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[Dark Souls] Day 4ish

I rang the first bell.

The lesson learned with Dark Souls isn’t that the game is unfair, it is just amoral. It doesn’t care.

You fight one boss when heading to the bell, and then another one shows up halfway through the fight. During one attempt, the bosses flew through the air, landed on opposite sides of me, and both breathed fire in a cone attack – I was stunlocked into a fiery death. I just had to laugh. If this were a “proper” game, I would say that the boss design was terrible or punishingly difficult. And it is punishingly difficult. But on my next attempt, I somehow managed to get inbetween the legs of the first boss when the 2nd was summoned, and I… just kept wailing on him. Not sure if the boss was stunlocked by me or if it was some combination of the slope and/or me riding its crotch, but it just died without dealing any damage. Dispatching the 2nd boss was easy after that.

Way earlier in the level, there’s an intimidating armored boar. I don’t know its moveset because once I realized it would chase me down some stairs but not into the corridor at the bottom of the stairs, I just aggroed it, then stabbed it in the porkchops when it turned around. At no point was I in danger of taking damage.

In any other game, that would be an “exploit.” In Dark Souls, it’s just business.

The main complaint I have with Dark Souls though are the Bonfires. Not having one immediately before boss fights is whatever. Having Bonfires for the zone be behind fake walls is another thing altogether. Up to this point, Dark Souls has done a good job at organically teaching you mechanics. The hidden Bonfire in Darkroot Gardens though is just dumb. I could understand perhaps if the Bonfire was visible from the other side, e.g. you see it when returning from that area, but nope.

These days, I no longer have hang-ups surrounding looking shit up. Specifically, Bonfire locations, especially whenever I’m deep in a new zone and/or after killing a boss. Going in blind is kind of a big portion of the “fun” of these games, but… nah. Dying with the equivalent of two levels in my backpack and having to traverse an entire zone of mobs that can kill you real quick if you’re not meticulous is not my idea of fun. If progress was not lost, or perhaps if I had barely any souls at the time, I would be considerably more caviler.

Looking up anything is a slippery slope though, and I have slid further down than intended a few times already. Sometimes though, it’s difficult to feel too guilty. Basilisks, for example. I fell down a trapdoor in the Depths that puts you in the middle of like three of them, and I managed to take them out. If I hadn’t known about the Curse though, then I might have stayed in the fog too long and died an ignoble death while continuing to pay for it in the respawn.

Nevertheless, I am still having fun. So on it goes.

Review: Syndicate

Game: Syndicate
Recommended price: $5
Metacritic Score: 69
Completion Time: ~6 hours
Buy If You Like: Amoral cyberpunk FPS bastardizations

Style over substance ^ 100

Syndicate is a FPS reboot of the 90’s series of the same name. As someone who never played the original series, I became interested after watching the trailer and was drawn towards the dystopian cyberpunk setting as a means of getting through my Deus Ex withdraw. Indeed, at first glance Syndicate has a lot in common with Deus Ex on a thematic level, although Syndicate never really goes any farther than reestablishing the rather brilliant lore of prior games. There are no deeper ramifications to your actions, or introspection on the nature of humanity, or much beyond entertaining gunplay, so… not really like Deus Ex at all.

The premise of the game is that you are Kilo, an Agent of a syndicate named Eurocorp, who just developed a highly-advanced neural implant that grants access to various powers. In this future, industrial sabotage takes on an incredibly literal meaning, with Agents of rival syndicates tasked with infiltrating R&D departments and basically killing/stealing ALL the things. During a mission to do exactly that, a conspiracy is uncovered, reinforcements arrive, boom boom, explosions, lens flare, boss fights, the end.

That sounds facetious, but plot is not at all Syndicate’s strong point.

Not much room for deep thinking when you get an Execute prompt for hobos watching bad VR porn.

What is particular strong however, is the gunplay. Syndicate does a great job of making you feel like you are running and gunning in a Matrix-esque movie, including having access to overpowered abilities without making you feel immortal. As the plot develops, you eventually gain access to three main “Breaches”: Suicide, Backfire, and Persuade. Suicide makes the targeted enemy shoot themselves in the head or pop a grenade if they are near others. Backfire causes enemies to fall down (possibly out of cover) and take additional damage for X seconds. Persuade makes an enemy fight on your side for X seconds, before shooting themselves at the end of the timer. Each of these abilities recharge only when you kill enemies, ensuring that you don’t just hide in cover until your cooldown comes back up.

What does recharge is the sort of bullet-time mode that you can use in a more traditional Max Payne/FEAR sense to dispatch foes. In fact, this bullet-time is incredibly important because you frequently face massive waves of enemies who are more than capable of mowing you down in seconds. As you progress, the enemies get smarter, tougher, and many start becoming immune to your Breaches altogether. Along the way, you will face rival Agents as proper boss fights, including extra-long HP bar and various gimmicks. While such boss fights were really out of place in a game like Deus Ex, for some reason they felt alright in Syndicate.

In any case, if you are like me and care more about whether it’s worth $9.99 or whatever than about how much the reboot ruins the spirit of the original games, I would say it entirely depends on how much enjoy cyberpunk settings. Syndicate looks great, it has a solid five hours of mindless fun, and you can almost pretend that there is an in-depth existential plot you are just Spacebaring through the whole time. Indeed, Syndicate has a lot more in common with Hard Reset than Deus Ex in that regard. Times aren’t what they used to be though, and whereas I would recommend Hard Reset at $10, I have a tough time recommending Syndicate at any anything higher than $5… and even then, only if you really dig cyberpunk games.