Turning Hollow – Pinwheel Gaming

“Urgh, oh tis a friendly face I see.

“I am Jack Boyles, and I am losing my… my humanity, I am Turning Hollow.

“At what point doth stop? Doth stop when there are not enough souls to be had? Doth stop when there is not enough originality? At what point doth stop?

“The endless amounts of sequels, spin off’s and franchises that occupy the gaming landscape is getting absurd. As the years go by we see less new IPs, instead we see the annual franchise, unnecessary sequels, remasters or remakes. Originality has been loss in the well of greed and like I, these publishers are Turning Hollow. Loosing their purpose from devouring too many souls… Tis all our fault.

“The annual franchises play on our subconsciousness. In age of instant gratification and entitlement, we must hath the new thing despite us knowing in our hearts, tis a reskin, and nothing much has changed we’ll still go and purchase it. ‘But why?’ thou may be thinking. Why are we compelled to purchase this game that’s no different from last year’s edition? Why are we drawn to the same game when we complain that we bored of that experience? The fear of Isolation. Ugh. The fear that thy companion will hath that game and ye missing out, the fear of everyone talking about it and thee being left out, that fear, that fear of thee, not belonging, that fear of isolation; that’s what compels thee.

“So, thou buy the game, everyone else has it, and because thou now feel thee belong, ye are happy, are all together and connecting. Tis that fear of isolation that brought thee all to that place and the sense of belonging feeds the dopamine thy brain needs to keep thou playing and keeps thou buying.

“Success drives industry, I understand that, but success doesn’t mean it needs to produce more. Stories are best left as they are, they are complete and tackle their themes with a satisfying conclusion, therefore no need to hath a sequel. Ohh, ugh. This is taking a level of maturity that most publishers or developers hath not yet understood from the barrage of sequels. For example, The Last of Us released to critical and commercial success, a singular story that deals with it’s theme of parenthood and children developing their independence. But that’s not enough, that’s not enough for publisher, tis not enough for the developer and not enough for those people who just want another one, all because the first one was good and instead of holding on to the original they risk that original being perverted; look at the Matrix.

“I am not saying all Franchises are bad, and there should never be a Franchise again. I am a Nintendo fan and they doth nothing but Franchises but what Nintendo typically doth is add a new mechanic or change the game so tis familiar but fresh. Ahh, haha. The issue is more and more franchises are just churning out what is essentially the same game… tis becoming expectable for that to happen.

“Many other practitioners in other creative industries know when one is enough, they… they know there is no need for a sequel, they close the lid and allow that one piece of art to speak for itself and in the process makes the piece timeless. So why can’t the videogame industry do the same? Is it possible for a game to be a blockbuster and just end there?

“Uh oh, what was I saying, oh yes…

“But tis our fault, we allow these hollow forms to protest for more and more. We doth not say why doth thou want another? What purpose will it serve? Thou should ask one’s self these questions next time they enjoy a new IP and if thou doth not hath a substantial answer to this, ask thou self again; does it need a sequel? Then maybe once great games will not erode in quality by the passing of time.

“Chosen Undead, remember when Halo meant something, I do. Haha.”

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Indie Title Eldest Souls – Beware Of The Gods

Happy New Year everyone.

The gods have dealt their hand and the message is understood, they don’t want humanity to succeed any more. Such a futile and archaic notion that the gods think they can prosper without humanity. Who would be there to serve them? Who would be there to pray to them? It is man that gives them power in exchange for hope; now they give us disparity. What the god’s fail to understand is, that man together provides hope, man together provides power. Fear not gods, it will be the hands of a man that will end your tyranny.

Jack Boyles discusses Eldest Souls…

The Souls-like genre (I know, I hate the name too) has been a genre that has exploded the past few years due to the success of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. As such, we’ve seen games like ‘Salt and Sanctuary’, ‘The Surge’ and ‘Elex’ arrive with challenging yet rewarding gameplay; Souls games are slower paced, there’s more strategy and more thinking required than your typical action adventure game. Though it’s not just the gameplay that make the Souls games great, it’s the world building, lore and atmosphere; some of the examples above have these elements within their games yet they never feel a cohesive whole.

Eldest Souls is an independent game made by Italian Studio ‘Fallen Flag’. Pitched as a Pixel-art Souls-like RPG, as you can tell from the title, it proudly wears its influence on its sleeve.

Humanity has been thriving with kingdoms blossoming on the once forsaken temples which imprison the old god. In retaliation, the old gods have unleashed a great desolation on the world as crops turn to barren wastelands. It’s your job as a lone warrior to slay the old gods ending the great desolation.

Firstly, the pixel art is nothing but outstanding. It manages to evoke so much atmosphere and it really captures the true art of using pixels. Little details of vines hanging from a tree, swords sticking into the ground from fallen warriors all elicit this sense of deprivation using limited visual fidelity.

Then you have the enemy designs, these giant creatures visually show their experience of battle, standing there panting and looking haggard. Everything looks aged and windswept as you travel through the forsaken land. It’s an impressive feat to achieve that sense of foreboding using pixel art, yet it’s that restriction in quality that enhances the atmosphere.

To my surprise the sound design didn’t follow suit with the retro aesthetic, instead, choosing to go with more grounded and realistic sounds. However, it works and works very well. If anything, it supplements the art direction and atmosphere using realistic sounds to strength the sense of danger. It reminds you this world matters and doesn’t care about you.

Sounds are an indicator to the player, as certain roars of enemies let the player know what attack is coming; here that is more important as enemies can’t really indicate attacks by animation as clearly. Furthermore, we have the soundtrack, like Dark Souls, it is very silent allowing the ambience to lure you into this world but when the time comes erupts to heighten your senses; it keeps you alert and to add gravitas to boss battles.

There is no need to worry though, Eldest Souls is a satisfying game to play. Never did I once feel like the character was doing something I didn’t want him to do nor was there any latency. He dashed when I wanted him to dash and he swung his sword when I wanted him to, which is precisely what you want with an game such as Eldest Souls; you would forget the demo I played is still in Alpha.

The introduction of Eldest Souls is surprisingly slow. You wander through the land looking at what has failed before you. Along the way, there are hazards like a strong wind gushing parts of a rickety bridge apart and a spike trap you must avoid. Though these are minor, it does create a small amount of tension and lets the player know that they shouldn’t get comfortable. But most of all it really establishes the sense of isolation; a long hollow walk into an unknown land.

It’s here the game acts as a tutorial, setting up various situations to get to know the controls like smashing down a wooden wall or dashing through the spike traps. Stamina works slightly different to other Souls games, as you have three little bars. A dash will use one bar, upon using all three bars you’ll only be able to dash once a bar is fully filled.

Arriving at the boss you quickly grasp that the combat is more offensive like Bloodborne. As a first boss, I’ll admit it I got slapped about a few times. Unlike those games where you can use what stamina you have as soon as it builds, Eldest Souls lets you wait until the bar fills, meaning any wrong movement has a detrimental effect on you. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to spend with the game, albeit what I played I enjoyed.

Eldest Souls captures the spirit of its obvious inspiration. It may not do much to change the formula but what it does offer is a refined gaming experience. With From Software leaving the Souls brand, as well as the stamina bar in Sekiro; this may be the right game for that core Souls audience.

As polished as Eldest Souls is already, my only concern for the game is the amount of Souls-Borne games we’ve seen; will this game stand up to the already saturated market?

Only time will tell.

Dark Souls Remastered

Turning Hollow – The Covenant Of Artorias

I“ am Jack Boyles. I am losing my humanity… I am turning Hollow.

Stories get passed on and permutate over time but there is one story I’ve heard that doesn’t, a story of a knight – one of the knights of Gywn in fact, have you heard of it?

Some say this knight had an immense power that he could traverse the abyss. He set off to Oolacile, a once thriving city that fell waste to the clutches of the Father of the Abyss. The noble knight with his trusted companion, a wolf, journeyed to the land Oolacile. The knight and his companion were to fight the Father of the Abyss and to liberate Oolacile from the ghastly creature. The knight fought valiantly but with his companion downed and on the verge of being defeated, the knight acted selflessly and sacrificed his own life in order to save his companions. This once benevolent knight, now only recognizable by his physique had been consumed and corrupted by the abyss. In his new-found rage, attacked anything or anyone until one day an unnamed knight ended his reign of terror. Stories say his companion still awaits at his grave, waiting for what, I do not know.

You see Chosen Undead, no matter how powerful we believe one’s self to be, we can be corrupted and consumed; do not fall prey to the power of the Abyss, do not allow yourself to be a consumer.

The Covenant Of Artorias

The abyss is pervading the land and tainting the very foundations of its construct. I and other reputable people try to inform the dangers and to fend off this lurid sap. A feeble idea marred by the nascent perception of the populous whom invest their souls on cosmetic items, loot boxes and other such content that should already be allocated within the innards of the game; sometimes that content is already prescribed on the disc. Tis not so much vexation if the game is free to play but one cannot possibly tolerate such etiquette with a full priced retail game. Principally when the game is formulated in such a way that its desiderata is for thee to spend their souls. This ritual has been coined ‘Games as a Service’ or ‘Live Services’, names conjured to send you adrift.

Not all ‘Games as a Service’ are harrowing, Nintendo’s ‘Splatoon’ hosts special events, adds new weapons, new maps and cosmetic items all for free; the only way to acquire the weapons are from points gained from participating within the game and the points are distributed respectfully… Many AAA companies such as EA and Ubisoft for example, have and will, design their games to devour your souls, applying this technique in both Multiplayer and Single player.

To me, this seems an unstable business model because companies are not just competing with other companies, but they will be competing with their own products.

The Covenant Of Artorias

These big AAA developers and producers no longer refer to us as players or gamers, we are consumers. Consumers, ha, must we not enjoy their games? Must we not look at them as entertainment? Must we not see them as an art form or a form of escapism from the atrocities of life? Not in their eyes. They are just consumable items for us to feed on, reducing their own games to just an item with no inherent value, insinuating we gamers just view these as products that we consume and gain no experience from. Ugh, uh… Surely, this implies that some publishers see games as nothing more than a vacuum sucking everyone’s time to serve no purpose other than to exist, acquire souls and then to be abandoned. Games are not the pendent.

Consumer! By the gods… Would you expect that from a director? Would you expect that from an author? Of course not, they are an audience or a reader. A level of respect participates, not mere vessels for conjuring souls. Would thou agree we should be treated with the same dignity?

The Covenant Of Artorias

If only there were more Covenant of Artorias… End this corruption and consumption… We all should protect ourselves, so our faint doth not follow that of the knights.”

Turning Hollow: Games And Difficulty

Turning Hollow – The Seal of Quality

“Hello again, Chosen Undead.

“I am Jack Boyles. I am losing my humanity. I am turning Hollow.

“We should exercise more prudence when it comes to the modern age of Video Games. We hath forgiven too long and our acceptance is too high. Acceptance of defective, and deficient and fragmentary games; allowing these attributes to slowly become normality. Souls are spent, only to await patiently for the game to be patched, stitched and sewed together.

“The seal of quality has all but faded from time. The seal of quality was guaranteed, a mark of honour, but with the rise of AAA games force releasing and online services with a lack of quality control; the seal has broken. Many hath scoured for the seal, for all whom hath foraged hath lost humanity.

“Won’t thee aide me in my quest?

“Cooperation may assist me to hold on to my humanity, assist me holding on to my cause…

The Seal of Quality

“Masses hath been delivered into this world only knowing of this tactic. As for I, I hath seen better times, a time during which the seal existed. In that period, developers could not manipulate their games with Hexic rituals like today.

“Games had to be made to withstand the test of time, to be made with calibre; as once fashioned, could not be altered. Delays were accepted, unlike the delays that inhabit this age, today delays can turn people Hollow. We can’t wait for anything.

“The games from the bygone age can still be played today and will remain the status as they did back when they were first crafted. As for modern games, once the server is closed the game cannot receive the Hexic spells to alter it – leaving a patchless pile of shame.

“An abundance of AAA publishers and developers make haste to deliver their games, acquiring the souls of many. Many AAA games materialize as buggy, shattered and unplayable until the first patch is liberated, yet that may last several moon circles. What are thou thinking? Is thou thinking those companies fabricate gigantic games, so it’s too be expected, and I concur, but with the emancipation of Breath of the Wild and God of War, tis now inexcusable to witness faceless characters and NPC’s swimming on fresh air.

Reminds me of my first kiss…

“Tis not just the AAA publishers and developers either. The absences of quality control of the independent scene must be held accountable too, with Steam and console eShop releases unimaginable. Such abominations like Fidget Spinner Simulation, Art of Stealth and Life of Black Tiger diminishing the worth only for the acquisition of souls.

“With video game development software readily available and in most cases free. This has given us more games than ever and with smaller team’s producing unique titles. This has also created many people releasing asset flip games. There is no quarrel in an indie developer using asset packs as a tool, but many have taken advantage off this and been making games from nothing but asset packs; no original content, no original ideas, just cut and paste.

Based on a True Story…

“When the youth of this age re-buy the equipment of their childhood to soak in nostalgia; they will not get that same experience from their childhood, what they will get are faceless characters and NPCs swimming on fresh air. Their childhood will be debauched and distorted.

“Will you aide me in finding the Seal, will you aide me to salvation?”

Dark Souls 3: ‘The Fire Fades’ Edition out now on PS4, Xbox One and PC

Dark Souls III: The Fire Fades Edition is out now for the PS4, Xbox One and PC. The game serves as the complete and ultimate Dark Souls 3 experience, with both downloadable expansions: Ashes of Ariandel and The Ringed City included.

Here’s what Bandai Namco had to say on the release:

‘Reborn as ash, players must make their way across the kingdom of Lothric in search of the risen Lords who have abandoned their duties to keep the age of fire continuing as the once powerful fire begins to fade. Players will traverse a multitude of lands including murky swamps, dank dungeons, opulent castles, and rickety shantytowns, a painted land, and the eventual end of the world, across their journey.

A large cast of non-playable characters will be on hand to assist players with new spells, items and weapons to help overcome some of the most challenging bosses and fearsome foes in the DARK SOULS series.’

You can check out the full trailer below.