Tag Archives: thoughts

Getting Ready for Souls

DARKSOUL_facebook_miniSouls Anyone?

OH MAN, OH MAN, OH MAN! Finally Dark Souls 3 will hit shelves tomorrow (or tonight for all you digital edition and Game Stop pre-order people) and I am very, VERY excited to get into this game. I can’t wait to craft a new character, tryout the new weapon arts and explore this dark and foreboding world of Dark Souls 3. Having pre-ordered the digital edition, I can hardly wait for 9pm tonight when I can start to immerse myself in the chaos and brutality of DkS3. Long live the Souls series!

Now, yes, it is true…. I have been rather quiet on the topic of DkS3. Trust me, that has not been an easy thing to do. Even though I am a HUGE Souls fan, I have been purposely staying away from the majority of DkS3 news. This is mainly so I don’t spoil anything for myself. I want to go into DkS3 with a clean, fresh slate. I truly want all of my reactions and explorations to be raw and unfiltered. I want to be surprised by DkS3.

But, just because I’ve kept a low profile, that doesn’t mean that I have been living under a rock for these past few months. I HAVE heard about a few things that I am excited to see in DkS3.  For example, the news of the new weapon arts system sounds very interesting. It has the potential to make weapon combos more interesting with lots of added variety. I would love to run with a viable sword and dagger build or maybe an Estoc and rapier. There are a lot of weapons to choose from and it will be so much fun trying different ones out.

I have heard that Magic has been revamped. Gone is the standalone Hex line of  spells. This time around they have been merged into both the Magic and Miracle spell trees. This sounds a lot more like Demon’s Souls and I have heard that spells have unlimited uses. We will have to see how that pans out, if it is true.

Also, it appears to me that game play in DkS3 is faster and more focused on agility rather than the slow, more deliberate motions we saw in the previous Souls games, especially DkS2. From the little that I have allowed myself to watch, the game’s speed looks like a cross between Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne with a touch of DkS tossed in. I really like the sound of all of that.

My plan for the game is simple, play DkS3 with an open mind, explore every corner of the world and try to read as much of the lore as I can. I want to get a good idea of what this world is all about and how the prequels fit into the overall story arch. After I have the hang of the game, the controls and the new weapon arts system, I want to go for that sweet, sweet Platinum Trophy. I’ve  earned all of the other Platinums, why not this one too?

Also, I want to experience co-op. It was co-op that made me a fan of the previous games and I hope that it will hold up here as well. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good solo adventure too, but I really enjoy playing with friends. In fact, I plan on teaming up with a few friends and streaming parts of our initial playthough. If all goes according to plan, our fearless leader mjm180wr should post it on our joint YouTube channel the 3GB. It won’t be much, but it should be fun.

Overall, I’m pretty jazzed for this new entry into the Souls lineup. Of course, I have my worries such as is co-op going to work well like it did in Demon’s Souls? Is PvP going to be as annoying, frustrating and jarring as it has been in the past titles? Is this game going to stress cooperation or will it be more of a solo experience? Will there be excessive lag? How easily will I be able to call on friends for help? I don’t know, but I’m holding back any final judgments until AFTER I have some hours under my belt. Either way, it should be an interesting experience and I’ll post something more substantial at a later time.

Now, let’s play some Souls!

~GB

Thoughts on the Star Wars Battlefront Beta

star-wars-battlefrontA few days ago, we were all blessed with the beta release for Star Wars: Battlefront, a new First Person Shooter developed by DICE and published by EA Games. Now, despite the all-too-common publisher and developer hate that comes with ANY new title released these days, I haven’t heard that much in the way of overly negative comments. I was expecting a slew of hate and guile from both the shooter fan boys and the overly critical Star Wars aficionados, but the volume has been significantly less then expected. Maybe I haven’t been looking in the right places, but the net has been somewhat quiet. I find this a tad unusual, but maybe they are all just playing SWBF instead of flaming it? Who knows.

What I do know, is that a good part of this last weekend was devoted to me playing the SWBF beta, so I thought I would share my thoughts and my over all impressions on the experience. Take these words for what they are, just one gamers opinions, nothing more. Ultimately, you will have to decide for yourselves whether or not this game is up your alley. Me, I’m still on the fence about it all, but more on that later.

star_wars_battlefront_e3_screen_2The Good

First off, I will admit, I’ve been pretty hyped for this game. Around here and with most of my friends, the wait has been killing us! This game hits the shelves on Nov. 17th making November a pretty big month for our gaming addiction. (I also have Black Ops 3 and the DLC for Bloodborne to look forward to).  As we anxiously approach release date, Gamers are jonesing for a Star Wars fix. This beta release came at a perfect time and I’m sure it was just want the doctor ordered. However, is this game really deserving of all of that hype? Here are my thoughts …at least for the PS4 version…

Let me say that SWBF, it’s a beautifully rendered game with a ton of Star Wars flair. Everything just bleeds Star Wars: the music, the weapons, the sounds, the costumes, the level designs, the ships…it is ALL really cool. Seeing an imperial walker up close and personal is a terrifying sight! It is a monstrous thing! Witnessing the excitement and hearing those blasters is just music to my Star Wars geek ears. Even though we were only given three modes of game play and one level each, it was still really fun.

After fumbling around in the menus and trying to join a friend in the co-op mode, I was soon blasting imperials left and right, blowing up AT-STs and watching jet pack Stormtroopers fly out of control and explode! I thought “Wow this game is sweet!” Even though the co-op was limited to only 5 rounds, the overall game play was very exciting and I legitimately wanted to play more. It isn’t surprising, since I love co-op, but I couldn’t help but wonder, would multiplayer PVP still hold my interest? I decided to find out.

The beta gave us two multiplayer modes Walker Assault and Drop Zone. I decided to level up in the Drop Zone mode. This is where you play as either the Imperials or the Rebels and try desperately to secure drop pods and hold them for a set amount of time. A strangely familiar concept, but pretty fun, none-the-less. Unlike the co-op mode’s two player limitation, this mode saw myself and a small team of buddies join up with 14 other players and just wage war on one another. We played for around 5 hours and by the end of a few matches I had already leveled up to the maximum allowed for the beta (level 5) and unlocked all of the weapons and cards that we were given access to.

Initially I was having a blast. Gunning down the enemy with blasters is strangely rewarding. But after a few hours of the same stuff, over and over again, monotony began setting in. As I thought about it more and more, I realized that underneath it all, behind the music, the visuals and the sweet nostalgia of Star Wars, this is just another shooter. It was a sobering realization. Yes, I know there are different game types and modes, weapons and vehicles, but none of that matters. Deep down, it’s still just a shooter and being a shooter means that it will suffer from the same basic problems that all shooters eventually run into, repetitive game play.

star_wars_battlefront_at-at_1The Bad

After my initial few hours of gaming, the newness began wearing off and I started to notice a basic pattern, at least with Drop Zone. (I do apologize for this mini rant). My sessions started to go like this:

—-Spawn. Run to the objective, get shot in the back and killed.

—-Spawn again. Run back to the objective only to get killed the moment you enter into the contested area.

—-Respawn and get killed immediately by someone spawn camping.

—-Get angry at the game and the players, then start accusing everyone of hacking.

—-Respawn and try and kill the spawn camper only to be killed once again, even though I was pumping tons of rounds into his chest.

—-Get angry again and start accusing that player of lag switching.

—-Rinse and repeat.

The more I played SWBF, the more angry I became. It was then that I realized that this game is the same basic formula as every other COD, MOH or Battlefield game. It has all the same basic game modes, weapons and objectives, it’s just wrapped up in Star Wars clothing.  Now, according to EA and DICE, we will be getting other modes in the final game, such as: “Droid Run,” “Cargo,” “Blast,” “Fighter Squadron,” “Supremacy,” “Hero Hunt” and a few others. This sounds great, but the question remains, are these going to just be your standard game types like Domination, Death Match, Capture the Flag, Assault, etc? Or are these going to be fun, new, unique experiences? If recent history serves, my assumption is that these are likely to be the same modes we have always had, just with Stormtroopers and Rebels, instead of modern military soldiers.

Last Thoughts

Let’s be honest, I love Star Wars. I grew up watching the original movies and loving every moment of them. I would play the old video games back on SNES and drool over the PC releases of X-Wing and Tie Fighter. Star Wars was and still is an amazing franchise. Now, with this new SWBF being released next month, I can’t help but feel drawn to it, like a Jawa is to old droids (Utinni!).

I would recommend if you can, play this beta. Immerse yourself in the fray and see what comes out. It is a beautiful game that needs to be experienced. Do it! If nothing else, watch videos on YouTube. Its the only way you will know if it appeals to you.

Will I be picking up this game? I want to say yes, but the fact is, I am going to have a very difficult time convincing myself that it is worth the initial $60. And now, with EA announcing that the Season pass will be a whooping $50 for the rest of the game’s dlc content, I’m a bit concerned. If the game offers only what I played in the beta, it will be very hard to justify the games $60 price tag. As it is, I am already getting Black Ops 3 for the Zombie mode and its 4 player co-op.

Considering how I feel about the FPS genre and competitive multiplayer games in general, SWBF is going to have to offer something unique, above and beyond a simple reskinned COD game. If it wants to hold my attention and keep me playing, it has to be more than just a pretty face, it has to take me away and immerse me into the world of Star Wars. I have to feel like I am doing something epic and being rewarded for my efforts. Most importantly, I have be able to team up with friends, reliably and consistently. I feed off of that excitement that team based games usually offer and if it doesn’t deliver, I could be looking at another Destiny, just a flashy game that I wasted money on and ended up hating with a passion. I wouldn’t want to do that to my love of Star Wars. Will I buy this one? That has yet to be seen, but rest assured the decision will not be simple.

~GB

Final Fantasy 7 REMAKE! … My Thoughts

final-fantasy-7-logoWell, well, well….. It is really happening. SQUARE is remaking Final Fantasy 7. After teasing fans for years and years and years, they have finally rewarded our patience with a remake of this classic RPG. Once again, we will return to the streets of Midgar, fight the evil Shina Corporation, witness the silliness of the Gold Saucer, fight the Ruby Weapon and cast Knights of the Round, all in glorious, redesigned HD graphics. What an amazing development to come out of  Sony’s E3 conference this year. So in the spirit of that excitement, let’s talk about it.

The Never Ending Fantasy…Just Keeps Going and Going….

My experience and connection with FF7 is drastically different then that of most of my friends. Unlike the majority of fans out there, I have only ever played this game once and not even to full completion. Now, before you have me tied to a Chocobo and run out of town, let me assure you that I have, in fact seen EVERYTHING in this game, multiple times over. I have witnessed and participated in 6-8 hour farming sessions. I have cried over the tragic death of Aerith more times than I want to admit. I have bred and raced Chocobos. I have been on the edge of my seat while fighting Ruby Weapon and completely exhausted after barely winning. I may not have always been holding the controller, but I was right there witnessing and being swept away by the sheer epic craziness of this game.

What does that all mean? Well, in the late 90s, Final Fantasy 7 was all the rage and everyone I knew was completely obsessed with that game. Rightly so, since it was a fantastic game. Of course, as soon as FF7 hit the shelves, everyone I knew became obsessed. Every friend I had, played FF7 almost exclusively for months and months on end. The desire to play this game was all consuming and it swept through my friends like wildfire.

Unfortunately, I was not in a financial position to buy my own physical copy of the game. That wouldn’t happen till much later. Instead, I was relegated to the sidelines, waiting until one of my friends would allow me to borrow their copy. As one can imagine, since all of my friends were playing this game, guess who was usually sitting on a couch, right next to them, during their gaming sessions? You guessed it…. ME. I witnessed each of my friend’s individual runs, almost in their entirety. By the time I got around to actually getting my own copy, I was simply burned out. I had seen everything, from beginning to end. There were just no surprises left in the game for me and I didn’t feel any great urgency to play it, yet again. However, that does NOT lessen my love for the game and it sure doesn’t make me any less excited for the remake. I just experienced it a little differently then most fans.

tc0ofwda5zek2mfaiivtRegarding Remakes

Since SQUARE’s announcement of the remake of Final Fantasy 7, the world is rejoicing at the news. The internet and discussion forums are all a buzz with speculations and opinions. Excitement is flowing freely. People love FF7, that is obviously clear. However, despite my excitement at this shocking and exciting turn of events, I can’t help but think, am I going to like this game when it hits shelves? The original game had such a HUGE impact on me and every single one of my friends, how can any game live up to that level of importance? I am very hopeful sure, but also fairly skeptical.

Not only is Final Fantasy 7 known as one of the best RPGs of all time, it STILL has a gigantic, very dedicated fan base. If SQUARE changes too much of the game, they run the risk of alienating the diehard fans. If they keep the game completely stock, they might be accused of just trying to cash in on the FF7 legacy. This is not an easy position for them to be in and we won’t know how it’ll play out, until it is in full swing.

So that begs the question, can a remake be as powerful or as influential as the original game once was? Or in this case, is SQUARE somehow damaging the legacy and power of FF7 by remaking a game that literally shaped a generation of gamers. Sure, most of us fans are pretty excited at the idea of seeing such iconic characters as Cloud, Tifa and Sephiroth in HD, but can this remake recapture the love of so many old school fans? Can it rekindle those same feelings of amazement and awe that we felt as we were greeted with our very first FMV? Chances are, no it can’t. No matter how much time and effort SQUARE puts into this project, it will never be exactly as it was. That would be impossible. When this game first came out, it was a different world. It was a moment in time that has long passed and as Thomas Wolfe once wrote, “You can’t go home again….”

ff7headerimg599px1512512Final Thoughts…

As the months go by and we hear more and more about this upcoming remake, all eyes will be on SQUARE-ENIX. They are tinkering with a classic and that is a very daring and scary move. Truth be told, this game is going to set a precedence for all other Final Fantasy remakes. If any of us ever want to see remakes of FF6, FF1 or even Tactics, we had best hope that FF7 does extraordinarily well. Unfortunately, I guarantee that before the final game is released, at some point fans will be outraged at the decisions that SQUARE has made. We will read things like “How dare SQUARE do this to this game!” and “I hate them! They have ruined my childhood!” Like Sephiroth’s Super Nova, the drama will seem to go on and on and on. Until we play the final build, people will speculate, trash talk and condemn, but sink or swim, I believe that SQUARE will give us our remake. However, only time will tell if THIS remake is the one that we’ve always wanted. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that it is. I for one, will see you in Midgar.

~GB

Dark Souls 2: To Live and Die in Drangleic

bmuploads_2013-04-05_1984_dark_souls_2_logo_tm_fix

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

The King’s Field Retrospective: Part Two – King’s Field (North America)

King's Field - Front CoverKing’s Field (North America)

As I mentioned in the first part of this retrospective, our King’s Field was not the first game in the King’s Field series, a fact that many of us North American gamers did not learn, until late into the 90s. It was actually the 2nd installment, following closely to the Japanese only  game, with the same title. As you can imagine, I was pretty surprised when I found this out.

The fact that we never got the original King’s Field is unfortunate, since the Japanese game introduced a huge amount of lore, characters, items and game play elements that were to become staples throughout the entire series. Names like John Alfred Forester, the Dragon Gods, the Moonlight Sword, Dragon Crystals, Earth Herbs, Antidotes, Verdite, Moon Stone, Blood Stone, the Truth Glass… all of it originated here, in King’s Field (JP). Our first King’s Field, usually called King’s Field (North America) or King’s Field (NA) was actually the 2nd game in the series. 

Like all of the King’s Field games, King’s Field (NA) was developed by a relatively unknown and obscure, Japanese game development studio called From Software. You might recognize that name, because of the success of the recent Souls series: Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2. Much like their predecessors, these are fantastic games, renown for their difficulty, challenging game play and unforgiving brutality. These games are often known as the spiritual successors to the King’s Field legacy.

It Begins….

King’s Field (NA) was released here in the U.S. on February 15, 1996. That gives this game the honor of being one of the first role-playing games ever released, for the PlayStation, here in the west. I will admit that King’s Field (North America) was not my first taste of the King’s Field series. I was actually introduced through the U.S. King’s Field 2, (actually King’s Field 3 in Japan), but after just a few minutes behind its controls and a handful of deaths, I was hooked. I wanted to know all I could about the world of King’s Field, uncover all of it’s secrets and watch its story unfold. However, I did not want to start from King’s Field 2, I wanted to start from the very beginning of the series. I thought, ‘Hey, if there is a King’s Field 2, then there has to be a King’s Field 1.’  So, that weekend, I went down to the local gaming store, found a copy of King‘s Field (NA) and bought it. That was such an awesome day!

The Story Unfolds….

King’s Field (NA) can be classified as a first person, dark fantasy, hack and slash, roll playing game. Taking place on a mysterious island called Melanant, you assumed control of a knight named Alexander, who had just washed up on the island’s rocky shore line. You are the only survivor of a powerful expeditionary force, sent by King Forester, to find and retrieve the stolen, legendary, Moonlight Sword. Of course, having lost all of your supplies in a powerful storm, you have nothing, save for the clothes on your back and your trusty dagger.

King’s Field (NA) was a very difficult and unforgiving game.  The enemies were relentless, the environments allowed for very few mistakes, and the buttons stand as some of the most complicated controls I have ever mastered on a console. I racked up so many deaths within my first few hours of game play, it was staggering.

However, despite all of that, the game compelled me to push on, to fulfill Alexander’s duty and to retrieve the Moonlight Sword.  For me, it was the lure of the unknown, the challenge of exploring the winding and claustrophobic interiors of the island and discovering the bits and pieces of lore, spread throughout Melanant. The entire experience was epic.

As you progress through the game, you begin to uncover a myriad of terrible secrets. You learn about the dark history of the island, the fall of ancient kingdoms and the rise of a mysterious warrior calling himself Necron.

You eventually discover that Necron controls Melanant and has enveloped the island in a powerful darkness. We also find out that he serves the dragon demi-god, Guyra and has obtained powers that allow him to summon monsters and control the undead. Greed, despair, and death, seem to permeate the interior tunnels, passageways and halls of Melanant and its inhabitants are doomed to a miserable existence, toiling in the underground crystal caves, trapped, having to relying on the island’s healing water, to keep them alive.

Playing King’s Field can be a very solitary and lonely experience. There are only a few small villages, homes, and communities dotted around Melanant and most of these locations are empty and deserted. Of course, you do find a few NPCs along your travels, but most of them have been driven half mad by the islands dark energy and trusting them can sometimes be a dangerous proposition. It is a good idea though, to talk to everyone you meet and to gather as much information as possible. Otherwise, you will have no idea what you are supposed to do. (Don’t worry, they do tend to let a few trustworthy tidbits slip out, from time to time.

Like most RPGs, you can find a few shops and merchants, littered around some of the villages, but they all seem to have an insatiable lust for riches and charge WAY to much gold, for even the simplest of items. It is my experience that most of the good weapons and armor available in the shops, can be found for free throughout your travels, so leave them in the shops.

Melanant is a dangerous place and it punishes you at almost every turn. The island is littered with secret tunnels, mining complexes, ancient shrines and the ruins of once mighty kingdoms. Unfortunately, most places are now teeming with vengeful monsters, the undead and restless spirits, so you must tread lightly.

Eventually, you face off against Necron, who you learn has become a pawn of Guyra, the Black Dragon. Once Necron falls to your blade, Guyra awaits, guarding the fabled Moonlight Sword, the very sword you were tasked with retrieving. Only after defeating him, can you reclaim the sword and rid the island of all darkness and evil.

Final Thoughts…

King’s Field (NA) stands as one of my most treasured games and I spent well over 150 hours playing the game (that was a lot of hours back then). Exploring the island’s vast network of tunnels and ruins was extremely addictive and the game was amazing for it’s time. Being in a fully explorable, 3D world, surrounded by the unknown was something that I had yet to experience in a console game. Everything about King’s Field (NA), held me spellbound, even after countless deaths and game overs. The environments, the music, the characters, the enemies… it was all pretty awesome.

Even though I loved King’s Field (NA), I have to admit, this game was not without it issues. Graphically, the game was filled with strange visual anomalies. Surface textures had the annoying habit of distorting and tearing, draw distance for faraway objects seemed to fluctuate wildly and the graphics were not really the prettiest to look at. The game also suffered from inconsistent frame rates and massive slowdown, all of which could get you killed… very easily.

Never-the-less, I adored King’s Field (NA) and I still consider it a classic. It is amongst my favorite RPGs of all time. Aside from Final Fantasy Tactics, this game stands out as my 2nd most played game of the 90s. I have such found memories tied up with this game and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good old-school RPG, as long as you can get passed the outdated graphics. If you haven’t played it, you really should. If nothing else, at least watch a Let’s Play over on YouTube! It is quite a game.

Up next, we will spend some time taking a look at the awesome sequel, King’s Field II. So stay tuned.

~GB

Minecraft: What a Game!

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First off, let me start by saying that Minecraft is AWESOME! For such a simple, straightforward game, it is truly an epic and mind altering, gaming experience. No other title has impacted me in quite the same way, and I have played A LOT of games over the years. It might sound somewhat strange, but if you’ve never played Minecraft, you have no idea how purely addicting it is!!!

Of course, this is just my opinion. I know that this game isn’t for everyone and compared to your average FPS series like Call of Duty or Battlefield, Minecraft just doesn’t get as much media attention. But, that won’t stop me from talking about it or fully enjoying the game. So, let’s dive in and explore the magical, open-ended world of Minecraft.

Freedom…Horrible, Horrible Freedom…

Minecraft is truly one of the only games that I know of, that contains such an open world. Truly, if you can see something in the distance, you can go there. You can scale any mountain, dig to the very bottom of the world, explore dizzying heights, search a myriad of tunnels and mine complexes, carve out existing caves, explore expansive ravines and even sail across massive oceans to unexplored and untouched lands. It is truly as “Open-World” as you can get. It has such a feeling of freedom, that it can sometimes be overwhelming.

Picture this, you are standing in the middle of a forest, surrounded by huge, ominous trees. You have no idea where you are, no idea where to go and no clue what to do. All you have are the clothes on your back and a will to survive.  What do you do? Where do you go? Do you find shelter first or do you try and make weapons to fend off the coming night? Time is ticking and your next move could either spell ultimate disaster or glorious salvation.

Well, not to worry. Luckily, this is Minecraft and the world is yours for the taking. Whatever you can imagine, whatever you can dream up, you can create it in glorious three dimensions. You can mold and arrange every block of this world, into your very own personal vision and that is something, few games now-a-days, can claim.  So it’s time to punch some trees, make some tools and start building your world.

iron_pickaxeTo Craft or not to Craft

I first came across Minecraft, a few years ago, in 2012, while I was browsing around YouTube. I kept seeing Minecraft this and Minecraft that. I thought, “I wonder what this Minecraft thing is?”  So, I clicked on a video from the always awesome DOCM77, just as he was beginning his latest Minecraft World Tour series. It only took one video to become instantly hooked on both DOCM77 and Minecraft. I ended up subscribing to his channel that very day and just a few days later, bought my very own copy of Minecraft.

Since then, I have loved every block filled moment. Exploring, digging, building, questing… it has all been extraordinary. So far, I’ve started a handful of single player maps, had the opportunity to play on a few servers and have even completed several large and complex builds (at least large and complex for me). Still, I have only scratched the surface of this awesome game.

So, what is the allure of Minecraft? Whats the big deal with this game? Is it really all that awesome? Well, I can honestly say, YES it is that awesome! The allure of Minecraft really varies per person, but from my point of view, it’s the sheer expansiveness and open-ended nature of this game. Think about it, you can do anything you want, go anywhere you want, and build anything you can imagine. You can break the laws of gravity, mold the world any way you see fit and truly be the master of your own destiny.  Aside from Skyrim, I have never felt as free or as unhindered as I feel in Minecraft.

MC vista editThe Zen of Minecraft

Minecraft is not just a game, it is an epic, mind-altering experience. As strange as it is to say, there is a zen-like quality to many aspects of Minecraft. For example, recently, I have been spending hours upon hours just digging and mining. Block by block, pickax by pickax, slowly I have transformed my little home into a sprawling, underworld labyrinth of tunnels and hallways. These have been some of the most relaxing, contemplative moments that I have ever had in a video game. Hunkered down on my little island, I can just loose myself in the task at hand, allowing my mind to wander, decompress and re-evaluate things. It may sound boring and monotonous, but as a Minecraft player, it has a very calming effect. Really, with this faster-then-light pace that we all seem to live in, it’s good for your brain to have a bit of down time.

This is also true for designing structures, sorting  materials and building your own visions. Placing each block, studying the ascetics of your work, redesigning if need be and blending your building into its surroundings, is amazingly relaxing. There is just an overwhelming calmness to the entire Minecraft process.

Now, I don’t mean to give you the impression that there isn’t any danger in Minecraft. It isn’t all meditative block placement and introspective mining. From zombies, to endermen, to bow wielding skeletons and exploding creepers, nighttime is your worst enemy. Everything is out to kill you! These creatures can shatter your newly found inner peace with an unexpected hiss, the twang of a bow string or a sorrowful, bloodthirsty grown.

Truth be told, I have had harrowing experiences with all of these jolly fellows and each time seems to be more terrifying than the last. Despite this, Minecraft holds a very special place in my gaming collection.

Final Verdict

Even after numerous set backs, multiple deaths and the occasional server crash, I am undeterred in my search for Minecraft Nirvana. I have become a huge fan of this game, more so then any other modern/recent game. It is quiet an adventure, an open-ended, fully customizable game that has the potential to transcend today’s all-to-common and monotonous FPS genre. If you haven’t played Minecraft yet, I suggest you go give it a try. Head over to Mojang’s Minecraft site and check it out. It is available for the PC, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and even today’s mobile devices. I’m certain that you have never experienced a game quite like this one before.

~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

“Next Gen” There is Hope After All

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Now-a-days, we gamers are constantly being bombarded by the term “Next Gen.” It’s “Next Gen” this and “Next Gen” that. We hear the term in gaming publications, on internet forums, on promotional websites, in game previews, press conferences, game revels, etc. etc.. We hear “Next Gen” so often that by now it has taken on a life of its own. It has become synonymous with the latest in cutting edge technology, mind blowing graphics, innovative hardware, the latest in gamer interaction, device interconnectivity and the most epic of gaming experiences. It is a catch-all term that encompasses a world of unknown possibilities and limitless potential. Am I right? Are you excited yet?!

Well, up until a week ago I was NOT AT ALL excited. I had grown tired of all the hype. Plus, with all of the horror we were hearing from Microsoft and the XBOX One, I was very nervous about the upcoming trends in gaming. I was really having some serious doubts whether this next era in video gaming was going to be worth it. Then I saw the Sony press conference and I felt a renewed sense of hope for this “Next Gen”, or at least for the PS4. With what looks to be a solid lineup of games and a pretty robust spec list, there is a good chance that Sony will reclaim some of their former PS2 glory. I know a lot of us PlayStation gamers are rooting for them.

But, despite all the good news from the PS4 camp, the truth is that our consoles today might be starting to suffer from something very similar to the law of diminishing returns. Meaning, even though these companies are hyping their wares and throwing a boatload of money at their new “Next Gen” devices, we might not be seeing that many HUGE, graphical, game changing, improvements. Instead, we might just start to see more subtle, incremental enhancements, like the addition of reactive smoke, cleaner visuals and more dynamic environments.

Take a look at Tom Clancy’s: The Division. It looks like a great RPG that utilizes some awesome visuals and the latest in “Next Gen” hardware. I know I am VERY excited about this game, but I can’t help but wonder if the graphics are really THAT much of a night and day difference. When we compare them to the BEST, most recent graphics on our PS3s, sure they are cleaner and less muddy, but they are still very similar. The same goes for Watchdogs, great graphics, but I have a feeling they are only slightly better then our current gen.

I know many of my friends are very excited about the how “cool” these new games are going to look and I too, think that these graphics are going to look awesome! I’ve even gone out and pre-ordered my Watchdogs/PS4 bundle. But, the question is, should we be expecting such DRASTIC, game changing visual improvements right out of the “Next Gen” gate? Personally, I think the systems will need some time to find their stride.

I know a lot of gamers are going to be more than happy to play some new games on new hardware, but I’m sure most of us will still be playing on our LCD/LED screens, running at 1080p.  So unless you have a new t.v. that is 4K 2K, which is probably unrealistic, I don’t think there will be such an immediate WOW factor as what some of us have been expecting.

I will say that I AM looking forward to these new consoles and I am sure that they will pump new life into the industry, but as far as graphics go, I’m just not yet as BLOWN AWAY as I was expecting to be. I am impressed for sure, but it might take some time before they completely knock our socks off. For now, I am perfectly fine with a slower, incremental progression of visual improvements. Since I have taken the plunge and pre-ordered the PS4, I’d rather have a greater emphases on stability, reliability, longevity and user interaction, than a gigantic leap in graphics. Make the system as bombproof and as stable as possible, with plenty of internal cooling since my guess is that these things are going to run hot. I don’t want an overheated and dead system within a few short years, at the cost of graphical perfection.