Friday, April 18, 2014

Parental Guidance with Dark Souls 2 and Titanfall  

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Any consumer of media will have heard the term Parental Guidance countless times, but how many moms and dads really give it much thought, wonder what it really implies, or actually put the concept into practice?



To me, Parental Guidance is a hell of a lot more than someone getting their kid a ticket to an R-rated movie and then dropping them off for two hours, or buying them a copy of GTA when the Gamestop clerk says they’re not old enough.  To me, Parental Guidance is an involved, active process that’s about real-time learning from a parent who’s connecting with their child and sharing knowledge.

Let’s take games, for example…  (Shocker, I know.)

As any gamer, I have access to a wide variety of titles that fill different niches. Just like other forms of media, certain things are off the table when my four-year-old son wants to watch me play. For example, he’s dying to try The Walking Dead, but that’s a no-go until he’s older due to its intense and sometimes-graphic nature. No matter how much guidance you give, some of it is just not okay at a young age. So, once we decide on something that seems appropriate enough to not cause nightmares, the process begins.

Parental Guidance at my house means that my son sits right next to me when I'm playing (or vice versa) and we have a constant running dialogue about what's going on in the game, what he’s seeing, and what I’m doing.  If you've never played games around kids, you might be surprised at how much they can pick up in a short period of time… of course, some games lend themselves better to this process than others. One of the biggest successes we’ve had so far is Dark Souls 2.

So what might happen if I go on this bridge? Does it look safe?

My son is already quite interested in monsters and zombies, so the imagery in the game was nothing he hasn't seen a million times before in other games, TV, movies, and books. However, Dark Souls 2 is a great PG game for three big reasons beyond monster appeal.

1> It's a slow-paced, deliberate game. There are very few times when something happens onscreen that's too fast to follow, or when something comes as a complete surprise. This gives my son plenty of time to take in the scene and evaluate what's going on -- he can look around for threats, think about basic tactics, and develop an idea about where to go or what to do. This pace also affords us plenty of time to talk. Once enemies are dispatched, it’s usually safe to simply stand around and break down what just happened. Why did I get hit? What is that sword called? Why did I not use an Estus Flask there?

2> It’s easy to set up clear goals that are simple to grasp. For example, in a certain area I could say that if I made it to the bonfire or got to the next boss, then I’d call that a success. Then we would both have something to look forward to -- will I make it, or won’t I? What do I need to do to get there? The game is naturally broken up into bite-sized chunks between bonfires as it is, so it was never too much to be overwhelming, my son was never lost about what we were doing, and he had a great time analyzing each segment. 

In fact, he did so well with it that after I was done and passed the disc off to my wife, he was doubly enthusiastic about sitting down and watching her -- he was even giving great advice based on the stuff he saw and understood from my playthrough.

(Protip: that scorpion dude is friendly.)

Fighting this turtlebro up close is really tough. How else can we get him?

3> It’s got a good life lesson embedded within in it. Dark Souls shows that tough challenges can be overcome, and that even though your character may die a bunch of times in a row, you don't give up -- you try different things, new approaches, or just do a little bit better next time, but you don't give up. You might need to take a break or do a little FAQ-ing, but you keep pushing on until you do what you set out to do.

While our experience with Parental Guidance in Dark Souls 2 was great, not every game is perfectly situated for the process. For instance, I recently started playing Titanfall on 360, and while my son is incredibly interested in guns and robots, I found walking him through it to be quite difficult.

The biggest obstacle to proper PG’ing here was the speed at which Titanfall plays. It’s an extremely fast game and everything is constantly in motion, not to mention that when players get killed, they respawn quickly with little fuss, Things are constantly running at full tilt. As a result, there's no real time for analysis of on-screen elements, of what just happened, or really, to have any discussion at all

This is a lot of stuff happening really, really fast.
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For example, I’d find that when I died, my son wouldn’t know that it even happened until a few moments later, and then he’d ask why I went down. With nothing to show at that instant and only a vague idea of who got me or how, there wasn’t much to teach after-the-fact.

Another interesting aspect of this was that the first-person interface made it a lot tougher for him to follow what was going on in general.

Because he was unable to see either my Pilot or my Titan in third-person view and in relation to the environment, the screen looked like a lot of random motion to him. Since I was holding the controller, I knew that I was double jumping, wallrunning, or that I was dashing backwards to get out of the way of a rocket, but without that agency and the limited field of view afforded by the perspective, it wasn't quite clicking with him. 

A lot more info than you might expect is affected by the perspective a game uses. 

He was certainly interested in the game and he never got tired of seeing "bad guys" get taken down or enemy Titans blowing up, but as a parent, I felt that the time we spent with Titanfall felt less satisfying from an educational perspective.

While both of these experiences were quite different, they did have something in common -- after ending play sessions, my son would immediately want to roleplay what he’d just seen. Acting these things out via real-life play is a great way for kids to process information mentally, so even after the consoles were shut down, we had even more time to learn with (and from) that content.

When playing ‘Dark Souls’ he would pretend to be a bad guy and hide around a corner, or behind the couch. As the player character, I would walk forward and let him pop out and stab me in the back with a plastic sword, or we would circle around each other with weapons and shields, and try to block or parry. He was also very quick to remind me to ‘drink my potion’ every time he had delivered a few hits.

When playing "Titanfall", he would be a Pilot and dash madly around the living room, firing a plastic gun and giving jump kicks to imaginary enemies. After a few seconds (because he knows you can't call your Titan right away) he would draw an imaginary green circle on the ground, and call me in. He then hops on my back and we run around as I take shots with my own cannon. Of course, anyone who’s played the game knows the Titans don’t last long, so he'll frequently "eject" (aka, jump off my back) after a few minutes and then watch me ‘explode’ in a nuclear fireball.

(And yes, I explained nuclear fireballs.)



These play sessions are great not only because they show what he’s learned and how much he understood from the games via his own internalization and subsequent expression, but they also give us another opportunity as father and son to bond over something that we've shared. Parental Guidance explains and gives context to things on screen, but it also extends to what we do in the living room, and how we play together. To me, this shared understanding about content and the shared time together represents the real definition of Parental Guidance, and I find it to be a very effective tool indeed.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On Hold, Escape Goat 2, Golden Sky Stories, and Design A MH Weapon!  

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Diverging a bit from my usual format tonight... You've been warned.




So, the last few days have been kind of a weird time for me… I feel like a lot of things are on hold at the moment, and for someone who’s used to charging full-speed ahead on a bunch of things at the same time, it's odd to have a few nights when I'm not really focused on much.

For example, I was getting ready to start putting word out about my new book and had hoped to have full details on how people can buy the print version by this time, but there's been a slight delay. Although the electronic version is out and about, I don't really want to start pimping it in earnest until people can have a choice between e- and print.




In terms of games, I finished Dark Souls II a while ago, and that was the last big thing I was doing for review. Since then, I haven't started anything from my backlog because I hate putting a game aside half-completed if something to be reviewed comes in, but then nothing that needs to be reviewed has come in…

(Side note, my wife started Dark Souls II after I wrapped it, and she is KICKING ASS. Going melee with a mace and shield, she’s been burning through Drangleic with little resistance. Just watched her squash the Ruin Guardians this morning and then she pulped the demon at the base of the windmill in Harvest Valley after that. SO proud of her!!!)

Yeah, so I suck the clothes right off of you. So what? Everybody needs a hobby! 

Anyway, I guess I should be grateful for a few days when nothing is hanging over my head and I have time to relax, but that's kind of a weird feeling in and of itself. All that quasi-angst aside, I do have a few things that I can mention…




First off, Escape Goat 2 is now available on Steam, GOG and Humble, and it looks fantastic.


Although my computer is not able to run it (note to self: get a new computer this year!) I absolutely loved the first one, and I have total faith in @MagicalTimeBean to turn out a quality product. Everything he's ever made has been good, and there's no reason to think that he's going to break that streak anytime soon.

Look for the official review on @Gamecritics soon, courtesy of @Gelles22, but in the meantime, do yourself a favor and check it out. If it's anything like the first one (and I expect that it is) you'll be in for a good time. Probably a hardcore one, too.




Any of my Monster Hunter fans will probably already know about this, but Capcom is sponsoring a contest to let players design one of the weapons that will be featured in the upcoming Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Click on over for more information, and best of luck if you enter!




Next up, I've been asked to spread the word about a pen-&-paper RPG called Golden Sky Stories.


Full disclosure, I have not had a chance to play this yet (it's recommended for between 3-5 players) but it looks incredibly cute and the artwork is great. Also, I'm always interested in non-violent games, and this one is about friendship and cooperation. Also, anthropomorphic animals. Be a fish. 

I've got it on my game table to bust out the next time I have enough people gathered together, but since those instances are pretty few and far between, I can't vouch for it YET. However, if this sounds like your sort of thing, check it out.




Finally, this was a link that my wife passed on to me, and I have to say that I absolutely agree with it. It's a piece written by a mother on the subject of "tough love", and what the true definition is. If you ask me, it's a hell of a lot tougher to be the kind of patient, giving parent this mother is talking about than it is to be one who’s quick to spank and scold… We need more moms and dads out there practicing what she's preaching, for sure.

That's it for now. More to come!




********************PR/NEWS/INFO********************




There's more than meets the eye in Taisho year 20 when private detective Shouhei Narumi and his assistant, Raidou Kuzunoha receive an unusual request from a young girl, fearful for her life. But no sooner does she appear than she is kidnapped right in front of the two detectives by military police. Now, Raidou must use his skills as a Devil Summoner to find the girl...

Thus the story is set for Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army, now available on PlayStation Network. Like previous PS2 Classics, the action RPG will be $9.99 and is currently available in North and South America. Rediscover the classic blend of action and mystery on your PlayStation 3 -- oh, but don't forget to visit the Gouma-Den to fuse some demons. Check out the game here


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So the ESRB post everyone seemed to find earlier this week told you that Persona 4 was coming to PlayStation 3 as a PS2 Classic, but it didn't tell you when, did it? It didn't, but we're going to go ahead and tell you anyways. Persona 4 will be available to download on PlayStation Network beginning April 8!

Astute fans will recognize the date is three days before the main character transfers to Yasogami High School, so if you're the type of super-dedicated player that wants to play the game exactly to the calendar date, there's still time! 



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Monday, March 31, 2014

Dark Souls II, Conception II, and the Emerald City Comicon  

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Games: Well, I finally managed to finish Dark Souls II a couple of days ago, and it was a great experience overall. My final review is in the can and should go up at @Gamecritics soon. Not to spoil my verdict, but I was a huge fan of the changes to the formula, and I really appreciate the increased accessibility.


In fact, my only real complaint was that the developers make some strange decisions right at the very end, and instead of building towards a logical, exciting climax, they drag things out with sections that are admittedly pretty neat, but don't feel like they belong right before the conclusion. On top of that, things get confusing, and I ended up needing to ask some friends for help just to figure out how to actually end the game.

Oh and that final battle? A thoroughly unimpressive non-event.

I don't mean to sound too negative, though, because I was absolutely glued to that game for 73 out of the 74 hours that it took me to finish (with a grand total of 374 deaths) and much of it is just brilliant -- great level design, great atmosphere, and super solid gameplay combine to create a wonderful experience to be immersed in. Although I don't think it displaces Demon’s Souls as my favorite (its world and story were just pitch-perfect) it's definitely going to be on my year-end best list, for sure.



In other games news, I just completed the demo for Conception II on Vita (it’s also on 3DS) and it's got my attention.


The premise is that there are demons invading earth, and the main character must "classmate" with several different girls in order to produce (I guess?) Star Children who are used as teammates in dungeons. It sounds sort of bizarre, but it’s a bit of a cross between Persona and a dating sim, which sounds pretty awesome when you think about it

What I saw so far was quite interesting, but of course it kind of goes without saying that anyone coming to this game should be open to the concept of playing a male role with the purpose of courting several different females, not to mention there’s a certain amount of innuendo going on that some people will find humorous, and some might find offensive.


As for me, I'm happy to take it for what it is and I thought the demo was entertaining, so I’ll definitely be looking into the full version. That said, I was a little concerned about the dungeon design… It seemed a little boring and repetitive, although I'm sure there’s much more to the formula than what was shown in that small slice.

Side note, the game save from the demo carries over into the full version, so time spent playing it isn’t wasted! Such a cool feature. Keep doing that, @AtlusUSA!


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Comics: The Emerald City Comicon took place this past weekend, and after being snubbed for a couple of years in a row, I got smart and bought my tickets about six months early. It seemed a little absurd at the time, but considering how early the show sells out, I'm glad that I did.


The event took place in the Washington State Convention Center this year, and it was enormous. Although I don't think there were as many exhibitors as something like PAX, this was the most crowded I've ever seen it, and it certainly felt very PAX-like when walking around. It wasn't too bad when we got there early in the morning, but by noontime it was becoming quite tough to make it through the crowds, especially with my youngest son still in a wheelchair with a broken leg.

(His cast comes off soon, hooray!)

Interestingly, the female presence was quite strong this year. As we walked through the artist areas, it seemed like the majority of artist there were women. I don't have any hard numbers but this was an awesome trend, and I hope it continues. It's great to see more diversity in terms of who's holding the pencils and writing the stories!

Along the same lines, the female presence overall was quite strong. My wife commented to me that she noticed tons of women who were there of their own accord, and not as some guy’s girlfriend or tag-along, and I was thinking the exact same thing. As someone who grew up in a time when it was unheard of for girls to play games or read comics, it's pretty awesome to see how quickly the opposite sex is making up ground. I'm sure there’s still a long way to go, but the progress I've seen so far is quite heartening.

Anyway, here are some pics of what we saw and did...





We planned to get my son the zombie fanatic a shirt here, but strangely, none of the designs were that great. Also kind of overpriced. Bummer! 





No matter what anybody says, the Army of Two games are stupid fun times if you're playing with a buddy. My wife and I enjoy them, and it was cool to see the bros 'bumping on the floor. 


 

 Pretty sure she was cosplaying from Saga, but not 100% sure. Anybody know?




 Always good to see a nicely-done Rorshach like this. So cool. 





It's tough to make out the details here, but this is a hand-drawn pic of the Doctor Who companions. It's just beautiful in person, and is a complement to a similar drawing we bought last year featuring the Doctors. This awesome piece was done by Charlie Donkin (here's his Etsy page) and he's a hella nice guy, to boot. 




 This piece featuring Mass Effect's Reapers is stunning. The one based on Shadow of the Colossus  below is just as fantastic, and both were bought for a song. Click on over to Gillian Newland's website if you want to own these for yourself - and why wouldn't you??





This is a small booth the famous 501st Legion had set up as a fundraiser of some sort. You kicked in a few bucks and got to take some shots at Empire scum... It was awesomely fun times, and when my son scored the headshot you can see here (look close at the right trooper's eye) the crowd around roared with cheers and applause.   




The size of this flamethrower just blew me away. 




Speaking of large accessories...




My son spotted a couple who had fabricated their own Daft Punk masks, and he was dying to get his picture taken with them. We lost them in the crowd and had searched fruitlessly for an hour or so, and were just about to leave the show when they appeared out of nowhere and we finally caught up with them. They were quite nice people and they offered to let our son wear the silver mask... His grin afterwards was the highlight of my day.

THE EMERALD CITY COMICON IS GOOD TIMES!!!





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Nicalis, Inc., developer and publisher of independently awesome video games, announces the action-platform game 1001 Spikes is coming to Xbox One® in addition to the previously announced PlayStation®4, PlayStation®Vita, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and PC versions.

About 1001 Spikes

Discover the lost treasures of Ukampa in South America as Aban Hawkins searches for his estranged father, world-famous archaeologist Jim Hawkins. Before the elder Hawkins mysteriously disappeared, he entrusted his daughter Tina with a map to the location of the ruins with a grave warning that death awaits around every corner. Aban Hawkins races into the frozen tundra of the antarctic, undiscovered temple ruins, and the vast caverns of South America in search of his father and the legendary treasure rumored to lie behind the Golden Door of Poko-Mum.

Game Features: Tough-as-nails difficulty, Pixel-perfect, razor-sharp controls, Clever-yet-insidious game design, Single and simultaneous 2-4 player co-op and vs. multiplayer! 8-bit inspired visuals with current gen flare, Soundtrack by Misoka and Rushjet1, Over a dozen unlockable characters with different abilities, some as featured friends from other games, Over 100 stages to clear, Three save files, and Multiple endings.
1001 Spikes continues Nicalis’ partnerships with ultra-talented and super-awesome independent developers. Previously Nicalis has teamed up with Edmund McMillen (The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth), Studio Pixel (Cave Story, Ikachan), Nicklas Nygren (NightSky), Hotapen (Legend of Raven) and Terry Cavanagh (VVVVVV).

More information can be found on the official website at http://nicalis.com


Idea Factory International is excited to announce that Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1, a new installment of the long-loved fan favorite RPG series, Hyperdimension Neptunia, will be released on PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system in the North American and European markets in the late summer of this year. Hyperdimension NeptuniaRe;Birth1 is a remake of Hyperdimension Neptunia™, which was previously released for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system in 2011. Renewed event conversations, graphics, and newly added game mechanics will entertain fans who have already played the PlayStation3 version of Hyperdimension Neptunia as well as newcomers to the series. More detailed information regarding the release method and the release date will be available soon!


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Monday, March 24, 2014

Yep, still on Dark Souls II...  

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Games: I don't usually like to go so long between updates to the blog, but there just hasn't been a lot to say, games-wise. As you may have guessed, I'm still hip-deep in Dark Souls II, and since I've been devoting every free moment I have to it, there hasn’t been a lot of time for other game-related stuff.




If you follow me on Twitter then you’ve probably already gotten sick of me talking about it incessantly, but in case you haven't… Well, the game is just fantastic, and nearly everything I wanted from a Demon’s Souls sequel is in here. All of the design decisions and changes to the formula are ones that I like, and I've been eating it all up with a spoon.

At the moment, I'm just at the entrance of Black Gulch, and this seems to be the last part I need to explore before moving on to Drangleic Castle. There may be a few other parts to go through that I'm not aware of yet, but as far as I can tell, I've exhausted every other option and it feels a bit as though the game is starting to head towards a conclusion. At this point I've put in over 55 hours, and with most other titles I'd be howling for it to come to an end. However, this is the rare occasion when I'm genuinely happy to for the adventure to continue on, and that's quite a feat for any title -- I can count the number of times I've said it on one hand.




To be fair, I've spoken to a few people who have more love for Dark Souls than I do, and I've gotten a sense of resistance or disappointment from them -- and hey, that's fine. Everyone's experience is personal, and far be it from me to criticize someone for liking something that they enjoy. But, as someone who felt very disappointed with Dark, this sequel absolutely atones for the sins that I felt it committed, and all is forgiven.

If I have any disappointment about Dark Souls II (and believe me, there's not much) it's that some of the bosses were not quite up to par in terms of awesomeness, and some of the weapons that you can make from the boss souls don't seem that great. Of course, I haven't tried them all and I haven't leveled the ones I have up enough to be truly effective, but just a quick scan of the options gave me the impression that most offerings would not suit my playstyle, and I ended up consuming at least half of them to increase my levels.




Other than those two extremely minor quibbles, I'm having a hard time coming up with criticisms. In my view, it really is one of the few sequels that improves on its predecessor in every way, and the experience overall is much more positive than I had with Dark.

I'll be doing the Second Opinion review for @Gamecritics after Kristin turns in her Main, but my final evaluation shouldn't come as a surprise. Unless the game takes some kind of incredibly horrific wrong turn in its final hours, this will end up being a stellar experience that has easily eclipsed the original Dark. I've got no substantial criticisms of this entry, and would also highly recommend it to anyone who's been curious about the series but hasn't jumped in yet. It still provides quite a bit of challenge, but offers enough accommodations and accessibility so that it doesn't feel nearly as offputting as previous installments might have.


Dark Souls II is just fantastic, fantastic stuff, and it's got my absolute seal of recommendation so far.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Deadrock Divide, MonkeyPaw Quicklooks, and a check-in  

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Book: just got word from my publisher that the release date of my new book Speaking In Forked Tongues has been pushed back just a hair. The original release was 3/25, but it’s now 4/11. I’ll have more news on it as it comes, but for those of you interested, mark it on your calendars!

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Games: For a little change of pace tonight, I’ve got some brief coverage of two titles from @MonkeyPawGames. They’ve been bringing Japanese titles over to the US PSN store, and although they’re not doing any translation, it’s still neat to see some of these. Both of these were covered by Paul Stuart, a new writer with us over at @Gamecritics, so thanks to Paul for the evaluations!





Tomba 2

As a tremendous supporter of the original Tomba PSN classic, I was eager to stroll down memory lane for its sequel. There’s something ridiculously engaging about a peculiar pink haired caveman with an affinity for defeating evil pigs.

While certain titles can overcome language barriers, Tomba 2 is unfortunately not one of them.
Unlike its predecessor, Tomba 2 is very menu heavy, with literally every interaction requiring some grasp of Japanese-based menu selection. I tried my darndest to overcome this obstacle but failed miserably.  A shame, as the game appeared a significant graphical leap over the original.

Hopefully the English version previously released in 1999 will appear sooner rather than later.





Wolf Fang

Although Wolf Fang is also in Japanese, it fares better than Tomba 2 in that it’s a little clearer in execution. To best describe Wolf Fang, it’s a videogame version of the ‘giant robot’ genre so prominent in Japanese anime.

While trying to read between the Japanese lines, one can select a uniquely configured mech and Oceania battle location, each featuring an end of stage big boss. Combat occurs while piloting the selected mech. After taking significant damage you’re forced to eject and go it alone, a single puny person against the Western Hemisphere. Gather enough people, however, and it’s robot time once more. I think. I couldn’t perfectly decipher the nuances of this mechanic sans context.

Time to learn Japanese, Stuart-san.

Resembling other sidescrollers of the PS1 era, Wolf Fang is certainly no walk in the park. Expect to die often, reset in mech form. Controls, however, are fairly tight in both human and mech modes, thus – while frustrating at times due to difficulty – it’s arguably never unfair.

Once again, thanks to Paul Stuart for the quick looks.

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Previews: Recently, I took a quick trip to @BootsnakeGames to take a look at their upcoming title, Deadrock Divide


Although there's not a lot of info on it right now, what I was seeing looked really positive. Essentially, it seems to marry elements of XCOM and FTL. Considering how popular and well-received those titles were, it seems as though these guys are drawing from good sources of inspiration.


The game is still quite early and I wasn't able to do a hands-on, but the brief walk-through they were kind enough to share with me showed an in-game economy between miners in space, and the ability to customize ground troops and ships while navigating through the universe. Basically, you fly around and trade for goods, and then when boarding another ship, being boarded, or landing in a given area, it switches to XCOM style tactics. More info on this one as it comes, but it seems to be one to watch out for. 


Also, you might want to check out their previous game, Containment: The Zombie Puzzler. It was one of my favorite titles of the year when it came out, and it definitely didn't receive as much love as it deserved. In a nutshell, it's a match-three with zombies, featuring a light storyline and environmental interactions. Fantastic stuff.

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Games: Oh, so what have I actually been playing? Good question. 




At the moment, I am pretty much consumed with Dark Souls II. I think I'm somewhere around 30 or 35 hours, taking my time to comb the areas thoroughly, and farming certain sections when I get the opportunity. Progress is still coming quite steady, and I've been enjoying all of the different areas so far. This is pretty much the best possible sequel I couldn't have asked for, so I'm trying not to rush through it.

Since every moment of console time is going to Souls II right now, the only other thing I'm dipping into is (what else?) Marvel Puzzle Quest. The developers have made a lot of cool, interesting changes and there's still quite a bit of content to chew on there. I played it maniacally for about the first three months, but it's finally starting to loosen its hold on me a bit. I still play daily, but it's not the feverish obsession that it was. I'm probably in a healthier place with it right now.
This is also probably a good time to do a quick Monster Hunter check-in. The wife has been progressing through Freedom Unite on the Vita at a good clip. I wasn't sure how much assistance she would need in order to get rolling, but she's needed very little. The big issue was that I knew she was a little disappointed that the Switch Axe wasn't in the game, but she's been getting in the Long Sword groove quickly, and I've been quite impressed at her accomplishments so far. At the moment, I think she's trying to clear the Tigrex, and she's just about got it down. For being the first big difficulty wall in the game, she's definitely up to the challenge. 




********************PR/NEWS/INFO********************



I am thou. Thou art I. From the sea of our souls come new games in the Persona series. That's right, the time has come for the Velvet Room to open once again, so dust off those Social Links and keep an eye out for blue butterflies - ATLUS' acclaimedPersona series is returning to North America with completely new games for this year and beyond. 

pqPersona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth (Fall 2014) -- You got Persona in my Etrian! You got Etrian in my Persona! Well, you're right on both counts. Persona Q is a cross-over for the Nintendo 3DS™ system that brings Persona 3 and 4 characters to the gameplay style of Etrian Odyssey. It also marks the first time the Persona franchise will be available on a Nintendo system. 
Characters from Persona 3 and 4 have been given a complete visual overhaul to match the Etrian style and plunged into an alternate world resembling Yasogami High School. Legend has it that listening to the end of the bell chimes of Yasogami High's clock tower causes people to die, and this time the bell tolls for the Investigation Team and the SEES. Trapped in an other-world filled with Shadows, the protagonists from Persona 3 and Persona 4 each have different events to follow, allowing the player to choose and experience two different plotlines. As both groups seek a way out of the labyrinth, they will run in to two new characters, Rei and Zen, who may hold the secret to this new mystery.

p4auPersona 4 Arena Ultimax (Fall 2014) -- Arc System Works is bringing the sequel to the award-winning tournament fighter Persona 4 Arena to the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and Xbox 360® in 2014! A few days after the P-1 Grand Prix concludes in the first Arenatitle, the city of Inaba gets enveloped in a thick red fog and Mitsuru, Akihiko, Fuuka, and Aigis are shown as prisoners on the MidnightChannel. The Investigation Team from Persona 4 and former SEES fromPersona 3 must once again fight to their limits in the new P-1 Climax tournament to rescue them and finally uncover the true culprit behind the deadly tournaments. 
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax will improve on the award-winning fighting game formula with battle-altering 1-hit special attacks and new characters, including Yukari Takeba and Junpei Iori from Persona 3 and a brand new character, Sho Minazuki. Not a lot is known about Sho other than his goofy nature and being an unstoppable force in both puns and combat. Two swords, two scars on his face, red hair and red mist in Inaba? Surely it can't be coincidence that he's standing in the way of the Investigation Team. And to make matters worse, it seems he can control a Persona...

p4danPersona 4: Dancing All Night (2015) -- Funky Student isn't funky enough to bust a move with Rise and the rest of the Persona 4 crew inPersona 4: Dancing All Night for the PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system. The summer following the events in Persona 4sees Rise return to Inaba after spending the summer back in her old life as an idol. After hearing rumors about the Midnight Stage, she checks a certain website at midnight and sees a mysterious movie clip and, you guessed it, winds up on the "other side." Worse yet, she finds out her junior idol peers from the group Kanamin Kitchen are missing as well. She has no choice but to send an SOS to the Investigation Team to help rescue the missing idols. 
Not even Riddle-senpai could have seen this twist coming: Normal battle tactics don't work against the Shadows on the Midnight Stage, but dancing does! Rise, the Protagonist, and the rest of the Investigation Team will have to dance their way to victory. 30 pulse-thumping tracks make up the new Persona Sound in this rhythm-based action game. P4DAN is made in collaboration with Dingo Inc., the company behindHatsune Miku: Project DIVA (PlayStation®Portable). 

p5Persona 5 (2015) -- This is it. The big one. The latest true continuation of the award-winning Persona series will make its debut in North America on the PlayStation 3 in 2015. 
More details about the games and their launch timing will be revealed in the coming months. You can get all the latest by liking ATLUS on Facebook, following @AtlusUSA on Twitter, or subscribing to the ATLUSYouTube channel, and get updates by signing up to be part of theATLUS Faithful Newsletter.

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Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. announced new details for METAL GEAR SOLID V: GROUND ZEROES.  As launch day nears, KONAMI is releasing new details around one of the year’s most anticipated games.

First, it was revealed that those who purchase METAL GEAR SOLID V: GROUND ZEROES early on will receive exclusive DLC for use within THE PHANTOM PAIN. The DLC will only be available in the first batch of the retail version and for a limited period of time for the digital version. The DLC provides players with additional resources for a Mother Base area that will be available in THE PHANTOM PAIN. Mother Base is introduced during the events of GROUND ZEROES and plays a central role in the forthcoming METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN. Unlocked through downloadable code, the added staff for Mother Base will give GROUND ZEROES players an edge when they take on THE PHANTOM PAIN.

In addition, anyone that purchases GROUND ZEROES will be able to unlock exclusive content within the game to carry-over to THE PHANTOM PAIN. Prisoners of war and VIPs rescued in GROUND ZEROS will be added to the Mother Base staff in THE PHANTOM PAIN, providing GROUND ZEROES players an early in-game advantage; character skins will also be able to be carried over.

METAL GEAR SOLID V: GROUND ZEROES will also bring the game to life by featuring a second-screen iDROID app, which replicates Big Boss’ in-game communication/map device. Downloadable via iOS, Android and Xbox Smart Glass systems for FREE, the iDROID app syncs the main action to a secondary device. Users can call up maps, summon air support, or play any of the cassette tapes found throughout Camp Omega.

Last, KONAMI has also announced that it will offer both physical and digital versions of METAL GEAR SOLID V: GROUND ZEROES for the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system and Xbox One, the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft, for an SRP of $29.99. Bringing pricing in-line with the “current generation” price, KONAMI aims to provide as many people as possible an opportunity to experience Kojima Productions’ FOX Engine and the first installment in the two-part METAL GEAR SOLID V experience. METAL GEAR SOLID V: GROUND ZEROES for PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft will remain at the SRP of $29.99 for retail and via download for SRP $19.99.

METAL GEAR SOLID V: GROUND ZEROES will be available in retail stores nationwide and online beginning March 18, 2014

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Piranha Bytes, the creators of acclaimed RPG titles Gothic and Risen, return to their origins with a new, classic RPG set to launch this year,  Risen 3: Titan Lords. Inthe third installment of the Risen franchise,  Risen 3: Titan Lords pulls players into a hand-crafted role-playing world full of rugged charm where every decision changes the course of the story and your fate, and the fate of the world, is up for the taking.  Risen 3: Titan Lords is set for releasein August 2014 for PC and consoles.
Once again, PiranhaBytes delivers enticingly lush and vivid worlds in  Risen 3: Titan Lords   , and true to their roots as leading European RPG developers gives fans the freedom to explore it. The world of  Risen 3: Titan Lords   promises to be diverse, authentic and full of life, providing the player with an authentic, classic RPG experience.


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XSEED Games, the independent-minded console publishing brand of Marvelous USA, Inc., today announced that the company will be releasing the flashy, wild action RPG title, AKIBA’S TRIP: Undead & Undressed, on the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system in summer 2014. Released as AKIBA’S TRIP 2 in Japan, the all new standalone story in AKIBA’S TRIP: Undead & Undressed takes players on an eclectic trip through Tokyo’s “Electric Town” electronics district in which they will battle vampire-like foes in over-the-top, highly stylized role-playing action.

 In AKIBA’S TRIP: Undead & Undressed, players work to repel a brooding malevolence that has suffused Tokyo’s popular electronics district, Akihabara (Akiba for short), which has been painstakingly remodeled in the game to resemble its real life counterpart. Akiba has been invaded by creatures known as “Synthisters” who prey on the otaku patrons of Akihabara like vampires, but feast on their will to live and energy to socialize rather than their blood. Only direct exposure to sunlight can destroy the Synthisters, and it’s up to players to ensure that that’s just what they get. If only it weren’t for those pesky clothes protecting them from the sun’s harmful rays…

 That’s where players come in. It’s their task to roam this sanctuary of anime and gaming fanatics, identify the outwardly human Synthisters with the help of a handy smartphone app, and then beat and pull at them until they’ve been relieved of their clothes, exposing them to sunlight and sending them to the netherworld. Everyday objects from baseball bats to comic books to motherboards can be used as weapons, and players can take their enemies’ unique clothing for their own personal use as well.

AKIBA’S TRIP: Undead & Undressed tells the story of a young man named Nanashi who was lured into a trap and transformed into one of the walking undead. Lucky enough to be spared the worst of his fate by the kiss of a mysterious Synthister hunter named Shizuku, Nanashi is sworn to rid Akihabara of the Synthister threat. Together with the rest of his companions in an organization unofficially dubbed the “Akiba Freedom Fighters,” Nanashi and Shizuku must uncover the truth behind the Synthister plague and save Akiba from being overrun by their kind. 

Developed in Japan by ACQUIRE and receiving a Gold Award by Famitsu upon its Japanese release, AKIBA’S TRIP: Undead & Undressed will be released in summer 2014 by XSEED Games in North America on the PlayStation®3 system and PS®Vita. XSEED Games will share more information in the coming months. This title has not yet been rated by theESRB.

For more information on XSEED Games products, please visit: www.xseedgames.com. Fans can also follow XSEED Games on Facebook and Twitter.

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Some say Hitler shot himself in a bunker in Berlin in 1945. Others believe he fell to a sniper bullet two years earlier during a secret trip to North Africa. Or was it his double? Decide for yourself when you get your hands on Sniper Elite 3’s pre-order bonus “Hunt The Grey Wolf.”

Hitler, Allied code name “Grey Wolf”, and his double have embarked upon a clandestine trip to the Libyan port town of Tobruk in 1942. In order to prepare for this mission, and that crucial final shot, you must infiltrate the ancient streets and crumbling rooftops of the German-held town using stealth and distraction. Featuring an expansive open environment, and randomized target identities, journals and locations, no two playthroughs will be the same.  The question is – can you tell fact from fiction, the real target from the double?

You can pre-order Sniper Elite 3 at GameStop http://www.gamestop.com/collection/sniper-elite-3 or other major retailers. The collector’s edition for  Xbox One, the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft and the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system features a limited edition ammo tin box, dossier, three exclusive ammo and weapon DLC packs, collectible playing cards, sniper shooting range target, dog tag and a bullet-shaped torch pen.

The latest chapter in the award winning series, Sniper Elite 3 takes players to the unforgiving yet exotic terrain of WWII’s North Africa conflict in a battle against a deadly new foe. Sniper Elite 3 will release at retail in North America on July 1, 2014 for Xbox One, Xbox360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®4 system and PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system. The game will also release digitally on July 1 for Xbox Live online entertainment network from Microsoft for Xbox One, Xbox360 and PlayStation®Network for both PlayStation®4 system and PlayStation®3 system. The PC version, which is being self-published by Rebellion, will release on June 27.

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Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. has announced details of its upcoming extensive new DLC for CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW 2.

Entitled ‘Revelations’, the new content will be released on March 25 for Xbox Live Games on Demand and PlayStation®Network, and follows fan-favorite Alucard as exclusive new branches of the immersive storyline are uncovered. Alucard, the turned son of Gabriel, has shunned human life for many years, choosing to hunt only creatures of the night. The DLC takes place just before the apocalyptic events of CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW 2, where Alucard readies for his father’s return and the forthcoming battle against Satan. As the plot unfolds, it begins to reveal how the lone vampire is inextricably linked to his father’s fate.

‘Revelations’ takes place within the epic world seen in CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW 2. Playing as Alucard, gamers must discover the legendary vampire’s secrets, unearth the true extent of his involvement in Dracula’s story, and set in motion the events of CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW 2. The DLC expands the incredible story of the recently-released sequel, with the fate of the Belmont clan unveiled. Alucard has his own unique, powerful abilities, including use of the Glaciem and Igneas powers, in addition to vampiric abilities which allow him to transform into a wolf, a swarm of bats and even turn back time. Blood also fuels capabilities, as drinking the blood of enemies will intensify immortal powers.

CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW 2 is available now on the Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft, Xbox Live Games on Demand, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, PlayStation®Network, and Steam® for PC.  Its sumptuous 3D world and epic quest are now enhanced and extended with all-new locations, and the chance to experience familiar ones, via the ‘Revelations’ DLC available on March 25th for Xbox Live Games on Demand and PlayStation®Network.

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Today, Genius Sonority, publisher of interactive software, is proud to announce the downloadable title, THE DENPA MEN 3: THE RISE OF DIGITOLL, for the Nintendo 3DS platform for release in the summer of 2014.

About The 'Denpa' Men 3: The Rise of Digitoll
THE 'DENPA' MEN 3 is the third game in the expansive RPG series where players catch and form parties with Denpa Men to conquer dungeons and explore a vast world. In the third iteration, the Denpa Men you are trying to capture can now fight back by throwing colored balls at you, but players have new weapons at their disposal such as an antenna to capture Denpa Men.

The Denpa Men are mysterious creatures who appear around radio waves. Find Wi-Fi signals or scan QR codes to find Denpa Men, and use the AR “Catch” feature of the Nintendo 3DS to make them part of your team. Each Denpa Man is unique in its appearance, stats, and abilities. The possibilities of their variations are limitless. It is also said that among them exists a very rare kind of Denpa Man.

Official THE 'DENPA' MEN 3 Trailer:
http://youtu.be/Dwd-8rt6kuA

THE 'DENPA' MEN 2: Beyond the Waves eShop sale
In celebration of THE 'DENPA' MEN 3 coming to North America, we are proud to announce that THE 'DENPA' MEN 2: Beyond the Waves is going on sale for a limited time in North America & Europe: 3/6 ~ 3/13

Demo
A demo for THE 'DENPA' MEN 3 will be available in May. In addition to giving players a sneak peek of the game, it will allow them to transfer their progress to the full version upon release. Note that the demo version can only be booted up thirty times.

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It’s time for Guacamelee! fans to return to fighting form as DrinkBox Studios today announces that it will bring its award-winning action-platformer to the PlayStation®4 system, the Xbox One all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft, the Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft, as well as the Wii U™ system from Nintendo. Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition - which is among the first indie titles scheduled to launch via Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program for independent game developers on Xbox One - will feature a bevy of new content, including an extended story with new game areas, a new boss character, powerful new player abilities and many other enhancements.

New Features for the Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition Include:

·       Expanded Story: An expanded version of the game that includes DLC content from the original
·       New Game Areas: Players will ride boats through the Canal of Flowers to save a besieged fishing town, and avoid lava as they climb through the fiery Volcano
·       New Boss: Face off against The Trio of Death, a three-headed skeleton that lives in the Volcano, helping the evil Carlos Calaca build his skeleton armies
·       New Abilities: Maximize destruction with the powerful new INTENSO combat mode.  Plus: Chicken Bombs and Independent Dimension Swapping
·       New Enemies: Lethal new elite-class enemies that want to chokeslam luchadores to sleep
·       Support for multiple save slots  
·       Dual currency system that supports permanent item unlocks

As an added bonus, DrinkBox has released a brand new teaser trailer showing off some of Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition’s features, available at:

Set in and around a small village in Mexico, Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition is an action-packed, 2D brawler/platformer that alternates between the worlds of the living and the dead. Inspired by Mexican folklore, players take control of a down-on-his luck wrestler named Juan Aguacate, as he fights through hordes of undead enemies and skeleton henchmen to stop the evil Carlos Calaca from gaining ultimate power by sacrificing the beautiful "El Presidente's Daughter”. The Xbox 360 version of Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition is not yet rated by the ESRB. All other digital versions rated E10+. For rating information, please visit www.esrb.org.

For more information regarding Guacamelee! STCE please visit the game’s website, or DrinkBox Studios’ Facebook andTwitter pages.
  
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Eye For Games' is proud to announce our upcoming art and interview book “The Art and Design of Video Games,” which will be available for pre-order starting Monday, February 24th.

Quick facts:
- The book will feature 25+ developers.
- Over 250 pages of content.
- Developers of all sizes and genres are featured.

Book details
“The Art and Design of Video Games”
Author: Eye For Games
Publisher: Galilee
Pages: 250+
Format: Hardcover

Pre-order
The art book will be available for a discounted price at http://hardcover.efgmagazine.com/ starting Monday, February 24th.
Price: €35 / $48
This price includes taxes and international shipping and handling costs.

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Midnight City, indie label of Majesco Entertainment Company(NASDAQ: COOL), an innovative provider of games for the mass market, has joined forces with two of the most well-known names in indie games. First up, Midnight City will publish Double Fine Productions’ first big sequel, Costume Quest 2, coming to PC and consoles. Next, Midnight City will bring The Fullbright Company’s award-winning Gone Home to consoles. Both titles are slated for digital release later this year.

In Double Fine’s triumphant return to Auburn Pines, our candy-crazed crusaders Wren and Reynold must once again protect Halloween from untold horrors, and grown-ups! Your favorite trick-or-treaters will come armed with a new batch of costumes they wear to transform into giant super powered fantasy Hallowarriors. Yeah, we totally just made that up. Fans of the original can look forward to a sweet upgraded battle system and a story that is unmistakably Double Fine.

The Fullbright Company’s runaway hit Gone Home is making the highly-anticipated move to console, bringing the explorative Greenbriar family experience to a whole new audience. Heralded as one of the best games of 2013, Gone Home extends an invitation into an ordinary family’s mysterious past as a young woman who discovers an empty house that's much more than it seems.

Costume Quest 2 and Gone Home join Midnight City’s growing roster of indie titles alongside handcrafted puzzler The Bridge, the infamous madness-inducing Slender: The Arrival, and innovative minimalist e-sport VIDEOBALL.

Check out the announcement trailers for both titles on the official Midnight City YouTube channel:http://www.youtube.com/user/MidnightCityEnt
Follow Midnight City:
Twitter: @Midnight_City https://twitter.com/Midnight_City

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We've been telling you about the Conception II package that's going to come with a CD soundtrack for a while now. And guess what! We actually have a sample of some of the music available for you to watch and listen right now, right here:

We would be remiss to not point out the sample soundtrack mix is an excellent music choice for  perusing the full website, which just launched today! Complete with character descriptions, back story, explanations of the game's combat systems and more, you can check out the full site here: http://www.atlus.com/conception2 
   
Don't forget! The demo is coming on March 25, and pre-orders are guaranteed to receive the limited collector's edition! 


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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dark Souls II  

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I'd planned to post a new blog every night for the last week or so, and then the same thing happened to me every time: I'd sit down to play Dark Souls II before starting any writing, and then it'd be 2AM before I knew it...


If you're reading this blog, then there's a pretty good chance that you're already playing the game yourself, but if you don't have a copy and you're the sort of person who's inclined towards this experience, I can certainly say that it's well worth your time and attention. Well, after the 15-ish hours I've seen so far, anyway.

As context, a quick summary of my history with the series:



King's Field: The Ancient City
First, I played all of the King's Field games released in the states. The first two showed much promise but were quite rough, but the third, The Ancient City (my review here) really brought it all together and set the stage for what was to come.   



Demon's Souls
I then got a review copy of Demon's Souls prior to release, and played through that two and a half times before it hit retail. It was a fantastic, genuinely revolutionary experience, and it went on to become one of my favorite titles of all time. My full review is here



Dark Souls: Some Bullshit is Ahead
Then Dark Souls came out, and although many people say it's the better game, I have to disagree. Although it certainly has good points and the first half of the game is strong, I was quite disappointed with it overall. You can read my in-depth thoughts on that game here, but basically, it felt like the developers ran out of time and/or money before it was done, and I had some issues with its design in general. This was also a pre-release experience, and there were no FAQs or Wikis at the time.



After feeling so down on Dark, I wasn't sure if the series would be able to recapture the magic for me. But as of right now, I'm quite happy to say that Dark Souls II has hit a delicious sweet spot, and I've been enjoying it quite a bit more than its immediate predecessor.

Although the basic gist of Dark II is the same, it feels quite a bit different thanks to some significant tweaks and changes in the design. 


For example, the world here makes much more sense to me. I was never able to buy into the idea that so many different factions and powerful beings would be crammed one on top of the other as they were in Dark Souls, and although the developers pulled off some neat tricks with the way the shortcuts worked, the world was something that I couldn't fully buy into.

I also felt like there were several points in Dark where the developers were actively trolling the player, such as the archers on the buttress supports in Anor Londo, or how some areas were nearly impossible to find without outside assistance. It just didn't feel as though the correct level of challenge and respect for the player were there. That trolling feeling has not been present (so far) in Dark II, and I appreciate that.

Otherwise, I'm finding that I really enjoy the new world design. Although everything is still essentially in one big massive land, the way that the areas relate to each other feels more "realistic"  and believable, and it feels like nothing so much as a hybrid of Demon's and Dark in that there are shortcuts and interconnectedness, but there's also enough linearity to keep the player from feeling hopelessly lost, even though there are points where confusion can set in.



I'm finding other changes to the formula to be positive, as well -- for instance, the player gets the ability to fast-travel between any bonfire right off the bat, which helps a ton and makes the game feel like less of a slog getting from one place to another.

I'm also a fan of the way the game removes enemies from the environment after they've been killed certain number of times. It prevents infinite farming for those who would abuse it and gives the player a bit of tension from knowing that the amount of souls are limited, but also gets rid of annoyances for players who are simply going to an area multiple times. For example, I found myself stuck at the boss of No-Man's Wharf for a while until I figured out a good strategy, and having to kill the same pirate zombies over and over was just an annoyance. Right about the time I was getting totally sick of it, the game removed them from the level and I was able to quickly run to my objective --  a big relief.

As far as the multi goes, I haven't spent any time with other players at all. I'm on the 360, and if you start a party chat then it prevents the game from going online, which also means that it prevents anyone from invading. I plan to dip into that after I've had a proper go at the main adventure, but the thought of being interrupted at any time when I'm in the middle of trying to make some progress is the opposite of appealing.

In general, I'm quite impressed with Dark Souls II and I like it a lot more than the original Dark. Of course, there's still a long road ahead of me and there's plenty of time for the game to go astray, but all of the design decisions seem headed in the right direction, and the "feel" of the game is right where I would want it.

Worst goddamned thing in any Souls game, ever. 
As long as that stupid Frampt from Dark doesn't make an appearance, I'm guessing this is going to end up getting a big, big thumbs up.

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