Gaming Q&A: Most Surprising Twists in Video Games

You know me, I’m always up for a good discussion, no matter if it’s games, films, TV series or even books and writing. So, when the crew of Later Levels approached me for a monthly gaming Q&A, hopefully to create some great debates around video games, it didn’t take much for me to see that it could be fun.

Every month, I’ll present you with the question and my answer. If you’d like to join, get in touch with Later Levels. The rules are simple, in fact there is only one to note: your answer must be in 100 words or fewer.

This month’s question is: Which is the most surprising plot twist you’ve seen in a video game? Continue reading Gaming Q&A: Most Surprising Twists in Video Games

Screaming at the Fire – Dark Souls III Annoyances

Before I even begin, let me state this: Dark Souls III is a good game. I’m still playing it. Also, this isn’t a review or a preview, just a little rant on my grievances with the game so far. I’ve yet to finish it, so these are first impressions.

I’ll say it again, Dark Souls III is a fun game, with the same depth and lore as its predecessors and keeping the same style of gameplay we’ve come to expect from From Software’s titles. But it has some annoying flaws in design, particularly boss design that drive me crazy.

Dark Souls III
This swamp has it all, from giant crabs to a freaking Black Knight!

Enemies in Dark Souls, and I mean the normal bunch and even the NPC invaders and humans spread around the environment, are a varied sort. You have your abominations, your giant monsters, the knights and everything in between. The Cathedral of the Deep has pretty much one of every kind within its walls.

But the boss design is pretty much a one-trick pony: humanoids in armour with melee weapons, particularly swords and spears. They’re all hyper-aggressive with long reaching sweeping attacks. Some of these are great, like Darth Pontiff, as I like to call him, with twin swords and Jedi-like moves, and the Abyss Watchers, which is most definitely my favourite boss in the game. But it is a common trend in the game, particularly in the main route. The optional bosses do present more variety, such as the Curse-Rotted Greatwood, the Old Demon King and Oceiros, the Consumed King (though this last one is a necessary kill or one of the endings). This tends to box all encounters, particularly if you’re melee, in a single strategy of rolling around avoiding damage, particularly because 95% of them deal damage that you can’t completely mitigate with a shield or have such strong moves that blocking them depletes your stamina. Right now, nearing end-game I’m rocking Yorm’s Greatshield and it’s the only thing that offers decent protection and lets me block effectively. Non-human bosses give you other strategies, make you think of positioning. The only way Dark Souls III makes you do that is with environmental complications like those Bed-of-Chaos-esque poison breathers in the Dragonslayer Armour fight, which is complete nonsense!

Dark Souls III
Dark Souils III has way too many mimics!

The Lords of Cinders themselves have some issues, except the Abyss Watchers, which are amazing. For example, Aldis’ fight is in one of the most memorable Dark Souls places but the boss itself is rather bland, with very little nuance or strategy to him, just roll through the attacks and swipe at him. Yorm the Giant is a gimmick boss that dies very quickly from the anti-boss weapon you find in his arena, otherwise he takes minimal damage like most giants. Even the Twin Princes lack some impact, as it’s a simple encounter with odds stacked against you…as they all are.

But perhaps my greatest issue with the bosses and which might have had an even bigger impact on how memorable they are is the lack of boss intros. Most bosses just start after you enter their arena, without the dramatic cutscene that introduces them to you and give you that first moment of awe, something that was frankly amazing in Dark Souls, the first one. I will forever remember the cutscene to the Gaping Dragon and that of Ornstein and Smough, they were great and told you exactly what you were in for before the boss even did anything to you.

Dark Souls III
Ew, just ew

Dark Souls III has the lore, the references to the original game—quite a few in fact, yet it doesn’t feel like a retread—but it lacks the dramatic impact of that game. It’s almost as if the developers knew that the audience would know things so they didn’t put time into the presentation, the introduction of elements, characters and most importantly, bosses.

My final issue with Dark Souls III before I go is that much like Dark Souls II, there are way too many greatswords, ultra greatswords and in big weapons in general, and not enough Straight Swords or fast single hand weapons. I know they love their bulky equipment, but it would’ve been great not to end with the Broadsword as my main weapon much like I did in Dark Souls II. Also, most weapon arts are rather bland.

Dark Souls III
Not liking the new decoration, Anor Londo!

But to not end this in a downer, I’ll say I loved the new way of handling Estus Flasks, the allotment and reinforcing. Truly love it, same with the weapon upgrade options. They kept the good but got rid of the clunky. I’m happy with that.

I’ll be playing more Dark Souls III in the coming weeks and maybe soon I’ll have a review for it. I just needed to get these off my chest. That way you can know what I’m grumbling to myself most of the time while playing!

Star Wars Legends – Remembering the Expanded Universe – Characters

This is the last entry in this week of Star Wars. It’s strange, I had never before attempted a multi-part feature, didn’t know how to structure them. It took a new Star Wars film, a new continuity and the loss of the one I loved to bring this out of me. Guess I have to be thankful to Disney then.

This is the article I’ve been waiting to write, where I tell you about the characters in the Expanded Universe that made it such as special place for my imagination. Reading their adventures, following them on their journeys and controlling their actions in video games were a blast. I saw these people grow, evolve, become better men and women, or fall to the depths of depravity. These characters showed that the Star Wars saga is not about black and white good and evil but the millions of shades of gray that exist in the galaxy. From Sith falling in love with Jedi to good men going on a rampage for vengeance, the characters in the Star Wars Expanded Universe made it all relatable, believable and sparked new stories or continuations in my mind.

Some of these you’ll remember. Some are very familiar to you, but if you don’t know your Star Wars Expanded Universe, you won’t know them as I do. So sit back, grab a drink and let’s go meet some scum and villains! Continue reading Star Wars Legends – Remembering the Expanded Universe – Characters

Star Wars Legends – Remembering the Expanded Universe – History and Society

As mentioned yesterday, this week I’m talking about the now non-canon Star Wars Expanded Universe, the collection of media that made this universe we all love a much bigger and more interesting place than it would’ve been with only the films. With the announcement of the Disney merger and the plans to have new episodes of the film saga, the Expanded Universe lost its canonicity and was rebranded to Star Wars Legends. Today I’m focusing on Galactic History.

When it comes to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, most sources will agree that it detailed, in one way or another, over 36.000 years of the Star Wars galaxy. The Galactic Republic, the setting for many of the stories, characters and locations we see in the various media, existed for about 25.000 of those years, with the Jedi Order coming into existence over 10.000 years before that. The Infinite Empire of the Rakata predates both by several thousand years and their technology driving the technological evolution of future species, particularly the Humans and Duro, who adapted their Hyperdrive technology.

I’ve thought long and hard on how to write this piece and ultimately decided against giving you a complete and rather dull timeline and talking about all the different planets, customs and cultures, from the decadent lifestyle of the upper Coruscanti to the hard living on Nar Shaddah and the physical and spiritual balance ideologies of the Matukai.

Instead, I’ve decided to tell the story from four points of view, from the perspectives of four recurring ‘peoples’ in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Their actions and ideologies shape the galaxies and drive most of the conflicts in the Star Wars saga. It beats covering every single war…there are way too many and I admit I don’t know about them all. Continue reading Star Wars Legends – Remembering the Expanded Universe – History and Society

The Best Star Wars Games

Star Wars is one of the best-known properties out there. That original 1977 film spawned sequel and prequel films, Tv series, cartoons, novels, comics, board games and of course Video Games. There have been Star Wars titles in pretty much every console and platform known to man, from the Atari 2600, passing by the Amiga to current generations.

Star Wars Video Games have taken us to the universe of the films, expanding it in ways their original creator perhaps never expected. We’ve played the films, alternate events and even side-stories, and we’ve been Jedi, Bounty Hunters, Criminals or just people caught in someone else’s mess. We’ve used The Force, Blasters or just a ton of Thermal Detonators. We’ve traveled through the Republic and the Outer Rim, found exotic locales and met strange creatures, both good and evil. We’ve found ancient relics and superweapons, collecting or taking them down! Continue reading The Best Star Wars Games