Spawn of Mars
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A Damn Fine Experience
Thoughts on Remnant: From the Ashes
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 5:06 pm
I don't really play intense video games these days. Mind you, I'm hardly a filthy casual; but I am fussy. More than that, I suppose, I've fallen somewhat into Gaming as Macramé, in that I just want to fight some things for an hour, rank up my adventure dolls, and not worry too much about campaigns and bosses and the like. Hence my recent years-long bouts of Guild Wars 2 and Warframe.

I can't even seem to play the two DLCs from Witcher 3, one of my very favorite games. I did enjoy the recent Doom but I'm not excited for Doom Eternal (mostly because the aesthetic is so unhellishly colorful and carnival-like).

Anyhow, I heard about Remnant: From the Ashes, and even though people said it was a Dark Souls clone (that is: brutal to the player), I gave it a try. 

Yes, it is very hard. It's been a while since I've been so agitated by a game. Many times I've been utterly adrenalized, until my hands afterwards were trembling. I've always been fairly adrenalized by difficult games, but given my age I suppose I am risking a cardiac event. That would be amusing, I suppose, to die literally during a boss fight, and slump in my chair as my character — no longer controlled by a living human — is finally killed, and the screen announces he is dead, and the authorities find me lifeless in front of that informative screen.
Anyhow, I just reached the point of the final boss and, frankly, I doubt I will bother. I usually don't bother with final bosses. Why should I? Whatever you earn provides progression to nowhere. The game is done.

And then I think: I can do it. From video walkthroughs it looks frustrating, but half the reason one plays a video game is simply to meet a challenge. So... I am undecided.

Besides, the game would not be utterly done. I could take all I've earned — armor, weapons, mods, traits — and restart at the beginning. Although such a New Game Plus is not uncommon, Remnant allows you to re-roll your campaign at any point. I could skip over the final boss. That is really nice.

There's a lot that's nice about Remnant. I'm not going to claim that Remnant is unique in its features, but everything really clicks. Here are a few nice things:

When you die you lose nothing to that point. Especially in a dungeon, it would be a drag to lose all the loot and xp you've been accumulating. Also, when you return to the checkpoint, your ammo and health recharges are replenished. (Consumables are not, but that's how it should be.) Repeated deaths harm your pride but not your purse.

You can return to homebase from any checkpoint, even right before a boss fight, to buy consumables and improve armor or weapons. The checkpoints are well placed, too, which is great if a dungeon or boss has worn you out and you want to quit for now.

You can change your loadout at any time. This is perhaps the most awesome feature. If you discover your loadout is inappropriate to the current challenges, you can swap out anything right there, without abandoning progress or returning to homebase. Your inventory contains everything you own. Goodness, I love this.

There is an Adventure Mode that allows you to play episodes from the game without altering your campaign progress. The game is partially procedurally generated, so it is able to generate these microcosms off to the side. If you're in the mood to play but not in the mood to fight that brutal boss, you have an alternative. Also, all the loot and xp you gain in Adventure Mode sticks with your character. It's a great way to farm. Heck, I even acquired one of the super-rare crystals to create another health recharge!

The enemy AI is predictable enough to allow you to better your skills, but not so much that it's ever boring. Enemies dodge and flank intelligently. Fights are gratifying even if — or perhaps because — I often curse the game for being a bastard.

All in all, the game is just really good. If you are into vidya and, like me, want a challenge that doesn't quite bloody your keyboard, play Remnant.

P.S. Although any given campaign contains optional and random bosses, a few bosses are fixed. I managed to solo one of the hardest, namely Ixillis. I got a Steam Achievement for that. According to Steam, only 48% of players get that achievement. Which means 52% of players stall at Ixillis. It is possible to bypass Ixillis by instigating a fight with the Undying King; but that's like trading an acid bath for an acid bath. I wonder how many of that 52% just can't continue. I empathize with them. And I laugh at their weakness.

P.P.S. Huh. I beat the final boss in one go. Yes, I have heard it was nerfed a bit since all those videos of frustrating play were made a few months ago. But in fairness to me, I really did build up a solid character with good weapons and traits, and I have gotten good at the game. Only 33% of Steam players have defeated that boss. So I'm pleased. (I got a neat shotgun, too, which you can just see in my character portrait at the start of this post. When it's charged it briefly banishes enemies to the void [for some nice CC] and returns them damaged. Neat.)

Perfect Melancholy
An Instrumental That Shouldn't Be Lost
Saturday, September 21, 2019 11:07 pm
I was in the open beta for WildStar, an SF MMO, back in 2014. I then subscribed for three months. The game had lots of good in it; but it didn't hold me. Something fundamental was missing. And it was stupid hard. You really couldn't just log in and have fun. And the game's population collapsed so quickly that the open regions were always barren. I was alone in an MMO. 

In any event, the music was part of its goodness. There was a piece that looped in your in-game house. It was beautiful. I made a point of returning to my house at the end of every session, in part to roleplay slightly, but mostly so that I could take my character home, tuck her into bed, and linger.

I found the piece on YouTube. It's called "Plotting Our Course." Do listen to it. It's so pretty. The melancholy is perfect. The composer made something wonderful — yet it was merely incidental music in a failed videogame. Who will remember it? Though it is not lost, it seems so precariously preserved.

And I think again of the status of art at the consummation of the world. In a post of mine from 2017, Superfluous in Heaven, I supposed that art (specifically music) might be pointless in the afterlife; and yet I hoped that it would be retained somehow. Will all mankind, newly resurrected, learn of every achievement of beauty, even the most minor? If a thing is genuinely beautiful, wouldn't God value it, too?

Will man's creations be not abandoned?

To be sure, it's hard to imagine God preserving Saw III or Big Mouth. Nothing would be in Heaven that God did not love; and God cannot love what is ugly. But what of MacBeth? Or The Big Sleep? Or Taxi Driver? Where is the line between being ugly and portraying ugliness? Do we value things that God cannot? Is our valuation so corrupted? Or does God love Breaking Bad as much as any right-thinking human?

I don't know. All I know is that WildStar contained a bit of art utterly without ugliness and I'd like that bit to endure.

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