Nioh - title

"If you own a PS4, and you aren't playing Bloodborne, then you are using your PS4 wrong!" That was the final line of my Bloodborne review. PS4 exclusives have been generally better than XBoxOne exclusives, but I haven't been particularly impressed yet. Until Dawn showed some promise and might be the only other PS4 exclusive that I'd even consider recommending. I gave up on Gran Turismo when GT4 started to turn into more of a car-collecting game rather than a racing game (I describe it as "Pokemon for cars"), and I've long since burnt out of the Uncharted games. I heard good things about the Ratchet & Clank reboot, but mascot platformers aren't really my thing, so I passed on that one. And I haven't gotten to play Horizon Zero Dawn yet.

Nioh - combat
Nioh has fast, dodge-heavy combat, in which each weapon had multiple move-sets.

Well now there's a new PS4-exclusive on the market, and it's supposed to be competition for the Souls-Borne series. Nioh definitely shares a lot of superficial design elements with Dark Souls, and its fast, dodge-heavy combat using weapons that have multiple movesets seems thoroughly inspired by Bloodborne. But Nioh is also heavily inspired by Ninja Gaiden, and the game feel is very close to the classic Onimusha games. Although the original Ninja Gaiden was a good game for its time (and some of the sequels have been good too), it's these Ninja Gaiden influences that start to hamper the experience for me.

A random loot-dropping quarter-muncher

Nioh really started to lose me with its second true boss fight: Hino-Enma, a flying vampire and/or succubus who deals paralysis. The problem was that most damage just seemed unavoidable. All her attacks dealt damage through my blocks, which meant that dodging was the only way to keep alive. But she has a cheap spinning attack that (as far as I could tell) could not be dodged if you are in melee range when she starts the attack. All of her attacks felt considerably overpowered considering the limited (if present at all) wind-ups and cool-downs for them, especially the frustrating paralysis-inducing attacks. Even when she left openings, my attacks didn't stagger her, so she often countered with her own combo when I was in the middle of an attack, which just leeched precious more health. She just kept chipping away at my health like an arcade quarter-muncher, making the fight feel less about skill and more about just being efficient enough to defeat her before I ran out of elixirs. The only way to get more elixirs was to backtrack through the level and grind for them.

Nioh - Hino-Enma
Bosses feel severely overpowered for their missions, and are tedious and uninteresting to boot.

After using a Travel Amulet to pick up my lost Amarita and return to the shrine, I power-leveled to 10 levels over the mission recommendation. This finally allowed me to beat Hino-Enma, but left me severely over-leveled for the next mission, which I cleared with absolutely no trouble at all. But then I got to that mission's boss (a lightning-spewing dog name Nue), and got repeatedly pulverized again. Even after grinding through some of the nearby Yokai (which posed virtually no threat to me at my level) to accumulate extra elixirs, I still didn't have enough to get through this boss's mile-long health bar. I don't mind being stonewalled occasionally, and I don't mind bosses being hard, but I expect the challenge to be more evenly-distributed. Am I missing some simple technique for dealing with bosses? Are the missions leading up to bosses supposed to be so trivial to deal with?...

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Civilization V - Enrico Dandolo of Venice

The penultimate entry in my series of strategy posts about Brave New World's new civilizations will focus on the very unique civilization of Venice: the playable City-State.

The city of Venice is one of the most architecturally astounding cities in the world. It is built on top of 118 small islands in the marshy Venetian lagoon. These natural and artificial islands are separated by a network of canals that run through the city and act almost like a network of roads. Many of the buildings and paved surface roads and walkways are built on top of stilts that emerge from these shallow canals and the city contains over 400 bridges. Historically, most of Venice's traffic has been through the waterways (via gondole) or on foot, but the modern city does have a contemporary road network (although a very compact one) intended for automobiles. Due to its unique environment and construction, the city is an astounding work of engineering art in and of itself.

There are no surviving historical records depicting the founding of Venice, but historians believe that the islands were originally settled by refugees from Roman cities during the Germanic and Hunnic invasions between 400 and 600 C.E. Venice began to expand its international influence prior to the thirteenth century by battling pirates that were plaguing trade in the Adriatic and Mediterranean. The city-state began to become an influential economic force in the region due to its position as a hub for trade between Europe and the Middle East, and Venice non-violently acquired control over many islands of the Aegean, including Cyprus and Crete. Failed military actions and the devastation of the black plague in the fifteenth century lead to the decline of the Venetian empire, and Venice was eventually conquered by Napoleon, then surrendered to Austria in the terms of a peace treaty, then conquered again by Italy during its war of independence. Fortunately, Venice was spared from attack during World War II, and so much of its historical architecture has remained intact, making it a popular tourist destination today.

Civilization V: Brave New World - Enrico Dandolo

The 42nd Doge of Venice, Enrico Dandolo is known mostly for his blindness. There are conflicting stories regarding how Dandolo became blind. The decreasing legibility of his signature between 1174 and 1176 implies that he became blind gradually, possibly due to an injury sustained in Constantinople. He was also a very pious leader who provided invaluable assistance to the knights of the Fourth Crusade and played an integral part in the eventual sacking of Constantinople. Despite his blindness, Dandolo survived into extreme old age, being almost a hundred years old (by some estimates) at the time of his death in 1205. He was buried in the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, but his original tomb was destroyed by the Ottomans when they captured Constantinople (renamed it Istanbul) and converted the Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

Venice was a City-State in Gods & Kings but was promoted to a full civilization for Brave New World. Venice doesn't expand like a traditional civ in Brave New World; instead, it buys control of fellow City-States or expands its influence via conquest, both of which are funded by its excessive trade routes.

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Civilization V - Maria I of Portugal

Going into the back-end of the new civilizations presented in Brave New World, here is another strategy posts. This time, I'll be discussing the gold-generating machine that is Portugal.

The Portuguese essentially initiated the European "Age of Discovery" through the efforts and patronage of Henry the Navigator. After exploring Atlantic islands, Africa, and South America, Portugal established the first world empire in Europe and became one of the wealthiest and most influential powers of the era. Portugal lost much of its imperial strength due to wars with Napoleon and after its most significant colony, Brazil, declared independence. Portugal would never regain its former glory, but it still maintained control over many trading colonies up through the nineteenth century through the use of Feitoria (fortified factory complexes) in its colonies, which are represented in Civ V as city states.

Civilization V: Brave New World - Maria I

Maria I was the first undisputed queen regnant of Portugal and was crowned in 1777. Her rule was tarnished by mental instability and dementia that was first noticed in 1786 and which had made her incapable of managing affairs of state by 1792. The following decade, wars broke out with Spain and Napoleonic France, and Maria (along with the entire royal court) was moved to the colony of Brazil. Despite her madness, she is well-regarded among both Portuguese and Brazilian historians for her domestic policies and for supporting Brazilian independence. she is known as "Maria the Pious" in Portugal, and "Maria the Mad" in Brazil due to the fact that her mental state had already deteriorated by the time she had been relocated to Brazil, and her son had to perform most duties of state.

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Civilization V Brave New World - Ahmad al-Mansur of Morocco

Continuing my series of Civilization V strategies, the fourth installation will cover the African trading empire of Morocco lead by Ahmad al-Mansur.

When the area of Morocco (north west Africa) was first inhabited about 100,000 years ago, the land was a fertile savannah, rather than the arid desert and mountains that it is today, and archeological remains of several Paleolithic proto human cultures exist in the region. During the classical era, Phoenicians established colonies on west Africa, and eventually it was conquered by Carthage and then Rome, and then by Muslim Arabs around 670 CE. The earliest independent Moroccan states were the Berber kingdoms which dates to at least 110 BC, and after the repulsion of Arab rule, the Berbers resumed control. Morocco was the first nation to recognize the United States as an independent nation, and their fleet protected U.S. merchant ships from assaults from barbary pirates. The friendship treaty with Morocco is the United States' oldest non-broken friendship treaty.

Ahmad al-Mansur - portrait

After the assassination of the Saadi Sultan Mohammed ash-Sheikh, his oldest son, Abdallah al-Ghalib sought sole rule, and Ahmad al-Mansur and his brother, Abd al-Malik, had to flee to the Ottoman empire. When Ahmad al-Mansur eventually gained control of Morocco, he resisted Ottoman annexation and maintained Morocco as an independent state, he established friendly relations with many Christian European nations, and began playing the Ottomans and Europeans against each other in order to secure his position of power. Later in his reign, he launched a military campaign against the Songhai empire, which had been weakened by civil strife. The campaign was successful, but Ahmad's heirs couldn't manage the vast territory that had been conquered, so it was divided into smaller kingdoms, and the Moroccan empire went into decline. Ahmad died of the plague in 1603

Morocco was the first civilization that I played in Civilization V: Brave New World. I chose them because their trait is very general-purpose and emphasizes the new trade route mechanic.

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Civilization V: Brave New World - banner

In my review of the Brave New World expansion for Civilization V, I expressed some disappointment that some of the legacy civilizations didn't receive significant updates. I also complained about a few mechanical issues such as how the "warmonger" mechanic works and the value of trade routes. Well, Firaxis has released a major update to the game earlier this fall that addresses some of these complaints.

Civilization V: Brave New World - German Hanse bank

Several of the vanilla civilizations received a major overhaul. As I mentioned in my review, Germany and America seem to have been completely one-upped by the Zulu and Shoshone. Well, Germany has been given a major update, and America has received a small tweak in order to better differentiate them from the BNW successors. In addition, Japan has received a small (but significant) buff.

Germany was probably the civ that was in the most dire need of a facelift, since the Zulu leave them completely in the dust. Both civs had a huge military flavor, discounts for unit maintenance, and a unique Pikeman replacement, and the Zulu had Germany beat on all accounts. In order to differentiate the two, The Landsknechts unique unit was replaced with a new unique building, the "Hanse".

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