Diecast #224: Spec Ops, Dark Souls, GTA V, WoW

By Shamus Posted Monday Sep 3, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 52 comments

Soldierhawk is back, and we have lots of games to discuss. One of them is even less than 6 years old, because this site is dedicated to bringing you timely and relevant games criticism and positivity!

Hosts: Soldierhawk, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:
00:05 A Sad, awkward take about the number 224.

This story takes place at Seven Springs, but it isn’t nearly as cool or fun as my visit to Seven Springs the following year.

04:55 Spec Ops: The Line

You might remember that I just read a book that talked about the making of this game.

20:49 Dark Souls

I mentioned Joseph Anderson in this section. Here is an example of one of his videos:

Link (YouTube)

And here is the recent 3-hour video on God of War I mentioned. While I can’t say for sure, I’m reasonably sure this the the We are the Souls video SoldierHawk was talking about.

38:01 Grand Theft Auto V

Note that I’m going to spoil some of the points I’m going to make in my Grand Theft Auto series.

54:40 World of Warcraft

If you missed it, here is my write-up on the Cataclysm expansion.


From The Archives:

52 thoughts on “Diecast #224: Spec Ops, Dark Souls, GTA V, WoW

  1. Redrock says:

    I like Anderson’s stuff a lot, but it’s just. too. LONG. a lot of the time. For me to listen to someone for so long, they need to have the voice of Barry White. There’s a reason you never hear a (decent) radio show with a host talking by themselves for three goddamn hours. No, there’ll be guests, calls, music, whatever. No one is that good, and when it comes to voice work Anderson is mediocre at best. But his analysis is usually very well done and I’d love to have the option of reading it.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Joseph Anderson is the dark souls of video game critics.

      1. Redrock says:

        A beautiful day will come when everyone who uses the phrase “x is the Dark Souls of y”, even ironically, will be dragged off to the gulag, kicking and screaming. And it will be the most harsh and unforgiving gulag of all gulags. You might even say, it will be the Dark Souls of gulags.

    2. Bloodsquirrel says:

      Radio shows have those things because they need to produce three hours of content five days a week.

      In the podcast world, where they can put out one every six months, multi-hour programs with only the host talking are more common, and often very good. Dan Carlin is the obvious standout there, with some four+ hour shows that make you want to start the next one right away.

      Also, audiobooks are a growing market, and those obviously go way over three hours.

      I have a bigger problem watching three hours of video, period, but then again I usually listen to stuff like this while playing a game or doing something else, and only check on the video part when it seems like I have to.

      1. Redrock says:

        Well, Carlin is a professional radio host and, as you said, a stand-out. I’m not saying you can’t do it, I’m saying you probably shouldn’t. And if you do, you’d better have radio-quality voice skills, which Anderson, unfortunately, lacks. I’ll concede he’s decent by YouTube standards, but that’s not saying much.

    3. Fizban says:

      I found his voicing to be on par for youtube- and considering he brought up a bunch of my complaints on Dark Souls 3 in detail, I just watched through the whole thing. He’s another one of the people who remains annoyed at the “not a Castlevania castle”-ness of the non-DS1 games, but instead of griping about that he actually paid attention to the real problems. I can suffer the nigh-mandatory swipes at DS2 for someone who’s reaction to the Shrine of Amana is “gameplay segment” rather than “waaaaaaah”

    4. Chris says:

      He seriously needs an editor. I know Shamus Young marks it up to him trying to preempt all criticism by countering those points, but I’d say also a lot of it is simply not being economical with words. Like the mario Odyssey one. I’d say you can cut that script in half without harming the arguments he puts forth in any way. I honestly think that people are afraid to criticize someone who puts a lot of effort in making those videos because they feel they might have overlooked something. I mean, if someone puts out a 3 hour video and has played through the game multiple times he must have a point right?

      1. evilmrhenry says:

        I think he needs to split up the video. Even if he posted all parts the same day, the end of a video is a natural indication that it’s OK to do something else for a bit.

        1. Shamus says:

          The YouTube algorithm would also reward him for doing this. And it would make it easier to consume his content. And he’d get more ad revenue. And it would be easier to get new viewers to click on a 30 minute vid than a 2 hour one, which could help with maintaining / growing his audience.

          On the production side, I suspect it’s also easier to edit four separate 30 minute videos than a single 2-hour video. Once you’re done with the first 30 minutes, it’s just sitting on the timeline, sucking up memory and making the editor slow to respond. If you can publish the first 30 minutes and clear that space, then working on the next 30 minutes ought to be more fluid. Even as someone who has 16GB of memory, I find that big projects can really clog up production.

        2. Redrock says:

          I suspect that the problem is that Anderson is not all that good at structuring his critiques. He wants to do a lot of things and would alternate between using some sort of structure based on a theory of his, or just going chronologically through the game and addressing issues as they come up, which is what he does for God of War. Thing is, the more I think about that video, the more I see it as three half-hour videos: one for narrative, one for combat and leveling systems and one for nitpicks and wishlist for the sequels. You can literary cut half of it and lose nothing.

          On the other hand, you have to acknowledge the effort he puts in. Even though it’s not always productive. For example: in the GoW video he spends a lot of time analyzing the leveling system. He shares how he experimented with it, shows the results and the conclusions. Thing is, the mechanics of the leveling system are well-known by now. That’s a lot of effort and a lot of time spent both by Anderson and the viewer, to gain very little new insight. That’s what saddens me a bit. Compare that to, say, Shamus’s TIM Island. That’s also a lot of effort to make a point, but that’s a point that, to the best of my knowledge, has never been made before that. Nevertheless, I can’t help but admire Anderson’s work.

  2. I wonder if the torture scene in GTA V was to show how much of a psychopath Trevor actually is.

    1. Redrock says:

      I don’t think this idea is applicable to GTA V at all. Trevor is a psycho, but, well, so are the other two guys, both in the hands of the player and narratively. You can make all of them go on a rampage at any time, and even within the story they kill and maim and rob with zero reservations. I sincerely doubt that the torture scene is supposed to be anything but some more gratuitous violence. And Trevor’s silly little speech afterwards? Probably just their for a laugh. Ohh, what a quirky psychotic hypocrite Trevor is.

  3. Fizban says:

    The We Are The Souls video clearly mentioned Source Filmmaker at the end- people have been ripping models out of games and plugging them into Source Filmmaker since it existed.

    Speaking of which, I’m not sure how I feel about the video. On the one hand, inventing a (wholly unsupported by lore as far as I know) reason for why Kirk is an invader is pretty cool. On the other hand, Lautrec is a voiced character who’s set up as a total creep- so seeing him with what seems to be a topless Anastasia (-wait, no), and them apparently embracing each other, just provokes a visceral wrongness to me. He’s implied to hunt firekeepers in general, women who are already implied to be human sacrifices. As lovely as the video would be otherwise, that part is about as jarring as say, a Hermione/Draco slash fic to my mind.

    Pre-edit: Actually that’s the firekeeper from Anor Londo, who isn’t helpless, but still doesn’t make any sense. Kirk darkwraithing for the Lady is directly supported by that covenant mechanic, but there’s still no reason to think that Lautrec acting like a creep is excused by him doing it to say, drag back a substitute firekeeper to free her? But she’s also supposed to be hideous underneath the armor, unless/so maybe the point he was trying to fix that? And she’s supposed to hunt the guilty anyway, which is what you do when you go after him yourself. You’ve really gotta stretch to excuse the video’s attempt to make Lautrec sympathetic.

    I wonder if they could have done something with Rhea of Thorolund (the cleric who gets trapped in the Tomb of Giants) instead. But the Kirk and Lautrec bits are clear attempts at humanizing “bad guy” NPCs, since the theme of the video is togetherness and whatnot. It’s just that one of those is a fairly impersonal “invade people who can fight back and try to kill them” as represented by game mechanics, and the other is not.

    1. SoldierHawk says:

      I can understand that. I enjoy WATS as a mood/imagery piece, and a fun what-if; I totally get that some of the ideas therein are pretty lorebreaking.

      I can’t help but fall in love with it all over again every time I watch it, though. It perfectly captures the *feeling* of everything I love about Souls.

      1. Fizban says:

        And it totally does. I’d love it, if only they hadn’t gone for Lautrec. Makes it need more repeat viewings (or better yet, more “AU” videos) to establish this alternate version of him enough that it stops bugging me. So I’ll probably like it more eventually.

    2. Rob says:

      Just a note, Kirk is canonically a Chaos Servant, as confirmed in a developer interview. That’s why his corpse shows up by the Daughter of Chaos bonfire after you defeat him.

      The Lautrec thing is still a stupid fan theory with zero supporting evidence, however. It’s clearly included solely because the video’s author likes the character (he’s in most of his Dark Souls videos).

      1. Fizban says:

        Ah, so he is- I checked all over Lautrec’s wiki pages in case I’d missed some trivia, but sure enough Kirk’s was right there on the page.

    3. Cybron says:

      The author isn’t really a “lore” guy. He makes Dark Souls comedy videos. Over those, he’s built his own alternative “canon” that doesn’t really have too much to do with the real one. You can see that in the video, with Oscar being saved and Kirk being befriended. His Lautrec isn’t very much like game Lautrec at all.

  4. Echo Tango says:

    I wish more of Spec Ops: The Line had allowed for the player to do non-violent things, or at least the ability to attempt (and fail) non-violence. The white phosphorous scene is pretty much where I quit playing the game, because I was being railroaded so hard. Although, I think I’m not the target audience, since I’m so used to rejecting dumb orders in games already. :S

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I should have proof-read that last bit. I was trying to say that in most (military?) games, your orders seem reasonable until you take the time to think about them more. (Rather than implying most gamers are too dumb to question an obviously bad authority, which is what I actually wrote.) Time, which you often don’t get, if you’re trying to play the game without dying / failing, since you / your character is in a hectic situation.

    2. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Spec Ops didn’t allow the player to do non-violent things because A) the game was set in a horrible disaster warzone and the protagonists are soldiers trained to think in terms of using violence in such circumstances and B ) it would defeat the purpose of the theming if you could just dance in, make perfectly helpful decisions, and avoid the trauma and upset that is the purpose of the game. It’s kind of like saying “In Telltale’s games, I want to make decisions that please everyone equally and have no downsides.” It’s missing the point AND is wildly unrealistic.

  5. Droid says:

    Hey, Shamus, the voice in my head that always comes up with embarrassing things wants you to stop your uncanny impersonation of it.

  6. BlueHorus says:

    Regarding the Spec Ops ‘moral choices’ – I think it’s been pointed out in previous posts (maybe by me?) that you can disperse the angry crowd by hitting one of them with the butt of your gun. But holy shit, was it a relief for me when that worked and I dind’t have to kill anyone.

    Also, there’s a great moment in the early game when one of the first American soldiers you meet is backing away from you towards a rappel point. He’s obviously hiding something from you and is probably going to call his friends to attack you…the first time, I shot him before he could escape. Partly because I was thinking – ‘wait, is this a cutscene, or…?’ and partly because Walker had told him to freeze and he hadn’t.
    Great thing was, Walker’s team immediately went ‘WTF that was an unarmed American soldier!’ and Walker quickly came out with a glib non-justification for his actions – and, of course, the game goes on the same regardless.
    Neat little non-signalled moral choice.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      You can also shoot in the air and theyll run away.That was what I did the first time.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        I usually don’t care much about spoilers. But damn, I wish I hadn’t been spoiled about that scene when I played it. I wonder what I’d have done.

        1. Redrock says:

          I shot one of the poor sods. Didn’t occur to me that the game can recognize a shot in the air or any other option, few things before that indicated that it’s that sort of game. Spec Ops is manipulative like that, combining all the instances when you don’t have a choice with the few ones when you don’t. I don’t much care and don’t really hold it against the game, but at the end of the day Metal Gear Solid 3 did it better with its non-lethal options and the river of the dead sequence.

  7. BlueHorus says:

    Regarding torture scenes in games: It’s one of those things that <b.just doesn't work if you, as the player, aren’t invested. And It really doesn’t sound like you are in GTAV. Like using the white phosphorus in Spec Ops, the fact that the game makes you do it really lessens the impact.

    For contrast, the closest thing I’ve done to a torture scene in a game was in The Walking Dead (Season 1):
    You find a guy with his foot caught in a bear trap. It’s chained to the ground with a stake, and him with it. All you have is an axe.
    The zombies are coming and you’ve got all of three seconds to think of something.

    …hacking through that poor bastard’s leg takes four or five blows, and it’s awful. You can, of course, leave him if you really can’t handle cutting off his leg. Of course, he gets eaten by the zombies if you do…

    Making the player choose to do it is so much more effective.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Both of the Telltale Walking Dead games have good genuine gut-punches in them, because they force the player to make a rushed choice with limited information. The white phosphorous scene 1) doesn’t give the player any choice, and 2) when I played, it was pretty obvious from the sillouettes and motion, that these were not enemy combatants I was bombing.

    2. SoldierHawk says:

      I think it’s less the ‘choice’ bit to me (at least regarding GTAV vs TWD; I think the phosphorus scene lands well for me as a CHARACTER beat for Walker), and more the tone those scenes are setting. From what you say, and from what I know about the game, the axe scene in TWD is played totally seriously, and is SUPPOSED to be awful and horrifying–much like Spec Ops.

      The thing about the torture scene in GTAV is it feels like its played for LAUGHS, That’s what makes it so gross to me. Lack of investment might be part of it, but the biggest part is watching the scene and going, “…I’m pretty sure this is expected to be funny. What the HELL, devs?”

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Its not even that its played for laughs,but that it misses the mark.You CAN make any horrible thing funny,but that requires going over the top in just the right places.GTAV goes over the top in plenty of the wrong places,making much of it not funny at best,and disgusting at worst.

      2. BlueHorus says:

        God dammit, for some reason I’m now picturing the axe scene from TWD…only with the Benny Hill theme playing in the background.

        (To share in my pain, open both the links and mute the sound on the first. Yes, I’m a bad person.
        …but I do wonder – funnier than GTAV, or not?)

  8. John says:

    So, Shamus, is it the timing elements that put you off fighting games? Hearing you talk about the Arkham games and Dark Souls, it’s always seemed to me that you’d enjoy them, at least in single-player. Like Arkham Asylum, fighting games have combat systems that reward mastery. Unlike Dark Souls, continuing right where you left off is as easy as hitting a button to continue. Except of course I have also heard you describe your approach to fighting games as something like “button-mashing through easy mode”. (My own approach might best be described as “turtling through medium difficulty”.) I don’t mean to suggest that timing is the only reason anyone could have to sort of bounce off fighting games, but after listening to today’s podcast I feel as though I am finally starting to get it.

  9. Ninety-Three says:

    I go around the internet under the name Ninety-Three, and my brain has absorbed it to the point where the number will jump out at me in a noisy room the same way your real name does. Despite this, I don’t feel like I see it everywhere. Maybe it’s just a lot rarer than 224.

  10. Ninety-Three says:

    Since you talked about Spec Ops’ moral choices and the white phosphorus scene, I have to bring up my personal bugbear. The WP scene does give you a moral choice but then it cheats and forces the bad outcome anyway. To end the sequence, you don’t actually have to incinerate the civilian crowd, just nail the jeep and three enemy combatants standing around it. But if you do hit the jeep instead of the civilians, that one shell suddenly gains four times the blast radius of all your other shots and kills them anyway. It’s such a perfect contravention of everything great about the “You can fire into the air to ward off the crowd” scene. Imagine if shooting into the air made the game spawn a helicopter which gets hit by your bullets and falls onto the crowd instead.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      I think that bit works because the explosion of the truck could possibly spread the blast radius in an unexpected way. Which would be one of the dangers soldiers would be aware of in using such a dangerous weapon. Kind of like how wind could spread the effects of a firebomb to an unexpected degree.

  11. Ninety-Three says:

    Shamus, regarding Dark Souls: There’s a quicksave mod! Well it’s not really quick since you have to quit to menu and rename a file every time to want to load, but it does let you save anywhere. If the only thing that was pissing you off about it was boss deaths, it sounds like this will finally let you play the game. https://www.reddit.com/r/DarkSoulsMods/comments/3xtkk8/save_everywhere_in_the_game/

    Digging that up, I had to wade through a bunch of posts from the Dark Souls community, and Jesus Christ, they make me embarrassed by association. I want to say we’re not all like that, but damn, the internet is mostly like that.

  12. tmtvl says:

    I may be one of few, but I really like Dark Souls 2. It does require a different way of moving than DS1, but as soon as I got used to it I got better at it than I was at rolling in 1. Unfortunately I went back to 1 after playing a bunch of Dragon’s Dogma, so it took me a while to get used to the slower pace again, but I felt like I needed the refresher before I start on DS3.

    1. Fizban says:

      The few, the proud, the people who un-ironically like DS2.

      The Joseph Anderson video makes a point of all the bs hit detection and attack timing in DS3 (while giving the offhand backhand to DS2 for also having some problems, without actually stating which is worse), some of which may have been patched? But much of which is baked right into the monsters. DS2 has a bit chunkier movement overall, but DS1 is actually chunkier than Demon’s Souls was before it, nothing new. I don’t mind piloting a character rather than having them “cinematically” latch on/get latched onto things all the time.

  13. Nick Powell says:

    I just want to point out that the DS2 PC port is absolutely fine. I haven’t tried playing with a keyboard but I’ve not had any noticeable issues with it in 2 playthroughs. It’s definitely not comparable to the initial state of DS1 on PC.

    1. SoldierHawk says:

      Well I do own it, so I may very well give it a shot!

      1. Nick Powell says:

        I highly recommend it! It’s generally the least popular of the series but it’s still a great game.

  14. Grimwear says:

    As for Dark Souls 2 you can safely skip it. The only thing it does better is character movement (which may now be on par woth the DS1 hd remaster? I don’t have it). DS2 just has infuriating garbage unfair aspects, especially with the dlc. If you do decide to play it I recommend original DS2 and not the Scholar of the First Sin edition.

    As to World of Warcraft the last expansion I paid for was Cataclysm but did come back during Warlords of Draenor for a month when Blizzard gave me Mists and Warlords for free. They recently gave me Legion for free too but I don’t plan on coming back. I hate that they nerfed heirloom gear and slowed how long it takes to do instances. It makes levelling alts way more annoying and with a constantly increasing level cap it just makes me cynical that Blizzard wants to sell some max level tokens. Increase the levelling experience? The amount of new blood coming into the game is negligible since again with the higher the level cap the less a new player wants to jump in since they feel outclassed.

    I was happy playing not the new content but old raids I could now solo. I wanted to make the legendary weapons that I never had the desire to raid for. I don’t care about being current with end game content. So maybe I want to run old raids over and over to get the cosmetic gear for it but for some unfathomable reason even the really old raids still have restriction of only being able to go through once a week. So then I have 1 chance a week to get items with like a 6% or less drop rate and any alt levelling I used to do in the interim is now too much of a hassle to bother with.

  15. Wiseman says:

    Shamus, are you still going to post an anniversary post with blog statistics? I don’t really know when the anniversary is, but I believe you mentioned it weeks ago.

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    On the subject of spec ops,SoldierHawke did you play through all four endings?

  17. MadTinkerer says:



  18. Jason says:

    Speaking of Steven Ogg and his acting, he’s been on the last couple of seasons of The Walking Dead (the show, not the game), and he still plays a pretty creepy guy. He has that wild look where you don’t know if he’s going to laugh or murder somebody (or do both). He’s basically Trevor after the zombie apocalypse.

  19. Boobah says:

    On WoW:Battle for Azeroth: The Burning of Teldrassil. My biggest question is, how? Now, I played through the questline, and we’re meant to believe that the Horde somehow managed to push through the Night Elf armies that have been holding them at bay for over a decade and bombarded the tree with incendiaries fired by demolishers stationed in Lor’danel.

    There are many problems with this.

    There’s no way demolishers can fire anything from the Darkshore mainland to Teldrassil; players have gotten to use the things more than once, and they just don’t have the range. Even if the demolishers have the range, that means that the night elven artillery in Teldrassil also has the range… and then some, since elevation = extra range.

    It may be gamefail, but it seemed implied that the Horde were actually bombarding Darnassus directly, which is odd because Darnassus is on the ocean side of the tree, not the Kalimdor side.

    Then there’s the fact that Teldrassil isn’t particularly vulnerable to fire; the giant tree must take lightning strikes all the time and it hasn’t burned down in the centuries it has existed. And, oh yeah, just last expansion players cleansed the Nightmare, reviving the Emerald Dream, the source of a World Tree’s power and longevity.

    Sylvanas’s rationale for attacking it doesn’t hold up either; Feathermoon Stronghold in Feralas would have both been an easier target and would have been just as much a key port for shipping Azerite from Silithus up Kalimdor’s west coast. To be fair, this is a moot point both because Azerite has been discovered all over the planet and because Sylvanas’s actual motivations turned out to be “my (un)life sucks, so should everyone else’s.”

  20. PPX14 says:

    What’s the really cool music at the end?

    1. Shamus says:

      Just something I made myself. I don’t think it has a title.

      1. PPX14 says:

        Is it available to download?

        1. Shamus says:

          Huh. MMMMaybe? I’ll look around and see if I’ve uploaded it somewhere.

          1. PPX14 says:

            Thanks! I should probably look at your ‘actual’ music that you’ve mentioned on the blog.

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