Ranking the Dark Souls 3 Bosses – Hard to Soul-Crushing Part 5

Author: Liam Riker

Hey guys. So after Part 4 in this series, where I literally just covered one boss, Halflight, Spear of the Church, from the new “The Ringed City” DLC,  I though I’d get things back on track with this post. I’ll be covering two more bosses in this post, who come in at #15 and #14 on my countdown. For the rest of this series, the breakdown will go as follows: Part 6 will cover the bosses ranked #13-#11; Part 7 will cover the bosses ranked #10-#6; and lastly, Part 8 will conclude my Dark Souls 3 Boss Countdown series with the Top 5 hardest bosses in the game and accompanying DLC’s.

Just a reminder, this is a completely opinionated series of posts. This is just how I personally rank all the bosses in Dark Souls 3 from my experiences with the game, and I’d love to hear from any of ya’ll if you have a different ranked list than mine!

So without further ado, let’s jump right into the countdown with the boss that comes in at #15.

*Potential Spoilers Below*

15. Champion’s Gravetender and Gravetender Greatwolf

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The Champion’s Gravetender and Gravetender Greatwolf is a boss fight that the player will encounter near the “Depths of the Painting” location in the “Ashes of Ariandel” DLC, which came out late last year. This boss fight, while not particularly difficult, is definitely one of my favorite boss fights in the game due to it’s incredibly cool (no pun intended) design and FANTASTIC ost! The fight still can be pretty punishing still, especially in it’s 2nd phase, and thus is worthy of holding spot #15 on my boss countdown. Before I go into a bit more detail on this boss, check out the boss’s ost here, to see just exactly what I’m gawking over. It’s by far my most favorite boss ost in the game!

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When you first enter the massive boss room for the Champion’s Gravetender and Gravetender Greatwolf boss fight, you must navigate through this wide-open and gorgeous frozen field of flowers, till you reach the ruins near the back of this area. Upon reaching the ruins, you see a figure seated next to what looks like a grave accompanied by one of the numerous wolves the player will have encountered inside the Painted World of Ariandel. The figure proceeds to stand up, turns to face you and the 1st phase of this boss fight begins.

In this 1st phase, if the player is able to take care of the Champion’s Gravetender’s three wolf friends relatively quickly, this phase should go by rather smoothly, as the Champion’s Gravetender, leaves himself open after every lunging and jumping attack for punishment. While the weapon art for the Valorheart shield the Champion’s Gravetender wields can be startling and thus punishing, if the player plays too aggressively, the Champion’s Gravetender feels no more difficult than any of the numerous NPC’s the player has had to fight up to this point of the game. That is until the player brings his health to the halfway point, at which point the Champion’s Gravetender will motion his sword to the sky and the 2nd phase begins.

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Enter the Gravetender Greatwolf, who pounces down from somewhere above the frozen field of flowers. This beauty should be a familiar site to the player, since they’ll likely have encountered phantom like versions of the Greatwolf on two separate occasions on their way to the Champion’s Gravetender boss fight. The Gravetender Greatwolf has a full boss-sized health bar of it’s own this time and will fight alongside the Champion’s Gravetender for the rest of this fight, and boy does this bad boy have a mean bite.

For the 2nd phase, the best strategy would be for the player to quickly finish off the remaining health of the Champion’s Gravetender, before the Greatwolf, has much time to protect it’s master. Once the Champion’s Gravetender has been taken care of, the player can focus all of their attention on the Greatwolf, who’s a heck of a challenging adversary due to the nature of how agile and powerful he is. The Greatwolf has good combo game and is able to roll catch the player fairly easily with one of these combos of bites, and doesn’t leave the player with many openings, as he’ll often throw in a move where he’ll bite at the player then make a spinning leap backwards to avoid being hit if the player dodged his bite. However, the Greatwolf’s most dangerous move by far, is when a whirlwind of snow begins to circle around him and he swiftly charges at the player two times. If the player doesn’t dodge the first of the two charges, there’s a good chance he’ll get caught in the second, at which point, it’s plausible that the Greatwolf can kill the player, even from full health, depending on their build.

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As if this wasn’t already challenging enough, this boss fight technically has a 3rd phase, which occurs after the Gravetender Greatwolf’s health bar is brought down halfway. At this point the Greatwolf gives out a loud howl and his eyes start glowing red. While his move-set hasn’t changed all that much for this final phase, the Greatwolf will be far more agile, throwing in that move where he charges at the player in a whirlwind of snow more often, and will also deal more damage to the player. The Greatwolf does throw in one new move that’s particularly nasty, where he’ll charge up briefly and then proceed to breathe a stream of frost as he gradually sweeps his head from left to right. This move is very reminiscent of the move Vordt of the Boreal Valley (#21 on my countdown) uses in his 2nd phase, however, the Greatwolf’s version comes out way quicker than Vordt’s, giving the player very little time to find cover and deals ALOT more frostbite damage. If the player gets frostbitten from this move, their mobility will be decreased, which will spell nearly certain death for them for the remainder of the fight. Pretty nasty am I right!?

While the 2nd (and technical 3rd) phase of this boss fight are quite challenging, it’s still a very manageable fight, that will likely take the player only a handful of tries before they are able to get past it. While a lot of people were disappointed with the lack of any considerable difficulty with this boss fight, being that they’d come to expect only the most challenging of boss fights from a Dark Souls game DLC, I personally feel that this fight is fantastic. While it might not be the most challenging, it has such a cinematic feel to it, and sets itself apart from any other boss in the game. The mystery behind the Champion’s Gravetender: like whose grave is he watching over? And how does he have some sort of pact with the wolves of this world, including the towering Greatwolf?; far make up for the relative easiness of the fight. And, in case I didn’t emphasize it enough, the ost for this fight is amazing!

If you want to see a play through of this wonderfully unique and captivating boss fight, click here.

14. Abyss Watchers

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Coming in at # 14 on my Dark Souls 3 Boss Countdown, is the second of the Lords of Cinder on my countdown and the first the player actually encounters in the game, after navigating through the hell that is the Farron Keep swamp. The Abyss Watchers, a fan favorite boss of Dark Souls 3 and even the entire Souls series, while not the most challenging of boss fights, is still a very high hurdle the player will have to overcome, especially considering how early on in the game the player gains access to this fight. It’ll likely be the first “holy fuck” moment of Dark Souls 3 for most players.

Perhaps one of the greatest things about this fight, is how rich the lore is for the Abyss Watchers, and how tragic their story is. While fighting tragic bosses is a very common theme throughout the Dark Souls series, with Dark Souls 3 being no exception, this is the first boss in the game where the tragicness of the boss is made evident to the player.

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The introductory cinematic for this boss fight spells out the craziness and tragicness of the Abyss Watchers, as you walk into the boss room where two of them are fighting one another, until one is able to make, what appears to be, the finishing blow. The prevailing Abyss Watcher proceeds to rip his sword out of his fellow member of Farron’s Undead Legion, and then turns ominously to face the player, whose finally gained his attention. A brief summary of the lore behind the Abyss Watchers, is that they were all members of Farron’s Undead Legion, who were sworn enemies of the Abyss, and followers of the Wolf Blood Master (who according to many is undoubtedly the character Artorias from the original Dark Souls). But after sharing the blood of the Wolf Blood Master, their souls were linked together into one, hence why they are in a constant purgatory like state, constantly fighting and “killing” one another. Halfway through the 1st phase of the boss fight, an Abyss Watcher rises from the ground with red eyes and proceeds to fight the two Abyss Watchers you’re fighting, the red eyes being a constant symbol throughout the game that the being has been consumed by the Abyss.

Well that’s enough of the lore, let’s get to why I ranked this fight above all the others I’ve covered thus far.

The 1st phase of the fight begins with the player fighting the main Abyss Watcher, who’s in possession of their cumulative souls, and who slew his brethren in the introductory cinematic. The Abyss Watcher has a particularly nasty move set, with combos, that will catch the player with the anticipation in-between each move of the combo, quick attacks with a handheld dagger, to prevent the player from being able to hack away at him for too long, and several sliding and slamming attacks with the Abyss Watcher’s Greatsword that close the distance quickly and punish the player if they ever try to flee carelessly.

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However, the fight doesn’t really get serious until a second Abyss Watcher rises in the boss room and starts chasing and attacking the player along with the main Abyss Watcher. This second Abyss Watcher has a mini health bar of it’s own, independent of the main boss’s health bar, so the player should still focus their attention on the Abyss Watcher they were fighting at the start of the boss battle. This is much easier said than done though, as both Abyss Watchers are relentless, cover eachother’s backs, and provide very few openings for the player to attack them. Fighting both Abyss Watchers at the same time is extremely difficult, but luckily the boss fight lends the player some aid before things look too bleak. A third Abyss Watcher rises in the room, this one with red glowing eyes, who’s clearly been corrupted by the Abyss. Since the Abyss Watchers are sworn enemies of the Abyss, both the main Abyss Watcher and especially the second Abyss Watcher with the mini health bar, will be drawn to kill this red-eyed Abyss Watcher, instead of just focusing on you.

The red-eyed, corrupted Abyss Watcher will also focus the other two Abyss Watchers, however, it still can attack you and definitely will if you get too close to it while it’s fighting off the two other Abyss Watchers. In order to get through this 1st phase of the boss fight (yes this is all STILL the 1st phase of the fight :P), the player will need to utilize the corrupted Abyss Watcher to the best of their ability, since taking on both Abyss Watchers at the same time will almost certainly end up killing the player. The other options are for the player to either focus the secondary Abyss Watcher, take care of his small health pool and then focus the main Abyss Watcher, or draw enough separation between the two Abyss Watchers to go at the main Abyss Watcher’s boss-level health pool. Luckily the Abyss Watchers are able to be staggered, so getting in a number of attacks on them is manageable, so long as the player is able to find an appropriate opening, and with the assistance of the corrupted Abyss Watcher, this 1st phase really isn’t as bad as I may be making it out to be.

However, the 2nd phase of the Abyss Watchers boss fight is a completely different story.

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The grueling 2nd phase of the Abyss Watchers boss fight has no gimmick, no way to cheese the fight, nor ally to help the player with the fight. The 2nd phase requires pure skill on the part of the player to get past it. After the main Abyss Watcher’s health bar has been brought down all the way to zero, there’s a cut to another cinematic, where blood from all of the dead Abyss Watchers littered across the boss room raises into the air and flows into the body of the Abyss Watcher you just took down. The Abyss Watcher rises, his greatsword now covered in flame, the player knows shit’s about to get real.

Even more so than in the 1st phase of the fight, the Abyss Watcher is relentless as HELL! Giving the player barely any openings to attack, while at the same time feigning that he’s done with a combo to trick the player into approaching him only to get punished severely by the final devastating hit of the combo. On top of this, every one of his swings with his flaming greatsword now is followed immediately by a flurry of flames, to catch the player if they don’t dodge the initial attack perfectly. The attacks he uses to close the distance between himself and the player are all especially nasty too, one of which consisting of a lunging stab, a swift sliding attack that leaves a trail of fire behind it, and a leaping spinning attack that’s sure to catch even the most adept dodgers. For this 2nd phase, the player will just have to buckle down, stay focused, and above all be patient! The greed for a third or fourth attack against the Abyss Watcher will almost certainly end with the player dying.

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Once the player gets a good idea of the boss’s patterns and move set, the 2nd phase is certainly a very manageable one, but this process of learning the 2nd phase’s patterns, especially when the player will have to first get past the 1st phase which is, by no means, a slouch of a phase, will likely take a number of tries. This will definitely be the most difficult boss fight for the player for where they’re currently at in the game (unless they were feeling especially gutsy and attempted the Dancer of the Boreal Valley WAY before they should’ve) and will prove to be a very memorably difficult boss fight for the player’s entire experience with Dark Souls 3.

Like the Gravetender Greatwolf boss fight, the Abyss Watchers boss fight also has a fantastic ost! If you’d like to hear the ost and also check out the riveting cutscenes and gameplay of this fight, click here.

Alright, well that’s all for this section of my boss countdown! As you can tell, we’re finally getting to some of the actually difficult bosses in Dark Souls 3, bosses that are worthy and characteristic of the “Dark Souls” name. We’re not quite to the soul-crushing bosses, but trust me, we’re getting close.

Check back next time, as I cover bosses ranked #13-#11 on my countdown. Thanks for your time and your support! Please feel free to like this post and leave any thoughts or opinions in the comments.

Ranking the Dark Souls 3 Bosses – Hard to Soul-Crushing Part 4 – Halflight, Spear of the Church

Author: Liam Riker

Hey guys! The time has come to continue my Dark Souls 3 Boss Countdown. I’ve been playing a lot of the recently released “The Ringed City” DLC lately, which in my opinion has been a very satisfying and impressive concluding chapter to Dark Souls 3 and ultimately, the Dark Souls trilogy as a whole. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been able to fight all four of the bosses in the DLC area (still haven’t beaten the final boss though), so I’d be able to include them all in this countdown as planned. Perfect timing too, since one of those four bosses just so happens to fill the next spot in my countdown. Since I have a lot to say about this particular boss, I’ve decided to just dedicate a whole blog post to it, and continue the rest of my countdown on the next post in this series.

So without further ado, let’s get this ball rolling with number 16 on the countdown.

*Potential Spoilers Below*

16. Halflight, Spear of the Church

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Coming in at #16, is the first boss I’ve covered from Dark Souls 3‘s “The Ringed City” DLC, Halflight, Spear of the Church. The Spear of the Church boss fight is likely the hardest of the boss fights in my countdown to rank, as it’s a different fight nearly every time you face it, unless you happen to be in Offline Mode. The fight is also the most unique of all the bosses in my countdown and one of the reasons why it’s quickly become one of my new favorite bosses in the game. However, although the fight has high variability, once the player understands how the boss fight works, it can become fairly easy, even when up against the most skilled of the Spears of the Church. Thus, why the Spear of the Church boss fight comes in at only #16 on my countdown.

Before the player even opens the doors to the church, where the boss fight takes place in, they are greeted by the intimidating voice of Judicator Argo, warning the player that they must turn back now, in accordance to the King’s Decree that no one shall disturb the slumber of Princess Filianore. After proceeding through those church doors you were just told not to open, you are greeted by the incredibly towering presence of Judicator Argo at the opposite end of the church.

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Judicator Argo proceeds to scold you on your foolishness and claims that he will deliver justice to you. During this time, when Judicator Argo is monologuing about how you will pay for disrespecting the King’s Decree, the player is given a considerable opening, to hack away at his relatively small health pool. The player should either take advantage of this opening, or hang back and wait for Argo to finish monologuing, after which he’ll summon a Painting Guardian and shortly after that, the true boss of this fight, the Spear of the Church.

Depending on whether or not you’re in online mode or not, you’ll either get a randomly selected player who’s aligned themselves with the Spears of the Church covenant as the boss, or the NPC Halflight, who according to Dark Souls lore, is the last recorded Spear of the Church. (Halflight pictured above as the featured image for this boss) In case you didn’t catch that, yes the boss fight has the potential to be just another player online, explaining why ranking this boss fight is particularly difficult.

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While you may be lucky and get a player who is relatively unskilled at the game, or whose build is extremely advantageous for your’s, there’s an equally likely chance that you’ll get a player whose build is a hard counter to your’s or a veteran of the Souls series. If you don’t want to rely on chance, you can always do the fight in offline mode, but even then, Halflight is no pushover, with his Frayed Blade katana and White Birch bow. To see how the boss fight looks when Halflight is summoned as the Spear of the Church click here.

If the player was just fighting the Spear of the Church mano a mano, this boss fight would likely be near the bottom of my countdown as one of the easiest fights in the game. But, as I mentioned earlier, Judicator Argo first summons a Painting Guardian, a rather nasty NPC, who wields a fast Painting Guardian Curved Sword that’s able to land combos on the player easily and unlimited Church Guardian Shivs, illusory throwing knives that deal magic damage, forcing the player to either play agilely or aggressively. The Painting Guardian can also use a miracle to heal the Spear of the Church, prolonging the fight, if the player doesn’t act fast enough to interrupt the casting of the miracle. When the player brings the Spear of the Church’s health down to the halfway point, another Painting Guardian is summoned, and if the player hasn’t eliminated the other Painting Guardian by this point, they are going to be in a world of hurt! Even though the Painting Guardians don’t deal a lot of damage, they have the capability to easily stun and stagger the player with their move set, preventing the player from getting to the actual boss and making it possible for the player to be combo’d to death.

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Putting all of this into consideration, most of the difficulty in the Spear of the Church boss fight comes from the chance of getting a highly skilled player summoned through the Spears of the Church covenant, or from letting the fight prolong for too long and not taking care of the Painting Guardians fast enough. As many have attested, fighting a skilled Dark Souls player online in PvP, can be more difficult than fighting even the hardest of bosses in the game. So, due to the unpredictable nature of this boss fight, and how there is high potential, especially at later levels, to have a particularly skilled player summoned as the Spear of the Church, I’ve decided that slot #16 is a fair ranking of this very unique boss.

I absolutely love the concept of this fight, and while I’ve heard from some of my friends who have played the predecessor to the Dark Souls series, Demon Souls, that there is a similarly conceptualized boss fight in that game, I still find the concept of the Spear of the Church fight to be incredibly creative and exceptional in it’s singularity. “The Ringed City” DLC has included a system, where the player is able to reset the boss fight over and over again, at the cost of souls, as a way of engaging in this unique boss fight experience multiple times, and as a way to farm Filianore’s Spear Ornaments, which the player can turn in to upgrade their ranking in the Spears of the Church covenant.

As you could’ve guessed, as a member of the Spears of the Church covenant, which you can join after defeating an incredibly difficult boss in this DLC, Darkeater Midir (I’ll be covering him way later in my countdown), you will occasionally be summoned to fight as the Spear of the Church against a player who has dared to disturb Princess Filianore’s slumber. And there is nothing quite as badass as being summoned to be a boss in a game like Dark Souls 3!

Well that’s all for this post ya’ll. I will try and get the next episode in my Dark Souls 3 Boss Countdown series out to you guys as soon as possible, where I’ll go into depth on the next set of bosses in my countdown as usual. Thanks for taking the time to read one of my posts and for dropping in to visit The Gamer’s Smorgasbord! Until next time!

Resident Evil 7: Review and Thoughts – Part 2: Characters, Level Design and Mechanics

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Author: Liam Riker 

Overall Rating: 9/10

In Part 1 of this game review and analysis of the critically acclaimed Resident Evil 7, I analyzed and throughly dissected the story of the game. In that analysis, I explained how the major reason I scored the game a 9/10 instead of a perfect 10/10 was because of the majorly disappointing final boss fight against the fully transformed Evelyn.

In this 2nd and Final Part of this series, I will be explaining the other reason this game falls a bit short of the 10/10 threshold through my discussion on the game’s Level Design. I will then cover a bit of the game’s Mechanics, explaining how this game has a few elements, and one system in particular, that are extremely reminiscent of an ARPG, as I alluded to in one of my previous postings. Finally, I’ll be covering my favorite part of the game, and the reason why I think Resident Evil 7 is a masterpiece of a horror game: the Characterization of the Baker Family, and how each member of the family embodies a different type of horror.

**Spoilers Below**

Level Design

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Resident Evil 7 for the most part completely nails Level Design, with it’s excellent use of interior spaces. The Level Design throughout the various pieces of property the Baker Family owns, range from; more narrow, abandoned long hallways, that are a very common staple to horror games, building up paranoia and anxiety within the player for what might be lurking around the corner, as they turn the hallway; to smaller rooms, with several crooks and crannies, for something terrifying to hide in and get the jump on the player; to wide-open spaces like the Main Hall of the Main House and the large interior of the barn like area of Lucas’ Testing Area. With the latter of the three types of interior spaces, these wide-open areas are designed primarily, to allow the player to either run away from the enemy that is currently pursuing them, or give them enough time to reload and heal while fighting an enemy, since Resident Evil 7  is a horror game where the player is actually able to fight back.

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Besides just the basic level layout of the various environments in RE7, the game makes excellent use of the way the player interacts with objects, ESPECIALLY doors, and certain areas/rooms in the level that the player would originally believe hold no purpose, to create some of the biggest jump scares in the game. A couple examples of this, and a couple examples of two of the biggest jump scares in the game in my opinion, would be: 1) The bathroom door on the 2nd floor of the Main House: Usually bathrooms in horror games are notorious for being some of the most horrifying rooms in the game, loaded with jump scares and terrible creatures that want to kill you. So, when the player wanders into the 2nd bathroom they’ve encountered so far in the game (with the 1st one also being absent of anything mildly scary) and they don’t run into anything scary, they’re lulled into a false sense of security and comfort. So when they then prepare to leave the bathroom, and begin to open the door, only to find Jack (who they would’ve previously thought was most certainly dead) on the other side of the door, ready to kill them, this jump scare comes across as even more jarring.                                                         2) The stairwell up to the Crow Key Door in Marguerite’s dilapidated and disgusting Old House, certainly makes the player paranoid as they slowly move up the stairwell the first time. They expect for there to be a jump scare before they reach the Crow Key Door. So, when no jump scare occurs, and the player is actually allowed to interact with the locked Crow Key Door and look around the corner to the right to find a relatively nice-looking nightstand, and interact with that to obtain an item, they are once again lulled into this false sense of security. So, after the player obtains the Crow Key, and walks back up this exact same stairway, nothing could be more surprising to them, then for Marguerite to come running out from the hidden alcove to the right of the door where the nightstand was, and confront the player.                                                                                                               Both of these jump scares are executed to maximum effect, and primarily because of the excellent use of Level Design in the game, that play with the player’s ingrained psychological expectations due to typical horror game norms.

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So I’ve covered where RE7 went right with Level Design, and trust me, there are still many more elements of its Level Design that are worthy of praise, but now let’s get to the one other misstep the game made, that kept it from obtaining that desirable 10/10 rating from me and from many other people. To many people, the best part of the game, is the first 2/3’s or so of the game, where the player is desperately trying to escape the Baker Family’s property and leave where their estranged wife Mia, and their new ally Zoe. In my opinion this is mainly due to the Level Design of the environments that follow this section of the game.

After the player escapes Lucas’ Testing Area, they have to navigate the Sunken Tanker Ship that Evelyn originated from, and the Salt Mines that she and Lucas then escape into later on. Both of these environments, while well-designed, from an Environmental Design perspective, have a sort of meager Level Design layout. The Salt Mines are more forgivable because of all the story related content the player is given during their exploration of this area, and the terror that is created from Lucas’ traps and massive hordes of Molded spawned by Evelyn. However, with the Tanker Ship, where the player is now playing as Mia, the player will likely start to feel a bit bored after a exploring the ship for a while. The section on the Tanker Ship isn’t even that scary, due to how the Molded enemies are presented to the player, and how the only sort of terror is executed through jump-scare hallucinations of Evelyn. To me, this section on the ship is necessary and has some positive qualities, but the Level Design and how the execution of horror is fairly lackluster, ultimately lets it down. This along with the extremely anti-climactic boss fight against Evelyn is the reason I didn’t give this game a perfect score.

Mechanics

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Very briefly, I’m going to cover some of the Mechanics of RE7, and how they contribute to the game being an A-tier horror game, and how these Mechanics are reminiscent of various ARPG qualities.

As mentioned many times previously, RE7 is a horror game where the player is able to fight back against the various things that are trying to kill them. Now usually, this balance of giving the player some power and still maintaining a necessary amount of terror and horror is hard to achieve. However, RE7 accomplishes this very well, by making the enemies the player is fighting extremely intimidating and powerful, and giving the player a limited amount of ammo and health resources, keeping them constantly on edge.

In terms of what mechanics-laced game systems are provided to the player, the most noteworthy is the player’s ability to quickly switch through 4 weapons that are each assigned to a specific hot key. Since certain enemies throughout the game are weak to certain weapons, this feature allows for the player to quickly switch to the desired and most effective weapon for the given enemy. With this system the player is also able to switch weapons in the middle of combat. So, if the player is getting dangerously low on handgun ammo, and they feel like they can easily finish off the enemy with a few melee attacks, they can then quickly switch to the pocket knife and hack away. This convenient system is necessary since often times the enemies in the game will be thrown at the player so unexpectedly that they’ll have to act quickly or die. Yet another example, of how RE7 achieves this perfect balance of player empowerment and horror in their combat-mechanics Game System. This Game System is one such system that is used often times in ARPG’s. While the combat in this game definitely feels at place within a horror game and not an ARPG, there are similar elements here that are worth mentioning.

One other system that adds to the difficulty of the game, and that provides it’s own sort of horror for the player, is RE7’s inventory system. The player is given a limited number of inventory slots, and must make due with those few slots, while putting all other items/weapons that don’t fit in various storage boxes that conveniently transfer the player’s weapons and items from one save room to another. Inventory management is  a very prominent factor in determining whether a player succeeds or not in RE7, and is the most ARPG reminiscent Game System in the game. While the player is able to significantly expand their inventory while acquiring various backpacks throughout the game, the player will have to constantly manage their resources effectively, knowing when to use, delete or store something from their inventory.

These systems and a couple others, like how the player is able to increase their player and weapon stats through the use of steroids, stabilizers, and repair kits, respectfully, are all examples of systems that are often times present in ARPG’s and why Resident Evil 7 isn’t your ordinary horror game. And the game is so much better off because of this added layer of complexity.

Characters: The Bakers

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Well we’ve finally got to my favorite part of analyzing Resident Evil 7: the extremely well-characterized antagonists of the game, The Bakers. While Ethan, Mia, Clancy and Zoe (even though she is also a Baker; I will not be including her in this review because her character isn’t as fleshed out) are all fantastic characters, with fantastic voice-acting and great characterization, that the player develops genuine feelings for, and sympathizes with them for all that they go through. Nothing compares to the stellar performances by The Bakers. The Bakers are what make Resident Evil 7 as special as it is, what with their incredibly dynamic personalities, outstanding voice-acting, and fleshed out backstories. They are also primarily responsible for creating the terror and horror that the player feels, and the best thing is, that each character represents a different type of horror. Let me explain as to what exactly I mean.

Jack Baker

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Jack Baker, is the father of the Baker family, and in a sort of twisted-humor sort of way is actually referred to as “Daddy” several times throughout the game. Jack, while under the control of Evelyn, still retains his fatherly-duties as protector of the household and his family. However, this personality trait is warped under Evelyn’s control to the point where Jack is brutal to those who would attempt to intrude on his family, and unforgiving to those who would try to leave his family. If you’re a police officer for instance that’s investigating the Baker residence, you’re going to lose half of your head to a shovel that Jack is carrying.

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As I alluded to earlier, each member of the Baker family embodies a different type of horror, and Jack definitely embodies the intimidating horror type. What with his hulkian strength and his absolute REFUSAL TO DIE, he makes for an extremely intimidating enemy. He’s fast, relentless, and deals loads of damage to the player, so there’s no wonder that the player is intimidated by him. Jack quickly grows impatient with Ethan’s refusal to be a part of his family, and after that, he will try and kill you, in extremely brutal ways., adding to this level of anxiety of when Jack might appear again and tension for when you’re actually having to run away from him or fight him. Here’s a brief slideshow on what all it takes to FINALLY kill Jack, to put this more into perspective.

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It’s almost comedic how ridiculous it is to finally kill Jack. But after fighting that disgusting monster-like form of him with all the eyeballs, and injecting him with the serum meant to cure what’s been inflicting Zoe and Mia, he FINALLY does actually die.

Marguerite Baker

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Marguerite Baker is the mom of the Baker family, and under Evelyn’s control, like Jack, her instincts revolve around protection. In this case, she aggressively protects her sacred shrine which holds one of the components to the serum in the Old House. Marguerite, out of all of the Bakers, is by far, the most visibly consumed by Evelyn’s bio-infection. She actually gives birth to bugs, which she appropriately calls her “babies”, and after taking enough damage transforms into the hideous and terrifying monster you see below.

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From just the two pictures I’ve shown of her, I’m sure it’s not hard to make the leap as to what type of horror she embodies. She embodies the visually and audibly disgusting and terrifying horror that so many have become accustomed to in countless horror movies and horror games. Even before she transforms, she’s creepy as fuck to look at, and though she may not have as intimidating of a presence as Jack, the player will likely feel more afraid of her..especially if they don’t like bugs. They way she slowly patrols around the dimly lit Old House, with her lantern to guide her, is just as agonizingly terrifying as Jack’s quick, aggressive patrols throughout the Main House.

As for how terrifying her voice is, this really isn’t apparent until she’s transformed. Before she’s transformed she’s actually kind of humorous, with how much she curses. The voice she speaks in when she’s transformed is straight out of an Exorcist movie, and can’t really be expressed in words. You’d need to hear it to believe it, and same goes for the fantastic final boss battle against her, which is probably my favorite boss battle in the game, design wise. Here’s a link to a video showing the fight. Brace yourself.

Lucas Baker

 

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Everyone’s beloved psychopathic member of the Baker family. Lucas, is by far, the most characterized of the Bakers throughout the entirety of Resident Evil 7, and is also probably the most pure evil out of all of them. We get a glimpse of the twisted mind of Lucas throughout the entirety of the game. And the scariest thing is, that this man was twisted and mentally unstable ever since he was a young boy. After gaining access to his childhood room in the Main House, which in order to get a key to, the player has to literally reach down the throat of the decapitated police officer from before and pull the key out of his butchered corpse, we learn about a certain incident with Lucas and a childhood friend that happened to get on his nerves. As a young boy, he locked his friend up in the attic and waited for him to die, not thinking anything of what he had done. You also get a glimpse into how smart Lucas is, discovering that he did well in several engineering competitions when he was very young. Lucas is definitely the mad genius of the Baker family, and though he is the most normal on the outside, you should be very afraid of what he’s capable of.

Blog Post 13 Pic 27 In terms of what sort of horror Lucas embodies, he definitely takes the role of the sadistic, psychopathic, mad genius horror character archetype. Lucas just loves killing people. And he loves killing them in incredibly creative ways, which you discover after watching a VHS on how he killed Clancy in a birthday-themed puzzle room.

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While Lucas is very twisted and evil, he’s also a hell of a fun character! His dialogue and sheer level of insanity is priceless, and makes you almost like his character.

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The coward never directly confronts you though, intending for his various traps, puzzles and mechanisms to take care of you in his place. When you finally escape his Testing Area though, he’s nowhere to be found. Later on, you discover that he fled to the Salt Mines under the Baker’s land, when members from a mysterious organization completely destroyed the Main House, Old House and Testing Area, taking out anyone who was there at the time, including Zoe, if you choose Mia before departing for the Tanker. You know Lucas was alive and did in fact flee underground, to due to his signature traps laid out everywhere throughout the first half of the Salt Mines. However, you never find Lucas. You discover that he was helping relay information to the organization that was responsible for creating Evelyn, in exchange for a cure to Evelyn’s biohazard infection, but you never see his character again. A HUGE plot hole that NEEDS to be filled in an upcoming DLC or later Resident Evil game. His character is too HUGE to not get an appropriate or satisfying end.

WTF HAPPENED TO LUCAS!!!?? WE NEED ANSWERS!!!

Well there you have it. That concludes my review and analysis of Resident Evil 7. For someone who’s never been a fan of the horror genre and who hadn’t played much of any horror games, this game, on it’s own, intrigued me about the horror genre as a whole. However, I do think it’ll be hard for any horror game to beat this one for me. RE7 is a masterpiece with just a couple flaws that prevent it from being considered perfect. So much time went into this game and it will undoubtedly be remembered and recognized for many years to come because of this.

 

Ranking the Dark Souls 3 Bosses – Hard to Soul-Crushing Part 3 (Countdown Update)

Author: Liam Riker

Hey everyone. I’m going to try my best to keep this post in my Dark Souls 3 Boss Countdown series to a more minimal length, but no promises, because this is me after all that we’re talking about, and I’m sure ya’ll have already grown accustomed to what that means.

I decided to continue this series instead of finishing my review of Resident Evil 7 this week, since I just started playing “The Ringed City” DLC for Dark Souls 3 and have been in a Dark Souls sort of mood all week. I will try and write a post exclusively talking about “The Ringed City” DLC once I finish it, but for now let’s pick up where we left off last with this Boss Countdown. Also, due to the addition of “The Ringed City” DLC, I’ve decided to update/edit the countdown I’ve been constructing, accounting for the newly added DLC bosses with the assumption that all 4 bosses in the DLC will be harder than the bosses I’ve covered thus far and will cover in this post. So with that in my mind, my last two posts covered the bosses now ranked 25-20 on my updated countdown, now let’s continue with #19.

*Potential Spoilers Below*

19. Crystal Sage

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While I covered gimmick boss battles earlier in the countdown, whose gimmicks were perhaps too easy to discover and exploit without enough punishment to make for a more difficult fight, the Crystal Sage boss battle is definitely a change in form.

This was the first boss for me in the game, where I made the realization: “hey, so this is what they were talking about when they said Dark Souls was challenging.”  While the fight isn’t particularly difficult for seasoned Dark Souls players, or even for those more seasoned and avid gamers in general, it certainly is NOT an easy fight.

When I refer to it being a gimmick battle, I’m mainly referring to the second phase of the battle, as the first phase doesn’t have a real gimmick to it. During the first phase the Crystal Sage will send all manners of crystal-magic-conjured long range spells your way to keep you at bay. These spells range from several beams of crystal energy that hone in on the player’s location, to a crystal bomb like spell that floats and also hones in on the player’s location to dish out some disgusting damage if it makes contact. The worst of all the Crystal Sage’s spells however, is the ray of energy that he blasts along the ground in your direction that then sprouts crystals along the path the ray blasted through. If you get hit by the full force of this spell you are going to get SHREDDED and will likely die, even at full health for certain levels and builds. The Crystal Sage will continue to send spell after spell at you, keeping you a good distance away from him, and if you manage to get close, he’ll take a good swing at you with the sorcerer’s staff he’s been using to cast his spells.

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Once you manage to close the distance and get a few hits off on the Crystal Sage, he’ll vanish into the ground and teleport to some other location in the large courtyard-like arena you’re fighting him in, to continue the onslaught once again. Once you get the Crystal Sage to half-health is when the fun starts though. At this point the Crystal Sage will fade into the ground once more, but this time when he spawns, you’ll notice that there are several clones of the Crystal Sage all around the courtyard. You’ll have to quickly find the Sage’s real body, distinguished by the purple glow of his crystal magic that’s coated all of his spells up to this point (all the clones will be using spells encased with blue crystal magic). You must close-in on the real body and get as many hits off on it as possible, as all the clones will be assaulting you with the same exact spells and attacks the real body has had access to. Pretty brutal right!?

 

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While the strategy to defeating the Crystal Sage is pretty straight-forward: just rush down the projectile spamming bastard and get in as many hits as possible before he teleports away; this fight is actually a well-designed gimmick boss fight, in terms of how it still manages to be difficult even when the player is aware of the gimmick and how to abuse it. Once the player gets accustomed to the winning strategy to defeat the Crystal Sage, it’s only a matter of time before they defeat it. Thus, it’s not THAT challenging of a fight, but it’s definitely the hardest of all the bosses I’ve covered thus far.

If you like the Crystal Sage as much I did, then you’re in for a TREAT, as the Crystal Sage has a twin brother, who’ll you end up fighting as a mini boss while trying to navigate the Grand Archives later on in the game. When you fight the twin at that point in the game you know that things are going to be MEAN, so just be prepared for suffering. You’ll never hate a long-distance projectile spamming character more than the 2nd Crystal Sage trust me. And I main Toon Link in Sm4sh, so I definitely know what I’m talking about.

The design of the Crystal Sage boss fight is one of my favorites in the game and will likely make for a devilishly fun time for the player, so forgive me for going a bit overboard on this one. Just felt like I had to pay it a respectable amount of homage as it was the first boss in the game to kick my ass! Haha. I’ll try to be way less thorough with the next two bosses on the countdown. I promise this time!

18. Yhorm the Giant

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I know some of you might be surprised to find Yhorm the Giant this low on my Dark Souls 3 Boss Tier List. But contrary to popular opinion I feel like this Lord of Cinder, is right where he belongs.

In the Yhorm the Giant boss fight, as the final event in his quest-line, the lovable NPC, Siegward of Catarina, fights alongside you for this boss fight, as he promised his “old friend” that he would come for him if he ever slipped into insanity. Luckily for you, Siegward comes equipped with Yhorm’s ultimate weakness, the sword named “Storm Ruler.” With Siegward fighting along side you with that incredibly powerful weapon, with it’s special ability being the only reasonable way to inflict decent damage on Yhorm, you can see the boss fight completed without you even lending a single blow yourself.

Now this may seem too easy at first, as though this boss fight deserved to be even lower on the tier list than it already is, however, what I described above is an ideal scenario. Yhorm can just as easily kill off Siegward before he’s able to get him down to 9/10’s of his health, especially if you just wait and watch on the sidelines. Luckily there is another way to defeat Yhorm even if Siegward were to fall in the fight (which if that happens he will stay dead and never again respawn). There is a second “Storm Ruler” on top of Yhorm’s throne positioned in the back of the boss room. Once the player gets their hands on this, they’ll be able to do a miniature version of the special attack Siegward was using to deal effective damage on Yhorm. And the player’s Storm Rider is no slouch when it comes to damage either. However, the wind up for the special attack is considerable so timing is of the essence in this fight.

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Besides the aspect of Siegward and the Storm Ruler the player can acquire, there really isn’t all that much to this boss fight. Most of Yhorm’s attacks are slow and have decent wind-up, so the player will have to time their dodge rolls well in order to make it out of the fight alive. However, since Yhorm has no long-range attacks, the player is able to keep their distance from him and launch potent spells at him to whittle away at his health. But if the player wants to have an easy time of this fight, all they need do is acquire the Storm Ruler and go at Yhorm with that weapon’s special ability.

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This fight is ranked as high as it is because the fight does require a considerable level of skill when it comes to the timing of both attacks and dodges. Also, every one of Yhorm’s attacks deals a massive amount of damage, and if the player were to attempt to defeat Yhorm without using the Storm Ruler’s special ability they would not have a pleasant time of it. Yhorm’s health pool is equally as gigantic as he is, so the only reasonable way to chink away at the massive pool is with the Storm Ruler. With that in mind, when both Siegward and the player are wielding a Storm Ruler, this boss fight can be completed in a shocking time of only 1 minute!

And just like that, that’s the first of the Lords of Cinder on this tier list. Next.

17. Old Demon King

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Now here’s a boss whose name is pretty self-evident. Especially the “old” part. Missing one eye and looking as though he’d seen better days overall, the Old Demon King is the oldest and last remaining demon of Izalith. So he’s been around a LONG time, and his slightly-meager appearance should not lead the player to underestimate this hot-headed bruiser.

The Old Demon King boss fight will definitely require the most skill out of the player out of those that I’ve covered thus far. Especially since there is no gimmick to this fight, like there was for both the Crystal Sage and Yhorm. The player has to straight up beat the Old Demon King, requiring excellent timed dodge rolls, anticipation and awareness of both the boss’s melee and long-distance projectile attacks (most of which take up a considerable range), and the whereabouts to know when and when not to attack.

The first phase of this fight is fairly easy, but still far more advanced than any of the first phases the player has encountered thus far. He will take swings at you with his giant hammer/club and spew molten hot lava in a stream that he breathes from left to right and that spreads across the battlefield, to keep you at bay. And then if you’re too close for his liking, you better watch out for his hammer slam attack or his giant fire ball combustion attack he activates directly in front of his body. However the second phase of the fight is much meaner, as he will still have this fairly nasty toolset of moves, however, all of these attacks will now do considerably more damage, and then there are the new attacks he brings to the table. The Old Demon King will now send an onslaught of honing meteoroid-like masses of fire raining down from above the player, while creating a ring of fire that expands across the arena and then constricts, forcing the player to keep an eye out for it twice. The player will have to definitely have their wits about them for this second phase, as the Old Demon King is relentless and can easily overwhelm the player.

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That being said, this fight isn’t too difficult, once the player gets used to the Demon King’s patterns and learns how to get up-close and personal. His health pool isn’t the largest, so if the player is able to penetrate the Demon King’s defenses and land a few hits, they’ll definitely be rewarded for their valiancy. This fight is definitely the first fight on my tier list though that is reminiscent of what most expect from a Dark Souls boss fight. And the Old Demon King is only ranked 17th! There are far nastier foes to come, and we will be starting with some of these next time.

Until then, keep an eye out for the second half of my Resident Evil 7 review, a review on the game Inside once I complete it, and my opinion on the latest Dark Souls 3 DLC, The Ringed City. And don’t think I’ve forgotten about Kingdom Hearts! I will be returning to my beloved video game franchise of my childhood soon.

 

A Glimpse “Inside”

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Author: Liam Riker 

As many of ya’ll are aware, my area of focus on the Gamer’s Smorgasbord, is not horror games or puzzle/platformers. That being said, I haven’t been playing many ARPG’s the past month besides Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance HD from the Kingdom Hearts 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue collection and a bit of Dark Souls 3 in preparation for “The Ringed City” DLC that just came out a couple days ago. Once I get to “The Ringed City” location in my profile (which unfortunately might be a while, since I restarted the game in New Game +) you can definitely expect a blog posting about my experience with the last Dark Souls DLC ever. But for now, I thought I’d talk a about a little game that’s caught my eye and nearly won Game of the Year for 2016. That game, Inside, is the subject of this blog post.

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I was a massive fan of Limbo, when I first played it 3 years ago, and believe that game is worthy of being called a masterpiece in its own right. However, after playing a bit of Inside, which is the spiritual successor to Limbo, a couple days ago, after my friends bought me the game as a belated birthday gift, I can confidently say, that Inside completely blows Limbo out of the water.

Inside overall has a better aesthetic, with more beautiful and yet still simplistic graphics, and is able to give the player a greater player experience due to the greater depth the developers added to this game, both in terms of the scale of the environments and levels, but also in terms of the complexity of the puzzles. The player isn’t just trying to survive a nightmarish landscape where everything wants to kill him as in Limbo. While the player is still trying to navigate a very dangerous environment where they are very vulnerable and where nearly everything does want to kill them, there is so much more to the game’s level design and puzzles than simply surviving obstacles. The player will have to at times puppet other zombie-like humanoids through mind-control, operate a submarine, and even SWIM to solve the game’s puzzles.

 

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I really do want to emphasize how great it is that the player is able to finally swim in Inside! This adds a completely new layer of depth to the mechanics and feel of the game, that wasn’t present at all in Limbo. Whether it be his ability to climb fences like Spiderman, swim acrobatically, or just the fact that he doesn’t break both legs and bleed out to death when falling from a moderate height, the main character of Inside actually comes across as quite the bad ass! The game developers did an excellent job this time of balancing player power and the overall sense of vulnerability they want to get across through their game’s ambience. The player still feels at the mercy of the game’s environment, but they don’t get needlessly frustrated when their PC breaks in half from the slightest of logical damage taken.

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Another element that I feel Inside contributes to the 2D side-scrolling puzzle/platformer genre, is how well the game uses it’s sense of a minuscule z-axis. While the game is very much 2D, the player is given the feeling like they’re interacting in a semi-3Dimensional world. This combined with the greater scope of the game’s environments, provide for an overall more captivating and improved player experience.

From what I’ve been able to gather so far, Inside takes the best elements of Limbo: its simplistically presented concept, controls and art style, mixed in with a horror-like feel due to the game’s brutality and dark story material, and expands upon it with more complex puzzle designs, a more immersive and appealing environment, and greater player power and interactivity. I can’t wait to progress further in Inside and see where the game takes me. I’ve been enjoying every minute so far!

Keep an eye out for upcoming postings continuing my Dark Souls 3 Boss Battle Countdown and Resident Evil 7 review series, and in addition I will likely be writing a blog post for reviewing Inside, for when I do beat the game, and for “The Ringed City” Dark Souls DLC. Until then, thank you for dropping in to The Gamer’s Smorgasbord.

Resident Evil 7: Review and Thoughts – Part 1: Story Analysis

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Author: Liam Riker 

Now I know that my designated area of expertise is not horror games on The Gamer’s Smorgasbord. That being said, after spending the past month and a half completely engrossed by the fantastically staged and executed horror in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, I couldn’t resist the temptation of writing a blog post on it, after having completed the game last Thursday. As I mentioned in my last blog postResident Evil 7 has some elements that are common in many ARPG games, and with the ongoing debate on what is considered an ARPG and what is not, I felt like this unique horror game is definitely fair game for me to discuss. If you’d like to see other horror game reviews on The Gamer’s Smorgasbord, check out the postings made by my co-blogger Sharon Salazar. She’s already wrote one on the very first Resident Evil, which I recommend checking out.

**Spoilers Below**

Alright, so first let me just say that I have never been a particular fan of the horror genre. I haven’t been one to hunt out the latest horror movie releases, or even play the newest horror video games. So, when my friends persuaded me into playing Resident Evil 7, which at the time was already infamously known as being one of the most terrifying horror games that’s been released thus far, I was a bit skeptical and anxious about what I could’ve possibly gotten myself into. However, after finishing it this past week, this one game, might have singlehandedly made me a fan of the horror video game genre. Now the question will be, if any other horror game will ever reach the bar that Resident Evil 7 has set for me.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Resident Evil 7 is a horror game that succeeds because it has strayed away from those very common and over-used horror cliches that have bogged down the genre for years, while making optimal use of other horror cliches through the placement and frequency of them throughout the game. RE7 is also a horror game with so much narrative substance, through its captivating and emotional story and fantastically characterized cast of unique and memorable characters, that provides a solid foundation for everything else to lie on top of. RE7’s narrative design is what separates it from other horror games in my opinion, and is definitely the biggest reason why I’ve decided to give it a score of 9/10.

RE7 is not just a well-done horror game because of its narrative design however. The game seems to excel in practically every single area of game design: with a fantastic soundtrack and masterful sound design; great level design and ironically mesmerizing environmental design, with careful attention and a lot of time put into the Modeling, Texturing and Lighting of the game; mechanics and game systems in place that are easy enough for the player to pick up and master that they don’t become frustrated and thus great game flow; and most importantly, RE7 is a game that knows how to effectively use every horror convention at its disposable to incredible effect. It’s one thing when a horror game or movie depends on nothing but jump scares to create all of it’s terror. In these instances, the audience will quickly build up a resilience to the jump scares and might even find the process of enduring the barrage of them to be more agonizing than terrifying. RE7 uses a careful balance of jump scares, built-up tension through sound design and environmental design, some of which builds to nothing and some which doesn’t, to keep the audience always guessing about what could or couldn’t be around the corner. Through this design, when there is a jump scare, it’s way more startling and effective. RE7 nearly-perfectly crafts a horror masterpiece in my opinion. I’ll explain later, the reason why RE7 is one whole point short of being a perfect 10/10, but first let me go into more detail about the game and the main reason why it’s rated so high in my mind to begin with: it’s story and characters.

Story

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As I already stated, the story and characters in RE7 are truly what made this game a masterpiece in my eyes.

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The game begins with the main character, Ethan, investigating an abandoned-seeming house in the middle of the Louisiana bayou in search of his wife, Mia, who’s been missing for three years. Ethan’s prompted to investigate the residence of the missing Baker family, after he receives an email from Mia, suspiciously asking him to come and get her. Ethan’s curiosity leads him deep into the Guest House of the Baker plantation, where he quickly learns that there is some extremely dark and disturbing shit revolving around this house, and where he eventually is reunited with Mia. Who’s fine? She’s alive and well, helping to get the two of you out of this mess, up to the point where she’s suddenly gone and the next time you find her she’s…. well this

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Yah, Mia’s suddenly transformed into this hideous and horrifying version of herself, after seemingly being possessed by some mysterious force. Given no other choice, Ethan is forced to fight his possessed wife to the death, which leaves him undoubtedly emotionally scarred for life and without a left hand. After killing her for the THIRD time, the possessed Mia, who’s been slipping in and out of consciousness/possession, appears to be dispatched for good. However, when Ethan turns around he’s knocked unconscious by the man Mia alluded to as “Daddy” when you first rescued her. At this point of the game, Ethan’s brought to the Main House and discovers that the Baker family is very much alive, and extremely fucked up.

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At this point of the game, Ethan’s mission is to try and find a way to escape the Baker’s house. With the assistance of the Baker’s estranged daughter, Zoe, who isn’t as affected by whatever’s got the other Baker’s minds and bodies so warped, and with added motivation after finding out that he didn’t actually kill Mia, and that she’s seemed to have gotten more control over whatever force was taking over her before, Ethan is able to escape from the Main House, after killing the Baker “daddy”, Jack, SEVERAL times. I mean it took shooting him in the head countless times, running him over with a car, setting him on fire and finally chainsawing his body down to nothing but a pair of legs to seemingly do him in. Spoiler alert: he’s STILL not dead!

After escaping the Main House, Ethan finds Zoe’s trailer in the backyard, where he receives a phone call from her, telling him that there is a serum that they can create to cure both her body of the infection, that’s taken control of the rest of her family, and Mia’s body. In order to get the first of two ingredients to create the serum, Ethan must navigate through the Old House and eventually kill the horrific Marguerite, the mother figure of the Baker family. After disposing of her and all of her “babies”, Ethan navigates through a series of children’s rooms, until he finds a shrine where the first of the two ingredients for the serum is waiting for him. During this sequence, the player is introduced to a new character, Evelyn, and has to endure one of the most terrifying and well-done horror sequences of the game. If you’re interested in what I’m talking about exactly, check out this video.

After obtaining the arm ingredient from the shrine to make the serum, Ethan navigates back outside the to Zoe’s trailer, where she’s promised you she’d meet you this time. Yet, when Ethan arrives at the trailer, the trailer’s empty and Ethan gets a call from the Baker’s psychopathic son, Lucas, who tells Ethan that he has both Mia and Zoe with him. After surviving a few “games” in Lucas’s Testing Area and recovering the head ingredient for the serum, Ethan meets up with Zoe and Mia. The reunion however, is cut short when the not-so-dead Jack comes to try and finish Ethan off once and for all. After finally killing Jack for good, by using one of the two serums Zoe was able to concoct, Ethan must now decide whether or not to use the last of the two serums on either Mia or Zoe. This choice is pivotal to how the game will end, and is a particularly challenging choice to make, given how much Zoe has tried to help you and how Mia has up to this point only been held captive when she’s not busy chainsawing off your hand. When I played the game I decided to save Mia, and so I will only be covering what happens if you make that choice, especially since if the player decides to save Zoe, they get the “bad ending”. And it’s a REALLY terrible ending!

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After making this tough choice, Ethan and Mia leave Zoe, abandoned to the docks outside Lucas’s Testing Area, and the two of them navigate through the bayou till they end up reaching this massive destroyed tanker ship. Upon crashing on the tanker, the player is found playing as Mia now, as Ethan has been abducted by the molded – the black fungal like substance that seems to be the reason behind everything that’s gone wrong with the Baker family and the source behind the creation of all the horrific looking monsters that the player has had to fight up to this point. After navigating the tanker, the player discovers that Evelyn is the source of all the mold, that she’s actually a bio-weapon created by some anonymous company, and that Mia was responsible for transporting Evelyn on the tanker, when everything got out of her hands and Evelyn managed to destroy everything. Mia eventually finds Ethan’s body, at which point player control is switched back to Ethan, but not until a particularly moving and captivating scene where Ethan talks to the deceased Jack, who is no longer under Evelyn’s control. This scene inside Ethan’s consciousness was my favorite moment of the game, due to the novel vulnerability and raw emotion it displayed in a horror game, where the player is used to only feeling one emotion, fear. To check out this phenomenal scene, click here.

When Ethan gains consciousness, Mia pushes him out of the room that they’re in and outside the tanker. She tells you to go kill Evelyn and end this once and for all, as you see her begin to become possessed on the other side of the door inside the tanker. Ethan then descends into the salt mines in pursuit of Evelyn. He finds that the salt mines lead all the way back to the Guest House, the player started the game in, where the player finally finds the real Evelyn, who’s been the Baker’s family seemingly-harmless zombified grandma this whole time. Ethan injects her with a more potent version of the serum used to cure Mia that he found inside a laboratory in the salt mines, in a scene that actually makes you feel somewhat bad for Evelyn, who shrivels up and dissolves.

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However, the game is not over, as the mold inside Evelyn and her lingering spirit morph into a disgusting colossus of a monster: the game’s final boss. If the game had ended at the point where the player had injected Evelyn with the serum, and she’s revealed to be the grandmother-looking character, I would of scored Resident Evil 7 with at least a 9.5/10 or perhaps even a perfect 10/10. However, this final boss against the colossal Evelyn molded is a great disappointment to a game, that up this point, was brilliantly designed in every way. Not only is the final boss mechanically simple, and limits the player to only a single strategy, but the poignancy of Evelyn’s perceived death when she gets injected by the serum is completely tainted. I realize that the makers of RE7 thought that this colossal boss fight would’ve been extremely cinematic, and it was, I still nonetheless, think that the ending to the game would’ve been so much better without it.

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Anyways, after this disappointing final boss, the player finds themselves being rescued by a man by the name of “Redfield,” who is a character from an earlier entry in the Resident Evil series. He brings Ethan into a helicopter, where he finds that his wife Mia is there too, alive and well. The helicopter flies into the distance, where the player see the all too familiar name of the “Umbrella Corporation” on the side of the helicopter, and Ethan reflects on how he and Mia weren’t the only victims to Evelyn, paying respects to the now deceased Baker family.

I meant to finish off this post with the most captivating part about RE7, the incredibly characterized Baker family, but since I’ve let this blog post drag on way too long to begin with, I’ll continue where I left off with my next posting. Keep an eye out for the second and final part of this Resident Evil 7 review, and for the rest of my Dark Souls 3 boss countdown series, which I’ll be starting up again soon.

What Exactly is an ARPG?

Author: Liam Riker 

Hey guys. Since I’m supposed to be covering Action Role Playing Games throughout my postings on The Gamer’s Smorgasbord, I thought it was about time to ask the crucial question. What exactly is an ARPG? Or more specifically, what am I referring to when I talk about ARPG’s?

The ARPG genre, or Action Role-Playing Game genre, is loosely defined to say the least. Some prefer to refer to it as a sub-genre of the broader RPG gaming genre. Those who prefer to refer to it as a sub-genre of RPG games, feel that ARPG’s only differentiate themselves by their unique real-time action oriented combat mechanics, in comparison to more classic RPG’s that utilize a turn-based or menu-based combat system. But so many different types of RPG’s could be characterized as having these real-time combat mechanics, and thus could be classified under the giant ARPG umbrella. And yet, over the years these different RPG’s have each been given their own specific gaming genre.

In this post I won’t be focusing on Eastern ARPG’s, like my beloved Kingdom Hearts franchise or my new obsession: Final Fantasy XV. I think for the sake of simplicity, it’s easier to analyze Western RPG’s and the various sub-genres that have spawned under the ARPG tent here in the West.

There are your Hack and Slash Games, which feature real-time combat, where the player usually takes control of a playable character from a third-person point of view. These types of games can range from more Action-Adventure oriented games like the iconic Legend of Zelda franchise, to grittier Action RPG’s that exhibit more identifiable RPG elements, like the Dark Souls trilogy which I’ve been analyzing throughout a majority of my posts. Throughout my postings I will be referring primarily to these types of games as ARPG’s, though I won’t really focus as much on the Action-Adventure style games. I personally feel that the Action-Adventure category of Hack and Slash games, is very different from the Hack and Slash games I see having more identifiable similarities with what I consider to be the ARPG genre.

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Then there are your Isometric Point-and-Click Dungeon Crawlers which are most famous from the immensely popular Diablo series. Here, a very different real-time combat system is being utilized, and the player is given a very different perspective when controlling their PC, but nonetheless, this genre of games fits most of the key requirements that seem to qualify a game to be an ARPG.

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There are Open-World ARPG’s which just supplements a massive environment that is almost entirely explorable by the player, with very few invisible walls and navigational constraints, to the typical ARPG genre. Games like The WitcherElder Scrolls, and the recently released Horizon Zero Dawn are all examples of this ARPG sub-genre.

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I believe that even the newly released Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild would fit underneath this category of Open-World ARPG, especially with all the RPG elements the newest Nintendo title has added, making it far more than just your everyday Action-Adventure game.

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Lastly, there are Third-Person Shooters which quite a few people argue should also be considered underneath the umbrella of ARPG’s. This is the hardest sub-genre for me to accept as being part of the ARPG tent (besides First-Person Shooters, which some would argue are also part of this massive genre of games; I for one will never accept this, as I believe FPS’s have proven to be their own very specific genre of games, by proof of the very different audiences that are attracted to FPS’s). I feel that it’s not so easy to brand the ARPG label to any type of Shooter game, especially since these types of games often fall under different genres of games too, that are completely distinct from ARPG’s, and like FPS’s attract entirely different audiences of gamers. One example, however of a Shooter, and a First-Person Shooter at that, that has drawn my attention as of late due to the immense amount of detail put into the game and how it does actually exhibit a number of common ARPG elements, is the recently released Resident Evil 7. Yes, Resident Evil 7 is a Horror Shooter Game first and foremost, but there are elements of this game, that have challenged my original understanding of what an ARPG is and what it isn’t. I will be discussing Resident Evil 7 in more detail, upon completing the game, which I hope will happen this upcoming week.

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So, I realize, that after after all of that, I haven’t really answered the question I initially posed on what an ARPG actually is, or at least, what I consider it to be. I actually have probably further confused you with how convoluted I’ve made the ARPG genre appear. But the truth is, that I really can’t pinpoint a clean definition on what an ARPG is. And in my opinion the Game Industry seems to be having a similar problem. That’s why you’ll see a game branded with a game genre that has many similarities to another gaming genre, and why people are often confused as to what differentiates these various genres from one another. This is especially evident with ARPG’s, since it’s gaming genre is so loosely defined and it’s borders are always open, it seems, to other sub-genres taking a place underneath it’s broad umbrella.

To me an ARPG is just a Role-Playing Game where the player takes control of another character, where the game is very action oriented, and the combat is real-time. Those are the only qualifications I use when considering what makes an ARPG. I used to believe that ARPG’s were exclusively third-person, but now even that belief is being challenged. To me, I feel like the huge flux of incoming game sub-genres just over-complicates things for everyone. For a student going into Game Design, it’s a huge hassle trying to dissect what differentiates one very specific sub-genre from another, and in today’s world with the need to abbreviate and shorten everything into an acronym, it makes it even harder.

Some people may hold the opposite point of view, that these differentiating sub-genres are necessary, and these same people probably think that I’m an ignoramus for not expressing as much confidence with my knowledge of them. But if you ask me, a lot of these sub-genres aren’t all that different from one another and seem hastily thrown together to find a special category for a minor variation in a newly released game. Especially when it comes to ARPG’s.

Haha, I didn’t mean to go into full dissertation mode there, but with some of these Game Design related topics, I get frustrated with how over-complicated everything is. I feel like a lot of this unnecessary complexity and specificity just throws a wrench into the communication process, where it’s no longer as easy as it used to be to talk about gaming.

Again, this is just my personal opinion. I’d love to hear from any of you who have different opinions on what classifies an ARPG, or if you’d simply like to weigh in on the discussion on just how useful or accurate the various gaming sub-genres are these days.

I’ll be continuing my countdown of Dark Souls 3‘s bosses in my next post, so definitely stay tuned for that. And keep an eye out next week for when I finally get to my analysis and dissection of Resident Evil 7.