Demon's Souls - title

With a new generation of consoles coming into their own, the lifespan of the PS3 and XBox360 is rapidly coming to an end. It's not quite as monumental as the end of the PS2's lifecycle, which is arguably the single best gaming console ever made! With the PS3 and XBox360, our console games started to have consistent online functionality, and with online functionality comes a sad side-effect: a game's life-span is finite. I can always go back and play my favorite PS2 games (like Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid 3, Ace Combat 4, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Gran Turismo 3, and Devil May Cry) and have pretty much the same experience that I had the first time I played. But I won't be able to do that with some of my favorite PS3 games, because some of them have online features that won't remain active forever.

favorite PS2 games
As long as my PS2 is functional, I can always go back and re-play my favorite PS2 games.

PC gamers have been dealing with this problem since the dawn of the internet, but they have work-arounds. PC Games can be modded to support direct TCP / IP connections in order for their online communities to stay online. Hypothetically, you could keep your favorite MMO alive for yourself and your circle of friends in this fashion. But with console games, there are much more significant technical hurdles to overcome, and when the producer shuts down the servers, that is basically the end of that game.

And that is exactly what is going to happen some day with my favorite PS3-exclusive: Demon's Souls.

Every console has its defining games - those games that are reasons for owning the consoles. The original PlayStation had Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid, the Nintendo 64 had Goldeneye, the Dreamcast had Shenmue and Soul Calibur, the XBox had Halo, GameCube had Resident Evil 4 and Eternal Darkness, the PS2 had Shadow of the Colossus. For me, Demon's Souls is that game for the PS3: the game that makes owning a PS3 worthwhile.

Demon's Souls is a game that completely redefined the way that I think about gaming. My ideas about how a player can interact with a game world and with other players were completely turned on their head with this game. So I want to take a moment to pay tribute to this masterpiece of interactive art with a full review while its servers are still up and running. And maybe - just maybe - I can sell a copy or two to some new players.

Deep and addictive hack 'n' slash action

The gameplay is based on a simple control configuration in which weapons are mapped to the left and right hand and controlled with the left and right shoulder buttons (respectively). The design is reminiscent of a simplified version of FROM's other major game franchise: the mech-combat sim Armored Core. Weapons equipped in the right hand have a basic attack and a heavy attack, and weapons or shields in the left hand have a block and heavy attack (sorry, lefties, no left-handed characters for you!). These basic controls are very simple, and any player can start hacking and blocking away as soon as they pick up the controller. But more advanced controls and variations in weapon functionality make this seemingly-simple combat system very deep.

Each weapon class has different movesets, ranging from the slashing of a sword to the thrusting of a spear, to smashing of a giant hammer. And shields (and some off-hand weapons) have an advanced parry feature that allows you to stun and counter an attacking foe to land a critical hit. You can also attack while running or out of dodges in order to keep a foe guessing. Mastering these various features takes a little bit of time, but it is immensely rewarding when you finally have the skills to go toe to toe with a giant, butcher-knife wielding skeleton with confidence. But don't get overconfident, because this game will punish you for every mistake!

Demon's Souls - Vanguard rematch
With patience and practice, you'll soon stand confidently before the Vanguard that killed you in the tutorial.

If you die, you lose all your accumulated souls (i.e. "experience"), and must restart the level from the beginning! But there is a shining glimmer of hope: you have one chance to reach the spot where you died in order to recover your lost souls. If you get there...

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Dark Souls II - title

Despite being very excited about this game and pre-ordering the collector's edition (contrary to my typical avoidance of pre-orders), it took a couple months before I was able to spend much time with it. My strategy guides for Civilization V: Brave New World was a lot of work and took up a lot of time. I was only able to play bits and pieces of Dark Souls II during that time and didn't make much progress. I was hoping to have a review out in time for the PC release, but that didn't happen. Then I was hoping to publish the review before the first DLC hit, but that didn't happen either. I'll probably review the DLC later, once all three have been released.

Full disclosure: I haven't actually finished the game yet, but I do feel that I've played enough of it to be able to write a review. If completing the game changes my opinion considerably, then I will revise this review as I've done with other games in the past (including the first Dark Souls). I've also considered getting the Steam version, since it may be better than the console versions. If I do play that version, I may revise this review to include opinions on that version.

But for now, I've only played the PS3 version,

Table of Contents

Dark Souls II - Victory!
Is Dark Souls II a victorious successor to a masterpiece of design and storytelling?
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Dark Souls II - banner

Viewers of the 2012 Video Game Awards got a special treat in the form of an announcement teaser for Dark Souls II.

The teaser is a pre-rendered cinematic that gives only vague hints of the sequel's plot and provides absolutely nothing in terms of gameplay information. In any case, we have confirmation that a direct sequel (rather than a spiritual successor, ala Demon's Souls to Dark Souls) is in the works. Dark Souls was almost universally acclaimed by fans and critics, but a large portion of the loyal Demon's Souls fans held out that Dark Souls was actually a step backwards from its predecessor. Since a very large portion of Dark Souls players were Xbox and PC users who had never tasted the greatness of the PS3-exclusive Demon's Souls, many of them didn't know any better than to love the game without reservation. Being a big fan of Demon's Souls, I knew better and was one of the critics who argued that Dark Souls didn't quite hold up to Demon's Souls.

Don't get me wrong, I like Dark Souls! It's a really good game! I just felt that Demon's Souls was a more competent and cohesive overall package (especially factoring in the time it was released), in which all the features and mechanics worked fluidly with each other, and which was immensely better balanced (i.e. providing a challenge that was brutal, but fair).

I'm going to reserve my excitement for Dark Souls II until we start learning details of the gameplay. I fear that the marketing folks at the publisher might push FROM Software into making an even more mass-marketable game than Dark Souls was, which could lead to an even further simplification and dumbing-down of the game mechanics and concepts.

However, I'm not going to let that reservation stop me from expressing my desires for what I'd like to see in the game, just like I did prior to Dark Souls' release.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012 05:20 AM

Sony unveiling PS3 Slim(mer). Should I care?

in Video Gaming by MegaBearsFan
The new PS3 Slim(mer)
A slimmer PS3.

It is being reported that Sony is planning on releasing a slimmer version of the PS3 console this holiday season. I have yet to see any detailed technical specs of the new unit other than that it will be lighter and smaller than the existing PS3 Slim models and will have a bigger hard drive out-of-box (250 gig or 500 gig models will be available).

I don't really see the point in this move; although, I guess if the lighter, smaller unit is going to cut production costs, then it's a smart business move for Sony. But from the consumer standpoint, I don't see any reason why someone would want or need to "upgrade" to the new model.

Maybe they'll release additional technical specs at the upcoming Tokyo Game Show?

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Diablo III

Recently came across Toronto-based software engineer Alex Curelea's blog, in which he describes the psychology behind why Diablo III may not be as satisfying as Diablo II was. It was a good read, and very quick too.

In the analysis, he compares Diablo fans to monkeys who are rewarded with flavored juice when they pull a lever after a specific sequence of shapes is displayed on screen. Eventually, the monkeys begin to associate the reward with the sequence of shapes, and the reward center of their brain becomes stimulated when the sequence appears, rather than when the actual reward is given later.

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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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