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Costume Quest – Part II: ROBOT PUMPKIN VAMPIRE FORCE, GO! October 28, 2010

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Video Games.
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As I suspected, I finished up Costume Quest rather quickly last night. It took me 6 hours or a little less all told. The only thing of note after the Ferris wheel, other than the last hiding kid and vampire costume piece, was the corn maze. And that wasn’t difficult at all.  After a couple of costume shifts to get the “use every battle ability” trophy, I settled on the final grouping of Robot, Pumpkin, and Vampire. All three have some rather powerful hit-all attacks, and the Vampire also has healing. I gave that costume to Lucy along with the 2-Ply TP so that it was at the end of my battle order.

This combination of costumes was incredibly devastating against both normal encounters and Dorsilla. The normal enemy encounters couldn’t last three turns—once the hit-all attacks came out it was game over for them. It also made the Dorsilla battle fairly simple for much the same reason; she periodically summons two image/clones of herself to fight alongside her, and the big attacks are nice for getting rid of them quickly. And TP knocks her out of her charge up. I don’t have any idea what she was charging up, as I never let her get it off, but it was probably nasty.

Big Bones, on the other hand, could probably have used a different setup. I definitely could have used some of the HP regen stamps instead of the attack stamps I had equipped. And, while the heal-all of the vampire was nice, the Unicorn’s full-heal plus resurrect would also have been nice. Or I could have used the “resurrect self in one round with full health” stamp on someone. Not that it ultimately matters, as I did beat him the first time, but I only had one character conscious, and with 13 HP, at that. Admittedly, I did miss a couple of QTE defenses, though.

In all, Costume Quest was an amusing game. It was very Halloween-y. Sadly, I have done all there is to do, and the game has not given me a driving need to play through it again. It wasn’t a bad $14.99 spent, but I still would have been more comfortable with $9.99.

The next post will be about Fallout (the original), and be much more bloggy. I promise.

Costume Quest – Part I: We’re in Your Houses Stealing Your Candy October 27, 2010

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I broke down and picked up Costume Quest off of PSN last night. I figured I’d give Double Fine another chance, and I’d heard some decent things about it. I balked a bit at the price point ($14.99), but I went ahead and ponied up anyway. I’m still having a hard time with that decision.

Costume Quest is a whimsical little romp of an RPG. It’s Halloween and monsters are stealing all the candy. You play as one of a pair of siblings (the other gets kidnapped) on quest to get lots of candy, stop the monsters, get lots of candy, save your other half, and get lots of candy. It’s possible that candy should frontload that summary. Basically, what this all means is that you wander around the areas completing quests and getting new costumes on your quest to do the above. And get lots of candy.

The game has several ways of upgrading your characters. First, you collect costumes. Each costume can be equipped to a character, can increase the character’s attack and/or defense, and grants the character that costume’s signature ability—anything from healing to dropping large rocks from the sky on unsuspecting enemies. Some costumes also have an ability that can be used on the map, like the robot’s boost, which makes you move faster and lets you traverse ramps. To get a new costume you either have to find the pattern and three materials, or be given it outright. Most of the time you’ll be constructing

Then you have battle stamps. These are generally bought with candy or won from boss fights. Each character can have one stamp, and these grant things such as increased attack power, the ability to counterattack, area-of-effect attacks, and stun abilities. There are numerous stamps in the game, though I have found some to be of dubious usefulness.

Finally, your characters gain experience points through winning battles and completing quests. Characters do not level up individually. Instead, there is one XP bar, and when it fills, everyone levels up. So all of your characters will always be at the same level, and you don’t have to worry about trying to balance growth. This also means that winning a battle is all that matters—you don’t have to worry about how many characters are conscious at the end.

Costume Quest will have you spend a lot of time trick-or-treating door to door. Each area has a number of houses, and you have to hit all of them to progress to the next place. Each house will have either a person, who will give you candy, or a monster, which you’ll have to fight. The first area is the largest (so far), and the most tedious. The other areas are more compact and have a few less houses, making for a less annoying and meandering experience. I was getting rather annoyed with the game until I got past the first neighborhood and things started flowing better, in fact.

In addition to trick-or-treating, there are also sidequests you can do. Each area appears to have a hide-and-seek quest (find all the kids, get reward) and some trading car quests (get certain card, trade to kid for different, rare card). And that’s pretty much about it. There are other subquests unique to each area, but they tend to be part of the main story progression and so don’t really count as “sidequests” per se.

Oh and you cannot save the game outside of the auto-save. Which sucks. Hard.

But enough about that. What am I doing in the game right now? I’m plowing through nosty grubbins with my ninja, robot, and unicorn costumes. I like to think of them as NINJA ROBOT UNICORN TEAM! GO! Though, with as much healing as I’m not needing, I’m tempted to fire up NINJA ROBOT SPACEMAN TEAM! GO! Just for the spaceman’s special ability. Meteor dropping is always fun. Just ask Sephiroth. Or Char.

I ditched the Knight suit as soon as I snagged the Statue of Liberty costume. Which I put Everett in for the irony factor. He later became my unicorn for a while. Also solely for the amusement value. I’ve found the robot to be amazing and awesome, and something I still have in my party. Though I did discover that the DOT from Missile Barrage kicks a monster out of stun in time to let it attack, which is mildly annoying.

Two things I have found with combat. First, always have some support/healing. You never know when something messy is going to happen. And second, stun attacks are awesome. Slap the T.P. stamp on whoever is last in line (preferably the support character) and you can keep one or two enemies locked down for an entire fight. It makes things almost pathetically easy. But, hey, I have a TP-tossing Unicorn. So there.

I’m not having a problem with the “press button to bring pain” aspect of the battle system. The reaction windows are enormous, particularly compared to, oh, say, Legend of Dragoon. And, frankly, I’d be bored to tears if the battle system wasn’t at least a little interactive.

The game is humorous, and I do sometimes find myself chuckling at the goings on. I particularly loved the part with the French fry costume in Fall Valley. And that sizzling grease sound…YUM! Which reminds me. I still need to use that thing in battle for the special attack achievement trophy.

At the moment I’ve cleared up through the ferris wheel. I really should take notes as I play so as to make these posts a bit more interesting. The game is a fun time though, as I said, I’m not completely sold on the price point. I’ll have to see how it goes tonight. I’m not sure how much I have left, but I can’t imagine it’s very much. I expect that I’ll probably finish tonight and have a conclusion to post tomorrow.

The Return of the Lazy Backlogging Bum October 22, 2010

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Anime, Blog-along, Video Games.
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So. Here we are. I am officially a lazy bum. What happened these last months, you ask? A couple of things. For one, I got distracted by a couple of non-backlog-related projects. And then when I did start playing again, I ended up spending all my time playing and not typing up blog posts. Bad, evil, naughty me.

But I’m back! For what it’s worth.

Let’s see…progress….

Dragon Age Origins is done. I started up a Nightmare game with a female human noble rogue, but am still in Ostagar on that. Haven’t touched the game in a while. I did play through the Return to Ostagar DLC on my mage, but I haven’t picked up the Awakenings DLC yet. I should probably do that at some point before DAO2 comes out.

I still have a few trophies to nab on Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, but that game is just about all done. I think I’m just down to a couple of challenge missions and finishing up the boost collection.

I think I’ve touched Demon’s Souls once since my last blog entry on it. It’s at the point where I pretty much need to start over, I think. Or at least replay some parts with my current character to get back into the swing of things. I did watch a speed run of it, though, and was rather amused.

Star Ocean: First Departure has likewise been on the back burner. Mostly because I got bored being so bloody powerful. I’ll probably restart it and refrain from being awesome at Art next time around.

I haven’t touched Metal Gear Solid or Valkyria Chronicles in forever, and I don’t even remember where I am in them anymore.

Okay, enough about how much I suck. I did manage to actually beat some games and finish some anime these last months, even though I didn’t mention it on here. The list of games I’ve taken care of in 2010 is currently thus (as best as I can recall):

SNES
Dragon Quest I
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest

PS2
Ar Tonelico : Melody of Elemia
Final Fantasy X International

PS3
Assassins Creed II (+ first DLC)

Bayonetta
Final Fantasy XIII
God of War (God of War Collection)
God of War II (God of War Collection)
God of War III
Heavy Rain
Resistance: Fall of Man
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

PC
Dragon Age: Origins (+DLC)

Mass Effect (+DLC)

Mass Effect 2 (+some DLC, but not Shadow Broker)
Plants vs. Zombies

Tsukihime
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War

PSP
God of War: Chains of Olympus

I think that’s fairly accurate. I’m still going through Tsukihime to finish off all the character routes, and I started up Atelier Annie. Oh, and Final Fantasy XI and XIV. Not that I’ve done much with either in recent weeks. And I started up Xenosaga again in an attempt to get through all three games.

As far as anime goes, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Gundam OO were my most memorable watches, and I very much enjoyed both. Black Lagoon was so-so. I’m slowly working through Golion, at like an episode per month. That is quite a slow series.

And I think that puts us back on track. The next update will likely be on Tsukihime later this afternoon. Like, as soon as I type it up. Which I’ll start doing after I post this. I also have a backlog-related project in the wings that I might start on next week. If that happens, I’ll be posting more details then.

For those (few) interested, my current video game backlog looks like this:

http://www.backloggery.com/suzaku

Sadly, it’s actually a tad bigger than that, though the sense of scale is about the same. I haven’t updated it as quickly as I’ve been pulling games from Steam sales >_>

Until next time (which I hope will be matter of minutes or hours, rather than months)!

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 – Part VIII: The Juggernaut, Bitch! November 13, 2009

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Video Games.
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So DLC has been released for MUA2, and I just had to have it. Mostly because Psylocke is awesome. Of course, you don’t see her name in the post title, do you? Didn’t think so. That’s because in addition to the big DLC pack, Juggernaut is now a DLC character for everyone. Hallelujah!

My party currently consists of Thor (because he’s a complete and utter badass), Magneto (because I used Phoenix last playthrough), Psylocke (see above; also, she has a nice targeted fusion with…), and Juggernaut. Because he’s awesome. And big. And awesome. Also, his Triangle power is awesome at building fusion meter on bosses.

I spent most of my MUA2 playtime since the DLC dropped doing silly things like the last set of trivia I needed to complete, getting the fusion trophy (all fusions with all non-DLC characters), and unlocking the extra costumes for the non-DLC crowd. After that I figured I’d traipse through the levels some more, and got all the way to the secret S.H.I.E.L.D. base. Woo! Some boss battles were a little interesting since this *is* Legendary and I was going for the no-revival trophy. I did do part of one map Thor-less, but that was the only time I ran for an extended amount of time with a character down. If either Juggy or Psylocke (Juggly?) went down, I just reloaded a previous save. The Colossus/Dazzler fight was a bit hairy, until I just decided to take Colossus down first. Then it was cake. Captain America, in all of his various forms, were not too bad, though I have been noticing a distinct lack of healing tokens in boss fights this time around, where that never bothered me on the last playthrough.

I’ve been making sure to keep up on pickups in the levels, and have made a conscious effort to get them all before moving onto the next mission. So far, so good. I’ve also maxed all my Attitude bonuses, and taken another stab at some simulator challenges, with varying degrees of success. Thor is rocking the power pips, and I really need to stop feeding him the ones in the field. Psylocke is hungry, ya know? Thor is just about maxed out on his powers, and will be before he hits 60. I’d been neglecting his lightning bolt power, but I’m seeing it becoming much, much more useful as the game progresses. Heck in the Venom/Goblin fight in the chemical plant, lightning took Venom and Gobbie down quickly whenever I wasn’t tossing bombs down the reactor core. That seems to be the way Thor goes as a whole. He starts out pretty meh, but then gets exponentially more awesome the more levels he gets.

Overall, there hasn’t been anything terribly surprising this time around, other than the awesomeness of Thor and Juggy. Magneto seems to be holding his own quite well, and I haven’t noticed him sucking, so good for him. I haven’t played much (or at all….) with the Carnage or Black Panther, so I can’t speak to their effectiveness. Maybe later sometime. I do need to get their alternate outfits at least.

Dragon Age: Origins – Part I: A Tale of Two Versions November 13, 2009

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Video Games.
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I know I haven’t updated in a while, but I went on an extensive sidetrack away from game-related things. While I did fiddle around with some games for a bit, I didn’t really accomplish anything. I knocked out some levels in Scribblenauts, got to Silvalant in Star Ocean, and went pretty much nowhere in Demon’s Souls.  Oh, and I made more progress on Ultimate Alliance 2, now that the new DLC is out. But that will be its own post.

But the real purpose of this post is to discuss Dragon Age: Origins. I had pre-ordered the PS3 collector’s edition from Amazon months ago, and it finally arrived this week. After a fairly lengthy round of installing and inputting content codes, I was taking my first plunge into the world of Ferelden.

Or not. In reality, I spent the next long time in the character creator. It is a very, very sexy thing. I’ve only spent that much time in a character creator once twice before—in Star Wars Galaxies and City of Heroes. Putting some serious time into designing a character in an offline game is a somewhat new experience for me. I was amazed at the various options and depth of customization. And the kicker is that you can only actually customize your character’s face (and hairstyle, voice, and portrait, but meh). There’s no body customization. It’s an interesting choice, but probably for the best. I’d likely still be sitting there if body customization was available.

I ended up creating an Elven mage (typical, I know—but this one was really based off of my WoW character, so….) and running through that origin story. The origin section alone took several hours, and had a lot of dialogue trees. The dialogue in Dragon Age is amazingly well-acted, and the lips sync up well with it. It’s a small thing, but it helps bring the characters to life. And even early on there are some interesting lines you can pick. There is some odd shadowing and shimmering on character models during conversations on the PS3, but nothing major. Movement and conversation work well.

And then there’s combat. Combat works well enough if one is soloing (which is the case for the first couple of dungeons in the origin), but the interface really starts to get clunky when the combats get larger, as I found out in the third dungeon of the origin. By that time I had a cone of fire that I could spew, and would have killed my compatriots several times over had I been playing on a difficulty higher than normal. The limitation of only having 6 abilities hotkeyed at quickly becomes an issue, as well as only being able to pause combat by opening up the radial menu. The game is screaming for tactical combat, which the PS3 version does not deliver. It’s fun for what it does, but it’s easy to see that the designers had more in mind.

The menu interface also leaves something to be desired on the console. In order to compare equipment in your inventory with equipment that you’re wearing, you have to highlight the equipment and hit a button. This brings up two big boxes with equipment details, covering pretty much all the screen. You can scroll through your inventory in this view, but you can’t actually see what you’re doing. It’s mildly annoying. The codex interface is a bit more annoying. The quests and codex entries are just linear lists that take a lot of scrolling to get through. It’s also easy to close a section you wanted open, and to open a section you want closed on accident. Overall, the menu system, like the battle interface, is functional but not optimal.

I did make it up to the Tower of Ishar in Ostagar in my first evening. I had planned to make the ascent and light the beacon last night. Despite interface annoyances, the game really dragged me in. Three hours passed unnoticed, followed by a couple more. Dragon Age really is addictive.

But wait, there’s more!

After airing my grievances with the PS3 version with a couple of friends who own the PC version, I looked into that version more in-depth. It appeared that none of the issues I had with the PS3 version were present in the PC release, and the interface was actually *gasp* intuitive! After much hemming and hawing, I decided to but the PC version. I installed it (15+GB? WTF!) and quickly recreated my character. The PC version has a couple more sliders in the character creation area, including the ability to tweak the character portrait’s expression. Nothing major, but cool nonetheless.

I had to run through the origin again, but it really wasn’t as tedious as I thought it might be. Even running the same content again a day later, the game was still totally engrossing. I think part of that may have been the actually logical and intuitive interface this time around. The quick pause feature alone is worth it. The tweakable camera angles are also great. There are a few more tutorial tips in the PC version because of the new interface, but nothing major.

The interface isn’t the only place the PC version differs from the PS3 release, however. The loot appears to be different in the PC version (and a bit less to boot). Running through the Harrowing went quickly enough. The dialogue options were exactly the same, and the controls were easier to use (duh).

I popped out of the Harrowing, and ran around the tower with no hint of the framerate hiccups present in the PS3 version. Yay! Though, in my explorations I noticed that bookcases no longer sparkle like chests and crates if they have loot. That is very good to know. Some other things also fail to sparkle, so it pays to be more observant in this version, as well. With the mouse and camera control, though, it’s really pretty simple. Things that you can poke still glow blue when you mouse over them.

My next real eye-opener was the spider-infested store-room tunnels. Now, I am running the game at maxed-out graphical settings, but DAMN does this place look good. Total night and day versus the console. Once again, navigation was simple, auto-pausing upon entering combat was great, as was the occasional manual pause. This (mini) dungeon was much more fun this time around. I was in and out in no time.

A couple of quick conversations later and I was on to the third and final (and only *real*) dungeon of the origin. This was where the game slapped me upside the head and informed me that I was an utter fool if I thought the difficulty level would be the same as the PS3 version. That is very much not the case. The PC version is *harder*. Not because of any interface clunkiness, but because the enemies seem a little smarter, hit harder, etc. And later on, there are more of them. I was much more involved in combat this time around, and I got this overwhelming feeling that this was how the Baldurs Gate and KotOR games *should* have been. It was incredible. Combat was fast, frantic, and just plain awesome.

I plowed through the dungeon without much of a problem, came out, had my conversations, watched a couple cutscenes, and joined the Grey Wardens. I did pick a couple of different dialogue options this time through just to see, but nothing really affected anything. Which, since I don’t have any real party members yet, makes sense.

Onward to Ostagar! I tore through the dialogue, and found a quest that I hadn’t run across previously—a guy captured for desertion had a key to a shiny cool chest, but wanted me to get him some food and water before he’d trade it to me. I could have tried to kill him outright, but I decided I wasn’t playing that kind of character this time around. Because I screwed up with my skill allocation I hadn’t picked up a level in Coercion, and I failed to get him his food. Oops. I guess I’ll see about trying that quest next time around with a rogue.

My trek through the woods went well enough, though I did have to reload once. It turns out that in the PC version, letting yourself get sidetracked while the other three members of the party deal with a mob of enemies will start getting people killed. Who’da thunk? Did I mention that the PC version is harder? With more enemies? Yep, this is where it really starts to show. I cleared through the woods well enough, this time conspicuously avoiding the old Grey Warden ruins until I’d finished up my other quests out here. After getting all the side stuff done I went along, met Morrigan and her mother, and returned to camp. Though, not before sprinkling some ashes on some rocks and awakening a demon and having to dispose of it. Yep, something else I hadn’t found last time through. Spiffy.

Like before, I came, I saw, I Joined. The war council was the same, with the same sinking feeling that Loghain was going to turn tail when the beacon was lit. The cutscene of the beginning of the battle once again gave me flashbacks to Lord of the Rings (might have been the totally awesome music), but this time was much prettier. I fought my way to the tower (sustainable abilities, like frost weapon, really can suck up the mana) and went inside.

And promptly got rocked. Repeatedly.

This was the point where the game told me it was serious. That it had shown me how to play and now expected me to put up or shut up. It flattened me. Several times. This was where I learned that just because I had a healing spell didn’t mean that it was actually going to do the job all by itself. I ended up mowing down health packs like a starving denizen of a third-world country, and that finally got me through. The next several rooms were a tad easier, though no less intense, and then I got to another big room, this time with a ballista close by. That I could use. It was awesome. By the end  I was pretty much bowling for party members, but meh. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I discovered on the PS3 that even with friendly fire off, cone of cold would still freeze allies even if it didn’t damage them. I suppose the knockdown from the ballista would be no different. So I kept firing the bugger with the occasional break to life drain the baddie shooting at me and using health packs on the rest of my team.

I tried to cautiously go room by room, but apparently enemies in this game can open doors, so I was pretty much up against 6+ guys at once at a minimum. But it’s all good. There were many mana-giving corpses on the ground—thankfully all the enemy’s.

When I reached the top of the tower and saw my opponent, my first thought was “wow, that’s a badass looking monster” followed quickly by “he is *so* going to eat me.” He did have a lot of health, and he hit really hard. I ended up not being able to keep the rest of my guys up, usually because he was picking one up and squeezing them repeatedly—which not only hurt them, but also denied them actions so they couldn’t health pack when my heal spell was down. Of particular interest to me, however, was that some of his attacks were manually dodgeable. He’d start to throw a really big rock, and I could run out of the way. He’d charge, and I could dodge. I used this to great effect after he’d broken my other three party members, and managed to take him down with a sliver of health left on my main character. Talk about a tight battle! I love this game.

After the epic boss battle I lit the beacon, watched the cutscene, went “Ah-hah! Called it!” at Loghain’s part in it, and promptly got pincushioned with arrows and landed on my ass. I woke up at Morrigan’s hut, had a lively chat with her and her mother, and am now ready to go to town (literally and figuratively).

And that’s where I stopped for the night. I can’t wait to continue my adventure this evening.

Demon’s Souls Part II – Here There Be Dragons October 9, 2009

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Video Games.
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I had intended to get this written up and posted yesterday, but circumstances didn’t play nice.

I beat 1-1 Wednesday night. Phalanx was an awesome boss fight. Not because it was hard or complicated, but because of the mechanics behind it. The creation of little minions that also act as shields, in addition to be stand-alone enemies was sweet.

I also discovered an interesting workaround to the second death thing. If you die, and then die again getting back to your bloodstain, you can turn off the system before you get loaded back to the beginning of the level, and you cancel out the death. So you can load the game back up to get back to your stain. I admit, I used this a couple of times when I didn’t want to lose 5000 souls (which, to me, was a lot at that point in the game).

I stumbled upon a soldier in need, and actually managed to not kill him. Go me! I helped him clear a couple of rooms, and ended up getting some spiffy loot out of it. Luckily the couple times I hit him didn’t bother him too much. I’m starting to miss my rapier already. I also discovered that I can hop walls by using the X button. I saw a corpse with an item on it, but no path to actually get to it. So I eventually just tried hopping a wall above it, and sure enough, it let me hop over. Cool. Got a new ring for my troubles.

The depth of background really wowed me. Seeing the dragons on the cliff over that-a-way while traversing other parts of the area was a sight to behold. And they were animated! I found a message right before the bridge with tons of enemies on it that said to try it later, so I instead took the path that ended me up outside with the dragons. Yay. Damn, but they look good the closer I get to them. I took one look at the pile of smoldering bodies on top of the cliff, and decided to explore the lower path. That did appear to piss off the dragons a bit, but I kept close to the wall and their breath didn’t touch me. Got some nifty loot out of it, too.

Realizing that, while it had some cool scenery, this obviously wasn’t the way to go to progress things, I went back and confronted the bridge with tons of enemies. I had just drawn the first couple of demons towards me when I heard what sounded like a dragon circling. I didn’t think much of it—I assumed it was part of the scenery or something. Then the wing beats got closer, the dragon roared, and I heard the sound of flame blasting out of its gullet. I figured I ought to get the hell out of there, but alas, I didn’t make it in time. Luckily, neither did most of the enemies on that bridge. *cue evil laughter*

Now knowing what to expect, I retrieved my souls (I love shortcuts), patiently waited for the dragon to finish its series of breaths, and sprinted across the bridge (poorly) dodging the few remaining enemies. I had a close call at one point where I got pinned between two demons and the wall, but I managed to barrel dodge roll out of that one. Once I got to the other side I polished off the remaining demons, tempted fate by retrieving some pickups from dead bodies on the bridge, and pulled the lever to open Phalanx’ room.

The rest of the level saw me blasting my way through globs of black…pus…with my soul arrow and arriving back at the beginning of the level before the gaping maw of the Phalanx room. Cool. Then I whooped his gooey core and ported back to the Nexus. That felt epic. I love this game.

I ran around talking to the folks the plot dictated I talk to, and unlocked the ability to level up. Yay! Between the souls I had gathered, and the “usable” souls picked up from random soldiers along the way, I ended up around Soul Level 15. I suppose I ought to start thinking about using souls for weapon upgrades, but I wanted to get my stats in order first. I’m starting to really put a bunch into strength so I can use the purple flame shield I got from the cliff. That seems like a really nifty shield.

After I leveled, and stored my crap, and repaired, I decided to venture into 1-2. This level has so far been uneventful. I blasted some goos with magic, rescued the same dude I rescued in the last level, and almost got toasted by a dragon. So all in a day’s work. I do find it amusing that the dragon will strafe the bridge, but not any of the towers along it (so far, at least). Also, I hate dogs. Not in real life, but in the context of this game. They’re quick, they’re hard to hit, and they hurt. I had to slay a good half dozen of them so far.

I stopped partway through 1-2, in a tower on the wall/bridge/whatever and haven’t progressed any farther yet. This game is still awesome. It took me 3-4 hours to really beat the first level, though that does count time spent screwing around with the system (mmm….dual-wield….), and the time in the tutorial.

Demon’s Souls – Part I: We’re All Gonna Die. Over and Over Again. October 7, 2009

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Video Games.
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I found out about Demon’s Souls a month or so ago, and after some research decided that it needed to be on my pre-order list. I had some pretty high expectations for the game from the reviews that I’d read, and I was eagerly awaiting release day. It arrived yesterday from Amazon and I have to say, I’m damn impressed. This game is awesome.

And by awesome, I mean awesomely hard. You will die. A lot. The game knows this, and even plans for it by working in death as an actual mechanic and not just a punishment for screwing up. When you die, you respawn at the beginning of the level you died in. If you manage to make it back to the spot you died at without dying again, you get back everything you lost when you died—orbs, max health levels, etc. If you die again, well, you’re screwed because the previous blood spot you made will be gone, replaced with one where you most recently died. So don’t die twice in a row.

The premise of the game is simple: there’s a kingdom in peril, there’s fog, and there’s monsters. Kill the monsters, drive back the fog, save the world. It’s all very basic, but that’s fine. Demon’s Souls harkens back to the days of yore when gameplay was king and stories were there as a backdrop to justify the actions taking place. And the gameplay is goo. And hard. Demon’s Souls is one of the only games I know of where it’s easy to die in the tutorial level. I mean besides the part at the end where the story says you die.

I booted up the game and planned to make dinner while the install was happening. Right. Bad idea. There’s no install. You get to watch a pretty awesome video, then you get the title screen. Then you go. The first thing the game had me do was create my character. I got to chose gender (two options) and class (lots of options). I picked Royalty because I heard that they get to stab and frag. Swords and magic sounded like a good combo to me.

In addition to class and gender, I got to customize lots of physical characteristics. There’s a basic mode where I could just choose between some preset faces, hair styles, and such, but there’s also a more advanced mode where I can select anything from the profile of the chin to the curvature of the cheekbones. The changes are subtle, but they still provide ample customization.

After I made my character, a blond-haired blue-eyed rapier-wielding magic-slinging dude named Vahn, I was taken to the tutorial level. My first thought was “damn, the game looks great.” My second thought was wow, that animation is fluid.” My third thought was “okay, I really ought to get on with it now.” So I got on with it. I came across some glowing red script on the ground, which turned out to be a message. In the tutorial, these are system messages teaching me the controls. In the game proper, these can be left by other players. More on that later.

The tutorial level walked me through various combat and item usage commands, and almost killed me several times. Which would have been embarrassing, but this is Demon’s Souls. Death is expected. I also saw some phantoms of other players running around, which was at once both cool and freaky. Combat is very solid, by the way. Guarding is done with the left trigger, and attacking with the right. L2 is a shield deflection which, if timed correctly can be followed up with a normal attack for an instant kill. R2 is a heavy attack. There’s also an option to grip a weapon in two hands, but I didn’t notice much use for this with my rapier. I assume that bigger weapons will get much more mileage out of this feature.

After the tutorial level, and my rather inglorious death, I was taken to a nexus area. There were some NPCs to talk to, including a blacksmith that had some other weapons and armor for sale. He also offered to upgrade my existing stuff, but I didn’t have nearly enough souls by this point to do anything with them. I also found a bank character, though I didn’t have any excess crap to toss in at the time. It’s good to know one exists, though, as the game does have an encumbrance system.

I explored the place some more, watched some amusing deaths, read some messages, and found the warps to the game’s levels, which I appear to be able to approach in any order. I remembered seeing some footage of a level with some castle ramparts, so I went ahead and picked the level at the bottom of the steps next to some guy.

So I launched into Boletaria and watched a big-ass dragon swoop down and eat some random soldier. That’s when I knew this game was going to be epic. After the first couple of enemies nearly had their way with me, I remembered that I had a lock on function. That made things significantly easier. I have to say, I love the rapier. It’s quick, has a decent range, and doesn’t have much recovery time.

There weren’t very many notable moments (or maybe there were, depending on your point of view). I died a lot. Some of the messages left by other players were pretty useful. Others, not so much. I ran into a few that told me to look out behind me, but most of those were either in a bad spot for me to actually figure out where “behind me” was, or they were placed just a touch too late. But I’m glad they tried. There were some that warned of traps and ambushes, for which I am grateful (and marked those messages up to show my gratitude). The Indiana Jones moment with the huge stone ball rolling down the stairs was pretty cool.

One issue I have with the messaging system is that it consists merely of canned messages, some of which allow you to insert words or phrases. Unfortunately, they’re not very customizable, so the boulder message was just “trap ahead” and not something along the lines of “giant boulder rolling down the stairs ahead.” But I suppose that added to the mystique, and if the things got too verbose they’d be more akin to having the game played for me. It’s more fun when I know something is coming, but have to figure out exactly what. On the other hand, I tried to leave a message about standing on one side of a wooden machine and blasting a boss-like enemy from there, and I had to adlib it. I don’t even remember what my message said exactly, but it was a tad arcane for the situation.

Another thing I learned from Demon’s Souls: glowing eyes are BAD THINGS. They appear to denote stronger than normal enemies. If you’re thinking that if they’re stronger than normal, they’d have to be able to kill me in one go, you’d be right. Here’s an example. I came up a flight of stairs and onto a rampart. I killed the normal enemies fairly handily with my magic (I love my magic). Then I saw this thing with blue glowing eyes standing in front of a fog portal. I approach it, and it takes off half my health. I dodge out of the way, blast it with magic a few times, and done. This is the thing I tried to place the message on. It’s much easier to take out from a distance.

At this point the rampart is clear, and I discover that I have a couple of options for where I can go. There are towers at either end of the rampart, and there’s the fog portal. I picked one tower and went that way. I went through the room, read a message that said, quite succinctly, “goodbye,” and came out on another rampart with an enemy that looked like the overly strong creature I killed by the fog portal, but this one had red eyes. Well, I beat Blue Eyes, so Red Eyes shouldn’t be too bad, right? Yeah, about that. It turns out that this one has a spear, and a multi-thrust combo that can easily one-shot me. Needless to say, I became a puddle of blood on the ground.

I respawned at the beginning of the level and made it back to that rampart. I expected my bloodspot to be right outside the door, where I actually died. Instead, it’s right where I aggroed the monster. Greeaaaat. So I grab the blood spot and aggro the demon. And proceed to run like hell. I clear the room and start running along the rampart I came up, and I hear the thing still behind me. Which freaks me out a bit because so far nothing has chased me all that far. I make a beeline for the fog portal because I figure that the thing can’t follow me inside. Yeah, about that. It definitely followed me inside. I ran down some steps, and it started coming down after me. So I started blasting it with magic. It made it to the bottom of the steps, and I had it one hit away from death. So I stand there and start casting, and the bloody demon lunges at me from much farther away than I had any idea it could. Yep, death for me. But at least I know I can technically kill the thing, and I have a decent idea as to how such a feat can be accomplished.

I respawned as normal, and got killed by the second group of enemies in the level. It turns out that, while my Vahn is more than capable of utilizing a downward thrust to destroy barrels, crates, and other inanimate objects, he spontaneously forgets that skill when trying to attack an enemy a couple of steps below him on a staircase. Lovely.  In an effort to save my bloodstain with 2000-odd souls, I killed the game before it could reload. We’ll see what I end up with when I fire it up next, which will likely be tonight.

So far, Demon’s Souls forces the player to know what’s coming, while at the same time giving the enemies enough of an AI that they don’t always act the exact same way every time. So even if you already know an area, you still have to be on your toes. It’s a pretty solid approach to game design, and works well here. It also serves to make restarting a level a bunch of times not so much of a chore.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 – Part VII: Once More, With Feeling September 30, 2009

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Video Games.
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I started up my New Game+ last night. I once again was stuck with the same initial four as the first time, but that wasn’t terribly unexpected. Boy, are the enemies tougher now! Not “tougher” as in more difficult, but in that they do way more damage and have way more health. I got through the entirety of Latveria only quitting and restarting once (I wanted credit towards the no revival/map reload trophy), and that was on the last map. The bosses so far haven’t been too bad; it’s been the mobs of enemies that are the real killer. I used the Femme Fatales to clear the final Latveria map, and I can safely say I won’t be doing that again. Only clearing fusions, mediocre damage, and limited survivability are not a good combination on Legendary. The Tinkerer bot fight pretty much was reduced to standing back and zapping the legs, popping a clearing fusion every so often to clear out the little enemies and get a health token, and repeating ad infinitum.

Other than that, I played with the New Avengers on a rerun of the first level to pick up the dossier that I apparently kept managing to miss somehow. Luke Cage does not take much damage. At all. And he has a nice Targeted fusion with Spider-Man. Cool. I haven’t messed around with the other “teams” yet, but I have reached the conclusion that any team with Thor, a targeted fusion, and a clearing fusion is made of awesome and win. And really, the two fusions are optional. I know I said before that I didn’t really get what was so awesome about the guy, but man, does he ever shine on Legendary. His X power torpedoes him through mobs of enemies, pretty much flattening anything in his way. His hammer smash is solid damage with a small aoe. And his circle power is pretty sweet, as well. I haven’t had much use for his triangle power, though.

So, my team. Thor is definitely in. The AI tends to use both Storm and Invisible Woman effectively, though Storm moreso. So Storm is in, too. Her ridiculous damage immunities also help. I’m thinking of taking Hulk for a big, nigh invulnerable bruiser, and I never really gave him much play my first time through. Plus he needs to take down a couple of bosses later in the game anyway. I’m still leaning towards Songbird as my fourth, partly because she has some great potential, and partly because I already used Jean a ton my first time through. Of course, things may change when I see what I have for fusion types with this roster. The AI also seemed to do pretty well with Nick Fury.

I’ve gotten all the pickups from Latveria now, and it’s pretty cool how the bosses drop new boosts on Legendary. I haven’t gone back through any of the simulator challenge missions yet, and I’ll probably wait on that until I’ve gotten farther through the game and leveled up more, anyway. I’ve been racking up the Diplomatic responses, and I’ll probably get those boosts unlocked around Act II. Then it’s just on to Defensive. Which I *might* be able to do this time through as well. Maybe. It will probably be pretty tight. I’ll have to make sure I get the special conversations, too. Oh, and I need to knock out the Act I trivia game yet, too. I’ll probably use a second controller and cheat the fusion bonuses on it this time.

I finally got around to ordering a wireless earpiece/microphone from Amazon, and it arrived yesterday. I charged it up, so I’ll have to see about taking MUA2 (and other games…like Gundam 0081…) online at some point. I’m actually strangely excited at being able to play PS3 games online now (my internet connection is *much* more reliable at my new place than it was at my old one) and being able to communicate with the people I’m playing with. Should make for some fun times.