Dark Souls II isn’t the best Souls game, but it’s still epic

A still from Dark Souls II (2014), directed by Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura

Since I kind of want to provide my opinion about Thor: Love And Thunder (2022), this is what I’ll do. It’s an interesting film to review. The summer movie season of 2022 was disappointing, in my opinion. Therefore, it’s not surprising that Top Gun: Maverick grossed more than $1 billion at the box office in this dry summer season. After Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness went to video, there was pretty much nothing else to see in theaters. Anyway, there were almost no new films that I wanted to see this summer. The only film that I really enjoyed watching is Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness. I also got to see Jurassic World Dominion, Lightyear, Top Gun: Maverick, and Minions: The Rise Of Gru. None of these other films impressed me much, though I didn’t have a bad time watching any of them. Lightyear turned out to be rather good. I don’t like everything about it, but there’s enough in it to make me say that I had a pretty good time watching it. The direction, the animation, and the story are just fine. The character of Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Chris Evans) is appealing. His friendship with Sox, a robotic cat, is handled particularly well. Buzz was voiced by Evans and not by Tim Allen. This didn’t bother me because I don’t care about who voices a character as long as the performance is good. Evans did a good job voicing Buzz, and he sounds just like the Buzz in the Toy Story films. Minions: The Rise Of Gru turned out to be worse than Lightyear. I was expecting for it to be a good film, and this is why I eventually went to see it, but it turned out to be the worst film yet in the Despicable Me franchise. I think that Despicable Me 2 (2013) and Minions (2015) are the best films in the franchise, but I enjoyed watching all of them. The story in Minions: The Rise Of Gru isn’t really interesting, the new characters aren’t really appealing, the action is almost non-existent, and the comedy is mostly ineffective and silly. Still, the animation is superb and it’s the only redeeming quality of this somewhat disappointing film. It’s simply beautiful at times. The designs aren’t bad either, especially the designs of the Vicious 6. Thor: Love And Thunder was easily the biggest disappointment of the summer for me. I do like the trailers that got made for the film. The people that make trailers for films by Marvel Studios do a good job. The film itself, however, turned out to be easily the worst Marvel film so far. I didn’t expect Marvel to release a film this bad, but it happened. This is the first Marvel film that I don’t want to see again. I’d rather be apprehended by Elon Musk’s private right-wing militia than to see Thor: Love And Thunder again. Well, fine, the film is not that bad. But I definitely don’t look forward to seeing it again. What makes it bad is the fact that almost everything in it is played for laughs. Nothing can be taken seriously. There are too many jokes and too much silly stuff. I’d say that about a third, or at most half, of the comedy in the film is effective, but the rest is mostly cringeworthy. Christian Bale, as usual, attempted to deliver a good performance, but his performance got wasted on a film where it doesn’t belong. Since this is a Marvel film, the costumes and the special effects that got made for it are good as usual. But, again, they’re wasted on a misguided film. I don’t know if it was Taika Waititi’s intention to make the film this bad. It probably wasn’t. He was probably given too much freedom to do whatever he wanted and this has resulted in something farcical. I like every Thor film by Marvel that came before this one. Thor: Love And Thunder has a 64% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It doesn’t deserve this rating. The rating should be rotten, quite rotten. I’ve never trusted Rotten Tomatoes because of one simple reason. Most professional film critics in the West are not reliable. They are bought and paid for, they are politically motivated, or they simply don’t know what they’re talking about. Hollywood films have been getting worse for several decades already, but the professional film critics either don’t realize this or they don’t want to talk about this issue. Therefore, they award high scores to films that don’t deserve praise, they clobber films that don’t deserve to be clobbered, and they go about their jobs as if nothing has changed. This is why I almost never check what they have to say on Rotten Tomatoes. If Thor: Love And Thunder hadn’t had some propaganda in it, I think that its rating on Rotten Tomatoes would have been much lower. Unfortunately, many people simply repeat what they read on a website like Rotten Tomatoes. If a film is certified rotten on this website, they think that it’s a bad film. This is not how I think. But, anyway, since Thor: Love And Thunder is a film by Marvel Studios, I still went to see it in a theater. Not everything about it is bad. Some of the comedy works, especially at the beginning. The direction is misguided but fine. The performances by the actors are fine. But, overall, the film is a disaster because nothing in it can be taken seriously. In addition, the action is disappointing and almost non-existent. Of course, there is one thing that could have saved Thor: Love And Thunder in its present state, or at least partially redeemed it. This would have been an inclusion of Zeus’s planned orgy in the end credits scene. Or we could have at least been shown how Rich Evans defeats Thanos singlehandedly in an alternate universe. But instead what we got was Zeus talking to his son Hercules about killing Thor. How disappointing.

I recently got to finish playing two video games that I’ve had some trouble finishing. I began playing Suikoden II in the second half of 2020 on my Anbernic RG350m. The PlayStation emulator on the Anbernic RG350m is actually very good. I think that it plays PlayStation games better than ePSXe, which I have installed on my smartphone, on my tablet, and on my laptop. For example, Bushido Blade is unplayable on ePSXe for some reason, but it plays perfectly on the Anbernic RG350m. If you want to quick save on the Anbernic RG350m, you have to press the power button once when you’re playing in order to bring up the emulator menu. When I began to play Suikoden II, I wasn’t very impressed by the game. The graphics and the designs in the game are appealing, even beautiful at times, but they look like they belong in an RPG for the Sega Saturn or even for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Therefore, since nothing hooked me at the beginning of the game, I lost interest in playing it and moved on to playing something else, like Machinarium, Silent Hill 2, Mega Man Zero, Sonic The Hedgehog, Another Code: Two Memories, Metal Gear Solid, Jeanne d’Arc, Death Jr., Fire Emblem: New Mystery Of The Emblem, and Final Fantasy XIII-2. These are just some of the games that I got to play in 2020, and I enjoyed playing all of them. Final Fantasy XIII-2, in particular, is one of my favorite games, and I got to play it for the second time in 2020. I also like Final Fantasy XIII and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. In my opinion, the so-called Lightning trilogy for the PlayStation 3 is very good, though it has its minor flaws. I probably played these games for the first time in 2015. I very much enjoyed playing them and they left a strong impression on me. Anyway, in 2021, I began to play Suikoden II again. This time I noticed that the battle system is interesting and that the enemies, especially the bosses, are designed well. Battles are definitely fun in Suikoden II. There is even an option to let your team fight automatically. Like many other old and famous Japanese RPGs, Suikoden II has a good story, with some truly memorable scenes. These scenes are often aided by Miki Higashino’s memorable music score. It’s too bad that I didn’t realize how great Suikoden II is until I finally decided to finish playing it this year. This game can be long, especially if you decide to recruit all of the 100 playable characters, but it’s easily one of the best RPGs for the PlayStation and one of the best video games ever. Another video game that I finally got to finish this year is Dark Souls II. When the motherboard of my Samsung Notebook 7 Spin ceased to function and had to be replaced, I was already playing the three downloadable DLCs for Dark Souls II. This happened several months ago. Before I began playing Dark Souls II, I had already beaten Dark Souls. Several of the bosses in Dark Souls were like brick walls for me for a time because I had to come up with new strategies in order to defeat them. These bosses were the Capra Demon, the Iron Golem, Ornstein and Smough, the Four Kings, Artorias the Abysswalker, and Black Dragon Kalameet. Almost all of the bosses in Dark Souls are challenging, but the ones that I’ve listed are particularly difficult to overcome. In order to defeat these bosses, I spent time on grinding for souls and on leveling up my character. Since grinding for experience in video games is a dull and time-consuming activity, I usually turn off the sound and instead listen to music or something else while I’m doing this. Still, whatever leveling up I did wasn’t enough. In addition, I spent some time looking for effective battle strategies on the internet. In order to defeat the Capra Demon, I had to switch from fighting with a halberd and a shield to fighting with a catalyst. The Capra Demon hits hard and he’s aided by two Undead Dogs. Therefore, in the small space where he has to be fought, I had to quickly run up the stairs and stand on the ledge that’s beside the stairs. This is where the Capra Demon can’t reach you. From the ledge, I could then cast magic and hit the dogs and the Capra Demon from a distance. In order to defeat the Iron Golem and Ornstein and Smough, I had to move a lot on the battlefield and attempt to dodge their attacks. Before that, I almost always relied on my strategy of blocking attacks with a shield, of trying to conserve stamina, and of striking when an opportunity arose. But the Iron Golem was the first boss that forced me to change my strategy. Because I spent time on leveling up my character, I could block the attacks of the Iron Golem with a shield, but the attacks still drained my stamina a lot. Therefore, I had to adapt to moving on the battlefield a lot. I didn’t run or roll yet, but I still had to constantly keep moving in order to evade the Iron Golem’s attacks. In order to defeat the Four Kings, I again had to come up with a new strategy. This battle has to be won quickly, and, therefore, I had to stop using a shield all the time and to keep attacking the boss with my halberd almost without pause and even without worrying about how much stamina I’m losing. So, what did my character look like? I went through the entire game wearing the Chain Set. Naturally, I upgraded this armor set to the max with titanite. I tried on other armor sets, but only for very brief periods. I simply like the look of the Chain Set. The shield that I used is the Heater Shield, and my weapon was the Halberd. I defeated almost every enemy in Dark Souls with this shield and halberd. I hit another brick wall when I had to fight Artorias the Abysswalker in the Artorias of the Abyss DLC. This time, leveling up my character simply didn’t work. I had to come up with a new strategy in order to defeat Artorias because he hits a lot and he hits very hard. I was forced to learn his move set, to dodge his attacks by rolling, and to strike him in the brief moments when an opportunity arose. I simply couldn’t rely on my shield during this fight. I had almost as much trouble defeating Black Dragon Kalameet. The dragon’s attacks, especially his breath of fire, hit very hard. It was difficult for me to find a way to defeat this dragon. Finally, after trying various things, I realized that I can avoid most of the dragon’s attacks by standing right in front of the boss or under it. And I could take him down by swinging my halberd. In this way, I was finally able to take down the dragon quite quickly. Artorias of the Abyss is a satisfactory addition to Dark Souls, but it contains the most difficult boss fights in the game. Some of the areas in the DLC are beautiful. The areas in Dark Souls are mostly grim and gothic but still beautiful. Anyway, when it comes to Dark Souls II, the bosses in the main game didn’t give me much trouble. The three DLCs, however, are another matter. After I fixed my laptop, and after I resumed playing Dark Souls II, I quickly hit brick walls in all three DLCs. In Crown of the Old Iron King, I finally reached the Fume Knight, who’s considered to be the toughest boss in the game. In Crown of the Ivory King, I reached Aava the King’s Pet, who’s actually the first boss of the DLC. In Crown of the Sunken King, I reached the area that’s guarded by Sanctum Knights. They can’t be hit with regular weapons. They even receive little damage from magic spells. Because of these difficulties, and the game developers at FromSoftware clearly wanted to make the DLCs more difficult than the main game, I stopped playing Dark Souls II and moved on to other things. So, after this break, and after returning to the game after a few months had passed, I was able to overcome the challenges. I defeated the Fume Knight the same way I defeated Artorias the Abysswalker, by learning his move set and by dodging his attacks. I took down Aava the King’s Pet after realizing that I can’t be hit by her attacks if I stay behind her or to the side of her. I got past the Sanctum Knights by hitting them with magic spells and by using a bow to take out the Sanctum Priestesses. This was a slow process, but it had to be done in order to progress. I was particularly satisfied after I defeated the Fume Knight. It took me more than a hundred attempts before I was finally able to take him down. Then I walked down the stairs, to the very bottom of Brume Tower, and entered the small room where the dead Nadalia, Bride of Ash sits, covered in ash. The crown was a glowing item and a loud metallic sound was emanating from it. Before taking the crown, I stood there for some time, listening to the sound, feeling quite satisfied by my victory and by how well the location is designed. Except for Majula, Brume Tower is my favorite location in Dark Souls II. I like the design of the tower and of its surroundings. Because many things in the tower are made out of iron, the place has a somewhat frightening look. The area where the Fume Knight has to be fought is at the bottom of the tower. You can stand there and look up at what’s above you. It’s an incredible sight. There’s falling ash. There are the hanging, gigantic iron soldiers. There’s the enormous tower itself. After I finished playing Crown of the Old Iron King, I read the description for every item that’s available in the DLC on the internet. I was fascinated by the story of what took place in Brume Tower. The armor set that I used for most of the game is Chreighton’s Set. The shield that I equipped is the Mirrah Shield and my weapon was the Dragonslayer’s Crescent Axe. Anyway, my feelings about Dark Souls II are mixed. It’s obviously slightly inferior to Dark Souls in almost every way, but there are still things in it that I like very much. The DLCs for it make this long game even longer than it already is. They also make it better. There’s definitely a big world to explore here. There are some fantastic sights in this game and some excellent music. The story interested me more than the story of Dark Souls. I felt a sense of satisfaction after I finished playing Dark Souls II. It’s one of the most memorable video games that I’ve played. Even with its shortcomings, it’s still one of the best video games of its generation, in my opinion. The Souls games dominated my playtime from the middle of 2021 until now. It’s not because it took long for me to finish them. It’s because I stopped playing them several times because of their difficulty. I reached new challenges after I resumed playing them and stopped playing again. But now I’m done.