Until Dawn - game title

Here is a game that somehow managed to slip under the radar for me. As a snob for strong narrative-based games, I was surprised that a project like Until Dawn managed to escape my attention until a couple weeks prior to its release. Once I heard about it though, I was immediately intrigued. I knew it wasn't going to be a proper survival horror game, but it looked to have a lot of potential to move the horror genre (and gaming in general) in interesting directions. I was doubly surprised when I went to go by the game a couple days after its release so that I could play it over the weekend, only for it to be sold out in the two stores that I went to. It's the first time in about ten years that I've had trouble finding a game on store shelves within a week of its release, but I doubt that I'll have to break my long-standing boycott for pre-orders. So I had to resort to ordering it off of Amazon Prime with 2-day delivery and play it the next weekend.

Suspend your disbelief - and your common sense

Don't be fooled into thinking that Until Dawn is something other than what it is. It is an interactive movie with branching story. It is not an open-ended survival game! Anyone familiar with Heavy Rain or the Telltale Games will have a good idea of how the game will play out. The things you do and the actions and dialogue available are very tightly scripted. You won't be making decisions on how the group splits up, who goes where, or even what any individual character might be doing at any given time. Large chunks of the game are just dialogue and cutscenes, stopping you every now and then to let you make one of two choices, or showing a button prompt on screen to keep the action going (and sometimes keep the character alive). There are even some action sequences that could have been playable, but which are strictly non-interactive cutscenes.

Until Dawn - can't light candles
How about lighting some friggin' candles instead of groping around in the dark?

The only time that the game opens up more is when you must explore rooms for clues or evidence. In these cases, you have complete control of character movement and can walk around mostly freely. But interactions are severely limited. You can only interact with the select few objects that the developers intended for you to interact with.

These limitations can be very frustrating because the game doesn't let you do some obvious, common sense things. Upon entering the lodge, I'd like to have been able to light the candles instead of having to wander around in the dark for the next few chapters. Later, when investigating something crashing through a window, I'd like to have been able to take the rifle I just found on the wall. And even later, after the rifle didn't have enough bullets to shoot the murderer, it would be nice to have been able to open up the revolver I just found to make sure that it's loaded and find out how many bullets are in the chamber. And the list of dumb oversights goes on...

Common sense precautions like taking a melee weapon or checking that your new gun is loaded are not possible.

These limitations are further exacerbated by the esoteric nature of some of the decisions. Since all decision are binary (usually consisting of a "helpful" / "safe" option or an "antagonistic" / "risky" option), it's often unclear exactly what the character will do, and the outcome often plays out in a non-interactive cutscene. The character may not say or do exactly what the option described, which might lead the player to think "that's not what I meant to do / say!", and sometimes a decision might railroad you into following through in a way that you don't want to.

Granted, the options need to be somewhat vague, and the consequences shouldn't be obvious. That would make the game too easy and dull. The game has to utilize some of the classic horror movie tropes in order for the narrative to work. After all, the characters don't have the foresight to know that they're in a horror movie game. I accept that there needs to be limitations on the precautions that the player can take, but the player also needs to feel like they have more agency.


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 ...


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...


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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Bloodborne title

Bloodborne is finally out, and so it was finally time to bite the bullet and buy a PS4. This is the first - and so far only - game that makes me want a PS4. Sure, there are other games that I want to play (Shadow of Mordor, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, to name a few), but they are all also on PC and Steam, and probably look and run better on the PC. So I had very little incentive to purchase a PS4 up till now, and only needed to temporarily borrow a friend's in order to see if the new Madden was worth anything and to play the exciting P.T. demo that may not be so exciting anymore. Shucks...

Anyway, I've been playing Bloodborne, and it's been quite an adjustment from Dark Souls (much more than the adjustment from Demon's Souls to Dark Souls). As such, I've compiled a short list of tips to help new players and experienced Dark Souls veterans to keep alive in Bloodborne:

I apologize in advance for the poor quality of some of the screenshots that I am including. I had some local network issues during my first playthrough and had to broadcast to Twitch using reduced quality...


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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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Civilization V retrospective: Top 10 bad ideasCivilization V retrospective: Top 10 bad ideas06/04/2015 Following up on my previous post about the Top 10 good ideas in Civilization V, here is a list of the opposite: the flaws and annoyances in the game's design that really grind my gears and make me nostalgic for the older games and wishing for dramatic changes in future sequels. And since I'm always eager to provide constructive...