All posts by Rick. H.

Life is Strange

Every other year or so David Cage comes on stage and promises an emotional experience that will both innovate the way that stories are told in games, while giving them cinematic gravitas.  While I do actually tend to enjoy his games, they tend to fall short of the promise, sometimes by quite a lot.  For a long time I forgave Cage, and other video game storytelling auteurs, and simply blamed the medium of video games.  Life is Strange, though, proves that the sort of games that these people promise are in fact possible to create, it’s just took the people over at Dontnod Entertainment to do it.

The elevator pitch of the story of Life is Strange is easy enough to understand.  A freshman photography college student finds herself with the ability to influence time; doing so entangles her in the muck of drama that is affecting everyone at the school, as well as the very town she lives in itself.   Does that sound interesting?  Are you not some weirdo who can’t relate to a female protagonist?  Are you okay with a game that’s story oriented?

Cool, go play the game.

It’s smart, it’s fun, it’s intense, it’s heartbreaking.  It’s also really easy to spoil, so I’m keeping plot discussion at a minimum.  I will say that I did manage to enjoy the game despite having a pretty central event in the game spoiled for me (that to be fair, is probably what ultimately influenced me to play the game anyway), but the game is just so good at gut punches that I wish I would not have been ready for that.  Perhaps it is good that I was ready for it, though, since it did not send me to an early grave in a Harry Houdiniesque fashion, and spoiled or not, the scene is super intense and leads to one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make in a game.  One I’m still not certain I made correctly.

The game is full of hard decisions like that, and many points where I don’t know if I did the right thing.  But it’s not all teardrops and tough times.  The game is also full of classic teen hijinks that are fun to participate in, and some cool photography stuff that wannabe photogs will enjoy.  This helps to keep things from getting overwhelming despite all the tense situations.

The characters for the most part are great, and are generally multifaceted individuals whom I enjoyed getting to know.  Good people do bad things for good reasons, bad people do good things for bad reasons.  The game isn’t afraid of this fact.  The game player must decide if and what they’re willing to compromise on.

If I am critical of anything, the few characters who are not as well developed do stick out because everyone else is so good.  But also perhaps that’s a bit of realism in a way; the opportunity to meet and deeply interact with everyone in your high school class is not reality.  I also won’t say the game is free of cliché, and you might see where the storyline is headed from time to time but I guess I’m not bothered by this since it supplies so much originality, and doesn’t detract from the overall plot.  Another final caution, is that some of the game’s episodes are unevenly paced (which ultimately doesn’t matter in 2017 since most ways of purchasing the game at this point are going to include all the episodes in one package).  Playing the game piecemeal (if you’re somehow able to find a way to do that now) may lead to some individual episodes that don’t have a ton of new content and don’t deliver a self-contained product very well.  I’d suggest against playing the game in this fashion.

Storytelling in games is really hard.  Surrounding it with gameplay tools that help it actually be a game and not just a visual novel is even harder.   Dontnod really nails it here, where other, more famous and bombastic people have fallen short, and Life is Strange is awesome.

 

Persona 5

Persona 5 is not perfect.  Yet I feel that despite some rough features, it is still an excellent video game.

I have some friends who have never played Persona and I found describing it to them to be difficult.  My reductive description of the game to them was “Japan: The Video Game” and that seemed to be enough for them, but I regret my classification.  It is true, that Persona games are unapologetic about being Japanese, something that many games brought over to the USA cannot claim (note: I’m not arguing that they should be, I do not think that every game needs to be about USA Town, USA).  You are a Japanese teenager, going to a Japanese school, in a Japanese town, doing Japanese things.  The game is translated into mostly-competent English, but it isn’t truly “localized.”   I think, though, that the Persona series at its best manages to be something that’s relatable to someone from any background and any country, so I hate to sell it so short by focusing on where the game comes from, and anyway, the games in the series usually go out of their way to explain make things that may be culturally unfamiliar to gamers from other regions, which makes the games have a pleasant, welcoming feel.

Persona 5 still manages to tell that universal story that is relatable to a teen who has struggled under difficult adults.  However, I do think, compared to other Persona games, at least, Persona 5 falls a bit short in being as inviting to people unfamiliar with Japan.  This is in large part due to the translation not being as solid as some previous games in the series, especially early and late in the game which makes these sorts of mistakes are more noticeable and distracting.  There also is less “here’s an explanation of something that everyone in Japan would know already” of previous games.  Maybe this is a good thing.  It is after all, 2017, and the internet exists and I can easily learn about these festivals that the characters are attending, and the food that they are eating and the parties that they are having.  Maybe, like super hero origin stories, this cultural handholding just isn’t necessary anymore.   And I definitely don’t feel that games should have to bend over backwards to make sure my poor little USA Guy feelings are considered.  The only reason it is noticeable to me, though, is that previous Persona games managed to so brilliantly remain Japanese while still being extremely accessible that it is noticeable that this is not the case in Persona 5.

I also would’ve liked to see the game–which is boldly non-conservative in many of its stances–be more risky with the types of relationships it allows you to pursue.  The game does walk the line of the protagonist forming a relationship with another boy in the game, but runs away from it, which just felt awkward in 2017.  Also, with a previous game including the ability to choose gender, it just was strange that they didn’t include this feature in Persona 5, and having played through the entire game, I didn’t encounter anything that seemed to absolutely required you to be a male character (as the game director stated) .  I am not the person who normally stands upon the soapbox for these things, but in a game that’s so relationship based, and so based on dealing with issues that teens deal with, and that so vocally rejects adherence to the traditional, it just feels out of touch to not have these options available.

The block on streaming of the game was also disappointing to me.  I’m not totally sure I would’ve streamed it anyway, simply because so much of what I do in the game feels so personal, but not even being allowed to do it (they updated the game to allow more streaming at some point, but I was already past the allowed juncture) felt like an unfair, out of touch restriction.

Cultural consideration is not the only area where Persona 5 just doesn’t quite meet high bars set by other Persona games, but still manages to do better than most other games in general.  The characters you interact with and form bonds with feel complete and have believable motivations, for the most part, and socializing with characters in the game can be more fun to do than actually playing the “game” part of of the game.  I don’t think the relationships were as compelling as previous entries in the series (or in some cases that distinct from them), but they still were much more interesting than your typical game.  I don’t typically enter into relationships in games anymore (unless the game forces you to do so or you have a severe gameplay penalty for not doing it), but by the end I did legitimately care about several of the characters and choosing one to have a relationship was a tough choice (although perhaps it’s a knock on this game that there wasn’t one person who stuck out to me as THE ONE to be with as in other Persona games?  I dunno).

There are areas though where Persona 5 excels where other Persona games did not.  The combat is the best the series has ever had, and unlocking features of the combat through socialization is smart; I never felt forming relationships was a waste of time in previous games, but it’s inarguably important for gameplay reasons in Persona 5.  There really wasn’t a reason in some of the earlier persona games to not just hold one button down throughout all of the combat.   Persona 5’s combat had much more variety (without losing some of the rock-paper-scisors elemental fun).   I found myself enjoying battles more, and having more fun consistently controlling my entire party, instead of just letting the game play itself as in some of the earlier games in the series.  At its core, though, It’s still turn based combat (which I realize is a deal breaker for some people) but it’s done in a smart way, perhaps the smartest in a non-Final Fantasy game.

Further, The new system of individualized, static Palaces coexisting with Momentos (this game’s name for the procedurally generated dungeon area of previous games) is an excellent change.  While not every Palace is perfect, they now are story relevant, which is just not something that previous games had.  In previous games, I always did find something relaxing about grinding through the procedurally generated dungeons and I’m glad they still are there as an option in this game.

As I said earlier, I do think the story has some universal relevance.  The protagonist and his friends increase their impact from a local, high school level to the highest political levels in Japan in what felt like a very realistic fashion.  And the mistrust of adults and their institutions was relatable, and I thought the political commentary was very relevant, especially to what is happening globally at the moment.  I did enjoy the sort of small-stakes nature of previous Persona games, but thought 5 did a nice job of increasing the level of character impact without losing the fact that you’re still living through a high schooler’s story.

Ultimately, despite any criticism I have for the game, I still did play it for 140 hours, and came pretty close to diving right back in after I finished it.  As my attention span for games decreases every year I age, it’s rare that something could hold my attention so long, especially with all the other great games out there right now.  I think it comes down to the fact that most games just aren’t able to to deftly handle relationships the way that Persona games do, and even if Persona 5 falls short of some of its predecessors, it still achieves more than most games manage to do.  I wouldn’t recommend someone play it who hates turn based RPGs, but I think just about everyone else could have some fun with this game.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild

One of my good friends described this game as “the modern Zelda 1″ and I think that is just about perfect.

Zelda games have been criticized lately for being too beholden to their formula.  While in a lot of ways I’ve thought that criticism was mostly unfair (really, only Twilight Princess felt formulaic to me), this game really does boil Zelda down to its most essential elements.  There is no 4-6 Dungeon act divided into two parts, where each dungeon contains a map and a compass and a tool that you need to beat the dungeon and the boss.   You get all your tools within the first hour of the game, and it’s up to use them to solve the various puzzles of the 100+ Shrines in the game, which mostly serve as the replacement for the dungeons in the game, and in general are dispatched with as quickly as you’re able to solve the particular dungeon’s puzzle (there are still boss dungeons that are closer to what you’d expect from Zelda, but even these tend to be different).

Recent Zelda games also have been criticized for being too easy, or maybe more accurately, more nannyish.  In some iterations of Zelda, literally every time you pick an item up a tutorial window pops up to tell you how to use it.   This game is quite different: it has very little in the way of tutorialization.   Other than a few scattered recipes (found in diaries, or as throw away lines in conversations, or, hilariously, on wall posters) the game leaves it up to you to make the things you find useful.  It’s also a game that has some stakes to it.  Even twenty hours in, there are still encounters that can cause instant death if you’re not careful.  While it’s never going to compete with Dark Souls in demand for precision, you’re not going to have to have a base level of respect for the enemies in this game.

I was actually kind of worried when I heard these things in the pre-release coverage of the game.  Because gamers often say they want something, and then get mad when they get it.  I figured this was likely to happen with Breath of the Wild, simply because I’ve observed so many current gamers attempt to play the original Zelda and bounce off of them because they’re too hard.  Firstly, that’s ludicrous to me, because I played and beat the original Zelda when I was nine years old.  If I can handle a game at nine years old, there’s no reason a modern adult can’t handle it now (by the way, this is in no way an attempt to shit on millennials or whatever we’re calling the following generation now.  People two or three years older than me have whined about how difficult Zelda is).

I’m happy that I was wrong about people.  I’m happy to see people actually embrace the world of this game, and I’m happy that Nintendo trusted them to do it.   I’m sure some stupider adults and children will find it too hard at first, but I think if they really want to play this game that they can practice and get good at it, and if they are too lazy to do that, then fuck ’em, I say.  Not everything has to be for the lowest common denominator (and it’s not like there isn’t a ton of stuff out there for people looking for that sort of thing).

Just like the original Legend of Zelda game.  It dropped you in a world with three hearts and a wooden (or rusty, my friends long debated this) sword, maybe five screens away from enemies who could kill you in one shot if you wandered the wrong way.  And it was great.  You were left to figure out what to do with this world on your own.  The game and its designers respected your intelligence.  Breath of the Wild respects its players in the same manner, and feels equally great to play.

Nioh

No, this is not “Neo” from the Matrix, although the title of the game might cause you to believe that!!!!!!  No, the game is about the a samurai that uses the power of guardian spirits to help battle his way across feudal Japan.

This game has been called by many “Samurai Dark Souls” and while not wholly inaccurate, the game has a fairly unique take on the Soul genre (this genre really needs a new name, because every time I type “Soul Genre” I start to picture James Brown sword and boarding his way across Drangleic, battling the forces of the undead as he tries to fend of his own hollowing).

The various set pieces of the game are divided into distinct, discrete levels.  I found this surprisingly interesting, and a nice way to take the air out of people who complain when Souls games are not unified worlds.  This game makes no illusion to this unification so can’t be criticized for failing to deliver it.   And, the reason that my interest in this format is surprising, is that the main reason I enjoy the souls games is for the fun I have exploring the hostile environments; the discreetness of the levels in no way hampered the fun I had exploring them.

The story is also presented in a forthright narration, and while there is definitely subtext left to be analyzed by gamers who are into that sort of thing, one is not going to have to pour over the layout of the vine textures to derive the distill story from the game.  I kind of like the fact that Souls games are shrouded in mystery (even if I don’t ever bother to investigate these mysteries further that deeply), but I don’t think every game in the genre needs to have its story told the same way, so I was not offended by the change.  I don’t know if I exactly loved the actual story that was being told, but I found it inoffensive enough to avoid detracting from my desire to play the game.

All in all, I found this game a lot of fun. and while it didn’t quite captivate me the way that the souls games did, I still enjoyed my time with it, and figure it’s worth a play if you like these sorts of games.

Bloodborne

I’m so tired of the phrase “spiritual successor.”  But in the instance of Bloodborne, I get that it’s really hard to take it as its own unique thing that references something before it.  And calling it a spiritual successor opens up the door to all sorts of shitty “soul” puns, so I really wish I could describe the game without such a hacky term.  But it’s unfortunately so fitting.

Instead perhaps I will refer to it as an  iteration.

You get the feeling that the creators of Bloodborne didn’t like the way that so many people played some of their earlier games, as they’ve done what they could to make playing “sword and board” impossible.  It was already possible to play differently in previous games (especially Dark Souls II) but many players still stuck to their crutch.  This game, like a Charles Dickens villain, kicks that crutch out from under players and forces them to play a different style.  And some people certainly are crying like the orphans in one of those Dickens’ novel about the change.  Overall, though, I enjoy the shift in combat, as well as crying orphans.

I think playing Dark Souls II first as my first “third person precision adventure game” might have sort have broken me for the entire series.  Because I really miss being able to clear out the world, and miss the way the infusion system worked in that game, and it these things being changed in this game feels sort of like a step backwards to me, even though I realize this is normal to everyone else.

Besides quibbles like that, though, I have really enjoyed Bloodborne. It looks really, really nice.  And adding Victorian Horror (something legitimately frightening to me) to the persistent unease that soul games have causes it to be one of the scariest games I’ve ever played.

Apart from the game, I continue to find the Soul Series Fan Cult to be silly.  The games are not THAT hard.  They are tense at times, but the difficulty feels manageable, especially in this game, with so many aspects rewarding aggressive play that didn’t used to previously be worth the risk (you know, other than the fact it was more fun to play like that).   Don’t let the talk around these games being hard keep you away.  If you played games in the 90s, or can put up with some bullshit and figuring stuff out, you’ll hang.

I think it’s something that should be played.

Rome’s Game of the Year Awards 2014

This year . . . bad.

Here’s stuff I liked (all old)

Best Old Game of 2014

  1. Metal Gear Solid 4:  Controversial Opinion but I like it more than 3.  I loved all the new systems, the combat, hell even the story is probably my favorite.  Considering every single game is “PMCs out of control” now, this game foretold all of that, and I think they did it in a better way.
  2. Metal Gear Solid 3: “IT’S GOOD!!!!!” <Big Boss eating a yummy snake quote>
  3. Fallout: New Vegas: I basically did nothing but play this game between December 2013 to March 2014.  The DLC was particularly immersive, and I found myself spending entire months in certain sections.   Any year where I don’t finish the Metal Gear Solid series for the first time and this wins.

Best Old Game Pretending To Be A New Game

  1. Valkyria Chronicles:  I’m glad I finally got a chance to see what all the hype is about.  I care deeply about my anime soldiers.  It might take me another year to beat it with how long some of the scenarios take, but that’s a silly criticism when I’m usually having fun for all that time.
  2. Marvel Heroes 2015:  This is a dumb game.  I can’t even really describe why I like this dumb thing.  But I do.  It’s really compatible with watching something else on TV.  Which I guess isn’t truly a compliment, but considering how many games fail to do this, well, it’s something.  There’s a lot of variety to play if you want it, or none at all if you just want to close your eyes and click.
  3. Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire: I had a long internal debate as to if this counted as a new game, or an old game pretending to be a new game.  It’s a tough call, because it probably would’ve been higher on my list of new games but in the end I decided too much was a remake to count it as new.

Most Disappointing Game

  1. Civilization: Beyond Earth(picture stink lines coming from it):  Boring and bland.  I can’t quite understand why this even exists.
  2. Shovel Knight: People told me this was this great platform that would remind me of Mega Man.  Unfortunately it apparently is inspired by Mega Man 2, which to me is one of the most overrated games ever.
  3. Bravely Default: The demo got me really hyped.  It was one of the better things I played during the last holiday season.  Unfortunately the actual game was a lot less interesting.  Somehow the Street Pass town was more shallow than the one in the demo, and the difference in the magic system was enough to turn me off.

Game of the Year

(This list goes ten to one.  I point this out in case you use a browser that doesn’t support <ol reversed>)

  1. Bravely Default: It’s a bad year if a disappointing game made my top ten, but there you go.
  2. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor: Some of the technical accomplishments of this game are amazing.  I respect that, especially as some time from playing this has passed and some of the anger at how shitty the story was, even if you forget how disrespectful the game was to the lore.  Ugh, I hate that I even typed that.  I never thought that I would be “that guy.”  But this was basically Sleeping Dogs: Middle Earth.  Except the game would’ve actually been better if you would’ve been able to get in a car to compensate for the shitty fast travel.  Oh yeah, there are some definite problems with the gameplay, too.  Whatever.  The Nemesis system is really what I’m acknowledging here, and I do think it’s worthy of acknowledgement, even when embedded in a shit game.
  3. Transistor:  Ultimately, I didn’t like the story.  The fact that they hid so much of it was a weird choice, but I can overlook that, because I enjoyed the gameplay, which meant I was already putting the effort in to unlock the powers that came with the story.  But I just didn’t like what I saw.  If anything the sword talked too much, or said too much that was not worth saying.  This is weird from the same company that put out Bastion.  Whatever, though, the combat is a lot of fun, and you can feel really powerful if you master it.
  4. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft: I had a decent amount of fun with this, even though I don’t really like Warcraft’s characters all that much.  I enjoyed the CCG aspect and thought the tutorial and challenges did a decent job of teaching me to play it.  I got bored after a couple weeks of it, though.  I mean to go back and try it with the single player content they added late in the year, although I don’t feel super motivated to make time to do this.
  5. Gridiron Solitaire:  “Why is Gridiron Solitaire so high on your list?”  Well, I grouped games on my spreadsheet by “Games I liked, Games I might have liked, and games I didn’t like.”  Gridiron Solitaire is the first game on this GOTY list so far that I can say without reservation that I liked.   It’s fun, it’s original, and it’s a good value.  If you like football or solitaire, give it a go.
  6. 80 Days:  This a pretty game, to look at, even on a small screen.  And, it’s an adventure game seems simple on the surface, but has a lot of subtle depth.  In a lot of ways it’s a throwback to the text adventures of old.  It’s really enjoyable to play either sitting at home or while sitting in a waiting room somewhere out in the world.
  7. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: This is silly, stupid bombastic shootman garbage.  But it’s fun, silly, stupid, bombastic garbage.  The story mode is still trying hard to top what Modern Warfare 2 did, and falls short.  But, it’s still something you could probably see in a theater without it feeling too out of place.  The multiplayer has some nice twists to it that make it probably the fairest-seeming in the series (but maybe I just feel that because I suck).
  8. Threes:  Threes is a simple, math game.  It is addictive as hell, though, and inspired a glut of clones, and left game designers everywhere saying, “I could’ve thought of that.”  But they didn’t.  Good stuff.
  9. A Bird Story:  This is a late edition to the list, so forgive the hyperbole natural to rating a game hours after I played it.  But it really was quite touching, an example of limited storytelling done expertly.  There’s limited player input, and it’s short, but I feel like the game had the perfect amount of both.  Genius and art is often represented in restraint.
  10. Dark Souls II:  I know some hardcore fans were disappointed, but this was my first experience with the “souls” series and I was really impressed.  As I said in my review, I think people overrate (or oversell) the difficulty, or the “fairness.”  But I don’t think people overrate the cleverness of the game.  Everything feels like a lot of thought went into it, and the way that gameplay often was storytelling, was impressive.  It’s a critique of the power fantasy, without making you feel weak as a player.  That’s not easy to do.  Although it was a weak year for games, I don’t feel like this was a weak winner.

Well that’s that.  Hit me up on twitter (currently  @slammermaster) if you’d like to talk about this.

 

What I’ve Been Up To

It’s been a weak year for new games.  So, I decided to fill in some of the holes in my history.

I finally cracked open my “Metal Gear Solid HD Collection” and I’m so happy I did.  What an amazing series of games.  If you haven’t played them yet, you should.   I could write a book about my experience with these games.  But, I know everyone is busy so I’ll keep it brief.

Metal Gear:  Way ahead of its time in a lot of ways, but the translation issues, and early high difficulty are going to make it difficult for some to pick up if patient.   Try it if you’re brave though.

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake: It’s funny how often a game almost none of the current gaming populace has played is referenced throughout the series.  I was really anxious to give Metal Gear Solid a try so I ultimately decided to tap out of this one pretty early and watch a Let’s Play.

Metal Gear Solid: I first came to this game in 2014 and I absolutely see why it’s iconic.  If you’re on the fence about this series, and you’re not a dumb baby, try this out and like me you’ll probably end up wanting to play the rest.   Yes, the story is goofy at times, but it’s also sort of poignant and it’s really rewarding to learn the systems of the game and find your way through.

Metal Gear Solid 2:  I hated this game for about 3/4 of it.  Kojima hits you in the gut several times and turns your world on its head.  And even after ultimately coming to like the game in the end, it made me take a long break.  Yet if you think about this game, you really digest what the game is trying to say (it’s certainly not all as meaningful as the game thinks it is sometimes, but there are some really good things there).

Metal Gear Solid 3: Awesome systems, really creative bosses.  After playing this I was like Big Boss eating some rations, sayin’ “I want some more!”

Metal Gear Solid 4: It was probably the most fanservicy of the games, and it was a lot simpler than MGS3, so I can understand if people were disappointed.  And the criticism that it’s basically a long 10 hour movie with four hours of gameplay might be valid.  But in the end, I really enjoyed it.  And I think its story was the easiest to digest without having to suspend disbelief all over the place.

Now the question for me, is, do I take on all the secondary games?  I’m definitely leaning towards it. But games are starting to come out now!  So I think I’ll head back in to 2014 for a bit, then decide what to do from there.

Transistor

Transistor is a really nice to look at.  And the game play is really fun, with a ton of variety, and the game encourages (and sometimes forces) you to explore that variety in a lot of interesting ways.    The problem with the game is the obstification of the main story .  It’s actually easier to unlock the back story than exactly what is going on in the game.  I have beaten the game and have a vague understanding of what happened, but just barely.

The mechanics and the aesthetics of the game are fun enough that I’m willing to ignore it, and for the price, I would definitely  recommended  playing this.

Dark Souls 2

People have called Dark Souls a “new phenomena” in gaming.  People laud its challenge, its ambiguity, it’s fairness and its stakes.  In fact, people are calling it the most difficult game ever, too hard for the casuals.  Such talk, it dissuaded me from giving the game a shot.  When I hear about people throwing controllers or snapping discs, I just think about all the things I have that are better to do than be mad at a video game.  I honestly don’t know why I finally caved.  I think it’s because I didn’t really have anything better to do.

Now, having played Dark Souls 2, I can say that a lot of what people say is in fact true.  There’s definitely stakes to your actions.  The story is almost completely ambiguous (although it’s definitely there!).  As far as the challenge?  Well, it’s definitely not an easy game.  But where people miss the boat is thinking that this is some sort of new phenomena is where people miss the boat.  This is simply itterration on games from days past.  And if you could hang with those games, you can hang with Dark Souls 2.

Sure, sometimes–say after I was unable to reclaim lots of lost souls due to accidentally walking off a cliff or some complete cheese–I was frustrated.  Part of it is because the fairness of the game is something I think is a bit exaggerated because there are plenty of phantom hitboxes, geometry issues, and plenty of instances where the game breaks its own rules.  I suppose, though, that these instances are rare enough that I at least understand what people are talking about when they call the game fair.  Most situations are solvable, when approached from the right direction (or directions, since there are often many ways to accomplish things).  Thus, I rarely felt that the game was beyond my ability.

The multiplayer elements are fairly interesting.  The messages add a layer of life to the game, and while the shades of other player’s games is sometimes distracting, it’s usually entertaining and sometimes quite informative.  Co-op play is a lot of fun and it feels good to help someone beat a difficult boss, and it allows you to progress past bosses that might be tuned towards particular playstyles that your character might not be specced for.  At times, it does trivialize the challenge of some bosses, but you can always just choose not to summon.  And some bosses are considerably more difficult in co-op than alone.  Fans of the PVP love it, but I personally find it to be kind of pointless.   Win or lose,  I just find them to battles to be a distraction.

I don’t know if I’ve been converted to a Soulsian; I definitely don’t think I’m going to be one of these people who exclusively play Dark Souls 2 for hours upon hours.  But I definitely respect the game.  My review is a hearty “play it.”