Why Bloodborne and The Witcher 3 Are The Best Games of This Generation

The best part about having the base 500 GB Hard Drive on my PS4 is that it serves as a nice tool to let you know which games you actually play the most.

For myself, this is often a mix between a sports game I might be binge-playing (MLB 17 The Show), an adventure game (The Witcher 3), a shooter (Battlefield 1), a game to jack around in (Grand Theft Auto 5), and maybe a party game for when we have friends over (Tetris).
The one game you don’t see is Bloodborne.  It isn’t because I got rid of it or sold it.  It isn’t because I don’t like the game.  It’s simply because I beat the main story (finally) months ago and it took a lot out of me.  I had embraced dying – finally.  The worst part about it was that I couldn’t fully change my play style for a long time.  I grew up in the world of Atari, NES, Sega and other console/PC iterations of games that didn’t care if a game was fair or too difficult.  Once PlayStation and other consoles came out and eventually they tried to make games more ‘accessible’ (easy) and ‘less frustrating’ (stupidly easy).  Bloodborne was a violent shift from both of those things for me.  I had played more shooter and sports games than anything since 2005.  To say that I had been conditioned to play impatiently is an understatement.

This is one reason why Bloodborne and The Witcher 3 are among the better games out there.  It is simply because they force you to dive into the game you are playing and embrace what it is.  Bloodborne might have some of the deepest lore in any game I have ever played that doesn’t actually tell you openly about the lore.  You can go through and kill a bunch of nightmarish monsters and infected people if you want to look at it that way.  It doesn’t change the fact that their is something far darker and more terrifyingly deep in story than the world you wake up into in Yharnam.

The Witcher 3 is an interesting twist because it is the third game of a trilogy that many people have probably never played up until this point.  Not to mention, there are books and graphic novels, etc. that have been around for some time as well.  The story of Geralt and Ciri is a great one to play through, but this game is so much bigger than that story – quite literally.  If you really wanted to pour hundreds of hours into a game to read up on lore, make potions, battle monsters, and complete numerous side-quests – this is the game for you.  Did I mention that both DLC Story Add-Ons (Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine) are among the best DLCs ever created for any game?  Did I further mention that they add at least another 20-30 hours to the game on top of it?

Both of these games are distinctly beautiful in drastically different ways.  The Witcher 3 looks like a constantly updating, living world where even bad weather can make you feel like you’re at a national park.  I challenge anyone to find a more beautiful sunset in a video game than those in The Witcher 3.

Bloodborne’s dark and picturesque gothic/victorian/Lovecraftian world is a thing of its own creation.  It is awe inspiring and terrifyingly engrossing.  I can’t help myself from wanting to see what is coming next – even if there is a creature waiting to bite my head off.  That says a lot about what this game really brings to the table in so many ways.  If you start to realize that you will get killed at any inopportune moment you will finally be able to play this game patiently and enjoy the view as much as the challenge.

Also, Bloodborne doesn’t give you a waypoint to follow.  The Witcher 3 can actually be customized to take away a lot of the hints and helper for getting around in the world as well.  I tend to leave these things on in The Witcher as the world is so huge it would be virtually impossible to navigate otherwise. This is still a decent change from a lot of games that send you on a linear path of ‘Go Here, Press X, Buy This Camo Pack for $0.99 to see next cinematic.)

Whether it’s simply because these games are breaths of fresh air or just great meshes of art and music coupled with the bonus that you get to participate in the respective worlds – it doesn’t really matter. These are two of the best games out right now and you can get both games with all DLC for relatively low prices.

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The Intervention – When You Abandon Your Games

Every time a new game comes out I am faced with a weird sort of confrontation when I go to put the new case next to the other games/cases in my library.

It turns into some kind of intervention experience where games I have not yet completed get a chance to have a brief face to face (or case to face?) meeting with me.  With Mass Effect Andromeda coming out in the next few days I decided to make space on my PS4 hard drive and rearrange my games with the slight OCD that I typically have for my media.  It was at this moment I realized that I will have about eight months to play through some of the titles I own before Red Dead Redemption 2 comes out and makes me feel the same way I do right now.

Today I am going to do something I think a lot of gamers should do once they have a large library and consequently a decent amount of games they own that they have yet to complete (at least in regards to the single player experience).

I think the first thing that most should do is decide which games you have the most interest in actually playing through.  While this seems easy to do you shouldn’t forget that there is probably a reason you haven’t beaten these games yet.  For myself the first aspect is determining why I bothered buying a title to begin with. Did I buy the game for multiplayer or did I buy it for the story (and other quests, etc.) and which cost me the most money – yes, the financial aspect actually matters to me.  The other aspect is why I stopped playing through the game to begin with.  That actually comes into play in a bigger way that will be covered later.

My list of PS4 games I have yet to beat includes –

Dark Souls 3, Dragon Age Inquisition, Murdered – Soul Suspect, Dark Souls 2, Shadow of Mordor, Battlefield 1, Call of Duty Infinite Warfare.

Dark Souls 3 is a game that I decided to jump into because I had finally beaten Bloodborne.  The problem with this is the fact that I never played more than 20 minutes into another Souls game.  I somehow managed to beat a few bosses on Dark Souls 3 before getting stuck in some church area on the edge of a bog and a castle/fort.  The fact that I am inexperienced in the lore of this game is also something that eats at me.  I see so many references on the Dark Souls reddit page that I just don’t understand.  So many aspects of leveling weapons, wearing certain rings, doing all sorts of things that are a complete mystery to me and then make me feel like quitting before I start it back up.  I wish I could say I’d beat this game someday with any sort of confidence, but I really don’t know that I will have the patience needed to deal with beating the third game in a trilogy that I never experience the beginning or middle of in almost any real way.

Dragon Age is a game I that I never got into for whatever reason.  I think it’s primarily because every time I find the desire to play it there is a new game available in the same type of fantasy realm that is a bit less cumbersome.  I own Dragon Age Origins on my 360 and Inquisition on my PS4.  Both games were purchased pre-owned and for a rather cheap price (both were under $10 if memory serves correctly, maybe even closer to $5).  They were also both purchased around the time I was starting or finishing Skyrim, The Witcher 3, and Bloodborne.  Once I tried to play Dragon Age it felt like I was being punished or relegated to some sort of half-cocked in-between of The Witcher 3 and Skyrim. That doesn’t change the fact that I feel like I am missing out on a huge world and a hopefully big story from BioWare. 

Murdered – Soul Suspect was a game I bought for the hell of it.  I placed a $1.50 bid on eBay and won the game (with free shipping as well).  It was clearly an early PS4 release as the graphical presentation wasn’t much to brag about.  I did enjoy the concept of an original story and a game that tore at the edges of a new experience in storytelling.  The only problem was that I got stuck in a part of the game that became more annoying than it should have been.  Between possessing a cat and trying to avoid some sort of SquareSoft version of Harry Potter dementors I lost interest and the general desire to finish the game.

Dark Souls 2 was purchased mostly because I want to play through the games and join whatever club exists that allows us to reference the ‘sun bro’ with a wink and a nod (no, I don’t know what the Sun Bro stuff means… but I want to).  The biggest problem I have with Dark Souls 2 is that it feels so clunky and slow compared to Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3.  It really is as simple as that.  I find it hard to play through a game that is almost prohibitively difficult and when it isn’t enjoyable, it makes it all the less desireable.

Shadow of Mordor was a game that I had wanted for a long time.  My friend actually bought it for me on my 33rd birthday last year.  I played about 5-6 hours of the game before I realized that it was a Lord of the Rings version of Assassin’s Creed.  Actually, I realized that aspect early on in the game.  What took me a bit longer to decide was whether or not I cared to finish the story once I had started playing through.  The answer was a big fat ‘no’.  I will beat this game at some point, hopefully… I tend to feel that way about games and books bought for me by friends and family.  It is almost as if you owe them more than yourself.  But Shadow of Mordor is a game that will have to wait until after Dark Souls 2 and 3.  So, it might be awhile.

Battlefield 1 is a game I bought for the multiplayer.  Face it, EA DICE isn’t really known for putting together any sort of compelling story for their Battlefield series.  Bad Company was decent enough in some ways, but I can’t think of any reason other than trophies to play through the campaign of Battlefield.  Every time I start to play though any of the single player aspects of this game I feel like I am missing better opportunities to experience ‘Only In Battlefield’ moments… which is why I still own Battlefield 4 as well.

Call of Duty Infinite Warfare.  Seriously, if you played through Black Ops 3 and finished it without rolling your eyes off the top of your head… I would say you deserve a congratulatory pat on the back, but I really think you might need a hug.  I got Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition for two reasons… It was on sale for $40 (which $35 was covered by selling my Final Fantasy XV) and because I all but worshiped the Modern Warfare series.  The only reason Infinite Warfare is installed on my PS4 is because it is required to play Modern Warfare Remastered (talk about a desperate attempt at getting someone to play through another garbage single player experience in COD).  I would rather play through Modern Warfare Remastered’s single player campaign instead of Infinite Warfare – that should tell you how interested I am in their stupid attempt to be more like Halo that they ever should have.

Now that that is settled, I am somehow less interested in beating any of these games and more excited about Mass Effect – Andromeda. 

Which games in your library are on your list of ‘To Beat’?

Bloodborne… or How I Learned to Stop Crying and Love Dying

I have returned to collect my soul(s).

Just like that and with the help of a Gamestop giftcard I jumped on the $20 sale and the last copy of Bloodborne in stock.

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In case you missed it a few months ago, I had given up on Bloodborne. The game essentially beat me to a bloody pulp and then jumped in the red puddles of my now liquified former ego.

Bloodborne might be the best game on PS4 right now and if the non-shooter games continue to disappoint, maybe the best of the entire generation.

As much as it worked against my apparent need to feel like I could beat any and every game with relative ease and little frustration it also nagged at me from the past as something I left incomplete.

It’s funny to feel that way about a game without much of a story. It isn’t as if I feel bad about having yet to complete the main quest on the Witcher 3. I think the difference and the primary reason I grabbed Bloodborne again is because it isn’t a game limited by a linear story. I can start playing it again without trying to recount certain aspects of the story to help make sense of anything – and that makes for a nice change of pace from Metal Gear, Fallout, the Witcher and other titles.

Coming back to Bloodborne was a great idea and an especially heart-warming one as I held the wonderful sealed game in my hands. The artwork grabbed me once again and didn’t let go I was so excited to jump back in and have some fun slashing away and running around Yharnam… Then I opened the case and grabbed the disc and suddenly my world shifted into some sort if gaming nightmare.

I felt like I was voluntarily returning to an abusive gaming relationship. Then I realized that Bloodborne is one of the few games I love and will always suggest to anyone looking for a challenge – especially a masochistic one.

I now need to relearn all the controls and finer points of this game. That might be the best and most horrifying news for me yet.

I’m excited to jump back into Bloodborne. While it is a nightmare I was quick to discard for the sake of easier journeys I have since grown and now embrace the challenge. This was a total nightmare before but I’ve been in Yharnam once and I remember it all… Welcome to your nightmare, Bloodborne. I am back and this time I’m not leaving.

The Witcher 3 – Making You Wish You’d Played 1 & 2

Stay Classy
Stay Classy

I remember when Newegg was handing out copies of The Witcher with GPUs back in 2007-2008 as a way of trying to convince you to go through with the sale.  Many gamers that tried to adopt The Witcher were often left annoyed with glitches and uneven gameplay as it seemed to be a game with potential – but only just.  Others just let this game fall by the wayside because it was a PC title relegated to the loud minority of hipster PC gamers that most others try to avoid (Hey, PC gamers!  Elitism doesn’t help your cause!).

When The Witcher 2 came out I took some notice as I actually had a PC that could play the title without worrying much about performance issues.  Then again, they were also trying to get whoever they could to play the game before the juggernaut that was (and remains) Skyrim came out 6-months later in 2011.

Now that we are finally entering into the first real batch of next-gen titles and there is no Skyrim, Fallout or anything else to worry about – The Witcher 3 might be in a position to convert many of us to share our playtime with whichever title Bethesda releases next.  Here is my initial reaction to the game after about 2 hours of gameplay on the hardest difficulty (Death March).

It is a combination of many games –

Dragon Age in terms of third person control schemes (which could use a bit of refining in certain aspects).

Skyrim/GTA5/Red Dead Redemption in terms of sheer immensity and scale.  The mini-map reminds me more of a GTA feel than anything (maybe Watch Dogs).  The size of the world is similar to both titles as it essentially wants to swallow your soul and make you a part of the Witcher universe. Couple that with a trusty horse named ‘Roach’ and similar controls to Red Dead and you have a fair comparison.

Bloodborne… Oh, we meet again.  Well, kind of anyway.  I lost my first battle against a group of ghouls over 15 times before learning the mechanics a bit more each time around.  If you give yourself the proper time to actually learn the controls (which become close to intuitive – minus the ironically clunky ‘quick selection’ menu (L1 on PS4) you will find that this game is as challenging as Bloodborne, but it is quite a bit more enjoyable for those of us that actually like to feel like we are playing through a story instead of jumping into some sort of world without stories or meaning.

This game has a lot of potential from the get-go simply because there is a story to be had.  There is no multiplayer functionality and that is a good thing.  In my experience as a casual gamer that actually has a full time job and other priorities in life (you know, family, exercise and living in-general) this game feels like it could last for at least 90-100 hours of gameplay without me even thinking I am bored with it.  There is too much to see, do and discover in this game for me to give it a true ‘here is everything review’.  I can say that selling Bloodborne and playing this is a breath of fresh air that makes me want to learn the lore of The Witcher in order to follow some unknown storylines.  Oh… and by the way – you don’t have to feel like you are missing out on the storyline of past games as they fill you in and even include a compendium in the initial games to bring you up to speed.

Did I forget to mention they include a full map of the world, a soundtrack and even an all-too-classy ‘Thank You’ note to we the gamers with the announcement that they will release free DLC throughout the life of the game.  This doesn’t mean that larger expansions are free, but for them to acknowledge any of this is above and beyond what other companies do.  So, props to CDProjektRed – good on you.

In short and to answer your questions about this game here are a few responses.

Is it buggy? – Well, yes.  There are some issues with glitchy video sequencing and some clunky controls on occasion, but those are all fixable in early patches and don’t hinder the game experience.

Is The Witcher 3 hard? – Oy!  Well, I would have screamed ‘yes’ during my first hour or so of getting my ass kicked by ghouls.  But then something started to click and it suddenly made sense in the same way that Bloodborne and Assassin’s Creed made sense as far as dodging and countering and trying to actually be tactical in your fighting.  Stay disciplined and you will love this game.  Get sloppy and it will punish you.

Should I get this game? – If you are looking for an open-world title and you aren’t obsessed with GTA, Bloodborne or Dragon Age… ABSOLUTELY! This isn’t going to cure you from a Skyrim addiction so much… and that is okay!  I am still playing the hell out of Skyrim and plan on it until the next Elder Scrolls game comes out.  The Witcher is the first game (in my opinion) that is friendly to open world fantasy realm people on next-gen consoles.  I have never felt that way about Dragon Age… it was always too waypoint oriented in my mind and if I am in an open world – I want to explore.  That is The Witcher 3 and that is why you should buy this game.

Tapping Out – My Month With Bloodborne

In case you didn’t catch my recent post about the wondrous world of Yarnham and Bloodborne here it is (50 Shades of Pain).

This is Bloodborne's message to gamers like me.
This is Bloodborne’s message to gamers like me.

Now that you know that I quickly fell in love with Bloodborne and all that the wonderful world had to offer in the ways of a beautiful game and challenging experience.  And now, about a month after falling for it – the relationship has ended like a high school romance.  I’m not bitter about the game, or even the initial purchase price (as I am currently looking at getting around $35-45 for it on eBay – the auction ends tomorrow).  I just realized that I couldn’t bring myself to care about the character in a story that doesn’t really exist in a game that punishes me to the point even Christian Grey is saying ‘That’s effed up.’.  In the end, much like high school romances – I knew I was getting sick of this game and didn’t want to pour time into a game that wouldn’t give me as joy as I wanted out of something that I do to enjoy downtime and escape the stress of life.  I am looking forward to playing some new games in the meantime and truly can’t wait until Metal Gear Solid 5 – The Phantom Pain is released in September.

I would say I am sad about the fact that I never beat the game if I didn’t know that it basically ends abruptly and throws you back into the fray in ‘New Game Plus’.  Basically, you are simply being given another chance to go through the world, get brutalized again and deal with all the same anger issues this game brings – as well as the joy in defeating the tremendous bosses.  That is all well and good and I commend those of you that worship this game as a demigod in the current lackluster lineup that is quality PS4 titles.

That said – knowing that the game doesn’t really feel like a rewarding experience when you finish it and you simply repeat it all over again reminds me quite a bit of Super Mario Brothers on NES.  When you defeated King Koopa on world 8-4 and thought you beat the game and celebrated the victory – you then get thrown into a ‘New Game Plus’.  This new game had black beetles instead of the brown mushroom guys and was more difficult in some ways.  I’m sure those of you that love Bloodborne probably played through Mario’s ‘New Game Plus’ as well.

For those of you that think I am backtracking on my love of the game or that I said it belongs in your library… I’m not.  It is more about me not being ready to put myself through the ringer to deal with it right now – especially when I can get $45 for it on eBay.  In the future, ask yourself a question when you sell or trade your games.  Did you get your money out of them?  Meaning, I payed $65 for Bloodborne and will get $45 once I sell it.  Did I get my $20 of enjoyment?  Did I learn a lesson from this high school romance in gaming and the strange girl that my friends were warning me about?  Yes… and I have no regrets.

I will say this as a final warning and analogy about Bloodborne.

It is what I imagine it would be like to date a high maintenance model/person (yes, I think there is a difference between the two).  He/She/It might be beautiful and amazing to ‘play with’.  You might even get addicted to ‘playing’ with them – for awhile.  Then their true nature and everything else starts to wear you down.  You realize they want you to only play with them and not hang out with other friends like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Injustice, Metal Gear, etc.

Then, you finally work up the nerve to hang out with your other friends and realize that you are being mentally abused by this ‘Medusa Siren’ of gaming in an ocean full of great and fun activites with too many friends to name.  Bloodborne is the brat of a super model that some gamers will put up with – I’m not and never will be that gamer.

Bloodborne – 50 Shades of Pain

You are going to die.

That is one of the more intimidating facts of life that most people know to be true but they simply don’t want to confront or think about.

I believe that is one reason Bloodborne (much like its predecessors Demon Souls and Dark Souls 1 & 2) is going to become notorious in the PS4 community rather quickly.  The trailers make it look an awful lot like a clone/mash-up of characters from Resident Evil 4, Scythe-play from Dante’s Inferno and the apparently common setting of a steampunk dystopia like The Order 1886 and Dishonored.  That is where you can leave the comparisons.  This isn’t some sort of button mashing combo adventure game.  This is a one battle at a time journey through hell on earth… and as soon as you start to get cocky about your fighting skills – this game will kick you in the ass and curb stomp you back to reality.  Welcome to Bloodborne.

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Get Used to This Part of the Game.

You Aren’t Ready For A Boss Fight… Deal With It

Most games these days like to baby you along with waypoints and tips on just about everything.  Basically making them interactive walkthrough’s rather than any sort of challenging experience.  This is something I apparently got used to over the last couple generations of consoles.  I had forgotten my roots… NES and Sega games that didn’t give a damn about telling me how to do most things ‘in game’.  Bloodborne is much the same.  Start by learning the mechanics and nuances of each weapon and item.  There are already a few nice wiki guides out there for you to peruse as well.

When you start battling against the townsfolk in this game you will think that it is a waste of time and want to skip to bosses, etc.  WRONG!  You need to put yourself in the mindset of older RPGs and games that require you to level up.  This means grinding out many battles against regular baddies and taking regular trips back to the Hunter’s Dream (basically your safe zone to repair weapons and buy some items – don’t buy blood vials or bullets though… you can get those easily in-game).

Just be patient with your character.  Get to know every inch of the city and how every different foe attacks you.  You won’t regret it and you will find the game to be a bit easier this way as well.

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Meet Lech, my resident badass. He came here to kick ass and chew bubblegum. And he is all out of bubblegum.

You Aren’t Worthy

Don’t get too upset with all the dying.  You need to understand that it will happen – sometimes it will happen in insanely unfair ways.  My biggest pet-peeve in this game is the weapon clipping through walls and barriers.  You aren’t safe behind that pillar – I promise you!  I have wanted to throw my controller through my TV so many times over my first few hours of gameplay.  I even totally restarted a character just to have a frest start – and it helped.  Although, I should have stayed with the Blunderbuss as my side-arm.  The pistol is kind of lame in that regard… but it has its fair usage as well.

I thought this game was going to feel more like the button mashing Dante’s Inferno or God of War from the trailers and gameplay.  What really got me was the story, setting and general artwork – I saw it and was obsessed with its dark beauty.  This game is worth every penny of the $59.99.

Why?

Because it is challenging.  It gives you a ridiculous amount of gameplay and adventuring to discover new things.  Not to mention it isn’t some crappy annual release like Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Battlefield or whatever other garbage big companies try to force down our throats as ‘new’ ideas and ‘new’ games.

Go out and buy Bloodborne today.  And while you are out… you might want to buy a new controller, a pack of xanax and some Red Bull.  Because you will be full of wonderful gamer rage… and you will keep coming back for more.

Happy Hunting.

EDIT – Here is a helpful tip on how to defeat Father Gascoigne.
*Have oil urns and Molotov Cocktails ready

Most people will tell you to get the music box… Yes, that is a nice way to get him to hold his ears in pain and get you some free hits.  However, if you want to dispatch this a-hole quickly you will want to use visceral counter-attacks (just as he readies to attack with axe swings have your lock on (Click R-Stick to get the lock on light while looking at him) and shoot him during his wind up.  THEN… run up in front of him and press and hold R1.  This will shove your weapon through him and cause MAJOR damage.

Once he transforms you will want to douse him with an oil urn and quickly throw a molotov cocktail on him.  This will take him down to low health.  You can either try another visceral attack or two or the oil urn/molotov combo.