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Top 5 Boss Battles in ‘Bloodborne’

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FAIR WARNINGThe following article contains potential spoilers for the awesome plot that is Bloodborne, please don’t read any further if you wish to stay unspoiled.

From Software are no strangers to the art of creating great bosses. Even since their first venture into action-RPG territory with Demon’s Souls in 2009, they’ve managed to invent adventures with bosses that hold special places in hearts of players. Bloodborne was no different in this sense.

The Lovecraftian-Gothic epic was charged with no less than forty-three boss fights. While that seems like an extravagant number, twenty-one of that total are in fact chalice dungeon bosses. These won’t be included in this list due to many of them simply being reskins, or carbon copies of other fights. Any other fight however, including those from the wonderful Old Hunters DLC, is fair game, and in the running.

5 / Father Gascoigne

Gascoigne is the second boss the Hunter encounters while the night is still young in Yharnam. Despite some early game bosses sometimes leaving a foul taste in the mouths of players so that the team can save the best for last, the formerly holy Father is a buck to that trend. The fight is visceral, intense, and features possibly the best soundtrack in the entire game, so it’s easy to see why Gascoigne is on here. Not only does the game present him as an equal (you’re both Hunters, and you’re both doing what Hunters do best), but he acts like you.

Panicking is quickly punished, with only some room for error even in the early phase. He’s incredibly aggressive, utilizing both a blunderbuss, and heavy axe to force players to either fight back, or die running away. At around eighty percent health, Gascoigne unleashes the full force of his own trick weapon. A near cousin of the Hunter Axe, as it transforms into a halberd, but with the ability to be wielded with a gun too. Of course, landing hits on this crazed man isn’t easy, but the game forces you to learn to parry. Large wind-up frames, and telegraphed attacks make it easier to initiate a critical strike.

Then the game reminds you that getting close to bosses isn’t a good idea, as Gascoigne turns into a terrible beast himself. His final phase is intense, with attacks being thrown about left, right, and center. Pressure couldn’t be higher as trading blows with the now beastly Gascoigne is highly dangerous, and learning from the first phases is vital (because visceral attacks are the way forward). Killing Gascoigne is a rite of passage for new Bloodborne players, because it’s a PvP fight with one of the most interesting characters in the game.

4 / Amygdala

The Great Ones are the ‘gods’ capable of altering the physical world, and the direct cause of the beastly scourge within the city of Yharnam. While Amygdala is an optional boss, it remains perhaps the biggest abomination in the main game. Complete with three sets of arms, a head that looks like a drilled pumice stone, and hundreds of fleshy eyes that fire inter-dimensional lasers – Amygdala is not to be sniffed at.

As you’d expect from a boss of this size, the first thing the camera does is struggle. It struggles because this eldritch horror is the size of a small factory, and this only ups the ante when she (yes, this creature has been confirmed to be female) starts to attack the Hunter. By using her size alone, she can smash players into the ground, and send them sprawling with a bat of her arm.

Since Bloodborne rewards aggression however, running away will only delay your death if you don’t fight back. All bosses have weak spots, that’s a hard fact built into video games, and Amygdala’s head is exactly where you want to focus your firepower, or the limbs for slightly smaller returns. Assuming you’re not ash before she reaches fifty percent health, then you get to enjoy her phase two.

She rips off her own arms in pure rage, and begins to use even more devastating attacks to annihilate you. Cosmic energy, force waves, bitch-slaps, there’s nothing off the table at this point. It becomes frantic because half the time you’re stuck under her hind legs, trying to avoid being squashed. To watch this grotesque creature fall however, is beyond satisfying.

3 / Gehrman, the First Hunter

As Bloodborne’s ‘final’ boss, Gehrman is a fitting challenge. An appropriate end to a journey as horrid as the one the player has walked. He’s much like Gascoigne, in the sense that they were both Hunters at some point, and you fight them. Beyond that, the comparisons end. Not only is he lightning fast, with attack combos that continue for up to four hits, he embodies what it truly means to be a Hunter. Fast, agile, brutal, and relentless. Fighting toe-to-toe with Gehrman is like facing off against yourself (if you were a boss).

Using everything you’ve learned from other fights, and countless mob enemies, it all comes to a head in this single encounter that feels more like a duel than anything else. Wielding the daunting Burial Blade, Gehrman might as well be related to the Grim Reaper at this point, because he’s certainly playing the part. In the first phase he’ll throw attack after attack at you, in an attempt to throw you off. There’s no shame in saying that they caught you out, mainly because the neck swipe is cruelly employed. The majority of his attacks come with little telegraphing, and keeping up with this old crook isn’t easy. His innate speed and ferocity only get bolstered when phase two rolls around.

He’ll start to float toward the full moon behind the field where you fight, seemingly opening himself up for punishment. Whatever you do, don’t be greedy with attacks. Taking the resulting force wave to the face without dodging can kill most players instantly. But surviving means you’re now fighting against a teleporting Hunter, with increased speed. Chipping away at Gehrman’s health isn’t easy when the target is invisible most of the time, but it can be done. This entire battle is somber, and aptly captures every unique mechanic that Bloodborne has in its arsenal, with a finish that is incredibly poignant.

2 / Ludwig, the Holy Blade/Accursed

All throughout Bloodborne item descriptions, and certain weapons names, they tell of Ludwig, the first Hunter of the Healing Church. When the game first came out, many players logically assumed that the Cleric Beast was Ludwig. Unfortunately this was not the case. Within the bowels of the Old Hunters DLC, was a beast so foul that it sat atop a mountain of blood, and gore, waiting to kill players in droves. Ludwig wasn’t as dead as players had assumed.

A gargantuan seven (and a half) limbed abhorrent creature, the Healing Church’s finest warrior is now reduced to a wailing wreck only capable of slaughter. It’s difficult to say which is more unpleasant: fighting him, or looking at him. Everything about his design is just nasty, like it’s rank with disease. Trying to kill him however, is so much worse. Not only can he swipe casually, and take half your health away, he can do that with any one of his attacks. From charging at you, to leaping above to try to pancake you, his moveset is horribly versatile to fight against.

The only redeeming factor of fighting Ludwig is his pitiful stagger resistance, which can be exploited by players with larger weapons to stun him temporarily. Aside from that it’s an uphill battle to learn his moves, while not becoming red jelly. However, unlike all other bosses on this list of pain, his second phase is actually better to handle than the first. If Ludwig’s first half is his aggressive, beast mode, then phase two is the inner warrior aiming to kill you with precision.

Once the player has been graced with a cutscene showing him drawing the fabled Moonlight Greatsword, Ludwig charges straight at you. Now you’re forced to adapt to a totally different moveset, while dodging waves of emerald cosmic energy. The fight changes pace, and can easily trip up players who are tired from fighting his first phase ten times in a row. Ludwig stands, and shall continue to do so, as one of From Software’s toughest bosses to date, but that just increases the satisfaction when he’s taken down.

1 / Orphan of Kos

Even though the top two places in this rundown are from the Old Hunters DLC, they’re both well-deserved in their awards. And the Orphan of Kos, wizened child of the Great One, offers the most blood-pumping, enthralling fight in the entire game without a doubt. Not only because it’s a fitting end to a story arc that explains a ton of questions from a lore perspective, but because it’s terrifyingly fun to fight. If you encounter open space in a video game, expect an ambush, and if you see larger open space: be very, very worried.

Half the arena before you actually fight the Orphan is just the nervous walk towards the corpse of Kos, his mother. After watching him emerge from his dead mother’s body, you’re free to engage him. Which you’ll likely regret instantly. Nine times out of ten, the Orphan will open the fight by charging directly into the player. This isn’t the problem though, it’s the subsequent attacks that can spell doom.

From that charge he’s open to abuse his moveset in a way that’s incredibly hard to punish properly. Every attack (except one) is barely telegraphed, and leaves the player to either soak the hit, or dodge luckily. Much like the fights with Gehrman, and Ludwig there’s no room for errors here. Taking even one hit can render you extremely weak, and reeling from the blow. The Orphan excels at panic-induction, and is the most aggressive boss in the game. Even as you learn his erratic, often unsettling, attacks, he’s constantly screaming.

This is more of a psychological fight than anything else, as it plays on your ability to remain totally calm in the face of certain death. And phase two is the worst. As the Orphan reaches around fifty percent health, he’ll bite into his weapon, causing him to abruptly transform. Now complete with the ability to fly, he comes at you even harder than before, only offering mere microseconds between attacks to hit back.

Worse still is his screech. While it remains his only backstab critical punishable attack, it summons bolts of lightning directly emanating from the body of Kos on the beach. These bolts then continue to travel until they hit a wall; or the player. The Orphan is the single most fantastic, and cruel boss that the Souls/Borne series’ knows to date, and it’s only fitting that he should rest as the best boss battle in Bloodborne.

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This Heart’s on Fire: ‘Death Stranding’ and Heartman

‘Death Stranding’ has no shortage of your standard Kojima weirdos but one that almost no one is talking about is the eccentric Heartman.

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Death Stranding Heartman

*This article contains spoilers up to and including Chapter 8 of Death Stranding*

Over the course of Hideo Kojima’s wildly ambitious Death Stranding there are a whole cavalcade of intriguing and intoxicating characters for players to meet and acquaint themselves with. From the guy with the weird goalie mask to the lady with the magical umbrella, there is no shortage here of your standard Kojima weirdos but one that almost no one is talking about is Heartman.

Portrayed by writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn, best known for Drive, Heartman brings the game to a dead halt when you finally meet him face to face in chapter 8 but the reprieve comes as a welcome comfort to the player. Having just crossed a treacherous mountain range and survived a second trip to Clifford Unger’s war-torn beach, most players will welcome a little down time, and Heartman is there to provide it.

Death Stranding
It’s immediately clear that Heartman’s home is something special from the moment Sam walks through the door. Lit with a ring of holographic fire, the foyer of the mansion is immediately welcoming in the hostile environment of the snowy mountains. However, it also has a sort of clinical detachment to it. This is by design, as reality for Heartman is merely a distraction — downtime to be filled.

Yes, Heartman comes with the tragic backstory players will no doubt be expecting but, like most of them in Death Stranding, his is a real treat. Delivered partly through voiceover and partly through flashback, Heartman reveals how he lost his family to a terrorist attack while in the hospital for a heart operation. When he flatlined during the operation, though, he was able to find them on the beach before being whisked away back to reality.

Obsessed with finding them again and joining them, Heartman now spends his life in 24 minute intervals: 21 minutes of life, 3 minutes of death. Every 21 minutes Heartman journeys to the beach by flatlining himself with a personal AED, only to be resurrected 3 minutes later. During those 3 minutes though, where time is altered by the elastic effect of the Death Stranding, he seeks out his family and makes observations on how the beaches and the after life work.

Death Stranding
Bizarre as all of this is, it makes Heartman a truly fascinating character. Since his life is mainly confined to 21 minutes at a time, he has collected hundreds of books, movies, and albums which can be experienced during that tiny window of time. His study is brimming with them, stacked on the ceiling high bookshelves that surround his work area. Also in the study are eerie recreations of frozen corpses, old family photos, and a host of other curiosities, each of which will earn the player likes from Heartman for noticing them.

Of course, this is the most interesting part of the meeting. As Heartman continues to explain his theories, a counter occasionally appears in the bottom corner of the screen, showing how long Heartman has before he will flatline again. When the moment of truth finally comes, he lays himself down on a chaise lounge, turns over a golden hourglass and dies before your eyes. As the Funeral March begins playing from an old record player, Sam must keep himself busy for 3 minutes while he waits for Heartman to return to the land of the living. It’s a truly brilliant moment, as a counter appears in the bottom corner again, and the player must simply take in Heartman’s eccentric home from a first person perspective for 3 minutes uninterrupted.

What would be boring as sin under the wrong direction becomes a welcome moment for the player to just sit and absorb this strange, yet comforting, place. Then, after three minutes have elapsed, Heartman reawakens and picks up from where he left off as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. He even breaks the 4th wall as he continues to talk, swatting away the timer when it appears on screen again and adding likes to your counter in real time.


There’s really nothing like the meeting with Heartman in all of Death Stranding — but then, there’s nothing like Death Stranding really in the realm of gaming either. With its long periods of walking between haunted destinations and its deliberately cryptic mythology, the game is like a series of tone poems and intellectual treatises mashed together into a post-apocalyptic courier sim.

Heartman then, with his heart-shaped lake and pink-lit study, is just one more piece of Kojima’s mad puzzle here but what a piece he is. Who would have thought the most normal looking member of Death Stranding‘s bewildering cast would end up also being one of its most interesting? Certainly not this writer. Still, Heartman and his eerie, purgatorial existence make for one of the nicest surprises in the game.

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Five Best New Pokémon Designs from ‘Pokémon Sword and Shield’

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Much like Pokémon Sun and Moon before, Pokémon Sword and Shield is an adventure full of fascinating surprises. Some of those many surprises across the Galar region are the new pokémon you will come up against. While many of the designs in the eighth generation were a sorry sight to behold, here are five that should stand the test of time as welcome additions to the ever-growing franchise.

Flapple

When I first encountered an Applin, there was a stark realization across my mind that Pokémon had ran out of ideas. Here I was, with my then Sobble, about to fight an apple with eyes. It was about as baffling as the ice cream cone back in Black and White, which looked as if it was designed by a child. But for not the first time, I was wrong, and instead of becoming three apples or a pear, Applin actually has a fantastic evolutionary journey.

Throw a sweet apple at Applin, and it’ll evolve into a Appletun, which is an interesting evolution in its own right. But when you throw a tart apple in its direction, it evolves into something so much better, with the result becoming the Flapple we see above. A tiny dragon using the broken apple it burst out of to flap around in the air is a creative concept to say the least, and certainly helped to change my early judgement on the apple core pokémon.

Sirfetch’d

Farfetch’d has been an unfortunate pokémon ever since its illustrious debut on Pokémon Red and Blue. A weak pokémon that was rare by virtue of being delicious, Farfetch’d has been a pokédex filler ever since. Luckily, in the Galar region, the Farfetch’d are a little more feisty, with a new typing to match.

With a little patience and a shovel of goof fortune, you can evolve your Galarian form Farfetch’d into Sirfetch’d if you manage to deal three critical hits in one battle. The odds are increased if you catch a Farfetch’d holding a leek, and then further increased at level 55 when your Farfetch’d learns leaf blade. For what it’s worth, the hard work does pay off. Sirfetch’d is a fantastic design and suits the theme of Pokémon Sword and Shield honorably. The evolution that Farfetch’d always needed has been worth the two decade wait.

Galarian Corsola

For all the demonic ghost pokédex entries and back stories, the Galarian form Corsola hits most close to home. While the change is largely a new colour and a sad face, the reasoning can be a little more tragic.

There are no secrets about the destruction of the coral reefs across the world due to climate change. It only takes a change of a degree in temperature for the coral to expel the algae that gives them their unique colouring and become the bleached white. While the coral isn’t dead immediately, if left in that state, it does eventually starve to death. Hence Galarian form Corsola represents more than the sum of its parts, and its a clever message Game Freak has left in Pokémon Sword and Shield about the destruction of our ocean ecosystems.

Grapploct

Ever since Hawlucha, I have a bias towards Mexican wrestling pokémon. They’re fantastic. Clobbopus and Grapploct are no exception, and the only reason I’ve chosen Grapploct over Clobbopus is because of way Grapploct swam like a hungry Olympic swimmer to announce my destruction.

While its base stats are actually average, the confidence it showed to pursue me on my journey across the sea certainly left a stain. The design of Grapploct itself is so consistent with fighting type pokémon that it’s one of the least lazy designs in Pokémon Sword and Shield, and for all the prayers to Arceus, there are some hopelessly lazy designs in this generation.

Corviknight

This is going to be huge statement that might rile up a number of pokémon fans, but for me, Corviknight is the best designed bird pokémon. The whole concept fits the brief, from the armour on its head, to its seamless fit into the inspiration behind the region.

It’s no secret that the Galar region was inspired by England, from the train system to the architecture, there are pieces of Ol’ Blighty everywhere in Pokémon Sword and Shield. Some of those influences are seen in the pokémon themselves, and none express that more than Corviknight. The raven has a lot of folklore behind it, particularly its presence in the Tower of London. It is said that if the ravens were to leave the tower, then the destruction of England is imminent. As such, not only does Corviknight look like a formidable bird pokémon, it actually has a clever reason behind its design.

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‘Donkey Kong Country’ – Still as Difficult, Demanding and Amazing to This Day

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Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country: 25 Years Later

Back in 1994, Nintendo was struggling with their 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which wasn’t selling as well as they’d hoped it would. With the release of the Saturn and Playstation on the horizon, the Super Nintendo needed a visually impressive and original title to reinforce its market dominance. After three years of intense competition and heated rivalries, Nintendo desperately needed a hit that could prove the Super NES could output graphics on the same level as the forthcoming 32-bit consoles. They teamed up with Rare to produce Donkey Kong Country, a Mario-style platformer, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Donkey Kong Country is a game held in high regard and with reason. Monumental! Monstrous! Magnificent! Use any term you want, there’s no denying how important this game was for Nintendo and Rare. The graphics for the time were above and beyond anything anyone would imagine possible for the 16-bit system. For a two-dimensional side-scroller, Donkey Kong Country conveys a three-dimensional sense of dept. The characters are fluidly animated and the rich tropical environments make use of every visual effect in the Super NES’s armory. Each stage has its own theme, forcing players to swim underwater, navigate through a misty swamp, swing from vines, or transport DK using a set of barrels (cannons) to advance. And let’s not forget the mine cart stages where you ride on rails and use your quick reflexes to successfully reach the end. Every level has little nooks and crannies too, hiding secret areas and passageways that lead to bonus games where you can earn bananas and balloons, which you can trade in for additional lives. And in Donkey Kong Country, you’re not alone; your simian sidekick Diddy tags along for the adventure. You control one character at a time, and each has his own unique strengths. Donkey Kong can dispatch larger enemies with his giant fists, while Diddy can jump a little higher than his bulky cousin. It isn’t the most original platforming feature, but it works. The two heroes can also rely on various animal friends to help guide them through their adventure. Predating Super Mario World: Yoshi’s Island, Diddy and DK can also ride on the backs of Rambi the Rhino, Winky the Frog, Enguarde the Swordfish and more!

What’s really impressive about Donkey Kong Country is how it has withstood the passage of time. In 1994, Donkey Kong Country’s visuals were spectacular with its rendered 3D models, lively character animations, detailed backgrounds, and a lush jungle setting, and while some would argue the game is dated, in my eyes it still looks great to this day. Kong has heart, and he’s willing to show it in a game made with wit, excitement and moments of visionary beauty. Meanwhile, the soundtrack by David Wise is guaranteed to win listener’s over. Practically every piece on the soundtrack exudes a certain lyricism that has become a staple of Rare’s games – from its upbeat tropical introduction to the unforgettable climax which secures its place as one of the Super Nintendo’s most memorable boss fights. The result is an apt accompaniment to the colorful characters, tropical landscape, and tomfoolery that proceeds.

What really stands out the most about Donkey Kong Country after all of these years is just how challenging this game is.

But what really stands out the most after all of these years is just how challenging this game is. Donkey Kong Country is a platformer you can only finish through persistence and with a lot of patience. Right from the start, you’re in for one hell of a ride. In fact, some of the hardest levels come early on. There are constant pitfalls and Donkey Kong can only take a single hit before he loses a life. If your companion Diddy is following you he will take over but then if he takes a single hit you lose a life and it’s back to the start of a level. Needless to say, the game is unforgiving and requires quick reflexes and precise pattern memorization to continue. This game requires so much fine precision that it will definitely appeal to hardcore platforming veterans looking for a challenge and those that do are in for one hundred eighty minutes of mesmerization, astonishment, thrills, chills, spills, kills and ills. The only real downfall of Donkey Kong Country is the boss battles. Yes, Donkey Kong Country gave us some memorable villains such as Dumb Drum (a giant Oil Drum that spawns enemies after it hits the floor), and The Kremling King (who is responsible for stealing Donkey Kong’s Banana Hoard), but these enemies have very basic attack patterns and far too easy to defeat.

It’s one of the rare, great works of art that stands up endlessly despite repeated playthroughs, each time revealing something new.

Donkey Kong Country

Along with its two SNES sequels, Donkey Kong Country is one of the defining platformers for the SNES. The game looks great and sounds great and the platforming, while incredibly difficult, is still very fun. Rare did the unexpected by recasting a classic Nintendo villain as the titular hero and it paid off in spades. It’s one of the rare, great works of art that stands up endlessly despite repeated playthroughs, each time revealing something new.

The beauty of the original is that there’s more to it than the oversized gorilla. Donkey Kong Country is truly amazing!

– Ricky D

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