Breaking The Wall: 10 Memorable Grindspots Across the Video Game Landscape - ArticleIssa Maki , posted on 03 September 2021 / 1,856 Views
Grinding and video games go hand in hand; it's one of those things that we've all done. If it's not some powerful wand or armor to yearn over, it could be overcoming a boss that's had your number for weeks. Certain deals are too good to pass up when they're on the table; others can't be unseen once revealed. An element of catharsis also factors into this equation, the dulling repetition of harvesting crops or mining ore has a soothing effect that feels nice after a hard day's work.
Even if it can be embarrassing and we have to excuse ourselves afterwards, grinding is one of those facets of video games that's as natural as having to press a button to jump. Compiled for your pleasure is a list of some of the more memorable 'grindspots' I've come across in the gaming world.
Hypogean Gaol – Bloodborne
I've spent so much time incarcerated within the Hypogean Gaol that the residents of Yharnam believe I'm a lunatic – a concern I eventually quelled given enough guns and repeated floggings. By adhering to a small loop of fighting two 'Bagmen', two boars, and one annoying witch, hunters can acquire (about) 9,485 Blood Echoes quickly and with little effort.
Accessible after defeating the Blood-Starved Beast in Old Yharnam, the Gaol is a valuable resource to utilize during the early-game in lieu of exploring Chalice Dungeons. Twin Blood-Stone Shards make a cameo appearance before starting their scheduled rotation, sharpening the player's edge further. If you're low on potions and ammunition, or need just a bit more experience to top off that next level, consider being sentenced to the local facility.
This window of opportunity doesn't last forever, so stock up on Bone Marrow Ash and Fire Paper while the moon waxes white!
Level 3-1 – Super Mario Bros.
The first 'exploit' I encountered in my career. I was only a couple of years older than Super Mario Bros. itself when my babysitter's son dropped this on my pre-school mind. The elder statesmen of the group might not be the most entertaining, but it's undoubtedly the most iconic.
Make your way to 3-1 (the Warp Pipe in 1-2 takes Mario straight there), playing the game as you normally would. At the end of the level are two Koopa Troopas descending a staircase. Dispatch one and jump on the other, keeping it close to the back of a step. The idea is to bounce the shell back and forth repeatedly, gaining a point bonus that eventually translates into a series of 1-UPs. This is far less complicated than it looks in writing (press 'A' with the proper timing), and it only takes a minute or two to acquire many extra lives. Whatever number 'crown white-blue square' represents in the Mushroom Kingdom, rest assured it's a good one to have.
If there was an initiation into the video game fraternity, it would be culminate with this ritual. Those with active subscriptions to Nintendo Switch Online, think of it as a donation and show our alma mater some love!
The Gates of Athens – God of War
I'm convinced that some of the grindspots I've encountered over the years are intentionally created by developers to allow them to test various aspects of their game (environment), without heavily committing to others (enemy encounters). Why they get left in is another question entirely, but this is a great example of an oversight to take advantage of.
After Kratos' fateful encounters with the multi-headed Hydra and breasted denizens of the Aegean Sea, the Ghost of Sparta is entreated by the Gods to defend the city of Athens from an assault by the treacherous Ares. Shortly after, he is ambushed by the (alleged) Queen of the Gorgons, Medusa – who is promptly decapitated and converted into a weapon. What's supposed to ensue is a tutorial training Kratos how to use his newest tool; but with perpetual magic reserves, limitless enemies, and no time limit, I decided to teach the game a lesson of my own.
Swap Medusa's Gaze out for Poseidon's Rage and activate the spell when enemies are within range, building up a combo bonus. When enemies or mana start to dwindle, flick the right analog stick to roll around. Doing so retains Kratos' kill-streak while giving the game a moment to replenish his resources. Rage. Roll. Repeat. Spend an hour or so here and you should easily have enough currency to upgrade every subsequent piece of gear to its maximum as soon as it's acquired.
I might have been responsible for why Poseidon's Rage was ceremoniously taken away during the opening of God of War II, and if I am, I'm sorry.
The Throne of Destruction – Diablo II: Lord of Destruction
“Why are those people standing by the stairs?”, my Necromancer asked, beating cheeks to keep up with his friend.
“Because they're leeches!”, the voice ahead of him shouted back. “Try and stay close!”
I probably spent more time playing Diablo II my sophomore year of high school than I did attending the classes themselves, and 'Baal runs' were the cream of the crop. A replacement for the nerfed Cow runs and Bloody Foothills, Baal runs consist of a group of players frantically running/teleporting as fast as they can to the Worldstone Keep Level 3 (while praying that Burning Souls don't instantly snipe them back to Harrogath). Inside the Throne of Destruction, the party is besieged by five waves of foes and penultimate battle takes place. It doesn't last very long, as the thralls of Baal are almost always immediately obliterated in a cacophony of spells, familiars, and hammer-throwing bot programs. Doing this multiple times in succession causes the player's character to sky-rocket in level, allowing them to master their most vital skills and become the build they were meant to be.
Ironically, until you decide to ascend to the next difficulty, it's preferable not to kill Baal during a Baal run; this way you can still see the rooms and lobbies more appropriate to your level range. With the impending re-release of Diablo II, everyone can get back to resuming their 20-year argument about lagging the game with summons.
The Cave – Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
In an homage to The Empire Strikes Back, there exists on planet Korriban a cave. 'Inside' of this cave (the only things there are those you take with you) is an old Sith temple, and in the back of this area is the body of a deceased Jedi. Touching it causes two deadly, pseudo-invisible Hssiss dragons to spawn and descend upon the Exile.
This is where a glitch comes into play: Hssiss dragons will generate each time this corpse is interacted with. Repeatedly inspecting it fills the entire room with dozens of enemies within seconds, all of which can be eliminated with a combination of Force Storm and Death Field, instantly gaining tens of thousands of experience points. My Xbox used to constantly freeze when I performed this bug, but considering that the story of the game is about a galaxy-threatening wound in the Force, I found this to be oddly fitting.
As a result of its popularity, the Hssiss glitch was eventually patched back into the PC version of KOTOR2 – and not without reason. Should you have any desire to reach max level, Hssiss dragons are your only hope...
Black Knight/Fate – Devil May Cry
Contrary to a once popular belief, you can grind Devil May Cry out like other games in the series. It might lack the ability to repeat missions after they've been beaten in a playthrough, but a couple of highly lucrative opportunities still exist to take advantage of.
The first is at the very start of Mission 4: Black Knight. As soon as Dante descends the staircase in the hallway, he is immediately interrupted by Phantom (the infamous 'giant magma spider'), who demands a rematch after his embarrassing defeat. Dante has two choices; should he decide to stay and take Phantom down a second time, he'll net a 500 orb bonus. From here, press the 'Select' button, save the game, reset, and repeat. As long as players are thrifty with their Devil Trigger gauge, they can gain a hefty profit.
The second is Mission 11: Fate. Dropping down into the hole at the beginning of the level initiates an encounter with five 'Blade' enemies, who are rather susceptible to the grenade launcher. Jumping out and then back in resets the process, which can be repeated to the player's content. A good half hour of this allows Dante to buy anything he needs, granting him access to certain health upgrades and secret missions earlier than usual.
Anyone having problems with Devil May Cry take heed. And if Capcom happens to be listening: can we finally get the game about Sparda, please?
Land's End – Super Mario RPG
This one doesn't seem to be nearly as recognized as it should be, considering how beloved Super Mario RPG has remained over the past 25 years. It's also quite easy to perform:
From the save point in the caverns, jump down, grab the Super Star, and run into as many enemies as you can, instantly bypassing (and winning) each encounter. On the lower level behind some crates is an NPC who sells a second Super Star, and the process from the first floor is repeated. When the star expires, get into a fight and lose, at which point you'll be sent back to the save point where you can do it all again!
When you 'die' in Super Mario RPG, you retain the coins from your original save, but also keep the experience that was gained in between loading and losing. This loop allows Mario and the rest of the party to reach any level they desire. Two or three repetitions can swing the latter portions of the game in the player's favor; imagine forty!
Destiny Island – Kingdom Hearts
Before Sora's journey into the unknown begins, he's granted one last opportunity to spend some time with his friends. On the surface, sparring with Riku or beaning Wakka in the face with his own blitzball present themselves as the most fun that can be had on this tropical nursery, but it's Final Fantasy X protagonist Tidus (in his first of two appearances) who truly tests the player's mettle.
By 'Teching' his attacks with well-timed ones of your own, Sora gains Tech Points – the equivalent of experience points. Tidus is easily the most aggressive opponent at this point in the game (even surpassing several bosses afterwards), allowing tens of Tech Points to be gained per minute. With the enhanced framerate and rearranged skill distributions from Final Mix, this strategy is actually superior on modern consoles.
After watching me do this for about a half an hour, a friend of mine asked when I had died inside, and for some reason my thoughts drifted back to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Besides, it's only around 800 more swings until the next level, and it's not like I'm going to stop at 39... the ways of the backwards-walking people can be difficult to comprehend.
The Depths – Dark Souls
Between the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Switch versions of Dark Souls, I've spent more time farming Humanity from the rats in the sewers of the Undead Burg than most people do playing the actual game. If my mom knew how many characters I've done this with over the years, she'd lament about 'accidentally' leaving me at the movie theater when I was 8.
She doesn't understand, is all; having 99 'raw' Humanity on your person gives you a defense bonus equivalent to the Elite Knight Set! Even having 10 Humanity will significantly raise your curse resistance and help with poisons. It also increases the chance of enemies dropping items. I know that location in the DLC is better, but it's far more difficult to access and players can now warp to the Depths using the Lordvessel!
You don't even need to take the cuffs off for me to show you, I can hold the controller just fine; and I'm sure plenty of mothers went to go see 3 Ninjas by themselves that summer, too.
S.S. Liki – Final Fantasy X
I was in college studying for an exam in my Contemporary Ethical Dilemmas class, when I came up with an idea: to offset the monotony of learning about various ethical theories and the horrifying differences between active and passive euthanasia, I would counter-balance it by grinding the boss fight on board of the S.S. Liki. And eventually, amidst a sea of Sinscales and abortions, I drifted off into the ether...
Some time later, I woke up and, in my infinite wisdom, decided to keep going for another hour... then my PlayStation 2 froze. That's not even my favorite story about Final Fantasy X.
The set-up to this is easy stuff: simply use Tidus' 'Cheer' ability to the point where he, Wakka, and Kimahri can kill a Sinspawn with a single attack. When all are defeated, Sin will simply send out three more. It's a matter of pressing 'X' and healing as needed. When you've had enough, call in Lulu or Yuna to deal with Sin itself (it has no direct attacks), and you're halfway there. Remember to keep Tidus' and Wakka's HP full, as there's a second boss fight afterwards and the last thing you need is to enter it in a weakened state.
Like Kingdom Hearts, the remastered version of Final Fantasy X has benefits over its sixth generation counterpart, namely the ability to put the console in Sleep Mode and break the grind up into sections. Invest the time and you'll be able to Overkill many of the subsequent enemies throughout the story, in turn gaining bonus experience and adding more kindle to the fire. Once the furnace of Final Fantasy X is lit, it burns for a long time.
Unfortunately, I have to draw the line somewhere and quit while I'm ahead. If I keep going, I'll end up talking about every numbered Final Fantasy title, and don't get me started on anything that has Xeno- as a prefix. There are definitely honorable mentions out there, like the Batton in Mega Man X, or the inverted Marble Gallery in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and the only reason that the MissingNo. from Pokémon Red didn't make the cut is that it's been over 20 years since I played and I don't remember enough to do it justice! A second list might already be in order – I can't believe I forgot about Mementos in Persona 5!
Regardless, if it's for money, experience, items, extra lives, or merely for the hell of it, the grind is one of those aspects of gaming that isn't going anywhere anytime soon; and if it ever tries to, I'll just find it again because I'm patient and can recognize a good pattern when I see it (catch you in the morning, the Sun!).
Do you have a favorite grindspot that you can't help but revisit from time to time? Let us know, so we can get out there and plant that corn!