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Check Out Our Dueling Dark Souls Let’s Plays!

This is a very exciting month for me. For those of you that follow the blog and our Co-Op Critics podcast, you know we spotlight one game a month for the show. This month’s game is Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, and I could not be happier.

I am a HUGE Souls games fan. I’ve put over 400 hours into the first three games, and I’m currently making my way through Bloodborne (in a Let’s Play series you can check out here). I’m also an evangelist for the games, so when Nick agreed to take the Souls plunge and play Dark Souls II, I was ecstatic. I’d played through once on the PS3, but with the Scholar of the First Sin edition, there are some changes that make the game challenging even for returning players.
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ElderScrolls-giveaway

Win a FREE copy of Elder Scrolls Online for Xbox One or PS4

We’re giving away a copy of The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited to one lucky winner! All you have to do to enter is follow us on Twitter, tweet about the contest, and Subscribe to our YouTube channel (click the subscribe button in the sidebar). You can come back and tweet about the contest once a day to continue earning more entries! Follow the instructions in the contest widget below to enter.

The winner will be announced at the on June 2nd. To be considered, you must be currently subscribed to our YouTube channel and following us on Twitter. Winner will choose between a copy of Elder Scrolls Online for Xbox One or PS4.

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Bloodborne Diaries: Co-Oppin’ in Central Yharnam (Father Gascoigne)

While the multiplayer system in Bloodborne has its similarities to the previous Souls games, it has its differences as well. Instead of using soapstones to leave symbols on the ground for other to see, in Bloodborne summoning is done using bells. And while I received the Beckoning Bell (which let’s me summon other players) pretty much right away, I had to actually purchase the Small Resonant Bell with Insight, a currency similar to Humanity in the other games. And in order to even access the merchant where I could buy the Small Resonant Bell, I needed 10 Insight.READ MORE

LEGO

LEGO DIMENSIONS is Going to Completely Redefine the “Toys to Life” Genre

Today Warner Brothers and LEGO and TT Games unveiled their next big thing–LEGO Dimensions, a “toys to life” game like Skylanders and Disney Infinity, where players will be able to play through all of the different licensed LEGO worlds using a portal, toys and figures they assemble themselves. Here’s the reveal trailer:

Now you might be thinking that since the addition of Nintendo’s Amiibo, the toys to life genre is a bit over-saturated right now. And that might be true, but LEGO is about to completely transform this genre, because they are adding an element that the other have not and cannot (at least to the same degree).

Building.

As you see in the trailer, Joel McHale actually builds the portal that is then used to activate figures and vehicles. He also uses pieces of the Batmobile to create an entirely new type of vehicle. And while we really don’t see much in the way of gameplay in this trailer, I believe those things are shown for a reason. With that in mind, imagine an expansion set for the game where you’re building the vehicles, weapons and structures yourself, and then porting them into the game. I’m sure there will be limitations as to what you can actually do, but even just building the Batmobile and porting it in is pretty darn sweet.

I have an eight year old son, and I can tell you he is going to lose his mind over this. We already have Skylanders and Disney Infinity, which we both play together. He is also a huge LEGO fan, as evidenced by the thousands of LEGOs we have and his LEGO Club membership. This game will be a day one purchase for us.

The potential of LEGO Dimensions is endless. And I’m sure everyone has their ideas of what sets they want to see in the future, so allow me to make a suggestion. If Microsoft is smart, they will find a way to make a LEGO Minecraft XBox exclusive set happen. Not only would it make the Xbox One the lead platform for LEGO Dimensions, it would sell gangbusters. I cannot wait to get my hands on this game.

Bloodborne Diaries: New Ways to Learn from Death

Two weeks ago today, Bloodborne was released. And while the last couple weeks have been busy for me outside of gaming, I’ve managed to beat the first two bosses and die a whole heck of a lot. In short, I am having a blast.

And for the first time with the Souls series, I’m streaming and recording a good deal of my gameplay, which has been a really interesting experience as well. Like a baseball player watching videos of his at-bats, I’ve been able to go back and learn from some of my encounters, particularly with the bosses.

This has made Bloodborne a bit of a different experience for me, as I have previously relied quite a bit on guides and let’s play videos to navigate parts of the Souls games that I was struggling with. My previous strategy was to keep chipping away at a particular part of the game until I wasn’t progressing at all, and then seek out a guide or video to give me another perspective.

With Bloodborne so far, I’ve been revisiting my own gameplay videos to see where my strategy is breaking down, particularly with the bosses. Many times I’m just confirming where I thought I went wrong, but a few times I’ve seen things that I was able to go back and do differently the next time around.

Make no mistake, I’ll still be visiting my favorite wikis and let’s players during the course of my playthrough, and I have the hardcover Bloodborne guide on its way to me (if Amazon ever decides to ship it). But, being able to watch pieces of my own playthrough is a new tool that I’m really getting a lot out of. And since learning from death is a core theme with the Souls games, having another way to learn just adds to the fun.

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Clearing My Gaming Slate for Bloodborne

I usually have three or four games that I’m playing at any given time, seeing as I play on pretty much every platform out there. But there are certain releases that I know will be taking a huge commitment of my time, so I try to clean out my gaming slate before I start them. Dragon Age: Inquisition was one of those games, but that was just a warmup for the game that comes out tomorrow–Bloodborne.

I will be writing, talking and making videos about Bloodborne for the next several months, so I’m not going to talk too much about the game itself here, except to say it’s my most anticipated of the year by a country mile. I’ve put at least 400 hours into the Souls series of games, and I expect I’ll put no less than 100-150 into Bloodborne. That kind of time commitment–especially when I don’t have a ton f time to game–requires sacrifices to made.

I won’t be picking up Borderlands: The Handsome Collection tomorrow, as I know I won’t have time for it (but Nick’s grabbing it, so expect to see some videos here and on the YouTube page). I finished Dragon Age: Inquisition, Dying Light and The Order: 1886. The only other game I have going right now is Battlefield: Hardline, and that will be mainly for multiplayer with my Xbox friends over the next couple months.

But the end of March and all of April will be about one game–Bloodborne. And I can’t wait to dive in. Expect a ton of let’s plays, highlight videos and blog posts about the game over the next several weeks.

What was the last game you cleared out your gaming slate for? What’s coming up that you need to make room for?

The Order: 1886 and the Problem with Late-Game Difficulty Spikes

I marathoned almost the entirety of The Order: 1886 this past weekend, and for the most part, I really enjoyed my time with it. It is a very linear game with a healthy amount of cutscenes and quick time events, but I really got invested in the story the game was telling, and the third-person shooter elements felt smooth and fun to play. The Order is extremely polished, and it looks gorgeous from start to finish. I finished the game yesterday, and my playthrough clocked in around 6.5-7 hours, which is totally fine in my book.

My only real gripe with the game is its pacing. There are some chapters that are more cutscene than gameplay, and the interruption of gameplay with cutscenes in some places disrupts the flow of the game.

And then there was this:

This particular scene takes place in Chapter 15 of the game, the second to last chapter. It represents a difficulty spike that absolutely ground my playthrough of the game to halt, and left me thinking I might not even finish the game.

What was supremely frustrating about this particular scene is that you enter into a room in which there is no escape initially. Guards continue to spawn in at the back of the room, and there is no position where you are safe from being flanked. So, you are constantly moving around the room, which is fine, until you start dealing with the heavies (more powerful enemies). Because you’re constantly moving, you’re going to take some damage as you’re running around. Normal gunfire isn’t a big deal, but when enemies start using grenade launchers and thermite guns (which shower you with flammable material then set you ablaze), one shot from these heavies will finish you off. And the last ditch healing mechanic you have takes precious seconds to use, during which time other enemies just pump you full of bullets.

After dying a myriad of times, I did walk away for the rest of the evening. I managed to beat this section the following day, essentially by using a spawn closet for cover as I picked off the heavies, as they would not enter into the spawn closet for some reason.

The crazy thing about this particular segment of the game is it represents a big spike in difficulty. There was no other area in the entire game where I had to deal with that many enemies of various types in such a confined space, with no defensible position. It forced me to play the game differently that I had for all of the previous hours I’d spent with it.

Now, hitting one really frustrating point in the course of an entire game is not the end of the world, but I feel like it’s a big deal for The Order, because the flow of the story is so important to the experience. There is a sense of urgency to this part of the game, where Gallahad (the main character) is trying to get to a colleague as quickly as possible. That experience is completely shattered when one room becomes a meat grinder that causes you to replay the same section over and over again. It ruins the penultimate chapter of the story in a game where the story is everything.

The last time I ran into a momentum killer like this was in 2012’s ZombiU, which is still my favorite WiiU game to date (I wrote a whole series on it in 2012). There is a level where you get captured and have to fight your way out of an arena that almost made me quit that game (you can read my post on that here).

Whether designed to shake things up or to prolong the playtime of a game, the late-game difficulty spike can not only be a momentum killer, it can actually keep people from finishing a game, which is a bummer.

And just so we’re clear, I’m not picking on The Order here–I really enjoyed the game. But this particular section was a textbook example of something I think games can do without.

Do you have any examples of late-game difficulty spikes? Did you end up finishing the game in question?

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Co-Op Quick Look: Q*bert Rebooted (PS4)

I am a child of the 1980’s, one who grew up in arcades, and I spent many a quarter on Gottlieb’s 1982 puzzle platformer Q*bert. While the premise of Q*bert is simple–jump on colored blocks of a pyramid to turn them all to a different color–the game was difficult right out of the gate. From purple snakes to red blobs to monsters that jump sideways, there are a number of enemies that make Q*bert’s task difficult. Not to mention, one wring jump can take him right off the side of the level.

I actually put the most time into the Atari 2600 version of Q*bert, which you can see in the video below. For that time, it was quite a good adaptation, and the gameplay translated well to the home cosnole. Q*bert made his way to just about every home console at at the time, including the Commodore 64 and the NES.

And now, Q*bert has made his way back to home consoles with the recently released Q*bert Rebooted. The $10 game includes both the classic arcade version as well as a modern revamp that includes some new enemies and a challenge-based system reminiscent of games like Angry Birds. You can check out my Quick Look below.