Darkest Dungeon: The Butcher’s Circus – A Free Mode Nobody Wanted

The Butcher’s Circus offers one thing I never thought to see in the Darkest Dungeon – a PvP mode! I could hardly believe it when I first saw the announcement. But curiosity won out in the end, and here I am, sharing with you my impressions – short as they are.

The narrator makes his return with a few blood-curdling lines, but I think voice actor Wayne June could’ve been commissioned to do some shoutcrafting along the lines of “The Vestal breathes her last under the eldritch horrors of the Occultist.” That would’ve shown some extra commitment to the mode.

It’s not a bad piece of free content to dabble in – but it is also absolutely not the kind of content I expected to ever see from this game. At the foundation of Darkest Dungeon has always been a test of endurance – for the characters, in their repeated attempts to map out the Estate of the Ancestor while surviving its untold horrors; and for the player, as he learns to cope with mechanics which often might leave him furious with the injustice of it all.

The aspect which makes this entire mode infuriating is the Death’s Door mechanic. Logic dictates, the folks at Red Hook Studios should’ve removed or heavily modified it. Death’s Door, for those not in the know-how, is a last chance for your characters to survive at zero hp – the name says it all. Your adventurer can die immediately on the first hit after they fall to zero hp, or they could take five or more hits and still, miraculously be alive. Can you see the problem such a mechanic imposes on the game in a PvP setting? Yup, it’s all about that sweet, sweet RNG – which causes plenty of people to play with specific builds in mind, builds which rely on a sure-fire way to win. These builds are all about increasing the stress of your characters to 200, at which point they get a heart attack and die. This is the kind of meta born out of necessity and not particularly enjoyable to engage in – and I picked up on it after but a few matches.

I’ve also heard about disconnect issues – and that whole menagerie of problems so common to many multiplayer modes of otherwise stellar singleplayer games. My advice? If you’re a committed Darkest Dungeon fan, skip this mode and keep your eye on news for the release of the sequel – and if you’re brand new, just play the bloody main game already. If I hear you complaining about having no games to play one more time, I’m gonna smack you!

Maybe there’s more to the Butcher’s Circus. Maybe it’s aimed at a different kind of player, the kind that enjoyed the combat of the game more than any other element, and that kind of player will find the testing of wits against living opponents a challenge worthy of sinking a dozen hours, or more. But with a meta game that forces you to play in one certain way over others, that seems to be very unlikely. That said, Red Hook studios has always listened to their players – I am curious to see if they will show the initiative to tackle the Death’s Door issue, at the very least.

DOOM Eternal Review: Nearly a Masterpiece

Here it is, my latest gaming review/essay on Doom Eternal’s design! Take a look, I’m happy how it turned out.

DOOM Eternal is the most intense first-person shooter I have ever played and would’ve been a masterpiece, if not for a few strange, bizarre, and downright bad design decisions which take away from the experience. Which is a shame, because the underlying design philosophy of DOOM Eternal is excellent.

There’s also a story! I don’t think anyone much cares for it, so I spoil it a bit — but this is Doom, you really shouldn’t care about the story.

Update on the Denuvo Anti-Cheat Software I speak about at video’s end: Over the last few days (as of 25.05.2020) DOOM Eternal’s executive producer Marty Stratton announced that the software will indeed be removed come the next patch of the game: “Despite our best intentions, feedback from players has made it clear that we must reevaluate our approach to anti-cheat integration,” Stratton said. Good riddance, I say.

Hades: The Welcome To Hell Update (State of the Game)

Hades continues to develop in a great direction with the last update of 2019, Welcome to Hell. With only five days away from the next big patch, I thought I’d take a look at the State of the Game of my favourite Early Access title as it is right before the Demeter update!

The verdict? Solid additions all around! Though, between you and me, I spoke about a few elements added outside of the “Welcome to Hell” update. That said, Hades continues to be my favourite roguelite, and everything it does, it does extremely well.

STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER REVIEW – Excellent, Buggy, Lacking Ambition

Jedi: Fallen Order has a lot going for it – an excellent story, an addictive combat system and plenty of Metroidvania elements in the planets we players explore as we take on the role of Cal Kestis. Unfortunately, Fallen Order is also plagued by bugs and the number of gameplay systems directly copied from other games make for a certain lack of ambition in terms of the innovation developer Respawn Entertainment implements.

In this video, I did my best to take a critical look at the story, dialogue, gameplay systems and the overall presentation of the game. I’m happy with how it turned out – if you are too, leave me a comment and please, please, please…share the video with your friends!

Revisiting the Classics: Hellblade – Senua’s Sacrifice, a Descent into the Underworld

I don’t necessarily have the best opinion of content I’ve worked on in the past but I had a friend over this last Friday and I happened to show her the trailer of the recently announced Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 (it looks great, you can see it here) and she’d never heard of the first one. Rather than explain the first one to her, I remembered I’d done a video on it and played it for her.

Imagine my shock when I realised it was quite an in-depth look at Senua’s journey. Well-crafted arguments, solid examples, quality audio. Yes, I was annoyed by having left an instance of repetition in my narration but I’ll forgive my past self this one.

If you’re interested in Hell, Hades and the Underworld, this one will be a great watch. I used the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice to contrast desire and lack of faith with the journey of self-discovery and reconcilliation that Senua goes through.

It’s one of my better video essays and I’d appreciate your support, likes, shares.

Afterparty Review – Crude Fun, Surprisingly Deep

Afterparty, the latest game by Oxenfree developers Night School Studio, swaps suspense for crude, crude humour, while holding onto the good old-fashioned interpersonal drama that might be familiar to you from their previous title!

Does it work? You’d be surprised. Several factors help Afterparty along, foremost among which is the fact that Milo and Lila are a pair of really likable protagonists. The sharp dialogue and its delivery by a stellar cast don’t hurt none, either. Overall, this is an excellent game and I am happy to recommend it…but don’t take my written word for it, watch the video! Go on, you know you wanna.

Saturday Night Gaming Returns: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Legacy of the First Blade: Hunted (#01)

It’s been a good while since I’ve written anything about video games, hasn’t it? Here they are, then, my thoughts on the first episode of the 12-15 hour-long first paid DLC for Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey! Some Spoilers for Hunted from this point onwards.

Makedonia, one of the fourty or so regions in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, played a nominal part in the game’s main story campaign, a rather large zone for the thirty to fourty-five minutes spent in a single conquest battle and several dramatic cutscenes. Strange, I thought – but I needn’t have worried. Legacy of the First Blade uses one of Odyssey’s largest territories to excellent effect, infesting Makedonia with a whole lot of different quests, a fresh new cult to dispose of, and plenty of side-activities.

The character focus in this DLC is Darius, the eponymous First Blade, called so because he’s the very first person in history to use the assassins’ Hidden Blade. You know the one if you’ve so much as seen an Assassin’s Creed trailer from the last twelve years – springs up, very sharp, used to stab people. Darius is an old Persian, uh, assassin, responsible for the murder of king Xerxes; well past his prime, he and his son Natakes are struggling to survive and evade the Order of the Ancients, the Persians’ own version of the Cult of Cosmos, now safely dismantled by Kassandra – at least in my first playthrough. Darius’ skills are the equal of or even surpass those of Kassandra; while the two first cross blades when they meet and Kassandra certainly seems to be winning by the time Natakes puts an end to the fight, Darius is no joke; he also displays the Batman-like ability to disappear in the middle of conversation, leaving his ill-humoured lackey Kassandra with all the heavy-lifting.

Darius is a cypher – though he reveals bits and pieces of his history throughout this first episode, there’s always a hint of something left unspoken, an element of hidden knowledge. The revelations keep coming as the conflict between Darius, Kassie and Natakes on one side, and the Order of the Ancients on the other, intensifies. It works because it’s tried and tested, and also because the leader of this branch of the Ancients, the Hunter, has a legitimately daunting presence, which is more than I can say about every single member of the Cult of Kosmos. The mental games he plays with Kassandra lead to one of the more memorable scenes in the hundred hours I’ve spent playing this game – Kassandra, staring at a tree from which victims of her blade are hanging. They’re one and all no-name soldiers, Athenians and Spartans alike; it’s a moment of forced reflection, which questions her humanity. The obvious coarseness of this scene only serves to make the conversation options, “I am a monster/I’m not a monster” deliver an even stronger gut-punch.

In many ways, Hunted was a condensation of what worked well in the main storyline of Odyssey – family drama, the search-and-destroy so familiar from the time spent hunting the Cult of Kosmos, the requisite ship combat quest, a pair of boring treasure hunts, and a lot of animal life slaughter. Bears, wolves, eels, nothing on four legs is safe, whether due to Kassie’s desire to have a romantic dinner with Natakes or because the Hunter is an animal lover, it doesn’t matter.

I thought it was good – good enough, fresh enough to continue playing well past the point I’d usually leave an open-world game like this one. And I’ve played on since – next up, I’ll talk about Episode 02 – Shadow Heritage.

Thanks for reading! How about you, Reader? What have you been playing lately?