BACKLOG 6/6/18: Metroidvania mania, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, and Dark Souls Remastered.

BACKLOG is a “whenever the fuck I feel like it” blog feature focusing on how I’m progressing through video games, old and new, that are stuck in my backlog. Here I’ll generally update my progress in any and all games I’ve touched in the past 2-4 weeks. This includes updates on reviews I’m writing, games I’m looking forward to, thoughts I’ve had, and things I’ve purchased.

Sure, last month I said I wasn’t going to bother with Dark Souls Remastered and I totally canceled my pre-order. Then the game came out and I bought it digitally and I’ve been playing it ever since. Why? Well, it is a good game and I want the Platinum trophy and there is no good reason to not be playing Dark Souls right now. I’ve also re-downloaded several ‘metroidvania’ games that I had never finished or reviewed and started with Apotheon, Strider, GuacameleeDust: An Elysian Tale, Axiom Verge, Teslagrad and I have yet to buy the remastered version of Shadow Complex. These are the types of games I love to play and I figure I will keep one going at all times or at least in between AAA games that I’m slogging through. I am still deciding if I want to finish Salt & Sanctuary though, not sure if it’s entirely worthwhile.

Strider

Strider_20180603194928

After many years I finally finished the 2014 reboot of classic arcade game Strider and uh, it turns out all that I had left to do in the game was enter the final boss area. I stalled for a while revisiting every area in the game and trying to find all of the collectibles but I found the fast-travel system and some of the areas incredible frustrating to revisit and holy shit the factory level with the pneumatic tubes is the single most frustrating ‘trap loop’ in a metroidvania I’ve ever experienced. The final boss took one try and it was a really nice boss fight with three main phases.

I won’t be fully reviewing this game because I’d have to replay it in full after two years off to have anything detailed to say about it. It was a good game that doesn’t force back-tracking or complex systems on the player. You have four ‘elements’ of attack that correspond with enemies weaknesses, doors, and mechanisms. You have three types of extra attacks you can activate otherwise. Movement feels fluid and sharp but the graphics aren’t optimized for 4K and looked weirdly grainy to me. If you are addicted to this type of game, this is a good and cheap option but you’ll really have to stretch your time with it beyond 5-6 hours and backtracking for collectibles was not particularly fun.

>Strider (2014) 100%

Apotheon

Apotheon_20180527010109

Apotheon is another fairly old metroidvania that I’d never finished. This one I had only really finished the tutorial area without realizing it. Turns out this is a reasonably fun game that was clearly made on a budget by a developer that hadn’t necessarily been this ambitious before. Controls are slightly floaty, the physics are often goofy and the game offers no real challenge once you figure out movement and typical enemy patterns. What is great about Apotheon is it’s decent plot, decent voice-acting and pretty art style.

This one was fun enough to backtrack into and I enjoyed figuring out the various quests and challenges. There was a reward for every action in the game and I never felt like I had to force myself to do anything for the sake of a reward. I could have easily finished this game in well under 10 hours but I chose to spend an extra four digging through every corner of every map finding new lore, powers, and items. I think the general gameplay loop and art style kept me engaged beyond most games in this style but the lack of challenge left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied.

>Apotheon (2015) 100%

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon_20180529232310

I’m a huge fanatic for Castlevania games particularly the legacy of handheld games post-Symphony of the Night. Where I’m not a huge fan is on the original Nintendo trilogy because of the controls and terrible game design choices for the second game. Even the third game was cryptic and strange at times when I was a kid. With Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night hoping to deliver a 2.5D metroidvania resurrection in the Fall of 2018, this prequel in the style of Castlevania III offers many modern conveniences, solid gameplay, and a stellar soundtrack. I just don’t have enough nostalgia for it to feel like it was worth $9.99 for about three hours of gameplay… and that was after beating it the requisite two times to see both endings and all of the bosses.

Even if I had some small gripes with it’s cost, this game it was a worthwhile mini-experience. It does not replace the engrossing exploration of the GBA, NDS/3DS games nor does it necessarily outdo the game it takes influence from. I would only recommend playing through this if you have some great nostalgia for Castlevania as a series or if you have to play every metroidvania variant out there. I only jumped on this purchase because I am hyped to play Ritual of the Night. I only wish they’d have included a download for the soundtrack along with the cost of the game because I spent far more time listening to the music than I did playing the game.

>Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 100%

Dark Souls Remastered

DARK SOULS™: REMASTERED_20180601234019

Well, why the fuck not right? I’ve already plugged hundreds of hours into this game and every other From Software Souls-like game but I’ve never gotten the Platinum trophy for Dark Souls because it is really hard, missable even with three full playthroughs and time consuming. This game looks fucking ugly in 4K with all of the changes to lighting and polished character models, the art style holds up worse than most PS2 remasters I’ve played recently and anyone who’d say this game looks beautiful has to be joking. The original game really benefited from he grey murk of it’s generation and with most of the graphical fog lifted it is often horrendous and block-like in terms of environments.

I’d never done a playthrough with a Sorcerer as my first two on the PS3 were as a Pyromancer / Knight (lets say quality build) through NewGame+. Cheesing the game with a Pyro build was easier because you can get strong Chaos pyromancy early in the game with some foresight and tear through it as a result. Sorcery in Demon’s Souls was far more powerful and because Dark Souls starts you off with a lot of close range attacks I’ve found I need to be far more methodical. I thought I would have likely forgotten all of the side-quests and details, the small tricks and cheeses of the game but so far the only thing I’ve forgotten how to do was defeat Ceaseless Discharge. I already have a +5 Magic infused Claymore with 35 INT and I already know I could beat most of the non-DLC content with my setup and some armor upgrades. What I don’t know yet is what armor I’ll use, or if I’ll build towards Dark spells or Crystal sorcery yet. I typically do a ‘spellsword’/Runic Knight sort of build where I pair a quality build (STR/DEX) with magic or pyromancy.

That reminds me, I need to go back and kill Solaire.

I’m not going to start using guides and builds until I’m in NewGame+ because I know I’ll stop having fun if I take the Platinum trophy hunting too seriously. The only thing that might pull me off my completionist tendencies with this game is if Vampyr turns out to be good, or if the PvP aspect of certain areas continues to be an issue. I’m playing this game offline because it is so easy to exploit and many people seem to have bought the game in a rush to gank with backstabs and ‘twinking’. With some limited video game time every week I don’t have much patience for re-doing 15-20 minute sections of the game. This should be a better test of skill because I summoned for at least half of the boss fights in my original playthroughs. I find myself hating the social aspect of all video games more and more lately and with Dark Souls PvP so broken and hilariously bad I might entirely abstain. If I want collaborative play or PvP both Dark Souls 3 and Nioh offer a better experience.

> Dark Souls Remastered (2018) 30-40%

Hey, I also picked up Persona 5 for about 5 days worth of in-game time as I’m still plotting the ruination of an abusive gym teacher/volleyball coach. The game is not hooking me at all yet perhaps because it is too chill and playing out like a bad Toonami cartoon so far. I’m liking the battle system and surely prefer it to Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, which I also picked up and worked my way through the tutorial. The game forcing you through a stealth section is one of the dumbest decisions I’ve seen in a JRPG for a long time and so far I do not like the characters. Bad first impression, but I know I’ll warm up to it eventually.

Dishonored 2 is not a huge priority right now, I think once I realized I didn’t want to do such a murder-filled playthrough and went back to redo the earlier levels I lost some interest in the gameplay. As much as I like meticulously searching every area for loot, money, and things to kill the idea that I’d have to use stealth in the game is actually frustrating in practice. It will sit on the back-burner with Thief until I run out of metroidvanias to sort through. That is really it, I’ll just be working my way through Dark Souls slowly until I either Platinum trophy it or fall off into something more pressing. This month X-Com 2 is free on Playstation Plus and Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is out on iOS/Android for $10, they are both of great potential interest to me though I would prefer Valkyrie Profile was on a console or Steam instead.

BACKLOG: Unfinished titles, in order of importance. % progress noted.

  1. Dark Souls: Remastered (PS4) 40% [Sorcerer]
  2. SteamWorld Dig II (PS4)
  3. Teslagrad (PS4)
  4. Dishonored 2 (PS4) 5-10%
  5. Persona 5 (PS4) 10%
  6. Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir (PS4) 0%
  7. Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (PS4) 1% [Tutorial]
  8. Dragon’s Crown Pro (PS4) 0%
  9.  The Surge: A Walk in the Park DLC (PS4) 0%
  10. Risen 3: Titan Lords Enhanced Edition (PS4)
  11. Tales of Zestiria (PS4) ~1% (in first town across bridge)
  12. Arcania (PS4) 0%
  13. Thief (PS4) 5%
  14. Battle Chasers: Nightwar (PS4) 0%
  15. The Technomancer (PS4) ~5% finished introduction
  16. Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4) 0%
  17. Batman: Arkham City (PS4) 3%
  18. Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition (PS4) 0% tutorial
  19. Divinity: Original Sin (PC) 0% (restarting)
  20. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS4) 60%
  21. Metro: Last Light (PS4) 0%
  22. Deus Ex: Invisible War (PC) 0% (restarting)
  23. The Witcher: Enhanced Edition (PC) 0% (third restart…)
  24. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (PC) 0% post-tutorial
  25. Dragon Age: Inquisition (PS4) 0% tutorial
  26. Dust: An Elysian Tale (PS4) 0%
  27. Bioshock 2 (PC) 0%
  28. Guacamelee! (PS3/PS4) 0% (restarting on PS4)

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