Destiny Roegadame

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I had this post that I was contemplating making this morning, but I’ve decided that maybe today is not the right day.  I woke up with a headache that sort of feels like my brain case is trying to split in two…  so it maybe isn’t the best time to be getting into subjects that require a delicate touch.  So instead this morning you are going to get to see some of what I did this weekend over in Destiny 2.  Firstly you get a shot of my current Warlock outfit…  I am in the one in gold and black with the crazy horns.  Now it was announced last week that they nerfed the luminous engrams for multiple characters of the same class.  I am beginning to think that maybe they also nerfed said rewards for ANY characters.  I spent a good deal of time on the Warlock completing the few “easy” engrams…  namely the Weekly Flashpoint (Titan), Clan Experience Reward and Call to Arms Milestone.  The last two line up neatly because you get a predictable 500 xp per crucible match, which helps to chew away at that 5000 xp needed to get the Clan reward.  I held all of the engrams until I had completed all three and then equipped my strongest power gear and turned them in one at a time so I could in theory adjust as needed.  Now when I do this on my Titan I usually see a significant jump in power…  and when I turned in on the Warlock they all for the most part dropped at the same light level as me or maybe one higher.  Ultimately I am not sure if doing multiple luminous engrams per week is really worth it…  but if I can get my Hunter through the main story in time I might try at least one of hers to see if I get the same results.

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That brings me to the fact that I started my hunter this weekend, and wound up deleting my Destiny 1 character and re-rolling as a Female Awoken.  Some interesting things to note…  that even though I deleted my character I got specific story hits as though I was a legacy character.  I am guessing those flags are set at an account level and not a character by character level, so I still got referenced based on my past deeds even though I ultimately deleted my previous hunter.  My Titan being Exo is really the important part of the equation, and the fact that my other two characters were Exos…  was largely due to the fact that there are no beards in Destiny.  Since Hunter is such a nimble and graceful class, I always thought in the back of my head that I probably should have rolled a female character… and in part I am just correcting that original error.  As far as rolling Awoken…  this is the closest I can get in Destiny to having a Roegadame…  which is always the correct choice if you have it.

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This is ultimately a test run for how I am likely going to level when the PC release happens.  I quested my way through the European Dead Zone to unlock Titan, and did the first quest there which unlocks the planet as a whole.  From there I ran public events until I reached 20, which for the first 10 levels took a single event per ding… and afterwards took roughly 2 per.  So if I functionally get to titan around level 5 that means within 25 public events I should be sitting at the level cap.  The reasoning behind this is that you get an awful lot of random gear drops while doing the story content.  Now the specific rewards like Exotics have power limits and will not float up as your level increases…  but all of these random drops absolutely will.  There is a significant part of the leveling process that is going to involve grinding something until you hit 260 light… the cap that you can get to with blue items.  From there you will need a stockpile of faction rewards to get to 265…  and in this case I had a fat stack of Titan tokens to turn in when I got there artificially by equipping the chest I had purchase from Xur and all of my Titan’s weapons.  I started the Hunter around 11 am yesterday afternoon and wound up dinging 20 around 5 pm…  with time between to do laundry and cook and random tasks like that.  Now I just need to finish out the main story, which in theory I should be able to do tonight.

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When I logged my character in earlier to take a few screenshots I noticed that my Clan has defeated the Raid.  When this happens everyone in the clan gets a specific engram that is a level 10-15 version of one of the raid weapons.  I just so happened to have a base 290 pulse rifle sitting in my bank that I sacrificed for science…  and infused to bring the weapon up to usable levels.  All in all I like this pulse rifle quite a bit, and while it is going to take some getting used to the action and the sounds it seems to be really solid.  The important thing however is that I am super proud of my clan for defeating the angry penis head…  which if you have seen Emperor Calus…  it is a fairly apt description that I sadly cannot claim as my own.  I am not sure which team specifically got the kill, but awesome work because I know it took a lot of people over the course of two weeks to really nail this all down and get the fight across the finish line.  Now the rest of us casuals have some shiny baubles as a result.  I think tonight I will be working on the Hunter main story so that I can at least test the flashpoint engram to see what sort of levels I get it to decode at.

Xur Week Two: 9/22/17

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Since I did this last week I thought I would continue with it for at least another week because Xur brought something I had been wanting.  This time around since the weekly flashpoint is Titan, Xur is located on the section of the planet called “The Rig”.  To get here you will have to cross some areas of the map that have lots of mobs on them, but thankfully none of them seem to be willing to follow you into the actual room he is located in.  Previously in Destiny 1 Xur arrived Friday morning and left Saturday at Midnight PST.  This time around that does not seem to be the case because he was up on Nessus until the reset happened Tuesday morning.  I am not sure if this was intentional or some sort of a bug, but regardless I would suggest checking him out today or tomorrow just to make sure.

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This time around he has brought the Wardcliff Coil or for those of us that played Destiny 1 and followed the dataminers…  the Dubious Volley.  Honestly I think Dubious Volley is a much better name for what the weapon does, because it is essentially an anime missile launcher.  What I mean by this is if you have ever seen something along the lines of Robotech where a bay of missiles opens up and then they sorta fire in a bunch of different directions…  that is what this weapon does.  In use from what I understand it feels a lot like a Gjallarhorn that ONLY fires Wolfpack rounds…  but way more of them.  One of the problems I have heard is that as the mini missiles are tracking in… if a mob moves close to you…  it will in fact blow you up too.  This is one of those fabled weapons that we never got in the first game… so I am absolutely picking this up so I can play with it now.

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The Feedback Fence is an item from the first game…  that in truth no one actually used.  There were a few super edge case builds that you needed to run if you were going to optimize this…  which is a bit sad given that they look amazing.  Functionally to make it work you need to run around punching things…  and then letting something else punch you to explode it.  This makes it extremely unpredictable, and not that useful given that the cases you really want to unleash damage on a target…  are most likely cases where they don’t actually melee you.  The number of bosses that reliably melee you is pretty limited.  I would suggest only picking these up if you simply need the light level and using them as infusion fuel.

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Do you like Solar Grenades?  If so then these are probably the gloves for you.  I like grenades quite a bit but in general I am not a fan of the changes to the fire subclass for Warlocks, so as a result I am probably going to give these a pass.  This is the second week in a row that we have had a solar specific item on Xur for Warlocks which is a little disappointing.  I used last weeks chest piece only until I got a legendary chest that I could it into.  All of that said, this does not take away from the fact that this really is a good item.  It increases the duration of your solar grenades and causes solar melee hits to increase grenade energy regeneration.  If you want to be a mad bomber this is probably going to be down your alley.

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Once again I have not even started my Hunter yet so this is an image that I borrowed from the internet, and then overlayed the stat block.  When zooming in on a target this helmet will place a little red X over it.  When that target gets low health you begin dealing significantly more damage to the marked target.  The drawback here is that if you focus on any other targets for any length of time it will shift the X and  that may or may not be what you want to have happen.  Another edge case that is super useful is in the tracking of a mob that might be running from you…  like how some high value targets do these days.  I am personally not that interested in this helm, and plan on just sticking with the chest piece from last week that increases my Arc Strider stuff.  Folks are saying however that this is a really powerful pickup and I can see why because in theory it just gives you bonus damage on a target, which would be nice for boss burn phases once the boss gets within “execute range”.

 

Warlock and Worm Gods

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I don’t have a whole heck of a lot to talk about this morning.  I had a relatively chill night playing Destiny 2 without a whole lot of focus on any more serious adventures.  The first part of the evening I finished a milestone that involves doing a bunch of challenges.  Most of these I got yesterday morning while doing a little crucible, but I wound up finishing up in the EDZ knocking a few out there.  After that I picked back up with the main story quest on my warlock and leveled my way through the end of the EDZ, all of Titan and Nessus and have the starting quest for Io.  The only problem there is that I have been way less meandery this time and am sitting just shy of level 10.  In order to accept the IO quest you need to be 11…  so I am going to spend some time wandering Nessus and taking down stuff there I think.  Titan as a whole is not really a great event running zone, given that things are so broken up due to the various platforms that everything happens to be on.  Nessus and EDZ seem like they are for the long run going to be the best spots to get pick up events, but even then…  now that Nessus is the flashpoint it seems to be way less active than the EDZ was last week.  That said there are still a ton of people running events in the EDZ, which might ultimately be the best place to settle into.

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The other thing that I wanted to talk a bit about this morning is something I had seen in a video before.  There is a mission on Titan where you end up essentially going down into an underwater base.  There is this one place where you drop down to a platform below…  and if you are following the flow of the mission you are focused on the objective that is behind me in this screenshot.  However if you turn around and look behind you…  you see this translucent bank of windows and can see something swimming by in shadow that is massive…  and has tentacles.  Now if you have not read the Books of Sorrow this probably will mean nothing to you.  If you want to know the lore of the Hive, then I highly suggest either watching the video series by Byf or the one I actually watched ages ago from Myelin games.  If you prefer to read it yourself, then the full text can be found here as well as I believe all of the Grimore cards from Destiny 1.  I like the video options because I am a sucker for dramatized radio play style text readings…  which is probably why I am a fan of podcasting and public radio in general.  Now we are going to enter some spoiler territory so if you do care to experience the Books of Sorrow yourself come back later.  In the books you find out that the Hive long ago crashed landed on a Water Giant world that they refer to as “The Fundament”, and they ultimately sought the help of the worm gods that lived deep under the water and were creatures of darkness.  I think it doesn’t really make sense that Titan would be “The Fundament” because otherwise we by all accounts should have had to deal with the Hive in full force long before they actually found us.  Instead I am wondering if what we are seeing underwater swimming up against the arcology is a similar Worm God.  Others have talked about this maybe being an Ahamkara, but everything indicates that they were dragon like…  not Leviathan like.  I would say that maybe all of this is for nothing and this is just native life…  but few things that Bungie does are for no actual reason.  I have seen time and time again how they have planted the seeds of something that is yet to come…  in the background of something we have already seen.  During several of these missions the Ghost says that these Hive are different than the ones we had encountered before, which makes me wonder if a certain character that keeps getting mentioned…  has sought out more Worm Gods to make a pact for more power.  Again if you have not dove pretty deep into the lore of Destiny not a damn word I have said today will make much sense.

Destiny 2: Thoughts after Beating Story

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There have been many points during my leveling process where I looked pretty damned cool.  However in my current state I look a bit like a rejected He-Man toy from the 80s.  The important thing however is that I am sitting at 265 power…  which is effectively the first soft cap you can hit…  or more or less means you are “done with blues”.  Now I will have to rely on a much smaller list of items that I can get potential upgrades from, but even then… it does feel like I am stalled out.  The next plateau is 280, which unlocks the Nightfall and some of the advanced features of the Gunsmith, and I might have to wait until the weekly reset to be able to get there.  At this point by my estimations I have spent over 30 hours in game, but the PS4 doesn’t really have a proper way of tracking this time spent.  Unfortunately Destiny Tracker seems to have some issues with the API currently and is only showing the most recent information.  I officially “beat” the game on Friday when I crossed two different finish lines… the first being level 20, and the second being the completion of the main story quest.  Both of these are important for different reasons…  level capping of course lets you start gaining power level which is the TRUE leveling system of Destiny 2.  When you beat the story however the flood gates open with a ton of options that were previously locked…  including one of my favorite Destiny 1 activities…  Patrol Missions.

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The thing you probably want to hear about however is the story, since that was the chief complaint about the original game…  or at least the lack thereof.  I personally enjoyed it greatly but your mileage may vary.  It is hard to separate the part of me that is a lore junkie from the original game and poured over countless YouTube videos, grimoire cards and is even in a discord group specifically for…  pieces together the story.  Objectively the story works significantly better than that of the original game, because you are given a more traditional plot structure.  Going into the game you have an event that has thrown your world into turmoil, and you are presented a very clear nemesis that is responsible for those events.  From there it sets a path in motion, first of survival and then of figuring out a way to fight back.  All of this works pretty well, and the game crescendos during the last four or five missions until you reach what feels like a pretty damned epic climax.  More importantly than all of this…  you are invested in the people you meet along the way.  In the first game… especially in the year one content…  everyone was just a name without any attributes really associated with them that would make you start to care.  Now you get introduced to a bunch of new characters along with the characters you already knew… and at each step of the way you are given little bits of story about them that make you start to care about their situation…  not just how they might benefit you.  There are several NPCs in Destiny 2 that I genuinely like and enjoy doing further content with and for… because I get to hang out with them again.  Functionally this is a world I start out much more invested in, and it isn’t up to me to go digging through the debris to find meaning…  the game keeps delivering that on a silver platter.

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As far as “end game” content goes there seems to be plenty of that as well.  The above screenshot is of part of the director map for European Dead Zone, the little blue diamond represent events…  and in truth all of these have yet to actually start.  You can over your cursor over a given event and it will tell you what the rewards are and how long until it starts… or in this case you can look at the orange ring around the outside of the diamond because that also serves as a visual timer.  You tend to get about five minutes notice before an event starts and the white circle symbol with the big triangle and small triangle represent transmat warp points, allowing you to quickly jump around a map without the need to traverse the whole thing like in Destiny 1.  Additionally the orange icons on the map represent the adventures that I have talked about in other posts… which are functionally story missions that occur “in world” where one of the NPCs will direct you through a sequence of objectives and then gives you some rewards at the end.  I need to spend some time doing these because several of them reward upgrade points…  which are ultimately the way you unlock “powers” on your sub classes.  Additionally each of the original vanguard members gives you some sort of end game activity that happens on a weekly timer.  Ikora Rey for example has you replay missions from the main story, each time gaining a little faction and in my experience doing an entire batch of three gives you enough currency to get one of her faction packages.  Cayde-6 lets you purchase treasure maps…  which unlock a series of chests…  that can reward you everything from an Exotic engram…  to a spinfoil hat with varying degrees of “worth it”.  Additionally there are other quests that start to open up that lead to good old fashioned Exotic weapon quests…  like one to regain the MIDA Multi Tool for example.

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The Crucible is still very much a thing, but seems to have way fewer options than before.  Right now you functionally choose between two different lists…  Quick Play or Competitive…  the difference being that the first is supposed to be for casual play and the second is supposed to feed into their ultimately ranking system.  The only part that is jarring about this is that in Quick Play you alternate between game types… so you might do a Supremacy and then the next match might be Control or Clash.  There are times I feel like I am getting the hang of the four player crucible experience…  and then there are times when I feel like I know nothing.  The positive or negative of this experience is that the game is getting me to play Crucible by danging rewards in front of my face.  There is an item called a Luminous Engram, that can be achieved by completing a handful of weekly milestones…  one of which being to play a number of crucible matches…  which seemed to be something in the range of 10 of them.  This is also potentially gated on your performance because I never seemed to get the same amount of percentage advancement in the milestone each match.  Regardless the reward was enough for me to spend my afternoon yesterday doing matches until I got my shiny reward at the end…  which is effectively a really powerful faction package that is a marked jump in your overall power level… generally up to 10 power levels over your current rating.  The Crucible is just one of many of these that effective have you out doing different kinds of content chasing these big rewards.  Effectively I like that the game is going to dangle big enough carrots in front of my face to make me want to do things…  that normally I would not.

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Another system that is shaping up to be extremely important is that of Clans.  Right now the roster is screwed up as is the clan membership count, but what is working is Clan Experience.  Effectively doing anything out in the world grants you a certain amount of Clan Experience, and in the second screenshot in this post you can see a little blip on the right hand side of the screen denoting that I earned some.  There is a cap that you can reach each week for the total contribution towards your guilds leveling process, and if you do so… there is another one of those Luminous Engrams waiting for you.  Where the Clan system really gets cool is that it functionally rewards every member of the Clan for the activities of its members.  They turned on the Clan system Friday and by that evening we had maxed our our total experience for the week and pushed the Clan to level 2, and additionally when one of our members completed a Nightfall it unlocked a Legendary Engram for everyone in the clan.  Similarly when someone finished the Crucible Luminous Engram…  everyone got a Legendary Engram…  and in theory the same will be true for the Raid and the Trials of the Nine which are not open yet.  Its really rather cool that there is this sort of “share the wealth” type system that lets players who are maybe not as progressed as their clanmates have a nice hand up in that department.  The Experience cap for the week was low enough that functionally it took three players capping their weekly contribution to get there… so in theory this is not going to be one of those systems that greatly favors massive Clans and screws the little ones with a handful of members.

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Lastly I wanted to close out with the Shader issue again.  I still am not super happy with the changes to this system, and I am hoping they come to their senses and tweak how it works.  I would be fine with something along the lines of once you discover a shader, you can then purchase them from the various faction NPCs for glimmer.  Once I dinged 20 the drop rate of these did in fact increase, and after 20 your experience bar effectively rewards you a Bright Engram each time you “level up”.  This happens often enough that I’ve gotten somewhere around 10-12 of these just by going out into the world and playing through content.  Additionally the NPC Faction packages and the random spawn chests throughout the world seem to reward a lot of them specific to a given planet.  Prior to dinging 20…  I had two different colors… and at the time I took this screenshot I had 27 and a good number of them with enough to actually dye a full set of armor.  Basically it doesn’t seem like it is going to be long before I am absolutely swimming in shaders, like I seem to currently be with mods.  Please note… I still don’t like this system change, but it also doesn’t seem to be the end of the world I originally thought it was going to be.  Especially given how damned often I seem to be getting “free” bright engrams that are the same thing as you purchase with the in game currency.  I’ve even managed to pull one of the exotic sparrows…  of which a screenshot will be inserted below.

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In the grand scheme of things…  I could not be much more happy with my Destiny 2 experience.  In the podcast I called it “The Destiniest Destiny” and this still holds true.  If you didn’t like the original game…  I am still not entirely certain you will like Destiny 2.  Everything about this game is an iterative approach to the original… which things being so much more fleshed out and wildly more “stuff” to do…  but it is still very much the same overall game play experience.  If you were one of those players that sat back and thought “I like Destiny, but in order for it to be playable it would have to change drastically”… then this game is very much not for you.  Calling the game Destiny 1.5 or 2.0…  really is appropriate than really thinking of this as a sequel.  I am completely fine with this notion and at this point I am absolutely chomping at the bits to start over from scratch on the PC.  Very shortly I will begin working on the Warlock and Hunter on PS4 so I have the ability to get multiple characters worth of luminous engrams per week.  There are some players that are even creating three of the same class to maximize this further…  but I think I will stick to having three classes.  All in all the game is still grindy but I find that specific brand of grind extremely fun.  I am hoping that at 265 I can actually see the raid… but I am thinking that the more likely power level will be 280 which means I am going to need to do a bit more leap frogging in power level in order to get there.

Destiny 2 PS4 Launch Impressions

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At this point I’ve played Destiny for somewhere in the range of five hours.  I’m not sure if an actual way to tell and the third party sites like Destiny Tracker don’t seem to be keeping this information.  Regardless I have played a bit more than I had when I sat down to talk about it yesterday morning.  At this point I am level 10, have some reasonable gear, and am a few missions into the second planet.  During the course of this mornings post I am going to try and keep spoiler information out of it…  but what classifies as a spoiler is very personal.  For me the things that I generally consider spoilers are story beats or surprising revelations.  However I do not consider any mechanical and nuts and bolt sort of stuff spoilery, so be warned there might be something here you don’t want to read if you are wanting to go into the game completely blind and are waiting for the PC release.  Disclaimer out of the way…  I am really enjoying myself.  Yesterday my friend and fellow blogger Isey made a post talking about how disappointed in general they were in the game.  It is weird how one experience can be translated in very different ways based on a given players perspective.  For me the fact that Destiny 2 is very much Destiny 1 done better…  is a good thing.  Now we are going to get into the details that I largely left out yesterday as to why I was brought to tears playing this game.

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This is a little spoilery but for players returning to the game it presents you with a series of “memories” of big accomplishments you completed.  This is the point where I just lost my shit yesterday and started crying.  I remember each of these firsts in game and who I was with when I did them…  like this raid I remember being completely in awe of the feeling of going through the raid.  I remember the frustration of trying to learn the ship jumping puzzle for the first time.  Basically King’s Fall was a package of emotional baggage waiting to be unwrapped and to know that the game remembered me…  was just more than I could handle in whatever state of mind I happened to be in.  Then when I got through the sequence of memories and was confronted with my guardians sitting there waiting for me..  I really lost it.  I was prepared to lose everything going into Destiny 2 and more or less I did… and the game really grinds this point home…  which is in part why I think Isey had problems with it.  However for me…  the fact that I had “my” guardian sitting there waiting on me…  in a game that remembers what I did…  was enough to bond me to the experience instantly.  In the games I play… the characters I play matter to me.  It matters that I am playing “my shepard”… and when I game tries to make me play someone else that is very much NOT me…  I bounce pretty hard from it.  All I have ever wanted in a sequel is to be able to dust off the team that I had in the previous game… and go out on one more grand adventure and Destiny was sitting there waiting for me to start.

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It feels lame to say… Destiny 2 is Destiny the way it should have been.  However that is the best possible description I seem to be able to muster after playing it.  This is everything I had hoped Destiny was when we first started playing it, and seems to support all the ways I really wanted to play it.  I’ve talked before about how deeply connected to the Patrol zone experience I am… and how I have spent something like 77% of my game time running Patrol missions.  This game takes that notion and expands it in every meaningful way by giving us large planetary zones to explore.  I found my first Lost Sector last night before I even knew what a Lost Sector was…  I did what I always did in Destiny 1…  I went exploring.  There were areas of the Cosmodrome that I knew like the back of my hand, and places that I went exploring in that I had no real business exploring…  each time being slightly frustrated when I encountered a closed door indicating that the area behind is for a strike or raid…  and otherwise not accessible right now in patrol zones.  I set those same instincts to work…  and as I wandered through a building I happened to find a path that took me down into a sub basement… and then continued following that around until I found a room full of Fallen… and ultimately a mini boss that I killed.  Sitting there in the room was a shiny chest full of loot…  marked with what I ultimately came to learn is the symbol that marks a Lost Sector.  Even more than that… the chests you find randomly in the zone are actually useful now.  Previously you had a shot at a little glimmer, some resources from that planet and maybe just maybe if you are insanely lucky a ship schematic.  Now the random spawned chests in an area drop actual usable gear as well as a currency used in a given zone making them super useful to gather up.

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Another huge boon to the overworld experience is the addition of what I believe they call High Value Targets.  Basically as you are fighting around the world you will occasionally come across what looks to be a miniboss in the open world.  Upon taking one of these down they drop a special loot chest that contains glimmer, the zone currency and most of the time in my experience a couple of pieces of gear.  Similarly the zone events have improved and feel both more challenging and more rewarding.  I feel like Destiny was the game that has lead to my enjoyment of Guild Wars 2… in being willing to just go with whatever events happening to be occurring in a given area.  I did this while out on patrol and often helped defend the warsat or take out a specific target…  and in Destiny 2 I’ve found it extremely enjoyable to play in the same sort of way.  The best part about events…. is you can now see what is up and available on the director map making it no longer a thing to keep zoning back and forth between two areas to see if something has kicked off yet.  So far I am a little sad that the actual patrol beacons no longer be a thing…  I used to always have one ticking away while doing other activities.  However the system that it feels like has replaced them is Adventures, and if I had to give up patrols to get that I am thinking it is a reasonable trade.  It’s hard to describe what these are… but think of them as missions that happen while you are out in the open world.  Once you kick them off you will be directed through a series of events by one of the actors in a given zone.  In the EDZ these largely involved retaking certain parts of the zone or attempting to make them more habitable by setting up fortifications or radio towers.  I am hoping that these respawn over time, because right now I only have access to a very limited number of them.

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The most important part of Destiny though are the guns and how they feel to use.  In the “beta” experience I was not a huge fan of all of the weapons.  There were a few I really liked and then much like Destiny 1… others that I couldn’t really stand.  A large chunk of the original game while leveling, you spent time using what felt like pretty lousy weapons.  This time around… it feels like you hit the ground running with a bunch of interesting options.  In the original game I was not the biggest fan of the Omolon weapon foundry other than the infamous Hung Jury scout rifle.  Who would have known that I apparently love their Auto Rifles…  or at the very least whatever archetype the Jiangshi happens to belong to.  I am really hoping there is a legendary version of this gun, because I pretty much love everything about the way it feels.  Right now I have largely been surviving in game on the large number of Pulse Rifles available from various vendors…  because the game keeps handing me Scout Rifles via loot drop.  I am really not a huge fan of Scout Rifles…  and while I like having them for ranged attacks… I need either a Pulse or an Auto to make me happy.  That said I have tried out a whole slew of weapons… and adjusting for personal taste they all seem to be pretty good versions of the weapons I knew before.  The whole auto sidearm thing is pretty great, and I am in fact finding a lot more in the field.  Similarly I have come to really like the Sub Machinegun archetypes, but those are largely an up close and personal weapon for me…  and not great for the distance I am trying to keep mobs at while playing through the story missions.

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Which leads me to the Story Missions as a whole.  So far I am enjoying them quite a lot but I don’t want to get into a lot of details for spoiler reasons.  They feel better than Destiny 1, and so far they are a lot more involved than they were previously.  Homecoming… the mission that we got to experience during the Beta legitimately is a good representation for how the story missions as a whole are going to feel in this game.  It is not some weird one off mission that is hyper focused on story elements.  The later missions don’t have the cute in mission cutscenes with major story characters showing off how awesome they are…  or at least I have not encountered any yet.  That said there is a lot of comms traffic interaction with multiple characters from a given planetary area, and you have interesting things to go out into the world and be doing to move the overarching story along.  Still I feel like I need to drill home the point that…  if you did not like Destiny you are probably still not going to like Destiny 2.  This is very much a Destiny game and feels like the continuation of the first game… where they roll out and fix everything that was broken with it.  This is not a completely different game experience and while there is a ton more story interaction… and they are making it clear that they want to help explain concepts to the player…  it is not a vastly different experience.  For me… it was exactly what I wanted in Destiny 2.  For others it will still fall short of whatever measuring stick they keep trying to hold it up to.  Right now the only frustrating part of the game is that they seem to have fucked up the shader system… and replaced it with a single use consumable.  There is quite a bit of backlash from the community and I can only hope that maybe they revert this change by the time the PC game comes out.  Chroma was a dumb system…  and they got Chroma in my Shaders and made it a dumb system too.  Other than that however live seems to be peachy in Destiny land.  Now I am going to hit publish on this and play some more before I have to run off to work.

Happy Tears

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One of the problems with getting older is that you can’t seem to snap back quite as quickly from those late nights.  There used to be a time where I could stay up until 1 am and then still get up for work at 5:30…  those days are long gone.  I had every intent last night of staying up until the 11 pm my time start of Destiny 2, but around 9:45 I decided there was no way I was actually going to make that and went on to bed.  Instead I got up this morning and poked around a little bit.  I was shocked to see my Guardian staring back at me…  so instead of playing with the character generator I just went with it.  This is not the first time that I was brought to tears this morning, and it wouldn’t be the last.  I am weirdly emotional about the launch of Destiny 2, because on so many levels the original was a very important game for me.  I can’t quite put it into words why, but it really was.  The first time however was through a sequence of memories…  that I don’t want to go into too much detail on for fear of ruining the experience for others.  Basically I went into the game expecting to have to start from scratch…  and while we have…  the game remembers us.  It feels like Bungie really does care about the actions we took defending the city over the last three years… and while they didn’t want too much of that to factor in they gave us a nice stoic nod.

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As far as the game itself…  most of that is going to have to wait until this evening when I have some time to actually sit down and play it properly.  I already feel connected to this world…  because its the world I left behind forever changed by the actions of the Cabal Dominus Ghaul.  From here this is where we forge our new path…  our brand new adventures.  I am in no real rush to raid…  so I want to take my time to savor these moments as they happen.  In part I am experiencing everything knowing that in another month… I will be doing it all over again on with the PC launch.  I am largely just hoping that I understand the world by then and can tackle it far more efficiently.  I have to say…  having crappy weapons never felt so good because you are starting in very meager circumstances…  and you appreciate every bullet.  Its time to rebuild our legacy.  I will see you in game tonight, and hopefully I will have gotten the tears out of my system by then.

For the Puppies

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I’ve rattled on over the last few days at some of the things I have been disappointed thus far in the Destiny Demo experience, or at least airing some of my concerns and misgivings.  I thought I should probably spend some time this morning talking about one of the things that they are doing amazingly well with the launch of Destiny 2.  One of the core reasons that most of my friends bounced off of this game…  was the lack of story.  Don’t get me wrong…  there is plenty of story to be had…  they just lay it out in a way that is largely nonsensical.  Only by hoarding weapon and armor descriptions…  hundreds of grimoire cards… and then cross referencing those against missions in the game and random nonsense that is in the background of the level design…  do you actually get the true picture of what is going on.  Please note… that I didn’t actually do this on my own but at some point I stumbled across the Myelin games channel and drank deeply of the font of lore theory.  If you want the story in a much more digestible form then I refer you again to the amazing Lore Primer video that MyNameIsByf created where he attempts to lay everything that we know for certain out in a linear timeline…  that happens to be an hour and a half in run time.  Prior to launch they claimed the game would have a story line rivaling that of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or Star Wars…  and we all balked.  In truth however it does in fact have this story woven through the fabric of the game… but makes every possible attempt to disguise it from us and make it harder to figure out than is humanly reasonable.

This time around however they swore they had changed, and when we got our hands on the PS4 demo…  as I have said before there is literally more story in the Homecoming mission than there was in the original game sequence leading up to the Black Garden.  I am not trying to be hyperbolic here… but in truth there is way more character exposition than exists in any form in Vanilla Destiny.  We were introduced to a cast of characters…  like The Traveler, The Speaker, The Stranger…  and a handful of characters that I could tell we were supposed to care about that served as our class leads….  but never actually did much in the way of leading.  We also had a nonsensical enemy in the form of “The Darkness” which sorta felt as stupid as attempting to go to war against “Terrorism”.  We lacked anything resembling a big bad Villain that we the players were focused on…  and when we did get raids…  we had no emotional payoff in taking down Aetheon or Crota…  because they were just another name in a long line of names that meant nothing to us.  One of the best experiences I have ever had was when I finally took down Arthas… the Lich King for the first time…  because I had an entire expansion focused on combating the forces of the scourge and playing cat and mouse with him across a continent.  When it finally resolved and we got to see that cut scene for the very first time…  there were literal tears of joy in my eyes.  With the Taken King we got a better shot at a big baddie…  but even then we didn’t really have enough time to learn to hate him the way we should have.  The emotional payback element was largely missing because he zoned into our solar system… blew up a bunch of Awoken… and then wrecked a ship that wasn’t even ours.  We had a dozen or so missions to get into her head, and by the time we took out Oryx…  it was cool and definitely felt epic but was still lacking any resounding payback theme.

The core problem there… is the Taken King content and our supposed “war” with Oryx happened disconnected from anything that we actually cared about as players.  The Tower… our home for the last three years remained largely unscathed…  as did the Reef other than a few NPCs swapping places.  There was no sense of loss to fuel our desire for revenge, and while it is a freaking amazing expansion and a leap forward in storytelling…  but still not quite there.  With Destiny 2 there are so many things changing… and in truth they needed to.  There will be players that lament the loss of their shiny vault full of weapons… and I won’t like there are a lot of things I will be sad to say goodbye to.  However what we are getting is a tangible reason for fighting and that means so much more than any given piece of loot could…  and the folks that know me really well will be shocked to hear me say that.  The history of the city is built on the backs of major flash points that we can only really find out about in legend… or in the name of locations.  Growing up I heard about all of the things that my Grandfathers went through with World War II…  how one Grandfather stormed the beach at Normandy…  got shot up by a gunner and just happened to fall into a trench with a medic that could patch his punctured lung.  That was his story though… and not mine…  much in the same way that the tales about the fabled Guardians of the past are just legends and didn’t really factor much into my day to day game play.  In Destiny 2 we start the game by living through the fall of the Tower and the loss of our Light as a source of power…  as well as the potential loss of our constant companion the Ghost.  We have reason and motive to want to take back what was ours from this Chubby Darth Malgus.  I am so ready to hit the ground and start taking down Cabal as I at the same time attempt to fortify and rebuild our new home…  the Farm.

Another thing that the Taken King did better was start to give our class leads a personality.  Cayde-6 went from being a random Exo Hunter in the tower…  to Robotic Mal from Firefly.  Zavala went from being that dude that sold me crappy Titan gear…  to being the Stalwart defender of the tower and the “worrier in chief” about everything.  Ikora Rey went from being someone I never actually talked to… because the Warlock jump is horrible…  to being this sassy arcane dynamo.  The Homecoming mission took all of these elements and built on it, and they have been carrying this mission forward in the form of a flood of videos about Destiny 2.  I’ve been linking them in and out of the paragraphs of text, and they do this amazing job of packaging up the elements of the world that you might want to care about and delivering them to you on a silver platter.  Yesterday the live action video shipped and it is truly amazing… and I said this before but there is no song better for a “getting shit done” montage than Sabotage by the Beastie Boys.  Leading up to this however there have been five character vignettes… one for each of the class leads:  Cayde-6, Zavala, and Ikora Rey…  as well as one for Hawthorne the person who is going to be helping us a lot at our new home on The Farm…  as well as one for Ghaul our new bad guy focus.  They’ve done more in the months leading up to the release of this sequel to set the stage and give us a reason to care about it…  than they did in the entirety of three years of the original.  For me…  its like getting to share this gift with all of my friends because I was the only one mental enough to actually go digging into the lore.  For the last few years my friends have had to listen to me rattle on about this or that from Destiny without actually knowing any of the context.  Here is a giant fucking context sandwich…  and it gives me a lot of hope for the future.  I think Bungie gets it… and they understand that you cannot just throw a train of breadcrumbs in your game and call it good.  They started in the middle of an established story…  but never gave us enough bearings to be able to really find our way clear of caring about what was going on.  I’ve said before that the central focus of Destiny is shooting space monsters with space guns… and I still stand by that.  If you are really not into that premise then no amount of story is really going to make you want to stay.  However…  it does give you some reasons for why you might want to shoot those space monsters…  and understand where exactly your space guns game from.

 

When A Beta Isn’t

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Last night I managed to run the Inverted Spire strike with a few friends…  Grace and Ammo.  For Grace it was her first time running the strike and while she was not as rabid…  was also a veteran of Destiny 1.  Ammo on the other hand…  the closest she had ever been to Destiny was drawing my Sunbreaker themed avatar.  If you know me very well… or are in that core group of people that I hang out regularly with…  you have had to listen to countless hours of me retelling things that happened in Destiny.  All of that apparently made her curious enough to try it out now that it was coming to the PC and available for download through the already very familiar Battle.net client.  Ammo while completely new to Destiny was by no means an FPS rookie because over the last year or so she has played a significant amount of Overwatch and is way the hell better than I am at it.  One of the things that I like about Destiny on the PC is how largely ubiquitous basic controls are if you have ever played a modern shooter.  Sure there are all manner of extraneous “super power” keys but the core gameplay of shoot shoot reload fall into the standard control scheme we are all used to.  The only real adjustment period of me was figuring out which key binds near WASD did which “power moves”.  Grace took to the game rather quickly and got to play big kid at several moments as she was able to get over and rez the rookie well before I could.  All in all it was a really fun experience and I am super glad that I wound up running the strike in this manner, since during the PS4 beta I largely just random queued for it.

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Last nights experience got me thinking that maybe just maybe releasing through the Battle.net client was more than just a way of having to skip the infrastructure development costs of going to a brand new platform.  Overwatch is a weird game because while it is at its core a competitive shooter… it is also one wrapped in so much story that it is impossible to not at least know some of it even if you are not actively playing the game.  This is a game that I saw be adopted at frightening rates by gamers who were well versed in the Blizzard ecosystem but never really considered themselves fans of the first person shooter genre.  As a result many have had their horizons broadened to realize that yes they could do this shooter thing and with practice get rather damned good at it.  Now we have this Destiny thing coming along and poking its head into their already familiar gaming environment…  so why not take a peek.  I’ve already seen a lot of posts on my twitter feed talking about how individuals are enjoying the Destiny experience but only ever downloaded it because it was available for free through the Battle.net client.  Cross pollination is really beautiful thing… and I have found myself in this same boat several times in the past.  I am not the biggest fan of League of Legends…  but I immediately tried Heroes of the Storm because I wanted to see the Blizzard take on it.  I am not really a huge fan of RTS games anymore…  but I occasionally play Starcraft II because it has amazing storytelling.  I think the Battle.net coup for Destiny… will be bringing a whole bunch of new eyes into the franchise.

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Here is where we get to the problem.  The “Beta” that we are getting to experience isn’t actually Destiny.  It is a bit of a hollow shell that should have been clearly labelled as a demo, because it lacks so many of the reasons why I spent so many hours playing the first game.  If you look at my time played on the tracker sites… something like 77% of my time was spent doing random stuff on Patrol missions.  I liked roaming around, doing events… unlocking secrets on the dreadnaught…  all the while enjoying the really amazing gunplay.  Where are the events like Archon’s Forge or Court of Oryx…  that I could literally spend hours running over and over.  Don’t get me wrong… the Inverted Spire strike is a hell of a lot of fun, and even the 4 player Crucible is starting to grow on me.  The problem being however is that we really are not putting the best foot forward for a bunch of players that may or may not have ever experienced the franchise.  The other problem is that we are not exactly doing a great job of giving players that bounced hard off of Destiny 1 a great reason to feel positive about coming back.  Sure the Homecoming mission has more story elements in it than the entire vanilla game…  but I am questioning if that is enough.  I am bought in for the long haul because I have loved Destiny as a concept and an experience since the moment I got into the original Alpha of the game on the PS4.  Taken King proved to me that the game was worth my devotion and I have been back and at least peripherally active ever since.  I am a member of their core demographic… but had they maybe given us something other than a demo…  it might be enough to gain new followers rather than just galvanize their existing player base.  I hope people can see through the cracks and see the game that is ultimately going to be there behind the walled gardens.  I feel like I can and since I am also rabidly gobbling up all of the news that is leaking out about the content that is waiting on the console players September 6th…  I am so sold that I am planning on playing once again on two different platforms.  I am just not sure that we sold Ammo on the experience other than giving her a fun night of running a space shooter dungeon.

 

Destiny 2 PC Beta Thoughts

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Last night was the beginning of the Destiny 2 PC beta for those of us who have already preordered the game.  I am one of those weirdos that loves Destiny so much that I plan on playing it on multiple platforms.  With Destiny year 2 and beyond I played it actively on both the PS4 and Xbox One… and going forward I am planning on doing the same and splitting time between PC and PS4.  One of the things you need to realize is that I have some strange habits when it comes to gaming.  I split my time between my gaming desktop upstairs and my gaming laptop in the living room.  I’ve found the secret to marital happiness as a gamer is to be able to be flexible in my gaming habits and there are nights when I just need to be more available than cloistered in my office with my ear cans on.  As a result I have two systems to worry about being able to play Destiny on.  The positive is however as someone who potentially might be interested in Destiny 2, you are going to get functionally two different sets of reviews for the game…  one on a system that is heftier than the recommended specifications and one that is closer to the minimums.

Gaming Desktop

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Machine Specifications

  • Intel Core i7 5820k 3.3ghz 6 Core Processor
  • Asus X99-A/USB 3.1 ATX Motherboard
  • 32 gb G.Skill Ripjaws V Series DDR4-2400 Memory
  • MSI Geforce GTX 980 4GB Twin Frozr Video Card
  • System SSD but Game Running on Mechanical Hard Drive

For starters I spent absolutely zero time fiddling with the sliders and I just went with the defaults that it handed to me.  The end result was a gorgeous 1080p 60 fps experience.  I don’t have fancy monitors or anything even vaguely close to outputting a 4k or even 1440p signal so I went with it.  With time I plan on ratcheting up the detail level to see what I can do, but I am hearing from folks with 1080s that they are having issues sustaining frame rate on Ultra so more or less I am pretty damned happy with the results.  In truth the hardest thing I had to figure out was some third party screenshot tool that would actually record the screen.  Bungie has done a bunch of stuff to disable overlays and I had to fall back on the Nvidia Experience tools to be able to capture anything.  I am presently running the game in Windowed Fullscreen which is my preferred method and it just works great.  The difference in quality between the PS4 and PC is noticeable even just running the game in 1080p.    All of the textures just look crisper and less muddled, but that said the console experience with Destiny 2 on even a stock PS4 like mine….  looks noticeably better than the original Destiny.  Last night I tried out everything but the strike, and saw zero frame drop at any point during my experiences.  I have been keeping an eye on the lower left corner of the screen where I have the Nvidia framerate tools running… and the only time I saw drop was upon going into a pre-rendered cutscene.  All of those are still at 30 fps, which I would assume is to be able to support all of the different configurations of the game.

Gaming Laptop

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Machine Specifications

  • Asus ROG GL551JW
  • Intel Core i7 4720HQ 2.6 ghz
  • 16 gb DDR3 Memory
  • Geforce GTX 960M 2GB GDDR5
  • Mechanical Hard Drive
  • 3rd Quarter 2014 Release Date

While the Desktop was a picture of simplicity… literally everything about the Laptop experience was a hassle.  I included the street date of the laptop just for reference and to show that I am attempting to get this running in functionally a three year old machine.  I knew that 1080p was largely out of the question so I started trying to dial in specs for a 720p setup.  Since my laptop has a 15 inch screen that seemed completely reasonable and generally the only reason why I run MMOs in 1080p is because of the UI element resolution.  The biggest issue that I kept running into is that for some reason it felt like my mouse was dying on me.  I would have these issues where I could not swing my viewpoint to the right of my model, and then other times I couldn’t scope in my weapon at all.  After trying a bunch of configuration options I noticed that it was ultimately happening at the same place each time in the mission, which made me start doubting it was just the mouse.  After a bunch of searching I found a thread on Bungie PC Support forum talking about this same issue.  What I ultimately had to do was go find the executable for Destiny 2 and choose properties off the right click menu…  then change the compatibility settings to disable Scaling on High DPI settings.  Note this is called something different depending on the version of windows you are running, but in all cases it will be some Option referencing DPI.

Once this change was made my mouse suddenly started working as it should.  One more round of tweaks saw me setting the display mode to Windowed Fullscreen and I was finally playing the game in pretty good shape.  While its not amazing… it is playable at a generally 30 fps…  however as you can see in the upper right hand corner of the above screenshot…  I am dipping down into the high 20s occasionally.  The biggest challenge is that Destiny requires a ton of VRAM.  When I was playing on the Medium preset I was consuming every last bit of VRAM available and borrowing from the system memory.  I really appreciate Bungie including a gauge under the video settings to show just how much you are consuming and how much is left available.  The high preset functionally takes a little bit over 2 gb, and I would assume each time you ratchet it up those requirements go up again.  The other thing you can take away from the fact I was running it on a laptop… is that effectively everything on a laptop performs like it is a generation older than the equivalent Desktop component.  So my 4th gen i7 in truth performs about like a 3rd gen i5…  and my gtx 960m…  effectively performs the same as a gtx 760 in a desktop card.  Between the two setups you should be able to extrapolate how this game should be able to run on whatever your current gaming PC setup seems to be.

Gameplay Discussion

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For a complete write up about my feelings of the Destiny 2 beta… I highly suggest you check out my PS4 impressions post from July.  I am not going to spend a lot of time this morning talking about general topics.  Instead I am going to focus in on the tweaks that were made between the two betas.  The first noticeable thing is that the recharge rate that I complain so much about on the PS4 seems to be greatly improved.  During the tower courtyard fight on PS4 it felt like I was lucky getting a single super charge and a single grenade charge while fighting the three waves of red legion cabal.  During the PC beta… I could easily get 3 super charges and 2 grenade charges during the same time.  Grenade still lags a bit from what I would have liked it to be… but part of that might simply be that I am used to running around with the Armamentarium and as a result always have two grenade charges available, so even when I use one… there is almost always one sitting there waiting in reserve.  Things just feel “better” as a result of the recharge rates being cranked up, and it feels more like the Destiny experience I am used to.  My guess is that they have increased the rate of recharge you get from killing things, because the effect was a bit less noticeable in the Crucible.  Previously in the PS4 beta everyone got their supers at exactly the same time… which was just a few minutes from the end of the match.  During the PC beta I managed to get off two supers and was getting close to a third by the time the match ended, so in theory had I been playing better I probably would have easily gotten three supers.

The other big takeaway is that everything just feels more polished.  This one isn’t easy to quantify, but everything about this build felt production ready.  The other big takeaway is that once I got used to the hotkeys… the PC experience is just flawless and before long I reached a point where it was just as instinctive for me to hit F to activate my super as it is to mash my two shoulder buttons.  So far I have only modified one hotkey, and that was to change ~ from toggling between weapons since I use that as my push to talk key.  Instead I use the alternate key which is mouse wheel to shift between weapons.  For those going into the game I thought it might be useful really quick to run down the basic hotkeys.

  • Movement – WASD + Mouselook
  • Primary Fire/Light Attack – Left Mouse
  • Scope/Heavy Attack – Right Mouse
  • Melee/Block – C
  • Grenade – Q
  • Reload – R
  • Jump – Space
  • Toggle Sprint – Shift
  • Toggle Crouch – Ctl
  • Class Ability – V
  • Super Move – F
  • Air Super Move – X
  • Interact With Objects – E
  • Kinetic Weapon – 1
  • Secondary Weapon – 2
  • Heavy Weapon – 3
  • Rotation Through Weapons – Mouse Wheel
  • Toggle Chat – T
  • Deploy Ghost – Tab
  • Return to Orbit – O
  • Character Loadout Screen – F1

It is a lot of hotkeys to remember, but in truth it largely matches the pattern I was used to with PC shooters already.  All in all I thought the PC Beta played amazingly well and it is going to be a really hard call as to which game gets the majority of my attention.  I think ultimately it is going to be determined by how many people that I know are chosing which platforms.  The only other thing that really concerns me are the general limitations of Battle.net already.  I feel like I am already bumping up against the maximum friend number there because of the various other Blizzard games that I play… and for the most part everyone in my Destiny clan is not already in that list.  So it is going to be a bit frustrating to try and find space to add everyone new in.  I am also really curious to find out how each of you felt that the PC Beta was when it goes “open beta” today.