[Dark Souls] Day 3
I level up my base sword to +5 by farming souls. It’s not my “main” weapon, but until I find a Dexterity-based weapon, it is the one I have, so why not? This awareness, that one can farm currency/XP, dislodges something stuck in my mind. Where has this notion been in all the Git Gud conversations? Of course, there are probably limits to farming – practical or otherwise – and certainly you must respect boss mechanics. But there is a lifeline beyond trial and error, a sense of progression possible to afford you that slightest extra edge.
I feel more comfortable, even in unknown areas.
From the Blacksmith, I try and remember if there was a shortcut to the Undead Burg. Heading lower, I encounter a crippled statue thing that shoots lightning. I hit it once or twice, note how my power attack deals 15 damage, and then just run around it and down the hallway beyond. Kill some plant creatures. Walk to a vista area, look around for a moment, note “there doesn’t seem to be many mobs around here,” and instinctively turn around and parry the blow from another plant creature coming up behind me. Pretty sure getting hit where I was would have sent me flying over the cliff.
Keep heading down. Find a corpse with a bunch of leather armor and a bow. Head down further. Get waylaid by armored sub-boss. This one has a spear, so I spent a few minutes learning it’s moveset. As I circling him, I started walking down a ramp… and realized that his attacks couldn’t hit me. He eventually started using a new move that actually attacked downward, but I had already thrusted him to 10% from relative immunity. The corpse he was guarding has a shield that gives bonus stamina regen. Welp, that is probably going to be a forever item.
Keep heading down, found a Bonfire, now I’m in the Valley of the Drakes. Die a few times to the first Drake while I learn its moveset. Frustratingly die next attempt when the Drake had barely a sliver of HP; Dark Souls has zero remorse about you getting stunlocked in a lightning breath attack. Regain my souls, then fight it again. This time… the Drake leaps backwards off the cliff and dies. I run past another Drake on the bridge in order to loot the corpse there, then run away back up the elevator, save my game.
Darkest Dungeon plays in my head: “Remind yourself that overconfidence is a slow and insidious killer.”
I know what I am supposed to do, where I’m supposed to go. But I don’t want to. Not yet. Still no Dex weapon. Should I just pivot into some Strength build? Should I murder the Undead Merchant (killing NPCs is definitely a thing in Dark Souls) for his sword? What are the odds that I care about Undead Burg in the future, especially considering how long it took to find the guy in the first place?
Soon. Not today, but soon.
Review: Fate Hunters
Fate Hunters is a deckbuilding roguelike in the same… well, not vein, but same circulatory system as Slay the Spire.
In truth, the game plays more like Dominion meets Darkest Dungeon – there is no energy, so you can play all of the cards in your hand every turn, but unplayable treasure cards can gum up your deck if you get too greedy. Monster attacks are straight-forward: they do the thing as what their card says, from left to right, every turn. After each boss fight, you are given the opportunity to leave with all your treasure cards or continue the climb, with each successive boss adding a multiplier to your treasure. If you die, that’s it, you get nothing.
And that’s the entire review. The end.
…I’m being kinda serious.
What I can say is that the game is very addictive in the just-one-more-fight way and feels amazing even though it seems low-budget. The card art is very Darkest Dungeon and consistent throughout the game. There is a fairly decent amount of cards available, including a half-dozen classes which have their own specific cards. There are also meaningful choices as you level and when you defeat bosses. For example, do you want to pick one of three random Fates (passive abilities) out of 20+? Or choose one of three Legendary weapons? Or choose one of three Heroic spells?
There is a fairly high variance in card effect quality which can lead to some swingy runs, but overall you are not likely to be shut out of possibly winning. And besides, as long as you get make it past at least one boss, you can just exit the dungeon with whatever spoils you happened to collect and try again.
As for the downsides? Well, the game is done and will no longer get any updates. Which is a real shame because there are a number of tweaks that could have been made to buff the weaker cards/abilities into usefulness. The nature of the game also lends itself to very specific strategies too – you pretty much have to always build a discard-themed deck given how treasures work. There is also zero story or lore of any kind, if that is important to you. The default price of $15 is extremely ridiculous.
But, honestly? It’s on sale for $3.74 right now and I have put in 18 hours already. If you are someone who enjoys deckbuilding roguelikes, it’s a no-brainer. Just be wary of using it as “filler” or a palate cleanser in-between other games, because every time I try and do that, it’s suddenly 2AM and I never get to the other game. Which is a pretty glowing review, now that I think about it.
Impression: Darkest Dungeon
As I alluded to before, I ended up refunding my purchase of Isaac: Rebirth. Deciding I was still in the mood for a roguelike, I put that $10 into purchasing Darkest Dungeon instead. Now more than dozen hours in, I myself feel like a character succumbing to mania over the experience.
The core gameplay loop of Darkest Dungeon is simply superb. Pick a group of four adventurers, buy them supplies for a dungeon delve, and then crawl through said dungeon killing and looting. Successful completion or not, those four particular adventurers are likely going to need a break to recover from the ordeal, so spend a bunch of your gold on (mentally) healing them. For the rest of the profits, use heirlooms to build up the Hamlet, then spend gold to upgrade the gear of another set of four adventurers… who then will need provisions for their own expedition. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
That might sound boring or perhaps grindy, but there are so many considerations and decisions to be made on a micro level that I find the hours melting away in a Civilization “One more turn” kind of way. For example, you can’t recruit just anyone: you get a small pool of recruits to choose from each “week.” Even if it’s a class that you wanted, out of the 8 possible Skills that class has, they will have 4 random ones. You can spend gold training the specific ones you desire, of course, but that’s 1000g less you have to spend on something else. Other times you have exactly the class and spec you want for your particular dungeon strategy, but they end up accumulating too many Diseases or negative Quirks such that it’s easier/cheaper to just let them go than keep them. Finally, even if you upgrade the Stagecoach such that you get higher-level recruits hand-delivered to you with full upgrades out of the box, they might not have enough positive Quirks to justify the limited roster space.
None of this even gets into the combat and dungeon exploring parts of the game.
At the beginning, I thought the combat system was kinda dumb. Each character has the ability to do one thing each round in a turn-based manner. There are priest-esque classes and others with healing abilities, but they can only perform these actions in combat. Yeah, that’s a particular “gamey” limitation, but the longer I played, the more I realized how the entire point of this game is resource management. A turn spent healing is a turn not spent attacking.
However, considering that HP is only a concern in a dungeon, whereas Stress carries over into town and future dungeons, you have to start considering the relative merits of either. Leaving up the weak spellcaster who “only” inflicts Stress on your team so that you can spend multiple rounds healing your team to full HP might not be worth (literally) the trouble. Then again, if you have to end up Retreating from a battle/quest because everyone is about to die, well, they end up getting penalized with Stress/quirks regardless.
Then you have the boss fights, which possibly toss aside all your carefully laid plans. I defeated an Apprentice Necromancer with barely an issue already. Fighting the Wizened Hag though? I have faced her three times thus far, and retreated each time, nevermind the three other attempts that were aborted before even reaching her chambers.
The Hag has a Cookpot that takes up the first two “positions” on the field, with herself in the last two. Invariably, one of your team members gets thrown in the Cookpot and takes damage each individual turn until released. Thus, not only do you lose the actions of that team member, but your remaining members are usually out of their normal position (most abilities have position limitations), and then you have to consider whether to attempt to free the person or attack the Hag. Freeing the person is fine… but the Hag will throw someone else in the pot almost immediately afterwards.
Which can be the same person. /sigh
Having been defeated by this encounter so many times before, I am now in a holding pattern of leveling up my lower-level people to get a pool of acceptable candidates to try and kamikaze my way through the encounter, or perhaps overwhelm her with higher-level gear. Repeated dungeon clears of the other locations unlock additional bosses though, so perhaps I ignore her for now. And, oh, this other quest offers a pretty good trinket for that one class, so perhaps I grab that first.
Around and round I go… loving every single minute of it.
So, yeah. I’ll be curious to see how I end up towards the endgame; if this gameplay loop still entertains or if I get ground down by the repetition/familiarity. I ended up choosing Radiant difficulty based on the, ahem, horror stories from others who played originally. Indeed, some of the original mechanics sounded outright dumb: the inability to take characters back into the final dungeon more than once, for example. Some of those have been address since the game’s launch, but it’s a bit sobering to read that Radiant was designed to bring down the play-time “from 80 hours to about 40.”
Fake Edit: took down the Hag with this handsome group of characters: