Bloodborne title

I am absolutely loving Bloodborne! But now that I've already thrown heaps of praise at it in my review, I thought I'd take a bit of time to provide some constructive criticism. As much as I love the game, it does still have flaws and annoyances. With the load screen complaints being addressed via a patch that made them shorter and gave players something to read, there aren't many major flaws left in the game. Most of what remains are fairly nitpicky and trivial, and none of them are game-breaking by any stretch.

This post may contain explicit complaints and suggestions about mid and late-game levels, story, bosses, and items that could be considered spoilers if you haven't played that far into the game. Consider yourself warned...

Bloodborne - reading lore document
It would make sense for reading
lore documents to provide insight.

Before I get into suggestions for fixing things that I see as gameplay flaws, my first suggestion is going to be more of a thematic suggestion.

I think that reading the various lore notes scattered throughout the game should provide insight to the character. This provides incentive to read the documents (even on repeat playthroughs), and rewards players who actively explore the game's lore.

It also makes sense within the internal context of the game world, since reading the document does provide the character with insight into the world and its history. The character (in addition to the player) is learning something about the world, and so that should be mechanically enforced with the receipt of insight. In fact, I would even propose that reading the notes could even provide two insight.

If this suggestion were to be implemented, then I can definitely see a need to relocate the first lore documents ...

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Bloodborne title

Well, it's finally time for me to buy a PS4. I avoided it for a year and a half because there weren't any games that I cared to play that weren't also available on PC or PS3. But, since Bloodborne is a PS4 exclusive, and I'm a huge Demon's Souls and Dark Souls fan, I had to cave and buy the new console in order to play this game. Luckily for me, this game is good enough to be a console-seller, and I don't regret my purchase one bit!

Bloodborne - praise the moon
Bloodborne is finally here! Praise the moon!

Soaking yourself in the blood of your prey

Mechanically, Bloodborne does not deviate significantly from its Souls predecessors. Most of the controls are the same, and the game was immediately comfortable for me, being that I'm an experienced Souls player.

But the way that the game is played deviates significantly from the previous games - much moreso than Dark Souls deviated from Demon's Souls. The three Souls games strongly favored defensive gameplay tactics and a more cautious, patient style of combat. Dark Souls II tried to encourage faster, more aggressive gameplay by further developing two-handed melee combat, but that only applied to specific character builds and was only moderately effective. Bloodborne enforces an aggressive model as practically the only viable one.

Bloodborne removes the comfort and security of a shield and replaces it with a steampunk gun. The gun's range is limited by the ability to acquire a target lock-on, and there's no manual aim that I'm aware of, so you can't sit back and snipe enemies from a safe distance. Some of the functionality of the shield does carry-over to the gun though. For example, shooting an enemy as they attempt to attack you will stun them, and you can follow-up the "parry" with a critical "visceral attack". But since this is a gun and not a shield, you can perform this parry at range, which opens up some new tactical possibilities.

Bloodborne - rifle spear hunter
Bloodborne adds guns to the familiar Demon/Dark Souls formula, but still encourages aggressive, in-your-face combat.

And since you don't have a shield, you're going to take a lot more direct hits than you would in the previous games. In order to offset this, you can regain some of your lost HP by attacking an opponent immediately after taking damage and infusing yourself with their blood. Literally. There is a lot of blood in this game, and it will stick to your character and soak you from head to toe if you survive long enough.

These features strongly encourage more active and technical play, since you're more likely to survive by counter-attacking than by running away and hiding. You can't get away with just holding up your shield and tanking through levels with the basic 3 or 4-hit sword combos. You need to learn the more advanced maneuvers and techniques that the game offers, and you need to use them. This keeps the player in the thick of the action and the pace of the game on overdrive. It also adds a lot of apprehension, since you can't run around the level with a shield up in case an enemy jumps out at you. You constantly feel exposed and vulnerable. These changes don't necessarily make the game "better" than the Souls games, but they do encourage and reward better play. Both models are valid and fun, but Bloodborne does get the adrenaline pumping in ways that Dark Souls just couldn't [outside of PvP].

Devil May Cry
Similarities to Devil May Cry abound.

In fact, Bloodborne's combination of guns, swords, trenchcoats, gothic horror, and brutal difficulty remind me a lot of the first and third Devil May Cry. While Devil May Cry encouraged melee combat by rewarding "style" points that converted directly to currency to pay for character upgrades, Bloodborne forces you into melee by making it a way to keep yourself alive! So it's more fundamental. It's doesn't get quite as fast and fantastical as Devil May Cry because the character doesn't have all of Dante's powers, and you have to deal with ammo restrictions. You can only carry a finite amount of bullets, so you can't go over-the-top with your gun or stay too far away from the action...

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UNLV football - 2015 uniforms

Another year, another head coach, and another set of uniforms for UNLV's football program. The school, and head coach Tony Sanchez, recently unveiled new uniform concepts for the football team's 2015 season.

I, personally, liked the uniforms that were worn between 2009 and 2011 and was disappointed when Bobby Hauck changed them in 2012. The 2009 uniforms were simple and elegant and showcased school pride with the large-print "REBELS" across the chest and large logos on the sleeves and pants. Furthermore, the gray shoulders provided a good contrast against the red of the body of the jersey in the bright Las Vegas sun, and the whole scheme was unique in college football.

There was definitely some room for improvement. Some of the colors could have been tweaked. The helmets were also especially ugly. But overall I liked these uniforms. They were distinctly UNLV's.

The uniforms from 2009-2011 [LEFT] had a distinctive pattern and prominent school logos.
The uniforms in 2012-2014 [RIGHT] could easily be mistaken for Ohio State.

By comparison, the 2012 uniforms looked like hand-me-downs from Ohio State. On their own, the uniforms looked fine with their very retro-classic look, but they just weren't distinctive at all. The "REBELS" print on the chest was minimized, the school logos were removed, and the uniform lacked the school pride that I thought the previous ones showed so well. However, I didn't much care for the 2009 helmets, and I thought that the 2012 helmets were a stark improvement with the stripes and easier-to-read "UNLV" logo. I also liked the Reno variant helmets that included the Freemont Cannon under the logo, even though I hated the all-gray uniform variant itself.

I like that these new 2015 uniforms retain the large-print "REBELS" text of the 2009 ones. The large Hey Reb logo on the shoulders and the UNLV logo on the pants also helps to bring back the sense of displaying school pride that was absent from the 2012 versions.

However, I strongly dislike how monochrome all the uniforms are! I don't know what it is with football's current fascination with monochrome ...

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Cities XXL - game title

So right off the bat, Cities XXL is not substantially different from its predecessor (Cities XL). In my time with the game so far, I've only encountered two new features. Everything else, right down to the buildings available and the game interface, are unchanged. XXL hardly deserves to be called a sequel or sold as a new game. It's a content patch, and not even a very good one.

But on the upside, since I never got around to reviewing the original Cities XL, I can just roll them both into one review!

Cities XL - box art Cities XXL - box art
This review will cover both Cities XL, and Cities XXL because they're practically the same game.

When I first started playing Cities XL a few years ago, I was really impressed with it. I hadn't really played any modern city-builder games since SimCity 4, and so the jump to 3-D graphics, the ability to draw curved roads, and the sheer size of the maps was enough to win me over initially. But as I've played the game more, it's limitations and weaknesses have become much more apparent and hard to ignore. This is especially true in the game's interface and controls, which are very rough and full of nagging annoyances. When compared to the much smoother and organic controls of games like Tropico 5, the modern [disastrous] SimCity reboot, and even older games like Caesar IV, Cities XL really starts to look bad.

The biggest deterrent to enjoying Cities XL is its UI and controls. There's nothing that really single-handedly breaks the game, but there's a cacaphony of small, nagging problems that gradually wear down your resolve to play the game. The first thing that you'll notice is the ugly and disorganized interface. There are buttons and widgets floating all over the screen: build icons, overlay toggles, camera control widgets, zoning sub-controls, and so on. You can customize some of the UI elements by dragging them to different places on the screen, but there is no arrangement that really feels comfortable.

Charts, graphs, and table widgets are also ugly and difficult to read or understand, so I rarely use them. There's a lot of depth of information in these widgets, but they are just so poorly designed as to be nearly un-useable. And while some info-widgets show a great degree of granularity and precision, others are oddly abstracted. For example, shops and industrial buildings say that they require a "medium" number of workers of various classes, but they don't specify exactly how many employees they require. I assume that "low", "medium", and "high" correspond to the respective sizes of the residential zones, but I don't know for sure.

Cities XXL - closed office building
This office building had to close before I found out why it was unsatisfied.

Feedback in general is one of the game's weaknesses. The "satisfaction" level of buildings are all shown as colored circles rather than actual numbers. Those colored circles that indicate the satisfaction level of a building can be highlighted to show the percentage of satisfaction, but it won't necessarily give any indicators as to what is influencing that percentage...

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Bloodborne title

A couple weeks ago, I published some basic tips for playing Bloodborne. That post focuses mostly on the major mechanical differences between Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and how your strategies and tactics should be adjusted to compensate.

In this post, I'm going to go a little bit more in-depth into some of the game's features in order to provide some more advanced strategies and tips that will become useful for players as they progress deeper into the game. As before, these will be general tips. I will not focus on tactics for defeating specific enemies, bosses, or levels. I invite you to view any number of walkthroughs, strategy guides, and let's plays scattered around the internet if you're interested in how to beat a certain part of the game.

But if you know any general tips that I missed, feel free to post a comment!

Trying to find your blood echoes after dying can be annoying in Bloodborne. This is because it isn't in a predictable location every time. Sometimes it will be held by a specific enemy that you have to kill in order to retrieve the blood echoes. Other times it will just be dropped on the ground near where you died. This does make the game a bit more challenging, since you usually have to defeat an enemy in order to regain you echoes, rather than just sprinting through the level to pick them up like you could in Dark Souls.

Bloodborne - echo retrieval
Look for the enemy with the glowy, purple eyes. It won't necessarily be the same enemy that killed you.

If the blood echoes are held by an enemy, that enemy's eyes will glow with a bright purple-ish energy. But the enemy that holds the blood echoes is not necessarily the same enemy that killed you. The echoes could be given to the closest enemy. When attempting to retrieve your echoes, try to do some recon of an area to find out which enemy has your blood echoes. If you're lucky, it may be an enemy that is easier to get to ...

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Gaming for life...

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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'Trine' offers inexpensive co-op fun'Trine' offers inexpensive co-op fun11/02/2012 This review was originally published 09/14/2010 on Game Observer (now defunct). It has been republished here for archival purposes - and in anticipation of a Trine 2 review. A fun and graphically very pretty puzzle-platformer, but physics and controls could have used a little more work. If you look at the review score above,...