Curse of the Early Adopter, Or: Why I Just Bought a PS Vita Again

Games, people. Games. That’s what it really comes down to.

That’s why I’m sitting here staring my new PS Vita, the second one I’ve bought in the past two years.

Yup, I was one of the early adopters that bought a PS Vita back in early 2012 when it debuted in the U.S. And by January of 2013, I had traded my Vita in when I purchased a WiiU. The main reason I got rid of the Vita (other than needing cash for the WiiU), was because of the lack of good Vita games. The irony is that I traded in the Vita and bought a console that had the exact same problem as the Vita. But that’s a sob story for another time.

Fast forward to 2014, and I grabbed one of the Walking Dead bundles off of Amazon, which netted me the Vita, a 4GB memory card, and download vouchers for The Walking Dead, Retro City Rampage, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Those four games right there are better than any four games I had at one time for the Vita the first time around.

Add to that the fact that with PlayStation Plus, I have access to the aforementioned Uncharted, Wipeout 2048, Gravity Rush, and more. The icing on the cake is the ridiculous Steam-like sale Sony just had, where I picked up Soul Sacrifice, Thomas was Alone, Spelunky, Stealth, Inc., Killzone: Mercenary and Lone Survivor.

For the same price I bought my original Vita, a game and memory card for, I now have a library of over a dozen of the best games to come out for the Vita.

The lesson here is the same one I learned with the WiiU, and the same one that PS4 and Xbox One owners are learning right now–new consoles rarely launch with a lineup of great games. For many consoles, the first year is filled with mediocre ports and a lack of titles altogether. So if you can just wait, if you can just hold off for that one year, you can usually get a better deal for the console overall, and have plenty of great games to play on it.

I did not heed that lesson when it came to the WiiU, and the first several months of that console were pretty rough, which is one of the reasons it’s struggling so badly. Had I waited until this holiday season, I could have grabbed a great WiiU bundle and would have had a bevy of great games waiting for me.

The good news is that so far, I’ve been able to hold off on getting either a PS4 or an Xbox One. With my current consoles and the Vita, I have more games than I can possible play right now. I may finally be learning my lesson when it comes to early adopting.

But probably not.


Black Flag Made Me Finally Fall in Love With Assassin’s Creed

As a gamer it makes me extremely happy to say that I have finally found an Assassin’s Creed game that has really clicked with me. After putting at least ten hours into ACIV: Black Flag so far, I love pretty much everything about it. And while you could dismiss my liking of the game by saying it’s the least like the other Assassin’s Creed games in the entire series, I think it goes beyond that.

From a design standpoint, the way Black Flag introduces you to the game’s systems is fantastic. You pretty much have access to everything from the get go if you’re already familiar with everything, but you are officially introduced to the combat, ship navigation, crafting, contracts and upgrade systems in a way that builds upon itself and never feels overwhelming. And so far, my engagement in these systems has been pretty optional. The ship combat is fantastic, but if you wanted, you could avoid a lot of it, meaning you could also ignore a lot of the ship upgrades. Similar to the physical combat system, you can take a stealth-based approach to ship navigation, avoiding unnecessary combat and paying off officials to keep your wanted level down.

The freedom to approach almost every aspect of the game the way you want is what keeps this game fresh for me. When I tire of the story missions, I can just hit the high seas and battle some ships, attack citadels or even hunt sharks and whales until I want to jump back into the land-based missions.

Another huge plus of Black Flag is the “real world” storyline. Gone is the boring Desmond, and instead in this one you are an employee of game developer Abstergo, makers of the Assassin’s Creed games. As you go about your daily duties, you find out there is more going on at the company than just making games. It’s a fun story that almost borders open parody, but it’s a heck a lot more fun to play than the previous non-Animus storylines in the AC games I played.

I think what I am enjoying most of all in Black Flag though is the main character of Edward Kenway. In many ways, he’s the personification of those of us who never got into the AC lore. He doesn’t give a crap about it. He’s a guy trying to make his way in the world and make the big score. His dialogue is great, and he’s just a fun character to spend time with.

There was a point that I almost gave up on the Assassin’s Creed series altogether. I’m glad I didn’t. Black Flag is a blast.

365 Days of Rocksmithing: Day 1

In 2012, I bought a copy of Rocksmith and a pretty kickass electric guitar. I also bought all the accouterments for the guitar, including a set of picks, a guitar tuner, and a nice strap bag. I even bought an adapter so I could connect the guitar to my iPad so I could use the iPad as a substitute amp. I had high ambitions: I would finally learn to play the guitar after on-and-off efforts since junior high school.

As before, I failed to keep at consistently practicing, and what little I learned over a couple of weeks of playing Rocksmith faded away fairly quickly.

This year, I’m forging ahead once again on my quest to learn how to play at least one song on the guitar. My wife kindly bought me an actual guitar instruction book, but I know that I learn more efficiently by actually applying theory to practice. So, the goal is to play the guitar for at least 30 minutes a day, which will equal at least 10,950 minutes played over the course of a year. If I can’t learn something after spending 10,000 minutes practicing it, I might never learn, even if popular wisdom says that we need to practice a skill for at least 10,000 hours to achieve mastery.

To hold myself accountable, I’m also documenting my progress every day, even if the post is just a simple paragraph. So, here we go.

Day 1
I wish the living room were a little warmer in the morning, but I suppose the cold will wake me up better than anything else. I thought the blank screen before me was an inauspicious start to this quest; I checked the connections, which seemed fine, so I restarted the Xbox and hoped for the best. Thankfully, everything seemed to boot and connect correctly this time.

I had forgotten how long and how many loading in Rocksmith took. Not for the first time, I thought about trading in this copy of Rocksmith for a copy of Rocksmith 2014. I wonder if the loading times are any better in that version.

I had also forgotten that I had to tune the guitar every time I loaded a song. This is the kind of thing that saps my enthusiasm.

I first tried the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ version of “Higher Ground,” and the game remembered my previous progress, so it tried to throw me into the deep end with chord switches. The program interpreted my flailing along the guitar neck as a plea for help and took the difficulty back down to simple one-string notes with a minimum of chord changes. I felt humbled.

I then tried to play my favorite song on Rocksmith’s soundtrack, the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” This was probably the song I practiced most the first time I tried to learn to play the guitar with Rocksmith, and the note placement is so distinctive that I could hear when my fingers weren’t in the right place. I played through the song twice, and my brain and fingers still struggled to remember where my fingers needed to go. This is going to take longer than I had thought.


Taking GRID 2 Out for a Spin

Racing games have never really been my thing. I mean, I always played racing games, whether it was growing up in arcades with Pole Position and Out Run, or marveling at the night driving in Rad Racer on NES. I like racing games–they’ve just never been a genre I was really into.

The racing game I probably spent the most time with in the past twenty years has been Burnout Paradise, as it was the perfect blend of arcade-style fun and simulation for my driving game tastes. It was basically The Dukes of Hazzard: The Game.

So when I saw GRID 2 was free on PlayStation Plus this month, I decided to check it out, as I hadn’t spent any time with a racing game in while.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well GRID 2 drew me in with its story, which sort of pits you as a YouTube sensation who gets recruited to help organize a world series of racing by attracting the top drivers from around the world. To do this, you need to race them and show them you’re worth teaming up with. It’s a simple premise, but the presentation is slick, and it’s enough of a story that it added an interesting layer to the game.

The learning curve of the actual driving was more fun than frustrating. Granted, it took me about ten tries to place in the top three on the first track–a winding road through the California mountains–but I made progress each time. And the ability to rewind the last few seconds of a race lets you correct big mistakes (although I used it less than I thought I would). I am a terrible driver, and it will take a long time for me to master drifting and cornering, but I never finished a race without knowing exactly what I could have done to place better, which made me want to jump right back in and try again.

The bottom line is that GRID 2 makes a really good first impression, and I’m inclined to spend some more time with it. If you’re a PS Plus subscriber, it’s definitely worth a download.


The Walking Dead: Season Two Doesn’t Let Up in its First Episode

As if anyone needed to be reminded, the world of The Walking Dead is a pretty grim place. Zombies roam the earth, and the remnants of humanity fight for survival, usually at the cost of what made them human in the first place. There are no happy endings, and every single day is a struggle against the endless hordes of undead, and the scattered living who are usually worse than the zombies.

A couple weeks ago the second season of Telltale’s TWD episodic series came out, and the focus this time around is all on Clementine, the nine-year-old girl who was the co-star of the first season. In season two, she has to rely much more on herself for survival, and the first episode is an emotionally grueling tale that transforms Clementine as she loses whatever innocence she has left.

My intention was to sit down and play a bit of the episode last night, but I ended up playing through the entire thing, which took me a little over an hour and a half. I have a ten-year-old daughter, so I was immediately sucked into the idea of this young girl having to keep pushing forward in a world where death is literally around every single corner.

I’ve read a good chunk of The Walking Dead comics and have caught up on the TV show as of this most recent season. But I would have to say that Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead adventures games are my favorite incarnation of the universe. The interactivity of the games provides a level of depth to TWD universe that you just can’t get anywhere else. Whether or not that’s a universe you want to get in-depth with is a question you’ll need to answer, because this game pulls no punches. It’s not a “fun” story to experience, but it is powerful and expertly told.

The first episode of Season Two was a great opening act to Clementine’s next chapter. I just hope that somewhere out there in the dark, there are at least a few moments of peace for her.


The Games Industry Really Has Become the WWE

Polygon’s Emily Gera wrote a brilliant post on her personal blog today about how the games industry has turned into a spectator sport akin to World Wrestling Entertainment. It’s a fantastic read, perhaps the most insightful post I’ve read about games this year. And it really hit home with how I’ve been feeling lately as a 39-year-old gamer who is just kind of sad about the state of the industry today.

First, go read the article on Emily’s blog.

I was actually having a conversation on Twitter with Co-Op contributor Dave Fetterman that directly relates to the sentiment expressed in Gera’s post. I was reflecting on the fact that as of late I find myself becoming part of the Nintendo Defense Force, feeling the need to reply to the constant negativity that seems to be aimed at the WiiU and Nintendo in general.

I’m a WiiU and 3DS owner and I have two kids, so for us Nintendo’s consoles are a constant source of fun and entertainment. I also have a Xbox 360, PS3 and a PC, so I play games wherever I can get them. In this last console generation, I’ve probably spent the most time on Xbox 360. Not that any of that matters, except to say that I don’t have a “console of choice” per se.

The thing that kills me is these narratives that are built up not just by the rabid fanbases of each console, but the games media as well. Over the past year, and into this holiday season, one of the biggest is that not only is the WiiU not a “next gen” console, but it’s already dead in the water. There is no reason to buy a WiiU, and there is no hope of it recovering from its slow start. Some are even calling for Nintendo to get out of consoles entirely, either moving exclusively to handhelds, or giving up hardware altogether and becoming the next SEGA.

Consider this: you can get a WiiU bundle for $299 right now that either comes with Wind Waker HD, Skylanders or two Super Mario games. Right now, the WiiU has a slew of great games to play: ZombiU, Pikmin 3, Nintendoland, Super Mario 3D World, Wonderful 101, Lego City Undercover and plenty more. And the console is backwards compatible, which means you have the entire Wii library as well. It’s a great value, especially as a family console. But that narrative is boring, right? Who wants to talk about what a fun experience the console can be when we can all hail its impending doom from the highest mountain, right?

When it comes to the PS4 and the XBox One, the ebb and flow of the narrative changes daily. The PS4 goes from being more powerful than the XBox One to having a worse launch lineup to being a better value to being inferior because it doesn’t let you control your living room in the same way XBox One does. On the flipside, XBox One had terrible party chat one day, a lack of free demos the next and then Kinect makes it better than the PS4 (despite the fact no one wanted it before launch and thought its addition was not worth the extra $100).

And this stuff isn’t just message board or comment section chatter. These are storylines that all of the major gaming news sites are feeding into daily. Much of the chatter from gamers is happening in response to these stories. The gaming news sites are just as much the creators of these narratives as the fans. The same goes for the publishers and hardware makers themselves, and you don’t have to look any further than this year’s E3, when the mudslinging between Microsoft and Sony was on stage for all the world to see. Microsoft ended up changing their whole strategy for the console based on the narrative that games journalists helped create when they took fan reactions and jabs from Sony and ran with them relentlessly. Microsoft was the bad guy–they didn’t get it. Sony came out of E3 as the “winner,” the company that really understood what gamers wanted from the next generation. Nintendo wasn’t even allowed to be part of the discussion, as the media took Nintendo’s lack of a spectacle presentation as a reason to marginalize them completely and just focus on the narrative that the upcoming generation was a two-horse race.

All of this is where the spectator sport of the games industry comes in, and where Emily Gera’s analogy is so brilliant. There has to be Good Guys (Babyfaces) and Bad Guys (Heels) in order for anyone to care. Those Good Guys and Bad Guys will switch places when it suits the overall narrative, but there will always be someone to root for and against, and those creating the narrative get to decide what roles the actors are assigned to.

This whole spectator sport aspect of the industry takes the focus off of the games, off of the fun, and off of the escape that games offer me. It also devalues the exact type of writing that Emily Gera displayed in her brilliant post. Because if gamers would rather read about how many PS4’s failed over launch weekend or how dismal WiiU’s sales were this week than a feature on the design of Resogun, that’s what Emily and those who work for other gaming sites will be writing about. And that just feeds into the spectacle our hobby has become.

The absolute saddest thing about the current state of the industry is that some of the best writers out there, people who earn a living writing about games, have to turn to their personal blogs in order to post ideas that are not part of the larger narratives, part of the spectacle. If you think I’m exaggerating, look at how many current and former games journos have their own side blogs and podcasts, and look at what they produce for content. For most of them, those side projects are where they get to actually celebrate games and talk about the things they love.

Now, the state of the industry isn’t going to change anytime soon, although I hope articles like Emily Gera’s will at least get people to do some self-reflection. I would love to see something like Upworthy come along for the games industry. Some sort of aggregator for games writing that celebrates the hobby, where features about people’s experiences with games and what they love about them are shared and promoted, as opposed to the gladiator arena that currently dominates games media.

I’m rambling now, so I’m going to wrap this post up. But you really need to go and check out Emily Gera’s post, because she is dead on.


Gaming Stories: A Travelogue of Gransys

Gransys is a large and fascinating duchy, and I had the pleasure of traveling through it several months ago. Unfortunately, the State Department neglected to issue the proper travel advisories for it; while I was aware that Gransys had some troubles with banditry on its roads, some aggressive wild animals, such as wolves and snakes, roaming the countryside, and the poor maintenance of certain roads, I was not prepared for the extent of the poor maintenance, the sheer number of bandits and dangerous wild animals, or the near complete social breakdown caused by the sudden appearances of mythological creatures such as dragons, griffins, hydras, harpies, goblins, chimeras, cyclops, cockatrices, golems, ogres, animated skeletons, wyverns, phantoms, or hellhounds in Gransys. I demand that the State Department be held accountable for its inability to sufficiently warn travelers like me of the dangers we could face before we traveled to Gransys.

I present the journal that I kept during my travels in Gransys as evidence of the State Department’s gross negligence.

Day 1
I arrived at the beachside town of Cassardis, a quieting fishing town, this morning. The rates at Pablos’ Inn were fair, and Chief Adaro, the ostensible mayor of Gransys, welcomed me warmly. He warned me to stay away from a strange stone near the town’s entrance that the villagers called a “Rift Stone” and the village well, which they said led to a place called the Dripstone Cave, which was infested by subterranean lizard people. I agreed to stay away from both, though I will admit that I felt a chill whenever I passed the “Rift Stone.”

Day 2
To continue my travels, I joined a band of merchants who were headed to the Encampment along Seabreeze Trail. We passed bands of goblins and saw traces of wolfpacks, but they generally stayed away from our bands, as they seemed more scared of humans than we were of them. The journey along the dirt path that was Seabreeze Trail took longer than we expected because one of the carts lost a wheel. Fortunately, a patrol from the Encampment saw our breakdown and were able to assist us.

Day 3
I awoke to a frightful sight: it seemed as though a hole opened in the pre-dawn sky, out of which a giant dragon and an aerie of harpies emerged. Multiple merchants began to pack up quickly to move to the Gransys capital city, Gran Soren, which they explained was protected by the Duke’s men and by impenetrable city walls. I declined to ask them how impenetrable city walls would fare against creatures that could simply fly above them. Instead, I watched as the dragon descended upon Cassardis, and I wondered about the people who charmed me so when I was there. I’m no warrior, but I grabbed a heavy stick and some rocks and made my way to the Encampment gate that led back to Cassardis. A guard saw the intent in my eyes and knocked me to the dirt to bring me back to my senses. I joined one of the merchant caravans that were headed to Gran Soren.

We fought off bandits on the way to the Mountain Waycastle; they seemed emboldened by the appearance of the dragon, as though they no longer cared about their lives now that their definitions of reality had been rewritten. One bandit attempted to restrain me; we fell to the dirt; his knife found its way to my hand; my hand guided it to the bandit’s belly. Those of us in the caravan who were able to escape ran as hard as we could to escape the bandits. I don’t even know the names of those who were unable to make it.

We ran until we reached the Mountain Waycastle. The guards there seemed overwhelmed by the number of travelers headed to Gran Soren. One guard shouted to warn us of goblins and harpies along the mountain trail to the Estan Plains. My companions forged ahead; I needed time to gather my strength and my thoughts.

Day 5
I regretted staying at the Mountain Waycastle for an extra day because the stream of merchant caravans to Gran Soren had slowed to a trickle. However, luck shone upon me when I saw a military caravan protected by Captain Mercedes of the House of Marten, her guard, and Manus, a familiar face from Cassardis who had clearly taken up arms in response to the dragon attack. I had thought that Manus was a mere fisherman, but she seemed adept at wielding his sword and shield, and Captain Mercedes expressed her confidence in her.

I was even more surprised by the contents of their caravan: a giant snake head that Captain Mercedes’s escorts claimed were the head of a hydra. I scoffed; there were no such things as hydras. But then again, I saw a dragon, so maybe nothing was impossible anymore. I also learned from Captain Mercedes’s escorts that a hydra had attacked the Encampment, where it was fought off by Manus and her companions. They agreed to allow me to join their caravan as they were headed to Gran Soren to deliver the hydra head to Duke Edmun Dragonsbane.

Day 6
We have finally arrived in Gran Soren. As we had been warned, we indeed had to fend with aeries of harpies and bands of goblins, but Captain Mercedes and Manus’s group dispatched them with little trouble. We parted at the Urban Quarter; I made my way to the Union Inn, while Manus and her companions headed to the Pawn Guild. I tried to investigate what a Pawn Guild would have served, but I was refused entry.

Day 8
I attempted to find escorts to visit some of the other landmarks of Gransys, such as the Prayer Falls, the legendary Watergod’s Altar, The Abbey, the Windbluff Tower, any of the Healing Springs, or even the Blighted Manse, but no one was interested in leaving the protection that Gran Soren’s walls provided. In idle conversation at Arsmith’s Alehouse, I asked other patrons how the walls would protect us from airborne menaces like a dragon or harpies, but no one wanted to hear it. I had to buy many drinks to calm nerves that my speculations had rubbed raw.

I began to notice whisperings about something called “Salvation.” At first, I thought that it was speculation about the Duke’s solution to the dragon problem. However, no one would admit to knowing anything related to Salvation. I learned to stop asking about Salvation.

I was thrilled to hear rumors about the adventures of Manus and her companions. I once saw them run around Gran Soren, from Arsmith’s Alehouse to their Pawn Guild house to some of the more disreputable parts of Venery. I thought I spotted them on the Gran Sore battlements at one point. I heard that they acted on behalf of a wealthy merchant named Fournival to evict some tenants, but the tenants were not bitter about leaving their home. I heard that Manus was able to revive the blacksmith’s boy, who had passed away. They seemed to be everywhere at once and capable of anything.

Day 12
I was growing bored with Gran Soren until I learned to stop wishing for exciting or interesting times. A cockatrice, of all things, flew over the capital’s walls and attacked the Craftsman’s Quarters. Seemingly out of nowhere, Manus and her companions attacked the cockatrice and drove it away. Farmers who worked in the Craftsman’s Quarters were killed by the cockatrice, but the entire city may have fallen if not for Manus and her companions.

They call her the “Arisen” now. I implored Manus and her companions to allow me to join them on their journey. Manus declined me as quickly and gently as she could; I noticed then how odd her companions were. They seemed wholly dedicated to Manus’s well-being, but they seemed limited in speech, as they repeated their speech over and over. Manus did not seem to notice or mind their repetition. I also thought that Manus’s party seemed different than when I saw them last; I could have sworn that there were two women with her when I last saw them. Now, there was only one woman. I suppose one of them may have left or even died. But they seem more bothered by my questions than anything else.

Day 14
Today, in Fountain Square, Aldous announced to the town that Fournival, the noted merchant, had been found innocent of an accusation that he was conspiring to overthrow the Duke. This is a serious charge, yet no one in the crowd seemed aware of the charges against Fournival, much less that a trial had even taken place. Between the charges against Fournival and the whispers about Salvation that have faded away, I wonder if the dragon’s attack had unsettled the Duke’s rule or simply exposed the rotten foundations under the Duke’s administration. I kept these thoughts to myself.

I ran into Manus and her companions at Devyn’s Barber Shop today. Her party had changed once again; now she had no male companions. I tried to ask her if she knew anything about the charges against Fournival, but he simply excused himself and claimed that he needed to save someone at the Windbluff Tower.

Day 16
In Fountain Square, Aldous announced today that Manus and her companions were now enemies of the state. First, it was Fournival, now Manus. Something is rotten in this kingdom.

Day 18
I caught sight of the Duke today for the first time during my stay in Gran Soren. He cuts a striking figure, but he seemed to be muttering angrily to himself. His inexhausitble youth and health have led to Gransys’s stability, but I wonder if he may have simply been in office for too long.

Day 20
This land is cursed. Monsters roam the land, and the Duke’s men seem unable to drive them away for long. Cassardis was attacked by a dragon. The Encampment was attacked by a hydra. Gran Soren itself was attacked by a cockatrice. Now, the unthinkable has happened: the ground has swallowed half of Gran Soren itself, and harpies pour of this wound at an inexorable pace. I prayed for Manus and her companions to return, since they seem to be the only effective force in Gransys, and my prayers were answered. But rather than delivering Salvat…hope, they instead were chased into the chasm by the Duke’s men. If I squint, I think that I can see them fall from the sky, but that’s impossible since they fell into the earth below.

I don’t know what I can do. I cannot leave Gran Soren; the roads are too dangerous. I might not be able to even leave Gransys if I could even make it back to Cassardis.

Day 24
The land is cursed, but the curse seems to be lifted. No more harpies have emerged from the Gran Soren wound, and a caravan has been organized to deliver relief to the refugees in the Encampment and survivors in Cassardis. No one has seen or heard from the Duke; this caravan was arranged by Fournival and other Gran Soren merchants. Captain Mercedes and Lord Julien, the Knight of Voldoa, also seem to have disappeared. Who will defend Gransys now?

Day 27
I have reached Cassardis. There is great suffering in Gransys, and it’s unclear who can help the duchy recover. Aldous is the nominal leader of Gransys now that the Duke has disappeared. I have had enough of traveling and Gransys, and I will be returning to Meloire soon and hope that the troubles have not affected my home.

Do not travel to Gransys. There are supposedly beautiful and wondrous places like the Healing Springs or the Prayer Falls, but Gransys is simply too dangerous. I hope that our neighbor will recover soon.


NYCC 2013: Super Mario 3D World Impressions

Despite the fact that the Nintendo booth at NYCC was jam packed for four straight days, I got a couple of chances to play Super Mario 3D World. The game is coming out on November 22nd, and it’s pretty much what you’d expect from a Nintendo Mario game–that is to say, it’s awesome.

One of the bigger additions to gameplay in this new Mario iteration is the Cat Suit. By grabbing a bell-shaped power-up, you gain the ability to scale walls and pounce on enemies. I love the scaling ability, as the level I played was wide open, and there were several ways to navigate it. There is a certain chaos to four players running around a 3D level, and the cat suit contributes to that chaos in a fun way.

And although it’s not unique to this Mario game, there’s so much to be said for the “pick up and play” accessibility of the game. Both times I played, I was with complete strangers, but the ability to just pick up a Mario game and know what to do seems ingrained into our DNA at this point. There’s really nothing else like it.

In my first play session I went through a standard level, but the second time was a boss fight. We faced off against a snake-like monster and his minions in a large arena. The boss battle was a combination of avoiding falling objects and platforming, and it was a ton of fun.

There’s really not much else to say except that Super Mario 3D world looks and plays great, and it should be a blast for the whole family when it comes out for WiiU in late November.

‘Return to the Nexus’ Community Event Starts Today at 4PM EST

YouTube user Peeve Peeverson has set up a pretty cool community event leading up to tonight’s late night server test of Dark Souls 2. At 4PM EST, he’s inviting Demon’s Souls players to come back to the game and start a new playthrough. The event is called Return to the Nexus, and he put together a cool video to promote it. Check it out:

Peeve will be live streaming some of his playthrough over on Twitch TV at

I’ll be jumping in and starting a fresh playthrough, as I will take any excuse I can get to keep playing either of the Souls games.


NYCC 2013: Dark Souls 2 Demo Impressions

I finally got a chance to play Dark Souls II at New York Comic Con this past weekend, and my anticipation for this game is now at a fever pitch.

The demo I played was the same one that was at TGS and SDCC, which featured the Mirror Knight as the area boss. The area begins at a bonfire and you quickly descend a ladder into what appears to be some sort of crypt or catacombs.

While I didn’t get a ton of time with it, I found Dark Souls II to be a great blend of familiar and new. Basic movement combat and item selection was the same, so I had little trouble jumping in and navigating the game. Where I found things to be pleasantly different however, was in the enemy encounters.

There are still plenty of enemies that you can take on one at a time, but Dark Souls II seems to take a more mixed approach in general. I found that most of my encounters involved two or more enemies, and frequently enemies of different types. Enemies also came from different directions, so I couldn’t take the same slow, plodding approach that most early playthroughs of Souls games required. The enemies were more cleverly designed as well, like the tortoise-armored brutes that would fall backwards on top of you if you tries to backstab them.

Another great addition is the torch mechanic. Dark Souls featured an area (Tomb of the Giants) where you needed to switch out your shield for a lantern in order to see (unless you had the Cast Light spell). In Dark Souls II, you carry a torch that you can light in certain places, as there are areas that are completely dark. This seems to be much more of a core feature in Dark Souls II, so the choice of using the torch or going in blind with a shield will be one you have to make more often. It adds a new layer to encounters, which also adds more tension.

Sadly, I didn’t make it to the Mirror Knight in my playthrough, as I had to step aside and let someone else play. But, in my short time with Dark Souls II, it was clear that the game still has everything I’ve loved about the series, as well as a new level of complexity to deal with. I cannot wait to sink hundreds of hours into this one come March.