Dark Souls title
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 1, 2016:
The release of Dark Souls III has finally answered this question. That game has rendered the speculation below completely moot and invalid. However, this post will remain preserved for posterity.

There is considerable debate within the Dark Souls fan base regarding whether or not Knight Solaire of Astora may be the forgotten son of Lord Gwyn, and the God of War. The game contains many references to a forgotten God of War, who was the son of Lord Gwyn, the God of Sunlight. The primary source for this is the item description for the Ring of the Sun's Firstborn:

Dark Souls - Ring of the Sun's Firstborn
"Lord Gwyn's firstborn, who inherited the
sunlight, once wore this ancient ring.
Boosts the strength of miracles.
 
Lord Gwyn's firstborn was a god of war,
but his foolishness led to a loss of the
annals, and rescinding of his deific status.
Today, even his name is not known.
"

The game doesn't specify what the God of War did to be stripped from the annals, but the blunder cost him dearly. As a punishment, Gwyn and the other gods rescinded the God of War's diefic status and expelled him from Anor Londo.

But it didn't end there. Based on the content of the game itself, it appears that the gods also removed all references to him. This included removing or destroying any statues depicting him and redacting his name from records. Both his name and face are lost to history, as is his fate. Was he cast out of Anor Londo? Was he made mortal? Was he cast out of the world, entirely?

Dark Souls - Anor Londo missing statue Dark Souls - smashed Sunlight Altar
The gods made an effort to eradicate all records and traces of the God of War.
Statues of him were removed or destroyed all throughout Anor Londo and Lordran.

If the Warriors of Sunlight covenant (lead by the God of War) existed prior to the God of War's expulsion from Anor Londo, then it would also stand to reason that the gods disbanded the covenant. It's highly unlikely that gods would have permitted the covenant to continue to function, since its followers would be able to continue to teach of the existence of the God of War. These followers would likely have been forced to renounce the covenant or become an underground cult. The fact that the covenant still exists and has followers is likely due to the waning influence of the gods after Gwyn left to link the flames and the gods were forced to abandon Anor Londo.

The Sunlight Medal does offer one clue as to the fate of the God of War and his covenant. It suggests that the forgotten god still lives, and still watches over his followers:

Dark Souls - Sunlight Medal
"This faintly warm medal engraved with the
symbol of the Sun, is the ultimate honor,
awarded to those who summon the Warrior
of Sunlight and complete a goal.
 
The symbol represents Lord Gwyn's firstborn,
who lost his deity status and was expunged
from the annals. But the old God of War
still watches closely over his warriors.
"

In any case, we meet one NPC Warrior of Sunlight during the game: Solaire of Astora.

Solaire doesn't reveal much about himself. He is a Warrior of the Sunlight who has a strong reverence for the sun itself. In fact, he is on a possibly futile attempt to obtain his own "sun"...

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Dark Souls II - title

I recently posted my much-belated review of Dark Souls II. In it, I criticized the game for having lackluster online components, but didn't go into much detail other than to say that Soul Memory seems like a non-optimal matchmaking method and that invasions are rare and reserved for elite players. I wanted to take a moment to go over some of the other complaints that I have with the game's online mechanics, as well as to offer some suggestions for improving them. While it seems unlikely that From will make significant mechanical changes at the fundamental levels that I am about to propose, the fact that there is still at least one more DLC incoming means they have the opportunity to do so.

Dark Souls II - tutorial effigy
Human Effigies were too rare to be
the only means of revival.

When the game initially released, humanity could only be restored by consuming a Human Effigy. This mechanic was an interesting departure, since the previous games had both relied on defeating bosses as the primary way of reviving. The idea of requiring a consumable item to restore humanity wasn't exactly earth-shattering or fundamentally broken, but the specific implementation had one major flaw: Human Effigies were very rare, and there was no way to farm them!

This made deaths feel extremely punitive and proved unpopular with players and critics, and so From reversed their design and went back to granting revivals from boss kills.

After the 1.03 patch, maintaining your humanity has become almost trivial. This is mostly due to the fact that the White Soapstone can be placed anywhere in the level (including right outside a boss's fog gate), and that players can use the Small Soapstone to fully restore humanity by spending a couple minutes killing standard enemies. By using the Small Soapstone, you spend a few minutes in another player's world, and killing enemies shortens this duration. At the end, you are sent back to your own world with fully restored health, humanity, item condition, estus, and a small reward (usually a Smooth & Silky Stone).

Revival via the Small Soapstone makes it far too easy to keep your humanity. It requires only a minimal investment of time and effort, and you don't even have to beat a boss to fulfill it. This practically nullifies the cumulative loss of health from hollowing and makes it almost trivial to maintain humanity throughout most of the game.

Dark Souls II - small soapstone duty complete
The Small White Soapstone can be used to easily restore full humanity - sometimes without any effort by the player!
Instead of full restoration, it should provide a partial restoration.

Fixing this imbalance seems easy enough: completing the Small Soapstone task should only partially restore the player's humanity. Instead of a full restore, the player's max HP could be restored equivalent to a single death...

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No Man's Sky title

I don't typically get excited about E3 the way that other gamers do. I try not to buy into hype, since I've been burnt before. I prefer a good review over the most stellar of previews. E3 tends to be a lot of pomp and circumstance; a cacophony of light and sound and flashy presentations of scripted, pre-rendered previews that are hardly ever representative of the final product.

I also haven't been paying much attention to the new consoles. They just don't excite me that much. Most quality games are seeing multi-platform releases these days, which usually includes a high-quality PC port that is at least as good (and sometimes better) than any console iteration. Gone are the days of sub-par, buggy PC ports. Or at least, that is how it seems to me. So I just don't see the new consoles as being worth while as long as I have a decent gaming PC. And in fact, these consoles will likely be inferior to good gaming PCs within a couple years. So what's the point in investing in one?

There are a few games on the horizon that look intriguing. I've already talked about Evil Within and Alien Isolation as being two of my most anticipated games of this fall. Both of these games will have PC versions that I will likely purchase, so no need to invest in a new console yet.

There's also a new project by the developers of Demon's Souls that was announced as a PS4 exclusive. That game could have the potential to sell a PS4 to me, but I'm going to wait to see more of the game before I get too excited.

But E3 did have one stand-out surprise that really piqued my interest. It's a new game by a developer called Hello Games. The game is called No Man's Sky.

This game was presented during the PS4 E3 press conference, but it's likely to see a PC version as well. If not, then this title could also turn into a PS4-seller for me.

The game is being advertised as an "infinitely-expanding procedurally-generated science fiction universe"...

[More]
Max Payne 3 - banner

Let me preface this review by stating that I’m a big fan of the Max Payne series and film noir in general. Both Max Payne and Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne had adrenaline-fueled, symbolic, dark, and quite often funny parts of awesome whole experiences. I strongly suggest playing at least the first game if you haven’t already; its story is great and definitely gives you a feel for who Max is and why he keeps on fighting through many odds. But while the old games are great, they don’t quite reach the level of fun that I found in Max Payne 3.

Max Payne 3 is a fantastic game. Right when I started playing I knew that it was a great decision because of the top-notch production values which include the graphics, sound design, and direction of the plot. One of my favorite things about the game is that it has a very self-contained experience in that you don’t have to play the previous two in order to fully understand it. However as stated before you will empathize with and enjoy Max as a character much more if you’ve played MP1 and preferably MP2 as well.

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Demon's Souls - banner

Today is a sad day for fans of Atlus' critically-acclaimed PS3-exclusive game, Demon's Souls. Hot off the heels of my Dark Souls review, the announcement that Dark Souls will be ported to the PC, and new rumors that DLC is in the works for Dark Souls, Atlust just announced that the Demon's Souls servers will be shut-down at 11:59 PST on May 31st, 2012.

We knew it had to happen sooner or later, and the shut down was already delayed at least once (it was originally scheduled to happen shortly after the release of Dark Souls). It just seems like this is way too early. The game is only two-and-a-half years old!

It's also really too bad that FromSoftware and Atlus don't seem to have any plans to update the game to support some sort of P2P, direct IP/TCP, or proxy-server multiplayer set-up. I know it would defeat the idea behind the online components, but something would be better than nothing. Letting the fans connect to each other directly, or to set up their own servers would be nice, but I'm not even sure if it's technically possible given the structure of the PlayStation Network.

UPDATE (June 1, 2012): Atlus extends server operation indefinitely

Just found out that Atlus has extended the operation of the Demon's Souls servers "indefinitely!

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