a little game that is still in Early Access on Steam that was given to me by Ian and that I didn’t touch when I first got it because it scared me. It’s called Nuclear Throne, and it took every ounce of my gaming mettle to fire up this game. I had watched Northernlion play it, and I didn’t quite see the appeal. Still, since I got it for free, and it’s a tiny game to install, why not try it out, I reasoned. There’d be no harm in playing a game or two, right?

Let me tell you about the game. it’s the brainchild of an indie developer called Vlambeer, who also did Super Crate Box and other quirky indie games.  It’s post nuclear-apocalyse, and there are nine mutant characters that you can play. Vlambeer has said they will be adding even more! You start out with a certain number of them unlocked (Vlambeer updates the game every Sunday, and I think this changed in the time I have played the game) and unlock the rest with certain achievements. The dungeons are randomly-generated, so you never get the same game twice. Be prepared to die again and again and again because though the game is simple enough to understand, it’s devilishly-hard to play. Each character has a different active ability that you use by pressing the right-click button on your mouse (you can also use a gamepad to play the game), and it would behoove you to remember which character you’re playing because the right-click abilities are very different for each. Several characters have B-skins, too, which is fun to see when they show up, which is infrequently.

I started with Fish because he’s supposedly the easiest character for newbies to play with his dodge roll ability. I didn’t like him that much and quickly moved on to other characters. I latched on to Y.V. (Yung Venuz, the star of Vlambeer’s browser-based game, Gun GODZ. Which is damn hard, by the way.) His right-click ability is called pop pop which means he shoots twice with one click. He already shoots faster than the other characters, so it’s a pretty neat ability. I tried all the other characters, and it’s been interesting to see how I switch favorites from time to time.

From the start, the game grabbed me. You race through these different settings, killing as many enemies as you can with whatever weapons you’re given/can find. You might run out of ammo. You might be outgunned or out-(wo)manned. You might get cornered by, say, five purple scorpions and watch in horror as your health quickly depletes. If you’re Melting, you only have two health, so your situation is even more precarious. I sucked at it (and still do) of course, but I found myself pressing start over and over and over again. “Just one more level/game” is a gaming trope, but it’s applicable here. I’d tell myself, “Just one more game” and before I knew it, it was an hour later. Again, each game lasts roughly five to ten minutes, so that’s definitely more than just one more game.
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