Dark Souls 2 DLC Crown of the Sunken King – Review

http://store.steampowered.com/app/271942/

Ah Dark Souls 2. Brilliant, forgettable, game of the year and a quick and soulless money grab that took a lot of people a long time to make. It was all of these things and more. Which raises the question, do you actually want more of it?

Of course you do.

Do you want more of it, which is just as brilliant but ultimately flawed as the base game was? Maybe not, but this is exactly what you get.

Crown of the Sunken King is the first of a series of short DLC packs that will be coming for Dark Souls 2. While more “Souls” is always good, this pack feels more like a quick taste rather than a full blow expansion like the first game received. For your money you are getting:

  • Three bosses, one of which is half good.
  • A small series of new items, none of which seem particularly useful (one pretty cool sword aside)
  • Three-ish new areas, none of which are particularly memorable, but do have some interesting points if you dig around.
  • One cool section with some large, interestingly designed monsters, reminiscent of a certain lave filled section in Dark Souls, but much better done.

Is that enough for $25? The whole thing only lasts a couple of hours (4-5 if you take your time) but I would have to say no at this stage. By the time the other packs arrive? Sure… but you would hope at least one of them brings something special to the table.

The problem here is nothing really stands out and any interesting ideas, such as the level altering pillars or new ghost enemies are gone before they really start to become interesting. The DLC itself is like that at a large scale. Just as you start to enjoy yourself and wonder what is next? The boss door appears, the DLC ends and you are left just chasing up the “optional” section, which is actually really poor.

The areas and monsters? You have seen it all before, even if nothing is all that bad. There is no Ash Lake here, it is just drab and boring environments, generic zombie/monster dude #36 and a couple of larger beasts that will never get close to you. I’m not asking for a rainbow themed world exactly, but if the series persists on the lifeless ruins and caves? It really needs to bring back the general atmosphere from Demon Souls. By this stage you are already a legendary badass, not much can touch you and you just have to wonder why you would bother going through these places (which is never really clearly explained by the way) when there is probably a nice beach somewhere to settle down.

For example, hitting switches in the first area will cause large sections to rise and fall. This opens up all sorts of opportunities for secret passages, hidden loots and some devious traps. The issue? There is nothing worth finding in the whole area. Worse, besides killing one enemy and providing the final path, there really is no reason to hit them at all. Of course you don’t know this when you are first playing it, but it leads to disappointment and sums up the whole theme of the outing. Fine, but nothing special.

On the plus side, people who called for a more “connected environment” will be please with the design here. The three sections twist around themselves so you will organically return to different locations several times until the end (the first few moments tease where you will end up). On the negative side, this means you spend the whole DLC basically running around the same spot, which is just about as unexciting as it sounds.

Note that like any Souls game, the experience you get will depend a lot on what level you are and what build you take into it. I had a level 230 Hex class, which wasn’t really suited to the adventure (certain enemies are very resistant to these spells). But by and large I got through it without too many problems. I feel reports of the difficulty have been a little exaggerated, with only the main boss putting up any real fight (more a case of extended fight length rather than real danger) and the rest of the enemies falling easily to the same old tactics or better yet, a trusty bow (which the game helpfully gives you early on).

So ultimately I’m left feeling pretty ambivalent about the whole experience. Some enjoyable game play? Yes. A welcome diversion? Yes. A special experience that I’ll return to again and again (or at least a few times), no, not at all.

Let’s hope the next pack really brings something special.

EVO 2014 – Predictions

It is that time of year again and this EVO is shaping up to be one of the best ever. With huge numbers of players in USF4, Marvel, Smash and BBCP there promises to be a lot of hot competition, upsets and perhaps some surprise champions.

Given that, I’m going to have to play it safe this year and pick people based on being “solid” rather than brilliant. Will this strategy pay off? Only time will tell…

Main games:

USF4: Infiltration. Akuma is still strong and has new tricks which Inf. will use. He also has enough real alternative picks that he will never face a bad match-up. More a “safe pick” than a confident one, but it is hard to see him not getting close and a lot of his stronger opponents could fall earlier or not really perform (the Japanese sandbagging evo special).

Marvel: F.Champ. As much as I would hate to see it, I think he is still the guy who cares the most and will be at the top of his game. The other contenders, Wong and G can beat him, but only if they are 100% focused, which I don’t believe they are.

BBCP: Going with Dogura here (solid character), but will option select with any other player starting with “D”. Really feels pretty open given the size of the tournament and potential for strange character specialists.

Other games:

KI: Seems like it is setup for Justin, so I will go for Chris G, just because he has to win something, sometime. Would at least be fun to see these two going for their first real evo title.

KOF: Xiaohai just because I see him a bit more solid all around than the others going.

Tekken: A shame to see this is a bit of a non-event, being over on the Friday and not being well represented. But at least it is at EVO and hopefully there will be some great matches to watch. I have no idea who is going, so I’ll just guess somebody from Korea.

Smash Melee: No idea, probably some guy

Injustice: Probably not the same person as Smash. So, somebody else.

A special good luck to QisTopTier who is competing for the first time this year. I know lots of people will be wishing you all the best.

Quick Random Steam Game Thoughts

The eternal quest to play all my steam games continues. Here is a small selection of titles that I have tried recently:

Worth a look

Unturned: F2P DayZ/Rust/Every other game lately clone. So why is it worth a look? Well it is free for a start but I don’t know, it just charmed me a little. Small download too, so why not?
Cloudbuilt: I really bought into the atmosphere and I think the story is simple but well done. The gameplay? It is really hard as in, “expect to spend hours mastering the controls and you have to hold the controller kind of funny”, type of hard. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and in fact is a rather good thing if you know what you are getting into. So now you do and platforming or endless runner fans should check it out.
Outlast Whistleblower: I really liked the original Outlast and the DLC is even better. It does go way over the top at certain points, but that is kind of what you want from horror isn’t it? So check it out.
Marlow Briggs: You might have heard this game described as being better than God of War…in a joking matter. So yes, I can confirm that it is indeed a joke, almost as funny as some of the animations. Still, it has some surprising moments that make you wonder why they put such an effort into this game. Somebody blew a shitload of money on this title, so you might as well have a look at some stage just to be in on it.

Meh

Symphony: After fiddling with the setup, you are inserted into a colourful shoot-em-up based on your own music tracks (or those provided). All nicely done, but I’m not a music game fan generally and the shooting hook wasn’t enough. I’d rather just play a shooter.
Hard Reset: If I had played this a year ago? I’d have liked it better. But as a traditional hardcore shooter? You might be better with Wolfenstein or Shadow Warrior now. Still solid.

Nah
Halo: Spartan Assault: About as bland and unexciting as you might expect, if you expected it to be super bland and unexciting. Guns, missions, graphics? All 5/10 stuff. There is nothing bad as such, just nowhere near worth your time.
Suguri: Anime inspired shooter that isn’t terrible, but it wasn’t my style and the gameplay has very little to recommend beyond that.
Acceleration of Suguri X-Edition: As above, but focused on boss battles this time. Just doesn’t seem very fun at all.

Starting Strength – Problems and Progress

Quite a few months ago now I started on the Starting Strength program. At that stage, things were going well. Besides a bit of a stall on the OHP I was moving foward and hitting my targets.

I was also concerned that I was hitting my limits and it was about to get a lot harder. As it turns out, I was hitting my limits and it got a lot harder.

By the Numbers

First the good news, here is my overall progress to date:

Squats 60kg (135lb) -> 100kg (220lb)
Bench 60kg (135lb) -> 100kg (220lb)
Overhead Press 30kg (66lb) -> 55kg (121lb)
Deadlift 50kg (110lb) -> 110kg (242lb)

I have to say I’m happy with most of that, with a few notes I’ll get into. Overall I still feel I have a long way to go, so there might be another six months left in me.

One thing I am struggling to deal with is the increase in weight. I’ve only put on about 5kg (10lb) since I started on the program but it is enough to bug me. Of course the whole point is to put on weight, so this isn’t a problem (and is what you want!) but I do face that internal struggle of “do I really want to lift more” vs “looking more cut”. Luckily my body is the least of my problems appearance wise, so I can probably roll with it for a bit longer yet…

Bench Press

After reaching 80kg, I got stuck for quite a while. It wasn’t that I couldn’t lift it, just that I couldn’t do the 3×5. In fact I would often get strange results like 3, 4 and 5 reps!

I also had a lot of trouble with my right wrist. For whatever reason, poor form or just using a mouse all day it was getting painful to lift. This started playing on my mind, so I invested in some wrist wraps to help my confidence and this proved to be effective for me.

Once the pain left, I managed to push my way up to 100KG or 220ish lbs. This was a big milestone for me and pushing those two plates together felt great. Unfortunately there also must have been a lot of adrenalin involved, because I have struggled to reproduce it fully.

I’ll be stuck here again for a bit I feel, so a deload is in order to build up again. Still, goal somewhat achieved (on to 145kg!).

Deadlift

Not much to say about Deadlifts. Progress has been steady up to 110KG and I feel like I have a lot left in me. Because of my problems with Squats (see below) it is now my heaviest lift, which seems about right. I have taken out time to check form, as per the gif above I had a lot of little things wrong. My advice to others is to just take the time to do this, because it is very hard to self correct, but very easy for others (assuming you have a group of people you trust like Fitness-Gaf).

I have actually enjoyed doing it a lot more as the weight increases, because it really works the body and gets the sweat running. So goal achieved here, even if it was unambitious. Will keep at it to see if I can hit grown-up weights!

Overhead Press

Has still been a bit of a struggle. I’m only up to 55KG and it still doesn’t feel right. I’ll keep at it, but I can see progress being very slow.

Squat

Here is where I messed up bad.

Previously, I was up to 100KG and things were doing great. But an actual form check later revealed two major problems.

First I was lifting in joggers, causing my heel to lift up as I did it. This is bad, so I got the non-union Mexican equivalent of Chuck Taylor’s to fix that side of it (for Dead lift too). This goes down as one of those “why didn’t I notice?” things, so keep an eye on it if you are starting out as well.

More importantly, my depth sucked. Why? Because my ankle flexibility is terrible so I literally could not bend enough to do it properly.

So I needed to stretch everything out. A LOT. I still need to do it a lot more, but at least I feel like I am getting close to right now. Because of this issue, I have not improved much at all from my previous report. But at least now I know what needs to be done, so hopefully I can kick on from here now that I’m doing it a lot more properly.

Conclusion

I’m still enjoying Starting Strength even if I still have a long way to go. Despite not being bored, I admit I have started getting a bit itchy and looking at other programs wanting to mix it up. But most of them seem to be similar in what is required, so I feel I have unresolved business yet and might as well stick with what I know (or am learning).

I’ll keep at it for a few more months at least. By October? I’ll probably be in cardio mode for Tough Mudder/Summer cut, so hopefully I’m in a good place to give it a break. But no doubt I’ll be returning again to see if I can improve my form or lift more.

Shit is still very addictive.

Steam Regional Currency Changes and Australia

If you have been following the Steam news lately you will know that regional currency is coming. But thanks to Enhanced Steam’s JShackles, we now have a few more details. Steam will support the following currencies and exchange rates at some point.

For a tf2 key it will cost:

usd = $2.19
gbp = £1.29
eur = 1,61€
rub = 73,60 py6.
brl = R$ 4,80
jpy = ¥ 222.36
nok = 13,41 kr
idr = Rp 26504.12
myr = RM7.06
php = P96.76
sgd = S$2.71
thb = ฿70.72
vnd = 46,950.28₫
krw = ₩2,224.93
try = 4,69 TL
uah = 26,76₴
mxn = Mex$ 28.61
cad = CDN$ 2.36
aud = AUD$ 2.34 (+1.069)
nzd = NZD$ 2.49

So how good or bad is this? Well it will come down to publishers… So pretty bad. Let’s crunch the numbers by looking at a popular example:

So say I wanted to buy Watch_Dogs on steam. It costs … No sorry, I can’t do this because I’m never buying that… ever.

Ok better example. Here is how it plays out:

The verdict? Pretty much any way you look at it, Australians will be paying more for games. You can also bet that the currency rate will not be adjusted quickly as the AUD$ rises, assuming it ever does (which it already has compared to the reference rates). There is no way publishers like Ubisoft and Namco will accept their games suddenly being cheaper day after day, so expect it to remain more or less static until the currency drops…where it will be adjusted in real time.

Can we do much about it? Well buying outside steam or gifting seems sensible, but that doesn’t seem to be a long term solution. A lot of work is going into this region locking and those loopholes are unlikely to be available for long. This is especially true when considering the growing Russian key market, which will no doubt ruin it for everybody.

So yeah, the Steam sale is on now so buy up. Oh and any Steam funds you have? They will be converted too… So might want to spend that all as well.

Sigh.