General Rants Masquerading as Blog Posts



Playing Dark Souls on Easy Mode
What about Sekiro?
Babylon 5's "Believers" episode
Mass Effect Trilogy ending - my "stick it to Bioware" response
Gaming & exclusive distribution

Playing Dark Souls on Easy Mode

The Dark Souls games are notorious both for being difficult, and for inspiring in some players the passionate conviction that having an optional easy simply could not work.

In fact, their position seems to be "The very existance of an easy mode, even if I did not play it, would prevent me from enjoying the game as it is now!"

I saw this latter situation are a challenge worthy of my attention, and decided to create my own easy mode.

The facets available for exploitation are:

Each of these options will reduce the "intended" satisfaction you get from beating the game. On the other hand, you can take satisfaction from trampling over the intransigence and hubris of the developers, and more importantly, tick off the fundamentalist fanboyz.

And the beauty is: you can choose exactly how much of each measure is right for you.

My own formula was a brief scan of a wiki page before some new areas, and an obscene amount of levelling up. I did mess with save files during the Sen's Fortress section, but came to the conclusion that was taking it too far. And while I hated being invaded early on, towards the end of the game I started rather enjoying it.

I have finished the game, and I can confirm that about two-thirds of the bosses were a pushover. The remainder were "quite" challenging, even when you know exactly what you need to do, and are ridiculously OP.

Update: NG+
I also finished the entire game in NG+ mode (new game plus), which is much harder than the regular "new game" mode. My policy of over-levelling made many of the famously hard bosses quite easy, however some of them remained very challenging - they required a certain level of skill, no matter how over-powered my character was.

2018 Update:
Since writing the above, I have spent many hundreds of hours on the Souls series, Dark Souls III in particular. I've been, I think it can be said, "git'n gud".

So... have my earlier opinions changed?
Only a little. In particular I still think the games do not give nearly enough information, and I would still recommend that new players make use of the wiki sites.

What about Sekiro?

"Sekiro - Shadows Die Twice" was From software's next game after the Souls series, and it ignited a storm of debate with its punishing level of difficulty (significanly harder then the earlier games). If online achievement statistics are to be trusted, the majority of people who bought the game have been unable to finish it.

Since I have actually beaten the game (all non-Shura bosses), my impression is that it is not too hard to beat, but it is too hard to enjoy. I think From paid too much attention to the gaming elite, understandable perhaps as they are over-represented in online forums and YouTube channels. They have also been emboldened by the fanatical praise heaped upon them by the same upper echelons of the gaming community - those who love this game really love it. I would say they got carried away and took things too far.

The pattern of failure, perseverence, gradual improvement, and finally victory has been drawn out, almost to breaking point. The result is that the trajectory of improvement is so shallow that there is no rewarding feeling during the process of learning. Of course, when one eventually beats a boss, there is satisfaction, but I found that the journey, the investment, the effort simply did not feel "worth it".

I was disappointed, because in all other respects the game was a masterpiece.

A bit like some modern jazz - the pinnacle of the artform for the passionate few, and I can appreciate how brilliant it is, but it's just not enjoyable to listen to.

You might enjoy my YouTube video: Sekiro: Cheese on a Leash - minibosses at the end of their tether

Babylon 5's "Believers" episode

I regard this episode is a dark stain on an otherwise brilliant series, which undermines the humanity of the writer and everyone who contributed to it.

Although the story is fiction, this issue is not. There are cultures and religions today that sanction so-called “honour killings”, there are places in our world where innocent victims are slain for the crime of being raped. The perpetrators no doubt “believe” they are doing the right thing. They would take comfort in the generous, all-encompassing version of moral ambiguity and relativism portrayed here.

Relativism has its place – indeed it is an essential component of a tolerant society, but to include the murder of a child under the umbrella of “moral ambiguity” is a step – no, a monstrous leap, too far.

Of course, there will always be edge cases, and stories of ethical dilemmas involving good people being forced to choose between two evils are everywhere – including elsewhere in Babylon 5.

But this is no edge case.

JMS once quoted Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof” when justifying this story’s themes; well Joe, here’s another quote from the same source: when it comes to murdering an innocent child, “There is no other hand, there is no other hand.”

In my rage I can think of one way in which canon could be adjusted to salvage a shred of credibility: the Onteen are the Morlocks of their homeworld, their Eloi or “food animals” a closely related, less intelligent race. The religion of the Children of Time is therefore an attempt to rationalise the slaughter and consumption of sentient beings.

But no, this is not canon, the series remains sullied and society will be better off when this type of thinking is known only to historians.

Mass Effect Trilogy ending - my "stick it to Bioware" response

The overwhelming complaint is: none of the four endings suit "my" Shepard. So... playthrough as a Shepard for which one of the endings IS suitable.

My Shepard is a pro-human, sociopathic paragon.

In ME1 he romanced Ashley, because they shared common views. Ashley survived Virmire, but Wrex did not. My Shepard killed the Rachni Queen, and allowed the Council to die during Sovreign's attack on the Citadel.

In ME2 my Shepard destroyed Maelon's data and the Collector Base, and chose Samara over Morinth. He gained everyone's loyalty, and ensured they all survived the suicide mission.
He remained faithful to Ashley, although enjoying some mild flirtation with Kelly Chambers.

In ME3, he sabotaged the Genophage, and managed to keep Mordin alive (and on good terms). On Rannoch he supported the Geth upgrades, giving some inane explanation to cover the real reason - that Quarians reminded him of Jews.
Afterwards, he had a brief, frantic affair with the slutty reporter, because watching Tali go over the cliff had made him so goddam hard.

When confronted by the Starchild, it was a no-brainer. Destroying the Reapers left him alive, with hope of a future reunion with Ashley. The galaxy was free from Reapers, Rachni, Geth and Quarians, and the Krogan were still under Genophage control.

It was about as perfect an ending as he could have hoped for.

Gaming & exclusive distribution

I have still not bought Mass Effect 3, and don't intend to do so while it is only available on Origin.
I have still not bought Crysis 3, and don't intend to do so while it is only available on Origin.
As soon as they appear on Steam, I'll be among the first to buy.
(I don't expect that anyone is reading this, but I'm nailing my colours to the wall in case anyone Googles it.)

Further update: November 2013
  I finally caved and gave in to the dark side, bought and played ME3.
  The ending? (And I played the Extended Cut DLC.) Not as gut-sickeningly horrible as some people seem to think. Just... a lousy way to end an otherwise brilliant game.

Further update: Feb 2014
  Yeah, shame on me, bought Crysis 3, liked it. Would probably buy it again, just to kick something off Origin.


All content Copyright 2013 Trevor Magnusson