Dark Souls-Full In Depth Review Part 2 of 2 (PS3 Version-Post Patch 1.05)

For Part 1 Click here

Took me a bit longer than expected to write part 2, but I was eagerly awaiting the new Patch 1.05 to see what kind of changes were made. They were quite extensive so I would just direct you to this thread at GameFAQs.com if you are interested.

The patch really changed the game quite a bit. It nerfed a lot of equipment, changed how weapons scale to make the game more balanced, increased the amount of experience (souls) enemies drop, and greatly improved matchmaking for the online components.

While I could go more in depth on the single player experience I think I may have covered a bit too much in part 1. I mentioned most of the mechanics of the game as well as how to traverse this world. What I did not mention at all was the story…hmmmm…the story.

If you played Demon’s Souls you already know what you are in for in terms of story. This is not a CGI cutscene JRPG that will show you 10 minute scenes talking about all the characters. There might not even be 5 cutscenes in the entire game that I can recall. IF you were a fan of walkign 10 feet to see a cutscene in games like FFXIII and this is your top priority in a game look elsewhere. Immediately.

Like Demon’s Souls the story of Dark Souls is woven into the lore of the world. It is not spelled out for you. Sure there is a general overview of some objective your character is supposed to do, but honestly you will probably forget about this the second you get control of your player. These games do everything unique. Not just the online experience, but also the story. The history, the lore, and even direction comes from many places. You get some background info and slight direction from NPCs that you can actually talk to, but mostly, the lore and the background is found in the item descriptions themselves.

Every item you pick up, every weapon, armor, boss soul, etc. has a tale on it. It may not be in depth, but combining sets, searching out areas, and piecing things together weaves a very strange and interesting view of the lands you travel. Let’s just say that the story is yours to figure out and it won’t actually spell anything out for you. It’s more about the characters that inhabit the world than some grand story. When you pick up sword you read its description in your inventory and you have a piece of the lore. Some things build on others. Some have nothing to do with it. The items tell stories of the people that wield them, that they were made for, or who they worked for. This is about gameplay, not a simple story, but if you take the time to read all of your items you may be immersed in a complex and interesting world you didn’t know was even there.

Let’s get into the online component of the game. Many things are similar to Demon’s Souls here, but there are also a lot of additions. As long as you are playing online you can see messages that other players leave that offer help, or they are just trolling you for their own amusement. You can rank these messages up , or down. You also see the ghosts of other players in their worlds wandering around at times to make you feel less alone. Their bloodstains litter the grounds in areas and if you select them it will show you a brief clip of how they died to help you avoid the same fate.

As we talked about earlier, Humanity is one of the great needs to be able to interact in PvP battles, and many other things. If you are not in Human form you can play online all you want and never have to fear an invasion by another player. If you do play in Human form, however the world is a much scarier place. At anytime a player from another world can invade you and you must fight to your death. Winner gains souls (EXP) and more Humanity among other things. If you lose as the invaded you are sent back to your last bonfire, but you keep all your souls and Humanity (you do lose Human form, however). The Invader is just sent back to their own world with little loss. You can only be invaded in an area where you have not yet killed the boss.

There is a good reason to be in Human form if you are not really interested in being an invader. While being in human form still leaves you open to invasion it allows you to summon other players as phantoms to help you out. They can help dispatch invaders, but typically you will summon them to help you defeat an area boss.

You can help fight bosses for other players as well. In fact, this is probably a good time to bring up Covenants. It would take far too long to go into each one in detail, but I will give a basic background on them and their main purposes. For in depth info on these look at the Dark Souls Wiki

As I mentioned you can co-op to help other players beat invaders, or to help them through a level and defeat a boss. There are actually 3 covenants that are highly favorable to being a helper rather than an invader. The Way of White, Princess’s Guard, and Warrior’s of Sunlight (nicknamed Sunbros by most players now). These 3 covenants give you more dedicated access to co-op. All 3 make it easier to find another player to co-op with if they are in one of these covenants. So if you are looking to co-op you would do well to join one of these covenants.

There are 6 other covenants that you can join. Most of these are designed to be a PvP covenant. Where you are to invade, or “protect” your domains. Either that, or you are used to hunt down sinners, steal humanity, and even change their worlds to Darkness. There is way too much detail of these other 6 covenants to go into, but let’s just say that you can be in covenants that are serious about PvP, and you can be in a n00b covenant like the Forest Hunters and gangbang other bad players only once in a while finding out someone is Twinking (stayed low level and got a ton of good equipment to troll new players) in the area and you get demolished. They may make you rage and reach for your medication carts :) .

In addition to the PvP and co-op aspects of these covenants, they all have levels and rewards. Each rank up as you perform the required tasks, obtain items that those you defeat will drop, etc. You start at +0 and can go up to +3. Some covenants offer new spells, miracles, and even weapons you cannot get otherwise. One offers a shortcut if you offer up enough humanity. The Gravelord Covenant allows you to turn 3 other player’s worlds dark and have them come to your world and hunt you so they can fix their own worlds. There is even a covenant that can turn you into a DRAGONOID and can breath fire! Yeah this is kick ass.

Everyone may have been anticipating Skyrim this fall, and most casual players will insist that it is a greater game, but it has absolutely no comparison to this. Only the settings and themes are similar, but Dark Souls is focused on crisp gameplay and challenge, while Skyrim is your choice for a more casual world of exploration and NPC interaction. Both have large open worlds, but are almost nothing alike. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing them as similar games. They are two GREAT games and Dark Souls is for a more hardcore gamer than Skyrim is. If you want something that is more challenging than all the other crap in this casual gaming generation buy Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. They are like nothing else this gen.

RECOMMENDATION: Must Buy 9.5/10. This is my GOTY. Just like Demon’s Souls was in 2009. We are blessed with a ton of amazing titles this winter, but I call this my favorite among them. Arkham City, Skyrim, Uncharted 3, and Dark Souls are ALL must buy games IMO, but Dark Souls is my GOTY by far.

Dark Souls-Full In Depth Review Part 1 of 2 (PS3 Version)

Since Demon’s Souls home was the Playstation 3 I went a head and got Dark Souls there as well. It’s something I tend to do once an original game goes multi-platform. Always assume that the developers have more experience with the original platform, and that they have a nostalgic love for the ones that gave them their original chance. Japanese games I buy on the PS3 as well since they don’t necessarily want, nor like XBox 360 as it isn’t a widely used console in Japan.

Just to let you know. I have Platinum’d the game, and played through NG++, and played another NG so I have done it all and know this game like the back of my hand. This will be VERY in depth. I will make it into two posts actually I have so much to write. I will try to get both done quickly, but may be a few days before I finish part 2.

That being said, From Software is back at it again with the spiritual successor of Demon’s Souls with another go in Dark Souls. Instead of our fan favorite Atlus being the publisher, we got Namco Bandai (Bamco). This may not seem like much of a big deal, but it appears many think it is. Bamco isn’t exactly known for being loyal to customers once their games are delivered. Fans of Demon’s Souls felt a lot of love after release with regular events on holidays in which we got World Tendency shifts. Nothing spectacular, but it showed that they were keeping up with it. Not to mention that the servers they run have been extended well into 2012 so that people can continue to play online.

Let’s get the server situation and online aspects out of the way first when it comes to Dark Souls. If you played Demon’s Souls you know that this “series” is predominantly a single player game, BUT it mixes in a unique online experience that adds to your single player experience. People take it much further and turn it into online dueling and other things, but the game is designed to be a mostly single player game.

Demon’s Souls online was hosted by a universal server. Meaning that it was run from a central location for each region and everyone played on it. We were split between North America, Europe, etc., but we all played on the server of our region. Dark Souls on the other hand made a significant change here. It is now a P2P system. Many games use this and the benefit of it is that we can always connect online long after the game has gone into its imminent death. On the other hand, we are all stuck with having issues based on the internet connections of users we are connected to. More lag is an obvious issue, but connecting properly has been an early one.

Don’t fear though. A patch has been released that is supposed to improve matchmaking greatly, and is in use already in Japan. Personally, I have had little to no problems finding people to invade, or to summon to fight bosses. So…my experience has been rather good in regards to the online components of the game.

Since I said before that the online component is more of a compliment to the single player component it makes sense that I meld the online aspects into the full review of the single player side. First and foremost you don’t have to play online at all. You can play completely offline and finish the game 100%, AND you can get the Platinum trophy without ever setting foot into the online universe. This game is meant to be an amazing single player experience. Online is there for more fun, and in many cases much more frustration from players way better than you.

Combat is at teh forefront of this series. It is defined as an Action RPG, but the combat excels compared to most other action RPGs that you will play. There is a feeling of actually making contact with enemies, and you feel the weight of your armor, and the weight of your weapons. Swing speed, and contact with enemies is fully realized in the combat system. This is soemthing that is WAY beyond the combat of such games like Dragon Age, Skyrim, etc. (Skyrim, Dragon Age, etc. are nothing like Demon’s Souls. Totally different kinds of games and should really not be compared, but to give you an idea of how different they are I mention combat as that is the glaring difference. These other games focus more on interaction, exploration, and story. Dark Souls focuses on challenge and combat. and exploration in a massive world.) The combat in comparison to these types of RPGs is much more skill base while these are more or less set up for very casual gamers and have very little satisfaction when defeating an enemy or boss. In those games you do not “feel” the combat like in Dark Souls. IT takes skill to survive and it is far from cheap here. You will feel like you won based on your own skills rather than because the enemies are stupid, or you just cheesed them.

Dark Souls changed significantly in many areas compared to Demon’s Souls. While combat mechanics are very close, Dark Souls did add a few new twists to it. More attacks that can be made from rolling, running, and even an awesome falling attack that does massive damage when you drop down on an enemy’s head. Dark Souls also added jumping which comes into play not just to get to new places, but also as an attack option. All of these things are very nice additions to your arsenal.

The world of Dark Souls is immense and amazing. Unlike Demon’s Souls there is no central hub. Sorry Stockpile Thomas and Maiden fans these guys aren’t going to help you this time. You cannot warp back to a central hub and go through the archways to get to a new world. The entire world of Dark Souls is interconnected. It is brilliantly done. While you can get to many areas right off the bat, some areas are not connected to where you start. You must travel through other areas to get to them. There are tons of shortcuts that can be opened, you travel through one are, and you can skip entire areas to get to harder ones. There are even very challenging areas right by the beginning of the game you can wander into that you will likely not be able to handle. The game doesn’t hold your hand here. You really have no idea where to go, but talking to some random NPCs may give you some clues.

Can you get a breather at all? Of course. It would suck pretty hard if you couldn’t right? Instead of a central hp, or archstones to warp around you have Bonfires. Bonfires show up as sort of checkpoints all over the world. They must be lit at first. You need to find them in the area you wander to and you are allowed to rest at them. They aren’t always close, but they are spaced pretty well so you aren’t stuck traversing all the way a crossed the world to get back to where you were. I will go more in depth about Bonfire uses in a little bit.

I need to talk a little bit about some of the aspects of the player and how they travel through the world real quick here. In Demon’s Souls you were either in Soul Form, or you were in normal form. In Soul Form you lost a large portion of your HP, but you could not be invaded by other players online at all, nor could you summon others for help. In Dark Souls the world is run by Humanity. It is basically the souls of the undead. When you have used humanity you find yourself in Human form. This allows you to summon other players to help fight bosses, but also leaves you open to invasions. If you die, you go into Hollow form. Unlike soul form there aren’t any HP drawbacks. So you could go through the entire game in Hollow form online and have very little negative drawbacks for doing so. This should be good news for players that love to see ghosts wandering around, or to read messages from other player s and not fear being invaded constantly. They had you in mind here!

Humanity can be gained in many ways. There is a Humanity meter next to your HP bar that will glow white if you are in Human form already. Grayed out if you are Hollow. You can actually see up to a number of 99 in that meter up top and this is the Humanity you have collected from the world from many ways. Killing a phantom, a human enemy, defeating enough enemies, etc. This is “loose” humanity. You can pick up humanity as an actual item too that you won’t lose if you die. Enemies drop it, you find it as treasures, and a few other ways. This humanity is safe from your death. The “loose” humanity is not. IF you die it will be with all your souls in your bloodstain. Just like Demon’s Souls if you die you leave a bloodstain in the world with all the souls you lost. Dark Souls also keeps your loose humanity there too. If you get back to it before you die again you get them all back, BUT you do not get human form back. Humanity has other uses, but playing the game you will figure it out. Most notably it helps with item drops.

So how the hell do you sue this humanity? This is where we get back to discussing bonfires. At the bonfires you can do many, many things. At each bonfire it refills your health, spell castings, and your Estus flasks (what are those?). The Estus flask is your little potion to refill your health. When you first get to a bonfire you only get 5 Estus Flasks. Humanity changes that. First you need 1 humanity to go from Hollow to Human form if you aren’t already there. Then you can Kindle the fire with more humanity. Each fire can only be kindled once early on before you get a special item that allows you to kindle them all up to 3 times. Each kindle permanently increases the number of Estus flasks you receive by resting there by 5. So after one Kindle you will get 10 flasks every time you rest there. Maximum amount once you get the item to get higher is 20. No, you can’t visit 5 of your bonfires and end up with 99. The most you can get is 20 total, and only if a fire was kindled to give that many. For the early part of the game you never have more than 10. When you use them all they are gone until you rest at a bonfire again. This is how you heal. You can heal with Humanity as an item, or some other rare items, but Estus will be your usual method as the others are rare.

The Bonfire also allows you to store your items after you purchase the bottomless box from a Blacksmith. One you purchase a repair box you can repair your equipment there. Once you buy re-enforcement boxes for weapons and armor you can upgrade even those there! If you need to get it to another level, or class of weapon however you must find a blacksmith to “modify” it. Finally, once you get the Lord Vessel item from a later part of the game you can WARP to other bonfires. Not all, but enough to make life a lot easier on you.

Character building is a bit different this time. You still start the game with a character creation screen, pick a class with stats you like from the stats already assigned, and change their appearance to how you like. This hasn’t really upgraded much, but it is a little better.

Stats have also changed a small amount, and the way that magic is cast has also changed. Your game screen displays your HP and your stamina up at the top still, but MP has completely disappeared. Instead of MP players “Attune” spells that only have certain number of castings between resting. The stat of Attunement which allows you to equip every type of spell (Pyromancy, Miracles, and Magic) is now only there for increasign these slots. Rather than having to upgrade Intelligence for more Magic slots, or Faith for more Miracle slots, you do it wall at Attunement for all 3.

Another significant change is that there is no longer an Item Load. You can carry everything you ever find in the game with no regards to their weight. Eventually you can buy a Bottomless Box to store this stuff, and make it easier to navigate your inventory on the road, but you don’t ahve to as there is no penalty for carrying a ton of loot. Equip Load is still present, however. This is the weight of all the weapons, and armor you have equipped to use. In Demon’s Souls having less than 50% of your total equip load allowed you to roll at full speed. In Dark Souls you can still roll under 50%, but the max speed is under 25%. The closer you get to that 50% burden the slower you roll. Above it you can barely roll at all and are a sitting duck. We have many more options for equip load in this game, however to make speed faster so it is not as bad as it sounds. Over 25% isn’t bad, it’s just not as good as under 25%.

The list of stats are as follow:

Vitality-Level of HP
Attunement-Controls number of attunement slots (magic you can equip)
Endurance-Controls Equip Load and Stamina
Dexterity-Required to meet weapon requirements in some cases. Speeds up spell casting. Sacles DEX weapons.
Strength-Used for weapon requirements. Used for scaling STR Weapons (may be another passive ability we have not yet determined)
Resistance-This raises resistances and increases defenses more than the other stats do. They all increase defense every level, but this does more. It is the most useless stat and considered one not to be upgraded. Equivalent of to the value of “Luck” in Demon’s Souls.
Intelligence-This is used to cast sorceries. Magic Spells have minimums that must be met to be used. It also scales their damage as well as scaling of weapons that use INT scaling.
Faith-Does everything Intelligence does EXCEPT it works for MIRACLES and FTH based weapons instead.

You may have noticed that nothing mentions Pyromancy in the stats above. That is because Pyro spells aren’t boosted by stats. They are boosted by upgrading the Pyro Glove. This is much like a catalyst or a talisman, except it is for pyro casting. Any player can use Pyro spells. This makes for an interesting set of offensive and defensive skills for all players to enjoy even if they are going through the game as a pure melee build. Some of the spells are very useful. It has a spell called Iron Flesh that allows you to increase your defense incredibly high at the expense of slow movement. It has poison spray, and of course a large collection of fire spells on top of others. It is outclassed at higher levels by Magic typically, but only if you develop those stats. This gives you a much larger arsenal with minimal loss to your other stats.

Weapon equips are much like Demon’s Souls as well. You can equip a weapon in both hands, as well as equip 2 reserve weapons in both hands that you can toggle between. You can dual wield a couple battle axes, have a shield and sword, a greatsword with a catalyst to cast spells, etc.

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Weapons AND Armor are able to be upgraded this time. Finding Blacksmiths throughout the world allows you to not just upgrade along regular paths, but to change to many different weapon builds. Weapons upgrade in a similar way to Demon’s Souls, but it is simplified a bit. Each level only uses one size of stone rather than the 1-4 different sizes stones at a time compared to Demon’s Souls. The biggest change however is the addition of new upgrade paths. Most notably Lightning! An element that was completely absent in Demon’s Souls is in full force in Dark Souls. Weapons and magic can utilize this element. Weapons upgraded along this path are quite formidable, and have very low equip requirements to create them. They are basically the cream of the crop at low levels of your character build.

Scaling is done with the 4 stats of Strength, Dexterity, Faith, and Intelligence. Each of these stats is used for a certain type of weapon, but some weapon types scale with more than one just as Demon’s did. Before the upcoming patch scaling on most of these weapons was a bit unbalanced compared with lightning. At higher levels it is surpassed, but the new patch has upped the scaling of other weapon paths to make them much more of a threat and easier to outclass the lightning classes. Having characters built along a certain stat is still very much in the game here, and maybe even more than Demon’s Souls. We just don’t know everything about it yet to have the best builds figured out without the patch.

Armor upgrades along the same lines, but only down a straight path. Upgrading armor allows it to increase many defenses as well as resistances to poison, bleed, and even curse (very nasty. You do not want this to happen, but there are uses for it). Upgrading armor is quite helpful to give you higher defense on lower weight equipment. Defense isn’t exactly the most important part of armor, however.

That would be Poise. Poise is a stat that shows up on heavier armor. It allows you to take more hits, and swing through more hits before being stunned. It makes it so blocking with a shield or weapon will cost you less stamina. This is by far the most important stat on armor. Other than one ring, poise can only be gained by wearing armor. Unlike Demon’s Souls where many would wear a lot of lighter armor that had good defense, in Dark Souls the light armor has no poise. While it has defense, and it can help stop some damage, poise is by far more important. It is quite the challenge to maximize your poise, keep under 50% equip load, and still be able to move fairly quickly. This is why the Endurance stat is once again very important. Not just for stamina, but for the equip load. Higher poise means you can get hit more without causing you to be stunned. You can heal through attacks if it is high enough with an Estus flask. If you choose to go light, you better be nimble and not get hit.

That is enough for Part 1. Much more to cover. I will discuss some more of the single player and go in depth on the online features in Part 2. Including the addition of Covenants!

Skeptics Beware: You Aren’t Really a Skeptic (Some Youtube Recs)

Anyone that spends any time on the internet knows that myths spread like wildfire from places like Twitter to just stupid bloggers. Some guy will make a claim like “We are heading for an ice age! Global Warming is FAKE!” while citing some source that completely disproves their claim. Yes I said that right, people actually cite a source in many myth stories that end up disputing their headline. These are the dumbest of the dumb of course, as most try to hide their sources, or just plain don’t have one. They are literally just saying things some random person told them and running with it as if it were proven.

9/11 theories tend to be of this sort. People call themselves “skeptics”, but this is meaningless if they don’t actually do any of the research that is required of being skeptical. You have to have a reason to dispute a claim. You can’t just go with your gut. I wanted to recommend a couple of people that take different approaches to skepticism (one just recently), and another who has a myriad of great videos about BS finding its way into common bar talk.

The first is more of a POE (Click here for Poe’s Law), that has just recently started mockign Truthers for fun. This would be the great EdwardCurrent.

Ed is so convincing to some it appears that they actually believe him to be a man of God. While most can tell he is not, it is amusing to see just how many do think he is. The skeptic side seems to be a new thing and he is coming clean a bit with his trolling. Now just outright mocking all the non-logical believers in the absurd. He looks like a Travel Agent Jobs type to me for some reason.

The next guy I find to be much more of a pro. He isn’t just out there mocking, but doing the research to back up his claims. A well-versed reporter for his entire career, he shows you how to be a REAL skeptic. Not just one that takes anything outlandish they hear and spread it around as fact.

I am speaking of potholer54. He spends time on climate change, scientific lies being perpetrated by lack of research, and mocks a few that he considers outright liars. This guy isn’t the typical skeptic. He is very good at research and he is quite comical with his dry humor on top of his relentless research. He also spends some time sharing with you how to research all this nonsense you hear yourself, which is quite simple. Highly entertaining.

laser treatment for back pain

A little something different here for those of us who suffer major back pain. Reading about laser treatment for back pain recently it is been said that the treatment is showing amazing results with the therapy.

Both chronic and acute pain can benefit from this procedure. Chiropractors recommend it for particularly stubborn and persistent injuries. Patients with arthritis, joint pain, and back pain have all reported significant pain relief after laser therapy.