Video Game Review: Dark Souls III – The Fire Fades Edition (PlayStation 4)

Well, I have reached the third and final installment of the Dark Souls series. The game’s director and creator Hidetaka Miyazaki claims that it is the last and he’s already moved on to other things like 2019’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and the upcoming Elden Ring. There are also rumors of a Bloodborne sequel in the works.

Needless to say, I don’t know how Miyazaki can top the Dark Souls series, as a whole. These games are near masterpieces! Well, the first game is a masterpiece and this one is close. The second game, which Miyazaki was a lot less involved in, had its problems but I covered those in my review of it. However, it was still a pretty great gaming experience and much better than most games out there.

So speaking specifically on Dark Souls III, this game was really fucking solid. It’s not as good as the original but I like it at almost the same level.

I was worried that it was going to be ungodly hard but I actually found it to be the easiest of the three. In fact, I didn’t need to grind for souls (XP) until I got to the last three bosses out of a few dozen. In the previous games, I spent quite a lot of time grinding away for souls really early on.

Everyone seems to have a different opinion on which game they consider the hardest. A lot of people think this one is it, so I’m not sure why it was the easiest for me. I think a lot of that has to do with playing style. Also, by this point, I had two previous games worth of experience under my belt and I’m sure that helped me out immensely.

I thought the boss battles in this chapter were better and more varied in style than the previous game. However, the first Dark Souls still takes the cake in that department. Granted, it was also the first game and set such a high precedent that anything after it has its work, unfairly, cut out for it.

I also liked that this game felt a lot less linear than Dark Souls II. While this didn’t have the sandbox style, interlocked world of the superbly designed first game, the shortcuts and secret paths that created loops through multiple areas were a welcomed addition.

This also felt like it had a lot more optional areas than the previous installments. I played through all of them, though, as I always want the full experience in these games.

I also found the combat to be smoother in this game than the previous ones, as well as the graphics and design being a step up.

Overall, this is nearly a masterpiece. I think the only thing working against it is that it felt shorter than the other games and some of the bosses just had ridiculous levels of health regardless of how suped up my character and his weapons were.

Rating: 9.5/10

Ranking the Bosses of ‘Dark Souls II – Scholar of the First Sin’

Since I ranked the bosses of the first Dark Souls game, I figured that I should also rank the bosses of the second game.

I played through this game a few times but not as many times as I played through the original game. There are reasons for this, as I explain in my review of the game. Mostly, I just didn’t enjoy the overall experience as much as the first game.

But as I stated in my previous list, I wanted to take the experience of playing through this multiple times to rank the bosses by how difficult I’ve found them to be overall.

My list certainly is my own and the more I talk to others that have an affinity for this series, we all seem to have a very different take on which bosses gave us the most trouble. I guess, this also has to do with play style and character type.

In the end, though, these are how I’d rank the bosses I’ve faced from hardest to easiest.

1. Ancient Dragon
2. Sinh, The Slumbering Dragon
3. Fume Knight
4. Sir Alonne
5. Blue Smelter Demon
6. Vendrick
7. Afflicted Graverobber, Ancient Soldier and Cerah the Old Explorer
8. Darklurker
9. Orange Smelter Demon
10. Lud and Zallen, The King’s Pets
11. Burnt Ivory King
12. Elana, Squalid Queen
13. Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin
14. Demon of Song
15. Aava, The King’s Pet
16. The Rotten
17. Throne Watcher and Throne Defender
18. The Pursuer (the first one)
19. Lost Sinner
20. Velstadt, The Royal Aegis
21. Looking Glass Knight
22. Nashandra
23. Old Iron King
24. Giant Lord
25. The Duke’s Dear Freja
26. Executioner’s Chariot
27. Belfry Gargoyles
28. Ruin Sentinels
29. Old Dragonslayer
30. Twin Dragonriders
31. Scorpioness Najka
32. Guardian Dragon
33. Flexile Sentry
34. The Skeleton Lords
35. Mytha, The Baneful Queen
36. Dragonrider
37. The Last Giant
38. Royal Rat Authority
39. Covetous Demon
40. Prowling Magus and Congregation
41. Royal Rat Vanguard

Video Game Review: Dark Souls II – Scholar of the First Sin (PlayStation 4)

I may come off sounding like a total dick in this review but after the experience that was the first Dark Souls game, this one was a grave disappointment while still being pretty decent for the most part.

My initial gripe with it was that I hated how they changed the stat system to deliberately make the game harder, as well as how upon each death, you lose 10 percent of your total health bar unless you return to human form after being hollowed. To do that, though, you have to consume a human effigy, which early on in the game are very rare. Plus, they’re a limited item. Using them all up too soon, fucks you as the game gets even harder.

The beginning of this game is exceedingly difficult, even more so than the original game. Initially, the controllers felt off and I later learned that you needed to build up your “adaptability” stat in order to properly back-step and dodge-roll. So with that little bullshit tweak to the system, you’re kind of fucked on employing the defensive techniques that became second nature after the first game.

Beyond that, the hit boxes are a nightmare. Multiple times, I was standing behind an enemy to go for the good ol’ backstab and he killed me, even though he attacked forward, which was in the opposite direction of my character.

Also, the game does some real bullshittery with the targeting system, which caused me to die a. fucking. lot!

Additionally, the overall world is kind of boring even if it does look incredible. The first game blew my mind on how every area was interconnected in neat and creative ways, giving you multiple paths to hit or escape from an area. This game just has paths and each path is pretty straightforward and linear. It makes the game’s world less immersive and a lot more basic. It’s a major step backwards for how well-crafted the first game’s world was.

Another issue was that there are just so many knight-type villains that it gets tiresome and boring fighting all the various types of essentially the same enemy. This also carries over into the boss fights, which were mostly superpowered knights that you kind of approach and fight in the same way.

Sure, there are other villain types but you basically have four categories: knights/hollows, dragons/beasts, sorcerers and annoying shit (like the ice porcupines and the crawling poison spitter critters).

With that being said, the game gets repetitive and boring and while I’d get these spurts of energy upon entering a new area, I’d soon find out that it was full of similar shit with a different skin.

Plus, the boss fights in this seem to be a hell of a lot harder than the first game, which was super damn hard on its own. Except, the boss battles aren’t hard for reasons other than the bosses have huge health bars, your weapons do minimal damage and you basically have to dodge-roll multiple attacks and then get in one or two quick hits, assuming you don’t need to replenish your health. These fights are just long, tiresome and lack any real creativity.

And frankly, the game, as a whole, lacks the creativity of the original. This was pretty surprising to me but upon investigation, I learned that Hidetaka Miyazaki, the series’ creator, wasn’t as involved on this game as much as he was on the previous one because he was developing Bloodborne, a game I look forward to playing in the near future.

Lastly, as far as negatives go, I just wasn’t into this story like I was the first game. Yes, these games actually have very minimal story but the lore and mystery of the first game really captivated me while this one seemed like a simple rehash that lacked passion.

Are there positives? Well, sure.

This is a Dark Souls game and if you like the first one, you’ll generally like this one too, in spite of its myriad of problems. You still get overwhelmed by a genuine sense of accomplishment when you finally beat that tough boss that killed you a dozen times or when you find that very helpful shortcut after trying to conquer a nightmare of an area for a day or two. And honestly, that’s the most important factor in these games for me. I love the way they make me feel, as a lifelong gamer, because they throw you against impossible odds and it takes the development of real skill to adapt to and eventually crush these challenges.

Look, I don’t hate Dark Souls II but I also don’t have this burning desire to run through the entire game three or four times like I did the first one. Honestly, I just feel like I’m done with it and I should move on to Dark Souls III with the hope that it corrected the problems this game had.

Rating: 7.5/10

Ranking the Bosses of ‘Dark Souls – Remastered’

While I’m a decade behind the original Dark Souls hype, I decided that I’d start playing through these games this year because I heard that they were insanely hard and because the games look like visual masterpieces with incredible world design, awesome looking monsters and the sort of gothic horror nightmare that I would enjoy immensely.

I’ve already played through the first game close to a half dozen times. With each playthrough, I oddly find some things more difficult for a myriad of reasons, as well as other things becoming easier and easier.

So I wanted to take the experience of playing through this so many times to rank the bosses by how difficult I’ve found them to be overall.

My list certainly is my own and the more I talk to others that have an affinity for this series, we all seem to have a very different take on which bosses gave us the most trouble. I guess, this also has to do with play style and character type.

Usually, I like taking a big fucking greatsword and smashing my foes into blood-soaked pancakes.

Over time, I also started to embrace some sorceries and learned to cheese certain bosses with long-range magic attacks.

In the end, though, these are how I’d rank the bosses I’ve faced from hardest to easiest.

1. Manus, Father of the Abyss
2. Black Dragon Kalameet
3. Ornstein and Smough
4. Bed of Chaos
5. Artorias the Abysswalker
6. Seath the Scaleless
7. Gwyn Lord of Cinder
8. Sanctuary Guardian
9. Four Kings
10. Dark Sun Gwyndolin
11. Demon Firesage
12. Great Grey Wolf Sif
13. Nito
14. Centipede Demon
15. Stray Demon
16. Gaping Dragon
17. Chaos Witch Quelaag
18. Capra Demon
19. Asylum Demon
20. Iron Golem
21. Crossbreed Priscilla
22. Bell Gargoyles
23. Taurus Demon
24. Moonlight Butterfly
25. Ceaseless Discharge
26. Pinwheel

Video Game Review: Conan: Exiles – Isle of Siptah (PlayStation 4)

Conan: Exiles – Isle of Siptah is probably the DLC that I have anticipated more than any other in the history of my gaming life.

That being said, this came with extreme disappointment as the game on PlayStation 4 appears to be broken.

Sure, the game starts and you can run around doing your thing in this neat, deadly world. However, graphics keep switching back and forth from high res to low res and then NPCs and enemies either have a delay in loading or don’t load at all.

Furthermore, the game gets really f’n choppy to the point of absolute madness.

Every time I try to conquer a dungeon, before I get to the end, enemies just stop spawning and I get stuck, unable to progress and beat the dungeon.

I attempted to fix these issues, as I thought that maybe my files were f’d up due to building so much shit in the regular game. So I deleted all of my save files and even deleted the game files and DLC files. I then redownloaded and reinstalled everything and the problems were still there.

So I stopped playing this after a few days and didn’t even start on a new fortress build because what’s the point?

If they fix these issues, I’ll gladly give this a go again and update this review.

All that being said, the new map looks amazing. I just wish I could play the damn game without massive issues.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other open world survival RPG-type games.

Video Game Review: Dark Souls – Remastered (PlayStation 4)

It took me a long time to beat this game and even after such a long journey, I didn’t want it to end.

Dark Souls is an incredible body of work from the general game design, the boss fights, the gameplay, the creativity that went into it and because of just how f’n challenging it is.

While some want to claim this is the hardest game ever made, it isn’t. There are games I haven’t beaten and I beat this one fairly easily and decisively, even if some bosses gave me real trouble. I’m looking at you Ornstein and Smough, as well as the black dragon, Kalameet.

I love the whole feel and tone of this game and even though it’s pretty well populated with monsters to fight and NPCs to interact with, it still churned up feelings of isolation and loneliness in a similar fashion to the masterpiece, The Shadow of the Colossus.

This game is dark, feels cold and you almost feel as if the kingdom you’re in is some form of Hell or Purgatory.

The two things that make this so great are the design of the large, interconnected world, as well as how different most of the boss fights are.

In regards to the world you play in, there are a dozen or more unique areas but most of them are connected directly to the other areas through multiple paths and shortcuts. This game has, hands down, one of the best and most well thought out worlds ever designed for a video game.

With that, you don’t have to conquer each area in any specific order. While there are certain tasks you have to complete to access some places, every playthrough of this game can be vastly different. Because of that, I’ve been playing through the “second quest” and who knows, I may playthrough this several more times. Granted, I need to move on to the second and third games in the series, as they’re already sitting on my shelf.

Looking at the boss fights, many are really damn challenging. There are a handful of bosses that took me a half dozen times (or more) to defeat them. Sometimes, I had to leave, build up my stats or hunt for better weapons and armor.

One thing this game did, is it gave you a real sense of accomplishment whenever you were finally able to topple a really hard boss. Other games certainly give you a sense of accomplishment but this game does it on a different level and much more frequently. Because of that, it makes you more invested in it.

This is a game that forces you to “get good”. You may find portions of it to be a breeze but if you don’t spend enough time building up your stats and holding on to your souls, you’re going to hit walls that force you to have to work hard to climb over them.

In the end, this is as good as people led me to believe. It lives up to the hype and even exceeds it. Frankly, it is one of the best video game experiences I have ever had.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other Dark Souls games, as well as other games by Hidetaka Miyazaki like Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne.

Video Game Review: Spider-Man (PlayStation 4)

I bought this game way back when it came out but I didn’t actually play it until this year, as I had spent about 18 months completely immersed in Conan Exiles and The Witcher 3. Between that, I also spent a lot of time playing hundreds of retro games on my RetroPie.

I can’t say that this was worth the wait, as it’s really just mediocre.

The graphics as far as how the city looks and the smoothness of gameplay are great but the characters’ designs certainly don’t blow me away. Also, most characters don’t look like how you’d expect them to and I’m not sure why. The game sort of ignores the comic book designs and tries to go with something more “realistic” and cinematic, akin to the films. I feel like it’s trying to meet the comics and the films somewhere in the middle but it fails at that.

As far as the gameplay goes, it’s fun but it’s way too similar to the Batman: Arkham City games. Granted, I love swinging through New York City and seeing the iconic sites but after really exploring for a day or so, even that gets old.

My real issue with the game is the story. I just don’t like it and it puts a lot of emphasis on villains that aren’t all that popular to begin with like Mister Negative. While I don’t mind the character, he is the primary antagonist for the first two acts of the story. While Norman Osborn is the mayor and Otto Octavius starts out as a good guy, there are still so many great, iconic Spider-Man villains they could’ve used as a focal point. Is Mister Negative even C-list?

I also heard all this noise about how many villains were going to be in this game and after playing through it, I’m completely underwhelmed. Sure, there are many baddies but it’s the cast of villains that they went with that are the problem. Plus, there are glaring omissions that are a bit baffling.

I get that you might not want to do a full fledged Hobgoblin or Venom story but the game could’ve introduced their normal selves, as both had interesting backstories that tie back to either Peter Parker’s personal life or the lives of his friends and allies.

Beyond that, Mary Jane is just kind of Plain Jane and she’s not even a model or actress. Instead, they made her an investigative reporter and her character is basically just ginger Lois Lane. Mary Jane is nothing like Lois Lane and this creative choice was just strange.

Speaking of MJ, I hate when this game makes you play as her or pre-Spider-Man Miles Morales. I bought this to be Spider-Man. Not his no superpowers having peeps. And there are just too many of these stupid side character sneaking missions.

Complaints aside, this is still a decent game that laid some groundwork to build off of. I’ll probably check out the sequel, if it’s ever made. I’ll also probably play the Miles Morales spinoff when it’s not still full-price.

The thing is, this could’ve been something great had they made it more loyal to the source material and not used a scrub that casual fans won’t know as the big bad for the first two-thirds of the game. Can you imagine if they made a Batman game and the main villain was someone like The Clock King?

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: its Miles Morales spinoff game, as well as other recent Marvel games and old Spider-Man games.

Video Game Review: WWE 2K19 (PlayStation 4)

It’s 2020, so why am I reviewing WWE 2K19? Well, I only buy the WWE 2K games every few years, as much doesn’t change from game-to-game with each release. But since 2K20 has become legendary for the amount of glitches and bugs it has, I went backwards a year to get a less problematic version.

I didn’t expect much from the game, as these things tend to have really limited shelf lives and because of that, I don’t typically review sports games. However, this had a few bells and whistles that didn’t exist in the previous versions I’ve owned and it’s those bells and whistles that make this one worth talking about.

The most important thing that this game has is the Community Creations option. While the “create-a-wrestler” feature has always been a staple in these games and wrestling games in general, going back to the late ’90s, now you don’t have to create anything, you can just download other people’s creations and add them to your game.

So in no time, I had a roster of 100 extra wrestlers from the ’70s and ’80s and started some old school wrestling shows within the WWE Universe gameplay mode. Sadly, the game caps you at 100 created wrestlers but it still provides you with a load of options and a new, massive roster to exploit.

Overall, the ability to create shows, a unique pay-per-view schedule and also download just about every arena/wrestling pay-per-view from history is a damn cool feature.

As far as the gameplay goes, it’s about the same as these games have been over the last several years. There are a few improvements like in the submission wrestling aspect of the game. However, there are still problems with it and the pacing of matches is terrible for the most part. Sure, some settings can be adjusted to improve this but it doesn’t give it a natural, genuine feel.

I’ve played the shit out of this version of WWE 2K but it’s still a far from perfect game. The only thing that keeps me coming back is the ability to play in the classic NWA, Mid-South, Memphis, Florida and ECW settings with those classic stars. I’ve also dabbled with ROH, AEW, CMLL, AAA, NJPW, AJPW and FMW settings and characters but the game only really allows you to create six weekly shows and four pay-per-views per month.

Otherwise, I may have played this for about a week and moved on.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other modern wrestling games but there really aren’t many.

Video Game Review: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PlayStation 4)

I’ve wanted to play this for awhile but I put it off for so long. After seeing the television show, however, I was inspired to finally play the most recent game in the franchise. I was also told by several people to just play this, as I didn’t need the previous two games for context due to this game pretty much filling you in on everything you need to know.

Even though this was the third game, it was the first one released for consoles. That’s another reason why I played it. Also, it was on sale on the PlayStation Store just after the TV show proved to be a massive hit.

While I’ve heard people debate for years as to which is better, this or Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, there are some stark differences between the games despite many similarities.

To start, this is much more character and story driven. That works for it in that regard but I kind of like the anonymity and mystery of your Skyrim character and also the customization options the game gives you. But I don’t want to write up a comparison, I’ll just say that I still prefer Skyrim but this is a very worthy game in the action fantasy genre.

The graphics are incredible, there doesn’t seem to be any major glitches and it runs and plays really smoothly with mostly great mechanics. Although, I think the horse riding is a bit wonky and I mostly preferred to run around on foot. It was also easier to fight random things in the wild when you aren’t on horseback.

I thought the story started strong but about two-thirds of the way through the main quest, I was growing tired of it and I dipped out of it to catch up on side quests. Now while a lot of these are fun, some of them get to be repetitive after awhile. In fact, I mostly enjoyed hunting down and killing beasts. The rest of the missions felt more like busy work or wastes of time. And then there are just so many side quests. Every time I cracked out a half dozen, I’d have triggered more new ones than ones I’d completed.

Still, this is a great game. I’m mostly done with it but I’ve put in so many hours that I started to get burnt out. I know that some people want the games that they love to go on forever but this feels like it is overloaded, which isn’t a criticism I’ve ever had for an epic RPG.

My only other negative is that there isn’t enough diversity in the environments. One thing I loved about Skyrim and even Conan: Exiles was that different parts of the map were completely different biomes. With The Witcher 3, most of it all looks the same.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other epic fantasy action games of the modern era: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls: Online, Conan: Exiles, etc.