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  • Hades is a roguelike by Supergiant Games, the creators of Bastion and Pyre. It is very good and I enjoyed it immensely. You play as Zagreus, the son of Hades and Persephone, as he attempts to escape the […]

    • Hades:roguelikes::Hollow Knight:metroidvanias, in that they’re both so far and away the best thing the genre has ever produced that you almost wonder where the f games could possibly go from here. I’m utterly fascinated to see what roguelikes do next, because it’s going to have to be something ridiculous to get out of Hades’ shadow.

      Also worth mentioning is the truly gorgeous sound design. The voice acting is phenomenal and the soundtrack is beautiful. Darren Korb is really a genius.

      • Also! The relationship between Zag/Nyx/Persephone was one of my favorite parts of the game, it was so refreshing to see Persephone and Nyx appreciating each other instead of being competitors.

        • Yes, I loved that too! The narrative is just so kind. Even Theseus, who has the most antagonistic relationship with Zagreus, was kind enough to redeem his sworn enemy. It’s such a comfortingly optimistic portrayal of people.

    • Hades really nailed the gameplay/narrative integration to a degree I haven’t seen since Radiant Historia or the like. You know you’ve reached the pinnacle when it’s not just a great story and not just a great game, but a great story that can only be told as a great game.

      I loved that you didn’t have to fight Hades at all in the final run before Persephone decides to come home; his speech where he admits his agency in the family’s problems was so satisfying. The three’s reconciliation with each other was brilliant and kept me going long past the time I’d more or less grown complacent with the actual gameplay.

      • I loved that you didn’t have to fight Hades at all in the final run before Persephone decides to come home

        Farla was actually really steamed about that, because she had a really great build that run. :p

    • I mean, I don’t think it’s terribly surprising people are grossed out by incest.

  • This is a Portal clone, but, unlike Gravitas, not a good one. It’s a physics puzzler where you must navigate a mad scientist’s lab while a sardonic narrator comments on your every action, all clear elements of […]

  • Hunter became a registered member 2 months ago

  • Recently I decided to play Knights of the Old Republic, a wRPG set in the Star Wars universe. I initially ignored it because I’m not into Star Wars, but I decided to give it a shot to see what all the fuss is […]

    • KOTOR II does remind me a bit about Disco Elysium in how much it engages with the player and encourages them to challenge its messages, though I think DE lacks the mouthpiece of KOTOR II. KOTOR indeed would also have benefited from just being a walking/skill check game like Disco Elysium. Still, SW just wouldn’t be SW without glowing swordsticks.

      • Honestly, it would probably have worked better if lightsabers just gave you massive bonuses to DE-style combat checks instead of everyone being able to take five lightsaber stabs to the face without blinking. The need for lightsabers to be “balanced” with regular weapons just completely neuters them compared to their depiction in the films.

        • There are a few SW games that got that right, and they are a glory to behold. I’m thinking of the first two Battlefront games, where Jedi were hero units in a giant Battlefield-style FPS game, and also the Jedi Knight series. The large unit count on both sides in Battlefront made it fine for Jedi to be unstoppable death machines; they couldn’t individually turn the tide of a massive battle.

          The Jedi Knight series is honestly my favorite SW video game series, particularly Jedi Outcast and then Jedi Academy. Outcast gives you a predefined character in Kyle Katarn, who is a pretty cool dude, almost if a noir detective was a Jedi. He even tries to lean on someone with the line “I’m not a Jedi; I’m just a guy with a lightsaber and a few questions.” He then becomes the wise old mentor (but not an Obi-Wan style sacrificial lamb) in Academy.

          All that said, I am having a blast imagining the DE-style skillchecks for a disaster Jedi.

          HAND-EYE COORDINATION
          LOW: 28%
          +1 You goaded him into the swing
          +1 He’s still reeling from the drinks
          -4 You don’t have your lightsaber, idiot

    • I refuse to touch MMOs with a ten-foot pole. Everything I’ve heard of it sounds terrible, anyway. I was never interested in the grand metaplot with the True Sith and whatnot, it only ever felt like a distraction.

  • Child of Light is an RPG whose battle system intrigued me. It expands on Final Fantasy’s ATB system to make it more tactical and engaging instead of just a reskinned initiative system — though, in the circular […]

  • You may or may not remember that way back we reviewed a game called The Void, which would have been a very fascinating and atmospheric work of art if it wasn’t also blatant porn with a focus on watching women […]

    • [citation needed]. If it’s the one I’m thinking of, he does not say that at all and it requires very deliberate misreading to be interpreted as such. There’s also, you know, the text itself, which involves the girls winning and getting a happy ending.

    • “At this point, you might assume you’re playing as the Mother. Not so! For some reason, the player character is the Mother’s “Dear Friend”, who we never see, implying they’re supposed to be a full self-insert”

      Uh, no, we know who they are, it’s central to the plot. It’s not a very good plot, so you haven’t missed much, but here it is: The kid is a chosen one, bound to the demon (or other, in the game’s less cool lexicon) Suffering; the mother is also a chosen one, bound to the demon Memory. The two of them fighting has collapsed space-time, as you get told several hundred times on the loading screens. The player is Memory, or a fusion of Memory and the mother.

      It’s a bit too pop-Freudian for me, but I don’t think it’s that hard to follow.

      “The game is a roguelike that desperately doesn’t want to be one. I’m genuinely not sure why they did it this way”

      It functions as it always does as a sort of natural scaling difficulty, but yeah, that’s about it.

      “Every one is a puzzle boss of mounting complexity, with a gimmick that’s nearly impossible to counter without a specific setup.”

      They’re all fine with a balanced party. Playing blind with SB+SS+BM, I got to the first boss on my first go through, and the last boss on the second (Switching to BM+BM+SS+SS). Roots don’t really effect blademasters, because you can use movement abilities in them. The first boss’s anti melee attack is avoidable in some way that I can’t remember, the maid alternates who she screws over, and the kid isn’t particularly prejudicial to any one class.

      “Soulslingers in general were really overpowered compared to the other classes, I thought.”

      Opinions seem to differ. I’d say all classes are good, with SBs and SDs a little harder to use due to low mobility.

      I’d agree that it’s sexed up for no good reason – although if the evil daughters are naked it completely escaped my notice, they just looked pitch black to me – and overly repetitive. I did like the quick animation option and quick loading times, though.

      • Yes, I know the player character is Memory, and also that Memory is actually responsible for all of the Mother’s powers and accomplishments for bonus misogyny. My point that there’s no good reason for the PC to be a blank-slate self-insert instead of the Mother still stands.

        • Okay. I don’t really see people protecting themselves onto an abstract memory demon (yes, this is me, this is me in the story!) but perhaps some of them do.

  • Another oldie I’m finally getting around to.

    Like all of Obsidian’s catalog, Fallout: New Vegas is a beautifully-written game that should have been a visual novel. The RPG elements, the shootouts with random […]

    • ‘(You probably shouldn’t have gotten positive karma for killing drug-addled Fiends, though, that was ooky. There really shouldn’t have been an objective morality system at all — the reputation system is better in every way and should really be a standard for games going forward — but I guess that was leftovers from Bethesda.)’

      The karma system is actually a relic of the original Fallout games from the 90s. They were always flawed in the way most ‘alignment’ measures were in RPGs of the time – you’d become a saint just by going through the normal quests the game offered (and yeah killing druggie raiders), and needed to make a concerted effort to be a bastard to go negative. Can’t pin that one on Bethesda.

      ‘The world may have ended, but people have rebuilt it, because it’s the nature of people to work together and help one another.’

      Now this is something Obsidian (and Interplay back in Fallout 2) got right that Bethesda never understood even up to Fallout 4; humans in Fallout 2 and Fallout NV rebuilt society pretty much back to modern levels within a few lifetimes of the 2077 nuclear apocalypse; one of my favorite things about NV is the background detail you get about the New California Republic essentially being a modern country again. NV explicitly takes place in a sort of no-man’s-land on the frontier of several rebuilt civilizations. I think it’s a great design decision that we never actually see the NCR homeland, only the encroaching fingers of imperialism that represent them. In Fallout 1, the NCR was Shady Sands, a struggling agrarian village, and in Fallout 2 it was a budding city-state. It’s kind of a great ‘die a hero or live long enough to become the villain’ depiction.

      • Can’t pin that one on Bethesda.

        Ah, and looking at the history, Obsidian actually grew out of Interplay, so yeah, that is on them. I’m glad they’re moving in better directions at least, with the reputation system here and the tides alignment system in Tides of Numenera (though that one also runs into the problem of requiring purposeful effort to deviate from Blue/Gold).

        And yeah, I really liked that the Mojave was clearly not representative of post-apocalyptic society at large, and that the NCR had a much higher standard of living. It’s really hopeful that even after such horrific destruction, humanity can piece itself back together again and things weren’t permanently lost. Life goes on.

      • “The karma system is actually a relic of the original Fallout games from the 90s.”

        Yeah, and it was pretty redundant even back then since local reputation already existed: you could be a hero to one city and a monster to another, and they were pretty self-contained, so there wasn’t really a need for global karma tracking.

        Probably the clearest sign that the system is fucke was gaining karma for hubologists. Like, they were bad institutionally, what with being a parody of scientologists and all, but individually most of them were people duped into following a cult for the usual reasons people fall in with a cult. Treating killing them as objectively good is… ah… a thing F2 did.

        “Now this is something Obsidian (and Interplay back in Fallout 2) got right that Bethesda never understood even up to Fallout 4; humans in Fallout 2 and Fallout NV rebuilt society pretty much back to modern levels within a few lifetimes of the 2077 nuclear apocalypse”

        Yep. This is a major background theme in F1 -> F2 -> FNV. In F1 we see people at their lowest, living in the ruins of a dead civilization. In F2, those isolated settlements become connected. Not just NCR, but also New Reno, Redding and Den (and others to a lesser extent): all of them are tied economically pretty heavily, and your actions in one place can echo in another. (Of course, it’s not always a good thing: with connections come exploitation, as we see with the mafia families.)

        And then in NV we see the first truly major conflict between restored civilizations.

        Now, I get why Bethesda would shy away from it: with each game, there is less and less space to actually do the post-apocalyptic stuff. The world is slowly transforming from frontier wild west into, well, a country. Can’t exactly be the Masterless Man in suburbia now, can you?

        Still, it’s a shame that this theme gets ignored.

        • Now, I get why Bethesda would shy away from it: with each game, there is less and less space to actually do the post-apocalyptic stuff. The world is slowly transforming from frontier wild west into, well, a country. Can’t exactly be the Masterless Man in suburbia now, can you?

          This is a good summation of why subversive media tends to snap back to baseline, I think. An undying franchise has to riff off the same genre conventions endlessly, which is at odds with something that commits to a single idea that locks off other options.

        • The ideal would be for a FNV2 to be about someone realizing civilization has come full circle and navigate a way for the new society to avoid the mistakes of the old. Fallout New Vegas was almost there, but not quite; the distance from those new countries prevents you from actually engaging their inner workings in such an intimate way.

          Unfortunately, that hypothetical sequel really *would* be better off as a visual novel or walking simulator, because part of the point would be that the NCR has so little personal violence compared to the frontier. I’d love to see the Disco Elysium devs handle something like that.

          • That would be a brilliant capstone for the series, but for that reason it’ll probably never get made. Have to keep the golden goose laying.

    • “Like all of Obsidian’s catalog, Fallout: New Vegas is a beautifully-written game that should have been a visual novel.”

      IDK if it’d worked as well in a VN form. Part of the appeal of the game is that you get to explore the world on your own terms (but actually being carefully guided through design), which allows you to go to various places, get involved in local stuff, and through that glimpse a part of the bigger picture.

      That said, yeah, the mechanics are not super-inspired here, and it’s easy to imagine a game that did the same thing but better.

      Then again, NV was made in 18 months because Bethesda can be a deeply unreasonable company, so here we are.

      • I don’t think I’d have minded it as a walking simulator. Discovering and exploring the cities on your own terms was a pretty cool mechanic. I’d just have preferred to do it without random encounters and sifting through garbage all the time.

    • Also,

      “But seriously, how has no one cleaned up their trash in 200 years? Did the nuclear holocaust kill off all the janitors?”

      It’s Fallout. The janitors were probably all placed into a single Vault as a sort of nega-Rapture.

    • “There was some jarring cognitive dissonance in Freeside having a really thoughtful plot about how drug addicts are victims who deserve support and compassion, then in the same breath tells you you’re a good guy for murdering Fiends”

      Well, no, because doing drugs isn’t what makes the Fiends “evil”. It’s the recreational torture, burning people alive, cannibalism, slavery… They’re a brutal, expansionist gang.

      I don’t particularly want a game telling me “this guy is evil”, but there’s no cognitive dissonance here.

      • People say the same things about drug gangs in real life. I think it’s irresponsible to reinforce that belief by creating a narrative where it’s true.

        We’re repeatedly told (and shown, through gameplay mechanics) that drugs are addictive and alter your behavior to be more aggressive. Vault 3 is littered with corpses of Fiends dead from drug overdose. How much of their evil is genuinely their own choice, and how much is the result of being driven insane by bad drugs they had the misfortune of trying once? Would Ronte and Hoff have behaved any differently if they had gotten hooked on Psycho rather than alcohol? The narrative doesn’t care to ask that question, but it’s an important one.

  • Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is a love letter to the Paper Mario series, which I previously reviewed and greatly enjoyed. It has the same papercraft art style and gameplay centered around action […]

  • Some Metroidvanias and some more standard platformers. Inside: Even the Ocean, Xenodrifter, Gato Roboto, RONIN.

    Even the Ocean
    Puzzle Platformer

    A story-heavy puzzle platformer about an environmental […]

  • Sekiro is a game by the creators of Dark Souls. I gave it a try because Roarke said it fixed my complaints with Dark Souls. I would say it mostly does, but it also has problems of its own.

    The first, and […]

    • You’re missing a lot, yeah. The story is extremely steeped in Japanese and Buddhist mythology and history, and especially Shinto vs Buddhism.

      For one assertion that he should be ‘a samurai with some ninja training’ actually just makes extremely zero sense, since like… that’s what a freakin’ shinobi is already. They’re Samurai caste who gave up their honor for the sake of their loyalty. The other way around doesn’t make sense for the game, because the reason he is that is because he’s meant to be a powerful direct-combat warrior who uses lots of under-handed tricks and stealth. This is actually historically accurate for shinobi in the time period. It’s stylized up, sure, but yeah that’s the point. So the “Heh, DOESN’T KNOW THEIR OWN HISTORY” is funny.

      The reason why immortality is bad is because it is literally eating up the land. Kuro’s immortality is not a perfect blessing that brings happiness to all. You are actually fine with ressurecting in mid-battle because you are using your own, or the life-force of the people you have slain in battle. But when you die and are sent back to a statue is because Kuro had to drain the land of life-force to bring you back. That’s the problem with it. It’s bad because it is directly connected to the life-force of the land, and every time it is used, you’re draining innocent people of their life-force and making them sick by rotting the dragon-tree that keeps the land alive. So yes, while Genichiro only wanted the power to save his people, it would have killed them in the long run. So Kuro wasn’t being a ‘whiny little brat’, selfishly trying to get rid of immortality. He realized he was being a literal leach on the land and decided to stop it for the greater good. He IS saving them from a long-term hell. Which is funny as he’s not even the lord of the land. Genchiro kidnapped him to use his powers for his own ends. He has no reason to help then, they literally want to abuse his power that is also ruining the land to help them defeat his country.

      As for the centipedes, in Buddhism they represent uncleanliness and corruption. “Why would a Buddhist want immortality?” Because he’s a Buddhist, not Buddha. Enlightenment is moving beyond desire and need. These monks have fallen entirely away from enlightenment, which the desire for immortality highlights.

      Relatedly, the Divine Child’s entire thing being in the corrupted temple but completely untouched by the corrupted monks is extremely Shinto vs Buddhism because the boss fight you do to get to her represents the Shinto virtues, which presumably these evil monks have no chance in fulfilling.

      • For one assertion that he should be ‘a samurai with some ninja training’ actually just makes extremely zero sense, since like… that’s what a freakin’ shinobi is already. They’re Samurai caste who gave up their honor for the sake of their loyalty.

        I’m gonna have to pull a [citation needed] on that, because everything I’ve read says the opposite, that ninjas were trained and employed specifically as stealth operatives, who did stuff like disguises and assassination instead of busting down the front door and murdering everyone in sight. Even if what you say is true, that’s not how Wolf is presented; he’s a peasant orphan, not someone born into knighthood.

        You are actually fine with ressurecting in mid-battle because you are using your own, or the life-force of the people you have slain in battle. But when you die and are sent back to a statue is because Kuro had to drain the land of life-force to bring you back. That’s the problem with it. It’s bad because it is directly connected to the life-force of the land, and every time it is used, you’re draining innocent people of their life-force and making them sick by rotting the dragon-tree that keeps the land alive.

        You’ve contradicted yourself in the same paragraph — it only drains innocent people when it’s overused, not “every time it’s used”. The Dragonrot is only a problem because they’re in the middle of a civil war. If Kuro had let Wolf spirit him away like Wolf originally wanted, the war would have ended while they were in hiding and they could live a peaceful life afterwards without dying repeatedly to cause the Dragonrot. The only reason the Dragonrot spreads is because Kuro sends Wolf on deadly quests in order to sever immortality.

        The whole thing is the same logical fallacy I see so often: It ignores the status quo when criticizing the alternative. Death really sucks, especially when you’re in a civil war where people are constantly dying horribly. The alternative to the Dragon’s Heritage isn’t some perfect world where nobody suffers. Both options have flaws, but the story takes it as a given that the status quo is better instead of doing a fair comparison.

        Part of the problem is that I think the designers goofed on making the Dragonrot less scary than I think they intended; Emma makes a cure almost immediately and dragon blood droplets are so plentiful I was never in any danger of running out, even though I died a ton. It hardly feels like an unstoppable evil. If the price of defeating death is popping a few dragon blood droplets occasionally, that seems a perfectly fine trade to me.

        Enlightenment is moving beyond desire and need. These monks have fallen entirely away from enlightenment

        Yes, I know, but why? What prompted them to desire immortality in the first place? I’m always baffled when dualists seek immortality — if you already believe you’re immortal, what’s the point of prolonging your Earthly life? The only explanations I can think of are either that they had already done so many bad things they were certain they were going to turbohell (which must be extremely turbo, because turning into a decrepit mummy overrun by vermin is already its own kind of hell), or they were actually monists who didn’t really believe they had reincarnating souls.

    • Not every single shinobi was the same at all times. Shinobi who were expected to guard lords or do general battle were trained in a lot more straight-forward combat, with the expectation that they’d use their stealth training to help them slip into the enemy compound easier. There’s stories of shinobi replacing the defenders of a castle mid-battle to take the castle.

      He was adopted by Owl, who would be of the samurai caste, or at least willing to give him a warrior’s training, considering he had been training him to be a murderous psycho.

      Being able to cure Dragonrot relatively easy gameplay-wise (there’s only 15 of them in the entire game, and they have a dual-use of allowing extra resurrections in battle) is likely due to the fact that Dragonrot can be debilitating, and you gain a Dragonrot every 10-20 deaths.

      Also take Kuro and go… where? Ashina is blocked off from the rest of the world by the Interior Ministry, and also everything has happened explicitly to get Kuro simply because of his powers. Hell, his estate was razed and his family wiped out by men (like Owl) working for both the Ashina and Interior Ministry. And if he tried to save everyone by spreading the immortality around, then it’d just be draining the land and making everyone horribly sick that much faster.

      Also relatedly, that is why the soldiers at the start don’t bother killing Sekiro. He’s already immortal by that point, so they were content to let him just waste away.

      As for the monks, it’s a pretty important thing in Buddhism that even if you intellectually know that you shouldn’t want immortality or need it because you’d have what’s more important if you discard your desire for it, but that emotionally that isn’t so easy.

      Also they know extremely well that they would not be receiving immortality if they gained true enlightenment. You’re striving to leave the world, to escape immortality and reincarnation. But these men were afraid of death and the end of it all, so they desired immortality. That’s classic Buddhism there.

      • Not every single shinobi was the same at all times.

        So your previous sweeping statement of “that’s what a freakin’ shinobi is already. They’re Samurai caste who gave up their honor for the sake of their loyalty” was incorrect, then. A lot of what we know about ninjas is mixed up with myth and hearsay, especially in modern pop culture, to the point it’s hard to pin down a hard definition of what a ninja was or did, and that it probably spanned a wide variety of roles. I’m fully willing to believe that some ninja were former samurai who abandoned the bushido code, but that definitely was not the case for all or even most of them.

        And this is all rather beside the point, since as I’ve said the designers were clearly not concerned overmuch by historical accuracy. That’s not inherently wrong, but if they’re using the pop culture idea of a ninja, Wolf just does not align with it. Insisting this sworn bodyguard whose idea of stealth amounts to “crouch behind cover, but if that doesn’t work, screw it, just murder everybody in sight” is a stealthy assassin is just ridiculous to me.

        Being able to cure Dragonrot relatively easy gameplay-wise (there’s only 15 of them in the entire game, and they have a dual-use of allowing extra resurrections in battle) is likely due to the fact that Dragonrot can be debilitating, and you gain a Dragonrot every 10-20 deaths.

        Yes, and…? This is a company that built itself on diegetic gameplay mechanics. They clearly didn’t compromise on any of the other horrifically punishing gameplay mechanics in this or the Soulsborne games, so if their intention was to convince us Dragonrot was worth giving up immortality for they shouldn’t have compromised on that either.

        Also take Kuro and go… where? Ashina is blocked off from the rest of the world by the Interior Ministry

        I’m expected to believe a ninja can’t sneak someone past a blockade? Even if Wolf screws up and needs to fall back on his personal idea of “stealth”, you carve your way through the Interior Ministry in the final act of the game anyway, so he could absolutely murder his way through the blockade. And if he can’t, this same logic applies to Kuro in the Purification ending. If it’s not possible for Kuro to live safely in obscurity, then the real Purification ending is that Kuro gets captured and murdered five minutes after the credits roll and everything Wolf did was for nothing.

        Also relatedly, that is why the soldiers at the start don’t bother killing Sekiro. He’s already immortal by that point, so they were content to let him just waste away.

        Okay, but why didn’t they block the well, like the Interior Ministry does in the final act?

        As for the monks, it’s a pretty important thing in Buddhism that even if you intellectually know that you shouldn’t want immortality or need it because you’d have what’s more important if you discard your desire for it, but that emotionally that isn’t so easy.

        Okay, but what was the desire that drove them to immortality in the first place? This is circular logic. The evil people want immortality because wanting immortality is evil? No, people don’t work like that. You want immortality for some reason, either because you fear death or because you prefer living on Earth to an afterlife. We’re not told any of that, we just see a bunch of mummies sitting around doing nothing. The Holy Chapter: Infested item seems to indicate that even they don’t know and that becoming infested wasn’t their own choice. It feels like there’s a lot of information that’s just missing.

        And escaping reincarnation and entering nirvana is a voluntary decision — it’s pretty key to Buddhism that the enlightened can turn back and stay in the world if they want to. So I don’t understand how they could be afraid of exiting reincarnation, like, accidentally. The only way what you’re saying makes sense is if they don’t believe in reincarnation or immortal souls at all, at which point they’re atheists, not heretics.

        The whole thing frankly feels like the same level of nuance we give to Satanists in our pop culture. “These people are evil because they reject our dominant cultural beliefs. What are their actual beliefs? Doesn’t matter, they’re just Evil.”

    • He’s a shinobi, not the literal hundreds of shinobi and soldiers that the Interior Ministry have, much less the dozens of nightjar shinobi that might still exist and wish you to kindly stop. Yeah sure you can beat an Interior Minstry guys in a one on one or one on two fight (and not easily, either), handling all the Interior Ministry shinobi at once isss a different story. Also, while he is a shinobi, Kuro isn’t. If the Interior Ministry had been so easily beaten, then Ashina would not have been doomed to lose its war without Kuro’s power.

      “Yes, and…? This is a company that built itself on diegetic gameplay mechanics. They clearly didn’t compromise on any of the other horrifically punishing gameplay mechanics in this or the Soulsborne games, so if their intention was to convince us Dragonrot was worth giving up immortality for they shouldn’t have compromised on that either.”

      Well think about this: Just one person being given the immortality is enough to stress the land enough that it is rotting. The Dragon that grants his power to Kuro is dying from the rot of sustaining just Kuro and Wolf, and it is implied that sustaining just ONE person keeps the dragon from renewing itself, because it is still missing the Aromatic Branch that had been cut from it. So while Kuro and Wolf hanging out and being alive might not immediately rot the land fatally, the land was already decaying.

      “And if he can’t, this same logic applies to Kuro in the Purification ending. If it’s not possible for Kuro to live safely in obscurity, then the real Purification ending is that Kuro gets captured and murdered five minutes after the credits roll and everything Wolf did was for nothing.” Kuro can live safely in obscurity after being purified because his power is no longer a beacon drawing everyone towards him and killing each other. Because that’s why his family was massacred and Ashina began their rebellion, all because of his immortality.

      “Okay, but what was the desire that drove them to immortality in the first place? This is circular logic. The evil people want immortality because wanting immortality is evil? No, people don’t work like that. You want immortality for some reason, either because you fear death or because you prefer living on Earth to an afterlife. We’re not told any of that, we just see a bunch of mummies sitting around doing nothing. The Holy Chapter: Infested item seems to indicate that even they don’t know and that becoming infested wasn’t their own choice. It feels like there’s a lot of information that’s just missing.”

      They aren’t evil because they want immortality. They’re evil because they let their desire for immortality consume them and did evil things in the name of sustaining their immortality.

      “And escaping reincarnation and entering nirvana is a voluntary decision — it’s pretty key to Buddhism that the enlightened can turn back and stay in the world if they want to. So I don’t understand how they could be afraid of exiting reincarnation, like, accidentally. The only way what you’re saying makes sense is if they don’t believe in reincarnation or immortal souls at all, at which point they’re atheists, not heretics.”

      Again, this is the difference between intellectually understanding something and emotionally understanding something. I intellectually understand that most spiders are harmless and are more afraid of me than I am of them. Emotionally I will stay as far away from them as possible because I am actually more afraid of them then they are of me. So while these monks seek nirvana, they are afraid of it, they are afraid of death. This is normal. Even if you are a true believer in something, you can still have natural doubts and fears. These people learned that a form of immortality existed and was within reach, and they regained the desire for life. If this seems awfully cynical on the part of the monks? Well, the game has an extremely cynical take on Buddhism. As a note: Their mummified states actually are references to real self-mummifying ascetics.

      • Re: beating the Interior Ministry, you kill literally dozens if not more over the course of the game, including not just the ninjas but also their armed warriors. Yes, you can’t take on a whole army at once, but Wolf’s entire fighting style is to pick them off one by one. Also, he’s immortal and they aren’t. Given what the player is capable of in regular gameplay, breaking through the Interior Ministry’s blockade seems totally doable.

        Kuro can live safely in obscurity after being purified because his power is no longer a beacon drawing everyone towards him and killing each other.

        Wait, what? Are you saying he’s supernaturally broadcasting his powers? Where is that explained? Just because he no longer has his powers doesn’t mean the whole world is instantly informed of that fact. As long as people think he has his powers, they’re going to keep seeking him, and probably kill him when they find out he doesn’t have what they want.

        So while these monks seek nirvana, they are afraid of it, they are afraid of death. This is normal.

        No, that does not make any sense. You don’t enter nirvana until you want to. If they’re so afraid of it, they can just choose to continue reincarnating. The reason death is so scary is because it’s not a choice and you can be pushed into it involuntarily. That doesn’t apply here.

        Given the text of Holy Chapter: Infested, it sounds more like they decided the route to enlightenment was Earthly immortality rather than a cycle of reincarnation. That would certainly make them heretics, but it’s also so far removed from anything in real life I don’t see how it’s saying anything meaningful.

        Well, the game has an extremely cynical take on Buddhism.

        I thought the entire theme of this and the Soulsborne series was the Buddhist desire to escape reincarnation in favor of oblivion? The creators clearly believe very, very strongly in Buddhist philosophy. Or are you saying they’re cynical of institutional Buddhism specifically and believe it’s strayed from the pure roots of the religion, i.e. Senpou Temple is their criticism of modern institutional Buddhism?

        • Kuro apparently does basically broadcast his supernatural powers. It’s how people got wind that he can make people immortal and wiped out his family’s palace. He wasn’t like, making people immortal or being killed on the regular.

          Sekiro’s based on various Shinto-Buddhist-influenced tales like Blade of the Immortal, where the reason why immortality takes the form of centipedes and the like, since that is how you gained immortality in Blade of the Immortal.

          But I am actually saying that Sekiro is a very Shinto look at Buddhism and the institution being corrupt is definitely part of it. It’s wrong to say that reaching nirvana and oblivion is the goal of all of the games. I think a much more central theme to the stories is the pursuit of becoming greater than human and what one must do or suffer for it. Bloodborne’s true ending, for example, revolves around bringing humanity to its next childhood as Great Ones, with the protagonist as the leader, but the cost of failure is losing vital pieces of one’s humanity in the process. Part of this is always the cost of immortality, because human bodies are not normally equip for immortality or for being deathless.

          • Kuro apparently does basically broadcast his supernatural powers. It’s how people got wind that he can make people immortal and wiped out his family’s palace.

            I don’t see any evidence for this. He lived at the Hirata estate for several years, and only got targeted because a trusted confidante sold him out. Even during the raid on Hirata, I don’t recall the Interior Ministry soldiers mentioning anything about the Divine Heir, so it’s possible they don’t know about him at all. The only other person who fights over him is a member of the Ashina clan, who already knew about his powers. We also don’t get any mention of people fighting over his predecessor.

            Based on what we see, it looks more like he had all of two bad experiences of people fighting over him (Owl and then Genichiro), and generalized that to assume people were going to fight over him forever. But both of those two people knew about his powers already. There’s no indication he couldn’t hide himself.

            Re: Themes, I haven’t looked at Bloodborne, but the theme of all three Souls games is pretty blatantly about preserving vs. escaping cycles of reincarnation. And regardless of those games, Sekiro takes a very firm “immortality and transhumanism bad” stance with no further nuance, as I complained in the review.

            But I am actually saying that Sekiro is a very Shinto look at Buddhism and the institution being corrupt is definitely part of it.

            I’m curious, then, because I wasn’t aware there was such tension between Shinto and Buddhism. Can you elaborate on this?

    • Glad you like the mechanics, barring the camera and some imbalanced abilities. I personally think the biggest drawback is not that they’re imbalanced, but that you can only equip one ability and three prostheses at a time. Sekiro should have gone full character action like DMC5 so you could use your situational stuff without having to go through a menu.

      No comment on the story or characters; they’re just vehicles for the mechanics.

    • and then sometimes a nonfictional woman shows up and says she kinda liked it and then you go off on her because no one who doesn’t hate all the same things as you could possibly have anything valuable to contribute

      I think you may be confusing me with someone else, because I don’t recall ever doing this particular thing.

      At least you’re branching out with all this wisdom about how Japanese people writing for a largely Japanese audience don’t know how to write about Japan

      “If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought they didn’t know how to write about Japan, but obviously they do and are making a deliberate but very weird choice” =/= “They don’t know how to write about Japan.”

    • Okay. Can you make this comment on the actual relevant post instead of bringing it up on a totally unrelated one, please?

    • For my part, Anon, I think that Tulip and I agreed quite a bit, but I thought she and Elmo were maybe talking past each other. She was definitely right that people should have access to whatever kind of media they want, sexy or otherwise, and that people should be able to wear and act however they want, and that that’s not ‘objectification,’ just healthy living. However! This blog typically concerned with media trends and how they effect populations, ie, very large-scale things that aren’t meant as critiques of the individual. I commented because I thought maybe Elmo and Tulip were talking past each other a bit, and when she asked me for recs on how media portrayals affect self-perception I did my best to give some and it felt like a positive exchange on my end. If I came across harshly, you have my apologies for that — I’m neurodivergent and almost always come off sharper than I intend to (no matter how I try to mitigate it…), but I wasn’t trying to be snide or dismissive of her, I genuinely thought we were misunderstanding each other and was trying to be helpful.

  • Slay the Spire is a deckbuilder roguelike I decided to check out after hearing a lot of buzz about it. It’s a very beautiful game that is rendered unplayable by its overwhelming randomness.

    I can’t beat […]

    • I mean, I don’t want to leave feedback on this post that is just essentially another useless guide, but I do feel like I have to defend StS here, because I never found it ridiculously difficult or unfairly luck-based in 400 hours except on some of the highest difficulties, where you really can just die to a bad seed. I don’t know if you can call it unintuitive in a card game to not take cards that don’t fit your deck; that has literally been the philosophy of card games since Magic. The store even has a ‘Remove Card’ option that is worth every penny since it lets you remove the basic Strike cards that, yes, bloat your deck (in addition to its more obvious use removing Curses).

      Like, you accurately point out what makes the game hard, your draw on any given turn and the resources offered to you *are* RNG, but then you’re ignoring the tools the game gives you to succeed: ways to tailor your deck so that you are not likely to draw dead hands. The two biggest tools are keeping your deck small and taking cards/relics that allow you to draw more cards per hand. Card draw is the strongest thing in the game because consistency is the strongest thing in the game.

      I’m sorry the game didn’t click for you, but I definitely feel the need to say for everyone else: Slay the Spire is the bar for deck-building roguelikes, and probably card-based video games in general. The characters each have a wonderfully designed card pool of their own; the four all feel incredibly unique to play. The game is turn-based but very nicely paced because all the action happens on your turn; enemies show their intention to attack/defend/buff/debuff very clearly and your puzzle each turn is how you’re going to deal with that using your cards. The card/relic tooltips and interactions are consistent and straightforward; the order in which events or effects resolve or conflict makes logical sense for both you and enemies. I think I’d sum up the design for their system as ‘robust’. It is very good at supplying you the information you need to learn its system.

      • Like, you accurately point out what makes the game hard, your draw on any given turn and the resources offered to you *are* RNG, but then you’re ignoring the tools the game gives you to succeed: ways to tailor your deck so that you are not likely to draw dead hands.

        What makes you think I’m ignoring that? That’s the first thing every guide mentions. It doesn’t save you from getting dead hands, or the fact that a single dead hand can end your run. (And the shopkeep removal is bad design, because it’s so overvalued players almost always have to take it, leaving little money for its other services.)

        taking cards/relics that allow you to draw more cards per hand

        And how am I supposed to do that when I have no control over what cards or relics I’m handed, exactly? If we could actively pursue specific goals like I said, this would be good advice, but that’s not the case.

        That’s really the summation of the game: It’s great at supplying you with information, yes, but it doesn’t let you act on it. It doesn’t matter how well you understand the game, if the dice don’t want to give you any viable options, you don’t get any viable options.

        I don’t know if you can call it unintuitive in a card game to not take cards that don’t fit your deck

        how on Earth is “you’re supposed to ignore the rewards the game offers” not unintuitive

        I don’t care if it’s “the standard” for card games, you shouldn’t have to be familiar with the genre in order to understand how to play a game. That’s the tutorial’s job.

    • – how on Earth is “you’re supposed to ignore the rewards the game offers” not unintuitive

      The same way you’d ignore an axe if you’re playing a sword class in a different game. Same way you ignore strength bonuses on a dexterity class. If anything, picking up random stuff just because it’s on offer in a card game explicitly designed around building a deck sounds unintuitive to me.

      Roguelikes are stuffed with the principle that not everything you pick up is going to help you win; it’s up to you to make the decisions about what to use and what to leave behind. In the early game you take cards almost all the time because anything is an improvement over Strike/Defend by design, but then later on you have to be selective and take only what helps your deck. And if that means pressing the ‘Pass’ button on a card reward, so what? There are like fifty floors to a game, and generally around 35 will offer card rewards. You can expect a fair proportion of those to be good; you can’t expect them all to be good enough to keep adding cards. You’d end up with a 40+ card deck, where most would say 30 is around the biggest deck you should aim for (and this is after removing all the Strikes you can). Please understand that the game doesn’t want you to have 50 good cards and never shuffle the deck; it wants you to have 10 good cards and 20 decent cards, shuffling through them frequently.

      I dunno. Maybe I’m just unable to relate to a new player since it’s an old game and I have all the assumptions baked in at this point. I know it didn’t take me anywhere near forty hours to get my first win, probably not even four. You can make consistency happen, and you do have agency. Even acknowledging that the RNG can screw you, it’s nowhere near bad enough to screw you for every single run on base difficulty. Leaving The Heart(which is intended to be an optional superboss) aside, the balance generally lies in the player’s favor. Sorry you had a bad time with it; that sucks.

      For everyone else, I heartily recommend Slay the Spire and FTL: Faster Than Light, which is another node-to-node roguelike with random challenges and rewards. Spaceship combat instead of cards. Both are sort of equally seen as classics. I’d argue that FTL is more replayable but StS is the better game.

      • The same way you’d ignore an axe if you’re playing a sword class in a different game. Same way you ignore strength bonuses on a dexterity class.

        Those examples typically don’t actively punish you for picking them, though. And a good roguelike should provide a use for everything it gives you even if it’s not directly relevant to your build, because that’s the only way to be fair with random drops. (Mechanics that encourage you to have an alternate weapon in reserve, or the ability to consume weapons for strong single-use actions, etc. Many games do this.) If you’re playing a sword class but all the game gives you are axes, what are you supposed to do with that? How is that any fun?

        And if that means pressing the ‘Pass’ button on a card reward, so what?

        Then you’ve wasted your incredibly limited resources for nothing, that’s what. Taking a risk on a monster or elite only to get effectively nothing is absurdly cruel and punishing. Risk/reward becomes broken when the reward can vary from “gamebreaker” to “nothing”.

        Even acknowledging that the RNG can screw you, it’s nowhere near bad enough to screw you for every single run on base difficulty.

        It should not screw you on any run. Losing an hour-long run through no fault of your own is not fun and provides no learning opportunities.

        Everything you’re saying would be reasonable if the game was slightly different — if there wasn’t lasting damage so you could absorb bad luck with less consequence, if trimming your deck wasn’t so inordinately difficult, if rewards were more balanced (seriously, the balance on boss relics is awful) or if you at least had more control over what rewards you pursued… There are a lot of easy things the game could have done to mitigate its problems, but it didn’t.

        (To clarify, I’ve won Act 3, just not the Heart. But the highest Ascension I’ve been able to beat is 2, and even that was very difficult.)

    • I mean, I liked Inscryption fine. There’s no lasting damage, so small misfortunes don’t escalate, and there’s only really one type of card so bad draws and deck bloat don’t hurt you as much. My problems with StS really don’t seem like insurmountable elements of the genre; I’ve already forwarded several small changes that would have mitigated my issues without changing the nature of the game.

      Also, I want to reiterate, the randomized final bosses are terrible design. Instead of being a consistent challenge to your strategy, it makes the final challenge wildly varying in difficulty. And again, this had an easy solution: Always make us fight all three, thus preventing anyone from coasting to an easy win because the game happened to play paper to their scissors.

    • StS is a blast, I love it and definitely rec it.

      I feel like this review is missing some acknowledgement that what you want out of a game like this is not what most people want, or are getting out of it.

      Like, “the most common advice in guides is to not take cards when offered unless they fit the particular build you’re going for, which is incredibly backwards and unintuitive” is a really bizarre complaint, straight up. As long as deckbuilding strategy has existed, one of the central tenets has been that not all cards are created equal and you should be judicious when choosing what goes into a deck, and this is a feature, not a bug. There’s actually some really interesting content out there about game design in Magic: The Gathering (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0l5Xim4JmIg, and also everything Spice8Rack has ever done because he’s the best), and the really abbreviated version is that undesireable cards are one of the ways that card games train you how to play them; they also sometimes exist to counter very niche but potentially gamebreaking strategies. The idea that not all cards belong in a deck has been around literally since deck strategy was invented, and I think it’s absolutely an idea a deckbuilder can take for granted… and even so, it’s one of the tips written into the game’s loading screens. If you’re super unfamiliar with deck strategy I can see how it might not seem obvious, but I don’t think it’s a design flaw to assume that most people know that at this point, or that once it’s pointed out people will be able to make use of it as advice.

      I also think you have a much, much lower RNG tolerance than most people. RPGs and roguelikes are sometimes puzzle games where you can “figure out” how to win, but deckbuilders never, IME, are, and that’s not a design flaw, it’s part of what makes them fun. I honestly hate the idea of every run having a ‘winnable’ path, that sounds awful, lol. It’s just not why I play these kinds of games.

      Like, okay. I really love FreeCell. I like that every game is winnable, as opposed to other forms of Solitaire, which are a crapshoot. I play a lot of FreeCell in waiting rooms. But the reason I do that is that FreeCell isn’t a strategy game like, say, Klondike, it’s a puzzle game. You don’t really have to think about it because you know going in there’s going to be a way to win and once you understand the game you’re going to find it pretty much without exception.

      That’s not why I play strategy games. The whole reason they’re fun is because of the RNG, of having to be on your toes, and not knowing if any single strategy will work out. And yeah, you won’t always win, but it’s the journey, not the destination. Some of the best Magic games I’ve ever played were ones I lost, because I spent the game trying to roll with the punches and watching strategies unfold. It’s why you shuffle a deck and put it facedown instead of looking at the order and then declaring the one with the best-ordered deck the winner. Most of the time, the best player will win, because the best player isn’t just the best deck constructor, but the one who can roll with the punches of a bad shuffle the best. And sometimes the best player loses because luck isn’t on their side. And not knowing what’s going to happen is what makes it exciting.

      And this is also true of RPGs and roguelikes, honestly. Like, I remember you being upset that Dragon Quest battles rolled initiative on top of speed, which is fine, you don’t have to like that system, but that’s not a flaw of the design, it’s a purposeful choice. I genuinely love the initiative roll, because I don’t want an RPGs where I know going in if I’m going to win the battle or not. I want to have to think and be clever about it. That’s the core of what a strategy game is. Otherwise it’s just a puzzle game. Which is fine, that kind of gameplay isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But for me — and lot of other people — that’s not always what we want out of a game. And again, rolling for initiative is not a new thing; it goes back to the first tabletops. Because for many, if not most people, without some chance, it’s not really much of an adventure.

      Broadly, a lot of the complaints here are just… things about deckbuilding. And like, that’s 100% fine, not every genre is for everyone, but I think framing that as a badly designed game instead of this genre just not being your thing is kind of odd. This game is basically the gold standard for deckbuilders right now, and not looking at it in either the context of what that means *or* the context of “this experience was a new one and/or it just isn’t for me” feels a bit weird to me.

      Also without bad cards I wouldn’t be able to build weird, janky Commander decks and that would be a tragedy so they need to stay.

      • Yeah, I found this review a bit puzzling (even not having played Slay the Spire myself, I know it by reputation), and it seems to come down to “I don’t like this genre”. Which is a perfectly fine thing to say, but seems odd in this context.

        I am not sure I entirely agree with your analysis of what differentiates a strategy game from a puzzle game, because these boundaries can be fuzzy, but there is definitely something important there. I do think it’s important to note that different sorts of randomness don’t feel the same in gameplay despite the fact they might be nearly identical under the hood (Mark Rosewater has written a lot over the years about how ‘reveal the top card of your deck and check some property of it’ feels less ‘random’ in a card game than ‘roll a die to determine this outcome’, even if you make them have identical probabilities). But to someone who isn’t used to those card game conventions, that distinction might not feel different.

        Also just have to say, Spice8Rack makes some of the best content on the internet and I wholeheartedly second this recommendation.

      • Who’s your favorite character? I think it’s The Silent by a fair amount; the dynamism of that deck feels like a step above everyone but The Watcher, who is cool but not really my style.

        The Watcher is kind of interesting because she was added after The Heart and the Ascension levels; it feels like she was the only character truly intended for that difficulty level from the beginning. The Ironclad/Silent got noticeable buffs over time as the newer content was added, which I appreciate.

      • There is a very big difference between “Variance prevents things from becoming a solved game” and “Variance determines whether you can win at all.” If runs were extremely short, maybe, but I genuinely do not understand the appeal of a game where you can invest over an hour in a run and then lose because of something entirely out of your control. It never mattered how skillful I was in my strategies in this game — and I was skillful, I followed all the guides’ advice and capitalized on synergies as much as possible — all it took was a single bit of bad luck to make everything fall apart, every single time. The room for error was too low.

        And I still don’t understand why people keep saying these are all interminable elements of deckbuilders when I forward multiple ideas in the review that I believe would have improved the experience without changing the genre. To me, the point of roguelikes is to provide a similar experience as their non-roguelike counterparts, with the purpose of the randomness being to provide a theoretically infinite variety with procedural generation. The randomness doesn’t have to be part of the moment-to-moment gameplay any more than it does in non-roguelike games.

        • The room for error is not really that low. If you’re somehow being destroyed by a ‘single stroke of bad luck’, then that is you being bad. And I say this from a lot of experience of being bad at the game. The main thing I think should be changed is them not revealing who the final boss is until you get to Act 3. Largely because act 3 is a bit too late to change your strategy. Now, you can just still win by just playing your strategy so hard it doesn’t matter, but you’d have to have really synergized for it.

          I also don’t really care for how “just get rid of all of your cards but a couple that are super powerful and a way to play them infinitely”, but thankfully the higher difficulty levels make that impossible.

          But a big thing you need to understand is: You don’t need a perfect deck. You can take cards as long as they fit in with what you have. A major important thing is to identify early cards you are finding that can be used to build something and then pick up anything that can support that.

          From the sound of it you don’t seem to be playing nearly skillfully as you think if just one bad draw is killing you. I get that it’s frustrating when you don’t know how to roll with non-ideal draw, but you can always bounce back if you’re good enough. I’m generally not good enough, but I’ve gotten wise enough to at least see how I could have done it in hindsight.

          Also, a lot of people have tried to change the formula and it typically doesn’t go well, which is why people are a bit leery of people going “As someone who can’t win the game, why can’t I change THIS so I can win?????????”

          Also about Inscryption, that’s not very Roguelike-y. Like the biggest thing is that Inscryption has no resources to manage long-run. Teeth don’t really count. It’s basically set up so you can win and progress because the card game in each section isn’t the point of the game, but a means. It’s still good, though.

          • If you’re somehow being destroyed by a ‘single stroke of bad luck’, then that is you being bad.

            I am deeply curious what brilliant strategy you are using to not die after drawing zero block cards when the enemy is readying a supermove.

            Also, a lot of people have tried to change the formula and it typically doesn’t go well, which is why people are a bit leery of people going “As someone who can’t win the game, why can’t I change THIS so I can win?????????”

            Examples?

            Re: Inscryption, the base game isn’t Roguelike-y, but the recently-released Kaycee’s Mod is.

            • There’s a few things: If you know you are defensively weak, buy them from the shop. Getting rid of Strikes/Defends actually shouldn’t always be your first priority. Sometimes you need to keep your Defends. Or you get one of the Relics/cards that rely on Strikes, suddenly you have a very good reason to keep them. If you see Block cards in the Shop, take them. Defensive relics too. Tori’s Gate, Tungsten Rod, and Calipers are good for cushioning bad turns. If your HP is bad, Rest at campfires. The guides probably tell you not to, but on the low Ascensions there’s no reason not to if you are in trouble.

              Also take defensive potions. Fairy in a Bottle, Skill Potion, or Block Potions can be stocked up on for turns where your draw is bad.

              It is a genuine skill of the game to be able to handle situations like that. It’s how those people can streak an immense number of times on Act 4 Ascension 20. This is why I don’t say ‘you’re bad’ in a way that you should feel bad about. I’ve seen enough high-tier play to understand that until you have a feel for getting out of bad situations like that without dying, then you’re not good at the game yet. I’m not good at the game, sadly.

              Kaycee’s Mod still isn’t QUITE there, but it is more Roguelike-y.

              But uh, a good example is Vault of the Void, which gives you a hard limit of 20 cards in your playing deck, and you can swap between them at will between battles. I don’t really like it though, because the rest of the mechanical changes with it make it unlikable to me, like the idea that damage is a ‘future’ thing that comes the next turn, but you can’t kill enemies to stop the damage from coming. The art is also shockingly terrible. It’s not that it sucks innately, but there is very little correspondence between the card art and what the card does/or its relationship to the character.

              • Every single one of the “strategies” you list are random drops. Shop cards are random. Relics are random. Potions are random. Skill doesn’t factor into that. If you get lucky drops, then yes, you can bounce back from unlucky draws, but if you don’t you can’t. You need lucky setups in order to play skillfully at all. As I’ve already said, this has an easy fix: Let us see in advance where relics are on the map so we can strategically pursue the ones we need.

                If you see Block cards in the Shop, take them.

                And this doesn’t actually fix the specific scenario I outlined. As long as there are fewer than n-5 block cards in your deck, there is always a chance of drawing no block cards. Unless you keep an extremely lean deck or add nothing but block cards, that chance will only get higher as you play.

                I will have to look at Vault of the Void, it sounds like it does several of the things I’ve outlined.

    • I reviewed Inscryption previously. The first third is an actual roguelike, the other two thirds are as you describe. However, people got angry enough at this false advertising that the developer has since released an alternate game mode that’s just the roguelike portion.

    • Roguelikes are all about making the best of a given hand. If everything was predictable, then it becomes an act of memorization or literally following a walkthrough. There is enough given guaranteed given power in any run that you can make a significant difference in the choices that you made up until that point. (Camp vs another elite.)

      Per VOTW, I’ve heard that since everything is set, all people need is a guide since victory can be foreseen.

      Have you heard of Arcanium: Rise of Akkhan? Poorly balanced in my opinion, allows people to choose a set of cards from what they’ve amassed so far. Too easy with certain compositions.

      For skill-expressive roguelikes, there’s always Hades.

      • Vault of the Void has real issues, and it’s one I care for the least.

        Slay the Spire is interesting because it is very skill-expressive, which is how people can streak Act 4, which I think is insane.

        By the way, probably should give the official expansion mod a try, it adds a lot of much stronger characters who are probably easier for beginners.

  • Inside: Rogue Legacy, Reventure, Chronicles of Teddy, Path of Giants.

    Rogue Legacy
    Roguelike/Platformer

    A roguelike with a heavy macrogame component. You play as a heroic lineage attempting to conquer […]

    • “It also has a very tasteless depiction of disability. A main feature is that heroes all have randomly-generated traits, and this includes things like ADHD boosting your speed and OCD giving you bonuses for smashing objects. Maybe this wasn’t deliberately malicious, but it’s impossible to tell when so much of society unironically considers disabilities a joke.”

      For what it is worth they got better in Rogue Legacy 2. There is no ADHD and OCD got renamed. So I think it is safe to say it wasn’t malicious.

  • Bryton changed their profile picture 7 months ago

  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is an auteur project by the creator of Symphony of the Night after he left Konami. Like many SotN fans, I was excited for it.

    This is porn. Having played Order of Ecclesia, I […]

    • It is very awkward that of all posts, this would be the one that reminded me this game exists. Despite everything you’ve said (which is, for better or worse, accurate), I looked into it a bit more and decided it might be worth trying in spite of this. I’m not going to encourage anyone to seek it out, and it has a lot of problems even beyond this skeevy stuff, but there is some decent gameplay and atmosphere to be had if you can look past it. I had been in a Castlevania kind of mood and this does scratch that itch (I got it at 60% discount, I would not have paid full price for this).

      First off: there’s an option in the menu to disable the “get new shards” animation (along with the associated screaming), and I cannot overemphasise how much this helps. I don’t think I would have been able to play the game without this.

      Second: you can, eventually, get an alternate costume for Miriam. It’s not perfect (it’s still a dress; especially given all the sliding and kicking she does, she really ought to be wearing trousers, but at least the alternate one is longer and has most of her legs covered by long boots), but I thought it was a significant improvement. At bare minimum, it goes up to her neck, and also keeps the odd glowiness of her legs from drawing the eye as much against the dark backgrounds. Unfortunately, it requires having the DLC package installed and can’t be acquired until something like 75% through the game.

      (I have some… questions… about Miriam’s default outfit. When you get access to the cooking system, you can see her turn her back to cook, and it turns out the dress is backless so you can see she has a giant crystal rose growing out of her back. Which, fine, that’s an actual physical change from the experimentation… but the lacing in front, and her proportions, imply the dress is corseted. How does a backless corset even work? It makes no sense.)

      I think the game unfortunately puts its worst foot forward, with the design issues you’ve highlighted in the ship and the gross sea-monster boss. Most of the other boss designs were inoffensive (with the exception of “Bloodless”, who is basically anime Elisabeth Bathory so you can imagine there’s some sexualisation there; though, frankly, that was handled more tastefully than I expected going in). I don’t understand why the ship sequence wasn’t better polished, especially since it was the demo. Most of the later environments looked better to me (though the stairs in the save rooms never do make sense).

      Also, while her idle stances never improve, I did think Miriam’s animations were a bit better with swords, greatswords, and katanas, which I spent the majority of the game using. Boots and daggers are the worst and it’s a bit unfortunate that’s what they chose to start her with. (It may have also helped that I played on Nintendo Switch in handheld mode, the small screen makes it easier to not look too hard at the animations.)

      My biggest complaint, if anything, is how grindy the game ends up being. In addition to all the shards (some of which have incredibly low drop rates), enemies drop all kinds of materials for the alchemy and cooking systems, which you use to make equipment and recovery items, and then you can also upgrade each shard (both by getting more copies and by doing alchemy, which requires loads more materials). It’s very tedious and unnecessary. I often enjoy systems like this (and I enjoyed aspects of this one), but it’s overcomplicated and not rewarding enough to justify it. Admittedly, I did think it was cute they had new food items give a permanent stat boost the first time you eat them, and justified it by saying a varied diet fights malnutrition.

      There are also skills you can learn from various weapon types and books in the environment, which of course require using fighting game inputs (which I’m not good at). This is neat, and some of them really do help make the combat more interesting… except, of course, they make you grind a ‘mastery’ bar by using them on enemies, and arbitrarily only let you use the skill with a small subset of weapons until you’ve filled it and can then use it with any weapon. This was totally unnecessary and created more tedium.

      There are lots of one-off wacky abilities and interactable environments, in a way I associate with Symphony of the Night, but a lot of it just ends up feeling overdesigned (but not necessarily polished). Questionable design decisions abound.

      A few notes on plot and characterisation:

      Personality-wise, Miriam is walking a fine line between ‘generic determined videogame protagonist’ and ‘Strong Female Character ™’ and I don’t know where I think she falls on that axis in the end. She’s more generic than she ought to be, given everything she’s supposed to have gone through, but that’s about the worst I can say of her.

      The plot is largely an Idiot Plot. There’s a mysterious old man (who is apparently Miriam’s former mentor) constantly speaking cryptically about how he has to find the Evil McGuffin Book and refusing to explain why, in a way that’s obviously designed to make him come across as villainous so you end up fighting him. There is no reason for him to speak this way except to foster the misunderstanding for the sake of plot (and, despite the game later trying to claim he wasn’t trying to kill her, just frighten her off, if you lose the fight with him Miriam still dies). This, of course, finally gets resolved in a scene where he dies and points you at the real villain; it’s just stupid. The rest of it is, by and large, typical Castlevania stuff, it’s fine but fairly bland (and some questions, such as ‘so why is it a castle?’ only make sense in terms of this being Castlevania with the serial numbers filed off).

      And, of course, the real villain ends up being a female NPC who’s been helping you most of the game but was actually lying and manipulating everyone. Of course, this is resolved by male NPCs figuring it out offscreen and telling you; Miriam’s role is largely reserved to ‘go places and kill things’.

      So, uh, final verdict? Very much a solid ‘meh’, though it was better than I expected given this. I don’t think anyone’s missing much for skipping it, especially given a lot of the skeevier elements. I will emphasise, again, all of the criticisms you’ve made here are valid. But I can’t say I didn’t enjoy playing it, nor that it didn’t remind me of the better Castlevanias.

    • SPOILERS AND STUFF:

      Ritual’s sister series, Curse of the Moon actually has a lot more about that NPC, and implies that the plot shown isn’t quite as straightforward as it seems.

      Also as for Alfred, he actually explains why he wasn’t so forthcoming earlier: Because Dominique was Miriam’s friend, and Alfred knew what she was up to (and she had already turned Johannes against him) so he was kind of trying to figure out how to scare Miriam and Johannes away and hopefully not have to kill them. He wasn’t super successful.

      As a note, Johannes is not Miriam’s handler, but basically her father. He raised her when she was young and cared about her which is why he is helping her now. He’s not a member of the Guild and hates them for what they did to Miriam (which is why it was so easy for Dominique to turn him against Alfred!)

      • (Also it’s implied that the reason why it’s a castle is because it is where the Guild did the summoning that caused everything in the backstory… which is also Dracu–I mean, O-D’s Castle, who was implied to have been defeated by the guild and bent into servitude to them.

    • Oh yeah, it’s funny you mention that all the men are dressed in three layers, since the only playable male character is completely shirtless in a sexy way.

      • Interesting. Does he also moan sexily when penetrated by shards?

        ETA: If this is who you’re referring to, he is… not very shirtless. His coat covers his entire right side, and his left is covered in decals from his arm prosthetic. It’s definitely not on the level of, say, DMC3 Dante. I can see people finding him sexy, but it looks more to me like the shirtlessness is to show off his macho scars and muscles.

        • He actually shows off a lot more skin in gameplay, since he is shirtless for the same basic reason that Miriam’s clothes show off her back – his fighting style requires unrestricted movement with his sword arm.

          https://img.gamewith.net/article/thumbnail/rectangle/9949.jpg

          So he ends up with his coat hanging like 80% off him while he’s attacking.

          He doesn’t have Shards though. He plays completely differently from Miriam, and is a straight-forward swordsman. All the unlockable characters don’t have much gameplay in common with Miriam, actually.

          Also the prequel/sequels Curse of the Moon 1 and 2 are interesting since they actually deal with various ramifications and possibilities of the Ritual of the Night plot. For example,

          Spoiler Inside SelectShow

  • My investigations into the mons scene continue, this time with Digimon. This is the most Pokemon-like Digimon game I’ve seen: You can raise any digimon you see and the pet sim elements have been removed to focus […]

  • Monster Rancher 2 is an old game Farla and I played when we were kids. I decided to pick it up again to examine it with fresh eyes as part of my mons exploration. (I skipped the first game because sources tell me […]

    • The mix breeds were quite cool, though a lot of their benefits, such as techs and guts gain, are too obfuscated to really appreciate. I was very impressed by how much work went into their designs to make every one look unique instead of just a lazy palette swap.

      It sounds unfeasible to work on a larger scale. I believe Monster Crown tries something similar, but I haven’t played it yet.

    • I played a couple Monster Rancher games way back in the day. My favorite part was always the monster-generation system, whether you’d be entering code words or using CD’s or whatever and seeing what monster would pop out. The actual training bit was too tedious for me, though, and I really disliked that the monsters would age and die, for me usually just when it was starting to actually do well in tournaments. I think virtual pet games are not for me! :P

      • It’s a shame that technology has made CDs obsolete. It was a really cool idea and I liked how they even integrated it into the lore.

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