bloodborne

Almost…

dancer

‘Almost’ is an interesting word. When I was at school, dressed in paper-thin sports kit and forced to run the circumference of the playing field at the behest of sadistic P.E. teachers, the mental reassurance of ‘almost there’ was just powerful enough to keep an unfit nerd from keeling over. On the other hand, all the guys who ‘almost’ reached the summit of Everest before dying a frigid death – well, that just sucks.

Getting close to success before failing miserably is one of the worst things a human being can experience, along with anything Minions-related and dragging your scrotum across broken glass. It’s a feeling that crops up all too often in video games, as players accidentally and idiotically leap into a hole right before the end of a level, or get wasted by a troublesome boss with only a sliver of its health bar left.

The latter example is perhaps the most frustrating, scream-inducing, controller-throwing occurrence that can happen in a game, and no series knows that better than Dark Souls. Yesterday, I spent around two and a half hours dragging my balls over the broken glass that is Dark Souls III’s Dancer boss, and I’m glad no one else was in the house because I must have sounded like James Bond in Casino Royale’s torture scene.

As the twirly-swording bastard repeatedly and metaphorically hit me in the groinal area with a knotted rope, I managed to ‘almost’ defeat it numerous times. With only a few stabs needed to bring it down, I could smell victory like a dog can smell anuses, but the proximity of success only made the prospect of failure more worrying. Trembling, with beating heart in overdrive, I desperately rolled and rolled and rolled to avoid the boss’ flailing arms, praying to the deified Hidetaka Miyazaki that I might survive just long enough to land that final blow… But Miyazaki is a cruel spirit, and with the fear of imminent death lingering in my broken mind, I got sliced apart like a melon and had to start all over again.

Though I grunted like a tennis player and swore under my breath, the controller creaking in my vice-like grasp, I didn’t give up. Part of me wanted to rage quit, turn off the console and ride away into the sunset, but I didn’t. I sat there on my sofa a resolute warrior, like Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, and powered through the hours as the Dancer taunted me with its deadly ballet.

Like everything else in this marvellous series, I had to appreciate its exquisite design, but in those moments I hated the Dancer with a burning passion. Death was too good a fate for that prick. I didn’t, however, hate the game. The Souls series, including Lovecraftian spin-off Bloodborne, are infamous for their high level of difficulty, but (and I apologise, because literally every Souls fan yammers on about this) it is never unfair.

While they seem like it at times, no boss is impossible, with each one presenting you with a series of attack patterns that can be learned and reacted to accordingly. When you first encounter your adversary, you’ll get wiped within seconds like a pooper in a hurry, but as your mincing becomes as prolonged and repetitious as a John Cage composition, you’ll start to pick up on clues that will help you read the boss’ behaviour.

With time, these get wired into your brain, and you’ll start surviving longer. The boss will still deal out an obscene amount of damage, and have more HP than the HP Sauce factory, but you as a player will improve. There’s a lot riding on your skills of course, as a single cock-up or break in concentration will turn you into dungeon pizza, but knowing that gives a sense of personal, meaningful progression that few other games can boast.

Every time you almost win, and it feels like that little chip of boss HP is judging you as you fade into a loading screen, the crushing disappointment is always accompanied by a powerful determination. You may have just been kicked down for the umpteenth time, but that ‘almost’ victory reassures you that you are ‘almost there’. Just roll a little earlier; be a bit more defensive. Use the environment to your advantage. Play better.

Even when it feels like you’re freezing and suffocating to death atop a mountain, remember to listen to the sweaty, shorts-wearing kid inside your head.

You got this.

And thus endeth the Word of Tom.

Here’s my triumphant fight with the Dancer in full. Get rekt.

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Video: 2015 in Gaming

myst.png

Back in September I applied for a writing job with legendary video games website VideoGamer.com. To my excitement, I managed to make it all the way through the application process to the interview stage.

And so it was one chilly October morning that I traveled to the Big Smoke on a rather pricey train journey to meet and be interviewed by the VG team. Though there was some stiff competition and I ultimately didn’t get the position, I was given some useful feedback that has definitely encouraged me even more to pursue a career in this stuff!

The application required me to complete two game-related tasks: one game guide (which you can read here) and one free task in which I was asked to talk about five games I have played this year in any way I see fit. After much non-nit-related head-scratching, I decided to carry this out in video form, so I grabbed a couple of friends and a plastic axe and ventured outside to pretend to be a television presenter and be stared at by many a Newport chav.

Considering that busyness and workery left me only one day for script-writing and one for filming, and that the editing process made my elderly laptop attempt seppuku, the finished video actually turned out pretty well, and I didn’t get stabbed by a Newport hoodie.

I’d like to say a massive thank you to Rhys Jones, who calmly put up with me fudging my lines for hours, and Ben Morris, who, as well as having an idea involving goats, pulled off a trick in Rocket League that I will never be able to match in my entire life. Both of them gave up their time at very short notice to help me out, so for that I’m incredibly grateful. I’d also of course like to thank Tom Orry and VideoGamer for giving me such a fantastic opportunity, and for being generally awesome people.

Without further ado, here’s the video. Enjoy!

Music used:

Tom Durbin – ‘Wadi’ & ‘Tiye’ from KV55 EP

BEAMSTAR – ‘Dreams of a Distant Coast’ & ‘Hollywood Air’ from Coastal Dreams

And thus endeth the Word of Tom.

Weekly Games News – 13/11/15

friday 13th

Murder! Money! Collector’s Editions! It’s my pick of the games news from the past week. Please feel free to not read it, but know that you will never be welcome here again. (more…)