Tag Archives: PS3

Reflections From the Animus: The Truth is Written in Memories

My God Assassin’s Creed 2 was a good game. Am I right? Who’s with me? This game was, by far one of the best titles in the Assassin’s Creed series and it holds a very prominent place in my heart, but not necessarily for the reasons that you might think. Sure, it had a great story, fantastic music, engaging gameplay and introduced us to Ezio, one of the coolest heroes in the series. But, on a personal note, it ended up being so much more than just a great game. It became a personal conduit through which memories can flow. It became a catalyst to enable me to reach far back into my mind and remember a very special and happy time in my life. It became so cemented and intertwined with my thoughts and feelings, that even now, upon hearing a few lines of music or seeing an image of the game, I am immediately transported back to 2009. For that split second, I am taken back to my little apartment on Bayport Street, sitting on my comfy couch, PS3 controller in hand and living in a moment that is now gone forever.

In these memories, I am still happily married. My wife (now ex wife) is in the other room watching a DVD and working on her laptop. The light from a nearby lamp bathes the room in the most exquisite, pale, golden glow. It’s early December, probably around 8 p.m. or so and the sun has gone down, allowing the evening chill to settle in.  I’ve cooked a big pot of hearty Lentil soup, so both of us are well feed and snug in our humble home. I am content, warm and cozy, just lounging after a long day at work. If I truly focus hard enough, I can even hear the *click *click *click *click of my wife’s keyboard, as she furiously types away on one of her many projects, her faint laughter sounding in the background, as she watches King of Queen’s on DVD.

In the game, I’m running across the rooftops of Venice, exploring crowded marketplaces, looking for flags and feathers, and causing general mayhem in a bustling, virtual city.  It is the perfect cacophony of sight and sound and I am transfixed by it all. The game stirs something deep down inside of me; feelings of freedom and independence, tempered with a nervous excitement at the thought of unknown exploration. It is one of those pristine moments in time that remains so vivid and powerful, even after so many years, games and friends have come and gone. I can see all of this in my mind’s eye, like it was yesterday. A flip-book of memories, a cascade of moving pictures, flashing before my eyes, all linked to this one particular game and this one particular moment in time.

As I remember these things, I can’t help but feel a sadness rise within me. Some days, I move through it, relatively untouched by the sorrow these memories hold. Other days, I still shed a tear or two, but I never cry for the game or for the characters, even though the game does tug a bit at the old heartstrings. No, I cry for entirely different reasons: I cry for all the friends and family I have lost in my life, I cry for those moments and memories that have long passed, I cry for the loss of personal innocence, I cry for the end of my marriage and the death of a dream that was never fully realized. All of this triggered by one simple game, one brief moment in time. What a strange and peculiar set of circumstances.

As the years have trudged on, these memories and emotions have formed a symbiotic relationship with Assassin’s Creed 2 and in my brain it would seem that one cannot exist without the other. I am forever caught in an emotional limbo; not able to go back and relive those lost years, but also not being able to recreate those special moments. They are uniquely and unequivocally locked away forever, doomed to remain in the past.

You would think that I would hate AC2, seeing as it brings up such powerfully charged emotions but, strangely, I harbor no ill will towards this game or the memories it conjures. It still stands as one of my favorite of PS3 titles. The hours that I spent playing this game, were some of my most fondest gaming moments and I wouldn’t trade those for the world.

Assassin’s Creed 2 reminds me that in the blink of an eye, life can change, dreams can die, families can splinter, love can be lost, but life goes on. Happy memories can still linger, even within our darkest days. Yes, AC2 may have come and gone and the days of Ezio pushed far back into the past, but as silly as it might sound, this game is still very important to me and remains prominent in my mind. It is an anchor that binds me to some very beautiful memories and it helps to reconnect me to those long lost nights. With all of the uneasiness that consumes our world, it is nice to remember a simpler time and it’s even better to feel connected to those beautiful moments. Assassin’s Creed 2 preforms that necessity extremely well. Sure, some of my memories will fade and drift into hushed obscurity and newer and more pressing matters will take their place. But, I am positive that these few moments, these warm memories will forever be linked to this unassuming, simple, little game and as long as I can listen to the soundtrack or walk the streets of Venice once again, these memories will always burn brightly. They will continue to give comfort, respite and some much needed warmth in a cold, uncaring and tumultuous world. This, I am sure of. Long live Assassin’s Creed 2 and long live all our warm and happy memories. Happy gaming!

~GB

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Dark Souls 2: To Live and Die in Drangleic

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Recently, I have been playing Dark Souls 2 for the PS3 and I will admit, I have been thoroughly enjoying myself. Even though I’ve struggled a bit and have only just last night, finished the main game, I thought I would take this opportunity to give you all, my most recent thoughts and opinions on this latest entry into the Souls series. Keep in mind, even though I have been an ardent fan of From Software games, since the mid 90’s (see my King’s Field Retrospective for a bit more info on that series) it doesn’t mean that I will blindly give this game a free pass.  So, let’s take a look at Dark Souls 2 and explore my thoughts on this new world of Drangleic.

A Brief History of the Souls Series

Before we get started on Dark Souls 2, let’s take a brief look at the history of the Souls games. Don’t worry, I’ll try and make this quick as I can.

demons_souls

The Souls series began with Demon’s Souls, published in 2009 and released in Japan, the United States and Europe. As a PS3 exclusive game, it was labeled as the “spiritual successor” to the King’s Field series, which had been released some fifteen years earlier, for the PSX. Released in the U.S. by Atlus, the game gradually gathered a strong cult following, made up of dedicated, hardcore, challenge seeking gamers.

From the control scheme and game mechanics, to the games brutal difficulty, Demon’s Souls laid the ground work for what we now know as a Souls game. It also re-energized the From Software brand, propelling them out of obscurity. I spent hours and hours on this game, exploring the world, learning spells and fighting along side my fellow PSN friends. That was one of the key reasons why I liked Demon’s Souls so much, it had a fantastic multiplayer setup, combining a thrilling system of co-op PvE and intense PvP. It was like nothing I had ever played before. It was absolutely fantastic.

468px-Dark-souls-logo-tops-mainDark Souls

Similar in design, play style and visuals to that of Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls was said to be its spiritual successor(From Software really likes to use that term ‘spiritual successor’, don’t they?) It was released for both the PS3 and the XBOX 360 in 2011 and finally for the PC in 2012.  This time it was Namco Bandai, who took the publishing reigns, releasing the game in both the United States and Europe, while From Software handled the Japanese release.

Dark Souls built upon the success of it’s predecessor, keeping alive the Demon’s Souls style of brutal game play, while adding a few new game elements into the mix. Now, depending on your play style, not all of these changes were seen as a good thing, for example Namco Bandai decided not to use a dedicated server and instead went with a Peer to Peer type player connection. If you wanted to play with a particular friend, it was very difficult to accomplish this with 100% accuracy and many players found that annoying. On the plus side, this method allowed you to play with anyone from around the world, but many of my friends had no interest playing with random players.

dark-souls-II-logoNow on with Dark Souls II….

Dark Souls II was released on  March 11, 2014, for both the PS3 and the XBOX 360. While it has been stated that this game is NOT a direct sequel to Dark Souls, there are obvious connections spread throughout the game, linking both these storylines together. Of course, the entire story has yet to be fully flushed out by the online community, but they have made huge steps in that direction.

So far, this game plays very much like the other games in the Souls series. The graphics are slightly improved and the storyline seems to be far more cryptic, but all of the core elements that made the Souls franchise, are still intact. What are those core elements you ask? Well let’s take a look…

Gameplay Difficulty

So far, all of the Souls games have been brutally difficult and extremely challenging. They don’t pull any punches or coddle the player in any way. They force you to focus and to think about each move you make. Diving headfirst into a fight and not being aware of your surroundings WILL get the player killed. Being rash is not a good mindset to have with any Souls game. Remember, in these games, everything wants you dead and your enemies are willing to sneak up on you, overwhelm you, shoot you from a distance, set you on fire, push you off of ledges, drown you, eat you, poison you… the list can go on and on.

Yes, Dark Souls II is punishing and unforgiving, but that isn’t a detriment to the franchise.  The game wouldn’t be a Souls game if it wasn’t difficult. That might sound strange, but it is true. In fact, most of the fans that I know, crave its brutal nature and the challenge and frustration that these games bring. It has become a staple of the series and a major selling point.

Of course, since these games are very difficult, you are far more prone to killing off your character and losing progress. We fans have come to expect this facet from a Souls game, but it can be a rude awaking for the more casual gamer.

With that being said, death in Dark Souls II doesn’t feel empty or meaningless, like in some games. As long as you are paying attention, each and every death teaches you a valuable lesson. To illustrate this, what follows is a small list of ideas that I have personally discovered, while playing the Souls series and DkS2:

  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Don’t assume anything.
  • Never think that you are safe from death, even in the early parts of the game.
  • If an enemy looks like it can kill you, it probably will.
  • If an enemy looks like a pushover, he’s probably going to kill you.
  • Never be rash.
  • Never drain all of your stamina, if you can help it.
  • Take your time. Never try and rush through an area or try and speed things up.
  • If you get stuck, try thinking out of the box, try new approaches.
  • And never, EVER carry large amounts of souls on your person. Especially if you are going into an uncharted area or new boss room.

I’ve learned all of those things (and much, much more), just by playing the game, by trying new things, testing my limits, exploring my surroundings and watching others play. The game didn’t hold my hand. It didn’t coddle me. It tossed me into the fray, into the cold and unforgiving world. Sink or swim, it is all up to the player. I love that; being left up to my own devices, going at my own pace and doing things my way. It is quite empowering!

Storyline

I have always found it fascinating how FROM Software can tell us a story, without really telling us anything. Sure we might be given the bare minimum of basic world information, but everything else, the rest of the puzzle is discovered entirely through lore, item descriptions, dialogue and visuals. Players aren’t generally given much more than basic world information,  but that is just enough to get you to want more. Players tend to discover and stumble upon the story, rather than be slapped in the face with it.

If you doubt the extensiveness of FROM Software’s storyline in DkS2, just look at all the work the online communities have done. They have collaboratively pieced together an epic and fascinating story, connecting plot lines and story points across the entire game.  Also, they have done all of this with only the smallest bits and pieces of lore, spread throughout and around the new Kingdom of Drangleic. That is pretty impressive.

Personalizing and Identifying with Your Character

The Souls games have always had a great, fully customizable character creation system that allows the player to chose and adjust a host of features. You can tweak almost everything about your person: gender, body type, hair style, hair color, eye shape, cheek shape, check color, skin color…. If you can name it, you can probably adjust it. It is as in-depth and as powerful as you could ever want.

Now, if you are anything like me, you might spend far to much time on this part of the game. Don’t feel bad, the last time I built a character, I spent almost an hour playing with different settings. Why did I spend so much time on her? Simply put, I like to feel connected to my character. I feel more in tune with an avatar that I have painstakingly created, then I ever do with those average, generic, stock creations. It keeps me rooted in the game and get’s me invested in my choices. Since I never want anything bad to befall my character, I find that I am more careful and deliberate with my actions. That means less deaths and more fun. Maybe that’s just me, but either way I usually have fun with the whole process.

white-sign-soapstone Online / Co-op Play

Like the other entries in the Sous series, DkS2 has a very in-depth system of online play.  For me, its main appeal is co-op PvE, but there is a strong sense of competitive PvP as well. Starting with Demon’s Souls, the Souls series has had some of the most heart pounding multiplayer that I have ever experienced. If you have never played it, let me try and give you an idea of what it is like.

Imagine this, you are going about your business, killing monsters and exploring the dark corners of the world, when out of no where, you are invaded by another player. This is called a Black Phantom. He is there for one reason, and one reason only….to kill you! What do you do? Do you run? Do you fight? Do you hide and hope he won’t find you? What do you do?

Then you see him. A ghostly figure, shrouded in a red and black mist. He is looking for a fight and you have no choice but to defend yourself.

bp-satsuki-large-rearBeing jarred out of your quiet, solo experience is one thing, but to have another player, violently hunt you for sport, is a totally different story. An invasion always got my heart pounding.

DkS1 had a very similar feel to that of Demon’s Souls , but with a greater emphasis placed on online interactions. They instituted the idea of player covenants, added different types of invading phantoms and gave PvP players a variety of ways to battle other PvP’ers. They also made an attempt to legitimize invasions, by creating a covenant reward system that added a reason for these types of interactions.

Covenants were designed to enhance and add depth to the online invasion system, but I’m not sure how well it really worked. It did introduce some very interesting ideas, but the system was not as easy to utilize, as it should have been. I ended up hardly participating in multiplayer for Dark Souls 1, due mainly to the very limiting P2P server set up, that Namco Bandai had instituted. Plus with the increase in lag and connection instability, multiplayer became just plain frustrating.

In Dark Souls 2, multiplayer is back in full force and it has taken a lot of the ideas from Dark Souls 1 and placed an even greater emphasis on elements like PvP, covenants and dueling. Fortunately, with Namco’s decision to utilize dedicated, region based servers, multiplayer actually works! Summonings have been greatly increased, invasions are more frequent and there are even a number of items to increase the ease of joining your friends! There seems to have been a great attempt by the publisher and developer to appeal to as many types of players as they can, giving everyone something that they can enjoy about the game’s multiplayer system.

Overall Thoughts

Over all, I’m pleased with FROM’s latest entry into the Souls game and I plan on playing this one, for a long time. That is not to say that this game isn’t without some minor issues. For example, the auto-target system is very twitchy, sometimes jumping from enemy to enemy, at the worst possible time. Camera angles will sometimes move erratically, disorientating the player. Some bosses seem to have inconsistent AOE attacks, that end up dealing damage to the player, at unexpected times. Controller input can sometimes lag slightly, causing you to panic-press the same button and end up swinging or rolling, WAY more than you intended. But, despite these issues, the game is very well done and it is a lot of fun to play. If you haven’t played it or were still on the fence about it’s worth, I would recommend giving this one a shot. Now, if you will excuse me, I have souls to collect….

I’ll see you in Drangleic.

~GB

PlayStaion 4 – My Impressions

My thoughts on the PS4

By now, I’m sure most of you have had the opportunity to check out the latest game videos, reviews and editorials on the newest entry into Sony’s PlayStation line up, the PS4. Perhaps some of you have even had the chance to play this “Next Gen” console. I know most of my online PSN friends have been playing theirs almost none stop, since it’s release and even I have had a chance to test it out. Since the PS4 has been out now for a few months, I thought I would take this opportunity to share my opinions on this black, sexy, eraser shaped beast. So, here we go!

The Look

First, let’s talk about the overall look of the console. Like its “Fat” PS3 predecessor, the PS4 is a good looking addition to any entertainment center. I really love the gloss black finish! I was extremely disappointing when Sony unveiled the later incarnations of the PS3. I just didn’t like the looks of the slim versions, mainly due to their lack of any glossy black sheen. Luckily, the PS4 has a good healthy amount of that smooth ebony finish and that is alright by me.

Size wise, the PS4 is about the same size as the PS3 Slim, but far more angular. It really does resemble an old school eraser with it’s prominently sloped front edge. I’m not complaining about the look, mind-you, it just warrants a mention.

Performance

Now, I know that we have just entered into the beginning of this gaming generation and we have yet to really put the PS4 to the test, but already I can tell that the PS4 is a pretty powerful little system. Based on my extensive use of the PS3, the PS4 is quite a bit faster. It opens my games, the XMB and the PSN Store way faster than the PS3, it loads and syncs my trophies in seconds, rather than minutes and it boots up very rapidly. It can also multitask, something that the PS3 could not do very well. You can play a game, download something off the PSN Store, update an existing game, all while chatting with a party over the new XMB chat feature. That’s pretty nifty. We wont have any games that will REALLY put the PS4 to the test until February, but I like what I have seen so far.

Graphics

As we should all expect, the PS4’s graphics are VERY nice. Textures are noticeably cleaner, there is a big improvement in draw-distance, lighting effects and partial effects and running at a native 1080p makes things sharper and smooths out the details. I am overall very pleased.

However in my opinion, it is still difficult to see any DRASTIC or GIGANTIC improvements over the PS3, because all we have to compare, are games that were designed to be multi-platform releases. Games like Call of Duty: Ghosts or Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag were all designed to work on as many systems as possible, so these games must have all been designed with respect to the lower performing PS3 and Xbox360.  It just seems to me that the creators must have had to hold back, in order to narrow the gap between the current gen and the next gen. When we start seeing the huge PS4 exclusive games, I think then we will have far better graphical benchmarks.

The Controller

One of the most obvious changes to Sony’s PlayStation line up is the new controller. I will admit, at first I was on the fence about the new look. I thought, “why mess with the classic design?” But, after a good deal of gaming time, it has grown on me a bit more.

I will say, it is pretty comfortable to hold, not that the PS3 controllers weren’t either. It generally feels very nice and fits well in my hands. The buttons are also improved. The R2 and L2 buttons are larger and feel like they have a greater range of motion, the D-Pad feels a lot better and the touch pad is a nice addition as well. Also, I like the option to plug a headset into the controller, even though I use a USB headset and mic, it is still a nice touch.

However, I do have a few issues with the new design. First off, I don’t like how small the R1and L1 buttons are. They just seem undersized to me. Plus, my R1 button sticks, so that is VERY annoying. Also, my thumbs tend to slip off the Thumb Sticks way to much. I’ve never had that issue with the older PS3 controllers, its just with the PS4. The touch pad is cool, but it takes up a huge spot on the controller face, pushing the Options and Share buttons off to either side. Both of these buttons are recessed flush into the controller (for obvious reasons of course), but they are tiny. This makes them difficult to hit, even when you are actually trying to push one of them. Not really any deal breakers here, just slight grievances.

Problems and Issues

In terms of errors, issues and problems with the system, there are of course a few. What launch edition system wouldn’t have had a few issues. Some issues range from the more annoying like sticky controller buttons, to the downright horrible like no video signal or hard drive failure. I have been lucky and have only experienced a sticky R1 trigger button on my controller. I’m not sure what causes this, but I intend to figure it out. Everything else has been pretty smooth and without issue. (Keep your fingers crossed that it remains so.)

I do have one friend that has had to send his PS4 back to Sony due to a Hard Drive issue, but he tells me that it has been a decently pleasant experience. I guess the technicians at Sony did spend a good amount of time working with him and trying to trouble shoot his issues. Even so, it is unfortunate that he has had any problem what so ever.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I like my PS4 and I haven’t had any real issues that would sour my love for Sony or for the PlayStation. Recently, I have been using my PS3 more than my my PS4, playing games like Dragon’s Dogma, Grand Theft Auto 5 and Grand Turismo 6, but I am confident that as soon as more games are released for PS4, I’ll be migrating more and more to the new console. Until then, let’s hope that my PS3 holds strong.~GB

Trophy Hunting: Confessions of a Platinum Hunter

tumblr_static_clusterQuick question for all you gamers out there: Are you that type of gamer to try for 100% completion on games or could you care less? If you strive for that 100%, is it a testament to your gaming tenacity or a confirmation of your personal insanity? I’d love to know, because either way, it’s good times!

I am a PS3 gamer, so I have a lot of friends that crave a 100% Platinum for many of their titles. They live for the thrill of the hunt, the challenge each trophy brings and that earned sense of accomplishment, game after game, trophy after trophy. It is almost an obsession and if not kept in check, the desire to earn that 100% can overshadow all else. It can get pretty intense and if you aren’t a trophy hunter, you might not fully understand the whole picture. Trust me, it isn’t for everyone.

Depending on the game, getting a platinum might be just a few hours of playing or it could be days of painstaking work. It can be a VERY involved process, requiring careful planning and thorough researching. You sweat, you feel incredibly frustrated, you break controllers, you get angry and sometimes you just end up nursing a pair of very sore thumbs. What a strange obsession. In real life they are absolutely useless, but I still find myself drawn to the hunt.

For me, I love getting Platinums. It is so satisfying to hear that “BING” sound and to see that trophy icon pop up. What a great feeling of triumph. After I get a new one, I often sync my list and just admire that little icon, so shinny and new, while basking in the artificial glow of the television.  That 100% looks pretty sweet too.  I always feel so proud of my accomplishment.

In my experience, there are hardcore hunters and casual hunters. The hardcore hunters place their main emphasis on the trophies themselves, not necessarily the gameplay or the storyline. Their main goal is to complete the game as efficiently as possible, with the fewest number of playthroughs, gaining 100% completion AND their Platinum trophy.  They might do research on websites, read walk-throughs, watch video guides or even find short cuts and exploits to give themselves the extra edge. No matter what, they are always driving towards that 100%.

The more casual trophy hunters, allow themselves to focus on the game and storyline while attempting a few of the trophies along the way. It seems like they are far more likely to immerse themselves in the game play and the overall experience, while considering the trophies more of an afterthought, not the primary driving factor.

I WAS a hardcore trophy hunter for a short time, and when those games and Platinums were rolling in, I felt incredibly skilled, like nothing could stand in my way. Complete Veteran Mode on Call of Duty: World at War? Did it! All rare weapons in Demon’s Souls? Did it….twice. Finished Dark Souls with each ending? Piece of cake! Complete Dishonored without being detected and without killing ANYONE? Done!

However, a trophy hunter begins to look at a game in a very different light and after awhile I just started to burn out.  Instead of being excited to play a new game, I started basing my game choices off of their trophy lists. I would often end up ignoring certain games based purely on their trophies. I’d ask myself: “Does it have Multiplayer trophies?” “Are there trophies for each difficulty level?” “Are there trophies for multiple endings?” “Am I going to have to collect a ton of items?” “Do I need to reach a certain character level?” “Are there trophies for learning different moves?” “Do I have to perform a series of combos flawlessly?” “Do I need to beat the game without dying?” If the answer was yes to any of those questions, I found myself hesitating on picking up any of the new titles.

Now, I don’t want to say that hunting trophies makes you lethargic or lazy, but I felt like, why start a game that can’t be platinumed? I eventually became extremely frustrated with how much of the joy trophy hunting was taking away from gaming. Playing games became a chore, instead of a fun hobby.  I remember getting so angry when I’d run across a game that couldn’t be platinumed because of issues outside of my control, like bugged or glitched trophies, laggy servers, hacking players, tiny multiplayer fan bases, broken matchmaking systems, or just impossible expectations for very little reward. Sometimes I’d just skip certain games altogether, like Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Batman Arkham City, Boarderlands 2, Tomb Raider… Trophy hunting was stopping me from playing some great games.

So I temporarily pulled the plug on hunting and after a few months of very little gaming, I felt renewed and invigorated. I was ready to hunt once more, however with a new set of priorities. Now-a-days I hunt with a much more well-rounded approach to platinum trophies. Sure I still look at the lists and plan a few directions to take, but I’ve stopped placing so much emphasis on them.  Because of this, my gaming sessions are more fun and far less stressful. I have become more interested in gaming with friends and lending a helping hand in THEIR trophy hunts and Platinum scores. I still love that “BING” sound and I still hunt for those Plats, but I do so at a much less intense pace.

Of course with PS4 hitting the market later this year, I do wonder if I’m going to stay so calm or if I’ll go full speed again. I guess time will have to tell.

I would love to hear from other Trophy Hunters out there. Tell us your trophy stories. How many Plats do you have? What games are you most proud of completing? With PS4/XboxOne coming out soon, are you slowing down or speeding up the pace for this current generation of games?

Feel free to share your comments.

Always Online….Are you out of your mind?

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about our “next gen” games and gaming consoles requiring a permanent online connection, in order for us users to access content or use the systems. Many of the larger companies like Microsoft, Blizzard and EA all seem to be on board with this idea, going so far as to begin implementing this into our current generation of games. Whether or not we like it, we might start seeing this practice used more and more in the next few years and that is a real shame for us gamers.

Why do a lot of gamers…including yours truly, have issues with this idea? Does it really matter in this day and age, when so many of us have constant connections to the net? Well, let’s take a look and see.

Let’s start with the basic fact that not everyone has the internet. Even in today’s technologically driven society, there are those of us, who do not have access to the net. Yes, it’s probably a small percentage in most large cities, but what about in more rural areas, where internet is nonexistent or extremely spotty at best?  Unless they can obtain a reliable internet connection, any system or game that requires a persistent online connection, would be out of reach.

Those individuals should be able to play the console or game of their choosing. Why punish those potential gamers for circumstances beyond their control? Now, I’m no CEO, but aren’t customers and brand loyalty a good thing? How is “always online” helping win customers over?       Simple… it’s not. It is far too restrictive.

To those of us living in the cities and towns with a net connection, this might not seem like a big deal. Who cares if I have to be online to play a game? Chances are, I’m online anyways. This might be true, but we need to look a little deeper. If I go out and buy a game for $60 dollars I’m going to want to play it, but on my own time, in my own fashion. However, it might not be that easy. In my experience, if the game requires an “always online” connection, one of two things can happen…

Best case scenario, I get online right away, connect to their servers, download all the launch patches and bug fixes, maybe set up a user name and password for their service and THEN I can play the game. There are some extra steps involved and I might have to jump through a few hoops to get everything working, but I would eventually get in the game.

Worst case scenario, their servers are overloaded and I can’t get on. That means I can’t download any patches, I can’t get into the game to set up any preferences and I definitely can’t play. Until they sort it all out, my new $60 game is useless. Titles like Diablo III and the new Sim City have become poster children for this exact scenario. When Sim City was released, it was virtually unplayable.  Servers were severely impacted and wait times were hours longer then they should have been. Believe me, I’ve had this happen and it is VERY frustrating.

Gamers buy a game with the expectation that we can play it whenever we want, for as long as we want. Look at the NES, SNES, Genesis, PS1, Gamecube, Xbox and PS2 consoles. As long as they still work, I can play any of my old games. Games on the PS3 and 360 consoles are not 100% replayable, but the majority of the games will work, even after the “next gen” takes over. If these “next gen” games and consoles require internet and server connections to run, what happens when those server connections go away? Look at Sim City or Diablo III, what’s going to happen when EA or Blizzard stops supporting those games? Since you are required to be online AND connected to their servers to play them, if those servers are no longer there, you can say bye-bye to all of your hours of gameplay, your customized characters and all of your worlds. They will simply cease to exist. When the money drys up, so does the online support.

All of this makes me extremely angry. If this is allowed to happen, we can say farewell to our current idea of game ownership. We will no longer be buying games to keep, we will be buying a $60 online pass that lets us play the game, but only until the servers are taken offline. At that point, we are forced to move on. Our ability to play “always online” games after that point, would be contingent upon their parent company still being able to make a profit off of us. If not, they will move on to greener pastures and we gamers will loose that game and eventually the entire console.

Let’s face it, video games should NOT be reliant on an internet connection to play. This “always online” foolishness is simply a means to protect AAA companies and their intellectual and creative property, from pirates and piracy.  I suspect that their PR and advertising machines are going to try and make these new features appealing to us gamers. I hope we don’t fall for their tricks. I for one, do not want to sign in EVERY TIME I want to play a game or turn on a console. This is especially true if the game is a single-player title with NO multi-player or co-op modes. The AAA’s can doctor it up and spin it any way they want, but it’s still all about the money. “Always online” is in THEIR best interest, not ours.

I have a feeling that difficult times are on their way and that we should expect the AAA game companies to raise prices for their “next gen” games, to help mitigate the increase in costs for servers and “always online” functionality. I hope I’m wrong, but the money has to come from somewhere.

Recently, Sony has assured gamers that their PS4 console will NOT require an “always online” connection. That is quite a relief, but Sony has a reputation for changing their minds, so I wouldn’t rule them out just yet. Despite a lot of rumors, Microsoft is still officially keeping quiet. However, unofficially some of Microsoft’s spokespersons have hinted that the new Xbox WILL require a persistent internet connection, if you want to use their system. That is a scarey thought. Ultimately, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. I really hope that they all come to their senses and they keep the internet and gaming two separate, yet equal entities. Neither one should be reliant on the other.

Gentleben94

The King’s Field Retrospective: King’s Field Part One (A Brief Introduction)

King's Field

In my humble opinion, the 1990s were a GREAT decade for gaming. We witnessed the birth and the death of some of the most legendary gaming systems: Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn, Atari Jaguar and even the vaulted PlayStation 1. It was the heyday of many of our “classic” video games. The 90s gave us Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990 in the U.S.), Super Mario World, Act Raiser, Super Castlevaina 4, Super Metroid, Mega Man X, Final Fantasy 3/6, Star Fox, Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy Tactics, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Golden Eye 64, Doom, Doom II, Command and Conquer, Unreal Tournament, Half Life…the list can go on and on.  In those 10 years, we saw massive changes come to the industry. Games made huge strides in the area of graphics and game design, levels became more intricate and environments began to be fully rendered, 3 dimensional landscapes. It’s safe to say that the 90s blew our collective gaming minds.

However, there is one particular series of games, born out of this gaming renaissance that are often forgotten and overlooked by mainstream gamers. Personally, I always include at least one of them in any list of my all-time favorite games; an obscure, 1st person, action RPG series called King’s Field.

Combining gloomy and foreboding elements of dark fantasy with knights, swords, sorcery, dragons, gods and even demons, King’s Field was an engrossing, multifaceted world with a rich and captivating storyline. It was truly a unique experience and one that forever changed how I played video games.

Created by FROM Software, the King’s Field series was groundbreaking amongst RPGs of the time. Utilizing a first person view and a fully 3 Dimensional environment, the first installment of the series helped to launch the original Japanese PlayStation system, in 1994. King’s Field showcased the system’s rather impressive capabilities and was one of the original launch titles for the new console, but only in Japan. Unfortunately, we in the U.S. would never see the first King’s Field as an official disc based release. This game, which is unofficially referred to as King’s Field Japan, can only be found through fan translated ROMs running on PlayStation emulators. Of course, these are notoriously difficult to get working, but they are the only way to play the original title in English.

In Japan, FROM Software created a total of six King’s Field games, however here in the U.S. we only received the 2nd, 3rd and 4th installments. Since King’s Field Japan gathered a dedicated fan base throughout Japan, it spawned two direct sequels for the original PlayStation, one title on the PlayStation 2 and eventually two titles on the PlayStation Portable. The King’s Field series also helped to create other games such as Eternal Ring, Shadow Tower and even today’s Souls series (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2). I’d consider that a pretty impressive set of credentials wouldn’t you?

Most of the King’s Field games shared common ground with one another. They all used a good deal of the same weaponry, armor, items and magic spells, while pulling from and building upon the same pool of characters and lore. Weapons like the Moonlight Sword or items like Earth Herbs or Antidotes are perfect examples, popping up throughout all of the King’s Field games. Some of these elements even managed to make their way into the current Souls games, giving us King’s Field fans, a much needed sense of nostalgia. Also, the brutal and unforgiving nature of the original King’s Fields have continued right down to the present day, becoming a major selling point for both Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. (We’ll explore these two games later on, as I have very strong feelings for both.)

In the King’s Field series, players were left up to their own devices. There was NO hand holding here. If the player was going to survive, THEY had to uncover all the items, weapons, secrets and lore. Since the game’s NPCs gave little help, this was always a challenge. At the start of each game the player was stranded in a strange landscape, with little to no equipment. Which way you went and how you developed your playing style was up to you. That was a freedom of game play that, back then I had yet to experience.

When I first played the American King’s Field, I fell in love with it and I became an instant fan. It was the perfect combination of 3D visuals, creepy and engrossing sound, brutal difficulty, catchy music, underlying fear and a profound sense of anticipation for the huge journey that lay ahead. It set the benchmark for every other action RPG that I played and in my head… few live up to the comparison. Over the next few posts, I plan on diving in and exploring each individual game, as I remember them. I am only going to refer to the American releases to try and limit confusion, but I do plan on eventually doing a separate post to give information on the Japan only titles. Up next, we will take a look back at the American King’s Field, as seen through my eyes and my controller. I hope to see you there.

GentleBen94