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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Bloodborne Review: A Waking Dream Come True

I've done it! I've whittled that hulking, screaming, monstrosity down to a nub. This is close to my 14th attempt to take this bastard down. He looks a whole lot bigger now and he's spraying poison gak everywhere, but his tells remain the same and this time I've got him. He's gearing up for his big ol' intimidating hind leg slam, but he doesn't know that he's sealed his fate. I'll just shoot him, bring him crashing down to earth, and stick my cane sword right through his... uhh...

*click, click*

Sh*t. My gun's dead and I'll soon follow. But it doesn't matter, because next time I'll get him. Next time I'll run circles around him and that is the magic of the "souls" games. At first they seem impossible, at first they seem like an overpriced exercise in masochism. But they aren't. They simply want you to forget what you know about gaming. To change your expectations. If you stick with them long enough and do a little research... and die a whole bunch; You'll learn how to play the most rewarding experience gaming has offered in the last 5 years combined.

Starting with Demon Souls and continuing with Bloodborne, you are once again a stranger in a strange land. Stuck in a dying world whose last chance for any sort of rescue was decades ago. You aren't a savoir, at best you either put it out of it's misery or stay it's execution for a few more precious months.

That place's name is now Yharnam. A decidedly more Victorian and steampunky departure from it's previous medieval fantasy trappings. And what a stunning respite it is. Minute to minute there is more jaw dropping setting and atmosphere in this game than any that doesn't rhyme with "Vio-flock." This is one of those rare experiences that's just fun to run around in, soaking up it's jumbled and tragic lore.

Nevermind it's got combat that is near impossible to put into words. It's like mastering an instrument. Same with Dark Souls before it. Only Bloodborne is more like an electric guitar to the former's acoustic. Once again, a souls game asks you to forget what came before, but this time it wants you to relearn what it's already taught you.

No. More. Shields.

Those words struck terror in my heart. How dare they?! I spend nearly a hundred hours over two games hiding behind my trusty shields. They were a safety blanket Bloodborne cruelly tore away from me. "Do you want a Dark Souls game ghost written by Lovecraft?" it asked me.

"Yes." I said "That's almost to rad to imagine. That is radness on a scale I'd not considered nor knew existed." Bloodborne smiled and raised it's gun.

"Good. Now DANCE!" 

The shield has been replaced by the gun. Though much like it's Victorian counterparts, they don't do any damage worth dealing. They are a means to subvert. Milliseconds before an enemy lands it's blow, if you hit them, they will be stunned. They will then be powerless to stop a fabulously bloody counter attack that kills most enemies in a single blow and makes bosses quake in their boots. I've spent 28 hours in Bloodborne, beat the thing, and I'm still only batting 400. But landing one as a killing blow to a boss that's brow beaten you, forced you back to earlier areas to scrounge for health and supplies, and generally just treated you like a classless punk?

It's an experience I shelled out $460 for and do not regret in the slightest. You should absolutely do the same*

But yes... that is certainly an asterisk isn't it?  While I did enjoy about 85% of this wonderful game, I haven't even brought up it's PEERLESS monster design. Possibly the best in all of gaming. There are issues.

For instance, I miss finding gear all over the place. I miss leveling up my armor, I miss magic, and I miss generally being able to fool around with different builds. Do you have any idea how much I loved taking my blood soaked Dark Souls monster slayer and trying on all my different hats, Miyazaki? After 20 hours in your new joint I've only found, like, six. I'm not seriously holding that against the game, but it certainly did bum me out.

And the only real character class choice you ever get is whether you want to use heavy weapons or light. That's a bitter pill. As I plow through my second playthrough I'm thinking its a little too bitter. I'm sure it was a way to eliminate having every enemy and boss cater to sword-ers ranged-ers and magic-ers but I don't think the trade off was worth it in the long run.

I reserve the right to run around this guy firing hurtful blue lights and then decide to turn into a clay jar for some reason. RESPECT MY RIGHTS, BLOODBORNE.

Sure there are a bunch of randomly generated dungeons you can hop into if you find the right items for a chalice ritual. But they're decent at best and bafflingly pointless at worst. I spent nearly an hour running around in some massive subterranean courtyard after I killed all the enemies and couldn't find some stupid key. Speaking of, all the enemies reek of a scrapped traditional Dark Souls direction and the chalice dungeons end up feeling like an opening act. Fine on it's own, but paltry when pitted against the main event. I bet you money the whole concept of them was borne out of finding a way to doll up a bunch of unused assets that no longer fit the Victorian ascetic.

Thankfully, length isn't an issue, though it's not as sprawling as either souls game. What's there is top quality and there are still massive secondary areas you can only find by wiki-diving. I'm glad that's the case. Yet the whole ending to BB is a bit of a misfire. Not "bad" by any stretch of the unknowable cosmos, but a humongous missed opportunity. For a game that honestly captures the fragile and ephemeral chill of Lovecraft's horror, we never truly step into the mouth of madness.

The "last level" so to speak, isn't a consciousness shattering dip into the realm of the great old ones and that broke me. Maybe I got stuck for too long and my expectations got the better of me, but BB made me say those two magic words one should never say during the end credits: "That's it?"

What it is I won't spoil. But know it's very very very very VERY very very very... expected. But  each Souls has had a similarly underwhelming finale. Unless you count DS II's DLC and The Ivory King. That was radness made flesh. A radness that would burn straight through your eyelids least ye be so foolish to gaze upon it. I mean to say it was half combat, half resource management puzzle, and all rad.

Hey, little guys, come on... daddy's sorry he yelled.
That was a longer list of grievances than I'd planned on writing. It all just sorta spilled out. I forgot I hated the chalice dungeons so much. But that's like saying that you chose not to dip your masterfully cooked Fillet Mignon in the steak sauce on the side. Because a half decent steak doesn't NEED a steak sauce, it needs more STEAK. But who doesn't finish a great game and ends up wanting a little more from it? Bloodborne bothered me because it came so horrifically close to being a personal favorite. A masterpiece that would get to party on the same shelf as New Vegas, Dark Souls, Civilization V, Bioshock Infinite, Borderlands 2, and... what? Yeah those last 2 are with me, we gonna have a problem?

So its not without flaws but it blazes an exciting new trail. It's mad experiment in making a fast paced Souls game paid off brilliantly and it's choice in decor was sumptuous. Like an old, ornate, leather arm chair you can't help but nestle into again. Only... you can't recall ever sitting in it before. But that's silly, you've always had that armchair. You've never gone an hour without sitting in it, ever since your father brought it home that one time. What was his name? It doesn't matter. You're going to spend all day in that chair. Perhaps even the next. You muse out loud whether or not you'll ever want to get up again. But in the very back of your mind, you begin to fear that you physically can't.
That's Bloodborne. And instead of being perfect, its really really really really really great.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ok Chance, now THAT madness has ended too.

So yeah! Take that, Bloodborne! My review is forthcoming, though it won't be all stars and sunshine. While I do think it both a masterpiece and a shoe-in for GOTY... I have one massive bone to pick.

Why don't I just get it out of the way right now: the last area is PATHETIC. As much of a letdown as many (a pox on them, I say) believed Dark Souls II to be, there is nothing in that game as uninspired as that rote little fortress. Nothing.

 Stay tuned for elaboration!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

There's going to be a 5 Nights at Freddy's Movie... and it could be really good!

Thanks, Badmask!
I've never actually played these games, but I've devoured other people's reactions to it, poured over the wiki full of fan theories, and adore how the design of each character is intentionally unintentionally creepy. That's a horror brass ring right there.

The first poltergeist clown did that. The new one?

That's just straight horror. It's too obvious. But other than that, the story is pretty damn good. The gist being that a nightwatchman had been dressing up as Freddy Fazbear, murdering children, stuffing them into animatronic suits and the pizza chain managed to cover it all up. The word from the producers also sounds like their hearts are in the right place. The words "Terrifying" and "weirdly adorable" speak to an almost Gremliny vibe. Which is perfect. Sign me up.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The madness has ended.

I'd like to make an announcement that may shock and disgust some, I've lived in Durham NC all my life and by extension... am a rabid Duke fan. BOOOOOOOO, evil rich kids across the lake! BOOOOOOO, ex-military straight shooter coach who genuinely cares that his players graduate!

Come at me internet.

Anywho, last night's game was spectacular. Wisconsin? You were wonderful, you had us on the ropes for almost 40 minutes. It was a flaming hell of a game and you should be proud of yourselves. You know what the best part is? All our star players are Freshman. I believe we're just getting started. Maybe K's thinking about a three-peat.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

I wanna finish Bloodborne...

But I hate Rom. Just too much. I'm stuck, alright! So I'm tearing through Bob's Burgers whilst I lick my wounds. So here's some of that.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The best season of Bob's Burgers has been Netflixed!

Christ, it's been a long time, but season 4 of Bob's Burgers is on Netflix. Fort Night, Mazel-Tina, Seaplane, Equestranauts! All the best an already great show has to offer. It took an extra 6 months but it's ready... are you?!

Yes. Yes you are. Get moving.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I basically made Alexander Dumas in Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity

Look. Just look at that smug, magnificent, bastard.
Even though these isometric RPG's aren't my thing, there was no way I wasn't going to throw money at Obsidian entertainment. That rag tag group of badasses that have stuck stoically/suicidally to having story matter most in their games at the expense of graphics and stability. They also made the remarkably true to form South Park: The Stick of Truth. A game so deeply in love with it's source material I'd recommend it to people who've never picked up a controller before. They've also made my favorite game, just... period. My favorite game. I love them so much, I'm willing to venture outside of my comfort zone into really really dense high fantasy.

But it's their really really dense high fantasy. Built from the ground up by a bunch of writers, Chris Avellone included. The dude who is, for my money, the best open ended story teller that's ever written. But enough about that, today I found favorite character portrait I've yet seen. I was gonna do a ho-hum, sword and board, knight... but then I came across this roguish and dapper sum-b*tch. I love it so much that I vow I'll plow through Pillar's alleged 60 hour run time based on that alone.