Category Archives: Video Games

Dark Souls: Death Comes Naturally

I got back from Gamestop one rainy night with my copy of Dark Souls.  If you’ve been reading my posts, you should know that I love RPGs.  A whole lot.  I had heard rumblings from other reviewers that Dark Souls was hard.  Not a “Wow this is surprisingly difficult!” kind of hard, but soul crushingly difficult.  I can honestly say, that this is about as accurate a statement as you can say regarding this game.

That’s one of the earlier boss fights, the Moonlight butterfly, and this video makes it look easy.  This fight took me about 10 tries to finish off (Albeit, it’s because I had no ranged capabilities).  Difficulty isn’t only a feature of this game; difficulty IS this game.  And that’s a good thing.

This is beyond your run of the mill RPG.  The plot isn’t relevant, hell it’s barely there at all.  The character’s aren’t gripping, and there’s no Mass Effect world writing here.  And while I would normally just say “What’s the point!” in an RPG, this game doesn’t need any of those.  As a matter of fact, I might venture to say a game like this would be hindered by such things.

One of the greatest things about this game, is the absolute overwhelming sense of despair and loneliness it leaves you with.  The world is dark, and desolate, and absolutely beautiful.  The graphics are not only amazing, but at the same time it’s not just the graphics that are beautiful, but the world itself is unbelievable.  It’s the combination of not only utter despair, but absolute beauty of the world that makes this game a joy to play, even in the face of difficulty.

Yeah, no, that's fair

TOTALLY an even fight

Which brings me to my next point: This game is hard.  One of the main points in this game is gathering souls by defeating enemies.  Souls basically act as both experience points you use for leveling up, and currency for buying items and using a blacksmith.  When you die, you drop all of the souls you had where you died, and if you die again before you reach that point again, you can kiss goodbye to those souls.  But only rarely is this game unfair.  And I mean VERY rarely.  At early levels, poison can be absolutely trying, because it just DOESN’T GO AWAY, and the curse ailment, which halves your maximum health, stacks, leaving you at times with 1/8th of your health!  But in the scope of the game, this is really just a minor gripe, as with the right items, this can be more or less circumvented.

These are Bonfires. they replenish your health, give you potions, let you level up, and you go back to them whenever you die. They are your only friend.

It’s also worth noting the almost genius online features of this game.  I mentioned the overwhelming loneliness this game presents at times, but when you play online, you are never alone.  Occasionally, you’ll see the ghost of another player walking around, or see the blood splatter where another player dies, giving a look at the last moments of the players life before his unfortunate end, or hear the ring of the bell signifying someone else finishing the end of the level, which presents the glimmer of hope and the idea that it IS possible, and shows that you can keep going.  but the greatest idea that this game presents, is the soapstones.  these items let you leave messages on the ground for other players in other worlds to see, or leave yourself available for other players to summon you so in cooperation, you and the person who summoned you to fight together.  These soapstones are the highlight of the online, in my opinion, creating an environment of indirect cooperation of players, all moving toward the same end.

There is also another part of the online, where you can invade another player’s world, but in all honesty, I can’t get it to work out.  I never played it, but apparently in Demon’s Souls, Atlus hosted servers where invading and invaded came together.  In this game, The invading player hosts the match, which isn’t exactly reliable.  You see a lot of “Finding player” followed by “connection failed.” And the item that you used to partake in this goes away whether it was successful or not.  Does it work well?  Probably, I can see how an epic struggle between players would be amazing in this game.  but the servers are just too unreliable.

This is not a game for everyone.  You WILL die.  A lot.  And you will always be better for the experience, learning something else about your adversaries. And then adjust your strategy accordingly.  Its this kind of character growth, not only by level, but by actual growth of knowledge that makes the difficulty of this game amazing, and simply a must play for everyone who thinks they have the stones to finish it off.  So, you must ask yourself.  Are you prepared to die?

My score: 9 and a half bloody, bloody, soul crushing deaths out of 10.

PS

This is probably the best holiday season in YEARS, and I’m in no way gonna be able to keep up with everything.  But, I have a preorder down on skyrim, and I’m preparing my body to never see daylight again.

Ohhhh yeah

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2011: The Year In Games (So Far)

Just a preamble: I’m not including games from Late September and October yet, those are, in my opinion, more approaching the Christmas side of things.  But I thought I’d take a quick look back at the year so far and look at what games have caught my attention, and more than likely should be catching yours as well!

Lets start with my favorite game of the year so far, and in my opionion one of the best games of this GENERATION so far: Portal 2.  I can’t even BEGIN describe how well written this game is. Combustible Lemons.  Potatoes. SPACE!!! These words may not seem like much on the surface, but in Portal 2, they are turned into masterpieces in tounge-in-cheek humor and writing.  For Example

I’M THE MAN WHOS GONNA BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN.  WITH THE LEMONS.  See that?  That’s Portal 2.  But exemplary writing does not make a “game of the generation” game.  Which is good, because Portal 2 has an idea about what it wants to do.  And what it wants to do, is make a damn good puzzle game.  Good thing it succeeds.  It succeeds greatly.  Portal 2 takes place in 2 parts.  The very cinematic and very well written/directed single player campaign, chock full of puzzles and clever set pieces, and the Multiplayer campaign, where both players are flinging portals all over the place in unison in order to make their way through.  All in all, it’s a very rewarding experience, and one that EVERYONE should take a look at.

Another game which is up there in my opinion for Game of the year (so far) Is The Game Catherine.

Ass Monster

Yep. thats a giant ass monster. And it's trying to eat you.

Catherine is not a standard game, and honestly, for better or for worse, it’s unlike ANYTHING you’ve ever played before.  Developed by Atlus’ Persona Team (The team behind a couple of my OTHER favorite games, Persona 3/4) This is a gmae about one man, and his inner conflict of morals as he debates on whether to continue cheating on his longtime girlfriend Katherine with the beautiful seductress Catherine.  and there’s also a baby with a Chainsaw.

At it’s heart, as you can see from the video, Catherine is a block puzzle game. In his dreams, The main character, Vincent, has to pull and rearrange blocks to climb a tower to the very top as the bottom of the tower fall away.  And if he falls in the dream, he succumbs to an equally gruesome fate in real life.  The game takes place in two parts.  During the day, you watch as the drama surrounding Vincent’s love life unfolds.  Most of this takes place with you interacting with the local bar, The Stray Sheep’s, patrons.  There are multiple endings, and based on your decisions in the game, and how you interact with the other patrons, you could get a different ending.  Whereas at night, the world becomes a hell of Block puzzles.  And sheep.  Lot’s of sheep.  A disclaimer: This game is BRUTALLY difficult, and unless you’re very alright with challenge, you’re gonna want to start it off on easy or normal.  But the challenge never seems to deter the player from wanting to continue.  Something about the very nature of the game makes it so you want to make it through, despite the difficulty, and on the easier difficulties, the game is very liberal about giving you retries, so it never seems entirely hopeless.  All in all, it’s a very respectable puzzle game, with a top notch drama attatched to it, that is genuinely adult.  Not adult in the “Look boobies!” kind of way, but in a way that legitimately makes you think about the moral reprocussions of cheating on your significant other.  If you like a decent challenge and a well made puzzler, definately pick this one up.

Another one of the big games, and one of the games that ended up with a lot of controversy around the making of it, was L.A. Noire.  L.A. Noire was developed by Australian studio Team Bondi, in association with Gamerpower-company Rockstar Games.  After a long period of “Is this ever actually going to happen?” Syndrome, the game was finally released earlier this year.  And boy was it a game.  At a whopping 3 discs on the Xbox 360, the game had a very wide scope of the inner workings of the Police Department in a Post WWII Los Angeles, with a storlyine attatched to it that could rival classic movies such as LA Confidential of The Maltese Falcon (Which, in a fun little easter egg, you can find in a Pawn shop.)  But, all of that aside, what you could REALLY write home about wasn’t the actual gameplay or the story, but the industry changing Facial Detection system in the game.

I honestly think, this could be the future of modern gaming if utilized in future games.  In interrocations and cut scenes, you could see Everything about their face.  Every facial tic, every eye movement, every word on their mouth was shown in painstaking detail through Bondi’s facial detection system.  Just imagine the possibilites if it were added to other games!  In all honestly, the rest of the game, although awesome, wasn’t perfect.  At times, some of the cases dragged on, and in the later parts of the game at times felt rather repetative.  Look at victim, search for clues, interrogate, lather, rinse, repeat.  And at times, what you think could be doubting someone could be straight up accusing them of murder.

But in the long run, those are minor gripes.  It’s a very well made game, and it’s worth playing, without a doubt.

Those are my top the games of the year thus far, I would have to say.  I’d like to honorably mention Dragon Age 2 and Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 as well, both are fun games in their respective genres, and are worth checking out as well.  There are a lot of good games to look forward to this holiday season, from Dark Souls and Skyrim, to the Old Republic and Gears of War 3.  So keep your eyes open for good games, and feel free to comment on my opinions and tell me I’m full of shit.

I’M THE BEST AT SPACE

Brian Laurence Bishop

P.S.

Pure Memetics

What is a meme, but a dirty little pile of secrets? See there you go, that was a meme right there.  The above video you saw was none other than the “original” meme, All Your Base Are Belong to us.  It stemmed from a TERRIBLE Translation from a really old game called Zero Wing, someone on the internet found it and voila: a meme was born.

Now, seriously, what is a meme?  Philosopher/Scientist/Person Richard Dawkins was the first person ever to coin the term meme, really, in his book “The Selfish Gene.”  I would not recommend reading it.  It’s boring.  Unlike memes.  Anyway, he describes a meme as “conveying the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.”  Wat?  Alright, basically it’s a seemingly useless phrase or series of phrases that, due to transmission from one person to another, has become recognized.

Now, Brian, why are you telling me-

Before you go any further allow me to object and explain why I’m even telling you about memes.  Because they’re on the internet.  And the internet is inherently geeky, it WAS invented by geeks.  The internet is SERIOUS BUSINESS. Ahem.  Okay, ill stop memeing for a moment.

Lets look at a rather recent meme, for example.  Rebecca Black’s God Awful/Awfully Wonderful song Friday.

A meme starts with one person finding something, like Friday.  Then he shares that video with someone else, or more likely a message-board like, 4chan.org (You’ll find that most memes have their roots in 4chan).  Soon, those people spread it to people they know, and suddenly 45,715,568 views.

That’s just the beginning of it.

With Friday it’s so broad you’ve got sub-memes.

Which seat can I take?  A meme.  Days of the week?  Now a meme.  Awkward Dancing Friend?

Well you get the point.

I find memes hilariously awesome myself.  I have had entire conversations with my friends composed solely of memes.

One of the most important part of a meme, and I say this cautiously, is that a meme is created almost always accidentally.  Almost, and I will get to that in a moment.  Rebecca Black didn’t go into the music studio and say “I will make this song a meme.”  No, someone stumbled upon it and it stuck.  And that’s how most memes start.

Oh, cats are also a meme.  Cats are cute.  Here are some cats for your viewing pleasure.

Now, when a meme is started by someone TRYING to create a meme, thats when you get whats called a forced meme.  What THIS boils down to is some guy on 4chan who posts something random OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN UNTIL IT BECOMES A MEME.

Case in Point. Millhouse.

Let me be clear. Millhouse is NOT a meme.  But (and this is where the forced meme comes from…and where it gets a wee bit Inception-y) Millhouse is NOT a meme…IS A MEME. Someone tried so hard to force Millhouse into the internet culture that people continually asserted that Millhouse was not a meme, and, lo and behold…A MEME IS BORN.

But, for the love of god, don’t force memes.  No one likes it when you force memes.

Now, you may be asking me, where do I find out about the wonderful little packages of internet goodness.

http://www.knowyourmeme.com is a great place to start.  You’ll find descriptions of a vast majority of the memes out there and their extended histories on there, and for the most part it’s safe for work and family so you can teach the younguns to set up us the bomb too.

Now lets delve into the seedier parts on the innanets.

http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com  This is a meme wiki…written in a terrible, terrible, sarcacstic and highly offensive manner.  So basically written by the people that start memes in the first place.  Let me reiterate: THIS SITE IS HIGHLY OFFENSIVE.  Now, if you can get past that, and you don’t mind a lot of political incorrectness, it’s kinda funny reading about these memes from the source in a kinda sick and twisted fashion.

Last, but certainly not least: the granddaddy of em all: http://www.4chan.org. This site will either be the MOST offensive site you go on, or rather mild.  You’ll notice that it is divided into imageboards.  It ranges from a board about Pokemon or Anime, to boards about Hardcore Porn.  I think you can use your discretion here a little bit but for the love of god, keep kids off it.  Often times, memes start here.  /vg/ starts quite a few of them, /tg/ has had some in the past, but more than anything is the ever-present “Internet Hate Machine”

/b/. Random. Known in some parts as the A**hole of the internet.  Both terrible and hilarious.  I can recommend this to no one. Yes it is the birthplace of many a meme, but it is a terrible awful place.  I’m not going to lie, for all it’s stigma, the other boards on 4chan (within reason) can actually be a nice community to share your interests and your thoughts anonymously. (/a/ for example has a bustling anime community) But /b/…just…try to stay away from there.

There ya go.  Memetics 101.

tl;dr: Memes start when people say stuff and it catches on.

Move Zig,

Brian Laurence Bishop

PS. PONIES

Recently reached memetic status on 4chan’s /co/ and /b/ boards.  Yes, it’s a show designed for little girls.  But you’ll find that the #1 audience is 18-24 YEAR OLD MALES.  Why.  Because it’s surprisingly funny and well written.  No, it’s not for everyone, and yes, half of you are gonna look at me like I’m crazy for posting it.  But, statistics don’t lie my friends.  Ponies are epic.