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Rain World
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Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
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Destiny
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Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Alan Wake II
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Cyberpunk 2077
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Battlefield 3

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Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix

Dec 05

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Just imagined Ridge Racer V opening with Slime Season 3 and went into immediate cardiac arrest.

Knowing you
You might hurt someone
Or yourself
You would tear
Everything apart
If you found out
Everyone you loved, loved someone else


- God is a Circle, Yves Tumor

.

Another graceless morning in Leyndell.
Queen Marika was driven to the brink. The great golden tree is her address and she will never open those eyes again.

"God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere." - Saint Augustine

A sun of tar leaks onto my surface. When whispers spread of the existence of a third and final Dark Souls - and months later when that game finally lodged in memory - one image stayed with me. In it, an unnamed knight stands on the end of the world, all kingdom from ages past converging against the bleeding of a dark sun, pressed-in on themselves, moved to collapse as if by saga's collective consciousness, subtext springing forth like rattle-snake in my face, a vision so terminal it verged on parody which nevertheless remains the most pregnant piece of iconography produced by that opus alone. Hell, what a view. With both feet firmly planted on the ashen sand and hands cusped in penitence to the eclipse, I lay my precious cinders to rest - and yield. Many places demand such reverence (few attain it) and in the recesses of Londor only this Kiln of the First Flame moved me so. The old world is dying, and the new one struggles to be born; nigh is the time of monsters like me, like us. What creature more terrifying than a power creep?

Egg cracks, yoke burning like an oil spill. Inside the withered arms of Princess Filianore is a truth - that the cycle has run its course, that come the epilogue all that could possibly remain was you and Uncle Gael, two dogs fighting each other to feed on the blood of their ancestors. C’est la vie. A promise to “paint a new vision” is all that kept a player like myself going within these rote confines - still, there's something to extract from the spaces these games put us in. Many a poisoned swamp have seen my fucked-up little guy drown at the bottom, deprived of ore and oxygen. Grey skies. A spear danced through my innards in Caelid again. Places that are cruel like that have made me patient, made me into a resentful hater - hood over my head to block out any hint of personhood within my avatar in wait of the good and gentle precipice. My time will come.

A Shattering, in so many ways, differs from a fading fire, yet is all the same for it. Much has been made of Elden Ring's affiliation to Dark Souls II's episode in experiments (for good reason, it is a game that contains multitude and seeks to go beyond its own scope at times) and while I tend to err on the side of historicity - recognize that Aldia offers a clear red-herring for understanding where things have come and gone both from a gameplay standpoint and in the franchise’s aesthetic evolution - Elden Ring remains an object primarily preoccupied with this blur of time and space made manifest through the Lands Between, its world of atomized particulars spread about a now-open vault, the lone melancholy island, the freedom plateau with a blackened being called player-character at its center, eyeing us at last, to say :

«Hello, other you.»

We were always compromised, morally bankrupt and torn between notions of ideal/optimization that see us scurry about the wet rubbles of Limgrave like the rats that we are, like the butchers that we will inevitably become in search of supremacy over the fragmented mythos; out of all the knaves and backstabbers engendered by FromSoftware's ravenous ethos us players might be the worst of the lot. We’d swallow the whole world if left to it, such is the nature of our curse, but these Lands are redacted, belong to no one, and will never give themselves wholly to the records of history. Ambiguous scriptures give way to conflicting accounts of events that morph entirely outside the delimitations of game narrative and into full-on theological approaches of the source material - death and rebirth become matters of philosophical debates between factions, heresy or sainthood redeemed, reversed, let loose in the hands of folklore - sometimes discounting the fact that losing yourself in the labyrinthine districts of Yharnam was often an act of evocation and evocation alone. Against this fog of war, Elden Ring posits a twin motion: Inside us are two wolves, the rushing, hypercompetent pillager borne out of a decade of iteration over the same design ideas – a body of work accumulated through bloody chess-pieces, us, the sole moving power in a series of stagnant vistas – and the vibes guy, who likes his decrepit kingdoms and bad knights just like so, oozing out of form and meaning one power structure over the corpse of the other ad vitam æternam.

Where we choose to position ourselves in this mess has always underlined the fact that the dramatic tension at the heart of Hidetaka Miyazaki’s works is often a moot point; the forces stirring us into conflict overshadow our efforts by untold eons of conspiracies whose ramifications will remain shrouded beyond any meaningful change the player might be tempted to enact upon the Lands Between. We're nothing but specks of dust on the grand 'ol clock and so the only rational act of affirmation for us is to seek power and power alone - in Marika’s own lying words: “The Erdtree governs all. The choice is thine. Become one with the Order. Or divest thyself of it. To wallow at the fringes; a powerless upstart."

Are you ready to limp yet?

It all starts with a man. Shabriri, most reviled in history and whatnot. I meet Shabriri way high up the Mountaintop of the Giants. At first nothing much happens amidst these snow-strewn ruins. Through us the dead wander, old foes grow monstrous, new ones die just as quickly anyway and disseminate more loot, more power, more of Elden Ring than any of us could stomach in a lifetime. Nothing happens here in terms of play production, nothing except Shabiri. This lived-in blizzard tires, yet burgeons in the loops and strings, the little narrative touches etched in the caves and corners of this dying world like a spirit reunion, two sisters afforded a common resting place among the cobblestone, the kind of moment that’s both sweet and grotesque and in truth the mark of storytellers at the peak of their ability to weave affection out of pixelated dots on the cosmic scale, the macro being fluidly defined by the micro in ways that seek to distill feelings over storied delineations - and gone is some of the tightness, along with authorial intent, the intersected-branching of physical space in relation to its mythology, and in goes the anime energy, the fatigue and frenzy, in goes a man like Shabriri, talking to us, being - here and now - a terrible other that sent shivers down my spine with the simplest of prayers. “May chaos take the world.

To follow his path is to embrace the logical endgame of our own post-modernities. Gouge our eyes out at gold’s mere view, and slouch towards Bethlehem to be born again. Shabriri’s duality lays bare the FromSoftware player-project as a fundamentally meaningless endeavour in which hero meets edgelord and aloneness - all it entails, and every interaction such a state also curtails - becomes the defining characteristic of our embodiment. Therefore cynicism is a natural attitude towards this fast-approaching point of no-return. We are chasing after nowness - this idea that computers will save us - yet there is, essentially, very little left to tell through the framework Demon's Souls established fifteen years ago. Every journey hence both ripped and ruined the language of its predecessors, be it through lure or paleblood, by pulling on a hand that always had too many fingers - lost in this need to embed cycles within systems and vice-versa, a rich sense of interconnectedness slowly diluted in increasingly complex canvases that seemed to exist only for their own sake - until finally each of these thread would coalesce at the foot of the Erdtree to form the Tarnished who, likewise, looks inward and wrestles - really - with an image of self, physically substantiated in one of Elden Ring's funniest sleight of hand by the birth of Mimic Tears.

Thou art yet to become me. Mimic tears, I think, are telling hints of what's at stake here. Their use and abuse as body doubles by the community reflects what we've turned into; apocalypse consumers, yes, but also deeply reflective digital beings who know exactly what they want every time they come back to the club craving for a particular fragrance of realm. The Mimic Tear, for all the ways it facilitates and trivializes many of the game's encounters, isn't just a cracked-out design accident (or mere concession to wider audiences) put in place to solve the escalation of enemy movesets and effects in contrast to the golden tricorn of dodge-rolls, stabs and parries, it's evidence to Elden Ring's attempt to resolve a live-occurrence of identity crisis manifesting at every echelon of play, from the way its open-world structure informs the narrative as a whole to finer details like passé progression systems and combat frameworks whose malleability incentivizes sleekness at all costs. Elden Ring is ever-brilliant and as such trapped in the scale of its reflexivity. There is only one tree, and only its branches, says the severed head of Godrick the Grafted at my feet; and only by replica - by deep, exhausting dives into eternal cities and clever asset duplications - can we ascend to true lordship. An eye for an eye. To look in the mirror and see nothing else than oneself, what a horrible thing to ponder. I'd sooner raze this place to the ground.

There is nowhere else to go. We've been here before. Killing gods, killing time. Going through the motions for memory's sake in the hope that this once-colourful palette would conjure up a lost song - how many Artoriases and Farum Azulas has it been now? We follow Melina in blind faith because our detachment from the journey paradoxically means we care on some level about the fate of these characters. All across the Lands Between a fair maiden spawns from thin air to dispense knowledge and strength like the good waifu that she is in opposition to her radiant, all-encompassing mother who we come to know through cause and effect, tracing her body alongside the bends and ridges of lore prose, within each fold of this world-enveloping cloth of religious dogma and ambition. The Miyazaki engine produces fatigue and excitement in equal measure and Elden Ring knows this, better yet runs on - and away with - it because in the process of scattering the archetypes of its anthology in the four corners of the map - of becoming its own sparse cliché - the game produces an earnest vulgarization of the prototypal FromSoftware fashion in which we’re both nowhere and everywhere at the same time, driven to carve the depths of this content circle - to see and taste every variation - much like Marika was before us and come away from the world with violence as its sole legible way towards catharsis. Lineage in service of posterity; the more we know of this precious tree, the more urgent its destruction. To bathe the Lands Between in ogre red or sickly yellows. There is beauty in that, is there not? So many flames in this game that I can’t help but giggle. I can’t help but to have fondness for Elden Ring, for its insistence in repetition, for the way it uses space in order to parlay with the player. Through both Melina and Marika the game charts an open-world romance whose non-linear nature affords us all the digressions and drama that ensues. Distance becomes desire and breeds contempt. Sorry honey but I really had to burn that shit down. I’m Frenzied. But I’ll get to fixing it soon, I promise, and maybe one day we can live in our house together again. And if not, let my hand rest upon you, for but a moment - but also please don't, and now continue, and also also also and and and and...

And maybe Marika is Radagon or maybe it was really just us.

Hence Elden Ring's seminal image:

This auburn-haired god letting the hammer fall onto the world. A magnificent beast, doomed to ruin.

Elden stars. When from Radagon's corpse the beast emerged I gasped. Hallowed wings from down under. The living embodiment of Order - a Moonlight Butterfly draped in gold. I was always struck by the comparison. For all their scarlet maladies and familial crises unwound over unfathomable amounts of time the stories of these worlds have always acted in the name of precisely such a creature. Not the arrogance of Man, or the folly of the Cosmos, or all the Devil's bastard children, but a lone being destined to be put to the sword because no ones knows any better - not Ranni’s blood-soaked quest for self-determination under the guise of a dark moon, not Fia and her Manhattan-clam monster, not even based guy Goldmask in his gilded silence. Each of these questlines taken as their formidable intersecting whole form Elden Ring's thesis statement; we all tried and our perambulations have led us back where we started, back to the golden address - back to her. This needs not be final. However ruined this world has become, however mired in torment and despair, life endures. Births continue. And by putting the monster front and center as their game's final showpiece, to suggest that the Moonlight Butterfly could essentially be a metaphor for the entire series, FromSoftware formulate a beautiful admission of artistic defeat.

The work has reached its limit - lest kind Miquella returns to us - at entropy's base, two become one.

And in me, a constellation. The many freaks and the many stories. A stronger, loving world.

At times, Into The Light feels almost pornographic in its deluge, showering us with rewards and explosions like the good puppies that we are - seemingly fated to drown in this bottomless loot pool brimming with returning fan-favourites and collector's items now shaded in precious gold and retrofitted with killer double-perks. Onslaught is an absolute banger, while Pantheon acts as the kind of pyrotechnical freak circus you can only cook at the top of your game - because make no mistake, Destiny in its present state is Bungie at the peak of their game. Both of these additions speak their respective truths :

One, nobody does a horde mode like Bungie. And two, no first-person shooter will ever work the very concept of boss fight within subjective/narrative confines like this franchise has for the past decade, times and again, by imagining new ways for a Tall Guy™ to interact with our faces. Whatever happens next to Destiny won't suck it all away into singularity, at least not until the servers run out and we all smash our computers to smithereens.

Dream's end in a month's time.
I think it's cause for some last rites and celebrations.