I’ve been working on this one for a while, it’s an idea that I’m excited about. There are many reasons why I am so passionate about both beer and gaming, but one at the forefront is how well they go together. Pairing beer and food is all good and fun, but this idea is more me. It’s obvious that gaming is experiential, but drinking a great beer is an awesome experience as well.
As you know from several of my other posts, I love the Dark Souls series and Dark Souls 3 was the first of the games that I had the opportunity to play the moment of its release. Right around that time, I had also luckily acquired some of what would become one of my favorite beers that I’ve ever tasted, 3 Floyd’s Zombie Dust. The game and the beer paired together seemed like a match made in heaven, and they proved to be such.
Two Parallel Acquired Tastes
Almost everyone that follows video games knows about the punishing difficulty that has made the Souls series of games notorious. They are a grinding and sometimes stressful experience, but for certain people, they are also the most rewarding game experiences you can have. I happen to be one of those people, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the final entry in the trilogy. I have an acquired taste for the difficulty curve at this point, I’ve finished the first Dark Souls a few times and I’m in the middle of my second play through of Dark Souls 2. Even with my seasoning, sometimes you hit a wall in these games and it can be frustrating. In those situations, the Zombie Dust was a welcome complement to the game.
Much like the Dark Souls game, aggressively hoppy beers can be overwhelming and are an acquired taste among craft beer drinkers. But, just like the game, they have a habit of hooking people who embrace them. After you’re hooked, there’s nothing else like a well hopped IPA. Zombie Dust happens to be one of the most renowned hoppy beers in the country, marketed as a pale ale, but likely actually closer to an IPA. To those imbued with an unnatural appreciation for overly bitter beverages, this one is a gem.
For anyone who likes beating up their palate while they’re getting beat up in a game, this is a great beer gaming pairing. There wasn’t anything too ridiculous in the early parts of the game within which I was partaking of these fine brews, but Dark Souls games are always hard, they just aren’t always ridiculous. Whenever “You Died” appeared on screen, a hefty swig of Zombie Dust was an awesome counter-balance. The citra hops are aggressive, but the citrus notes they add make this beer nothing but refreshing to an IPA enthusiast.
A Niche Appeal, Executed Perfectly
It’s interesting that both of these products most likely weren’t going for universal appeal when they were first released, speaking specifically to the original Dark Souls or even Demon’s Souls. They both set out to stand out from the crowd to a very certain type of gamer or beer drinker, but through the undeniable quality of the experience they present, each has transcended through to the mainstream. More people probably discovered a love of hops because of how fine a beer Zombie Dust is and I know gamers started to warm up to challenging games more as Dark Souls devotees raved about the quality of the experience that the Souls games offered being above any other.
That all sounds a bit dramatic, but I freaking love Zombie Dust and Dark Souls.
I wanted to start this idea for a series off right with something I knew I would enjoy writing about. This pairing definitely did not let me down.
Let me know what you thought of the post and the idea for the series in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
When I was a kid, one Christmas my grandmother gifted me a rock with the word “patience” engraved in it. Being around 5 at the time, I didn’t get it. She told me that I could benefit greatly by focusing a little bit about the patience that I was lacking. I wasn’t alone, most kids lack patience in our instant gratification culture. It got top me though, and I still have the rock today. A more contemporary example of this act is a grandmother giving her grandchild a copy of Dark Souls. They would say, “finish this and they’ll be an amazing present waiting at the end.” I don’t think this is a thing that’s ever happened, but I really hope that it has or will. While the kid’s parents might think their mom or dad is losing it, they are completely on top of their shit.
So much of the growing amount of attention being given to Dark Souls games is about the difficulty. “Prepare to die” and “get gud” are everywhere in its marketing and community. Souls games are, without a doubt, more difficult than your average games. It’s something that new players should know before throwing down $60. The reason that they stand out as so difficult is how this all comes together though. They are different in their expectations of players than most other AAA games coming out today. Rather than guaranteeing a action filled thrill ride, they want players to learn, explore, and fight on their own. The games provide little guidance so that players gain a sense of appreciation and achievement from the experience.
Take a Breath, Plan Your Next Move
From Software expects patience and respect from their players. Take your time, don’t run in blind expecting to come out on top. Tread carefully and respect their game design as being proficiently executed and fair. It can feel like they’re just out to get you at first, but it all comes around.
The Index Gundyr is a perfect example of this. “Welcome to the game new player! Here are a few simple grunts to fight to learn the controls. Next up is the first boss, he’s a tutorial in the Dark Souls sense. Sink or swim.” From’s design implies the idea of learning and adaptation that’s guaranteed by the progressing through these games. From might as well follow up with, “he might seem tough, but wait until you see him again in New Game Plus. You’ll crush him”
The first time, his ass was a wad of cookie dough. After a few weeks, he was carved out of wood
I started playing the original Dark Souls before I got into reading and writing about games online. I bought it based on the recommendation of a co-worker who told me that it felt old-school, like the re-invention of the games we grew up with. I didn’t know about its reputation online for its crushing difficulty, I just knew it felt different than anything else I had played around that time. It almost forced me into a flow state, it required focus and almost meditative attention like nothing else. I learned to take my time and plan ahead, that’s what the game required. It didn’t feel tremendously hard to me, but it did feel entirely different from any other contemporary game I’d played. Savor the experience, work through it, don’t expect to be catered to, you get what you earn. With how much media attention the third entry had received, I wonder how many young players are benefiting from the same lesson I received at their age, except through a much cooler medium.
I finally finished my first play through of Dark Souls 3. It took me just under 55 hours and I feel like I got a relatively complete picture of the game, at least as much as you can on a single play through of a Dark Souls game. I read a few reviews during my game and I think that all 3 of them listed shorter times. I focused on taking my time and exploring with this first go and rarely used guidance. There’s still a ton that I don’t know about the game that I will be starting to research, but here’s my updated thoughts so far.
The combat feels better than ever. There’s a huge variety of items presented offering more playstyle and build options than any other Souls game. The combat and movement feel faster as well, offering the ability to make a Bloodborne-esque brawler, a great feature for players who jumped into From’s games with Bloodborne. Armor is no longer upgradeable, so the upgrade elements can be focused on weapons, luckily there’s enough in game to go around. There’s some debate about the value of heavy armor with the seemingly nerfed poise stat, I can’t speak to that as I generally use light armor but I’ve seen a fair amount of players online with heavy armor equipped.
The lore is widely presented and might be a little more accessible than other Souls games as far as piecing it together, although that could be a result of my previous experience with the series. An interesting cast of characters is present, and they offer a good amount of storytelling through their speech alone. Some work to piece it together is still required though, as it should be. There are several NPC side quests as well, although they are pretty obscure to initiate and proceed through. The only quest line that I completed was the deserter’s story, no spoilers but you might be able to figure that one out. I initiated others, like a certain knight’s, but never came across him again to continue the story. I have also heard a little bit about another side story which is supposed to be great, unfortunately the keeper of that story died suddenly, and not because of me… I’ve spent 55 hours in the game and there is still a ton to uncover and explore, that’s a great sign for me.
On my next play through, I’m planning on referencing a guide more. I referred to a guide on two occasions for this run, one was to find the Chloranthony Ring, which I found long after I should have. I love the ring for my quick builds and I knew it had to be in the game somewhere. I’m also pretty sure that I would have never found it if I hadn’t looked to Google, it was well hidden and I’m looking forward to discovering other treasures that are far from the beaten path.
There’s No Shame in Using a Guide
This brings up an interesting part of this game’s nature, especially if it’s anyone’s first Dark Souls game. I played through the game, taking my time to explore, and was reluctant to reference a guide at all for this play through. I fully intended to play the entire game at least one more time though. If you’re playing and only anticipate doing so once, I think having a guide handy is a totally valid approach. There’s so much to the game that it’s very easy to miss out on a ton, so you’ll get a much fuller experience in one go with some guidance. Luckily, the web is jam packed with DS3 guides and information now.
One thing that I neglects throughout most of my game, until just before the final boss actually, was the multiplayer. I read a great piece over on Kotaku by Patrick Klepek about running around helping other players with bosses. I’d been invaded my fair share, but I had not engaged in co-op at all at that point, so I went and grabbed a soapstone and wrote my summon sign in front of a late game boss. It wasn’t long before I was backtracking through the games bosses and areas to give other players a hand with my badass washing pole. It was a really good time and the limited emotes provide for some entertaining interactions with others. I still need to look into finding a DS3 PvP fight club, but it’s so damn difficult because no one talks about them… (Bad Fight Club joke, but no one can talk in Dark Souls after all)
Like I referenced before, one design that I’ve heard major criticism of is the world map. Unlike the first Dark Souls, where the entire world was connected in tangible and interesting ways, Dark Souls 3 uses a hub and allows you to teleport to any of the bonfires you’ve lit in the world. While I can see where players are coming from, the world of Dark Souls was a joy to explore and immaculately laid out and assembled, Dark Souls 3’s map has a nicely connected feel as well.
Sure, there are several junctions where you are swept to a far off area and unable return by any means other than bonfire. There are also other places where I gazed at a landmark in the distance only to wind up there a few hours later. The broken bridge where you find Yoel specifically stands out to me, I could see a ton of detail on the other side, and about 6 hours later I stood on it looking up. I had adventured much deeper into the unknown world only to end up a few hundred feet from a vantage that I had held earlier. That moment was great and there were more exactly like it, that’s enough for me.
A Worthy Successor to the Throne
Since starting writing this, I’ve already started 2 new games, as well as a new game plus, to explore some different play styles. I’m trying out a magic user and an even lighter build where I won’t use a shield, which should provide some good fun. I’m obviously a huge fan of the series, but with the news that this is all but assured to be the last true Dark Souls game, I find this to be a worthy send off for a series I love.
Translating The Action of Dark Souls to a Kickstarter Board Game
As you may already know, I’m a huge Dark Souls fan and also big into board games. As such, a Dark Souls board game is definitely something that I’m really psyched about. I’m 35 hours deep into Dark Souls 3 right now and loving it (just beat the Ancient Wyvern and working on the Nameless King), but I still have mixed feelings about it being the last of the series. I’m definitely going to replay it a few times, as I have with Dark Souls and plan to with Dark Souls 2, but it’s good to know the universe will expand beyond them. I’m really excited about bringing the universe to another format I’m into, but I’m a little shaky well it will translate the experience. Regardless of how much like Dark Souls it feels, the mechanics look solid.
The Dark Souls games are pulse pounding adventures through highly detailed worlds rich in lore and defined by their epic monster battles. You learn and develop as you play, and sometimes end up beating your head against bosses for hours until you finally emerge from the fog wall victorious. My left thumb actively hurts from playing so much more with my gamepad than I’m used to, and it’s satisfying as many hard earned accomplishments are. The board game is focused on both the daunting exploration and those epic monster encounters, and it’s going to be interesting to see how they capture that experience in miniatures and cardboard.
The Miniature Mock Ups Look Amazing
From the mock ups of the miniatures posted on the campaign site, the models look amazing. The game board looks rather bland, but even if it wasn’t, the figures would be stealing the show. That in itself is awesome and will sell some copies of the game to the inevitable overlap between Dark Souls fans and miniature fans and gamers. It’s a good start to show off the game when the mechanics are much more obscure.
The Gameplay Experience Parallels
Given that the game is being labeled as a “deeply immersive combat exploration” experience, there are several obvious mechanics from the original games to include. Some of these are discussed in the pitch video. While in combat, you must balance your damage with your stamina in order to not exhaust youself and leave yourself open to attack. There will also be leveling in order to strengthen characters as they delve deeper into the deadly environment. In order to level up, just like in the games, you’ll need accumulated souls and access to a bonfire. The use of a bonfire to level up does have consequences though, and as mirrored in the game, using one will bring back all of the monsters that were previously slain. This sounds great if they can pull off the tense atmosphere the game offers.
Along with the mechanics of the world you’re exploring, the boss fights should be a huge focus of this game. During boss fights, you’ll lean the movement patterns and techniques of the enemy and use that information to find openings. You’ll have to balance risk and reward as you exhaust stamina in order to attack while not tiring and leaving yourself open to attacks. In theory , this all sounds great and like another awesome way to experience the fun of Dark Souls, this time in local co-op with some friends!
Below is a quick gameplay video from Steam Forged of an encounter with a boss, the Dancer of the Boreal Valley. The video only shows how players will interact with the single boss. This is likely similar to how you’ll face minor enemies, just on a different scale. It will be interesting to see how the whole picture comes together though, when you bring together minions, exploration, and manipulating bonfires along with the set boss encounters.
Looking at New Gaming Trends
I’m excited for this, and not just because I’m crazy hyped up on Dark Souls 3 right now. The big reason I’m excited is, oddly enough, because of the Tomb Raider and Hitman Games. Not the big budget releases that we recently saw though, I’m referring to the mobile versions in Square Enix’s Go series of games. Hitman Go and Lara Croft Go both boiled down some action packed games into turn-based experiences that were basically digital board games. I’m hoping that Steam Forged Games can pull of a similar feat with this physical board game release, and bring to Souls series to a whole new kind of gamer.
The time has come. I’ve finally gotten may hands on Dark Souls 3 and now have just over 10 hours in the game. Here’s what I think of the experience so far.
Dark Souls 3 Offers Tremendously Variety
I started out rolling with a thief class character. I usually go for lighter, faster characters in games and especially in Dark Souls. It makes the experience more fun for me, and that’s one of the reasons I loved Bloodborne enough to buy a PS4 just for it. I have limited the amount that I’ve read about Dark Souls 3 keep myself somewhat in the dark. I’ve already played all of the previous games except Demon’s Souls, so I knew what to expect.
One idea that I did catch from the pre-release coverage though is the idea that it’s more Dark Souls, but cast in a negative light. I’m happy about that, it’s exactly what I wanted and the reason this is the first game I’ve pre-ordered in years. I find it a little weird that so many people didn’t go in expecting that. From Software took a ton of risks with Demon’s Souls and then again with Dark Souls after Demon’s Souls limited financial success. They staked out new turf and almost a new genre of “Souls-like” games and have influenced a ton of games since the release of Demon’s Souls. Why would they venture too far with Dark Souls 3, the promised last game of the Dark Souls series when they defined exactly what their fan base wanted with Dark Souls? Now that I’ve said that, onto my experience with the actual game.
Dark Souls 3 Looks and Runs Great (For Me)
As I said, I’m about 10 hours into the game and I am having a thoroughly good time with it. The first thing that stuck out to me was the beauty of this game. They went out of their way to offer players awesome vantages from the start, possibly to hint at the vastness of this game. Where Souls games have never been fawned over for their beauty, Bloodborne was a nice step in art direction and DS3 is a great combination of the two. The mountains and castles in the distance add a sense of beauty and wonder to a bleak world full of danger and encourages a few moments of rest to take in the view.
Other than the graphical prowess, it seems Hidetaka Miyazaki brought a little bit of his vision from Bloodborne to the final entry in the Souls trilogy. While the setting is purely dark, gothic fantasy, I have seen quite a few monsters and enemies that would be right at home in Yharnam. Along with the enemies looking like they could’ve come over from Bloodborne, some fight like it as well. Dark Souls 3 has the largest number of fast and nimble enemies of any of the officially Souls games. This adds a ton of variety to gameplay with players never knowing what to expect from unknown enemies, of which there are a lot. With enemies being faster, developers gave players the potential of some very quick and responsive builds to compete. I’m still early on with my character, but he plays so much faster than my speedy build from the original Dark Souls. While Bloodborne forced players to embrace a fast a furious pace to combat, it seems developers have left it up to players in this game by giving them the most potential for build diversity in any of the games.
It is Definitely More Dark Souls, In a Great Way
One criticism that is striking home with me is that this is a more linear game than the first of the trilogy. In my first few hours, I have only needed to wonder where to go every once in a while and have found the path quickly every time. This is not to say that I’m seeing everything though, I know of at least 2 areas that I need to go back and explore more and there could definitely be more. Items also seem easier to come by as you cannot venture too far off the beaten path, making them much easier to stumble on. This wasn’t the case in the first game where paths ofter went on for a long time before dead ending and items were tucked in nooks and crannies that were easily missed. I found the Chloranthy Ring in Dark Souls 2 and it became a big part of my play-style, where I had no idea until after a few full play throughs of the original that it was even featured in that game. Items being easier to stumble upon takes away from the wonder and mystery of the game, but it also makes it easier to develop your own unique loadout after finding a variety of treasure without going online to see what’s best.
Now for the weirdly biggest part of the game to some people, the difficulty. First, I don’t play these games for the difficulty, but I do throughly enjoy it, as well as the way it brings the games together and makes them stand out from the crowd. The difficulty is a big part of the awesome mix of features that make these games the amazing experience that they are though, which is only possible because of the perfectly executed “tough but fair” approach.
At first, I was struck that maybe this game would be easier than the rest. I struggled in the first area of Bloodborne for hours before getting the hang of it, and I cruised through the beginning areas and bosses of DS3 with only moderate setbacks along the way. This could easily be because I just played through the first Dark Souls again and have been playing these games for years now. I’m a decently seasoned Souls player. Along with the difficulty, bonfires seemed much closer than I expected them to be. I would feel like i just visited one fire and then stumble on another shortly after having used only one swig of my estus flask. It didn’t feel like I was struggling and working to progress, it felt almost a little like a typical game where progress is a given with time. I was still enjoying myself, but the progress wasn’t as fulfilling. I beat a boss while talking to my fiancée, that wasn’t supposed to be what these games are like.
It’s a Great Place to Jump Into the Series
While, now I’m chalking up my earlier success to the boot camp I just ran where I manged to beat Gwyn, the original Lord of Cinder, on my first try. The area I’m now in is tough as nails and I’m back to struggling and learning enemy placements and patterns in order to eek out a little more progress with each run where I inevitably fail until I don’t.
None of this soured my experience though, I already knew that I was going to keep going and finish the game. It seems like, given the newly mass market appeal of the series, the developers have instated a boot camp of their own into the beginning of this game for players that are prepared to die for the first time. Have you heard of the tremendously difficult Dark Souls series of games and finally want to jump in? Dark Souls 3 is where to do it.
I’m now 10 hours in and I’m not sure how long it will take to to finish the game, but I don’t think that my opinion will change. Dark Souls 3 is a great way to introduce yourself to the series if you’re open to it and an awesome finish to the trilogy if you’re a veteran of the series. I’ve already seen some great references to previous games and I love the attention to existing fans.
It may not be as mysterious as the first game of the trilogy that established the genre, but that just makes it different, not worse. I’m sure I’ll find myself wondering about plenty of areas, characters, items, and lore throughout my time adventuring in Lothric.
Awhile ago, I wrote a post about my sour experiences with both the PS4 and the Xbox One and said that I was trying something new after always being a console gamer. There was a lot of commotion around the release of Valve’s Steam Machines as they tried to bring PC gaming to the living room, console gaming masses. The hype seems to have been short lived though, I haven’t seen them covered much at all since the initial release. But, as the Steam Machines were delayed a few times before they finally came out to a mixed reception, Alienware got tired of waiting to release their living room gaming PC and put out the Alienware Alpha.
The Alpha offers the exact same hardware configurations as the Alienware Steam Machines, except it shipped earlier and features Windows and a Xbox 360 wireless controller and dongle rather than SteamOS and the Steam controller. It seemed like much of the mixed feelings about the Steam Machines were a result of the SteamOS they shipped with, which was basically a Linux build to run Steam in Big Picture mode. This limited the machines, as well as the library of games that they could run. While the same hardware with Windows offers only advantages, you can boot right into Steam Big Picture and can run almost any game on Steam as well as access the Chrome and other apps. Here are my thoughts so far about the Alpha and PC gaming in general.
A Console Gamer Getting Acclimated to a New PC
My main reservation about PC gaming has always been the mouse and keyboard inputs. Say what you will about the precision differences, I just have always used a gamepad controller and that’s probably what I’ll always prefer to play with. The Alpha runs a special Alienware developed UI that allows you to load games using only the gamepad. You can also use some specific controller inputs to do some things that normally would require other input devices, like force a game into full screen or control the mouse with a joystick and buttons. The UI is functional but not great and a little slow. I mostly used it to boot Steam anyway, so I opted for disabling it and booting straight into Steam Big Picture. The Alienware UI still runs in the background, so in a pinch I can operate the mouse pointer to close a menu or navigate, and I get all the perks of Steam’s controller friendly mode while on Windows.
Since buying the base model of the Alpha, I have made some upgrades. I added another 4GB of RAM for a few bucks, but mainly I swapped out the hard drive. The hard drives available in the Alpha all run at 5400rpm, which are fine for gaming, but leads it to boot slow and run slowly while using it for anything else. I put in a SSD and upgraded it to Windows 10 and now it probably boots into Steam Big Picture in about 10-15 seconds. The original hard drive got you gaming a little slower than the current gen consoles with their stock hard drives, but the SSD blows them away. I still have the stock base model 4th gen i3 CPU and the custom 2GB NVIDIA GPU and I am totally happy with them. The CPU can be upgraded easily, the GPU cannot unfortunately but I don’t see that as being too negative.
As you can guess from the GPU specifically, the Alpha is not designed to give you a top of the line PC gaming experience. The thing is about the size of the original Wii and I got mine for under $350 on Craig’s List, it won’t max out the graphics of every game out now, but it does play them well and they still all look great. The performance has been great for me as well, I play a lot of indie games that aren’t very demanding, but I also played through all of Metal Gear Solid 5 without a hitch. Benchmarks show that the machine is more powerful than the PS4, which puts it in a competitive place this console generation. I’m not looking to max out graphics, but I want my games to look good and run well, and the Alpha delivers very well in both of those areas.
What the Alienware Alpha Offers as a Living Room PC
For me, the Alienware Alpha delivers exactly what the Steam Machines were meant to. It brings PC gaming to the living room in a way that could attract some console gamers. It isn’t as simple to use as a console, but it’s not much more difficult than one either. I personally enjoy the extra layer of customization functionality it offers. I added a wireless keyboard with an integrated trackpad from Logitech that allows me to access all of its functionality conveniently from the couch. I usually use only the Xbox controller, but I have the option of the keyboard for accessing streaming services and anything else you’d want to use on a PC on your TV.
On an unrelated note to the Alpha’s hardware, PC gaming is great for a person like me. First off, it’s much more affordable. You don’t need to spend a ton up front on a top of the line rig to enjoy the savings offered by Steam Sales and services like Humble Bundle. There’s a ton more variety in PC games, especially since this generation’s consoles are so similar to PCs themselves. Developers can offer almost every game they make for consoles on the PC and add the same controller support. I’m amazed by the amount of games that support controllers, it makes PC gaming much more friendly to console gamers.
Steam is the New Home of Couch Co-Op
Another thing that I’m really excited about is couch co-op, an area that has traditionally been dominated by the consoles. There are more local co-op experiences on the PC by far, and they’re all controller friendly. I have had a great time bringing multiplayer games back to my living room. It seems like consoles have moved more toward online, where the PC used to dominate and PCs have branched out to include local multiplayer as well as traditional online games. My experience so far with a “cheap” gaming PC has been phenomenal and it really has rekindled my old passion while introducing me to a whole new side of gaming.
I’ve had the Alienware Alpha for about 6 months now and am totally happy with the purchase. I upgraded the RAM and SSD completely because I wanted to, not because it was essential. The Added controller functions make a huge difference and it’s been a great way to transition over to PC gaming.
I’m also happy to report that Dark Souls 3, a game which I’m completely stoked for, should run great on the Alpha. I just finished another play through of the original Dark Souls on my PC and finally got to play through the Artorias of the Abyss DLC. I CANNOT wait for Dark Souls 3 to be out on April 12th.
Let me know what you think in the comments below, thanks for reading!