Saturday, 10 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Crushed

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

It seems Lucatiel is stalking me, and she admits as much when I find her hidden in one of the caves down here, saying she was tempted to kill me and take my souls to prolong her own time. Instead she assists me with fighting the boss of the area, who happens to also be the sculptor of these statues - a massive writhing mass of bodies called the Rotten. It flattens me a number of times before Lucatiel and I finally defeat it, earning me the third "great" soul.

A monster with a hobby: Sculpting.

Beyond him is a strange altar which warps me to a new zone but giant locked doors prevent me from advancing further. Before leaving that pit, Lucatiel advises that there are other hidden paths below which I go looking for, encountering and slaying three club wielding giants in the process. Proof that "the last giant" was also inappropriately named. There's also a strange old guy in a wheel chair down here but he's not very helpful so I just leave him there and warp back to the poison assassin forest to see if I can now explore a higher area where the staff and whip mummies were previously kicking my ass.

The answer is yes, mainly because I find Creighton the axe man and a ninja named Bashful Ray to assist! After clearing them and crossing a long, rickety rope bridge (which I managed to fall off once due to carelessness), we slew a tough red guard at which point Ray used his ninja skills to vanish. Creighton and I continued on to face a skeletal chariot! The death machine just made rounds while it patiently waited for me to kill the necros and their bone minions, then shut a gate on its face. With caution I managed to slay the bonemare after that. Alas, Creighton did not survive.

The red guard was worse than the chariot.
Maybe he is from the Elder Scrolls?

Friday, 9 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Gutter Trash

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

The next path I decide to explore is the great pit in the center of town. I had tried jumping down before but could never survive the fall to the first platform. Now, with a ring of damage fall reduction (that talking cat is useful) it is now doable, and soon I find myself in a large catacomb littered with short statues. To be specific, I was drawn into Caes (player) version of it, because this is a PvP area. I never run into him though, as I easily find a bonfire and the boss chamber which humorously is just a bunch of rats.

So... did the rats carve these rat statues?

Just beyond them is the rat king, who asks I become his servant. I obviously say no and leave because that's just silly. The path continues down into the darkness and soon I end up in a horrible, dark place called the Gutter, where the statues that were once decor now shoot poison and falls to certain death are all around. It takes me a few goes to find where I'm meant to go, lighting braziers on the way to help me out.

One of the more disturbing denizens in the Gutter.

I even run into a giant ant but since it's not hostile I leave it be and proceed even further down where the statues have started becoming green from all the poison built up inside them. Giant rock worms and horrid hand monsters which emerge from tar pits are here too, making progress very slow going. In between all of that I'm invaded by Woodland Children Victor and Gully (one after another, due to having to rest at the bonfire). And then by Forlorn again - this time, he's the one that dies. 

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Light Bringer

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

Good thing there's a message right at the start of the spider lair which reminds me of a new mechanic in this game: the torch. I light one up, forsaking a shield or two handing my sword, but the benefits here are great. Not only can I see where to go but the spiders all flee from the light, making them easy kills. At the bottom I find Ashen Knight Boyd whom I save from becoming the spiders next meal and he assists me in the fight against their hive queen: The Duke's Dear Freja. Who names these things?

Worth noting its head and its arse are the same.
Minor dig at females in general maybe?

The two faced, armored spider is immune to attacks that don't strike one of her aforementioned faces. Those also seem to be the most dangerous places to stand when fighting her, so I let Boyd tank her for a bit to learn her move set while I scare away her little adds with torch light. It soon becomes clear she only attacks in one direction at a time so Boyd and I alternate with the bait and switch method with one tanking/evading while the other deals damage. The bug is soon slain, and now I have a second "great" soul to my name.

Boyd bids farewell here while I backtrack to the previous areas, trying to find things I missed which is a lot apparently: in the misty ruins I get to fight some Thundercats (lion men), as well as a tough headless warrior and back in the Lost Bastille I manage to free both Felicia the Brave and Pilgrim Bellclaire who help me defeat a trio of really tall, skinny knights. Having pocketed some extra loot, I return to Majula.

You gals kill the thing, I'll stand over here and cheer!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Creepy Crawlies

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

It's the poison that kills me... really?

Equipped with the rings I bought from the cat, I return to the misty lion man ruin and manage to talk to the previously silent man scorpion who introduces himself as Tark, possibly once known as Tarkus until something bad happened to him in Anor Londo. Apparently he wants me to help him slay his female counterpart who I had previously run into. Lucky for me he comes along to assist and on our second attempt (I misjudged the aggro swapping on the first one) we manage to slay her. Tark is satisfied and returns to his domain while I push on to a strange cavern full of locked doors which I quickly run out of keys for.

The place is guarded by slow moving elephant knights and ... really big dwarves(?) who are easy enough to run past. Eventually I emerge at a deep valley and after fighting through a small army camp I make my way down some dark, spider infested caves into a church where I have to slay a whole bunch of hollows and their magic wielding priest.

Oh, hell no.

Lower down is the continuation of the town, and it is absolutely infested with the poisonous arachnids (and some man-spiders), to the point that they start coming in swarms. Good thing the bastard sword has a wide sweeping arc attack which is effective at small group extermination. The lowest building seems to be where they are coming from, and I soon find out why: it's their lair.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Xenoshyft

How many will die in your quest for unobtanium Xenosathem? The answer is A LOT!

In this cooperative, deck building card game for up to four players, you are all section leaders assigned with protecting your mining base on a remote alien planet of the deadly and hostile kind. Each player controls one "building" if you like that has special abilities and a slew of troops and gear that you will be using to defend your shared HP base through 3 waves of increasing difficulty with 3 rounds of monsters each (9 in total). Should your base reach zero hit points, it's game over for everyone.

Doesn't look like a "tower defense" game, but it is.

To stop the advancing aliens, each player has a "lane" board where they can put four troops and gear them up. You can't rearrange their order without special cards so you hope for the best when the randomly deployed face down bad guys, start turning up. They too have special abilities, like defending or empowering their allies, or attacking the last troop in your lane - generally whatever is required to screw you over. Combat is simultaneous so instances where both the bad guy and your troop dies is common. Indeed, I've found it's quite rare to have troops left standing after each round.

I've not yet had a win on this game, mainly because wave 3 ups the difficulty insanely, but I'm certain the secret to victory lies in hand management and luck - which I suppose is a staple for deck builders? Not sure since this is my first (second if you count my short experience with Magic the Gathering when it first came out)! So yes, it is hard but it is also fun. The setup does take a little while to do though, and you will require some thick skin as your people are killed left and right. All up I give Xenoshyft three explosive spiders out of five, and recommend it for people that like punishing card games. :P

Monday, 5 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Lost and Found

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

Amazing segments of beauty in an otherwise crapsack world.

As expected, all the prisoners, guards and dogs in this prison are hostile hollows. They're easy enough to deal with using basic field tactics though (like flanking and luring). I am once again jumped by the Eagle Knight here, and manage to hurt him significantly before having to flee. Fortunately he gives up the chase and vanishes - at least he didn't kill me this time!

Lucatiel has followed me here it seems, purely to give me a ring of some sort. Again, she doesn't offer to assist in any other capacity so I leave her there and find my way into the "main" prison block of Sinner's Rise - from the top I see some big winged creatures in the distance but my path leads me back down to sea level. After slaying another shiva knight I come to a massive prison of "the Lost sinner", a giant man who was so thoughtfully locked away -with- his great sword.

If he wanted invisibility he should have copied those mist bastards.

His first move is to kill all the lights with a single swing but I can still see him and his telegraphed moves just fine. I slay him on my first attempt and collect what happens to be the first of the four "great" souls. Cool. A bonfire behind him warps me back to Majula where I spend his soul purchasing the interesting rings sold by the talking cat.

NWO: Storm King has no Thunder

Now that I've finally completed the Sea of Moving Ice single player story line, I can give a more rounded review of this whole campaign, which boils down to one word really: GRIND. The locations are pretty, sailing in the final zone is fun, the foes are ok, the story is passable despite suddenly getting a whole bunch of new NPCs. I also quite like the increased number of patrolling enemies, it's like they saw what I did in my map Arroway Manor and copied it - yay!

It seems evil giants also like swimming.

You get powerful relic weapons at the end of this arc, with the only catch being you have to "restore" them to make them usable, via weeks/months of relic digging, heroic encounter hunting and sea fishing which in my book is still the biggest waste of time ever. Yes, the "new" fishing is more interactive but seriously loses the "fun" appeal after the first time you are forced to do it. Yes, I said forced. Despite Cryptic saying it's was an optional activity it is mandatory! Optional means there shouldn't people shouldn't be force to even do the tutorial, much less have it as a daily quest.

You want those weapons though? Look forward to hours of "fishing fun" or spending at auction house. Yep, Cryptic just showing more "Pay to Win" here. That is all on top of the grind to get the boons btw, which is a different set grinding months. This design is so disheartening and irritatingly money grabbing.

What I'm most interested in is to see how inclusive the next module is going to be. Is everything going to be scaled on the assumption that most folks would have "unlocked" these grindables, leaving everyone else "stuck behind a gear wall"? Will they make it easy content that the elite will complain about? Or are they going to give an easier alternative for the under geared to enjoy new difficult content making the current grind moot?

So I have a choice: do the ridiculous grind or find something more rewarding. I'm definitely leaning towards the latter.