Every video game has its peaks and valleys. A game like Destiny 2—one designed to be played as an ongoing hobby, indefinitely—can have some bigger ones than most. However, putting together a new character in a different class can do a lot to renew your interest in a game that you play regularly whenever you hit a (totally normal) period of malaise. Even in a game as big as Destiny 2, there’s only so much you can do. Wrapping your head around a new way of playing it puts a new spin on everything, and makes it all fresh again.
But if you’re already deep into high-level play with the character you started with, resetting back at zero (or 750, the Power level all Destiny2 characters now start at) isn’t the most appealing idea. Lucky for you, it’s extremely easy to get a new character up to speed in about 20 minutes. Here’s how.
First, get your main good and strong.
There’s no real way to quickly level an alt until you have a main character that’s, at the very least, at the soft Power cap of 900. Once you do, you’re going to take three weapons, one for each category (Kinetic, Energy, Power) that are at the highest Power level you can spare, and stash ‘em in your vault. Then, make sure you’ve got a healthy amount of Glimmer and Gunsmith Materials to spend—let’s say 100,000 of the former, and 100 of the latter (but really, you want as much as you can get). Next, make sure your seasonal rank is 10 or higher—15 is better, and 20 is best, but 10 will work just fine (You do not have to pay for the season pass, we’re working with the free tier of rewards here). Now you can log out with this character, and log in with your new Guardian.
Take your alt on a shopping spree.
Once you’re clear of the opening mission all new characters start with (it’ll take you perhaps 10 minutes tops if you hurry) you’ll find yourself in the Tower with your fresh-faced Guardian. Hustle over to your Vault, and pull out all three weapons you stashed earlier. Their 900-plus Power levels will give you a boost extremely quickly. Now you can go into the Collections menu, which keeps an inventory of every item you’ve discovered in the game, and find the tab for “Leveling” armor for your alt’s class (Hunter/Warlock/Titan).
From here, you can spend Glimmer and Gunsmith Materials to pull out blue (rare) armor at a Power level a few points below your average. And since your average Power is now somewhere around 800, the armor you pull out of your collections will also be somewhere around 800 Power—and significantly higher than the 750 Power armor your alt is currently wearing. You might not realize this at first, because the rare armor in your collection is all set at 750, but once you get a full set, the second set you pull will start to increase in power dramatically, rubberbanding upwards to your character average. Get a full set of armor to raise your Power level even more.
Set a goal.
Here’s where things can get tedious, so you have to decide what you want to get out of this. If you just want a head start to shave a little time off getting to 900 Power, you’re good to go. Go run a few activities to get a feel for your new Guardian and you’ll hit 900 extremely fast. In fact, I recommend this—after spending time on the slow climb past 900 with my main, seeing numbers leap upwards every time any old piece of gear drops for a new character is really damn satisfying. If you just want to power level, read on.
Game those numbers.
This part’s pretty simple, just a little tedious: keep buying armor from your collection. Each new piece will climb in Power until you start getting close to your character’s average Power, where you’ll find diminishing returns. For me, this was when each piece of armor was at 849. (Make sure you clear out your inventory around this point, since it’s probably full.)
Now you want to look at your seasonal rewards—remember, you do not need to buy a season pass for the “free” tier of rewards (the grey one at the top). Every five seasonal rank levels, you get a piece of armor. For this next step, you’ll want to be at least at rank 10, so you can get two pieces of armor. Only collect one.
Then go shopping again, pulling armor for every slot until you stop seeing gains. Said gains will only be incremental at this point, but every bit counts. Once you do that, you can get the second piece of seasonal armor you’ve unlocked—it’ll likely be a solid 10 Power above whatever you have currently in its slot.
You can repeat this process once more if you’ve got a seasonal rank of 15, or twice more if you’re at 20 (your seasonal rank is shared across all the characters on your account). Go shopping, inch forward with blue armor, and then make a small leap with a piece of seasonal reward armor. Doing this will get you extremely close, if not right up to, 900 Power without ever leaving the Tower once. If you’re a little bit shy of 900 Power, run a couple activities until you are, because the next steps are wasted on a character that hasn’t hit the soft cap.
Smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.
Here’s where banking a lot of resources will pay off. If you’ve cashed in on a lot of bounties with another character and have a huge stock of Crucible, Vanguard, or Gambit tokens, you’ll want to redeem them with this new character—Engrams rewarded from cashing these in will inch you above 900 if you’ve already hit the cap and you have a 900 Power item for every slot. (Destiny 2 calculates loot using your total possible power, so there’s no need to ever actually equip anything in order to get the best drop. As long as it’s in your inventory, and not your vault, you’re good to go.)
This, of course, is a painstaking and expensive thing to do. But once you hit 900, it’s more or less your only option short of just going out there and playing the game honestly for Powerful Rewards. But there’s one more trick, and you can only pull it off if you have a season pass.
Every season pass owner has immediate access to a special package that contains the exotic hand cannon Eriana’s Vow, and a full set of the seasonal armor that folks who didn’t pay for the pass had to grind 20 levels for. The neat thing about this is that you get one of these for every character, so even if you redeemed it on your main, you’ll have another waiting for you here.
If you wait until after hitting 900 Power to redeem it, then it will drop at a Power level above 900—which is nice, because the grind past 900 to the cap of 960 is brutal.
Enjoy your new souped-up Guardian.
Recently I wrote about howDestiny’s current grind is excessive. I still think that, but I quickly power-leveled a Hunter just now while writing this article in order to make sure that this method was sound, and it got me excited to play all over again. I’ve never really played as a Hunter in Destiny 2, and while I know what they do on an intellectual level, I have no idea how their abilities feel, and how well suited they may or may not be to my gameplay rhythms. It’s exciting, and I can’t wait to find out what it’s like.
This week, Destiny 2—Bungie’s long-running sci-fi shoot-and-loot extravaganza—got a thorough overhaul. With its Shadowkeep expansion, longtime players were introduced to some pretty extensive changes. For everyone else, Destiny 2: New Light took the base game and made it free-to-play, welcoming a host of new players to join in on the fight.
If you’re one of those new players, Destiny 2 can be daunting—the game tries to explain itself, but it can be impossible to figure out what you’re supposed to actually do. So I tried to sort that out, in as plain English as I can manage.
And if this seems like a lot, don’t worry—there’s a quick cheat sheet at the end.
You’re playing an MMO.
The biggest hurdle to enjoying Destiny has always been a cognitive one. The game is an excellent first-person shooter, with satisfying gunplay and interesting weaponry and abilities to wield. But in order to enjoy it, you need some direction, and Destiny is frustratingly self-directed. You have to deliberately set your own goals, because while Destiny has had traditional story campaigns that can be replayed at any time, the meat of the experience is outside of them.
Destiny is more like a first-person shooter version of a massively multiplayer online role-playing game like World of WarCraft or Final Fantasy XIV. It’s not as varied—the mission goal in Destiny will always be “shooting things”— but the thinking is similar. You’re not necessarily playing to get to the end of a story, but rather working toward building a character with the perfect set of complementary abilities and weapons for handling different situations suited to your playstyle.
This is what is meant by the word “endgame”—it’s playing until you have the things you need to make your character the best kind of space warrior they can be.
Do you want to achieve that as a Warlock, summoning waves of lightning from both your hands and your guns? Or do you like being a support player, setting up shields and keeping your allies safe? Maybe you like to dive in recklessly, or keep foes at a distance. Maybe you like some combination of these things. Destiny2 lets you build a character that excels in your preferred style—if you’re willing to work for it. And since “work” entails some of the most consistently satisfying gunplay in video games right now, it’s not a bad proposition.
Get the Lay of the Land
Much of what you’ll do in Destiny 2 is divided across nine planets and moons, accessible via the Director, a menu with the map of every in-game location and quest available to you. Each Destination has an open-world Patrol space, full of enemies, treasure chests, and missions or quests you can initiate at will. You’ll rarely visit them without some sort of purpose—instead, you’ll usually start your game from the Tower, a social space full of quest-givers who you can visit to direct your play. Once you’re at a destination, there’s also usually at least one other quest-giver worth seeing for additional goal-setting.
However, a lot of Destiny2’s content can’t be accessed from wandering around the open-world zones. Instead, you must queue into them directly via the Director. Those seeking competitive multiplayer must navigate to the Crucible menu, another game mode, Gambit, also has its own dedicated menu, and anyone seeking Strikes, Raids, or dungeons must launch them from the director.
Similarly, if you want to play the story campaigns, you either must launch them from the Director or visit Amanda Holliday in the Tower’s hanger. Free-to-play players with Destiny 2: New Light have access to three campaigns: The Red War, Curse of Osiris, and Warmind. Of those three, The Red War, which is Destiny 2’s original campaign, is the longest and easily the best. The latter two are brief expansions of little consequence and quite skippable, unless you find the game’s renditions of Mercury or Mars fascinating and want to spend more time in them.
Anyone who owns the Forsaken or Shadowkeep expansions also has access to their corresponding campaigns—the former can be queued up from the map of the Tangled Shore in the Director, and the latter by speaking to Eris Morn on The Moon. Forsaken’s campaign is a close second to The Red War, while Shadowkeep is best reserved for those interested in jumping into the thick of the current iteration of Destiny 2’s grind for loot.
Regardless of which campaign you play through, you’ll be acquiring new weapons and armor, slowly making your Guardian better.
Playing with Power.
The next thing you need to understand is what “getting better” means. In Destiny, the best sense you have of that is a number called Power. It’s the biggest, most prominent number you see next to your character in the menu, and thanks to this week’s New Light rework of the game, it now starts at 750. Your weapons and armor also have power ratings, and your Power is the average of everything you have currently equipped.
This gear also has an assortment of other stats, but initially Power is all that matters, and it’s all that will matter until you raise your overall Power to 900. So, in order to increase your Power—which you need to do in order to take on Destiny’s tougher challenges and earn the best gear—you need to find better gear.
The best and easiest way for new players to do this is to just play through Destiny 2’s original story campaign, The Red War. It’s the best, most fun campaign, it’s available to free-to-play and paid players alike, and it’s a great way to get a quick tour of most of Destiny’s (really great) scenery, while upping your Power naturally. You can kick it off by talking to Amanda Holliday in the Tower’s Hanger section. (You could also grow in Power relatively quickly by jumping straight into the Crucible and playing lots of competitive multiplayer.)
When your Power hits 900, things change a bit. That’s what’s called the “soft cap”—those loot drops you’d find just through mundane activities won’t really climb above 900, and you shouldn’t get too precious about any of them. Gear of Uncommon (green) or Rare (blue) rarity don’t deserve a second thought—scrap them the instant you have something better. Legendary (purple) and Exotic (yellow) gear is worth holding onto in your vault, as raw materials for figuring out how you want to build your character. They’re exclusively what you want to have as you work towards the actual max Power level of 960.
To climb that high and take on the game’s biggest challenges, you have to become more discerning in what you do, working towards goals that reward you with “Powerful Gear.” This is where the rhythms of Destiny get a little more idiosyncratic.
Get in the habit.
Once you understand Destiny’s mentality, you can go about navigating the wealth of activities the game offers. It can be overwhelming and extremely confusing, but let’s start with some definitions. The two biggest buckets Destiny content are sorted in are Player vs. Environment (PvE) and Player vs. Player (PvP).
PvE content is the most varied, but mostly comprises activities where you (either solo or with others) take on hordes of AI enemies. These can be story missions, strikes (like story missions, but longer and made for teams of three), dungeons, quests (multi-step tasks that usually lead to gear you can’t get anywhere else) or unique activities like The Menagerie (a gauntlet of challenges run with a team of fellow Guardians.)
PvP content is what will send you to the Crucible, Destiny’s hub for competitive multiplayer modes. It is also, blessedly, the one part of Destiny that explains itself adequately. Give each mode a try and see what you like—maybe it’s the tense 3v3 survival mode, or the more conventional team deathmatch. Playing in the Crucible can reward you with pretty good gear you can’t get anywhere else.
Once you’re acquainted with Destiny’s offerings, you need to build a ritual, a set of things you enjoy doing enough to keep coming back to them as you hunt for Powerful Gear—necessary for some of Destiny’s best challenges, like Raids.
The best way to do this is to get to know the vendors. Each activity type has a character associated with it in the Tower. Gambit has The Drifter, Strikes have Zavala, and the Crucible has Lord Shaxx. Each will offer Bounties—simple tasks you can pick up in exchange for rewards. However, Destiny 2 is built to reward ritual play, and most of these vendors will reward you with Powerful Gear if you complete eight bounties for them in a given week.That’s your bread and butter, the stuff you can count on rewarding you with gear that’ll inch you to the Power level you want to be at.
You also want to start running higher-tier activities:
TheNightfall is a weekly Strike that you can run at different difficulty tiers, each with their own set of modifiers meant to make it more challenging. Teamwork is more intensive, and on the highest settings, matchmaking is turned off and you have to go in with a team of your own.
Raids are the most intense activities you can do in Destiny, requiring you to assemble a team of six for a lengthy dungeon crawl full of puzzles and combat challenges unlike anything else in the game. You’ll get unique loot from them, but note that Powerful Gear currently will only come from the latest raid, Garden of Salvation, which opens this weekend.
Seasonal activities are exclusive to Season Pass owners, and will cycle out every season (about 70 days.) These will have unique loot, and like most Destiny content, will be meant to be highly repeatable. However, since this is a new format for Destiny that kicks off this weekend, I can’t say for sure how good a resource it is.
Stay alert. New quests, challenges, and activities crop up by surprise all the time. The rewards from these are often unique, and if they don’t boost your Power, they’ll at least be interesting, opening up possibilities for different character builds. Keep an eye out.
Manage your quests. In the absence of campaign missions, quests are essentially a to-do list meant to guide your play. Sometimes, instead of loot, you’ll find yourself with a new Quest in your inventory while playing. These often have you do a bunch of busy work for a unique reward. Based on how much time you have to play, you may or may not find them achievable. Ignore the ones you can’t possibly do, and stay abreast of the ones that seem within reach—since most of them involve going to a specific place to kill a certain types of enemies with certain types of weapons, you can find yourself with several quest and Bounty goals overlapping, multiplying the rewards you get for your time.
Congratulations, you’re a mechanic now.
One way of thinking about Destiny is to compare it to being really into performance cars. You start with a make and model you think suits you and proceed to make it your own. You make big changes—adding or swapping out parts—and little ones—optimizing said parts and obsessing over stats. Throughout this process, you’re driving your car constantly, seeing how well its suited towards cities, closed courses, and races. Maybe you decide you want to get into drifting, and start working toward an entirely new spec sheet for that.
Playing Destiny is more of a journey than a destination—it’s a big, unwieldy game built atop five years of existing infrastructure and ideas that have been discarded, tweaked, or overhauled significantly across the last half decade. You have to learn its quirks, and work around them to best suit your life.
To that end, here’s some final thoughts to keep in mind.
There’s more than one way to play. This guide is meant to give a little direction on what can be a pretty directionless game. Find what you like to do, and try out loadouts that might make it even more fun. Challenge yourself to earn the top-tier gear best suited for your favorite activity. Read through the lore. Figure out how to find more of it.
Get social. Destiny 2’s community has a pretty solid reputation, so if you ask for help—in a forum, on the subreddit, or in-game—you will almost certainly find it. Guides like this are useful, but nothing compares to having someone teach you in person.
Don’t forget the campaigns. Talk to Amanda Holliday in the Tower to get started. Destiny isn’t really the kind of game that’s built around story campaigns anymore, but the Red War is a good time, and if that’s all you want to do, you’ll enjoy yourself.
Understand the menus. Destiny’s interface is a mess, but you open the menu for things you have or want—your character loadout, consumables, lore you’ve collected, challenges to achieve—and the Director is what you open for things you need to do: Planets to visit, quests to complete, and information about the current season.
Learn the schedule. A week in Destiny runs Tuesday-Tuesday, when the servers reset at 1 p.m. EST. After the reset, weekly challenges can be undertaken again for their best rewards. Work out a schedule that maximizes the weekly rewards, and make sure you don’t play lengthy content like Raids that might run past the reset time.
Consider reading up. A problem that comes with playing an MMO-style game like this is that they change constantly, and those changes aren’t always communicated in-game. Many times they are communicated by the developers instead. Read updates from Bungie, browse forums, check out theDestiny tag on Kotaku—everyone is figuring this game out together, in real time. That’s part of the fun.
Want to gather a whole lot of delicious virtual fish in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild with very little effort? Redditor Charlieboy95 discovered that all you have to do to force fish ashore is purse your lips and blow.
It’s like whistling while you work, only whistling is the work. In a video posted to Reddit (via Destructoid), Charlieboy95 demonstrates the whistle fishing technique. It’s performed by floating near a beach or riverbank and using the game’s whistle command, normally reserved for calling a trusty steed. The noise of the whistle causes fish to swim away and beach themselves for easy retrieval.
According to Charlieboy95, the trick only works in areas where the water gently meets the land, with the banks of some lakes being too high for the fish to make the transition. According to several other posters in the thread, whistle fishing is awesome and is almost as fun as bomb fishing.
The good news: Seiken Densetsu 3, the sequel to Secret of Mana, is finally available outside Japan for the first time, and it’s now called Trials of Mana. The bad news: Collection of Mana, the Switch game that includes Trials, doesn’t have a manual, and Trials is a complicated game. Here’s what you should know before you start.
As for Trials of Mana, there’s a lot of information out there in the form of FAQs and fan sites, but here are the absolute basics that you should be aware of before you start playing.
The characters you pick will dramatically change the game.
The first thing Trials of Mana asks you to do, before it even starts, is to pick three of its six characters. The first character you pick will be the main character of the story, which will change some elements of the plot. The other two will be your support characters, and join the party very shortly into the game. You’ll then be able to swap between any of them in battle by pressing the Minus button.
The characters are vastly different, and can evolve along multiple pathways as you play. Duran is a swordfighter, Angela uses offensive magic, Riesz is a spear fighter who can use buffs and debuffs, Charlotte uses healing spells, Kevin is a powerful physical attacker, and Hawkeye is a thief who can learn ninja magic.
You can play the game with any combination of characters, but some paths will be more difficult than others. For example: If you don’t have Charlotte in your party from the beginning, get ready to have to use a lot of consumable items to heal. If you don’t have a powerful physical attacker, you’d better get used to using lots of buffs and magic.
If you just want a relatively simple party with which to go through the game for the first time, the advice I’ve seen online (and what I’m doing for my first playthrough in a long time) is Kevin, Hawkeye, and Charlotte. This gives you two powerful physical attackers plus healing magic.
Familiarize yourself with the menus.
You can press the X button to bring up the classic Mana “ring menu” around your character. It’ll default to your consumable items. Press Up or Down to go to your character’s magic menu. Press L or R to switch characters.
Unlike Secret of Mana, you can’t do everything in the Ring Menu. Press Y to go into the game’s pause menu, which is divided into nine screens like the side of a Rubik’s cube. Browse around and you’ll get a sense of what the options are. (Yes, this menu was always this laggy on the SNES, too.) The one you’ll probably use the most is in the upper right, where you can equip new weapons and armor. In here, press the Minus button to swap between characters so you can equip everybody.
Take note of the day-night cycle, and the days of the week.
Trials of Mana has a beautiful day-night cycle, and it’s not just for looks. Different people might be out and about in towns at night, or different businesses might be open. The game will generally clue you in to this stuff. Monsters will be different at night, too, and if you’re playing as Kevin, he’ll turn into a werewolf at night and his strength will increase.
When you stay at an Inn you’ll notice that each time you sleep, the day advances. Each day is associated with a different elemental spirit, and that elemental’s powers are stronger on its day. So if you’re going into battle with an ice monster, waiting for Salamando Day will cause your fire spells to do more damage. You don’t necessarily need to worry about this, but it can be a help!
Plant seeds at the Inn.
In addition to getting a good night’s sleep at Inns in town, you might notice a little empty planter in each one. Check it out and you’ll be able to plant any Seeds that are dropped by enemies, which will immediately blossom into useful items.
Raise your stats smartly.
When you level up, you’ll be asked to bump up one of six stats: Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Intelligence, Spirit, or Luck. Definitely don’t increase these equally; instead add points to stats that your characters actually make use of.
Strength is purely for physical attack power, so don’t bother putting any points into this for Charlotte, but build it up for Duran et al. Dexterity will boost the special attacks of Hawkeye the thief, but will do little else. Stamina is important for everyone, since it boosts physical defense and adds to HP. Intelligence and Spirit boost magic powers and magic defense; these are much more important for spellcasters than fighters. Luck pretty much only comes into play regarding the treasure chests that monsters drop. It may help you avoid being hurt by a booby-trapped chest, or get a better item.
Also, don’t overly worry about doing this “wrong,” since all stats are bumped up to their respective caps whenever you do a class change.
Keep class changes in mind.
Halfway through the game, you’ll be able to change your characters’ classes, which is basically necessary to finish the game. The game’s a little coy about how you do this, so here’s the scoop: Once you hit Level 18, travel back to one of the game’s Mana Stones, and you’ll be able to change your class. You’ll be asked to pick between two different classes; for instance, the thief Hawkeye can become either a Ranger or a Ninja.
The first of these is the “light” path, focused more on healing and support, while the other is the “dark” path, focused more on doing damage to enemies. Each class change decision is divided into light and dark paths this way. Don’t worry; the “dark” path doesn’t make your characters evil or anything.
This selection, too, is very important since the character’s powers will change quite a bit depending on what you pick—and there are no takebacks! Read a class guide before you commit—you can beat the game with any combination of classes, but you should know what you’re getting into.
Grind when you can.
In general, Trials of Mana is not a game where you can skate by at a low level on twitch skills and luck. If your levels are too low, enemies will pretty much wreck you while you’re dealing single-digit damage. Take the opportunity to grind when you’re in dungeons and you’ll stay ahead of the game. If you’re right next to a gold Mana Statue, which refills your HP and MP for free and lets you save your game, you’re in a good spot for some risk-free grinding.
Manage your item storage.
You can only hold up to 9 of each item in your ring menu. But Trials has a storage option for many more items, and types of item, too. Press the Plus button and you’ll bring up the storage menu, where you can swap things out of your ring menu and put them into storage, and vice versa.
Understand the combat system.
It’s not like Final Fantasy Adventure’s or Secret of Mana’s battle systems, where you have to wait for a meter to fill before you can attack at full power. Just start whackin’ away at everything full blast with the A button. There will be a power meter that fills up, next to your character’s icon on the bottom of the screen. When that turns yellow, press B to do a special attack that will automatically target the closest enemy. That’s it! You can press Minus to change which character you’re controlling.
In battle, you can open the Ring Menu with X, but you can’t open the pause menu or your item storage. So make sure to fill up your Ring menu periodically so you can access your stuff in battle. When you’re in the Ring Menu, press L and R to swap to your other characters.
Some characters will learn MP-consuming magic and skills as they level up. Make sure to put points into Dexterity for Hawkeye and Intelligence for magic users, because this makes them learn new skills. You can access these by going into the Ring Menu in battle and pressing Up or Down to cycle from items to magic. At first, Charlotte can only cast Heal Light to one party member at a time, but once she does her first class change she can target all allies with it.
Remember, most online FAQs were written for the fan translation.
When Seiken Densetsu 3 was translated by fans nearly 20 years ago, the translated names they came up with were different than the official version. So when you see someone’s FAQ talking about “Carlie,” that’s Charlotte. And a thousand other little differences.
There’s still a lot to learn about Trials of Mana, but this is the stuff you should know before you even begin. Hopefully Square Enix’s upcoming 3D remake of the game will integrate all of this learning into the game itself, in this woeful era of no manuals.
It’s been said about a million times before, but one more won’t hurt: Fighting games are hard. Stupid hard. If you weren’t lucky enough to be born during the arcade’s heyday, when fighting games ruled the world, you’re already at a disadvantage. Samurai Shodown, which launched earlier this week, only exacerbates the issue by carving out such a unique niche that having a baseline of fighting game knowledge might actually hurt a player’s chances of winning matches early on. Truth be told, you probably aren’t going to be good at Samurai Shodown—or heck, even decent—for a very long time.
For an in-depth explanation of the game’s mechanics, like the Rage Meter and various defensive techniques, you can check out my previous article. Samurai Shodown’s training mode should be the first place you stop after working your way through the barebones tutorial. I personally recommend starting with Haohmaru, who functions as the Ryu of the franchise thanks to his basic movelist and jack-of-all-trades skillset, but feel free to pick anyone you think looks cool.
Haohmaru has a fireball and an uppercut, but what you’ll want to check out first are his normal attacks. Work your way through every button, absorbing their strengths and weaknesses. Light Slash is like a jab, for instance, meaning it comes out fast but deals little damage on its own compared to the Medium and Heavy varieties. In addition to standing, crouching, and jumping normals, each button can also be used during a character’s running animation, usually with unique properties. In Haomaru’s case, you’re going to want to focus on two specific normals at first: his standing Medium Slash and his crouching Heavy Slash. The former is a great poke that can be canceled into uppercut, while the latter is a functional anti-air. Keep in mind that Heavy Slash has very slow startup, meaning you’ll need to practice timing it correctly if you want to catch a jumping opponent.
No matter how cool it feels or looks, jumping is the biggest trap in fighting games. Although it may seem like the best option at all times, it leaves you completely defenseless. This goes double for Samurai Shodown, whose characters float lazily through the air with every jump. When you’re just starting out, only go airborne when you think you have a read on a fireball-happy opponent, and be ready to follow up accordingly. Haohmaru’s jumping Heavy Slash deals incredible damage, especially when you combo into standing Medium Slash and a Heavy uppercut. The timing on this short combo isn’t incredibly tricky, but you’ll want to be sure to land the Heavy Slash as late into the jump as possible to provide enough of a window to transition into the next attack.
The Samurai Shodown roster doesn’t begin and end with Haohmaru, though. After 16 years, the franchise has a ton of characters from which to choose. Nakoruru is small and frail but brings backup to matches in the form of her pet hawk, Mamahaha. She uses the bird as a projectile and can also latch onto its feet for some airborne shenanigans. The burly Earthquake uses long-range normals to make up for his slow speed, but he can also dish out damage with a quick command grab if he manages to get close to the opponent. South-American warrior Tam Tam comes equipped with a variety of projectiles, making him the closest thing the newest Samurai Shodown has to a true zoner, or a character that thrives by controlling the rhythm of the battle with fireballs.
No matter who you choose, it’s important to head into competitive matches knowing that online play is a brutal hellscape and you will lose more than you win for a long time. This can be frustrating, but winning shouldn’t be your initial goal. After every match, try to pick out one or two things that you can learn or improve upon. Were you unfamiliar with Ukyo’s tricky special attacks? Was Yashamaru’s double jump difficult to follow? Did you get tunnel-vision and try too hard to make something happen with risky attacks?
Since Samurai Shodown dropped a few days ago, the competitive community has been hard at work learning the ins and outs of the new outing and its various characters. They found some pretty useful things, so I’ll share some here. For instance, did you know the fully charged version of one of Darli Dagger’s special attacks is completely unblockable?
Ukyo is typically pretty good, but he was done dirty here. Many of his normals are punishable on hit—an uncommon characteristic since successfully landed attacks are usually safe from retaliation in most fighting games—so you’ll want to use them from specific ranges to make them more safe.
Wu-Ruixiang’s run provides a guard point above her head that blocks air attacks.
If you’re playing Shiki, Jubei, or anyone else with an uppercut-style attack, you’ll need to be careful against an opponent that still has access to their Rage meter, as Rage Explosion can be used to escape and punish combos.
Using Rage in this way eliminates its use from the rest of the match, but it’s a great way to seal the deal at the end of a game.
Yoshitora carries a lot of swords, but he doesn’t unlock his special seventh sword—which gives him access to a super damaging, screen-filling attack—until landing each of his six specials at least once. As such, players are trying to figure out the easiest methods of getting that seventh sword unsheathed. One way is to use an incredibly powerful attack known as a Super Special, which unlocks it immediately. This can only be activated once per game, however, so use it wisely.
Players can also land Yoshitora’s specials after the round has ended and they’ll still count toward unlocking the seventh sword in subsequent rounds.
As you can see, Samurai Shodown manages to be complex despite its focus on foundational genre skills. But don’t let that complexity scare you away! It’s very easy to jump into this game and learn the basics, and there are very few execution-related constraints. Yes, Samurai Shodown is going to kick your ass. It’s a fighting game, for crying out loud! Fortunately, you don’t need to be Daigo Umehara to challenge your friends in your living room, check out your local weekly tournament, or even attend events like Evo and Combo Breaker. Just show up, ask questions, and remember to have fun, because fighting games are something so great.
Ian Walker loves fighting games and loves writing about them even more. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.
The Elder Scroll: Blades is finally out, at least in early access, and playable on iPhones or Android devices. While Blades isn’t as big or complex as Skyrim, it does have a surprising amount of depth compared to other RPGs built for phones. Not all of this depth is properly or clearly explained in-game, so after playing it for a few days, I’ve come up with some helpful tips.
We’ll update this post as Blades expands and we spend more time with the game.
I Don’t Have A Tip For Getting Early Access
I’ve seen a lot of people online asking and complaining about how hard it is to get access to Blades. I wish I could tell you exactly how to play this game right now, but I don’t know. Players can sign up for early access on Bethesda’s website and you download the app, but not everyone is able to play.
Even folks who are getting emails letting them know they can play sometimes can’t play. I also know of someone who got access, played a bit and then tried again and found they couldn’t. Hopefully, the game will be available to everyone with no hurdles to jump soon.
We reached out to Bethesda about the situation and when more players will gain access to the game.
You Can Sell And Salvage Items At Your Blacksmith
One of the first things you are tasked with doing in Blades is helping save a blacksmith and then assisting him in rebuilding his blacksmith shop. Do this as soon as you can. His shop is important and will be useful for all sorts of things, including selling or salvaging items.
If you are wondering what to do with all those crappy swords and shields you’ve collected, go to the blacksmith shop and sell them or salvage them for materials.
I recommend selling stuff instead of salvaging, at least at first. Gold is valuable for repairing gear, and I found I got a good amount of materials from questing. Later on, I expect it will probably be best to salvage more than sell, because building up your town and gear using materials will be more important, and gold comes at a steady enough rate that selling won’t be as important.
Explore During Quests…
Unlike the bigger Elder Scrolls games, Blades isn’t open world. Instead, players collect quests and then activate them via a menu. Doing so teleports you to a dungeon or other area where you complete the quest. These areas aren’t massive, but they often have side rooms and tunnels you can explore. Hidden in many of these areas are secrets, usually chests, which can easily be missed if you just follow the quest marker.
…And After Finishing Quests
After killing enough bandits or collecting enough wood, the quest will end and the game will pop up a message telling you that you’ve finished your task. You can press a button to leave right then, but I recommend hitting the other option, which lets you explore the area after finishing the quest.
Dungeons can still be filled with enemies, loot, and secrets after finishing a quest. It doesn’t hurt to spend a few minutes doing a little extra exploring to walk away with some more goodies and XP.
Every quest in Blades will involve you having to fight some creatures, bandits or other baddies. One of the early quests players are given teaches you the basics. But if you haven’t done that quest yet or need a refresher, here are some tips.
Timing is the key to landing critical hits. Tap the screen and keep your finger held down until the circle fills the ring. The moment the circle touches the outer ring, life your finger off the screen. If you time it perfectly, when the circle and ring meet, you will land a critical hit.
Don’t forget to block. In combat, you’ll find a small shield icon on the left of your screen. Holding it lets you block, and holding it longer blocks for longer. Blocking right as enemies attack will stun them and let you counter-attack.
For smaller and faster foes, like rats or wolves, don’t swing wildly. You can often only hit them when they are attacking or jumping towards you. I prefer to hold my finger down, which readies my weapon. Then the moment the rat gets close I let go and kill it. Doing this makes it impossible to land a critical, but smaller beasts rarely take more than one hit anyway.
Potions And Healing
During combat, you might take some damage or use up some mana. Luckily, mana and health potions can be activated by clicking different icons that appear after taking a large amount of damage or after casting spells. Don’t try digging around your inventory to drink them, though; they can only be used when needed via those icons.
While in dungeons or on quests, keep an eye out for food items. Things like meat, mushrooms or cheese can often be found sprinkled around these areas, and tapping them will heal you if you have taken any damage. I have barely used potions because of how plentiful food is in most quests.
Use Some Of Your Gems To Expand Inventory Slots
As you play The Elder Scrolls: Blades you earn free gems. These are the premium currency in the game and allow you to skip timers when unlocking chests or building. You can burn your gems to finish timers, but I recommend using them to increase your various inventory slots first. Specifically, increase the number of chests you can collect. Doing so will help you avoid future headaches such as not being able to collect new chests because you’ve maxed out your inventory.
Chests work differently in Blades than in Skyrim. Instead of clicking on them to open them, you collect them and open them via timers and menus later, after a quest.
Chests will often include new weapons, armor or crafting materials, as well as gems. They are very useful for upgrading your town or becoming stronger. But they can also be annoying, since they take real time to open, with some taking hours before you can access their loot. If you aren’t patient, you can burn some gems on instantly opening them. But I would avoid this.
Instead of buying gems, open a chest before you shut off the game or go out questing. This will help make the timers less of a hassle, as you will be busy doing other stuff while the chest slowly unlocks.
Also, because you can only have one chest unlocking at a time, try to open the smaller, wooden chests before starting a big chest. These wooden chests take only a few minutes, but if you start unlocking a big chest that takes hours before a small chest, you won’t be able to open the wooden chest without spending a gem.
Check Your Challenges And Daily/Weekly Jobs
In Blades, you have three challenges you can complete, and as you complete them you are given new challenges. These aren’t timed; instead, they only go away if you complete them or if you decide to skip one. Once completed or skipped, you will receive a new challenge. Make sure to check your challenges every once in a while; they’re easy to miss, and once completed you have to click them to earn the reward.
Another easy way to earn some gold and loot is from completing daily and weekly jobs. These rotate periodically and are usually small quests, like kill four bandits. These will often reward chests, gold, and XP. Jobs are great quests to play if you only have a few minutes to spend.
Find Theodor To Change Your Looks
In your personal town, you will find various NPCs. These people can give you quests or tell you more about the world and story. One important villager to meet is Theodor, a strange man with yellow eyes. He seems to be not quite human and possibly a magical being.
Theodor will let you change your character’s looks. This means you don’t have to worry too much about your character looking ugly or if you chose the wrong race. Theodor is also is how you gain access to The Abyss.
Explore The Abyss
After talking to Theodor for the first time you will be able to explore The Abyss, which is a multi-level dungeon. As you get deeper and deeper, you earn new rewards and XP.
The Abyss will be challenging at first, especially with lower quality gear, but it’s still worth exploring. Don’t waste any of your revival scrolls on your first few treks in The Abyss. You will want those later on as you level up and start getting deeper into the massive dungeon.
Pay Attention To Your Gear
After completing quests and diving into The Abyss, you will probably need to fix up some of your gear. Weapons and armor, like older games in the franchise, have durability. Repairing these items cost gold. The price can vary based on the item and how damaged it is.
One tip to help save you money is not to repair gear until it is 70% or lower. I didn’t notice these damaged items during combat, so you can probably hold off on repairing them if you’re short on gold.
Another tip to save gold and make weapons last longer is to bring lower level daggers and swords you find on quests with you while completing easier missions and dungeons. There’s no reason to damage your amazing magic sword just to kill a few rats. Instead, use that crappy dagger you found yesterday.
Build Up Your Town
As you level up, earn new loot and collect new items, you will be able to build and level up your town. This will grant you access to more decorations and buildings. More importantly, it will let you unlock new facilities or styles, like a place to create potions or new decorations to apply to buildings. Want a village filled with stone homes? You can do that, assuming you have the materials.
Plan ahead a bit when building new homes or shops; some things need more space than others. For example, most shops need two empty lots instead of one. If you make a mistake, you can destroy buildings and replace them.
You Can Play Vertical or Horizontal
You might want to play most of Blades in landscape mode, using the more traditional two thumbstick control scheme. I play quests like this. But don’t forget you can also, at any time, flip your phone vertically and play with one hand.
This mode is useful if you just want to open some chests and start building something in your town. When in one hand mode, tap the ground to move around. I found menus and inventories were easier to manage in one hand mode, but you might feel otherwise. Don’t forget to flip your phone and see if a certain orientation works better for you.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is fun and also challenging. There’s a lot to take in, both in and out of combat, and several aspects of the game require real concentration and attention to detail. I’m here with some tips to help you learn better and faster.
There are lots of boss-specific strategies in this game, since the fights are dynamic and unique. To avoid spoilers, I won’t go into great detail about those, but here are some basic tips to help you get acquainted with the world of Sekiro more quickly. Following those are tips for a few of the game’s first bosses—spoilers, obviously. You’ll run into plenty of tutorials organically, both in-game and on loading screens, so these tips are designed to get you a little more detail—and hopefully, save you some deaths.
Visit The Dilapidated Temple Often, Especially Early In
There are lots of reasons to visit the Dilapidated Temple in the early game. It’s where you unlock and upgrade skills and prosthetics, and there are often new abilities you can practice with Hanbei. You’ll also tend to find new story beats and ways to progress early on.
Stealth Will Save Your Life
Learn Your Surroundings: You’ll quickly learn that even basic enemies can quickly deplete your Vitality. Get caught in a group of them, and it’s curtains. Scope out as much of the layout as you can. Finding high ground via your grappling hook or good old-fashioned climbing is worth it. Use tall grass for cover as you look around. The first thing you’ll want in most situations is an escape route in case things go south. There are often hidden enemies, and it isn’t always possible to see all of them your first go-round. Beyond this, just be vigilant. Assume there might be an archer or gunner if you see high ground, and if there are multiple routes through an area, try to check them out. There sometimes isn’t a way to avoid being spotted, but you can at least avoid being overwhelmed and caught unawares.
Be Strategic: Be smart about which enemies to take out first. If you can, it’s good to take out large enemies with lots of power and reach, or spear-bearers, who tend to have a little more in their arsenal than swordsmen. And it’s never a bad idea to kill something you’ve never seen before learning what they can do the hard way. As you engage more with enemies, you’ll get a better grasp of how they are in a one-on-one fight; if I see a swordsman and an archer close together, for example, I’ll usually take out the swordsman first, because an archer is pretty much blade fodder in close combat. Use a stealth deathblow for the regular enemies you have trouble with, and engage the ones that are manageable to you.
Stealth Deathblows: There are a few types of stealth deathblow you can use, each with advantages and disadvantages. The opportunity for a deathblow, in combat and out, is shown by red dot indicators on the enemy. It’s often possible to get a stealth deathblow on a mid-boss, removing one of their two deathblow markers and making the fight drastically easier. Just be aware that you can only remove one dot this way; if you go far enough that the encounter ends, they’ll have recovered by the time you come back.
While mid-bosses are challenging, the rewards they yield are generally worth your time, providing things like Gourd Seeds and Prayer Beads for upgrades. I’ve also found that the more I fought mid-bosses, the easier the rest of the game got; it was through learning more complex patterns while fighting mid-bosses that encounters with basic foot soldiers went from difficult to almost mindless. It can be tempting to run right past skippable fights, but it’s generally best to test the waters and see what you can pull off.
Know When To Block, Deflect, Dodge, And Run
It’s important to learn the ins and outs of Sekiro’s Posture and Vitality systems early, and part of that is knowing which way to respond to enemy attacks and when. Blocking and running are both good strategies when you don’t know what an enemy or boss might do. That much is obvious. But there are some cases—like fighting huge enemies with immensely powerful attacks—where blocking and parrying will drain your posture meter quickly. The same is true of relentless combo attacks. Paired with the fact that some bosses need their Vitality lowered before you can even make a dent in their Posture, you’ll want to mix things up and just retreat sometimes (hold your dodge button down to sprint). You’ll also want to create distance from time to time to let your Posture meter lower. Be patient.
The lower an enemy’s Vitality, the slower their Posture recovers. Once it’s down to a quarter, it won’t recover. Don’t be ashamed to hit and run until it seems possible to get that deathblow. You want to eventually get up in your opponent’s face for the kill, but there’s no reason to jump the gun on that. You’re playing as a shinobi, not a samurai; the point is to win tactically.
Do Not Let Yourself Get Too Good To Use Syndrome
Use Items Wisely: There are always different ways to deal with enemy formations, and the game gives you tools as well; the Ceramic Shard, for example, can be good for baiting a single enemy out of a room or formation. It tends to be especially useful paired with the wall hug deathblow. The Fistful of Ash temporarily stops lots of enemies, including some bosses, in their tracks.
There are lots of stat-boosting items, too; those are good for tougher fights, but resources are limited, particularly at the start of the game, so they’re best used when you feel confident that you’ll be able to finish a fight out. Also keep in mind that most items that heal status abnormalities also increase your resistance to them; it’s often a good idea to use one as a booster shot before engaging an enemy who can afflict them, particularly for terror or burn.
Get Yourself Some Skills, Starting With The Mikiri Counter: You can access shinobi skills early in the game, as soon as you get your first skill point and return to the Sculptor. There are three basic types: latent skills, combat skills, and shinobi martial arts. Many of these skills can vastly change the dynamics of your gameplay and often deal more damage than regular attacks, so make an effort to build and collect skill points without dying and losing them.
The Mikiri Counter is essential to start with, making it possible to counter otherwise unblockable thrust attacks. The game offers it to you early, so take advantage. Other combat techniques vastly expand the sorts of tactics you can use and tend to do more damage than regular attacks. The Whirlwind Slash, for example, can help with crowd control, and once you can access the Nightjar Slash, it’s great for closing distance, grabbing a quick hit, and running away. The Grappling Hook Attack provides similar benefits and can be extremely helpful for bosses. You can always practice these skills with Hanbei to get a feel for them, so take advantage.
It’s important not to ignore latent and shinobi skills, though. Run and Slide, for example, is helpful for closing distance to enemy with a ranged weapon. Suppress Presence makes you harder to detect even while in stealth, even if you’re not concealed in cover.
Know Your Prosthetics: In addition to skills, knowing the ins and outs of your prosthetics is important. The game generally provides hints on how to use them; figuring out timing is the next step. The Firecracker, for example, is great for neutralizing beast-type enemies and can provide an invaluable opening for an aggressive foe; they generally have to be used up close, though, and within the enemy’s field of vision. Dodging or parrying and then countering can work well and will open up a somewhat wider window than either would on its own. The Shuriken can be good for interrupting attacks or continuing to press a fleeing enemy from a distance, and the Flame Vent is useful for inflicting damage over time—great for a hit-and-run strategy and even temporarily incapacitating certain foes.
Use Breathing Space To Explore
In addition to useful items and information, exploring Sekiro’s world often yields rewarding results—it’s possible to find new prosthetics this way, for example, or even new skill trees. The world opens up pretty vastly after a certain point, and I’ve found tips or useful items for far-away boss fights way across the game’s world. The game’s setting, across a mountainous region fraught with steep drops and winding trails, means there are hidden points you can hang from, obscured grapple points, and plateaus to jump down too all over the place. I’ve found that exploring an area after I’ve cleared it of enemies is the best time, as long as I’m not too attached to the idea of retreating if I discover something unsavory, like a new boss or—I won’t spoil it for you—a unique stealth/chase sequence through a freezing crevasse. There also tend to be lots of items in enemy encampments. It doesn’t hurt to meander a little bit as you progress.
You Can Always Rest Up—At A Price
Sekiro uses an auto-save function, which means if you die or use an item you didn’t mean to use, that’s it—it’s saved in the annals of your gameplay history. Idol Sculptures, your checkpoints, are locations to restock and regroup—if you do, though, you reset regular enemy locations all across the map. If you’re worried about dying at any point, it’s generally a good idea to just backtrack and regroup. Where this becomes tricky is figuring out when to press on a little further in situations where you’d need to kill enemies again in order to progress or accomplish a goal; for example, it’s always easier to fight mid-bosses if you kill their lackeys first. Going back through with a better feel for enemy layout is always a possibility, though, so keep your options in mind.
Learn When To Run: If you’ve already used up your Resurrection and feel like you’re flailing around in a fight, it’s probably a good time to run. Dying will respawn regular enemies anyway, so you might as well flee and rest on your own terms instead of doing it the hard way and losing money and experience in the process.
Stock Up On Coin Purses
Go to a shop and purchase some Coin Purses, which allow you to keep your money when you die, or to acquire some skills. There are unavoidable boss fights as well, and going into them with as little to lose as possible is smart. When it comes to money and experience points upon dying, it’s essentially a case of “You can’t take it with you.”
NPCs Give You Useful Info—If They’re Not Sick
Characters you can actually talk to come few and far between, and they generally have valuable items and information. It’s also a good way to get bits and pieces of the game’s story. Be sure to keep track of what they tell you, as they often give good advice about upcoming situations or bosses, or otherwise about places where you can discover new tools and secrets. However, Dragonrot can make quest lines temporarily unavailable, so it’s good to keep track of who’s where and what their status is. There’s eventually a mechanic which can remove Dragonrot, so be sure to use it if you find yourself collecting Dragonrot indicators in your inventory. You can’t do this freely, so be deliberate about when you remove it. I generally like doing so after an unskippable boss.
Let Yourself Mess Up
With all this said, the game opens up as you get intimately familiar with what does and doesn’t work, and sometimes, that just takes trial and error. You may run into a boss that can counter your Mikiri Counter in a way you weren’t ready for, or find yourself stuck in a pit with an enemy you’re under-equipped for and can’t run from. Part of the fun is figuring things out on your own and learning from it. Save the pursuit of perfection for a second playthrough. In the meantime, just try new things and have fun lurking and slashing and burning your way through feudal Japan.
Those are just the basics—here are some specific strategies for a few of the game’s early bosses. Spoilers!
This is where you first really get into the meat of Sekiro’s combat. After a series of fights where you’re largely deflecting enemy attacks, the Ogre throws a wrench in that by fighting like a grappler, giving you a crash course on avoiding grabs and sweep attacks. You’ll be using your dodge a lot here, and it’s worth noting that his long-ranged charging attack, which looks like a grab, actually counts as a sweep attack and is dodgeable with the jump and jump-kick combo. Just give him a wide berth and watch for openings; his drop kick attack usually leaves him wide open, and his other kick attacks can be parried if you watch closely.
Two prosthetics are super useful for this fight—the Firecracker, which will stun the Ogre so you can land some juicy hits, and the Flame Vent, which is harder to get but worth it. (An in-game tip hints at this, but it’s in the Hirata Estate section, just before the bamboo forest in a campfire surrounded by thieves.) The Flame Vent will set the Ogre on fire with two uses, or just one use if you throw oil on him first. Not only does that do damage over time; he’ll also be stunned, so you can mercilessly slash away at him until he regains his bearings.
Juzou the Drunkard
Juzou is a big boy. He’s also surrounded by little fellas, whom you do not want to be dealing with while you work on Juzou. Sneak around his encampment, starting with the soldiers in the building to your left and being careful not to step over anything and make noise. There are two reasons for this—one, there’s an ally, Nogami Gensai, directly across from Juzou, and you want to avoid leading any soldiers toward him as he’ll engage early and probably die. (You also don’t want to talk to him until you’re ready to fight Juzou, as he’ll immediately announce himself like a badass and charge in if you do.)
Two, the entryway gives you a route around to where Juzou and a few henchmen are for easy stealth kills. You may mistakenly alert the guards once or twice as you figure out the process, but just run away, avoiding your ally until the heat dies down, and continue picking everyone off.
Once it’s just you and Juzou, sneak up on him from whatever angle makes sense, get your free stealth deathblow on him, and then lead him toward Nogami Gensai, who will actually be useful now. While Juzou is distracted, go to town on his broad backside until he notices you. Then, dip, dodge, duck, dive, and dodge while your bud continues to attack. Rinse and repeat until you get your second deathblow indicator.
The Blazing Bull
This fella would probably be enough of a challenge on his own, but he has flaming horns, so that’s cool. That means you’ll be taking some burn damage throughout the fight, so take Dousing Powder—even better if you have the reusable Withered Red Gourd, which you can get from the Treasure Scale merchant for just two scales. You can collect the two you need in the same area.
The Blazing Bull’s attacks can be parried, but they cause burn damage and significant Posture damage as well. That means you’ll need to parry sparingly and do a decent amount of dodging, hitting, and running. The fireworks do a great job here; you can use them as he’s charging you, or for a somewhat safer strategy, parry his charge attack and then use it as he’s turning toward you, creating a small window to wail on him.
You’ll quickly start to see the bull’s Posture meter rising as you chip away at his Vitality, so bear down and keep attacking and parrying, keeping an eye on your Vitality and burn meters, and you’ll get a deathblow marker sooner than you expect.
Although The Sims 4 has made building houses better than ever, it’s still a bit tricky to make your dream home. Here are a few tips to help you graduate beyond just making a box with windows.
There Are A Few Hidden Options For Roofing
Roofing is a pain in the ass. Roof pieces never seem to fit together in the way you want, leaving you with a roof that should not be seen by man. One huge annoyance I used to have with putting roofs on a Sims house was eaves. If you’re using a gabled roof, it has these little flaps that hang over the edge of the house. Those are called “eaves.”
This house looks like it’s off to a good start, but by placing that half gabled roof down, I’ve made myself a fun logic puzzle for finishing the roof. How can I blend this smaller roof with the roof that’ll go on top of the rest of the house? I’ll tell you how: hold shift to adjust one of the eaves at a time:
And then hold the alt key for more fidelity while adjusting the roof’s pitch.
Buildings Can Have Different Foundation Heights
This is new with the update for the Get Famous expansion. It used to be that every separate building on a lot would have to be on the same foundation level. If you wanted to make a main house with a porch, but then just a ramshackle shed in the backyard, you’d be out of luck, as the shed would also have to have a foundation like the other building on the lot.
Now, as long as the two seperate buildings are fully enclosed—meaning either they’ve got four walls, or you’re using the flat “foundation” pieces—each building can have a different foundation height.
I took the opportunity to go wild on renovating the Munch house, and gave them a little gazebo. Take a look at how it’s a different height than the mansion itself. I think it looks pretty classy.
You Can Make L-Shaped Stairs, Kinda
This one is tricky and probably won’t work right on the first try. Because different buildings can have different heights, players have figured out how to trick the game into building staircases in shapes other than just straight up and down.
The thing is, the game really doesn’t want to do this. I had to fiddle for about an hour to get it to work right. But it can be done, so if the game’s giving you trouble, just try again.
First you’ll want to place your foundations. To make these stairs, you want to arrange your foundation pieces in the shape of an L. You need one square about four notches high, another at eight, and then the last square is actually made of walls, at the smallest wall height. Place the stairs on these pieces, like this:
If nothing fits exactly the right way on the first try, try fiddling around with the heights of the foundations, bringing them up or down, or moving each square closer or farther apart from each other. This is actually the easy part, if you can believe it.
The hard part is enclosing these stairs in a room. You won’t be able to use the room tool, which allows you to manipulate an already enclosed square of walls, so use the plain old wall tool. When I tried this, I could get the walls all the way around, and then the game would give me an error reading “conflicting block clusters” when I tried to place the last piece of wall. I finally found success by drawing a small section of wall elsewhere on the lot, then moving that piece of wall to fill the gap in my room.
The game won’t recognize this as an enclosed room, but the only issue that’ll pose is with painting, and that’s not even that big of a deal. Instead of using the shift key to automatically fill the room with a paint color, just drag your mouse across each wall.
Put Your Furniture Anywhere
This tip isn’t complicated. The Sims 4 is built on a grid system, so objects snap to place on that grid by default. That leads to awkward-looking stuff like garbage cans sitting conspicuously far from walls.
If you type control+shift+C, a box you can type in will appear in the upper left corner of your screen. If you type bb.moveobjects on, you’ll no longer be as constricted to the grid, though objects will still snap to it. If you hold the alt key while you’ve selected an object in build mode, now you’ll be able to place it anywhere. If you hold alt and the left mouse button, the game will let you rotate the object freely. It’s how I got this backyard movie area looking so cute.
Don’t Forget To Landscape
So, you’ve built some L shaped stairs, fit a roof on top of your house, and decorated every inch with objects nestled in every corner. The last thing to do is landscape.
The Sims 4 now has terrain editing tools, which you can use to give your backyard some dimension, but I honestly don’t use it all that much. If you’ve planned for it ahead of time, you can have fun building retaining walls for the hills and valleys on your lot. While the terrain tools won’t allow the earth to envelop walls, it will swallow parts of foundations and roofs. To make this mediocre retaining wall, I made a thin room, raised its foundation, and then used terrain tools to submerge the foundation in the ground a little.
I think that adding plants and trees is what makes a house in The Sims 4 feel like a home. (I also feel that way about real life houses, which is why I belong to a subscription service that sends me two succulents a month. Sims plants are easier to care for than real ones, though.) In order to make your garden look like something off of HGTV, make sure bb.moveobjects is on, and then try layering plants on top of each other.
Here, I placed a tree, free rotated it to the angle I wanted, then started placing different grasses, bushes and flowers around the base. Plants aren’t very well behaved. In life, they just grow where there’s adequate light and water. While some people like manicured gardens, I like the wildness that comes with a garden whose gardener isn’t quite up to the task of regularly pulling weeds.
I used to hate building houses in The Sims 4, but now that I’ve seen what the game can do, I’ve come around to it. If you’ve got the right inspiration and a little bit of grit, you can use The Sims 4 to make your dream house—or at least, something Instagram worthy.
The Division 2 is filled with things to do, places to explore, guns to collect and enemies to kill. For returning players, much of this will feel familiar. But for players who didn’t put any time into the first game, The Division 2 might feel overwhelming. So here are some tips for new and veteran players.
These tips mostly focus on the early and mid-game content, as I and other folks at Kotaku haven’t reached max level and experienced the end game. As we put more time into the game we will update this post with new tips and recommendations.
Brush Up on What Happened In The Original Division
You can do this by playing the first game or, much more easily, reading the in-game dossiers that are unlocked at the start of the sequel. You can also catch snippets of back-story during The Division 2’s loading screens. Note that you can flip through three different types of tips and then cycle through the tips in that category. Pick “World” and then click through them.
If even that’s too much, then, ok, we’ll just tell you: a scientist named Gordon Amherst created an extremely potent biological weapon, unleashed it on the population via tainted money on Black Friday and chaos followed. The first Division focuses on how this led to New York City being placed on lockdown, while the government activated sleeper agents amid the civilian population to help restore order. Those agents are calledThe Division and you play as one of them. A Division agent named Aaron Keener goes rogue around the time of the first game and, as that game ends, he’s somewhere out there, armed with Amherst’s bio-weapon. The Division 2 starts off several months later and we soon see that Washington D.C. has been ravaged as well. The Division is needed there, too.
Set Things Up Before You Jump In
The Division 2 has a lot of different options to mess with, even before you start the game. You can change the size of text and have the game audibly read out text menus. Unfortunately, increasing the text size doesn’t change all the text in the game. The size of words found on the map and in on-screen notifications can be really small. You might need to scoot your chair closer to the TV to read it properly.
Use Cover, Listen To Enemies & Be Careful!
Using cover is very important in The Division 2. If you run around the open during firefights you will most likely get killed in a few seconds. Enemies are accurate and deadly. If you need to get out of cover, use the dodge move by tapping X twice on a PS4 controller or A twice on an Xbox one. This will make you harder to hit and can be useful to escape a bad situation or to gain ground on a lone enemy who is reloading or stunned.
The AI enemies you fight in The Division 2 will charge, flank, hide from and ambush you constantly. They are pretty smart,and if you aren’t paying attention they can catch you off guard and drop you. Watch enemy movement closely, be prepared to fall back and, most importantly, listen to them. Enemies who run at you will often telegraph this beforehand with screaming and heavy footsteps. Other times enemies will shout out movements or positions. Use these audio cues to keep yourself alive in big shootouts.
Aim For Weak Spots
Many of your foes in DC will have weak points you can shoot to quickly kill them and even damage enemies near them. The Hyena chargers, for example, have bags they wear on their hip. Shoot these bags and their weird powder will explode on everyone nearby, causing mass confusion and stuns. Bigger enemies often have a weak point on their back.
Even bosses can have these weak points. One time a powerful boss with a foam-launching weapon was giving me trouble. I hit his foam gun container and suddenly he was locked into place by his own fast-hardening foam, making him an easy target to pick off.
It might be easy to forget, but you also can melee enemies. Just click in the right stick. This move is quick and can kill weaker enemies who you’ve already shot. There are also some challenges tied to using melee attacks to kill enemies. So punch some fools who get too close to you or your friends.
You Don’t Always Need To Fix Your Armor
During long fights, you will most likely take damage and your armor will get damaged or even totally destroyed. In these scenarios, you should fix your armor ASAP or you might die soon. But toward the end of a fight, when only a few enemies are left, you can save your armor and finish the fight instead. After every enemy is dead, the game will replenish your health and armor fully, saving you some armor plates.
Don’t Forget To Use Your Abilities
This is a mistake I made a lot in my first few hours. Your agent has some abilities, like a turret or a shield, that can be really useful in a fight. These will vary based on how far you are into the game and what you have chosen, but regardless of what abilities you have, they are worthless if you don’t use them. Even if you feel like you have a fight totally under control, pop an ability to build up some muscle memory and to get more comfortable using these gadgets.
Good Perks To Unlock First
In The Division 2, you will find SHD Tech. These small boxes will unlock tokens that you can use to unlock and upgrade passive perks. I recommend first grabbing the perks that t let you carry more grenades, crafting materials, supplies and most importantly armor plates. Also grab the perks that help you gain more XP.
One perk that might sound strange or worthless is “Detection.” What this means is that after you give some supplies to a friendly control point, all lootable containers will be marked in the world and you can even see them through walls. This is really useful if you want to farm for crafting materials quickly or if you are trying to find all the water or food at a supply node.
First Abilities To Unlock
Like perks, some abilities in The Division 2 are better than others, depending on how you play. One of my favorite abilities from the original game, Pulse, returns in the sequel but I would avoid getting it, at least early on. Pulse is supposed to reveal enemy locations around you, but the range is so short it feels useless most of the time. Mods gained later in the game might improve it, but we’re not sure how far they go.
For solo players, I highly recommend the turret, and I prefer its basic auto-turret version. This little thing does a surprising amount of damage and even better, it can help you flank and pin enemies. You can toss your turret if you hold the ability button you assigned it to. If you are behind cover and tap the button, you will set it on the cover itself instead. The turret won’t fire until you fire or it is spotted, letting you set up a deadly ambush.
I also like using the chem launcher, specifically the acid version. This can easily kill enemies hiding behind cover and chews away the armor on bigger targets. The Firefly is useful, but it takes a bit of practice to really make it work. Before throwing it, make sure the path is clear of any obstructions which are marked by a red X indicator. The Shield can also be powerful if paired with a strong sidearm or if you choose the variant that lets you use an SMG or assault rifle with it.
Don’t Worry Too Much About What You Unlock Early On
Maybe you unlocked an ability or perk and it really isn’t all that helpful? Don’t worry. After spending a few hours in the game you will have earned enough tokens and unlocks to gain access to a lot of the other perks and abilities in the game. If you get a stinker, don’t beat yourself up. Just go grab some SHD tech and unlock a new perk.
Focus On Activating Safehouses
When you enter a new area, prioritize unlocking and activating the safehouse in the area. These function similarly to the safehouses in the original game, allowing you to spawn and matchmake with other agents. These safe houses also unlock new nearby objectives that, once completed, will unlock a boss fight and connected bounty. Completing this will reward you with a good chunk of XP and other goodies.
Control Points Are Useful, Too!
Control points work almost like the outposts found in recent Far Cry games. They are initially filled with enemies, but once you’ve taken control of them you can spawn there or fast-travel to them. These control points are useful for more than just spawning. You get a good amount of loot and XP for liberating them. Plus, these areas will spawn friendly computer-controlled allies who will patrol around the area, making it safer to travel in that part of the map.
Each control point has a commander who you can give food, water, and components too. Doing so will award you with some XP and, if you have the appropriate perk, you will get the bonus ability to see loot containers in the world for 10 minutes.
Explore The Map
While it might be tempting to just focus on missions, control points, and random activities, you should also take some time to just explore the world. Players are reporting secret bosses and hidden missions dotted around the map. Beyond that, the map is filled with loot containers and collectibles. These will give you more XP and items.
Head Underground To Get Faction Keys
During missions, you might find locked chests. You will need a faction key to unlock them. They can be found underground in small utility boxes that hang on the walls in different tunnels and sewers below DC. To find entrance points to the underground section of the world, look on the map for yellow arrows pointing down. These mark manhole covers or other entrances to the dirt sewers below.
Upgrade Settlements & Complete Projects
Settlements are one of the big new features in The Division 2,and they are a great way to earn XP and loot. These settlements can be improved over time by completing projects. These projects will not only visually change the settlement, like adding more storage or solar panels, but they also award large amounts of XP and blueprints which can help you craft new weapons, mods, and items.
Another important tip: You can partially complete projects from the map screen. Sometimes you will need to donate certain items, like a pair of gloves, to complete a project. You can do this anywhere on the map at any time by opening up the map and tabbing over to the left. There you will find all your current projects, their objectives and you can donate any items in this section of the map screen too. Very useful!
Hold On To Gloves, Helmets and Other Armor Parts
Projects are important. Getting them done quickly will help you level up faster and will unlock new blueprints sooner. A great way to quickly knock these projects out is to hold onto gloves, vests, knee-pads, and holsters. Many projects at the first settlement, will require some of this gear. So don’t sell those crappy gloves you found. Hold on to them and donate them to a project when they are needed. If they are taking up too much room, just pop some into your stash for later.
Check Your Equipment Often
You will be picking up new items and weapons a lot in The Division 2. Especially early on in the game. Make a habit of checking to see if you need to switch stuff out. Sure that rifle you are using is good, but you might have an even better weapon sitting in your inventory. You might even be able to improve them with mods you didn’t know you had.
While in the inventory screen, you can sort items into a grid instead of the scrolling column. To make this change, click L3 on a PS4 controller or press down on the left stick on Xbox One to open a sub-menu and select the grid option. I find this makes it easier to see at a glance what I have and how good it might be.
How Mods Work
Weapon mods always have negative and positive attributes. Don’t just slap the first mod you find onto your favorite weapon. Instead, balance out what you want and what you are willing to sacrifice. For example, I have a great assault rifle that I attached a big magazine mod onto. This mod slows the reload speed, but I now have 61 rounds per mag making. Some mods will give you more accuracy, but lower critical hit damage. Try to use mods that work for you and your play style.
Craft Some Mods
As you complete missions, finish projects and make progress through the game, you will gain access to mod blueprints. These can be crafted at the White House, your base of operations. Unlike in TheDivision, these mods only need to be crafted once, then you can use them on multiple weapons. For example, if you craft a red dot sight, you can then add that to any weapon that is compatible with the sight and you won’t need to craft new sights for each gun.
Don’t Forget About Commendations & Uplay Challenges
These are easy to miss. Hidden in the character menu, players can find challenges and commendations in the progression section. Commendations are a series of challenges that when completed award patches, which can be placed on your outfit. Uplay challenges are in the same menu and rotate each week. These will earn you some extra in-game credits, useful for crafting and buying items.
Grab The Uplay Rewards Too.
On the main character menu, you can also open up Uplay. In here you can find some rewards that are free or cost some Uplay credits, that currency you earn by playing other Ubisoft games. These rewards aren’t incredible or game-changing, but they can help a new player starting out. Some of the rewards include crafting materials and credits. You can also get some weapon skins and patches.
Don’t Focus On The Dark Zone Until Later
While the Dark Zone is a tense and fun part of The Division 2, for players just starting out it really isn’t worth it. You can find good or even better loot in the main world and through completing missions and projects. I recommend doing the tutorial missions for the Dark Zone and for those curious, maybe exploring it a bit, but wait until you are a higher level to dive in.
I played all the way through Kingdom Hearts III. I played it extremely underleveled. I did this because I love a challenge and because I was in a hurry. I also did this for you: my struggle forced me to play the game well. That means, buddy, I got tips.
Hey! I explain all of these in a rapid-fire fashion in the *SPOILER-FREE* gameplay video at the top of this post! If you want to watch that, wow, that’s nice of you! If not, that’s OK.
Almost all of these tips focus on the battle mechanics. I presume you don’t need my help to enjoy the Disney moments or the cutscenes. Therefore I’ve included no story spoilers in here, except in the very last section, in which I talk about something which happens to Olaf from Frozen both in the film and in Kingdom Hearts III.
Watch The In-Game Lore Explainer
Even if you’ve already played every game in the series, you should watch the in-game lore explainer available on the title screen under “Memory Archive.” You could also watch it right now on YouTube on your phone with one earbud while sitting in the bathroom stall at your office, though what fun is that? Settle down with a beverage and watch it from Kingdom Hearts III’s title menu immediately prior to choosing “New game.” The high production values of the explainer mesh wonderfully with the lovely musical cutscenes that open the game. It’s like they made it that way on purpose!
Check Your In-Game Phone
Furthermore, Sora gets a smartphone in a ten-minute cutscene very early in the game. The game is trying to impress you with the importance of the phone. By opening it from the pause menu, you can read concise explanations of all major plot points and characters introduced so far in the game. You can rotate all the character’s models! You can sit on your sofa with a buddy and talk about their clothes for like an hour! It’s lovely.
In more utilitarian aspects, the phone also keeps track of the treasure and Lucky Emblems (Hidden Mickeys) that you’ve found so far in all the available worlds.
All in all, the phone feels like something straight out of an ambitious PlayStation 2 game like Dark Cloud 2: just a whole bunch of nice, helpful stuff crammed into one convenient place with cute graphic design throughout.
Don’t Grind Too Much!
As I said up top, I played Kingdom Hearts III underleveled. I played straight through. I barely stopped. I arrived at the final boss on level 40. This was probably too low of a level.
Well, I loved it.
All of the tips I’m about to give you about battling are thus based on the experience of me, a person who suffered in those final battles. I was in pain. And this really made me feel in touch with Sora’s experience, you know?
Also, I was in a hurry.
On the world map, every area has a “Battle Level” number. This number is usually the level I was on after beating the big boss of the next world. That’s how underleveled we’re talking here.
I like to play underleveled in a game with a leveling system because it forces me to learn to play well. The little things I learn might then be useful even to someone who does not wish to play underleveled.
Here’s two defining aspects to being underleveled in Kingdom Hearts III:
1. The bosses are beatable even on stupid-low levels, sometimes without even taking damage! The secret is blocking, reprisals, effective camera movement, and efficient shortcut management.
2. You get every one of your necessary abilities and all of your magic spells by beating bosses, not by leveling up.
Furthermore, Kingdom Hearts III features a “Zero Experience” ability unlocked from the start. If you equip it, it prevents you from ever earning experience. That sounds like a challenge!
I’m saying the game doesn’t seem to want you to grind. Or, at the very least, it’s proud of the fact that someone on the development staff can beat every battle on level one. I totally respect that.
Grinding Even A Tiny Bit Makes You God
By hinting so often that you don’t need to grind, the game designers are also hinting at the power of grinding. If you grind you can become monstrously strong and obliterate bosses. Maybe that’s your style.
If you don’t want to necessarily break the game though you also don’t want to get your clown shoes thrown down atop your bones in a shallow grave, I’d suggest this: there are a lot of enemies in Kingdom Hearts III. Fighting is pretty much the whole point of every level. Just fight all of the regular battles you encounter as you progress through a level. If—oops!—you get lost and come back around to a place you’ve already traversed and you trigger a battle there again, just fight it again! Consider it practice for the wild trials to come.
Also, every time you reach a save point, it restores your HP and MP completely. This makes grinding perfectly easy in every level. Wow, I’ve played so many Kingdom Hearts games recently that I’ve forgotten that’s a thing some people might not take for granted!
There Is No One Correct Approach To Loadouts
This is difficult to position as advice: I did not settle upon any one strategy or configuration of equipment or abilities that worked even half-perfectly for more than a handful of boss battles.
I was always considering a way to take down bosses more efficiently, so I was always considering different loadouts.
This is actually a huge part of the fun of a modern RPG, and of Kingdom Hearts III in particular: constantly min-maxing your personal tactical satisfaction is as fun as battles themselves.
Kingdom Hearts III gives you access to all of your magic spells all of the time, though it buries them deep in a menu.
Luckily, you can configure shortcuts. By holding the left bumper, you can open the shortcut menu. This displays a list of the four shortcut commands, mapped to each of the face buttons. By pressing up and down on the d-pad, you can swap between up to three decks.
What you end up putting in those three decks is up to you. I experimented with having a deck of support spells, a deck of attack spells, and a mixed deck, though that wasn’t right for every situation.
As you unlock higher levels of attack spells, you’ll naturally want to use them, though you won’t always want to rid your decks of the weaker versions, which cost less magic.
You can’t change loadouts once a battle starts, so you’ll need to do your configurations before a battle. If you’re in a dungeon and you see a save point, there’s almost always a big fight nearby. Now is the time to look at your ability decks and equipment.
Learning From Failure Is Easy (In This Game, At Least)
If you die in battle, you’re immediately offered the opportunity to “retry.” This is one of the many elements that makes Kingdom Hearts feel, to me, like an old-school arcade brawler.
If a boss has little baby gremlin minions that hassle you during the battle, guess what? Even if you die, you keep the experience points you got from killing them! That’s generous.
One of the death screen options is “prepare and retry.” This is excellent. Maybe you had forgotten to give Donald potions before the fight. You can do that here.
The further I got in my purposely underleveled playthrough, the more I encountered the utility of the “prepare and retry” screen.
I was short on money for most of the game because of my devotion to staying underleveled, though wherever I could I had made time to buy multiples of each new armor and accessory.
Sora, Donald, and Goofy can each equip multiple pieces of armor and multiple accessories. As they progress through the game they’ll earn more slots.
When you buy new equipment to put in these slots, you’re choosing from a few broad categories. Accessories might increase the wielder’s physical strength or magic. For some hard battles, I gave Sora three of the strongest available magic-enhancing ring, and for some, I gave him three of the strongest strength ring. For some, I gave him two of one and one of the other. Sometimes I stacked elemental defenses.
The key takeaway is, battles got easier when I committed to choosing a side—for example, magic or attack—and tipping my equipment loadout in its favor. Trying to achieve a perfectly balanced statistical profile is not the way to win, here.
Equipment in Kingdom Hearts is as fiddly as the combat is explosive and unpredictable.
Increase the camera movement speed
I generally like my cameras to be operated by moving a mouse, and I generally like my mouse to be on the highest sensitivity possible, so if that’s not you, maybe ignore this advice: go right into the menu the first chance you get and crank the camera speed up by at least 10 points (I put it up to 100).
Again, maybe you’re not as seasicknessproof as I am, though I could swear the camera in this game is far slower than it should be. And given how fast the battles are, you’re going to want to be able to whip the camera around 360 degrees in less than one second to get a visual sweep of the battlefield sometimes.
Of course, you can’t whip the camera around 360 degrees easily when you’re locked on to an enemy.
Don’t Be Too Reliant On Lock-On
Lock-on is good, and convenient, because it assures that your magical spells are always hitting the right guy. And I’m locked on a lot when I play Kingdom Hearts III. Though I’m not locked on all the time. At some point I had to actively start telling myself to disengage lock-on.
As the game goes on and battles get bigger and more busy, you might want to have more control of the camera.
When you’re close to an enemy, you’ll see a yellow soft-lock reticule. The hard lock reticule is blue, so this makes the yellow reticule a perfect contrast. I’d encourage you to familiarize yourself with the automatic selection logic of the yellow reticule early so that it’s second nature later. If you’re good enough at knowing where that yellow reticule is going to snap to, you can battle while wheeling the camera wildly around to perceive attacks. This is crucial when you’re idiotically underleveled like me.
Try turning the lock off sometimes and letting Sora lock on using his instincts. He’s a good boy, and getting used to that will make you mentally stronger later.
Elite Shortcut Loadouts
I played Kingdom Hearts III on Xbox One X with my Xbox One Elite Controller, and because (as I have said a hundred times already) I was playing purposely underleveled, I needed to maximize the use of my hands. So I used all four rear paddles on the controller.
Press the shoulder buttons hyperextends my index fingers, making my analog stick movements less precise. So I put the shoulder buttons on the upper rear paddles, giving me access to lock-toggle with my right middle finger and shortcuts with my left middle finger.
I put the bottom face button (attack) on the bottom-right paddle and the left face button (block) on the bottom-left paddle so that I could press those with my ring fingers. This way I could run and rotate the camera while attacking, blocking, or using two of my four shortcuts. This exploded my efficiency in battles.
Later in the game, some bosses start to actively troll your dependency on lock-on by including way, way too many minion-gremlin buddies. By this point in the game, I was good enough at playing without lock-on that I totally owned these punks.
For my second paddle-mapping toggle on my controller, I had shortcuts on the top left paddle and the down directional button on the bottom left paddle, so I could flip through three decks. Then I put two of the face buttons (attack and block) on the right paddles so that I could quickly access six different shortcuts without taking my right thumb off the analog stick.
In summary: if you don’t have a controller with paddles, know that this game thoroughly inspired me to play it like an esport. Let this serve as an example of how important your shortcut selection is.
Again, alternately: grind a lot and just stomp over Xehanort’s minions in your big weird rainboots, if that’s your style.
Blocking Is Hard
In the first 10 playable minutes of the game, Sora receives the ability to guard by tapping the leftmost face button.
Kingdom Hearts III’s combat is so electrically fast and Sora’s block has such a long windup (I eyeballed it at about six frames! (I blocked as early as I could get away with in the above GIF, for illustrative purposes) and short duration that blocking might feel like a crapshoot to you the first couple times you try it.
Heck, it might feel like a crapshoot for several hours.
Don’t give up! You can block almost any attack in Kingdom Hearts III, because Sora is just that good a boy. It’s all about figuring out the exact timing and just nailing it. Make sure your display is on the lowest latency setting, or “game mode,” if you have one of those.
Later you’ll unlock the ability to recover from a hit in mid-air by tapping the right-most face button when falling. Landing on your feet means faster recoveries, and you want that. There’s never an occasion where you don’t want to recover in mid-air.
Once you get enough hours into the game, you’ll unlock “reprisals,” which are follow-up attacks you can perform in a short (around 48 frames) window after a successful block. These are often tide-turning, combo-ending, boss-breaking maneuvers that position good boy Sora in the prime position to cheese a boss into a pile of trash.
Super-late into Sora’s ability progression you’ll unlock the ability to perform special reprisals after performing an in-air recovery. These are wildly game-breaking in your favor.
If you feel like using these conflicts with our good boy’s pure heart, don’t. Don’t feel sorry for the enemies, because…
You Are Going To Get Hit A Lot
It’s OK. Save your frustration. Don’t scream. Save your throat. Kingdom Hearts is as much of a quarter-munching vintage 1990s arcade brawler as it is a role-playing game. I mean this lovingly. Enemies hit you with cheap shots a lot. And I gotta say: there are no cheap shots like Kingdom Hearts cheap shots. Enemies can teleport directly behind you on a frame’s notice. Enemies can spawn deadly stalagmites which elevator up beneath your feet all day long whenever they want.
All your moves have risks attached. The AI, however, is reading the inputs straight from your controller. Yes, the AI quote-unquote “cheats” sometimes.
It’s OK. They’re guided by an all-seeing cosmic wizard. So it’s contextually appropriate. You gotta let the narrative designers win some.
Because, you see, this game has its roots in the crustiest, oldest RPGs. Kingdom Hearts is the living legacy of prestigiously musty old games that weren’t just about doing damage—they were about taking damage. In RPGs I call this “taking your medicine.”
In Kingdom Hearts, medicine is delicious.
While an underleveled playthrough of the game is possible (bragging a bit: I’m living proof) it is excruciating to deal with these attacks in the endgame without red-eyed frame-perfect blocks and dodges.
And you know what? Maybe you need to just accept that blocking is a crapshoot for you. Though never stop trying to do it. Allow a successful block to feel like a break-even slot machine pull. And always be ready to deal with damage.
Healing Is Fiddly
Using curative magic in Kingdom Hearts III requires you to use all of the magic remaining in your magic meter. This is preposterous. This is wild. This will not stand.
That is what you’ll say the first couple of times you die because you forgot about this.
When all your magic is gone, you have to wait for a magic regeneration bar to fill in. This can take a painful amount of time. You might get killed the heck dead during that waiting time. Well, maybe not if you just healed.
“Healing magic eats all your magic power” presents you with a unique assortment of brain frictions. Let’s run down these:
When you get the next level of a healing spell, well, why the heck is that old one still in your shortcuts when they’re all cost-equal? Get it out of there, friendo.
When you need to heal, it’s best to pump off a bunch of attack spells in a flurry before doing so. Of course, this might get you killed. Though buddy, as soon as I learned how to always successfully do this, the money flowed like wine. I was murdering everything moving.
At some point you’ll unlock an ability called “MP Safety.” Except in extremely min-maxed cases where you’re confidently battling down a corridor teeming with hordes of enemies, you’ll want to leave this on. “MP Safety” makes it so that if you have only exactly enough MP to cast a spell, it won’t let you cast it. The only spell it will let you cast is a healing spell. Thus “MP Safety” prevents you from zeroing out your magic gauge and then being in a situation where you’re unable to heal.
Waiting for your magic gauge to refill can be painful, so you have to be ready for when it happens.
Endgame Sora has six item slots in his equipment inventory, so I like to keep two Ethers (to refill magic) in there, and two Hi Potions (to heal when my magic is empty and a boss has just cheesed me).
To speed the magic gauge’s recovery up, you can put on an ability called “MP Haste,” or equip some accessories that grant it. The effect stacks, so stack it up! This is how I turned my Sora into a god monster.
Furthermore, Sora can equip three Keyblades at any given time. The menu clearly describes the blades as being “Balanced,” “Strength,” or “Magic” types. Each type enhances the attributes of its respective category. Though you don’t need a magic-type Keyblade to cast magic, magic is noticeably stronger if Sora is holding one.
You switch between Keyblades during battle by pressing left or right on the d-pad. There’s about 48 frames of inactivity while switching, so getting the hang of quickly switching to the magic-type Keyblade immediately before healing or using attack magic takes time, though it’s a good skill to get into the hang of.
Embrace The Chaos
Eventually Donald and Goofy will get riled up and yell about a cool thing they wanna do right now in battle. They’ll be like, “Sora, let’s make these freaks bleed!” And you’ll be like, “D-Donald…!?”
These are called “Command Actions.”
I advise you to treat the beginning of Kingdom Hearts III like a MOBA: every time a special move is available to you, point yourself immediately in the general direction of something you can affect with that special move and execute it. You need to get into the habit of using your specials before you get into the habit of using them expertly. So just let loose and go wild.
Sometimes Just Shake The Chaos’s Hand
Command actions all have big loud video-poker-like countdown timers on the screen. Once you are super-familiar with what all of your command actions do (and buddy, there are a lot of them) you’re going to want to get picky.
Use the left trigger to cycle between available commands. Execute when you feel like it’s ready. My gambling experience tells me that in Kingdom Hearts III, except in dire emergencies, using your abilities at the absolute latest possible relevant moment is always best.
The best example here is “Grand Magic.” When you use one spell multiple times, you stand a good chance of triggering a “Grand Magic” command. This allows you to use, at the touch of a face button, a one-level-higher version of that magic spell exactly once at no MP cost. Late in the game this is a tide-turner. If you use Thundaga (the highest lightning-type spell) three or four times, and damage a wide enough field of enemies, you have a great chance of tripping a “Thundaza” command. “Thundaza” is just hyper-murderous. Use it to absolutely scorch the earth with a hideous HDR lightning bolt.
Of course, you want to scorch as many idiots as possible. So you will keep a steady eye on the availability bar as it depletes. Using it at just the right time during a multi-wave post-game battle is wildly rewarding.
I’d recommend to start playing with Grand Magic the first time the game tutorializes it.
The same goes for the “Lockshot” ability, with which you can hold the right bumper to first-person aim and tag targets for Panzer-Dragoon-style homing missile destruction. Each Keyblade has multiple Lockshot behaviors, depending on the number of targets and the “formchange” state of the Keyblade. You want to figure out which ones of those are things your playstyle appreciates. Personally, I liked the ones that did big ugly damage.
Lockshot uses the “Focus” gauge which, look, if I keep talking about all the little cockpit instruments in this game we’ll all be in a retirement home before I’m done. The Focus gauge’s recovery is fiddly. You want to use it when you mean it. I save it for scenarios in which I am able to target about 20 direct hits on a boss’ stupid face.
Don’t Forget Your Parkour!
Wow, I got all the way through these tips and a perfect simulacrum of my actual game-playing style manifested: I forgot about Sora’s parkour moves.
If you press the dodge button and tilt the analog stick in midair, Sora will do what the game calls “Flowmotion.” It means he dash-slides toward an interactable object with a flair for style. Any glinting object in a battleground is a target for “Flowmotion.” Do it against a tree and Sora will gymnast-swing upon a branch. Press an attack from this state to deal much more damage than in some boring on-the-ground state.
Flowmotion against a wall and Sora will stick to it for a generous moment. Press the attack button from this state to do a sort of electric super jump attack. Of course, this does more damage than an attack from other positions. This works best if you’re locked on to the victim.
So that’s lock on, jump, dash, cling, then attack.
I found myself forgetting about these stick-shifty techniques until dying for the third time on a tough fight, when I realized I could be wall-running a lot more.
So: maybe you could be wall-running a lot more?
Use The Blizzard Spell To Go Fast
The game gives you the Blizzard spell very early. It’s not until much later in the game that you’re required to use it to move super-fast to catch up with something. You sure can use this ability right from the second you get Blizzard, though!
Basically, just face in the direction you want to go. Use the Blizzard spell. It leaves an ice rail on the ground as it moves. Jump on it and freak out, buddy.
This is great for when you’re feeling lonely as you re-traverse a monster-empty dungeon. If you’re out of MP, you can just use the “Air-Stepping” mechanic. This is cooler, though. Literally!
Getting Lost Sucks
Ah, heck. I took my time and spent all day writing this tips posts so that I could hopefully think of some perfect advice to give you about getting lost.
I’m sorry. I got nothing.
You will get lost in Kingdom Hearts III. A lot. This is, after all, a game descended from a proud lineage of PlayStation 2 role-playing games from Japan.
At some point in Kingdom Hearts III, Olaf, the snowman from the film Frozen, is going to have his body parts scattered. Just like he did in the film Frozen!
You are going to have to look for him. A character from the movie who has known Sora for less than one minute and talked to him for less than eight seconds is going to say, “Sora, why don’t you look for him?” Sora will then call this character by name when he says, “Sure!” I don’t know about you, though the way Kingdom Hearts characters so immediately take to a first-name basis with each other reminds me of the time a “date” took me to a Cutco knives seminar at a hotel by the airport in Indianapolis.
Yes, you’re going to be looking for a snowman. In snow. White on white. If you have a big TV, and if it’s got HDR, you might have to wear sunglasses.
Look, I’m sorry. I just—I can’t even tell you what I did. I just know that after an hour it was over and I wasn’t crying anymore.