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March 2022 Retrospective

I played so much god damn Elden Ring this month that there almost isn't anything else to write about.

The Good

Beat Elden Ring

After 70 hours I beat the final boss of Elden Ring. 10 hours after that I think I have finally put down the controller for good, for my first character.

Last month I wrote "if Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, or Bloodborne made you throw your controller at the wall, Elden Ring is going to continue that tradition" which is a categorically false statement. While Elden Ring's combat definitely makes it a Souls game, the open world completely turns the table on that toxic "git gud" mentality. You're not trapped on this linear path where if you get stuck on a boss you're shit out of luck. In Elden Ring you can simply hop on your horse and gallop off in a new direction. In the first 60 hours of this game I legitimately can't remember a time where I got stuck because there was always something else I wanted to explore. I never lamented not being able to defeat something. I simply marked it on the map and came back later. In fact I highly recommend that you essentially ignore the main story for the first 40 hours and just explore the world.

But here is where I unfortunately must get negative because once you do start following that main story you'll get to the "end game" dungeons and that is where Elden Ring partially regresses back into a linear Souls game. I would say that the last 10 hours were a slog that left quite a sour taste in my mouth.

For this entire first playthrough of Elden Ring I was a battlemage. I had a katana equipped in my right hand and a staff in my left. Spells were my main source of damage but if an enemy got into melee range my katana would make them pay. These tactics made some bosses quite easy and others much harder, but I never felt that any of them were cheap. I learned their attacks and even when I couldn't rely on my spells I would still find a way to beat them. That was until I came to the final boss. No matter what I did I simply could not defeat them as a battlemage. After hours of trying I discovered that the only way to win was to put away my staff and dual wield my katana. My high intelligence battlemage essentially became a samurai but within a few attempts I was successful. 70 hours of honing my skills meant nothing because I had to use a very specific tactic to defeat the final boss.

If after reading all of that your immediate thought is "Reid you're nitpicking", you are absolutely correct. Elden Ring is still a stellar game. It is so good in fact that I am already planning my second playthrough. I'm thinking of abandoning spells altogether and instead focusing on a strict melee character because I know that those glorious first 60 hours can still be experienced all over again. I just had to express my disappointment at FromSoftware designing another horrible final boss.

Copshop

If you're in the mood for a dark comedy action movie might I recommend Copshop. I went into it knowing absolutely nothing and was all the better for it. If you just wanna see chaos reign for an hour and a half then turn off your brain and turn on Copshop.

Also mad freakin' props to Tony Huss who absolutely killed it in his role. I'm not going to spoil his supporting character but when you see him you'll know who I'm talking about.

Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan

I started reading Tokyo Vice and found myself enthralled with the absolutely raw perspective the author gives as a foreigner working in Japan.

I am extremely guilty of viewing Japan through rose coloured glasses. My obsession with video games, animation, electronics, etc, all lead me to believe Japan was this glorious nerd Mecca. That opinion was only strengthened when I finally visited Tokyo and it exceeded all of my expectations. Japan has this prim and proper reputation to the rest of the world and I simply could not believe how true it was.

All of that being said I'm not ignorant. I know Japan has its fair share of troubles and some fairly big ones to boot. Gender inequality, overwork culture (they literally have a term for suddenly dying on the job), and xenophobia to name a few. Just because I felt safe walking down a dimly lit alley at midnight in Tokyo doesn't mean the country is all puppy dogs and rainbows.

That's why Tokyo Vice is such an engaging read. It isn't some exaggerated thriller where the protagonist is hunting down a serial killer and everyone is just a caricature. In some ways the tales in Tokyo Vice are quite boring and mundane. But the fact that they are being told about Japan, a country that has such a wholesome reputation, somehow makes it more interesting. And to be clear the author does not seem to have any sort of hatred or prejudice towards Japan. He simply does not shy away from the things that are dark, gritty, and sometimes downright disgusting. It is a side of Japan you never really hear about and I'm eager to see more.

All You Need Is Kill

I know not everyone is a fan of Edge of Tomorrow but I still think it's a fine sci-fi film that makes really good use of the Groundhog Day loop concept (for the most part). It was based on the Japanese light novel All You Need Is Kill which I finally got around to reading this month and holy cow was I surprised at how much I enjoyed it. There really is no fluff to this novel. You get right into the shit and things do not let up until the last page. It actually kinda makes me like Edge of Tomorrow less because a faithful adaption of All You Need Is Kill could have been really amazing.

The Bad

The Dark Tower

I read the first two books of The Dark Tower series but have lost all interest in reading the remaining five. Just like The Wheel of Time and The Witcher, I am intrigued by the worldbuilding but cannot get past the author's writing style. Stephen King has (in my opinion) such a weird focus on race, drugs, and violence that I was unable to connect with any the characters. They speak in such exaggerated or stereotypical ways that make them unbelievable even inside the confines of this fantasy tale. Maybe when Stephen King first wrote these books in the 1980s they were considered avant-garde or something.

So I have now failed to finish The Wheel of Time, The Witcher, and The Dark Tower. Which epic fantasy series should I try next to break this trend?

Honourable Mentions

WeCrashed

I have no idea how much of WeCrashed is actually real. But based on my time in Silicon Valley it would not surprise me to discover that this show is just a re-enactment. I am not one of those people who can watch TV that is overly cringey because I feel too much secondhand embarrassment and WeCrashed is definitely pushing that boundary.

I don't know if I can actually recommend WeCrashed to anyone. I have only watched the first three episodes and I have such a burning hatred for the main characters and what they stand for. I was never once rooting for them to succeed and their ludicrous sense of entitlement just leaves me hoping for some sort of comeuppance. Unfortunately I know how this WeWork story ends and so I suspect that if I see WeCrashed through I'm just going to be left with a sense of disappointment rather than catharsis.

I do have to give Jared Leto and Anna Hathaway credit for their fantastic performances as Adam and Rebekah Neumann. Their ability to make me hate these characters so quickly is a testament to their amazing acting and the fantastic writing.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

There is no beating around the bush, the combat in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is complete and utter shit. It exists solely to increase the length of the game. It is nothing but filler. You are simply button mashing while watching the enemies health bars go down. There is no strategy or tactics to it. Frankly I'm utterly shocked that the game somehow managed to ship with this combat. I can only imagine what the focus groups were like.

But, the story and environments for this game are fucking fantastic. I wish this was an interactive drama like a Telltale or Quantic Dream game. The only reason I was even stomaching the combat was because I absolutely had to see the next story beat.

There is obviously going to be sequel so fingers crossed that Eidos-Montrรฉal either doubles down on the dialogue or at least starts completely from scratch with their combat.

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