Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Adjusting to FROM Software's newest game, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has been a very mixed bag. I'm handling most of the stealth just fine (coming from a background of lots of Metal Gear Solid), but I've been having a tough time with the game's very-demanding combat. This game is much further divorced from the Souls games than even Bloodborne was -- so much so, that I'm not sure if it's fair to lump Sekiro in as a "Souls-Borne" or "Souls-like" game. Honestly, I was never much of a parry-er in the Souls games anyway, so I'm having a harder time adjusting to Sekiro than many other Souls veterans might. Sekiro is all parry, all the time!

Even a week later, I'm not very far into the game. I've cleared the Ashina Outskirts, Ashina Castle Gate, and a large chunk of the Hirata Estate. I've only beat [I think] two legit bosses, a couple mini-bosses, and have challenged (but yet to defeat) a third boss. These bosses have been tough -- perhaps tougher than any early-game bosses in any of the Souls games or Bloodborne. A big part of this difficulty is that Sekiro very deliberately, and very explicitly, has removed many of the crutches that Souls players have enjoyed since Demon's Souls: you can't summon help, nor can you grind to level up your character. You can acquire new skills, but you can't upgrade your attack power or vitality by simply farming grunt enemies as you could in FROM's earlier games.

If you weren't much of a parry-er in Souls games, you may find it difficult to adjust to Sekiro.

This creates a much higher bar of entry than FROM's earlier games. Perhaps too high?

In any case, don't expect a full review from me any time soon. I'll be tanking the rakes for weeks -- if not months.

The Blazing Bull can be parried!

In the meantime, however, I want to share some important observations that I had about one particular boss in the early levels of Sekiro: the Blazing Bull. All of the bosses that I've encountered in the game so far have felt like entering the Capra Demon arena in the first Dark Souls -- but none of them have channeled the cheapness of the Capra Demon quite like the Blazing Bull.

Many early bosses -- the Blazing Bull in particular -- feel like walking into the Capra Demon arena.

This giant, flaming beast essentially ambushes you. It's exceedingly aggressive and almost impossible to dodge. It's very easy to feel overwhelmed. I certainly did.

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Star Trek Voyager cast

Don't worry, I'm almost done venting my frustrations with Star Trek: Voyager. The first post was about how the show failed to build on its foundations, and the second post was about how the show was a Next Gen copy-cat. This will be the third (and last) post exclusively dedicated to bashing on Voyager. If I decide to write anything further about Voyager, it will probably be about the things that I actually like about the series. I want to re-emphasize that I don't hate Star Trek: Voyager as a TV show. I feel that it was very mediocre, and I'm disappointed that it failed to deliver on its potential.

Even though I don't hate the series as a whole, the one thing that I actually do absolutely loathe about the series is its finale: "Endgame".

Voyager's "Endgame" is a lazy, contrived, cop-out of a finale.

Endgame is one of the worst episodes of Voyager, and might very well be one of the worst episodes in all of Star Trek! OK, it's not "The Omega Glory" or "The Alternative Factor" or "Sub Rosa" bad, but it's pretty terrible! I honestly do not understand how it keeps making lists of "best Voyager episodes". About the only redeeming factor of this episode (in my mind) is that the inclusion of Klingon Captain Korath (and his possession of a time-travel device) indirectly cannonizes Star Trek: the Experience -- and kind of indirectly canonizes me!

"Endgame" is a schlocky action adventure that basically perfectly represents all of Voyager's weaknesses as a show. It's too dependent on its TV-budget CGI Borg special effects. It makes Seven of Nine out to be the most important character on the show (she is the most important character, but the show doesn't have to continually force it down our throats). It's selfish and pretentious. It's fan-servicy.

The inclusion of Captain Korath's time travel device indirectly canonizes Star Trek: the Experience.

"Endgame" is too concerned with its gimmick to really care much about the characters. So much so that it literally manifests a significant (but ultimately arbitrary) romance between two main characters out of nowhere with no build-up at all and in complete contrast to any development that had already been happening. Even the actors thought this romance sub-plot came out of nowhere and blindsided them!

Lastly, "Endgame" is also a rehash of an earlier Voyager episode: "Timeless" (in which Harry Kim goes back in time to save Voyager from crashing), while at the same time trying to be a lazy rehash of TNG's brilliant and beautiful finale "All Good Things..." -- but without the brilliance or beauty.

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Star Trek Voyager cast

In my last post, I vented some of my frustrations with Star Trek: Voyager. Primarily, I ranted about how the series mostly failed to follow through with its central premise of being about the ship being lost and isolated on the other side of the galaxy. But I still have more complaints with Voyager. A side effect of the show not following its "lost and alone" premise to its logical conclusion, the show ended up feeling like it was trying too hard to be a Next Generation copy-cat.

Steve Shives also brought up this complaint in his Youtube video "What's My Problem With Voyager?", and I echo the criticism. Voyager had the frustrating habit of retelling stories that had already been told (usually better) in Next Generation. Star Trek shows have always repeated archetype characters, but TNG and Deep Space Nine were very good about paying homage to the earlier shows, without outright copying them.

Many characters feel like slight variations of characters from TOS and TNG.

For example, it could be argued that Data in TNG is a copy-cat of Spock. Dr. McCoy, after all, frequently referred to Spock as a "computer", and Mr. Data is [literally] a computer. But Data isn't a copy-cat of Spock. He's actually more a reflection of Spock (though, admittedly, Spock's arc in the movies and in "Unification" does paint him as being more similar to Data). Spock (in the Original Series) derided his humanity and fought very hard to subdue and quell it. Spock was like a Dr. Jekyll who thought his human half was the monstrous Mr. Hyde. Data, on the other hand, inverts this concept and is more of a Pinocchio (which Riker explicitly spells out for us in "Encounter At Farpoint").

Data wasn't a copy of Spock, he was an inverted reflection.

Also, Spock was dueling with his human half throughout the Original Series and into the movies. That's a dynamic that isn't present in Data at all. That dynamic is present, however, in Worf! Then, of course, there's the whiz kid element of Spock's character, which was transcribed onto Wesley in TNG. So TNG took inspiration from the Original Series' most popular character (Spock), but instead of copying him with minor variations, it split Spock's attributes into multiple characters.

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Star Trek Voyager cast

A couple years ago, I wrote about the show that I wish Star Trek: Enterrpise had been. Enterprise completely dropped the ball as a prequel and as a bridge between our time and the time of the original Star Trek, by screwing up at fundamental levels of its conception and design. But Enterprise wasn't the first Star Trek series to do this. Its immediate predecessor, Star Trek: Voyager had already started this trend, which has sadly carried onto into all incarnations of Star Trek since.

I rarely talk much about the reasons that I think Voyager is an inferior show to Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. The closest I've come so far was my rant about the Borg, a brief retrospective as part of the 50th anniversary, and a few off-hand jabs at Voyager in some of my other Star Trek posts. This past summer, Steve Shives published a video on Youtube called "What's My Problem with Voyager?" in which he vents some of the same complaints that I have. Steve has some pretty excellent content on his channel, and I highly recommend checking him out if you enjoy my Star Trek content. Anyway, his video inspired me to vent some of my own frustrations with Voyager that he either didn't cover, or for which I feel I have additional insight.

Steve Shives, creator of "Trek, Actually", posted his problem with Voyager on Youtube.

Just like Steve, I want to start by stressing that I don't hate Star Trek: Voyager. I don't think it's as good as its predecessors, but it's perfectly watchable.

When I first started drafting this, it was going to be a short list of complaints. However, as I re-watched the show, the post ballooned with examples. As such, I'm going to split this into several parts. This first part will probably be the longest (so bear with me please) and will focus on what I perceive as a failure of Star Trek: Voyager to adequately build upon the foundations of its premise. The next post will be about how I perceive Voyager as a lazy copycat of The Next Generation.

At a conceptual level, Voyager begins with two foundational pillars: the ship is stranded on the opposite end of the galaxy; and a quarter of the crew has been replaced by Maquis freedom fighters and terrorists instead of trained Starfleet personnel. The show almost completely whiffs on both of these concepts. I would say that there are also two other foundational pillars of the show, but each of these only lasts for half the series. In the first half of the series, a major source of conflict is the fact that Voyager possesses technology far superior to the races and civilizations that it encounters; thus, bringing the Prime Directive into sharp focus and testing the crew's resolve to obey the Directive in such desperate circumstances. In the second half of the series, we have the Borg (which I will be discussing again).

Voyager is isolated and alone, without the resources of the Federation or a starbase.

All four of these are very strong concepts and well worth exploring. Unfortunately, Voyager almost completely abandons its two initial foundations, and (again) completely whifs when it comes to the Borg (though, admittedly, a big part of that is Star Trek: First Contact's fault). The only concept that Voyager really sticks the landing on is the idea of technological disparity between Voyager and its foes in the first couple seasons.

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Civilization VI - Wilfrid Laurier of Canada

Civilization VI's second expansion, Gathering Storm recently released and has added a handful of new civilizations and leaders. I am hoping to write a strategy for each of them, but I want to start with the civilizations and leaders who are completely new to the franchise.

One of these new civs represents a sort-of "farewell" present to the founder and former lead-host of the PolyCast podcast, Dan Q, who stepped down from the podcast at the end of 2018 in order to spend more time with his new family. However, he'll still be playing Civ, and for the first time in the franchise's history, Dan gets to play as his home and native land of Canada. It's too bad he's not on PolyCast anymore to tell us about how great Wilfrid Laurier of Canada is, eh?

PolyCast logo

On a more serious note: thank you, Dan for over a decade of faithful service and dedication to the Civilization community. And on a more personal note, thank you for inviting me to join the regular panel on PolyCast. You gave me a voice within this community that I did not think I would ever be able to reach. We'll miss you, Dan, and we hope to talk to you again as a guest host many times in the future. Best wishes to you and your new wife in your new life together. May your lives together be forever in a Golden Age!

This guide is dedicated to you, Dan. Now let's talk about Canada in Civilization VI!

Civilization VI - Wilfrid Laurier portrait

The first European colony in North America is widely accepted to be a Norse encampment in Newfoundland, which was abandoned within a few years of settlement. It wasn't until the 16th century that large-scale colonization began -- mostly by French and British colonists. In 1763, France ceded most of its North American colonies to the British following years of on-again-off-again warfare. The Confederation of Canada was formed over a hundred years later, but remained loyal to the British crown until the Canada Act of 1982. Despite being a formally independent nation, Canada still maintains the British monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) as its official head of state. Because many of the founding cities were French colonies, Canada is an officially bilingual country, with both English and French being its official languages, and it is now one of the most multi-cultural nations in the world due to frequent large-scale immigration from other parts of the world. Canadian interactions with indigenous peoples were generally less violent than with neighboring United States' interactions with natives. However, the expansion of Canadian territory still required the forced relocation or assimilation of somewhere between 200,000 and 2 million indigenous peoples, including the Inuit, Métis, the Cree, and several dozen other tribes.

Canada's first French-speaking prime minister was Sir Henri Charles Wilfrid Laurier. Laurier was part of Canada's Liberal party, advocating for decentralized federalism and staunchly defending individual personal liberty. Despite wishing for Canada to remain an autonomous nation loyal to the British Empire, he would go on to oppose British conscription of Canadian citizens in World War I, which would become a polarizing issue in the early 20th century. He gained a reputation as a bright and cheerful leader who always followed the "sunny ways", and has become one of the most beloved prime minsters in Canadian history.

DISCLAIMER:
Civilization VI is still a "living game". Strategies for the game (and for specific leaders and civs) may change as Firaxis applies balance patches, introduces new features, or expands the game through further DLC or expansion packs, or as the Civ community discovers new strategies or exploits. As such, the following strategy guide may change from time to time. I will try to keep it up-to-date, and will make notations whenever changes are made. I'll also post links in the official 2K forums and CivFanatics, where I'll also report any changes made. If possible and practical, I will try to retain the original content of the strategy for posterity.

I welcome any feedback or suggestions that readers wish to offer. Feel free to post on the linked forums, or by posting a comment at the bottom of the page.

This guide is up to date as of the release of the Gathering Storm expansion (ver. 1.0.0.290)

Canda is a prime contender for a turtle strategy, as it cannot surprise declare on other civs, or be surprise declared on. They also specialize in settling in otherwise-inhospitable tundra.

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A gamer's thoughts

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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