You Shall Not Pass: Bloodborne, Dark Souls 2, and Cutting Open the Gameplay Loop

From the lamp, I run straight down the stairs on the left, past a crazed huntsman. He notices me but doesn’t have time to attack. He’ll follow me, so I just keep sprinting. I veer left again down another set of stairs. There I find two monstrous creatures with a hammers where their hands should be. I roll around them, only briefly slowing down if my stamina is drained. Past them I find an elevator which takes me to a bridge full of more bloodthirsty huntsmen. If I just start crossing the bridge and retreat, a giant fireball–a trap meant to wreck me–will clear most of them from my path. Once the fireball has passed, I juke around any enemies who survived the blast of flames. At the end of the bridge stands another hammer monster. I wait to see where he’s going to attack and I roll around him in the other direction. There’s a huntsman with a shield behind me after I dodge so I still can’t slow down to take in the scenery. Instead, I head for the branch to the left, up another set of stairs, and find my destination: a door made of fog.

Over a year later, I still remember the path to Father Gascoigne in Bloodborne. Every turn, dodge, and trap is etched into my mind from the dozen or so times I ran the obstacle course the first time I played the game. Gascoigne is the first major challenge of Bloodborne. He’s a highly mobile boss who transforms midway through the battle into a furiously aggressive monster. For a beginner, he serves as a bottleneck, forcing players to learn how to parry with your offhand weapon, a mechanic that becomes increasingly important as the game goes on. Mastering that mechanic makes Gascoigne relatively simple (and there’s a hidden item that can assist as well) but for a lot of people, including me, he’s the first major roadblock in Bloodborne.

The difficulty of Gascoigne makes the run above all the more important. Learning to beat Gascoigne means studying his attack patterns and practicing how to counter them. And, like many Bloodborne bosses, fighting him often feels like beating your head against a wall until it finally breaks. Anything that gets in the way of trying the boss again is a frustration, so it is a relief to run to the fight without being forced to deal with enemies along the way.

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My Apparently Annual Top 10 Games of the Year List – 2015

Last year, I hopped on the internet end-of-the-year zeitgeist by making a top 10 games of 2014 post. I’m not sure how many people care about my opinion–and probably far fewer do now, seeing that I had a sports game at #1 and a visual novel at #2–but hey, why not do it again? #content

I played a lot of video games this year, which is nothing new, but I also released my first game and contributed significant dialog writing to another. I’ll be releasing my second game in a few weeks, and another visual novel in collaboration with Woodsy Studio in the late spring. I don’t know whether any of this makes my opinion more or less valid, but working on games has certainly informed and changed how I approach them. Which is weird, because this list is probably way less eclectic than last year’s.

The Annual Disclaimer: A shitload of video games came out in 2015. More games that I wanted to play than in any year I can remember. There’s a lot I still haven’t gotten around to playing that I could see making it on this list: SOMA, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Just Cause 3, AC: Syndicate (yes), Axiom Verge, Nuclear Throne, and Pillars of Eternity, just to name a few off the top of my head.

I’m also leaving off MLB: The Show 16 to keep things interesting

And as usual, large gifs ahead.

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The Inscrutable, Brutal Bloodborne

I killed four bosses yesterday. The first was a giant, shambling pile of corpses. It had given me fits late Saturday night, obliterating me in one with a flash of red light that was only telegraphed if the game camera was pointed in the right direction. Its name was The One Reborn. I had to grind out a few levels of vitality to be able to withstand the red flash. Once I could do that, he went down in one try.

The second boss was a towering man with a scythe who lives on top of a castle. With a swing of his blade, he tosses bloody skulls my way like he’s a Mortal Kombat character. He wears a crown but I don’t think he’s a king, because his name is Martyr Logarius. I summoned help to beat him. Ringing a bell just outside of his domain brought another player into my game. We took turns drawing the ire of Logarius while the other tore into his back.

LOGThe third boss was the smallest one yet. Smaller even than my character. It looked like the classic alien gray, with an oversized head and withered body. As it shambled around its domain, it summoned identical-looking minions to attack and protect it. They swiped at me and then they shot lasers at me. This one was called the Celestial Emissary. It was probably the easiest boss I’ve faced so far and I still died a couple of times. My bad. I was doing so much damage to it that I got careless. I thought I could end the battle quickly. I did end the battle quickly, but not the way I wanted to.

The fourth boss was a man with his head in a cage. He yelled at me about how I could open his eyes. His arm turned into a swarm of tentacles when he was cornered and he summoned skeletal marionettes to fight on his behalf. I had to chase him through a series of cloudy hallways and drop down on him from above when he tried to put a gate between us. His name was Micolash, Host of the Nightmare. He caught me off guard a couple times with a new attack that staggered me and nearly left me for dead. But in the end I put my blade through him. Maybe that was what he wanted. I still don’t know.

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