A struggle for survival has never been so beautiful.

After recently beginning my third play through of The Last Of Us, and subsequently having cried for the third time after seeing Sarah’s death scene again, I had a rush of emotion and reinforcement of realization that The Last Of Us is a masterpiece that I love, and simply just want to speak about.

When I think about the cultural masterpiece that is The Last Of Us, I don’t have the word characters in my mind. I have the word people floating around. I have Joel, Ellie as well as other people that we meet throughout the game in my thoughts, the same way that I think about friends or family, and this is the product of absolutely stellar writing and video game craftsmanship. Neil Druckman, alongside all the crew at Naughty Dog were able to make me, as well as millions of others across the globe actually care about the people within this game through a platter of reasons such the incredible performance given by voice actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, as well as the constant, captivating fight for survival that these characters must endure. In addition, the relentless and vicious nature of the world that this lovable duo must live through, only has the player on the edge of their seat, praying for the pair to come through untouched after each and every encounter. Through all of this, an honest, true to the world and down-right excellent soundtrack helps the player to become immersed in this seemingly real world. And it also helps to make Joel, Ellie, as well as many other members of the cast come across as real people.

 

There are probably hundreds of aspects of The Last Of Us that somebody could analyse and praise, however the one thing that sticks out to me as perhaps the most memorable aspect of the Last Of Us, is the development of Joel and Ellie’s Father and Daughter like relationship, throughout the experience. Twenty years before the main events of The Last Of Us take place, and also twenty years before Joel and Ellie actually meet. Before the apocalypse even began, Joel had a daughter named Sarah, and of course, Sarah is killed right as the infection is first beginning in a devastating, and emotional scene which sets the brutal and gritty tone for The Last Of Us. Now when Joel meets Ellie for the first time, it is because he is taking on a job to escort Ellie across America in search of a group of Fireflies that are based at a particular hospital. They don’t know each other and there certainly is not an emotional attachment between the two. It’s a job that Joel doesn’t particularly want to do but nonetheless needs to get it done. Throughout the earlier stages of the Last Of Us, Joel comes across as ignorant towards Ellie. It’s apparent that he doesn’t want to be travelling with her, and it almost seems like he actually dislikes her, as he disregards any good that she does for the pair. He even goes as far as to show anger towards her when she saves his life. She’s effectively a burden on his life,  however as events unfold and the violent nature of modern America soaks into the pair, a tightened relationship begins to unfold, as the pair become emotionally attached. Furthermore this attachment only expands unto the player as they become emotionally attached to both Joel and Ellie. It’s an infectious emotion that holds a trickledown effect which is triggered by Naughty Dog’s masterpiece. The triggering of emotion is something that happens frequently throughout The Last Of Us. The developers  and writers behind this game masterfully crafted a fragile relationship which could be vanquished at any given time. This realisation causes the player to genuinely care for the characters within this game. The trickledown effect that I just mentioned returns. As the game progresses, Joel begins to protect and care for Ellie as if it was his own child, and us as the players then begin to care for Joel and Ellie as if they were our responsibility.

 

I speak about beauty within character formation and emotional attachment, however beauty exists within The Last Of Us and Joel and Ellie’s struggle for survival simply within the environments that the player, Joel and Ellie explore. Post-apocalyptic  America as depicted within The Last Of Us gets a coating from all four of the seasons. Starting with Summer, and ending with Spring. Through all four of these seasons we see harmonious and elegant areas. From lush woodland which Ellie witnesses first hand for the first time, to abandoned overgrown universities and Spore-infested subway tunnels. The gorgeous environments that you get the pleasure of traversing contrast with the horrors that inhabit them.  However I feel like the seasons entwine with Joel and Ellie’s developing Father and Daughter like relationship. As I mentioned, The Last Of Us begins in the Summer and ends in the Spring, and during the adventure, Joel and Ellie go from being total strangers whom have no love for each other, to the pair becoming so closely bonded. I feel that in terms of weather and the seasons themselves, Summer is the least harsh, and perhaps the most pleasant when it comes to survival. It is a time where wild-life and nature is thriving most. I feel that this translates to Joel and Ellie’s relationship. When they first meet, they’re within the wall and when they leave, they face the easiest of the challenges that they face, compared with what comes later down the line. They haven’t experienced or been through much together, as a pair. Come Autumn and they’ve been through a fair share together, and thus their bond strengthens. Continuing onwards,  deep within Winter and the storyline involving David, one of the most trying times for Joel and Ellie, what is in my opinion the most emotional and biggest turning point in the developing Father and Daughter relationship occurs. Ellie survives a horrific near death experience at the hands of cannibal, David, and during the cut scene after the fight, Joel clutches Ellie to him and tells her that she’s safe, before calling her ‘baby girl’. This phrase is imperative as the only person Joel has ever said that to is his late daughter, Sarah. The building of the pairs relationship reaches what could be seen as maximum strength during the most brutal and trying time (Winter) and it brings the pair closer than ever. This relates back to what I said about the seasons, as generally speaking, Winter is the harshest of the seasons. Wild-life dies out, and the coldest conditions are in effect. The normal effects of Winter obviously effect Joel and Ellie during their journey, but it’s the way that this changes their relationship which is beautiful. Finally, Spring. During Spring, new life enters the world. Resurrection and renewal occurs. It’s essentially a reset on natures calendar. The way that this translates into Joel and Ellie’s lives is that their bond is at its peak. The tables have turned, and Joel no longer sees Ellie as a burden. Instead, it’s obvious that he very much cares for her. This is obvious as he chooses to save her life, rather than allow a vaccine to benefit the entirety of humanity, at the end of the game. From Summer to Spring, Joel has flipped his feelings for Ellie completely.

 

I don’t think I’ve ever felt raw emotion, empathy and pure love for fictional characters more than I have for Joel and Ellie. The world that they’re living in is so delicate, as is their relationship, and seeing both their world and relationship transform alongside each other is an incredible, and in my opinion unrivalled thing. I speak a lot about special games, and The Last Of Us is one of them. Raw and honest emotion hits you throughout the entirety of this journey, and it’s a journey that I will always re-visit, and cherish for the rest of my days.

Thank you Naughty Dog.

There needs to be change.

Since Islam’s beginning, millions of people have been enslaved and murdered at the hands of Muslims. Today, in the 21st century, within a first-world and what should be secure nation, girls as young as eight years old are being slaughtered at pop concerts, at the hands of violent jihadists. Almost every day, we hear about an Islamic attack on innocents somewhere in the world. In the space of just two months, we in the U.K have experienced two separate Islamic attacks in what should be a safe nation. My question is why?

 

The Islam-apologists of the left are constantly praising Islam as a religion of peace. Even immediately after twenty-two people were brutally murdered at the hands of Salman Abedi last Monday in Manchester, people flocked to the streets, and to Social Media to defend Islam. Even after the biggest mass shooting in American history at the Orlando night club in 2016, at the hands of a Muslim, people defended Islam as a religion of peace. They are wrong. Islam, is a cruel, cancerous and oppressive religion, as well as political ideology that preaches the beheading of non-believers of Islam otherwise known as the kafir, the enslavement of women to men, the persecution of homo-sexuals and many more inexcusable policies. These teachings and beliefs are all held within Islam’s doctrine. The book of Islam itself if you will, holds these beliefs and I will link them below.

“But it’s not all Muslims that are bad, it’s only a small few.”

The above statement, is completely false. There are no good Muslims, and its not just a small group of people who carry out these attacks. I don’t say that there are no good Muslims because i’m bigoted, or because I’m “racist” (that’s always a good one), I say it because those who proclaim themselves to be Islamic, without following the Quran, are not true Muslim’s at all. They are not following the religion as is intended, and in the eyes of true Muslims who do follow the Quran to the book, they should be killed. I myself have known people who follow an alternative reformed version of Islam and those people pose no threat to society. It doesn’t require much brain power to understand that these people for the most part are not a problem. The problem, is people who do follow the religion in its intended, and proper way. There is no argument about it, Islam when followed the way that the Quran intends, is a cancer upon the world. Many of us believe this, but all of us see it in reality. We all see the news headlines, the reports, the images, the videos, all of which are displaying bloodshed at the hands of Islam. Bloodshed that tears apart families, traumatizes people for the rest of their lives, and slaughters innocent people. Even after all of these atrocities people are labelled racist, bigoted and Islamophobic, simply for criticizing this ideology which is obviously plagued with serious fundamental issues. Usually it’s the people of the modern regressive-left who try to shut down anybody who dares criticize Islam, often with the words that I just mentioned. It’s funny, because Islam is not a race, so the word racist is immediately ineffective. In addition the word Islamophobia, is just a completely made up term. A phobia involves you having an irrational fear of something. I personally, don’t believe that it’s irrational to fear an ideology which hunts down and beheads non-believers, rapes women and persecutes homo-sexuals. If you do believe that it is irrational to fear those things, and believe that Islamophobia is a legitimate word then I’d say you have a mental illness.

 

Continuing onwards, every time we see a new Islamic attack, whatever nation we see effected, we see a large part of our societies reacting in a completely laughable way. Yes of course, solidarity needs to be shown through offering condolences to the families who tragically lose a loved one and by being there for eachother in every way possible. But I’m so sick of seeing the hashtag #PrayFor*insert affected country here*, and Facebook profile pictures having the flag of the affected country slapped over the top. This virtue-signalling does nothing to combat the issue of Islam in our societies and neither does ‘hugging a Muslim’. Why am I told when I express anger or outrage at each of these attacks that “Now isn’t the time for more anger and hate”? When is the appropriate time? How can we be expected to not feel anger after these tragic events. How can we be expected to just sit by idle, while we simply get used to these attacks happen, as Sadiq Khan, the Mayor Of London suggested. There needs to be more outrage at these inexcusable and cowardly attacks, aswell as more wish for change, for any good outcome to be seen. At this current moment in time, it seems that political correctness is more important to members of society aswell as our actual government than our own peoples lives. Girls as young as eight years old slaughtered and still, people sit by and simply virtue-signal, refusing to speak out about an obviously destructive ideology due to being scared of being labelled as racist, bigoted or Islamophobic. This obsession over political-correctness has to stop. At this point in time, this politically-correct, oppression obsessed regressive-left, believes that Islam can do no harm. They believe that Islam champions women’s and human’s in general rights. Muslims are their best friends, but little do they know that true Muslims absolutely despise them, aswell as their way of life.

 

We have to see policy change from our government. Simply allowing thousands of undocumented African and Syrian migrants to flock into the country unopposed, just isn’t going to cut it. We don’t even know who we’re allowing into the nation. Salman Abedi’s Father, migrated to the U.K from Libya, however was allowed to travel back and forth between the U.K and Libya to fight with the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Why was this allowed? Continuing onwards, why are their three-thousand people on terrorist watch lists in the U.K just living their lives? We have no need for them here, they have no place. Our governments need to do more and get these people out. Now is the time where people will come at me with the argument that Salman Abedi and many other terrorists are actually born in the U.K and are homegrown terrorists as people like to say. Homegrown terrorism just strengthens the argument that its the ideology which is at fault, not the nation of origin. If somebody is born in the U.K and is able to grow up surrounded by ideas and family members who encourage vile acts of terrorism in the name of Islam, then there is a serious issue at hand. More needs to be done to monitor Islam in Mosques and Prisons Our borders need to be better protected, with a better vetting process being put into place. Like I said, the time for political correctness is over. There is a serious problem at hand here. A problem which has already caused destruction beyond belief, and its time to stop this oppressive force.

 

Quotes regarding the non-believer

Quotes regarding women’s rights in Islam

Quotes regarding homosexuality

Being embarrassed about what we love, and enjoy.

Everybody is an individual. Everybody loves different things, hates different things, and everybody has defining qualities,traits and passions in their life, and it is these things that make us, well, us. So why do so many of us shy away from expressing our love for certain things in life?

 

This in’t some sort of inspirational, preach-post where I tell you all about how I let the entire world and everybody I come accross know about the things that I love, and that you should too, because I am one of the people who struggle to be completely honest about the things that I enjoy. And i’m not even talking about big or even important things. I’m talking about never mentioning random things that I enjoy to people that I know, such as my passion for Dark Souls, autumn, writings poems and random silly articles like this one here, live streaming on twitch etc. Of course some people know about the things that I deeply love, however I find myself being very cautious about who finds these things out. For example, the people that I work with, my family, and some friends will never find out about this post, because I’ll make sure that they don’t see it pop up on social-media outlets and what not. But I ask myself, why do I do that? Even if they saw this post or whatever else it could be that I’m posting, they probably wouldn’t care about it enough to read it. And even if they did, what’s the worse that could happen? They could laugh, or find it strange that I enjoy doing what I do, but I know that doesn’t matter. It’s just acting like I know, that is the hard part haha. It’s easy to make it sound so dramatic, but in reality it’s the complete opposite. I just find it so bizarre and I guess, stupid. The things that we love concoct with other factors, such as our personalities, to ultimately define us. To give us our individualism. So why shy away from it? It’s very hypocritical of me to say this as someone who as I mentioned, struggles with it myself, but I think that we should all embrace the things that we love and let that passion and love radiate off of us, for it can only do good. Keeping my biggest passions locked up for the majority of the people I come accross is just me limiting myself. I strongly feel that if I was to be more open and unafraid of who I was, then I’d be a lot more motivated, inspired and ultimately, happy.

 

In the end, i’m scared of judgement. It’s funny too, because I know all too well that this is a terrible way to live. To hide your passions away and pretend that they’re not a part of you is kind of ridiculous. I see a lot of people that I know present their passions so openly to the world. Showcasing their talent so often with no sense of shame or embarrassment is really inspiring to see, and I can only hope to use that inspiration to try to improve my own self confidence as time goes on.

Thank you, Dark Souls.

Two days ago on the 27th March, From Software released the final DLC for the final Dark Souls game ever, thus bringing the trilogy to a close. While this doesn’t mean that I won’t be playing the games anymore, delving into the lore, streaming the game etc, it does mean that there will be no more fresh content released under the Dark Souls name, and for me and many people around the world, this is the end of a special era. The goal I have in mind while I am writing this is just to talk about how I got into Dark Souls, my fondest memories of the games and anything else that crosses my mind regarding the series. Just a look back at my personal experience with The Dark Souls franchise.

 

My first time playing a Dark Souls game…

I was a very late comer into the Dark Souls universe. While the first Dark Souls game released in 2011, it wasn’t until 2015 that I first downloaded the original game after receiving it for free on Xbox Live Games With Gold. I remember I had the game installed but it wasn’t for a couple of months or so that I randomly decided to give Dark Souls a whirl. Like many people, the only thing I really knew about Dark Souls was how difficult the game was, however I had heard some good things regarding the game and I had seen some clips on YouTube of people playing. I thought it looked pretty interesting in all honesty, due to the fact that I’ve always been drawn to high/dark fantasy content. Anyway when I first began playing Dark Souls, I quickly learned that people were not lying… The game was truly difficult. I really felt my patience tested during my first times playing like I never had before with a game. Being a consumer of AAA games content in the modern era, will almost undoubtedly mean that you will be used to having your hand held through many gaming experiences. The majority of popular AAA releases ensure that the most casual gamer is catered to. Key pieces of information such as how to get to a certain location or objective or how to complete a certain objective/goal   are very often given to the player, resulting in an easier experience. Games that wholeheartedly guide players through its experience often lose the opportunity for true mystery and challenge of experiencing the unknown. Well in Dark Souls it quickly became apparent that Developers From Software did not care if players weren’t able to make it to the end of the game. The world that you find yourself in doesn’t throw itself at you, telling you everything worth knowing; it is you the player who throws themselves at the world. Trying to learn and navigate the semi-open world and master class map. Trying to come to terms with the harsh combat systems, the relentless enemies, learning how to upgrade weapons and more. Dark Souls is a game that will punish new players. And this was a new and interesting concept to me.

 

My first ever Dark Souls save which may I add never saw the end of the Ornstein And Smough fight was shall we say, a strange build. Of course being a completely new player, some of stats and weapon upgrades were questionable. With no knowledge of  scaling ratings and the like, I remember splitting many of my Soul Levels between vitality, strength and Dexterity, not bad right, While using a Morning Star which I think I upgraded to approximately +4 or +5. It was a combination of laziness and fear that led me to having the Morning Star as my main weapon of choice. You of course receive the Morning Star underneath the elevator at Firelink Shrine so this was an early game and easy to access weapon for me. As soon as I saw that it did more damage than the other two weapons in my inventory I knew, or thought, should I say, that this was the weapon to carry me through a large portion of the game. I immediately upgraded the weapon to +1 and it was at this point that the mentality of “there’s no going back” hit me. I seem to remember realizing that the Morning Star wasn’t the ‘best’ choice of weapon to upgrade, as I was seeing players on YouTube videos deal so much more damage than me during boss fights, however I was afraid of having to restart my weapon upgrade progress as this would require getting more upgrade materials in this harsh and unforgiving world, which led me to constantly upgrading the Morning Star, which I’m sure I was convinced, would deal great damage upon many upgrades. I just wanted to stick with what I knew. Using bad weapons and builds was a part of a first playthrough though, right? I hope at least anyway.

 

While the Asylum Demon and Taurus Demon were difficult fights which unsurprisingly took my noob self a few attempts to beat, it wasn’t until the Bell Gargoyle’s fight that I learned true challenge. Yes, the Undead Burg pummelled me relentlessly, as I spent days trying to traverse that one area, however in terms of boss fights, the Bell Gargoyle’s were my first real vein-popping challenge that almost made me quit the game forever, out of frustration. This time of frustration was also something that allowed me to realize and appreciate what Dark Souls did as a game though. Within the first two boss fights (Asylum and Taurus Demon), there is the opportunity for plunge attacks from high ledges, which undoubtedly decreases the difficulty of a fight, which is of course a short term bonus, however I remember getting all too comfortable with that plunge attack life style. I remember entering the gargoyles fight and having that ability ripped away from me. A huge game mechanic, and cheesy strategy simply taken away from me. It was just me and the gargoyle on this rooftop, slogging it out until the death. It was at this point that I realized that Dark Souls would always keep me on my toes, and I should always be open to learning new mechanics and skills. In addition I learned that I should never take anything for granted as a new player in this world. These lessons were also reinforced when I realized that a second gargoyle actually joins the fight during the battle. The second gargoyle is of course on half HP from the get go, and it usually only executes  a very predictable and easy to dodge fire attack, however nonetheless… For a first time player seeing that duo in a boss fight for the first time, and so early on in the game, was very daunting to say the least. From Software very cleverly took my growing confidence, as I grew closer to victory with each attempt, and tore it apart, by simply throwing in another enemy to worry about in the fight. It was something that I wasn’t used to as a player. Something that Dark Souls hadn’t warned me about, but From Software didn’t care. I just had to get over it, and overcome my challenges. And after over a hundred attempts  on that fight and after finally tasting success, I knew that this game was a journey that I would never forget.

 

Realizing that Dark Souls is special…

 

As somebody that genuinely loves the Dark Souls franchise, there are of course a platter of aspects of the game that I have come to love over the last two years. I’ve previously posted a Dark Souls post which praises many aspects of the game that I love, and so I won’t just repeat myself here. At least not too much anyway. I came to realize that Dark Souls was special pretty much immediately upon playing the game. On the surface and to most people, Dark Souls is “That really hard game” and sure, Dark Souls is hard, and it’s one of the many reasons I love the games, however when a player delves deep into the universe that From Software have offered us, it becomes apparent quite quickly that there are so many more memorable aspects of the game rather than the difficulty at hand. The in depth and seemingly infinite lore which players can unearth. The elegance and ferociousness of the games OST’S, the beautiful enemies, NPC’s and environments which all have a story to tell, even if the player just looks at them. The many builds that players can utilize to complete the game. The faint, and yet rewarding and exciting link between players worlds through PvP. The games brilliantly smart level designs. These are all just a few things that outshine the games difficulty and learning curve in my opinion. Of course only those who step up to, and conquer the challenges that Dark Souls throws at them will understand this. It’s essentially a reward. You’re reward for not giving up is the ability to witness more and more of a beautiful world.

 

Fondest memories…

 

There’s no doubt  that there are to be many more fond memories for me to experience within the Dark Souls universe, however seeing as there will be no more content released in Dark Souls’ name, let’s talk about some of my fondest memories to date.

 

Firstly, I have to mention the release of Dark Souls 3. I began playing Dark Souls in April 2015, and so the first Dark Souls release in which I got to personally experience was Dark Souls 3, a year after my introduction to Dark Souls. I’ll never forget how ready me and the community were for Dark Souls 3. I remember I watched Lobos JR all night until mere minutes before the games release, and when the time struck, I as well as thousands of players across the world all began to uncover the content of Dark Souls 3 together. The community truly felt alive, and I truly felt like I was able to finally live out a big event within the Dark Souls community. The same goes for the games two DLC’s, Ashes Of Ariandel, and The Ringed City. There’s just something special about playing a game or DLC alongside the community as soon as it is released. Boss fights, areas, secrets and more are all discovered together, and it truly brings the community together as one.

 

Continuing onwards, another fond memory I have of Dark Souls is discovering the room full of Chaos Eaters in Demon Ruins (Dark Souls 1). This is a fond memory due to the fact that after over 200 hours of play time, I still had not discovered this room. After finally entering the room, and falling through the floor into the secret room below I was mesmerized. I simply believed that I had seen every area within this game and so realizing that I was wrong was not only amazing, but wonderfully refreshing. People talk about wishing they could experience things like Dark Souls for the first time again, and discovering that room after so many playthrough’s was a glimpse into being able to do just that.

 

There are too many fond memories to be able to write about them all, so I’ll mention a couple more, but a very special moment for me within Dark Souls happened a couple of days ago, on the day of the Ringed City’s release in Dark Souls 3. The fight with Slave Knight Gael. This fight was so incredible, particularly the arena that you fight him in, that I know it will stay with me forever. The sheer vastness of the arena that is covered in desolate sands just feels like it goes on forever. I probably spent twenty minutes simply running around the arena before, during and after the fight with Gael. In addition to this arena, the OST and elegance of the fight itself just puts that fight up there with the most fond memories for me within Dark Souls 3, however it is the arena itself that amazes me most.

 

Some of my fondest Dark Souls memories don’t even come from playing the game. Watching streams of the game is always very entertaining, as well as simply listening to the OST’s.

 

Something that I often think about when it comes to Dark Souls, is the relation between a players skill and knowledge, and  the linearity of the game. When a player takes on Dark Souls for the first time, they will quickly learn as we have mentioned that the game doesn’t throw information at you. The player is left to essentially work out where to go and in what order, and the way that new players work out whether they’re going to the right area at the right time, is by seeing if they’re being absolutely destroyed by the enemies in a certain area. Take Firelink Shrine for example. Upon first arrival at Firelink Shrine, a player has multiple options. They can either go upwards to Undead Burg (the intended route for new players), downwards into the catacombs (an area which developers want you to visit during late game, down an elevator in New Londo Ruins (another late game area) or back to the Asylum. If a player begins to wonder in the direction of the catacombs, they will soon realize that they shouldn’t visit this area immediately because the enemies deal insane damage, and take so long to kill, in comparison with the enemies on the upwards climb to Undead Burg. The enemies towards the Burg can mostly be one-shotted and so naturally players will stick to this invisible and optional linearity, that is in place within the game. After a little exploration and combat with the locales, it should seem obvious that Undead Burg is the route to go upon first arrival at Firelink, and this is the intended route set out by Developers. While it is the intended route set out by the devs, it is not the only order and route that players can take, and this brings me onto the skill and knowledge aspect that I mentioned earlier. When a player is experienced enough with Dark Souls, they can take it upon themselves to ignore the intended route and order of areas visited, and go straight into the Catacombs for example where they can fight the Pinwheel boss fight. In addition somebody might choose to farm enough souls early on to go and immediately kill Sif, a boss which is intended for the later part of the game. The game isn’t completely open world, as that just isn’t what Dark Souls is about, however it is open world enough, combined with unrivalled level design,  to allow for unique, strange and simply fun routes to be taken which freshens up a players experience and simply adds a level of re-playability to the game.

 

What’s next for me and Dark Souls?

 

The Dark Souls universe is itself a work of art that will stay with me for my entire life. The love I feel for these games is unrivalled by any other game I’ve ever played. I know that I will continue to write about anything Souls related. In addition I will continue to stream the games on Twitch, and furthermore I want to try making some lengthy videos simply discussing Dark Souls when I gain the equipment to properly do so.

 

These are a few of my favourite things…

 

I can only feel guilt when trying to pick a favourite from a group of things that I love so much, so I think I’ll name a couple of my favourites in each category. Seriously it’s too much to ask for me to pick only one.

Favourite area: Majula – Dark Souls 2 receives a lot of criticism for its sometimes lacklustre areas, and environments, however Majula (the main hub and safe place of Dark Souls 2) is the polar opposite of lacklustre. Every Dark Souls has a main hub area, that is essentially the players safe place, and Dark Souls 2’s Majula is a place that truly makes the player feel at home. The unique evening sunset that beams down onto the never ending rippling waters, combined with the innocent, and tranquil OST makes me never want to leave. Many of the NPS’s in Dark Souls 2, and some of the ones housed at Majula don’t know why they’re where they are, and some don’t know how they got there, but obviously Majula must be pretty special for them to want to stay. A feeling of true happiness and optimism comes over me every time I’m basking in Majula’s glory. In addition as I briefly mentioned, the aesthetical properties of Majula are indeed very unique to the Dark Souls series in many ways, and I love that so much that it’s my favourite place within all of Dark Souls history. There are other areas that I equally love, such as Dark Souls 3’s Undead Settlement, and Smouldering Lake, Dark Souls’ Undead Burg and many more but if I had to pick one, I’d have to go with Majula.

Favourite Boss: My favourite OST piece and areas stick out to me much more than my favourite boss fight does. I like different fights for different reasons, and so I’ll mention a couple. First of all, the Bell Gargoyle’s in the original Dark Souls will always be in my mind as one of my favourite boss fights, and this is primarily because of the sheer challenge that it brought me as a new player, two years ago. I mentioned earlier how difficult that fight was for me upon first playthrough. It taught me that Dark Souls was beatable, and that there is always a way to beat a boss. In addition I simply love how From Software decided to shake things up by just adding in another Gargoyle to the fight. It throws new players off completely as they simply are not expecting a second enemy, but if they can take on that challenge, I’d say they can take on any challenge in the game. Furthermore, any boss can be hard upon first playthrough and then feel like a breeze when you understand how to kill a boss easily, however the Bell Gargoyle’s are the embodiment of that realization for me. After over one hundred attempts at killing that boss, it is almost funny to me now, knowing the speed run strategy of using gold pine resin, and staggering the gargoyle’s with an early game weapon such as the Battle Axe. Simply pummelling the Gargoyle’s non-stop will result in you being able to kill the first gargoyle before the second has even landed, and this of course means that you will never be in a gank situation. What seemed like such a difficult fight, is actually very easy. From Software even give you the opportunity to find three gold pine Resin’s before the Gargoyle’s, at Undead Burg. What was once the hardest boss fight for me, is now essentially the easiest, and I find that fascinating to think about.

 

In terms of my favourite boss fight because of the quality of the fight itself, there are so many to choose from that I love, however Covetous Demon has to take the top spot for me. I just simply loved the star wars fan service that From Software delivered with this fight… But in all seriousness, Dragonslayer Armour is always in my mind as my favourite boss fight. I love the aggression that comes with this fight, the fast paced action ties in with the frantic OST, to concoct a very memorable boss fight. In addition, is Dragonslayer Armour actually a living thing? I believe it is controlled by the by the outside Pilgrim Butterflies, meaning that the boss you are fighting is actually just a suit of armour. I like this, because despite it seeming like there’s no personality to the fight at hand, or any sort of emotion, as there is supposedly nobody inside the armour, the move-set and aggression displayed by Dragonslayer Armour, almost leads me to see a person inside that suit of armour. Like somebody is truly inside. To be fair, it reminds me of the synths within Fallout 4. They aren’t really people, however they display human characteristics and emotions, and this leads me to feel empathy for them.

 Favourite OST: Souls Of Fire – Souls Of Fire is the name of the piece that plays within the character creation and load a save screen on Dark Souls. You’ll hear this track before you’ve even set foot in the vastness that is Lordran. It’s a beautiful, elegant and calming piece. Essentially the calm before the storm.

 

To conclude this life changing series…

Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, and Dark Souls 3 are all games that mesmerize me every time I play them. All three of these games and their DLC’s inspire me on a level that nothing else can, and I know that the interests and hobbies that I continue to pursue in the future such as writing and streaming, will all be influenced by these games. The sheer beauty of these games is something that I simply cannot put successfully into words. I’ve wrote more than one post about different elements of Dark Souls in the past, and it never feel s like I’ve explained my love for these games properly. Dark Souls has changed my life in many ways. It has helped me through bad times, as well as being there to enhance the good times that I’ve had. A game that started out as a challenge with a massive and what seemed like an unfathomable learning curve, has turned into what is in my eyes, a work of art in which I’ll appreciate and continue to talk and create content about for many years to come. To everybody who has ever worked on a Dark Souls game, thanks for the laughs, the tears, the Goosebumps and thank you generally, for a trilogy of masterpiece’s.

Thank you Dark Souls,

A fan.20161025000123_1

Getting burned by AAA games.

AAA games. Vast, multi million and in some cases billion dollar entertainment packages. These games take years to create, and are crafted by the finest minds and technology that the video games industry has ever seen, and yet these games release all too often in a broken, and generally unacceptable state. These games that glow potential, are often released from the nest into the wild in a totally dull state, that lack the proper nurturing that they require. Fans that have waited anxiously for a new I.P or perhaps a sequel are let down by atrocious frame rate issues, game braking bugs, and in some cases, missing features that were said to be a part of the game. Developers at times have straight up lied to their audience; making promises that can’t be kept and probably were never supposed to be kept, all so their audience laps up what they shoddily create. Now it’s imperative to note that not all AAA games release this way. In 2016 alone, we were graced with the likes of DOOM, Gears Of War 4, Uncharted 4 and Dark Souls 3, as well as many other incredible games. However it’s important to speak out about the products that release in an unacceptable state; after people have spent $60 or £50 of hard earned money, on a release.

 

As I mentioned earlier, the video game world is a huge market, particularly within the AAA space. It’s a business and a businesses ultimate goal is to make money. It is this reality that is the cause for brilliant mind’s ideas and visions, to be cut short and it is the reason for these games releasing prematurely. What I am talking about of course, is publishers pressurizing developers to have a game ready for release on time for a certain schedule. For example the holiday period. Every year the majority of big AAA games are released around the holiday/ Christmas period, due to the fact that this is when people are buying the most. Parents buying gifts for Christmas etc. Publishers will often tag their games for release around this time, and if they don’t release at the holiday period as has been advertised for whatever reason,then they will be losing out on a lot of money and its as simple as that. The main goal of the publisher, making money, is not met and to a lot of publishers this is not acceptable. Even if a game is in need of more time in development, it needs more polishing, the frame rate needs stabilizing or whatever else, it’s a sad reality that many publishers out there will release their developers game regardless, thus burning and disappointing customers, and making many people lose faith in the market.

 

While accepting half-baked games is an option, turning a blind eye to obvious issues within the gaming world is an option, and continuing to give your hard earned money to companies who care little for their fans is an option, there are other ways of approaching this issue. None of these ideas are my own, I am merely echoing the words of thousands of other fed up consumers accross the globe, as I truly believe that something needs to be done about the wounded AAA games market. First of all, don’t pre-order games. It’s simple really, if you pre-order a game, then the publisher that is releasing your chosen product has received your money, and your sale before the game has even been released. Greed orientated business modules have resulted in publishers tacking on pre-order bonuses within games over the years. These bonuses often consist of cosmetic items only, however sometimes unique weapons, armor, cars and whatever else you can think of that will try to persuade you into purchasing the game before anyone has had chance to play or review the game properly. While you may have seen footage of the game that you pre-ordered at E3, Gamescom, or on your favorite YouTuber’s channel, you yourself have not played the final release version of your purchased product. You to some extent do not know what you are buying.

 

Continuing onward with another good idea on what you can do to combat being burned by AAA games… Support indie developers. Some of the most brilliant video games that released in 2016 were created by a handful of indie developers. Examples include Hyper Light Drifter, Inside, The Witness, Firewatch and many more. These games are often created aswell as published by the same company and group of people, and this comes at an advantage because it results in these developers often not having a larger company making decisions such as whether a game should be delayed for further polishing, or released in its current state. It gives the developers a chance to breathe, and a chance to ultimately decide what happens to their own work of art. This often results in higher quality games being released, at the appropriate time for the game. In addition to this, another reason to support indie developers is because of the creative freedom that is acquired by these developers, in comparison to many studios in which are dictated by their father figure publisher. Research is always being taken out to try to understand what exactly consumers of the video game world actually want. What genres of game are hot at the moment? What aesthetical setting do people want more of? Questions like this are always being researched and the apparent results will directly affect the game that a certain AAA studio will create. While looking at this, a great example to use is the Call Of Duty series. Over the last four or so years, Call Of Duty has propelled itself into the future in terms of its setting. Around six or so years ago, the market was absolutely flooded with modern military shooters, and so market research of course would have led to developers and publishers at Call Of Duty realizing that people wanted something new and innovative for the series. A step away from the modern military setting, and this is why we are now seeing Call Of Duty games take place far into the future. While market research can have its advantages and can simply allow for a company to release games that take on properties that people enjoy, it stifles the ability for pure creative flow. Indie developers are not pressured into creating games that will just sell because of their setting. Indie games are the games where the imagination can be truly unleashed upon the market.

 

Something that I have stopped doing over the recent months… Buying games because of their name. Essentially, brand loyalty. We’ve all been let down by a bad sequel, or a bad prequel. Perhaps the game didn’t run properly, perhaps it simply wasn’t what you were expecting or perhaps it was riddled with bugs? The tipping point for me when it comes to brand loyalty was with the Mafia series in October of 2016. I purchased Mafia III based on the fact that Mafia II was such a fantastic game, with a cliff-hanger ending. I was met with shoddy AI, bizarre cloud shadowing, repetitive gameplay as well as many other irritating bugs. As somebody who doesn’t earn a whole lot of money due to being in education, I simply said no more. I decided to actually take care when purchasing a AAA game, and I think you should too.

 

If we the consumers say no to a lazy and half-baked game, thus refusing to purchase it, then publishers will feel these declines in sales. In 2016, games sold in smaller numbers when it came to AAA games, and this no doubt has something to do with people being fed up with being burnt by the AAA game industry. Hopefully we’re on the right track to bringing back fleshed out, high quality games in the AAA market, because It’s about time that certain publishers stopped treating their consumers like idiots.

The reaction to Suicide Silence’s new track ‘Doris’

Approximately three weeks ago, Deathcore pioneers Suicide Silence released the first single from their up and coming self-titled album in which is titled Doris. After letting the world take a while to soak up the new sound that the band has produced, I wanted to discuss my thoughts and feelings on the track, Suicide Silence’s new planned sound, aswell as people’s reaction to the new song.

 

It’s not uncommon to see bands from the metal scene try to take a new direction in terms of their sound. In 2014 we saw Metal core behemoths Bring Me The Horizon make the huge switch to radio friendly pop music, and more recently we have seen Carnifex undertake a more black metal tone, aswell as Whitechapel utilizing clean vocals within their latest material. Bands like to evolve all the time. And most bands don’t just like to evolve, they need to evolve to keep things fresh for the band members, seeing as they are playing these songs day in day out. If every album was the complete same then things would get pretty boring for the band, and probably for a lot of fans. When Suicide Silence unveiled their first track which showcased their new sound, there was an immediate and lasting negative receiving to the song from the majority of listeners (in terms of YouTube viewership). At the very minute that I am writing this, Doris the new track has 11,333 likes and 18,840 dislikes on YouTube, with a total of 625,056 views. That’s a significant like to dislike ratio. Even in the comments aswell as on social media I am seeing the band get crucified for a number of reasons. Many fans are unhappy that the band even tried to get a breath of fresh air from the world of deathcore, many fans are disappointed with the production and of course there are still some fans who are disappointed that Suicide Silence continued after Mitch died (get a grip), and I just seriously don’t understand the overwhelming negative response to the song. I can completely understand a fair few fans being disappointed with the new sound, as well as being disappointed with the clean vocals as it isn’t for everyone, however such an overwhelming negative response has seriously bewildered me. I really do feel that a lot of people have exaggerated how bad this song is, purely for the reason that it isn’t The Cleansing 2.0.

 

First and foremost, I love the track. In terms of Doris’ musical properties we are once again graced with the usual thunderous Drop A tuning of Alex and Marks 7 string setup. The song itself takes a lot of nu-metal influence, instrumentally as well as vocally. Eddie Hermida’s cleans as well as screams are all over the place in terms of range which certainly reminded me of Korn’s style. The song gave off a very primal, and even tribal like feel to me because of those reasons. A lot of the vocals sound very unplanned and raw, and this ties in with the production. I personally thought that the production was perfectly fine in terms of quality, however it does sound a little more as if the production was intended to sound like a live performance which of course concocts nicely with the raw feel of the vocal performance. The whole package seems as if the band just wanted to get in the studio and produce a song that just came naturally without having to force a certain sound. Suicide Silence even said in an interview with Rock Cafe Prague in 2016 that they wanted to produce this kind of atmosphere with the new album, and I can safely say that I’m very happy aswell as excited to hear this evolved sound in the coming months.

 

Overall this was a bit of a short post, however I just wanted to express how much I love Doris and if this is the sound that we’ll be hearing throughout the whole new album in February of this year, then I’m very excited to hear the new material both on the record as well as in a live environment this march during their U.K tour.

 

Atmospheres And Aesthetics (AAA Games) #3 – Hyper Light Drifter

The third entry into the Atmospheres And Aesthetics series will see us discuss the action RPG released in 2016, Hyper Light Drifter. This game was developed and published by Heart Machine and was very well received by critics and fans alike.

I wanted to begin talking about this game with a quote taken directly from developers Heart Machine’s website. “Explore a beautiful, vast and ruined world riddled with unknown dangers and lost technologies. Inspired by nightmares and dreams alike.” I used this quote as it sums up the game very well. You truly do explore the world that you are traversing. Most games have an element of exploration to them, however Hyper Light Drifter really sticks out to me as a game that does exploration to a very high standard. This is due to the fact that the locations of the keys and treasures required to progress through certain areas of the game aren’t shown to you. You aren’t even told that you actually need certain items to progress, and so the exploration element of the game begins. In some games searching for what can seem like hours for one certain item can become extremely irritable, however with Hyper Light Drifter, the more you search a certain area, the more the game opens up to you. New enemies, contrasting areas and secrets become visible to the player and this keeps the game refreshing, even when trying to search for one particular item.

Something that I absolutely love about Hyper Light Drifter is the fact that the world initially is split into four parts. North, east, south and west. Each of these four areas of the world contain very contrasting and vibrant terrains in which the player must explore. In the north we are greeted with a blizzard battered zone. In the east we are mesmerized by a zone filled with water falls and canal like structures which must be crossed by jumping over stepping stones or accross bridges. The west is home to a cosy, autumn mood which is filled with thick, lush pink trees. The sound of the wind whisks around you so elegantly that it creates a feeling of home (when you’re not being attacked by bandits). And finally in the south… Well I haven’t explored or unlocked the south zone as of yet.

All of this 2D beauty, charisma and charm is sewn together by a soundtrack crafted by the artist Disasterpeace. The electronic based OST brings a mixed bag of emotions to the player. For me I felt that the soundtrack opened up a creative void for me, as there is a mysterious and secretive element to the tracks that play within this game that creates a fruitful concoction with the fact that the game itself is very secretive and mysterious. While there are times where the soundtrack to Hyper Light Drifter can get a little frantic, the OST generally holds a very mellow and relaxed tone, and this contrasts brilliantly with the fact that Hyper Light Drifter is a very difficult game. You will die a few times during your play through of this game and the unexplained exploration within the game can get a little frustrating when it feels like you’re making no progress. However the OST will always be there. Keeping you calm through its mesmerizing and mellow beauty.

The things that I wanted to say about the ambient sounds within this game, are very similar to what I said about the OST itself. The ambient tracks within this game are some of the most tranquil that I have ever had the pleasure of hearing in a video game. The flowing waters of the east, the howling winds of the north that make you wish your character was in the warm indoors, the autumn whispers of the west. The ambiance is of such a high level that I feel like i’m in a different world when I hear those tracks. They’re so elegant that they make you feel bad for exiting the game.

Hyper Light Drifter is a very special game to me. I was recommended it by a friend and I took his word and purchased the game. After going into the game blind and discovering such a beautiful 2D world that had one of my favourite soundtracks of all time tagged with it, I was instantly hooked and I knew that Hyper Light Drifter was special. The game is so powerful that at times I will just find myself staring at the screen, taking all all of the games creative wonders until my character decides to meditate on the ground. I would recommend this game for even one of the elements of the game that I spoke about here today.