Saturday, September 4, 2021

Giving Gideon The Runaround In Bless Unleashed

On this, the last day of a week during which I was officially "on holiday" (Honestly, it's hard to tell these days -  I'm back to work on Sunday but then I get another three days off!) I spent several hours playing Bless Unleashed. Not exactly a trip to the seaside but it'll do. And Mrs Bhagpuss did come home with ice cream which we ate in the front garden in the sun, so that counts.

Progress continues. My Priest dinged twenty-six a few days ago. Her plan to deal with the roadblock in the main questline by overlevelling it went swimmingly. She despatched the sub-boss and his goon and I carried on with the plot. It's getting very interesting.

Unfortunately, a couple of levels later the second Campaign came to a head with a set-piece duel with the real boss, Gideon. My Priest gave it a try but it didn't go well so she ran for the helpful unicorn (Don't ask.) and escaped with her life, if not her dignity.

Do you think that's the circus? Wonder if they need a new bareback rider?

 

I went and watched a bunch of YouTube videos of the fight. There are plenty to choose from. I read a few reddit and forum threads. Most of them were so out of date they weren't much help. The fight appears to have been changed several times over the past couple of years, nerfed supposedly, although it depends how you look at it.

Either way, the main advice seemed to be

  1. Learn the Boss's attack patterns
  2. Take loads of potions.
  3. Have Elixirs, Panaceas and Regen food running.
  4. Get your Gear Score as high as possible.
  5. L2P and Git Gud.

I thought I could manage 2, 3 and 4. I spent a couple of hours at the broker, first learning how the Market works (it's clunky and that's being polite) then figuring out runes (weird and unintuitive but quite clever when you get the hang of it) and finally comparing gear. 

They eat horses, don't they?

 

I managed to upgrade several slots and only spend half my Soul Seeds doing it. I gained a couple of thousand hit points, improved my healing abilities and got my Gear Score to 950. Then I ate the food, drank the elixir and the panacea and in I went.

It was enough. More than enough. But I still lost. 

The way I lost was very annoying. The fight is all about patience. The boss has a gazillion hit points and he teleports about like Nightcrawler on crystal meth. Everyone says, rightly, you can't do combos on him and combos are where your damage comes from in Bless Unleashed.

You have to stay calm, watch his casts, dodge all the time and hit him as and when you can. Depending on your class, level and skill it's going to take you between ten minutes and half an hour to get him down to 50% health, at which point he decides it's all too much of a bore and leaves. That's your victory condition.

I knew all this. I'd read it all up and watched as much of it as I could stick. It's a boring fight to play through so it hardly makes for great TV. With regen food and her own heals plus a potion if she missed a dodge my Priest stayed over 80% health the whole time, except for a couple of fumbles where she briefly dropped to 35%.

You can lead a horse to water...

 

Her damage is feeble at the best of times but with no combos or stuns (Apparently you could stun him once but not any more.) wearing away his mountain of hit points was a slow business. Still, his health was dropping and hers wasn't. She was going to get there eventually, if only I could keep my eyes open.

When the boss's health hit 80% something happened. Is there some kind of mmorpg handbook all devs work from? You can set your watch by bosses showing off thier party tricks every time you knock twenty per cent off their health in most of the games I play.

What those don't have, thank the lord, are those infuriating mechanics that require you to hammer the space bar faster than a jackrabbit to avoid being stunned or smited or stuffed in a coffin. Not the last one. That would be original, at least.

Bless Unleashed likes to make you do that to the point where you have to wonder if someone at the company has a side deal selling keyboards. To make it worse, it's not always the space bar either. What happens is a glowing dot appears in the center of the screen and you have to wait until it flares up and turns into a letter. Uusally W, A, S or D but possibly anything in that quadrant of the keyboard.

No, we are not going to solo it.

 

I was ready for that. This time it was SPACE. I hammered it and just about beat the clock. The boss's grip on me vanished, I dodged right and his firebolt landed where I'd been a second before. Haha! Can't catch me!

Back to the dance. Round and round we went. I was starting to lose focus. I can't do this stuff for much longer than ten minutes and we were well past that. 

As the boss's health pool neared 60% I was ready for another trick and I got one. And that's where it all fell apart because what he had up his wizardy sleeve was a trick I hadn't seen before.

It wasn't much of a trick but it was enough to fool me. Instead of a single letter, when the glowing ball of light exploded it left behind three: S A S. I froze, which put me in exactly the same position as my Priest. In the nanosecond of recognition two things came into my head:

SAS? The soldier boys?

SAS? that was the name of my old math teacher's dog! (It stood for "Side, Angle, Side" or something like that and no-one thought it was funny.)

Keep an eye out for the owner, will you?

 

Neither of those connections was helpful. In the next nanosecond I panicked and started pounding all three of those keys at random. I was imagining somehow the game expected me to do the usual frenzied drumming only on three keys at once. That's not what I was supposed to do.

It was only later, when I found a recent video on YouTube showing the fight as it had been when someone did it earlier this month, that I discovered what it was I should have done. I skipped to the point where the uploader had the boss at 60% and went through frame by frame. At that pace I could easily read the instruction above the letters: "Press the buttons in the right order.

Oh, now you tell me! I could have done that! 

Only I didn't. And because I didn't, my Priest stayed frozen in place when the boss dropped a meteor on her skull and killed her. Yep. One shot kill. Fail the "Press the button" round and that's it. Nice try but no banana. Please come again.

 

What is it with lizards and temples?

You also can't use any of the "get up with all your health while the boss stays at whatever percentage he was" options you can use in other fights. You used to be able to do that. I've watched a video where someone does it. Not any more. 

Nope, it's start again from scratch or get on the horse and leave. I got on the horse and left. Okay, the unicorn. Same thing.

I was cross but not really cross. Up to the button trick I was clearly going to win. It was dull, annoying and no fun at all but I can put up with that, once, to get to something I want and this fight gates both the next Campaign and Bless Unleashed's housing offer, Estates.

Instead of going straight back for another try, though, I went and made a coffee and had a think. Then I put the priest on her own pony and took her exploring. She knocked off some quests she had lying around in her journal and then she set off for the contested territories just for the hell of it.

It was pure fun in the way boss fights never are or not for me. It was dangerous and tense but in a thrilling, immersive way, not the way that makes my neck ache. And actually it turned out not to be all that dangerous after all. 

At least they're civilized and friendly.

 

Supposedly, these areas are PvP zones. Certainly they're filled with aggressive mobs that can kill a Level 28 in a couple of hits. Those mobs wander across the trails, which are frequently little more than scratched tracks in the sand. All mobs in BU have full collision so you can't just run through them. 

It's a little nerve-wracking until you realize you can run past them and around them and be well away before they realize you're there. By the time they execute their lumbering turns or their Surprised! animations you're round the next corner and out of sight. 

I cantered through jungles and dry gulches, past dinosaurs and camels, into camps and towns both friendly and ferocious. Whenever it was safe I stopped and took selfies: an Ippin and her pony on the trail.

It felt more like a proper adventure than grinding down a boss in a featureless ethereal plane, that's for sure. I even managed to find some locals gullible enough to give me quests. I couldn't do any of them, of course. Not with mobs flaunting 95% damage reduction due to being way above my level.

You know what? Don't tell me. One would be more than I could handle.

 

The only time I died was when I got cocky and tried to rescue some guy's sister from a Kobold camp. I thought I might get away with it if all I had to do was talk to her but in the time it took me to start a conversation a kobold figured out I wasn't one of his pals in fancy dress and put a couple of arrows into me from behind.

After an hour or so of that I'd cleared the fog from a sizeable corner of the map and opened up a slew of teleport posts and soul fires. When I get a couple more levels and can go toe to toe with the mobs there I'll be ready.

And that's kind of my loose plan. Even though I'm pretty confident of beating Gideon next time, I'm going to do it on my terms, not his. 

When a game has a decent storyline and it gives the best experience, it's all too easy to fall into line and just follow along where it takes you. That's not really how I play, given a choice. I'm generally happier wandering about doing whatever I feel like at the time and letting the xp and the levels come naturally. 

Bless Unleashed offers a wide choice of things you could do to level up. The main story quest is just one of them. I'm going to potter around for a few days, maybe get into the low thirties, then come back and give old Gideon another pounding. Only next time I'll be ready to press his buttons when they pop up.

Probably. Unless he's learned some new trick by then, or I panic and freeze again, which is more than likely.  Oh well. I'll get him one day. There's no hurry.

3 comments:

  1. Quicktime events in an MMO fight, whatever will they think of next.

    Hope they’re not too finely tuned, it sounds like a potential latency nightmare where you sit around going “oh come on, I pressed that key in time and you thought I didn’t.”

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    Replies
    1. I thought Quicktime was the name but I wasn't 100% sure. No wonder no-one likes them.

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    2. Feels like Bless Unleashed PC is exposing some of its console heritage.

      I really hate Quicktime Events, or as the cools kids say, QTEs. Fortunately most modern games on consoles now have "Accessibility Options" that let you switch from pounding the button to just holding it down. This makes the QTEs even dumber & more pointless, but it is a blessing for the arthritis in my hands.

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