Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Games I Have Played - Demon's Souls

Mega Man 3 is a rough game the first time you play it. When I first played it back in 1991, I beat maybe 3 bosses during the weekend rental, and that was with the Nintendo Power cover story open at my feet. In the years since I have become quite adept at the Mega Man games. When Capcom made the brilliant move of releasing Mega Man 9 on emulated NES code, I downloaded it day one and spent about 4 days plowing my way through it. A good Mega Man game is HARD, but FAIR. I demands that you learn enemy patterns, the rhythms of disappearing platforms, and the correct weapon combo for each level. Once you had mastered a level, you could repeat that success far more easily because the game demanded you memorize each level as you go. And each Robot Master you put down represented not just an investment of time, but a mastering of a set of new skills. It was endlessly rewarding and empowering to my 11 year old (and 28 year old) self.

In the intervening years, accessibility has become an industry buzzword. Games like Fable 2 make it impossible to die. Even hardcore games like Gears of War are focused more on being guided thrill rides with excellent play mechanics. I loved both of these games, don't get me wrong. But I, like many other gamers who came of age during the NES years, find ourselves missing the unforgiving, demanding nature of these older games.

To quote a review I read somewhere, Demon's Souls does not want you to beat it. It does not want you to defeat the next boss. It does not want you to see the next sweeping vista or gorgeously-rendered castle. It does not want you to marvel at it's excellent enemy design or clockwork mechanics. No, Demon's Souls wants to kill you. The tutorial ends with you being killed. The first level will kill you dozens of times before you open all of the gates and find the boss. And every time you die, the enemies respawn harder, you respawn weaker, and you lost your Souls, the game's only means of leveling, buying items, repairing and upgrading your gear. It sticks you in the gut with a rusty pike, takes everything away, and dares you to get back up.

Getting back up, it turns out, is immensely gratifying. Never has a game made me rage-quit so many times. But I haven't been this absorbed with a game in years. Possibly not since high school, or at least since Oblivion devoured my life for a month back in 2006. This game gets into your head. Beautiful design aside, what keeps me coming back to this game is that, like Mega Man, just about every time you die it is your own fault. You got impatient. You got cocky. You got sloppy. You didn't raise your shield. You didn't roll away. You didn't run. You weren't smart enough. You shouldn't even be trying this level yet. And this very fair, very beatable system blends nicely with the overall tone of the game, which is constantly thrusting you, underpowered, into unfamiliar environments with blind corners, dark passages, and terrifying, raging monsters who want nothing else than to make you quit. They are faster than you and often stronger than you, but they can all be beaten because they are not smarter than you. In fact, if I can make one complaint about the game, it is that enemies are not smart. They have pathfinding issues such that an early level-grinding scheme is to get a too-powerful enemy to chase you into a high stairwell and get him to chase you off of a six-story drop because he can't navigate the corners.

That aside, this game touches some spot in my brain that takes me back to gaming when I was just discovering it. When you were still learning the rules and so immersed in the world that the challenge felt like a dare more than an obstacle. This game assumes you have been playing games for a long time and those of us who have been can appreciate that. Here's hoping this sells well enough to awaken a wider interest in publishers to bring more of these games out, because I will be waiting.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My crappy week.

I've had a crappy, crappy week. Work was stressful, I got the worst flu I can remember having and I missed a trip to Lewistown to RIDE A STEAM ENGINE. IN THE FALL.


So while sitting here, languishing away, I've been throwing myself against the immovable object that is DEMON'S SOULS.

I'll probably do a full write-up on it at some point. You may be asking yourself if playing this dark, deep, incredibly difficult game is actually making me sicker. I do not have a satisfactory answer to that.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

best thing I've seen all day - 10/06/09


Aging with the internet

I was just thinking about the 1up show today, and how great that theme song was...

...or the remix from the last season, when everyone was one by one leaving 1up...

That was a good, good thing while it lasted.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Unto us a small, potato-like creature is born...

Ladies and gentlemen, Sadie Fay. All of 48 hours in.

Crass enough to care

The past few weeks have been like waking up from a long sleep.

A very, very long sleep.