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Review Dark Souls II (PS3): Better suited for beginners? Or still a niche game? Here are my thoughts!

genre: RPG, action, adventure
year:      2014
version: 1.01









Let it be marked that I, Chrichton, have finished the main game of Dark Souls II on February 18, 2017 after having invested over 200 hours into it (mind you spread over a year playing it off and on). For the record I skipped the Ancient Dragon and Vendrick and have yet to finish some of the side quests (if that still is possible). Not sure if I will. There is a high chance of me doing a new game plus sometime to see how the experience is then. Although not in the near future. Too many games and too little time to do all of what I want. So what do I think of this game? Let's find out shall we.



Here are some of my thoughts in a reply to someone regarding a review of Dark Souls on Youtube:

OP said: 


"I think Dark Souls is one of those games heavily defended by its fan boys. If you say one tiny thing regarding difficulty, their alarm bells start ringing. I refuse to believe there are this many gamers who put brutally hard difficulty and inaccessibility above good game design. Many things Dark Souls does a AAA game studio wouldn't dare to do because they are bad game mechanics. Sure there seem to be an increasing amount of micro-transactions and season passes; but one thing is for sure: AAA games mostly don't resurrect failed videogame mechanics. There becomes a point where if you cater too much to casual and equally hardcore players; games stop becoming fun. You need balance in everything and DS3 is the same unbalanced shit the previous two games where from the looks of things."

And here is my reply:

"Not a Dark Souls fan. But having played and finished the first two and Dark Souls wannabe Lords of the Fallen I can state that Dark Souls is pretty well balanced and fair.  However it takes a lot of time and investment on the player's part. Despite the speed runs and sometimes having the option to run past enemies it is still asked of you to get to know the world, it's inhabitants and it's mechanics. If you are willing to do so then gameplay wise it could be enjoyable or at least entertaining. But yes I do think that a lot of fans of the series go overboard when it comes to the praise of elements in the game that are weak and flawed. Having a rich lore doesn't equal a good story or narrative. However thinking about it there is one hell of an ambiance and atmosphere that compensates the lack of story somewhat. Still I do agree that both Dark Souls 1 and 2 rely too heavy on people reading the lore on descriptions of items or weapons and very conveniently abstract dialogue. You really have to be willing to take the extra effort to get into it instead of being compelled to. And this is the point where fans of the game are incredibly defensive about in the same way they are about other media where things are kept abstract. "You didn't get it? Then you probably are too ignorant or too casual". Often people mistake abstract storytelling for good and deep storytelling. And this only is true for the happy few. Dark Souls certainly is rich in a lot of elements but it's not as deep as made out to be. The character you are playing might develop and progress through events and it could be argued the player does as well. To what extent however? What do you learn at the end of the game? What was the point of it all? What would happen if I ignored what the game was telling me to do? It is here where you will realize that story wise you have very little choice. But worse of all it doesn't matter if you care or not. For me that is very important in a story. Whether as spectator or player I have to care and  feel about the actions of the character. Shadow of the Colossus for example is also relatively abstract. But it succeeds in making you care with very few words. Killing the bosses while necessary to progress has a real impact on the player. You feel immediate sadness and sorrow after beating the bosses. In Dark Souls I only felt that with Sif but that was more after I had seen a video on youtube explaining and telling Sif's story using the DLC content. Point is that the original game itself ends as it begins. You haven't really accomplished much. BTW Dark Souls 2 has even less story. Have put in many hours into that game only to find out that you have basically been doing the same thing (a little differently not much) making events of first game even more pointless. So yes first and foremost the appeal of the game is put on the gameplay. And while I can appreciate the attraction I also see that it's very flawed."

And I know this is more about the original Dark Souls but most of it can be applied to the second as much as the hardcore fans want to deny that game's existence. Despite it's flaws and more cheap mechanics it still gives you quite a few options and freedom so to say to overcome obstacles. On top of that most enemies stop respawning after you have battled and defeated them numerous times (usually in between 10 or 15 times). Another major difference compared to the original is that you do need to stick to a certain build. It is possible to combine builds but that requires a lot of soul farming and at one point you will run out of them since like I said the enemies will stop respawning. That is if you fail to progress through the game. As long as you manage to go through the game as intended you will have more than enough enemies and packs to get souls from. There is also a vendor who you can sell items and weapons to for souls. Although funnily enough you will only be able to sell those if you take the time to loot the respawning enemies while you can. Now this might seem limiting if it weren't for one new mechanic that remedies this. The Bonfire Ascetic. It's a consumable item meant to be burnt in a bonfire. With this you will reset an area and exhausted enemies will return including the boss of that area. Certain items will return as well but not all. It wouldn't be Dark Souls if there are some conditions attached to using it. The difficulty will increase to that of a new game plus and it's irreversible. So caution is advised. Only use it if you are confident and prepared enough to take on the now more difficult enemies. Another effective method of dealing with the limitations is an item called the Soul Vessel. With this you can respec your stats and change your build as you see fit. I personally didn't use this although I was tempted many times. Then again, I personally don't like to be limited in any way and rather want to build upon what I have instead of breaking down and changing completely. 

Speaking of the difficulty. It is said that Dark Souls II is easier than the original. This might give you the perception it's more streamlined for casuals and beginners. Well, let me help you out of that dream at once. This game is only easier if you have played a Souls game before and even then it comes with a lot of challenges that can be hard, cheap or frustrating. It really depends on how much time you will and want to invest into this game. If you think you can just waltz in and rush through the game like it's nothing then you are sorely mistaken. Like with the original a lot of patience is required. On top of that Dark Souls II has increased the number of mobs coming at you. While the original had a few of them most of them were manageable where you were given enough time to take them on one by one. In Dark Souls II this time is non existent as it often puts you in situations where you find yourself locked in with mobs with very little room to maneuver in and not really possessing a mechanic or skill to deal with them. It is at this moment you will discover how much more slower and vulnerable you are compared to your character in Dark Souls 1. In the original dodging made you invulnerable for a few seconds. It was something you absolutely needed to make it fair. In Dark Souls II the dodging works less efficient unless you increased your agility enough. And even then you are so much slower than most of the enemies. Of course there are some weapons and spells that give you the option to deal with multiple enemies at once but that is dependent of the build you have chosen. No matter how much people are apologetic about this, it's cheap, pure and simple. 

In my playthrough I didn't update nor patch the original version. In many videos and guides on the game it was stated that the developers had nerfed faith and magic builds. I understand that this was done to make the PVP more fair. However it also effects the PVE and for someone like me who has very little to no interest in the multiplayer experience this was like a major slap in the face. I don't respond well to things that are forced upon me. By doing this I made the game more fair and fun for me. And before people say that it basically is easy mode. You still have to put in a lot of souls to raise faith and magic for them to be effective. So it's not like it's suddenly a cake walk. Besides there are plenty of enemies where both magic and faith spells are ineffective and you still are required to use other methods or skills. 

As you can read I have put most attention to the gameplay and have not mentioned anything about the lore or the story. Like it's predecessor the lore is extensive but very short on story. It's so minimalistic that it's very hard to see what the connection is between the original and this one. Only if you really can be bothered to read descriptions and follow what is said in dialogue will you discover some hints and tie ins. Although most of it comes from articles and videos about the game and not from the game itself. For me this is problematic as I have said earlier but not a total letdown. To be honest I knew in advance of what the game was going to be like. Kinda. I don't think this is a bad game. It certainly is flawed and more unfair compared to the original. Still it has enough to offer gameplay wise. There is no denying that the combat options are deep and that the game is filled with numerous challenges. But I don't feel a real sense of accomplishment. I don't think I have been rewarded enough for the time and patience I have put into this game. I am seriously going to think about whether I should play Bloodborne or Dark Souls 3. Let's put it this way I will only be tempted if those games are on sale. 

So to answer the questions I raised in the title. Better suited for beginners? No. Still a niche game? Yes, very much so. If you never played a Souls game and you jump into this adventure you won't know what you gotten yourself into. While it is possible to play this game before the original it is very much expected of you to be familiar with what the games are about. And the original does a good job of preparing you for that. Starting with Dark Souls II feels like being dropped in the water when you can't swim and then drowning with no one to rescue you. I know this sounds dramatic but even Dark Souls veterans will have issues with Dark Souls II. So imagine what it will be like for you if you are new to it? And I am not exaggerating. Especially if you think it's going to be easier. 

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Review The Forgotten (2004): It was entertaining and did surprise me at times!

genre: horror, drama, mystery, science fiction







From this film I didn't expect much. That is why it did surprise me at times. The ambiance was of a M. Night Shyamalan made horror film but where I had the big suspicion the ending would be cheesy. But I have to say I wasn't disappointed. Although a big part of the conclusion was your typical Hollywood ending is which destroyed the threat and dread portrayed throughout the film. And  if that isn't enough a part is left open for the audience to ponder about. You do have to ask yourself how much of a mystery the film can be the minute you know the NSA is involved. It makes it real hard to allow other plot turns. Since then the direction the story can go But somehow they did manage to give a spin on it. A very welcome change compared to other horror movies where people disappear in my humble opinion.  Julianne Moore acts decent, but sometimes her character really does stupid things. So much so that at one point you will be asking yourself how come she is the one who finds out things are very wrong and not what they seem. There is nothing worse than to have a main character act illogically and ignorant. Gary Sinise is as cool as ever. Only he doesn't have much to do. Every time an actor of his caliber gets underused I blame the director. I don't care what Sinise was brought in to do originally. Think of something to make him more integral to your project. 

Anyway this is one of those movies ideal to watch very late at night or those quiet Sunday's. It won't blow your mind but offers decent entertainment as much as it lasts.





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Review The Founder (2016): How McDonald's became the big franchise we know all over the world!

genre: drama, history, biography








Ever wanted to know how McDonald's as a franchise got so huge and successful? The Founder gives us a little insight into this. Although like always with Hollywood films some details have been altered. If you want to know what is true or not then read the following article (click on image history versus Hollywood). Although I advice to do it after having watched the film.




One very interesting fact is that the founders of McDonald's were indeed named McDonald's. And that these guys basically designed everything we know McDonald's for, The arches, the efficient service system and much more. But it was Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) who expanded the franchise to the level it was now. At one point you are going to wonder if the brothers would not have achieved this same level of success on their own. The film never makes this explicitly clear. But if there is any truth to the film the brothers were a little too trusting and nice although far from stupid. Ray Kroc was a conniving and an incredible jerk. Sadly these are exactly the traits to make it big in the business world. The film does show sides to him that make you like him or at least make you understand where he is coming from. Naturally this role is written for Michael Keaton. Like always he is able to portray a real character that has many facets to him. And obviously is the best thing in the film. Only it pains me to say that while I truly enjoyed his performance and the film it never felt like I was watching something compelling. The Founder had my interest yet it never culminated into something bigger or more epic. When the film had ended it never felt like I had watched something special or that I even would want to watch it again someday. I guess the story isn't really drama material. Even if they tried to infuse it with some although truth be told the events they used only made me dislike Ray.

There is not much I can tell about The Founder. It's a solid and informative watch for sure. But not really a film that will engross you. I am happy that Michael Keaton is getting these kinds of roles again and I hope it will lead to more of them. Looking very forward to see him portray The Vulture in Spider-man: Homecoming.




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Review Riders a.k.a. Steal (2002): This movie is fun!

genre: action, crime






Here a few snippets of the negative comments regarding this flick:

"OK, so I sat down, thinking this film would be an OK average film, with a original, yet not spectacular plot. Well, I was wrong. Seems the directors, writers and producers of the movie has never actually seen an action film in there life. Well, that can be the only excuse they have for ripping off at least every semi good action heist movie there ever was. The plot is predictable, the cast average and let's not even start with the acting. I've seen better in a 'power rangers' film."
"This film is completely and utterly stupid. The characters make absolutely no sense, are complete clichés, and are bound by a really funny script.... At times it feels like a spoof, though unfortunately I think we are actually supposed to take it seriously."
"A pointless, empty affair that only makes you think of other films that do it much, much better"
" One of the cheesiest movies I've seen in a long time. Overacting, no real plot, extremely bad script and directing, excessive use of special effects that have no purpose/don't make sense, the dialogue is hilariously unrealistic and not even clever."

Wow, some reviewers are way too harsh for this movie. But let me address a few of the arguments used.  Cliché. That is one of those arguments you could use for any film nowadays. It is very hard to be original these days. And yes I also rather want to be surprised. What matters though how it is presented to you. Some films make it seem they have more to offer only to find out that it was all a trick to draw you in which Riders never does. The pointless and empty argument. This is just a blatant lie. While it could be argued what makes something worth your while or the exact opposite the whole point of an action film is the action. Believe it or not sometimes that is all it takes to entertain people. In any case the people who made these comments obviously were the wrong target and should never have watched the film in the first place. 

Riders doesn't pretend be to be anything more than it is. Honestly I sometimes really ask myself what people are expecting from a movie that clearly is only a setup for stunts and action. And the stunts that are presented in the movies are beautifully done. Of course the acting is bad and the story not surprising. But boy did I have fun watching this movie. And this fun factor is not something that should be overlooked so easily. The fact that this movie and the actors don't take matters so seriously should also count for something. Since there are a lot of similar themed movies that do take themselves serious and which aren't nearly as entertaining as Riders. People craving for French action themed movies a la Luc Besson (like Taxi, Yamaksi or Banlieu 13) will have a blast watching this movie.



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Review 13 Hrs a.k.a. Night Wolf: Very effective horror!

genre: horror








Come on people, it's a horror movie not Shakespeare. For some reason people were expecting more than they got and were disappointed. That is one of the reasons I was surprised with it. It actually was good. I always try to avoid knowing too much of the plot. So 13hrs isn't original. Guess what? Most movies aren't. Get over it. Here the director obvious knows his stuff since he builds up quite the tension throughout most of the movie. There are moments (a bit too many) where soap antics ruined the main story a bit. But at the same time were suggestive enough to steer us to another explanation other than the one we finally get to see. And here is where the biggest flaw comes in. The little twisty ending is too predictable. All this time I was hoping for something wild I would never think off. And then they choose the easiest option available. Despite this it is definitely worth watching.

Additional remarks:
  • It has to be noted that this was the first time I saw Tom Felton most famous for his role as Draco Malfoy playing in something else than the Harry Potter franchise. BTW he currently also has a role in The Flash. If you weren't watching the show before now you have a good reason to do so. 
  • Sometimes you wonder why they can't leave titles alone. When I watched this film at the time it was called 13 Hrs and no mention of Wolf or something like that. Because by doing this they have ruined a genuine surprising moment as much as these twists still can surprise you.











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Review Sheitan (2006): Only worth watching because of Vincent Cassel (*SPOILERS*)

genre: thriller, horror, comedy







After reading comments on the forum about this movie on IMDB.com I felt compelled to react. I am always amazed how some people always make more of a movie than it actually is. Of course it is obvious that this movie is about the devil or devilish acts. Some reviewers talk about references to short movies and about symbolism. I doubt that there are many viewers who actually have seen these movies. If this truly was the director's intention than I think that he is asking too much of the viewer. And I must admit that there is some symbolism but is not very clear. For that to work properly you have to repeat certain symbols in order to raise attention. And I did get the most obvious one, namely the title. The title is Sheitan (Satan). You can't get any clearer than that. The plot is not difficult or confusing. But it tries to be. Unfortunately there simply isn't much to it. And if for some reason you didn't get the meaning of the title and what the film is trying to make you understand it all gets explained when Joseph (Vincent Cassel) tells the story about a man who made a deal with the devil. Guess what? He is the man who made the deal. Take a good look at Maria, his wife. She looks like Vincent Cassel and in fact is Vincent Cassel (not Georgette Crochon, that person doesn't exist, meant as a joke I think or to trick the more curious viewer). Suggesting that Maria is his sister. What was the director trying to do? This movie isn't scary or thrilling! Well, there are some funny scenes but overall this movie is not very interesting or at least entertaining. The characters who are very important are not likable at all. I didn't care for them and I sure didn't mind if they get hurt or killed. BTW that is one of my main issues I have with bad horror titles. If you are not going to deliver horror goodness so to say then at least bring something else to the table to draw me by for example making me care about the characters. The only redeeming factor is Vicent Cassel. He alone should be the reason to consider watching Sheitan. The promise of a wonderful climax that never comes and the failure to offer some nice entertainment make this a movie to be missed. 

I do have to add that Vincent Cassel did this project because of his increasing involvement with Kourtrajmé. A collective hell-bent on making video shorts by any means possible. "They are of that generation that says, 'I've got a camera and a computer, I don't need any money to do what I want to do," says Cassel. "They shoot, edit, shoot, edit. Then they give it away for free."( Cited from article Rebel rebel: Why Vincent Cassel is Europe’s most dangerous movie star.) So the main cast consists of actors with very little to no experience. I have to say that it is hardly noticeable but perhaps could be the reason why these characters have very little depth to them. 





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Review Sharpe (1993 - 2008): Fun and real entertaining historic fiction!

genre: history, action, adventure, drama








Sharpe is a series of films based on a book series written by Bernard Cornwell  with episodes around 100- 140 minutes each. It would be easy for me to just review the series as a whole. But then I would be doing it a great injustice since a lot is happening in every episode. So I will share my thoughts of each episode as much as I can recall. Since it has been a while I have watched Sharpe I will revisit whenever I find the time and feel like it. Although I have watched the series many times over so it won't take too long for me to refresh my memory. But keep in mind this will be a work in progress and will be updated from time to time. So please do come back to check the progress.




Episode guide Sharpe:
  • Sharpe's Rifles (1993)
  • Sharpe's Eagles (1993)
  • Sharpe's Company (1994)
  • Sharpe's Enemy (1994)
  • Sharpe's Honour (1994)
  • Sharpe's Gold (1995)
  • Sharpe's Battle (1995)
  • Sharpe's Sword (1995)
  • Sharpe's Regiment (1996)
  • Sharpe's Siege (1996)
  • Sharpe's Mission (1996)
  • Sharpe's Revenge (1997)
  • Sharpe's Justice (1997)
  • Sharpe's Waterloo (1997)
  • Sharpe's Challenge (2006)
  • Sharpe's Peril (2008)



Review Sharpe's Rifles (1993)


In this first episode we get introduced to Sharpe and other main players like for example Sir Arthur Wellesley a.k.a. The Duke of Wellington who was a real historic figure. The first scene opens with Wellesley being attacked by some French soldiers and Sharpe (Sean Bean) coming to the rescue. Wellesley rewards sergeant Richard Sharpe with a field commission to lieutenant and command of the "chosen men", a handful of sharpshooters previously led by Rifleman Patrick Harper (Daragh O'Malley). Harper and his men aren't too happy with this since Sharpe is not a proper officer (meaning someone who is from the gutter like they are). I will not go into what happens exactly but for a large portion of the episode the dynamics between Sharpe and his men are less favourable. Naturally Sharpe manages to overcome this situation and bonds with the men. On their first mission they meet Commandante Teresa Moreno (Assumpta Serna) leader of the Spanish guerrillas who instantly has a connection with Sharpe. Better get used to Sharpe romancing women since it's a recurring theme. Well, I will spare you the rest of the events but I can assure you that is jolly stuff and very worth your while. 

This first episode sets the tone and will give you a good idea of what to expect. So if for whatever reason you don't like any of it is safe to say that this won't be your cup of tea. But if this is to your liking then rejoice because it only will get better. It's fun to see Sharpe rising through the ranks and dealing with some utterly despicable so called noble men. Plus the dynamics between Sharpe and Harper are wonderful and certainly one of the main high points in the series. 



Review Sharpe's Gold (1995)



As part of a series this episode is an odd one. But I must say I did enjoy it a lot for the most part. Compared to Sharpe's Honour it contained even more action. The plot was more of an Indiana Jones adventure and tonally a bit off compared to what you have seen up to this point nevertheless the acting was great again. I do understand why Sharpe fans were a bit disappointed. Because this episode wasn't about a mission to stop Boni (Napoleon). Instead it was about Sharpe rescuing two women who get caught by a Partizan (rebellion) who thinks he is a descendant of the Aztec. It doesn't really connect to previous episodes and feels more like a filler episode. Even if Sharpe does fight the French. Also it was nice to see that Sharpe didn't get in trouble this time. Meaning that he could maintain his rank without being stripped for some reason or whatever political or social issues he normally has to endure. In my original review about this episode I was ranting about a story element that potentially could shed another light on the characters we have to learn to love and respect. After having given this some thought my advice is to ignore whatever is hinted at and if possible completely ignore this episode. It doesn't really fit into the series plus these events have very little to no consequences for the main story. 



Review Sharpe's Battle (1995)



Totally good episode in the Sharpe series which is entertaining to the last minute. But like Sharpe's Gold this episode doesn't really fit in the main storyline (the war against Napoleon). Although Sharpe fights against the French (under command of Lupe) it is not really a mission part of Lord Wellingtons big scheme and maybe not as interesting for some. But it does feature an event that has an impact on our main characters and it was nice to see them in a different light as usual.

The action was superb. Although the battle was not a big one it was great to watch Sharpe and his men fighting again like soldiers did in those times. I read some reviews and came across one of comparing this episode to a bad B movie. If you saw this as a stand alone movie than it is not really clear of who Sharpe is and what he and the series is about. And yes then I can understand the criticism. However since this is a series you can only appreciate it if you have gotten to know the characters and what they have gone through. Otherwise this episode won't make much sense. Besides one also has to take in account that this is a TV series and did not have a budget like movies do. But to be honest they did a grand job in recreating the Napoleonic Wars.









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Review Scary Movie 4 (2006): David Zucker zucks. Yes, I misspelled it on purpose. Deal with it!

genre: comedy







First of all, compared to previous Scary Movies this one is really bad. It had some funny moments and yes sometimes hilarious. But the great thing about the first two movies was that they were actually enjoyable. The third was already declining but still a lot better than this. Sometimes I really got bored. I love mayhem, slapstick, English humour and black humour (when done right that is). But this was not even close. Also as a parody this one comes short because most of the time it is not so obvious which movie is being made fun off. OK, I recognized: Saw, The Grudge, The Village, War of the Worlds, Million Dollar Baby, Fahrenheit 9/11,The Ring and Brokeback Mountain. But that is all it was, referencing movies without adding something extra. Say what you want about The Wayans Brothers they did put a lot of their own unique take on comedy in the first two. They did put some heart in their projects. And back then managed to bring more flavour to certain scenes. They definitely made me laugh a lot more than David Zucker has done with this entry.  David Zuckers earlier work like the Naked Gun series and Airplane) are genuine masterpieces of comedy. That is why it is really hard to understand that he could not make a better movie out of this one. In my opinion, you should forget about this and the third part and just watch the first two Scary Movies. Because at least they are a lot more fun and entertaining. 



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