Bloodborne Review

Bloodborne1

May the Good Blood Guide Thee.

It may not have “Souls” in the title, but the legacy is alive and well in Bloodborne. Hidetaka Miyazaki returns to the helm for the first time since Dark Souls (2011) and it’s once again great to see the master at work. Bloodborne takes the design of Miyazaki’s previous work and cranks the creativity and ambition up to 11. If you haven’t vacationed to Yharnam yet…now is a damn good time to do so.

The city of Yharnam is in chaos. The Gothic Victorian era city is famous for it’s special Blood. Yharnam’s blood transfusions contain mysterious healing properties and have become the city’s version of alcohol. Unfortunately, something horribly went wrong and the blood is transforming the citizens into beasts. These lycan beasts must be slain and who is better equipped to do it than you? The journey through Yharnam is just as obtuse and confusing as past “Souls” games, but Yharnam rises above Boletaria (Demon’s Souls), Lordran (Dark Souls), and Drangleic (Dark Souls II). The aesthetic is gorgeous with every location achieving a sense of dread and peril as you slowly creep through. The streets and connected districts of Yharnam are filled with brutal enemies, new weapons and armor, and numerous shortcuts and secrets. The level design of Dark Souls made Lordran feel less like a video game and more like a connected world filled with personality and history. Bloodborne actually improves on this level design and truly feels like a living, breathing city that fell into madness.

darkbeast_paarl

Enemy designs are terrifying, brutal, and memorable. The most terrifying enemies are the melting students, the ghastly banshees, and the frenzy inducing Brain Trusts. Bloodborne succeeds with it’s diverse and gruesome boss fights as well. The horrifying larger than life bosses are not only intimidating, but succeed in teaching the player how to play the game without holding the player’s hand like many modern video games. For example, Father Gascoigne teaches a hard lesson to new players unfamiliar with parrying and riposte (Called “Visceral Attacks”). Each fight in Bloodborne is extremely difficult, but the signature multiplayer of the “Souls games” returns to ease the pain…or make things much harder. Using specific items players can participate in Co-op to help one another through a difficult section. However, the choice to participate in multiplayer isn’t without consequences. Other players can invade your world as an enemy and attempt to kill you to take your experience and currency. The invasions have become a lot more reasonable compared to the previous games in the serious. The famous “lag backstab” from Dark Souls is gone as backstabs can only be achieved through a lengthy charged attack, which makes them only useful for stealthy encounters.

At first glance, Bloodborne’s gameplay isn’t much different from previous games within the series. Bloodborne is a third-person action role playing game that emphasizes precision, timing, and crowd control. What differs from previous games is the absence of the shield. Players can no longer hide behind the toughest shield they can find. Bloodborne’s best defense is a good offense. The shields are replaced with firearms such as pistols, flamethrowers, torches, rifles, etc. However, don’t expect to sit back and snipe your enemies as these firearms do very little damage. They (brilliantly) are used to stagger attacking enemies or to lure foes out of their comfort zone. Without many defensive options Bloodborne requires players to act on their feet to the ever changing situation by dodging, timing your strikes, staggering enemies, and the new mechanic of weapon transformations. With a press of a button each weapon can transform into a different weapon that changes the fighting style immensely. For example, the Threaded cane can transform from a thrusting weapon to a crowd controlling blade whip that can stop groups of enemies in their tracks.

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Unfortunately, Bloodborne doesn’t have many weapons or attire to choose from, which reduces the experimentation and replay value of character builds from past games. From Software makes up for this with the extremely challenging Chalice Dungeons. These Chalice Dungeons offer new enemies, new bosses, and new loot to obtain. However, the randomly generate dungeons are …well…random. It creates a tough of nails, bare boned “Souls” experience that lifts the frustrating reward system from Destiny. Bloodborne is also filled with many technical issues such as some questlines glitching out and the now infamous long (LoadBorne) loading screens dampen the experience. Many players are also experiencing bugs and glitches that effect enemy AI as well as make the co-op multiplayer fail. Bloodborne requires players to spend a precious material called “insight” to summon co-op help. Unfortunately, many bugs cause players to waste their insight as summoned help either never appears, or takes 15-20 minutes to summon. It’s an incredible test of player patience sometimes to deal with the flawed summon system.

Bloodborne-Central-Yharnam

These flaws are minor in the grand scheme of things as Bloodborne is an awe-inspiring experience. One part Gothic Victorian, One part Lovecraft homage, and 10 parts incredibly ambitious. It’s rare to see a game succeed in it’s ambitious scope, but Bloodborne is that rare exception. Gorgeous, emotional, atmospheric, and rewarding, Bloodborne’s challenges await any who wish to open the doors to Yharnam. It’s a wonderful night for a hunt.

Final Score: 9.1/10

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Super Smash Bros. 4: Game Jam’s Tier List (With Explanation)

Smash Bros. is out for WiiU and we are loving it. We’ve played it enough to put together our own tier list for the 49 characters. Obviously we will not include the Mii Fighters since they are all equipment based.

Please voice your disagreeing fanboy rage in the comments below.

SS Tier

rosalina

  • Rosalina and Luma: Think Ice Climbers, but you can actually control Nana. The power and possibilities are incredible.
  • Yoshi: Oh god…the Eggs. So Many Eggs.
  • Zero Suit Samus: Super Fast with OP range…oh and she has multiple stuns….
  • Lucario: Amazing recovery and good god Aura Sphere.

S Tier

  • Greninja: Very quick, strong recovery, great counter, and tons of tricky moves.
  • Peach: Two words. “DAT ASS” (Side B)
  • Robin: The Levin Sword makes every smash attack hell for opponents as well as some awesome projectiles.
  • Sonic: Sanik Goo Fazt
  • Sheik: Don’t…Blink….Don’t.

A Tier

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  • Marth: When has Marth NOT been good?
  • Lucina: (See “Marth”)
  • Fox: It’s Fox.
  • Bowser: Speed boost + Same massive attack power= Oh God No.
  • Diddy Kong: Quick with attacks that just seem to have a lot more Umph to them than other fighters.

B Tier

littlemac

  • Cpt. Falcon: Much improved from the float-i-ness of Brawl, but still wishing he had his glory days of melee back.
  • Little Mac: On the ground = OP…In the Air = Useless
  • Duck Hunt: SO MANY PROJECTILES.
  • Shulk: He’s REALLY feeling it.
  • Dark Pit: He’s like Pit, but Dark.
  • Link: DASH SMASH

C Tier

  • Pit: He’s like Dark Pit, but shit.
  • Ness: Still iffy on this placement. Expect Ness to rise in the future.
  • Mario: Decent, but still has FLUDD.
  • Toon Link: He’s just Better Ok!?
  • Pikachu: Good, but still has the same move set since the very beginning so he’s Pika-Predictable.
  • Bowser Jr: Oh yeah…he’s in this game.

D Tier

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  • Ganondorf: Too slow to be of use…but God tier when it comes to tanking Master Core…or home run derby.
  • Game and Watch: Powerful, but too much of G&W is based on chance.
  • Dr Mario: Who actually plays as Dr. Mario….
  • Villager: Little shit who has a ton of unique moves that just don’t have much impact or range.
  • Jigglypuff: Still too light to survive even with recent melee wins.
  • Palutena: A strong defensive character…in a game that only rewards strong skill and offense.
  • Pac Man: More like…Namco Cameo Man with generic moves.

E Tier

  • ROB: Just…ugh.
  • Kirby: Pink puffball is predictable, slow, and too light to survive.
  • King Dedede: He has his moments of being awesome…rarely…I think.
  • Meta Knight: Meta Nerfed.
  • Falco: This bird fell from grace…

F Tier

wiifit

  • Mega Man:…64
  • Samus: Somehow more power and armor…is worst.
  • Ike: Besides his up-tilt….useless.
  • Zelda: Where’s your B-Down Now!?
  • Olimar:  Disappointment…
  • Luigi: It is not the year of Luigi anymore.
  • Wii-Fit Trainer: At least she has the Best Taunts in the game.
  • Wario: Fuck Wario.
  • Charizard: He’s like a larger more useless version of Pichu.
  • Donkey Kong:  No style, No grace…

Dark Souls II Review

Prepare to Die…again…and again…and again.

100 hours, 3 characters, 189 levels, and 896 deaths later…I finally was able to pull my head away from the deeply rewarding Dark Souls II. The anticipated sequel to the 2011 cult action RPG Dark Souls had me deeply immersed in the world of Drangliec. The game isn’t without its flaws, but with a blueprint as solid as the Souls series you will easily be able to look past them. Darks Souls II reminds us that it is not about death… but what you learn from death.

Sunbro Majula

You are undead. A cursed being who is immortal, but is slowly going insane. After arriving in Drangliec you discover that your search for a cure is a small conflict within a much larger picture. Dark Souls II’s plot is both less and more obtuse than its predecessor. The main objectives of the plot are much more clear to the player, but sacrifices much of the mystery that was present in Dark Souls. The plus side to this is the speculation formed by the community since the ending leaves the player grasping for more plot.

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The Souls franchise has always been designed (almost) flawlessly and this high pedigree makes Dark Souls II’s design the black sheep of the herd. This sequel takes more cues from 2009’s Demon’s Souls than its own predecessor. Majula acts as a hub world similar to the Nexus in Demon’s Souls. From here the player can upgrade weapons, buy equipment, and level up with the Emerald Herald. This is annoying since the loading screens are quite long and forces the player to sit through them every time they want to level up. Fast travel is available from the beginning, which is nice except for making the game feel more “gamey.” Weapons now degrade much faster, but refill their durability at every bonfire. Bodies also no longer act hilarious as ragdolls…which I kinda miss for some weird reason. The covenants that were very popular in Dark Souls (Praise the Sun!) have been revamped with much more PvP aspects. The notable new covenants are the Bellkeepers as well as the Rat Covenant. These PvP focused covenants are easily the worst design choices of Dark Souls II since many newer players are invaded/summoned against their will every couple seconds. This happens so frequently that these optional levels are best left alone unless you’re a masochist. (Which you most likely are if you play Dark Souls).

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The core fantastic gameplay has been tweaked and may take some getting used to. Dark Souls II is an action RPG focused on patience, timing, and execution with your weapon of choice. With a new physics engine Dark Souls II feels more fluid and faster. This change affects the players poise (or lack there of) and ability to stagger enemies. Fall damage is now much greater with half of the players health disappearing from drops over 10 feet. The largest change though is the new death penalties. As you die your character becomes more and more hollow, which means your health bar decreases by 10% every death until you become human again.  These changes make the games opening levels frustrating since the fragility of the character discourages exploration.The boss fights in Dark Souls II are very underwhelming for long-time fans of the series. If you enjoyed the innovative fights of the past games such as Artorias or the Tower Knight, then you will be very disappointed here. Most boss fights boil down to dude in armor with a big sword. Many bosses are also reused with just more of them (Dragonriders), and the Church Congregation boss fight makes Pinwheel from Dark Souls look like a badass.

AND COUNTING...

AND COUNTING…

The game’s accessibility had many fans of the series concerned about the evil word “Easier.” Luckily, this is not a problem as Dark Souls II is still brutal in difficulty and vague in concepts. The accessibility is surprisingly welcome allowing players to understand the use of items better as well as manage the game’s difficulty through Bonfire Ascetics. The main objectives are directly given to the player, but the confusion comes in by not knowing where the finish is located if there is even a finish line at all. This contrasts the first Dark Souls with the first half of the game being linear until after Anor Londo is completed. In Dark Souls II the game starts much more open and doesn’t become linear until after Drangleic Castle.

Dark Souls 2 bridge

Dark Souls II is a much brighter game than Dark Souls with many set pieces that will have your jaw firmly planted on the floor. The frame rate issues that were obnoxious in the first game are now gone except for minor PvP lag and the animations of the characters and enemies are fantastic. The music and atmosphere are still fantastic keeping From Software’s signature immersion in tact, but I did experience many audio bugs when speaking to some characters.

Dark Souls II takes many new ideas and expands on 2011’s Dark Souls. While some of these new additions aren’t fully fleshed out Dark Souls II does not suffer for it. It is still one of the most rewarding RPGs out there and should not be passed up. Death has never felt so good.

Final Score: 8.8/10