Got you, asshole

I know, you’re tired of me talking about Sekiro. Too bad, my blog. ūüôā

I am proud to announce that after 1) playing through the entire game, (which came out in March) getting to this sonofabitch, and restarting because I couldn’t beat him, 2) doing an entire second playthrough that targeted the other ending where I didn’t actually have to fight him, and 3) spending at least a couple of weeks intermittently playing and getting my ass killed over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, Sword Saint Isshin Ashina finally went down last night …

… and when I finally beat him, I had half my health bar and a couple of heals left. Which is ridiculous.

(There are still two more endings to go, and I will not rest until I have every single trophy for this game. So I’m not done talking about Sekiro, although I may take a break and play something else for a while.)

A couple of reviewlets

I took a shower after getting up this morning, as I do every day before work, and I had a coughing fit after my shower, as also happens damn near every day. I don’t know why this happens, but it’s been a feature of my life since college: finish shower, coughing fit.

The coughing fit going on for so long that I puke was new, though. As I have A Rule about these things, I quickly amended my half day off because of Ongoing Medical Disaster to a full day, took the boy to school, hoping that no further esophageal eruptions would occur, and took a nap. Then I got back up, finished reading a book, and beat a video game. Then I puked again, right after beating the video game.

It was some kind of day, I’ll tell you what.

I have read one Sam Sykes book in the past. Well, started. His The City Stained Red bounced off of me hard, in the sort of way that leaves you suspecting you’re being unfair to the book somehow, but I like him enough on Twitter to be willing to give him a second chance, and man, am I glad I did, because Seven Blades in Black is a monstrously good book despite the terrible, Monty-Python-esque cover. It’s nearly 700 pages long and I blew through it in about three days because I didn’t want to put it down– and right up to the last 100 pages I was pretty convinced I was reading what would eventually become my favorite book of the year.

Unfortunately, the book could probably stand to be about a hundred pages shorter, and this may be a consequence of having read it so fast, but a number of its tropes started feeling really damn repetitive toward the end and it started to wear on me a tiny bit. This still leaves it good enough that it’s a solid candidate for the end-of-year list, but I liked the first 5/6 more than I did the end. This is gritty, violent, profane fantasy literature that somehow manages to be high-magic and low fantasy at the same time, not a combination that I see all that often (or would have thought possible before reading this) and the most amazing thing about it is that Sykes makes it feel so easy. I don’t know his process at all, but this feels like it was written in seven or eight ten-hour bursts over the course of seven or eight days, and in case it’s not clear I mean that as a compliment. For all I know, he agonized over it for a really long time, but on the page it just feels … I dunno, I don’t want to repeat “easy” again but the whole thing just comes off as really organic somehow, like it wrote itself.

And I love Sal the Cacophony, even if she looks ridiculous on the cover. Check the book out.

I finally finally finally finally finally finally finally fucking beat Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice today, a game I started playing approximately six years ago, and no shadows die at any point in the game and in fact the word “shadow” is never uttered once anywhere by anyone and it’s the worst subtitle in the history of video games but that’s okay because Sekiro might be my favorite game ever right now. That said there are four endings and I just got one of them, and the one I got involved beating a different final boss than the other three do, so … I’ve got some more fucking work to do, because I’m getting every damn trophy this game has to offer and no one and nothing is going to stop me.

You should buy this game and you should dedicate your life to getting good at it because it is insanely Goddamned difficult and it will break you down and make you cry and force you to play on its terms no matter what you want to do. And you will do it anyway because the game is just that fuckin’ good. 15/10 would cry again. Probably will tonight, as a matter of fact, because I have two active save files on two different last bosses and I only beat one of them today. Time to go back to the other one.

I figure it’ll take another week, minimum.

On temporary and uncharacteristic bursts of optimism


I was entertained– this is genuine, I’m not trying to be passive-aggressive here– at how little attention my post about Sekiro got the other day. ¬†Clearly there isn’t a huge audience around here for wild technical musings about video games unless I’m complaining (complaining always gets attention). ¬†That said, we’re invoking the My Blog My Rules Goddammit covenant here, because my ass beat Genichiro Ashina earlier today, a feat that somehow only twenty-five percent of the players of this game have managed in the nine days since it came out, and I am damned proud of myself. ¬†So:¬†booyah, motherfuckers.

ALSO! ¬†I have put new stuff on my Patreon twice in the last few days after ignoring it (and pausing charges to my Patrons; I don’t take your money if I don’t give you anything in return) for a couple of months. ¬†There have been two first chapters of old, abandoned projects put up– neither of those ever got finished, but if people like what they see in those first chapters, maybe I’ll revisit them. ¬†Remember, $2 a month gets you a whole book. ¬†We like books, right?

Today’s the first day of Spring Break, and while we don’t have any real plans for the week I have high hopes that I’ll get something done for the two conventions I’ll be going to this April– a new banner, at least, since the old ones are getting a little raggedy(*). ¬†I have been completely dry as far as writing fiction goes for all of 2019, basically, and dammit I’m gonna fix that this week. ¬†We’re gonna get something creative accomplished up in here if it kills me. ¬†And it’s not gonna kill me.

This is gonna be a big week, dammit.  Big.

(*) ConGlomeration in Louisville, April 19-21, and LaffyCon in Lafayette on April 27 and 28. ¬†Are you near either of them? ¬†Come see me! ¬†I actually have some free tickets for LaffyCon, if anyone’s nearby and wants ’em.

In which I’m playing SEKIRO: SHADOWS DIE TWICE

sekiro-shadows-die-twice-wallpaperFor the last who-knows-how-long– a year? ¬†Close to it? ¬†I have used my PlayStation for nothing other than games made by From Software. ¬†I’ve been basically playing the three Dark Souls games and Bloodborne¬†(together, Soulsborne, a phrase I’ll be using a lot) on a loop, and I’ve beaten all four of them multiple times with several different builds during that time. ¬†I went a really long time where I didn’t ever really replay video games all that much, so to stay with these four games for, again, close to a year (with, granted, some interruptions from other games) was really unprecedented. ¬†I mean, it’s saved me money, but still.

FromSoft released a new game on Friday, the ridiculously-named¬†Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. ¬†I am … I dunno, a dozen hours in? ¬†Fifteen? ¬†And I have yet to see a shadow die, either once or twice, although a random character just decided to name the player character Sekiro. ¬†I don’t get the subtitle.

This isn’t a review, unless “this game is insanely difficult (seriously, the Soulsborne series is renowned for its difficulty and Sekiro puts them to shame) and a lot of fun and I had to stop playing it to type this” counts as a review. ¬†No, instead it’s a post about how I’ve been sort of watching the way I deal with this game from a distance and I’m kind of fascinated by it.

First of all: I can’t play video games without YouTube any longer. ¬†I’ve been simultaneously playing the game (well, okay, in series, not simultaneously) and watching a YouTuber by the name of FightinCowboy play through it for the first time himself. ¬†Cowboy’s helped me through all the Souls games too, so there was no way I wasn’t watching his series on this game.

Now, you may find yourself quietly (or perhaps loudly) mocking me for the idea of spending a lot of time watching someone play a video game on YouTube.  And until I started doing it, I might have felt the same way.  Now, my opinion works this way: have you ever watched anyone play sports on TV?  Could you, instead, have been playing sports yourself?

Oh, the people you’re watching are entertaining and are much better at the sports than you are, and that’s what makes it okay to watch them play instead of playing yourself?

Huh.  Weird how that works.

(Also: you cannot get better at basketball from watching other people play it. ¬†You can get better at video games by watching pros. ¬†You need to develop muscle memory on your own, of course, but strategies and item locations and things like that can absolutely be easily and efficiently discovered online. ¬†There’s also something cathartic about watching someone else get their ass handed to them by a boss that you’re having trouble with, especially in this game.)

So anyway, that’s different. ¬†I’m trying to mostly play before I watch, but the game is wide open enough that he’s going about things in a different order from me, meaning that I’m seeing some stuff in the videos before I get to it myself and I’m also yelling JESUS GO HERE THE ITEM YOU NEED IS OVER IN THIS PART OF THE GAME WHY HAVEN’T YOU GONE BACK HERE YET MY GOD COWBOY or similar things quite a lot. ¬†He can’t hear me; I’m yelling them anyway.

Another interesting thing is that this game is absolutely in dialogue with the Soulsborne games in a way that I find kind of fascinating.  The Dark Souls series is all about playing defensively and looking for openings to attack.  Overt aggression will often get you quickly killed.  Bloodborne shook up the formula a bit, getting rid of shields and blocking and introducing a mechanic where some of the health lost from taking a it could be regained by counterattacking, which led to much more aggressive gameplay overall.

You will die a lot in Sekiro until you stop playing like you’re playing a Soulsborne game. ¬†If you back off an enemy, chances are they’re going to regain everything you just took away from them when you attacked them. ¬†There’s no stamina mechanic– you can block and attack constantly, to your heart’s content, and while the game punishes button mashing harshly they definitely want a scenario where a fight is a couple of dozen quick button pushes in perfect timing and perfect order, which might manifest itself on-screen as several sword strikes, a few blocks, jumping over a sweep, stomping someone’s spear into the ground and then ramming your sword through their neck to end the fight.

Also, stamina played a role in movement in the Soulsborne, because energy to run and energy to fight came from the same pool. ¬†You might find yourself rushing over to an enemy only to discover that once you got there all your stamina was gone and you didn’t have any left to attack or, worse, defend yourself, so measured approaches to everything were prioritized. ¬†This tends to get into that muscle memory I was talking about, quite a bit– and I trashed a boss who had been destroying me repeatedly once I finally realized the game wouldn’t punish me for chasing him. ¬†You can run forever if you want. ¬†Turns out that matters!

So yeah: this isn’t a review, but assuming I don’t chuck my controller through the screen halfway through the game it’s probably a safe assumption that one’s coming eventually. ¬†If nothing else, there’s probably more navel-gazing to be had in the near future, right?


Okay I’m ready to go back to work now

45 below zero yesterday, forty below zero this morning, and I’ve been to school one day this week and twice in the last nine days. I went outside for a couple of minutes yesterday just to feel what -45 degrees felt like, and it is not something that I would recommend– not because of the cold, oddly, but because of the weird shit that happens to your skin after spending even just a couple of minutes outside in that shit and then coming back into a 68 degree house. That’s a temperature shift of somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred and ten degrees in seconds, and it turns out that it’s a bad idea.

It’s possible that there won’t be school tomorrow either. I don’t know that it’s terribly likely for a number of reasons– objectively, it’s still gonna be fucking cold tomorrow, with a windchill below zero, but the actual air temperature will be positive and I think after the last several days they’re going to look at that and go meh, good enough and have the day. Attendance will be shit because a lot of parents are going to shrug and let their kids stay home anyway but it won’t add another day in June.

(Goes and looks at the forecast)

Jesus H. Christ this shit is NOT NORMAL:

-25 on Wednesday (yesterday,) 53 on Monday, then a low of 6 again on Thursday. This is Goddamned ridiculous.

Anyway, one way or another I’ve been stuck in the house for a bit too long at this point and everything is starting to bore and/or aggravate me and despite the fact that it’s still currently -8 outside I may need to leave the house this afternoon just for the sake of my sanity. I’m maybe an hour or two away from beating Dark Souls again and part of me thinks I should just roll straight into DS2 for the third time after I finish that. The rest of me is starting to think this is borderline unhealthy and hey¬†you¬†have¬†all¬†this¬†free¬†time¬†maybe¬†finish¬†writing a¬†book?

That’s the stir-crazy talking, obviously. Clearly it’s all nonsense. What are y’all doing to stay sane while outdoors is trying to kill us?