Last night during my Twitch broadcast–trying a new schedule–I played Outland and Rabi-Ribi, two Metroidvania-style platformers and while playing them I noticed something I hadn’t before, even as a fan of the platforming genre and the metroidvania subgenre and it’s how often these games have bullet-hell elements, where part of the challenge is to avoid countless damaging projectiles as part of traversing the environment and defeating the bosses placed in front of us.
My year (so far) in Metroidvania – Best of the Best
I love platformers, they take me back to my childhood playing Super Mario Bros. with my sister on our NES, each struggling to reach the next level in the classic Nintendo title and all but whistling the 1-1 tune out of memory months later.
When it came time to pick our genres for the Gamely Giving Gameblast marathon a few months ago, I went with the platformer genre, not only because of how I felt about it but also because it’s a fun genre to watch and usually very family friendly, which was important with my broadcasting shift times. Continue reading My year (so far) in Metroidvania – Best of the Best
Puzzle Games – Open vs Sequential
Last week I spoke of the two categories I separate puzzle design into, those being the story driven ones, the ones with a close tie to the game’s narrative and game universe common sense, and the challenge driven, those placed in the game just to give players something meaty to bite into, often tied to the game’s plot by theme rather than adhering to the plot, the locations, the character’s common sense, etc.
With those two in mind, I’d like to talk to you today about two other categories, but these are the ones in which I separate the games that feature these puzzles. Despite the article’s title, I don’t like to call them puzzle games, as puzzles in both categories can be in a variety of genres, with the puzzles being just another challenge offered to players, without them being the core of the experience—take the Resident Evil franchise for example, the first and latest titles heavy on complex puzzles but not their defining feature.
I base these two categories on how the players interacts with the puzzles in the world. They can be Sequential or Open.
Puzzle Design – Narrative vs Challenge
If there’s one thing that you can expect from an adventure game, it’s puzzles. They’re part of the genre, and even the slew of choice-based adventures we’ve seen in the past few years have at least one puzzle in them, a little challenge to break the pace from the monotony of watching interactive cutscenes.
If the above sentence makes it sound like I don’t like choice-driven games, you’re getting close, though it’s not exact either. I like challenges and puzzles in my videogaming, and when it comes to adventures, I want puzzles, be it logic, inventory or even conversation based. It’s why I loved Life is Strange, it didn’t sacrifice the puzzling for the choices, finding a good balance between them.
But as I sit here contemplating adventure games I realise there are different approaches to puzzle design, and while this might a gross oversimplification and generalisation, I believe you can put the overall design approaches into two categories: Narrative Driven and Challenge Driven. Continue reading Puzzle Design – Narrative vs Challenge
Boss Fight Design – The Checklist!
Boss Fights are a staple in gaming and no matter the genre, there’s a good chance you’ll have an encounter with some big bad that needs some righteous punishment, with brute force, ingenuity or some well-aimed tool.
This is not a top anything for bosses, but more of an analysis of what bosses should and shouldn’t be like. Too many a time I have played games where the bosses are unsatisfying, or they don’t have a specific theme or are nothing more than glorified minions. Continue reading Boss Fight Design – The Checklist!
Top 10 Bosses in Dark Souls and Bloodborne!
I recently finished Dark Souls III, clearing almost all bosses—with the exception of the Nameless King and Ancient Wyvern because I couldn’t care enough to track them down—and since finishing it, I’ve been thinking of the From Software games catalogue, figuring out what the best bosses are. Admittedly, I haven’t played Demons’ Souls so whatever list I come up with is incomplete.
But still, this is my list of the best bosses in the Dark Souls and Bloodborne series. These ranking take two major things into consideration: challenge and memorability, because if we’re truly honest, in Souls games and Bloodborne what we remember the most are the boss fights. The lore is great but boss fights are what people talk about, they’re the highlights and low points of any of their games.
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10 – Asylum Demon: The first Dark Souls boss is a surprise to say the least. The game teaches you the basics of gameplay inside the walls of the Undead Asylum, and even introduces you to a friendly NPC that gives you your first Estus Flasks. Then you open some doors, go inside and boom, there he is in all his fleshy glory. He’s a vicious enemy that is very easy once you figure him out, but a fantastic start to the game.
9 – Gwyn, Lord of Fire: Gwyn’s an easy boss fight, too easy for Dark Souls to be honest, but he’s still memorable for me because his boss design reflects the overall game theme and lore. In his prime, Gwyn was a powerhouse, but now, faded and hollowed and dying like his first flame, he’s so weak you can even parry him. He’s on his last legs, he’s “fading embers” made flesh.
8 – Soul of Cinder: The final boss in Dark Souls III is yet another callback to Dark Souls bosses, though in this case he’s also a reference to Dark Souls players, taking the appearance of a charred version of the poster-character from Dark Souls and using sorceries, pyromancy and even using Dark Wood Grain Ring-style movements. He’s fairly simple to kill and he’s yet another dude in armour with melee weapon at that point. But he’s the one reference in Dark Souls III I didn’t mind. You can even parry him in second phase, though I found it easier to just bait him.
7 – Queelag: Who can forget this beautiful thing? She has the body of a flaming spider and torso of a gorgeous naked girl. Queelag is the first boss in Dark Souls that forces you to react to several things at ones. The spider half has some attacks while the human does other things and there are also environmental dangers. Add to this that you might have gotten there battered and poisoned and you’ll see why she’s on the list. Also, her boss soul weapon was my favourite in all of Dark Souls and I never found anything like it in any of the sequels.
6 – Blood-Starved Beast: This howling monstrosity comes early—or late—in Bloodborne’s story, particularly because it’s entirely optional, only needed to unlock chalice dungeons. But if you do fight it, it’s a fight that punishingly teaches you how to wait for an opening and to create one if you need. The Blood-Starved beast is highly agile but then starts adding a vicious poison to its attack and by the end, it’s covered in the stuff, making the last 30% of its health a real race for survival.
5 – Abyss Watchers: This is my favourite boss fight in Dark Souls 3, particularly since it’s partially a rehash from the number 1 on this list. What makes it very cool is that when you first see the Abyss Watchers you think, “Oh no, not another council fight.” Council fights being those where you fight two or more enemies where killing one triggers more skills in the other(s). But no, you fight one major guy and the others come in and can even help you, as the Abyss Watchers tend to fight among each other. Phase two is strong, intense and gave me a powerful rush of endorphins when I nailed it!
4 – Orphan of Kos: Screw this guy, really. The boss most responsible for rage-quits in Bloodborne. The Orphan of Kos is the hardest boss in the game, but he’s not really a fun one, particularly because he’s extremely punishing and random. He doesn’t feel challenging like other fights, where you can figure out the flaws in your strategy, but instead you depend a lot on luck with him.
3 – The Fume Knight: Oh how I hated this guy in Dark Souls 2. He’s the toughest boss in the entire game and is so because he’s absolutely vicious. His first phase is manageable if you’re not very good at rolling, but the second one makes blocking impossible. It’s high on this list because it forced me to switch up my play style to match the boss encounter, instead of using my go-to turtling strategy.
2 – Ornstein and Smough: The Bash Bros of Dark Souls, Ornstein and Smough are the most memorable bosses in the entire Souls series, and a nice council fight. You can’t just focus on one of them, as they don’t ever stop attacking. And then when you’ve taken one of them out and you’re happy, then one powers the other for the doubly intense phase two. I remember shouting, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Like a Daniel Bryan fan when I finally felled them!
1 – Lady Maria of the Astral Clock Tower: Hunter fights are the best in Bloodborne. They use the same rules as you do and it’s the closest PVE gets to PVP, which suits me just fine. Lady Maria also has some nice references in lore and her introduction video is awesome. But most importantly her fight is the fun kind of challenging. Her moves remain the same throughout the fight with just changes in how punishing they are. You can learn to overcome your mistakes and finally put her to rest. She is the best-designed and paced boss in all From Software’s games.
So, there’s my list. Do you agree? Or is there one I should’ve included and why the hell didn’t I? Let me know in the comments.
I hope we get a Demons’ Souls remaster at some point on PC or current or next gen consoles, as I really want to play all games in the Souls series.
Writing Challenge 2 – Spy Story
In late 2015, I announced a writing competition here on The Mental Attic. The challenge was to write a story based on a song. I first set the song, but later revised the rules and opened up the competition to whatever the writers desired. They could write in any genre and setting, including established works aka fan fiction material. The prize for the winner would have been 5 novels of their choice.
I say, “Would have been” because we received no submissions, not a single one. I promised that at the end of the competition I would publish my own song-story and I will, it just needs to wait a bit on me finishing up some other work. It’s a fun story, just need to put it down on virtual paper.
But that’s not the only reason I’m here today talking to you all. While we didn’t receive a single contribution for the Song Story competition, it doesn’t mean there won’t be others. In fact, the next one starts right NOW! Continue reading Writing Challenge 2 – Spy Story
Fiction Challenge – Song Story Version 2
First of all, happy new year!
To kick off the year, and considering there have been no submissions for the Writing Challenge, I’m extending the time limit and making some changes. I realised as the weeks went by that the challenge was too restrictive and there wasn’t enough time and I didn’t explain a few things that I should, so here’s what’s going on: Continue reading Fiction Challenge – Song Story Version 2
Fiction Challenge – Song Story
A few months ago, I was discussing with Timlah from Geekout South-West about interesting series ideas for The Mental Attic and his own site. For TMA he recommended I did writing challenges, a simple task with the winners having their work published on The Mental Attic and perhaps receiving a second prize. After much thought, I’ve decided now is the time to do this. Continue reading Fiction Challenge – Song Story