KILL SCREEN 021: Derrick Vella and Payson Power of TOMB MOLD and the Enduring Love of Gaming

Photo by Shimon Karmel.

The co-nerds that run Kill Screen have certainly hit a new high score with this week’s installment. With over two hours of recorded discussion—not to mention an extended off-camera conversation afterwards—the word count for this week’s interview with Derrick Vella and Payson Power, the guitar duo for Canadian death metal heroes and current Decibel cover stars Tomb Mold, is far and away our longest yet, and for good reason. With a name that is a direct reference to an obscure item in FromSoftware’s ARPG masterpiece Bloodborne and nods to other titles in the song titles and lyrics in their earliest material, gaming is part of their musical DNA. When we longtime fans first learned of the impending surprise release of their Album of the Year contender The Enduring Spirit, our initial reaction was excitement to hear it (because duh, we’re metalheads, too), but soon after plans were made to summon them to our world and get to the bottom of their nerdy origins.

Despite the band’s immediate connection to the famed Soulsborne series, the pair’s differences in gaming preferences led us to cover a vast assortment of games. Vella, a self-described “pure PC boy,” and Power, a dedicated PlayStation fan, have decades of play under their collective belts, allowing us to explore the spectrum from gaming’s loftiest and most celebrated series to mining for some truly off-beat underground gems. Much of the discussion sadly had to be left on the cutting room floor, but what remains delivers some much-needed insight into the impact nerd culture has made on one of death metal’s most critically acclaimed current acts as well as an extensive list of recommendations for your Steam or PlayStation library. Until such a time as Albert allows the publication of the director’s cut of this already long interview, we are proud to share a perfect memory of our time together.

What were your first video game experiences?
Vella: At my cottage we had a classic Nintendo, and we had Super Mario and Duck Hunt—with the gun. And then playing Super Nintendo [after that]. I was born in ’88, so NES and Super Nintendo were my gateway points, and watching my older sister play Super Mario Kart and me never being allowed to play it until she got old enough and I got to have the Super Nintendo. My dad had a computer with Wolfenstein on it. That and getting someone to get me a copy of Duke Nukem 3D, that was my intro to PC gaming. I had that and console gaming. Sort of, There are two wolves inside you: Console gamer, PC gamer.

Power: My first was Skate or Die! on PC at my babysitter’s house. That was 1989? And, uh, pretty janky! I went back in a sort of heat of nostalgia where I was like, I’m gonna play the ROM, just like when I was four, and I was like, Holy fuck, this is unplayable. But I was really infatuated with the halfpipe segment because you can choose a few different things to do. I loved playing that, just trying to land or whatever.

After that, because of my dad, my big hook for gaming was all the Sierra point-and-click games. That was Conquests of the Longbow—that was my favorite—King’s Quest IV, Laura Bow II: The Dagger of Amon Ra. Those were the ones we played together. And Gobliiins. I don’t know if you guys know of Gobliiins, but they’re these puzzles games. There are four of them. The first two are fantastic but these games were designed as super difficult puzzle games. It was back in the age of games where you’d play and your character would have a newspaper article, a piece of gum, a paperclip, and it’d be like, “Just try it on everything.” And I remember playing Gobliiins and being so obsessed with it that all day at school I was just like, I wonder what that horn does. It would consume me to figure out these puzzles with my dad.

And then NES—Mario 1, 2 and 3—but I was never super good at those. Super Mario World was the first one I beat. From there the thing that changed my life was Final Fantasy IV, because it was a game you didn’t have to have hand-eye coordination to beat. I couldn’t beat the autoscrolling stages in Super Mario 3—they’d just kick my ass. So when I played a game where it was like, You can use water against this fire boss—it was about using your brain and just grinding. You’re not strong enough? Fuck it, just go kill a bunch of shit in the woods for two hours, try again. I loved that because before I was always really prohibited by the famed NES difficulty. Playing games like Adventures of Bayou Billy or Adventure Island, or any of those Batman or Robocop games—you can beat the first level. Second level maybe you’ll squeak through over the course of a weekend. Third level? Forget it.

Vella: [Payson] is making me think—we had one point-and-click game. I had the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade that LucasArts put out, and I could not beat it. I was too stupid and young. And then I remember we got a big CD-ROM pack and it had, like, eight LucasArts games in it: TIE Fighter, X-Wing, Dark Forces, Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, and I had The Curse of Monkey Island. [Monkey Island] was a game that, when I was young, I thought looked great but I was too stupid to play. Those games were hard, and the Sierra ones were even worse! You were primed to play games after playing Sierra games though.

Power: I remember when Grim Fandango came out and it was pretty heady. You really gotta use your brain to figure out what to do. And it was my first one in a 3D space—all the ones I had played before were the flat 2D ones. The sweet spot for me with the Sierra stuff like King’s Quest 4—the non-voice-acted version, the just-text one. It is an absolute masterpiece. 1, 2, and 3 are too hard. 4 is great. 5 is decent, 6 is decent. Then it goes off the rails. And Conquests of the Longbow is my choice for the most underrated game, maybe ever. I love it to death. Christy Marx wrote it. She was the creator of Jem and the Holograms, and she worked with Roberta and Ken Williams  at Sierra and wrote this game. She wrote two: Conquest of Camelot, which is good, and Conquest of the Longbow which is like the Robin Hood story. And it’s next level, it’s so good, but pretty tough. I play it once a year now and it still rocks.

What have you guys been playing lately?
Power: I recently played Resident Evil 4 Remake. When they said they were doing 4, I was like, Man, why bother? It still feels pretty good. There’s such an ocean between Resident Evil 3’s tank controls and pre-rendered backgrounds and Resident Evil 4’s fully 3D environment, the over-the-shoulder thing, which is still used. But then I saw the trailers and I was like, Well… maybe. And then it came out. I really loved the remake of 4. Wasn’t perfect, but I platinumed it—so, I beat it 5 times. I play on PlayStation, so you can sometimes take on two things at once in one game—in one sitting if you want. I decided I was gonna beat it without using a health item, and also beat it only using the knife and the handgun in the same playthrough. It was the worst decision, but once I was halfway through I was like, I’m not turning back. You could cheese it, because you could get to the end where you fight Saddler, and then you could fight him with whatever gun you want and win without using a health item, or you could just use the handgun and just take all your fucking health. But I was like, No I can’t. It would be too embarrassing. For the honor of it, I need the trophies to pop up at the same time. So, I did it. It took, like, four days. It was brutal. But I really enjoyed that.

Vella: I also played Resident Evil 4. I only played it one and a half times though. I just didn’t have the patience to do it. Those games are too hard, man! I can get through it once and then I’m like, Why would I do this again?

Power: This is different strengths though! You’re so good at the Souls games. I beat Elden Ring and I was like, Yeah! Moving on. And you’re like, “I beat it seven times.”

Vella: That or a game like Binding of Isaac that I’ve played for over 1,400 hours and it’s just second nature. I still play that game sometimes. There are certain games I like to play when I’m having my coffee in the morning. Lately, all I’ve been playing is Dave the Diver. I think Dave the Diver is easily the game I’ve played this year where I was like, This is the best, I’m having a lot of fun playing it. The narrative’s pretty good. It’s got a Stardew Valley-ish vibe to it. But I would say it’s less sentimental or sweet. And it’s a little more, I would say, funny. Awesome game. I know there’s gonna be DLC for it.

I mostly like either self-contained [games]—I can play it in half an hour—or narrative games. I play Binding of Isaac a lot, I still play Enter the Gungeon a lot. If I wanna turn my brain off I’ll play a game like Escape Simulator, which is just a sim game of escape rooms. I can get high, sit there and scratch my head for a minute, and then figure it out. Did you guys hear about this game that came out called Only Up? That game I played for a bit; I could not beat it but, that was so much fun. I played this game called Gloomwood. I don’t think it’s out yet, but it’s got Thief graphics, like CD-ROM game style. A stealth game.

Did you guys play that game Dredge? I loved the look of it, I loved the plot and mixing in a kind of Lovecraft-y angle to it. Like Payson, I like point-and-click and puzzle games and stuff. And I really liked this game that came out called The Case of the Golden Idol, which was on PC. You would get this image on your screen, and then you would click on things and you’d get words at the bottom, and then you basically had to do a fill-in-the-blanks to solve the mystery of each chapter or part. Awesome look, cool as hell plot. Just really good.

For my big narrative thing I finally played Red Dead Redemption 2, on the advice of Payson. Payson and I have a deal where, if I play that, he’ll play my favorite game: The Stanley Parable. Red Dead 2 was fucking incredible, man. I’m still in the epilogue but, the whole story is just wild. It’s so good. It’s a slow game though, for sure.

Power: I think it’s the best game ever made, up to this point.

Vella: [Better] than Elden Ring?

Power: Oh yeah, definitely.

Vella: For me it’s Elden Ring but I can’t argue against your case.

Power: Elden Ring was truly great. It was really, really great.

Vella: But [with] Red Dead, the game is what it is because of Arthur. It makes you want to keep playing it. The problem with it is that I needed to see it all through, I just have to finish the plot. Every time I thought I wrapped up one of those side quests that would keep reoccurring with certain people I’d be like, Fuck, man, I gotta go see it but I just wanna know what happens!

Power: And it’s not super fun, either. Halfway through it takes a pretty drastic turn and then you’re like, I’m gonna spend the next 100 hours pretty bummed out. My playthrough was 580 hours and the last half of it I was just like, Man, this sucks. It’s so great but I was so bummed out.

One game I forgot to mention was The Long Dark. Probably the game I’ve played the most in my life, and it’s just a survival game. You can’t win, you just die. You get dropped into the northern Canadian wilderness. Four levels of difficulty and you just gotta live. There is a story mode, and it’s good, but the most fun is when the game [starts in a] random part of the map [and] you gotta pick up sticks, start fires, go hunt stuff, melt snow, boil the water it turns into to make it safe. You can get food poisoning. I almost died 200 days in from food poisoning. It’s so punishing. Me and my buddy Peter got so into it that in the dead of winter we would open our windows in our apartments and play the game in the freezing cold.

Vella: Full immersion.

Power: [Peter] was like, “You should try it,” and I was like, “You’re crazy.” But then I put on a sweater and did it and I was like, This is awesome, man. I feel like I’m there. It’s really good. It’s not for everybody, it’s slow. And you can’t move very fast, you only have limited options. You’re always either hungry, dehydrated, tired or cold. And once you get cold and your energy runs out, you die and you go to sleep. It’s as realistic as one of those games could be. If you don’t sleep, all of your other shit goes down. I forgot to bring my sleeping bag with me once on a quest and I couldn’t sleep and I died. It’s crazy, but it’s really cool. I’m a little sick of it now but I had a lot of fun with it.

Vella: It’s funny we’re mentioning all these games. For years, I just didn’t have consoles. The last console I had when I was living at home was a GameCube. The last couple of new games I had played for a long time were Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, which is just a great game, and then a first-person on GameCube called XIII. And then for years I just didn’t have consoles, so when I played games it was Super Nintendo games on ROM or something like that. But then I was working at a Future Shop—it’s a Best Buy kind of thing—and they were like, “Hey, we have a repaired Xbox 360 that the owner is not gonna get because they got a new one. Do you want it for 50 dollars?” And I was like, “Sure!” I was just moving back home, so I had all of this time. It was around 2010, so I played BioShock, Dead Space 1, Fallout 3, Mass Effect 1 and 2 and Alan Wake. It was just like a, Oh my god, video games are greater than ever kind of thing. But then it was Payson who put me on to Demon’s Souls. He was like, “I have this game that’s so hard. Look at this shit!” And I remember he showed me Shrine of Storms level one and you’re like, “These guys, they’re impossible.”

Power: I was so pissed off playing that fucking game, man. A roll was so slow. I’d go to roll and the guy would hit me [while] I’m mid-somersault and I’m like, Bruh, I’m never beating this fucking thing.

Vella: But then I thought it was so cool. The English voice acting is bad. You’re like, “This game kinda sucks.” And I found that so appealing. It’s like the charm of Resident Evil 1.

It is just crazy to me though to think of how big of a success Elden Ring was commercially. I even remember Dark Souls; I don’t really think I knew anyone that played it. Dark Souls II I feel like people started to take notice. Dark Souls II is forever gonna have the bad rap, but I’m pretty firm that vanilla Dark Souls II was incredible. And I think the re-releases weren’t great; I didn’t like the DLCs. But just the base game before they changed anything I thought was just such an awesome game, like a work of art on so many levels. I like that one more than III, and I love III! But there’s something about II that I’m just so attached to. I loved the dialogue from all the different characters, I actually liked the story, I thought the levels looked really good. But people felt really burned by the DLC—all the DLCs—which I understand. Especially because the DLC for Dark Souls I is so good. It set the bar way too high.

We play in a band called Tomb Mold, and we did have all these Bloodborne-y things interspersed or Dark Souls things. But I have this other band called Dream Unending, and on our records I got this guy to do these spoken passages that I wrote. And for me, in my head, that’s just like a Dark Souls II NPC character. I kind of had that game in mind when I was writing it, just the style of how they talked and what they were talking about. I just love that game. I’m gonna ride hard for that game ’til I die even though every time I try to go back to play it I’m like, Fuck this game. But the memory of playing that game when it came out, you can’t take that from me. I’ll take that to my grave; it’s all good.

The name of the band is a reference to an item in Bloodborne. What led you to choose this name?
Vella: Actually, it’s kind of funny. When [vocalist and drummer] Max [Klebanoff] and I started the band, every time I sent him a scratch demo song idea, I would just put a different band name on it. And not because I was trying to pitch these names or anything. But most of them were all Demon’s Souls or Bloodborne things. Then at some point he and I were out for dinner and I was like, “What do you want to name the band?” And he was like, “What if we named it Tomb Mold? That was one of your things, and that’s actually pretty good—four letters, four letters. What’s that from?” And I was like, “It’s from Bloodborne.” And he was like, “Oh, well, that’s cool.” And then I was like, “OK. That works for me, man!” I think we also didn’t think that we were gonna make more than like two tapes so it was just like, This is never gonna be a thing we’re ever actually gonna have to interact with. [Laughs]

It’s a very death metal name. Even the item description is kind of heady, of what it’s used for and unlocking these labyrinthine things and whatnot. And it just looked good. Then we got a logo made and I was like, Alright, well, made the right call. Looks cool. So, thank god. But that was it. We were sharing lyric writing duties early. We had a song on our first demo called “Demon Ruins,” which is just an area in Dark Souls I, and it’s kind of about that. But I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just like, Well, I’ll use imagery from this. I didn’t think anyone would ever pick up on that stuff because I just figured 25 people would buy the tape and then that would be it. And then I think on the first LP, there’s a song called “Clockwise Metamorphosis” that’s a rune from Bloodborne. There’s “Merciless Watcher,” also a Bloodborne reference.

“They Grow Inside.”
Vella: “They Grow Inside” is a Binding of Isaac reference.

Vella: Yeah, there’s two Binding of Isaac references. There’s that one, and then we have a song called “Feed Them Hate,” which is the item description for the item Cambion Conception, [where] the more pain you take the more demon familiars you get spawning as permanent items. But I just love that. Feed them hate? That’s fucking hard, man. So, I was like, “We gotta name a song that.” And it’s a great song. We don’t play it, but it’s a great song. [Laughs]

Do you still take inspiration from games for song titles and lyrics?
Vella: No, not really anymore. Right now, Max takes care of all the lyric writing, so instead of video games it’s just Mobile Suit Gundam and other mech animes like that. So we just swapped out one virgin nerd thing for another virgin nerd thing and it’s fantastic.

Power: Over COVID, Max read a lot of really classic science fiction books. He was sending me a different one every day, like the Ursula K. Le Guin books and so many other things, and I think that really defined what the lyrics would eventually become because they’re very much in that space. There’s a lot of philosophical concepts, a lot of philosophy, but it’s juxtaposed against science fiction.

Vella: Yeah, almost like the song titles have these sci-fi [vibes], like certain song titles of his will remind me of Blade Runner. But then the lyrics themselves will be way more existential, way more like questioning yourself or maybe your drive or determination on something, or just your will. Or those mid- to late-era Death records or something, where it was the first time you heard a death metal record with someone almost pondering something. So, I guess for [Tomb Mold] no, and Dream Unending not really, but I do think about that stuff. I mean, I’ll be playing games and then I’ll see something cool and it’ll trigger something in my brain, I pick up a guitar and it just goes from there. I think that’s natural for a lot of people. It’s like when you watch a movie and you just get inspired, right? And somehow you turn that thought from a moving picture into song. And it’s the same I’m sure [for] the people who make games or movies or whatever and they’re like, “I heard something and it made me wanna make this.”

With the new record, I remember when I was doing the initial writing for it, I was really deep into playing the Mass Effect series again. And I know Max has played those games. I’m not saying there’s any of it in there, but there’s another thing that is constantly questioning your resolve. Do you have the drive to get it done, and what does that look like? I remember the first time I played through Mass Effect 2 I think three people died on me. And I was like, What the fuck, man? And then I was like, It’s because I was a bad leader. I fucked up. Those games, I think a lot about that stuff. Even though it doesn’t pertain to Max’s lyrics that’s what it makes me think of, for sure. It always comes back to games, though. It’s the be-all and end-all.

For the FromSoftware ARPGs, which would you say is the best and which would you say is the worst for each of you?
Power: My answer’s easy because I haven’t played them all. Worst? Demon’s Souls. It’s cool if it’s your thing. I tried, I put a lot of hours into it and I was like, I think I’m just gonna go play Twilight Princess or whatever. But best? Bloodborne, man. Elden Ring’s a better game, but I like Bloodborne. Bloodborne was so awesome. It’s shorter, and I like short games. Probably harder to go back to after Elden Ring just because of the horse. It’s kind of like playing Resident Evil 3 after playing 4. You’re gonna be like, What the fuck, why is this so clunky? Bloodborne is just a perfect game.

Vella: Yeah, Bloodborne, for sure. Elden Ring, close second. But all the things you said, just the vibe of Bloodborne. The story is really good. The Elden Ring story is good, too, but it’s so massive. It feels more like a Game of Thrones season or something.

Power: Sure, and the bosses reflect that, too, where you’re fighting this guy with a hammer, and you’re fighting this guy and his hammer is slightly different. Whereas Bloodborne, the bosses are just all crazy. When you get to Gascoigne and he mercs you the first time you’re like, Oh, shit. Did I take a wrong turn? And it’s like, No, this is just the second boss. When you beat him you feel awesome, and that’s the hook for me. And then as the game goes on and you see the boss design you’re like, These are magnificent, they’re all super cool.

Vella: It’s just great. Elden Ring accomplishes way more, but Bloodborne is just my favorite. It is what it is. I know which one I hate the most and that’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

Power: You fucking hated that, man. You were so pissed.

Vella: Dude, I tried a couple times to get into that game and I just could not do it. And I knew people who were like, “No, wait! If you just get to…,” That takes 20 hours, man. I can’t do it. I didn’t like the level up style, I didn’t like the weapon. I had played Nioh, but I never played Nioh 2. Nioh was like a Souls game but for someone with an actual brain. I just could not master it. I got through that game but I was like, There’s a way to really dominate in this that I just don’t know how to do. And that game was harder than any Souls game, ever. And Sekiro, it’s not that I found it hard, I was just not interested. I just couldn’t get engaged. And I’ll probably never finish it. I don’t even want to see a playthrough of it, I’m just that disinterested. So that’s my least favorite.

If I had to rank the Souls games, I would basically do I, II, III as my preferred order. Dark Souls I is so sick. I didn’t realize how much harder that game was than Elden Ring. My wife played Elden Ring and got through it and I was like, “You should try Dark Souls I.” I think two bosses in she was like, “Fuck this game.” But I was like, “It’s not that bad!” Then I went back and played it and I was like, Oh yeah, it’s way clunkier in comparison. Elden Ring is just perfectly fluid. That game feels so good when you play it. But the clunk of I and II, and same with Demon’s Souls, I love that kind of clunk.

Dark Souls I I’m just super nostalgic for, because I remember playing it on release day. It was the first one where I was actively aware that it was coming out. I remember getting a special edition and all that, and getting stuck at a point and looking on YouTube and the only people that had it were people playing it in Japan. It was also my entry point into watching people on Twitch and stuff—PvP Souls games. So [Dark Souls] I, I just got a huge soft spot for it.

Payson, you have the distinction of being the first person to wear a video game-related shirt on the cover of Decibel. What led you to choose a Resident Evil 2 shirt?
Vella: So sick.

Power: It’s one of my favorite games ever. 1 was spooky. I played it, it scared me. [By] 2, I was a little older. I had seen Creep Show by this point, so that was really the catalyst to my horror fascination. I got that shirt because I had seen that shirt on eBay for, like, 500 dollars or whatever, because there was an E3 shirt that was that exact design. And then this dude bootlegged it and I got two because I knew I was gonna wear one out. So, when we did the shoot I was like, I gotta wear something really important to me that’s going to age well. I’m not gonna wear something that in 10 years I’m gonna be like, Man, I don’t give a shit about that anymore. I’ve liked this for 25 years so I don’t think it’s going to go out of style any time soon. Resident Evil 2 rules. And that makes the remake even sweeter! Because they’re both incredible. You can remake a bad game and make it good, and then vice versa.

Derrick, in our interview with Austin [Haines] from Outer Heaven, he mentioned that at one point you created a year-end list recommending a number of different PC indie titles that he had never heard of. What indie titles have caught your attention recently?
Vella: This year was Dave the Diver, that Only Up game. Dredge, easily. The Case of the Golden Idol came out last year but they released DLC for it this year, which I thought was great. This other game that keeps getting updated intermittently that I always come back to. It’s called World of Horror. That’s another game where I had to boot it back up because there’s new stuff to unlock. And that’s a really, really cool game.

Power: The funny thing about World of Horror: Derrick talks about games or whatever media helped shape his writing of the riffs for the record. When he sent the demos to me for the new record, he had used as the album art the World of Horror screencap.

Vella: I did!

Power: And it’s fitting, for sure, because it’s got that kind of like extremely fast, vicious, creepy vibe, but it’s not sludgy or swampy or whatever. Seeing that, I knew that was the tip he was on. I haven’t played World of Horror yet because it’s not console, but I’ve been dying to. It comes out on Switch I think in October.

Payson, are you console exclusive?
Power: Pretty much. I go to PC for something if I really have to. When something like Gone Home comes out and everybody’s going on about it, that’s when I’ll download on PC so I can play it. I play my old DOSBox just on my Mac. But for new stuff, only if I think it’s not gonna come to console, like Papers, Please. I played [Return of the] Obra Dinn on console.

Vella: Papers, Please is great. Obra Dinn fucking slays, dude.

Power: Obra Dinn is mind-blowing. My fiancé and I played it over the course of two days and it’s some of the most fun I ever had playing a game. Completely, totally fucking new—you’ve never played anything like it. I’ve shown it to a few of my homies and they’re like, “The graphics are kind of weird,” and I’m like, “You’ll forget about it.”

Vella: Aw, they’re so good!

Power: Yeah, the graphics I think are beautiful, but I can see why people who are more into modern stuff would be like, This is kind of weird. But once you get in that space, once you’re on the ship, it’s better than fully fledged graphics! There’s no bullshit to get in your way; you’re focused on figuring out the ship’s manifest.

Derrick, it sounds like you mostly go PC. Do you play on consoles at all?
Vella: I’m a pure PC boy, but we have a Switch. I don’t ever really play it, but my wife is playing [The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom], so I see it on the TV. I probably won’t play it. Not for any bad reason, I just get more satisfaction out of watching her play Zelda than me actually playing Zelda. I don’t have any PlayStations or Xboxs or anything. At some point, my fear is that they’re gonna put out another Soulsborne game and it’s gonna be exclusive to PS5—beyond Demon’s Souls remake—and I’m gonna have to buy it. And that’s fine, but I would rather not.

What in particular for each of you guys is the reason that you prefer that particular platform?
Power: I’ve been a Sony guy since PS1, since Final Fantasy VII, when I bought my PS1 with the money from my paper route. The exclusives have always been great. There are so many awesome PC games and I don’t slight PC at all, but I find the games I most gravitate towards were usually the things that were only on PlayStation. It is absolutely fucking insane to remember that in 1997, ’98, and ’99, we got FFVII, VIII, and IX. And the development cycle off Final Fantasy XV—maybe my second favorite Final Fantasy. Oh my god, that game floored me.

When something really earth-shattering comes along that’s PC only I’ll try to play it if I can. And a lot of the ones I want to play are things that don’t require a really good graphics card. I’m not as impatient as I used to be, so when I see something that’s PC exclusive I’m like, I’ll give it a year, and I bet I’ll hear a rumbling of it on console. Long Dark was like that. That was on Steam early access and it looked totally different. By the time it got to console I had time to play it. I’m never running out of stuff to play. And there’s been way too many times where I’ve dropped full price on a game to be like, I’ll start it later, and by the time I start it it’s 10 dollars. If there’s something that I really gotta do, I’ll dig in. But for the most part console has like enough stuff for me. Or I’ll just revisit something, which I love doing. It’s very rare that I play something again where I’m like, This actually sucks. That’s happened maybe a handful of times in my life. For the most part, I can be like, Yeah, this is still great.

Vella: I like playing with a keyboard and mouse. It makes games like Resident Evil way easier to play. I can actually shoot people in the head because I can aim with a mouse. But I like being at my desk; I’m always productive at my desk. I’ll be playing, but then I like to multi-task and I’ll do something else. I just have everything with me. I like playing on PC, I like the selection of games. And you’re right: Most stuff ends up on console, but every so often these odd gems don’t. One I always think about was a game I bought on Steam called Hylics. I bought the second one and then when back and got the first one. It’s this RPG game, turn-based combat, but the art is very surreal. The characters are just these strange blobs at times, or heads that are nothing. You have to kind of look it up. If you look at it, it’s sort of like what you see when you take two tabs of acid or something. It’s very melty and the music sounds like it’s melting and it’s super cool. Those are the games that win me the most—kind of like an Obra Dinn-style game—where it’s a little left of center. I find PC just has a plethora of left-of-center games and that just appeals to me. Especially as I really only buy one or two AAA priced games a year, so I’m always looking for stuff that’s cheaper and might have replay value, or might not. I’m more willing to throw my money at a smaller development team. I still get roped into buying Resident Evil remakes and all that such, and I like it just as much, but I try to split my time.

Are there any games that the two of you are looking forward to?
Vella: Alan Wake 2 whenever it comes out. I replayed [Alan Wake] last year and it was great because it’s so of the time of when it came out—in ’08 or whatever—and there’s all these horrible alternative rock or radio rock songs in the game.

Power: I’m excited for the Metal Gear Solid [Master] Collection because it’s just an excuse to play all those again.

What about the Metal Gear Solid 3 remake?
Power: Yeah, if they do it right. [Konami], they’re not known for doing things correctly, so we’ll see. I wonder if David Hayter’s gonna be back for it. I didn’t even look into that because he hasn’t done anything since Metal Gear Solid 4 I don’t think. It could be cool, but 3 is pretty awesome the way it is. The Subsistence version is really great, the second version they put out where you had control over the camera. That was really awesome.

Other than that, nothing really jumps out at me, I guess. I’ll play Alan Wake 2 as well. I’m at the end of the first one.

Did you get the new Final Fantasy?
Power: I didn’t, because I was a little worried about time management. This is the first Final Fantasy I didn’t get, since VII, right when it came out. XIII’s the only one I didn’t finish. XIII, I just couldn’t do it. I got 40 hours in—so, maybe 10 hours into the non-linear part—and then the character was like, “Are we l’Cie or fal’Cie?” and I was like, Fuck this game, I hate this. That’s why when XV came out I was like, I’m not getting it the day it comes out. And then I got it and I was blown away. A lot of it has to do with expectations. I thought XIII was gonna be great and it wasn’t; I expected XV to suck so that’s probably why it’s so high in my tier rankings. I was like, Yeah, it’s gonna be dumb. It’s four guys in a car. But it actually ended up being the best part of the game, just driving around. And it’s a crushing game. The first half is fun and then some stuff happens. I remember when Ignis lost his sight I was like, He’s only gonna be blind for a minute, right? Five hours later in the game he’s like, “I don’t think my vision’s coming back” and you’re like, Oh my god, this sucks. Much like Red Dead—fun the first half and then just how bad can we bum you out in the second half.

Vella: So dark.

Power: Super dark. But the ending of XV is unbelievably beautiful. Yoshitaka Amano does all the logo design for all the Final Fantasy games, and the FFXV one—I guess it’s old enough that I can spoil it—when the game finishes, you get this really great scene and you’re all pumped, and then the rest of the image draws. And it’s the last thing you see in the game. It completes. And it was literally jaw-dropping. As someone who’s been obsessed with Final Fantasy for years, to see the other half of the image, it was beautiful. I love that moment. I don’t care that they don’t flesh out your fiancé very much in the game. Whatever, it sucks. But man, that ending was great.

Vella: The real trap now is, because games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne have become so successful, there are a lot of Soulslike games, and knowing which ones might actually be good versus which ones aren’t becomes the real struggle. It’s the same with a lot of games that follow a Dead Cells format—run-and-gun style games where you get upgrades as you go but you’re gonna die a lot—the ones that are good, obviously there’s a high level of design and development, but there’s also something intangible. Sort of like a soul to the game, for lack of a better way of putting it. And I find that a lot of these games come out and there’s just these dark, drab combat games—Soulslike games, or Metroidvania style games—and then I get so disinterested so fast. That’s the biggest pitfall for me, I have to avoid those games at this point. They never deliver.

The Enduring Spirit is available now via 20 Buck Spin and can be purchased on Decibel-exclusive vinyl here.
Pick up the November issue of Decibel featuring Tomb Mold here.
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