Wildlands

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It’s Monday morning and I am still struggling from whatever the hell I picked up at Pax South.  For a period of time last week I thought I had started to kick it… so I backed off the over the counter meds and apparently that was a massive fail.  For most of last week I was working on pure adrenaline as we careened headlong towards a super important demo that we had at work for Thursday afternoon.  After that happened… I largely started falling back apart and now even though I tried my best over the weekend to get back on the meds I am still struggling.  I am hoping that today at some point things start to chill out because we have an even more important demo this afternoon.  We are in crazy crunch mode with a big release looming on the all too near horizon, so I know that once I get back in the swing of things I won’t have time to fall apart any further.  So hopefully I can survive once again on adrenaline and caffeine to get me over that finish line when I can well and truly have time to fall apart and be sick.

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Ghost Recon Wildlands was one of those games that I had only been tangentially following.  I remember watching the video when it was announced and thinking that it looked pretty cool.  However I generally don’t really go in for “military fantasy” style games like Call of Duty, where I am an operator in a tangential reality to our own.  Ultimately this is the big reason why Destiny has continued to click for me… but Division fizzled out is because killing monsters will always feel better than killing people.  I knew there was a beta going on this weekend because another friend had been offering invites, which I largely turned down because I thought to myself “I have too many games to play”.  However next thing I know my friend Dallian emails me an invite to the beta on the PC so since I already had the key I figured that I might as well check it out.  I am largely over my frustrations with UPlay because I guess while playing The Division I learned to accept it.  I mean it is still a better interface than Origin…  so that is at least something.  Over the weekend I tried playing the game on both my i7 x99 980 gtx based gaming desktop and my i7 960m based gaming laptop.  In both cases the game performed fairly well…  with the laptop getting 30 fps on medium settings and the desktop getting a predictable 60 fps on high settings.  I will be trying to remember to caption the source of each screenshot, since I took some from both.

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As far as the game itself…  well to be truthful it plays a lot like most of these games do.  Once you take the setting into account and the fact that you are playing a third person game instead of a first person game…  I found it largely indistinguishable from Farcry.  You roam the world, taking on baddies while collecting resources for your faction of choice… so that you can then unlock upgrades.  The primary difference being that there seemed to be far less story… and way more open world sandbox than a Farcry game.  You are encouraged to go interrogate people.. but largely that just makes new blips show up on your map of where to find resources.  What I went into the game hoping I would find…  is The Division but in a single player fighting the drug cartels skin.  There are moments where it absolutely feels that way, especially considering that an awful lot of the sound effects when you secure something come straight from the sound effects we are used to hearing in Division.  Where the game excels however is in the use of the drone mechanic, that which it largely feels like a flying camera…  gives you a nice tactical advantage going into fights.  If you are fast and good at spotting targets you can mark all of the hostiles in an area ahead of a fight and take them one one by one in a semi-stealth manner.  I spent a lot of time sniping with my suppressed SMG, because ironically that allowed me to kill things without anyone noticing…  whereas my sniper rifle drew instant attention.

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The other odd thing about the game is the fact that for me personally… my squad existed for one purpose… to rez me when I got a little over zealous.  There was never a fight that I went into where I felt like they were an actual benefit and made the encounter easier.  They largely served as decoys to draw fire away from my position.  What I did find myself missing however is the cover mechanic from The Division.  There were so many places where I really needed to hug a wall and duck around a corner to get the shot… and I found that completely lacking.  Maybe I simply did not find the correct keybinds to hold to cover… but whatever the case it was something I was expecting to wound up missing.  The other complaint I had about the game is that it definitely feels like a console first/pc afterthought experience.  Now moment to moment gameplay and firefights are awesome on the PC, and I found it nice and easy to whittle my way through incoming hostiles.  Where it falls down however is that none of the vehicles felt like you could reasonably control them with a mouse and keyboard.  While driving something as simple as a jeep I found myself wildly veering from ditch to ditch as I tried desperately to wild around mountainside roads.  It is in fact another game about driving crappy vehicles on even crappier roads… and the shockingly even crappier keyboard and mouse controls make this an extremely frustrating experience.

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I am largely placing this game in the “it might be fun” bucket, but it is definitely not a preorder sort of situation for me.  The demo however really wants you to preorder, in fact it is constantly prompting you to do so.  The truth is like most open world games… you spend an awful lot of time wandering through fields full of absolutely nothing.  There are vast open spaces of nothing of any consequence that lay between the small bins of things that might be useful.  When you start running missions, rather than roaming aimlessly like I do… you spend an awful lot of time retracing areas that you have already been to as you operate out of specific hub locations.  Where the game excels however is in town-centric firefights, with the ability to duck inside of buildings and avoid guards… then pick them off at the most opportune time.  There is a larger village that you encounter pretty early that is really fun, especially if you allow the Blancos to call in reinforcements.  All of that said though, the game still doesn’t really feel like it gives me something unique that makes me extremely interested in its own brand of special ops fairy tale.  Especially when Horizon Zero Dawn is right around the corner… and will be a much more interesting world to explore.  Video games are largely about escapism for me…  and the Call of Duty style game just doesn’t feel escapist enough for me to ever really get hooked.

Lobbing SIVA Charges

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Last night did not go entirely as planned, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a pretty amazing night.  The original plan that I had in my head was an attempt at completing the Nightfall bounty on as many characters as I could for shots at the Icebreaker.  However as the day went on that plan slowly morphed into going to my very first Wrath of the Machine raid.  So around 8pm last night we managed to pull together the six players needed for the raid and I shifted into full on learner mode.  Destiny is one of those games where I am constantly amazed at the level of dedication the community has.  A raid in Destiny is this complex sequence of events that have to be completed in a specific way…  and the first time I step into one of the encounters it is full on information overload.  I find it interesting how fast the community as a whole crowd sources the solution to the fights, sharing tidbits of information and ultimately mapping strategies for how to complete them.  I say this because the fights themselves are actually messaged somewhat poorly as to what you should be doing at any given time.  Since I am very much a “learn by doing” player, it means for the first few raids I ultimately feel completely lost.

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What is extremely interesting about Wrath of the Machine versus Kings Fall is that the “roles” are not necessarily fixed.  In Kings Fall you could essentially put your most seasoned player on the job of doing whatever was the most important task on a given fight.  While there was a certain measure of randomness, like who got chosen to run the spark on the invisible platforms…  others like the person getting Golgoroth’s Gaze were very much something you had in your control.  As a result to some extent it was much easier to carry a new player through and allow them to see the fights in motion, before they were ever expected to take up a key roll in the fight.  That is very much NOT the case in Wrath of the Machine given the game shifts the roles around quickly and while you might be dpsing one moment, the next you might be needing to toss SIVA charges at fixed markers.  The hardest of these fights for me to grok was the Aksis encounter where the raid divided up into three sides, and the game randomly empowered three players at a time…  sometimes requiring you to shift around quickly to cover a side if it did not have an empowered player.  The end result is that new players ultimately have to learn quickly because you never know exactly when that key role is going to fall on your shoulders.

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There were several points during the night where I absolutely know I failed at various mechanics, but while moving through the content I started to get a feel for what I was doing wrong and how to correct it.  Now with Kings Fall, most of the encounters were fairly easy…  but it was the jumping sequences that were the bane of my existence.  With Wrath of the Machine, the encounters themselves seem to be the challenge, and while I died a few times during the much shorter jumping sequences they didn’t see anywhere near as nerve wracking as disappearing ships over of a giant open chasm.  Last night was also important because it marked the first time I had really done large group content with Tequila Mockingbird my clan.  It has been over six months since Axioma clan was dissolved in a fit, and [TQMB] was formed out of the ashes.  It definitely feels like we wound up with the absolutely best natured of folks for the reboot.  Within minutes I felt right back at home, which I guess is a strange statement considering I have been proudly sporting the clan tag since the moment the reboot happened.

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So while I had no real intent of raiding last night, I am super happy to have seen the content now and to have gotten some of the really awesome stuff that drops there.  There seems to be a massive problem with duplicates from the SIVA key caches.  On the first boss encounter I got the Ether Nova fusion rifle… and then turned around and got the same thing from the cache.  From the second encounter I managed to pick up Arms, that I am extremely happy about given that they have the crazy heavy ammo trait.  From the third encounter, I picked up an Artifact which is decent but it is really hard to get excited over an artifact when I am apparently now swimming in 400 light ones.  From the final phase of the Aksis encounter I walked away with the Genesis Chain auto rifle, and then spent a key and got an exact duplicate.  Past that I wound up with three exotics from the run:  4th Horseman, Hereafter, and Crest of Alpha Lupi.  The first two turning into shards since I don’t really like either weapon, and the last from an engram serving as infusion fodder for the Twilight Garrison I had yet to upgrade.

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I spent a bit of time after the raid running around in the Plaguelands patrol zone to play with both the Auto Rifle and the Fusion Rifle and I like both.  The Genesis Chain feels really awesome when you get headshots and cause the firefly to proc since it has a unique sound effect that goes with it.  The Fusion Rifle… largely just feels like a competent Fusion Rifle.  I sincerely doubt I will be giving up either The Branded Lord or Saladins Vigil for it, but it is nonetheless a reasonable weapon that is probably going to get ferried off to one of my alts.  I have heard it works really amazingly in Crucible, so I will have to give it a shot there.  It is bizarre how I have gone from being someone that NEVER used Fusion Rifles, to being someone who largely now favors them over Shotguns for close to medium range engagement.  The other really awesome thing that happened is that I am now flagged to do the Outbreak Prime quest, which honestly could be an entire post in itself.  It turns out that Lexy is also stalled on this quest, so that gives us Hunter and Titan… and we just need to find a Warlock to ride along with us since that quest requires you to group up all three classes to progress.  Wondering if maybe some point this weekend we can knock out the required pieces so that by the time the reset rolls around we are working on the final step which is the run the raid again.

 

Exotic Towels

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This morning is a truly bizarre morning because we went to sleep not even thinking about snow…  and then it apparently happened over night.  I live in a town on the northern border of Tulsa, and I say apparently because there is zero snow on the ground here.  However there was enough in Tulsa proper and the southern communities for the public school system, including the town my wife teaches in to call a snow day.  She is super pumped because it means she has a day to try and play catch up, and me…  I have a weird commute ahead of me because I know at some point on my drive in things will go from peaceful and snow free…  to a winter wasteland.  I promise I did not intend to write three days in a row about Destiny, however that is ultimately what is happening.  Since the launch of the dawning I have not touched any of the supposedly lucrative bounties from Commander Zavala, which are in theory the only way you can currently get the Icebreaker.  Now before I took a break Squirrel, Jex and I had this tradition of running through some content on Thursday nights given that it was a big empty space in our calendars.  Originally the tradition was to run as many characters through the Challenge of Elders as we could in an evening, but last night we rebooted it for the purpose of running a Nightfall.

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From there we chain ran six heroic strikes in a row, because we were already considering doing it…  and I have been sitting on the Champion of the Cult quest for ages.  This is a quest you get when you reach level 25 with any of the given factions, and it rewards an exotic version of your class item.  For Titans this ends up being a rather ornate looking towel…  and I still question the good folks at Bungie for thinking that a flag football towel was a great idea for a glass item especially when Hunters get amazing and iconic looking cloaks.  In order to finish the quest you have to do content while decked out in your factions gear… wearing a shader, emblem and class item for that faction.  The quest ultimately requires you to do the following…

  • Slay 500 Minions of the Darkness
  • Complete 10 Heroic Strikes
  • Slay 250 Crucible Foes
  • Win 10 Crucible Matches

Now this used to be considerably easier because folks were constantly chain running heroic strikes.  However with the changes to the system that essentially make them mini nightfalls…  folks are just not running them as often which meant that if I was ever going to get through this step I was probably going to need a group of friends to do it with.  However since I had already done the more annoying part which involved Crucible wins and kills… there was zero chance that I was going to actually abandon the quest.  So for months it has been sitting in my progress tracker taunting me, until my good friends Jex and Squirrel helped me knock it out by chain running six heroics in a row.

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Now earlier I mentioned that the weekly bounty from Commander Zavala was supposedly the only way to get an Icebreaker currently.  Unfortunately however this week was not my week, and instead of getting an exotic I wound up with a relatively decent version of the Shadow Price legendary auto rifle.  Now I had been sitting on one of these in the bank that I was using on my warlock, and it falls into the medium rate of fire/medium category.  The biggest problem with this archetype is the fact that it generally has a low magazine size… for example this weapon has one of only 25 which is really too small for most Auto Rifle friendly activities.  This roll however is good enough that it bears further notice since in the first slot I have Range Finder which greatly boosts the range while aiming down the sight…  something I am never not going to do.  In the second column I can choose between Perfect Balance or Hand-laid Stock to give it extra stability…. and after playing around last night I think I prefer Perfect Balance.  Finally in the last column I have Third Eye, which is a way for me to break my dependence on my crutch…  the Memory of Gheleon and equip my far better itemized artifact from Year 2 Kings Fall raid.  Once you get used to having tracking all the time while aiming your primary… it is really really hard to go back to NOT having it.  I still do not think this is going to come close to replacing my beloved Range Finder/Perfect Balance/Counterbalance Year 2 Haakon’s Hatchet… but it will make a decent primary to swap over to my Warlock and Hunter alts.  The real take away of the evening however is that I had a blast… and I am hoping we can get back in the habit of doing the Thursday night shenanigans.

Finding the Forge

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bel-colorsFirst off I have to start this mornings post by talking about the surprise I got last night.  For awhile now I have had my friend AmmosArt working on a series of avatars to use for anything AggroChat related.  When I do the title cards it always somewhat bugs me that we don’t have a set of Avatars drawn by the same person, because I think that would end up looking a lot nicer.  As a result I commissioned her to create a set for the main cast, and we kicked it off with mine…  however I think she has a few of them waiting in the pipes as well.  Since I have “Fantasy Bel” thanks to the project that Tam started, and now “Realistic Bel” thanks to the prize commission from Faebelina I thought it would be kinda cool to have a “Sci-Fi Bel”.  So when she asked me what I wanted drawn for my AggroChat avatar I sent her this overly complex idea for me wearing a bunch of named armor pieces from Destiny.  Here she has expertly rendered that idea with me, a giant flaming Iron Lord axe, my Sunbreaker hammer and Nolandroid.  I could not be happier, and while she was concerned about how the fire effects would feel… I think they work amazingly well.  Thanks once again Ammo for taking mad ramblings and converting them into a picture format.  You should also check out some of her other works on her website or on her daily art tumblr.

I have to say… it is truly bizarre getting back to the task of blogging in the morning.  It is 6:23 and I have consumed my first cup of coffee and am trying to get on about the business of blogging like I know what the hell I am doing.  Today is a day I have been dreading because it means that I have to give up the comfort of my sofa blanket cocoon and venture forth into the cruel and now very chilly world.  Of note… I have been off work since Friday December 23rd.  So I have had two blissful weeks that have allowed me to get completely out of the habit of functioning on any sort of a schedule.  Those weeks have been shockingly busy with only a couple days where I could truly hang out dawn til dusk in my flannel pajama pants and pretend the world didn’t exist.  During that time we dealt with a handful of crisis that involved changing out a leaking faucet in our bathroom… and then ironically rushing some big air mover fans to my mother in law who had a major leak in her front bathroom.  In between that there were numerous Christmas celebrations, and an attempt to properly recognize my father’s birthday…  which also coincides with New Years day.  I have not even really gotten around to making some proper resolutions, and while I don’t really buy into them much, the New Year is a decent time to start new things.  At the moment however my mind has turned towards preparing for Pax South which is coming up in a few weeks.

The Forge Trick

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Yesterday I posted a mammoth Destiny guide of sorts that I had been meaning to create.  I have a number of friends in various stages of getting sucked into the game… and when I try and give them advice it often comes off as mad ramblings filled with a bunch of topics that they don’t quite understand yet.  The guide was my attempt at writing something for someone just getting started but also still focused on pushing through the light levels as quickly as possible.  As I said yesterday…  I failed to do 99% of the things mentioned in the guide but I am following a similar thought process on my Xbox One account since it is largely starting from zero.  One of the things I mentioned doing was Archon’s Forge… and you might of thought to yourself “But Bel, that is a Group Activity… how did you solo it?”.  Some time ago my friend Shadoes gave me some tips on how to reliably make Archon’s Forge spawn with a group in progress.  Firstly you have to understand how patrol zones in Destiny work in order to make this happen.  Each named area is essentially a match made zone that the game tries to pair you with other players also in that area.  However you usually zone in and out too fast for the game to effectively do this, so there are things you can do to force the game to match you up with other players.  Inside of the Archon’s Forge there is a path behind the forge that leads down to an area that a number of missions and patrols send you to, but is effectively open at all times.  You can see this path as the opening with the ride SIVA cables coming out of it in the above image.

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What I find works is to run down this tunnel to the next area, you will be able to tell you have transitioned by a title card coming up identifying that you have entered “The Warrens”.  From here I tend to kill the various splicer mobs that spawn in… which may include a handful of 2-4 Vandals, 2-4 Stealth Vandals, 2-4 Dregs… and potentially a Captain.  The mix varies slightly, but essentially I spend enough time in this area to clear out whatever happens to have spawned.  From there I slowly walk back up towards the Archon’s Forge, and for me personally it helps for me to crouch while walking just to force myself to slow down.  In Destiny I am so used to constantly sprinting that I find myself doing it without realizing it.  Essentially you are trying to give the game plenty of time for it to notice that you are entering an area with an event… and that it should match you up with additional people.

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If it works, you should hear the familiar Fallen Klaxon as you near the tunnel leading out of the area and into Archon’s Forge.  If you make it to the Forge without getting matched into an open world group…  then simply head back down to the Warrens and start the process over.  I would say 99% of the time by the moment I reach the top I hear the Klaxon and am up and running with a viable open world team doing Archon’s Forge.  The longest so far it has ever taken to get matched is three trips up and down the tunnel but your mileage may vary depending on the time of day you are trying and your platform.  I’ve not tried this on Xbox Live, but considering the person who tipped me off to this method plays there I am going to assume it works fine as well.  Basically doing this method is going to allow you to hop into the Plaguelands and farm the forge until your heart is content, just remember to keep going to orbit every so often to make sure you are not losing loot.  Your mailbox can only hold 20 items… and while it takes longer for your inventory to fill up now that greens turn immediately into materials…  it still happens frighteningly fast while doing the Forge.

Clever Dragons

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Iron Banner just concluded yesterday, and I spent a good deal of time playing it this go round.  I’ve never had any luck in trying to get a decent Grasp of Malok, so when the rank five roll of Clever Dragon featured Counter Balance, Perfect Balance and Snapshot…  I knew I was ultimately going to grind until I got there.  With the Rise of Iron it brought a number of changes to “Iron Banana”, namely since Lord Saladin is nor our “faction leader” of a sort…  the reigns of the tournament were passed to Lady Efrideet.  The primary change that happened is the fact that instead of three weekly bounties, and three daily bounties…  we are given four weekly bounties.  Previously you got a crappy blue item at Rank 3 with Iron Banner and an item package at Rank 5.  This time around two of these new bounties reward armor packages, and the other two reward weapons…  and you still get some sort of a big package upon hitting Rank 5.  So the total loot payout of participating in the event is significantly more than it used to be.  That said I find it MUCH harder to get to Rank 5, given that I don’t have something I can be working on every day to give me a much needed boost.  In Iron Banner you only gain ranks if you are winning, and especially trying to queue during the day on Friday… I hit some significant losing streaks.  Now there is a built in system that gives you a sort of consolation prize coin upon a loss… and these stack to five, with a boost to your rank granted when you finally turn around and win.  However there was at least one point on Friday that I lost eight games in a row…  so it just become frustrating as I kept getting thrown up against premades.

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Now the positive of the event is that I got tons of loot, and also managed to complete both the void damage portion of the thorn quest, and the crucible kills portion of my Future War Cult exotic class item quest.  I spent a significant amount of time running around shooting people into the face with the above Shotgun.  I’ve had the Party Crasher +1 for awhile now and I consider it to be as close to a god roll as I will ever likely see with Full Auto, Final Round and Rifled Barrel to help boost the range a bit.  Traditionally I use my Invective when doing crucible, but at the moment I am simply not willing to waste an exotic shard on anything until I get significantly closer to the item cap.  I went on a mission to try and get a decent legendary shotgun during Taken King and in my very first round of attempting to grind the Crucible I managed to pull this guy in the end of match rewards and have been loving it ever since.  I am sure a god roll Matador could pry it from my hands but for the moment I am super happy with it.

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The other weapon that I used a significant amount of the time especially to get those void kills is Saladin’s Vigil.  Now this is something I picked up last Iron Banner from one of the loot bounties, and I felt like I got a completely reasonable roll on it.  I am not even sure what a “god roll” would look like, but mine has Hammer Forged, Enhanced Battery, and Performance Bonus….  with that last perk actually extending the usefulness of the weapon as it materializes ammo out of thin air.  With a really low charge rate and almost maxed impact and reasonable range… this is essentially the first fusion rifle that is not Sleeper Simulant that I really find myself enjoying using.  I got many a kill by this one and leading the charge as I expected something to duck around the corner.  Fusion Rifles can be extremely frustrating in the crucible because they are very much a “whelp I’m dead” weapon when you intercept a bolt.

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Lastly the weapon I cannot stop using… literally ever is this Haakon’s Hatchet that was a vendor roll during the Taken King.  I realize that the “doctrine of spamming” archetype is still pretty potent in the meta, but no matter how many versions of that archetype I get… I never can seem to do shit with them.  I currently have a potentially viable Hex Caster ARC and an Unbent Tree… but I cannot ever bring myself to level them and have not deemed them worthy of motes of light.  The weapon I continue to go back to however is this Hatchet with Ranger Finder, Counter Balance and Perfect Balance.  This is as close to my perfect weapon as I will likely ever find, because not only do I love the appearance… but I can also draw a bead on enemy players with in and chew them up.  What I love the most about the weapon is the fact that it is just as viable for me in Crucible situations as it is doing literally anything PVE… namely the Archon’s Forge.  The magazine is big enough that I can often take down an entire wave of mobs in the forge without a reload.

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I’ve tried so many different primary weapons… for example I managed to pull the above Shadow Price that while it does not have the perfect roll has something I can work with.  With Rodeo and Perfect Balance it becomes usable… and while Icarus is generally a worthless perk I can make it work since I jump around a lot.  This gun works well in any PVE situation, but it is completely useless in the Crucible, at least with the roll package that I wound up getting.  I have a copy of The Continental that seems similarly reasonable, but nothing can quite match up to the “perfect for me” stat package of the Hatchet.  I still want to try and find one of the Doctrine archetype weapons with Counterbalance and Perfect Balance to see if it suddenly becomes this magical weapon that folks talk about.  However for the time being I will keep using Hatchet and be happy to have it.  I am hoping however that after all the time I spent trying to get it… that I find that sweet spot with the Clever Dragon and it becomes my new favorite Pulse Rifle.

 

Archon’s Forge Love

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This morning I am going to talk a little bit about my love of the Archon’s Forge area in Destiny, and we will see where things go from there.  I know I have talked a bit about this in the past, but the Archon’s Forge for me personally alone is worth the price of the expansion.  You have to understand that I love milling around in patrol zones, as in that is pretty much my default “I want to play some destiny” mode because it allows me to putter around.  So far my favorite patrol zone to date has been the Dreadnaught, because in many ways it felt like an old school MMO dungeon.  Back in the days of Everquest and Dark Age of Camleot, dungeons were these sprawling places with no clear path that you were supposed to travel.  As a result the community developed designations to break apart an otherwise huge zone into “camps”.  The Dreadnaught was similar, with various sections of the map labelled as you zoned into them, with the coolest area being the Court of Oryx.  This was an area where you could summon groups of Hive and Taken in the form of mini-boss fights, with the chance of there being decent rewards at the end if you were the person that summoned it.  What I liked about it was the fact that three or four players who were not actively grouping, could work together on a shared objective and get pretty reasonable rewards as a result.

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Archon’s Forge is very similar but also manages to work in one of my OTHER favorite areas of Destiny…  the Prison of Elders.   The backstory behind the area is that this is the place where the Fallen come to prove their worth in combat.  We as players collect Siva offerings, that you can get by doing various things including Public Events, Patrols and occasionally off Majors.  It is a random chance sort of thing, but I wound up getting one pretty quickly.  From there you go into the Archon’s Forge area, and there is a terminal that you use the offering on.  These come in Green, Blue and Purple varieties which denote how difficult the mobs are that are going to spawn as a result.  Unlike the Court of Oryx, the Archon’s Forge actually locks down while the event is going on, so you have to be fairly quick to duck inside in time to participate.  Essentially you end up fighting waves of mobs, culminating in some sort of a boss like encounter… generally centered around a major or handful of majors.  The two things of note that make this extremely awesome are that first…  it seems to be equally rewarding for the players just hanging out and participating and those that are actually giving up the Siva offerings.  Secondly it seems to be self perpetuating, in that the encounters themselves drop a fair number of new SIVA offerings…  allowing you to pretty much keep the process going indefinitely so long as you have three or four people.  Essentially everyone keeps key trading, summoning the next round to keep the loot machine rolling.

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The other night after the Final Fantasy XIV raid, I poked my head into Destiny and then spent the next hour and a half at the forge doing short events.  What is awesome about it is that not only is this a flood of greens and blues, but I managed to pick up eight legendary engrams during that time period.  Additionally I’ve gotten several pieces of armor, ghost shells, artifacts and I am pretty sure at least one of my recent guns dropped in the forge because I have no recollection of getting it otherwise.  The big loot comes from killing the mini-bosses and just appears in your inventory much like the end of strike/crucible items do.  My only concern is that I believe there is a limit of 20 items in the mailbox… meaning I really need to head to orbit more often while doing the forge.  I am probably loosing a ton of loot as a result.  I also probably should strip down myself to only the items I need to participate to create more room for said loot, and spend time between matches deconstructing greens.  In any case regardless of those logistics… this is one of my favorite places to hang out because it is so simple to just hop in and start doing stuff.  I SHOULD be doing strikes… and I managed to finish one of those last night that I had two quests for.  The problem is right now my Destiny time is pretty sporadic, and Archon’s Forge seems to fit the perfect amount of “engagement” for me.

Regularly Playing: June Edition

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Back in May I decided to make a monthly ritual of “truing up” my “Regularly Playing” widget on the sidebar to more closely represent the games I quite literally was playing on regular rotation.  Given that it is that time again… here is the list of things for June.  I added a few new games into the mix and also removed a few more… even if one is really only temporary.  Doing the thing where I write a blurb about what I happened to be doing in each of them.

Rift

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In a weird bit of nostalgia, I decided to come back to Rift and give it another push.  There has never really been a period of time when I have not actually at least dabbled in this game, but so many times I failed to gain traction.  This time around I somehow managed to push from 61 to 65 and have started on  this mad mission to raise all of my tradeskills.  Now having almost accomplished that I will be pushing into the Planetouched Wilds and giving it a real amount of effort.  On top of this I am focused heavily on my crafting dailies, which often times means I need to venture out into the world in search of Sarleaf and Thalasite.  With the shift of WoW to the Garrison for most of your farming needs… I had forgotten just how much I really did love going off and ore farming.  There is just something relaxing about wandering around a zone with a purpose, looking for the next ore pop and trying to get to it before anyone else notices.  It is this weird game within a game that actually seems to work well for me.  I spent many an hour flying circles around Icecrown or Sholazar Basin in Wrath… and now am loving doing the same thing for Gelboro Reef.  Largely I am focused on that zone since, firstly I know it pretty well… and secondly the mobs are low enough level that I can go afk as needed and make it back to the keyboard before something actually kills me.  I am certain that I could be farming ore while wandering around the Planetouched Wilds, but the mobs out there are truly brutal.  Whatever the reason… I am deeply invested in Rift and its community once more and loving it.

Destiny: The Taken King

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While I have slowed down considerably in this game, there are still regularly sessions of it… namely because I have been trying to get fellow AggroChat member and good friend  of mine Grace settled in game.  Monday night we managed to get her to level 40, and pushed through the Taken King quest content… which means that there is an entirely new world waiting for her of endgame stuff.  With Iron Banner going on this weekend, I highly expect that the two of us will be working on that or at least attempting to show her the ropes of the event.  We also have several more steps in the recruit a friend process, but as we get her gear level up there it should get easier to do cooler stuff.  Other than that other games have taken priority over the last few weeks, namely with my return to active duty in FFXIV and running stuff in Rift.  Hopefully the Iron Banner will be a good event to get me back into focus and moving forward in Destiny once more.  I feel pretty disconnected, and I miss the Thursday night Challenge of Elders stuff horribly, I just had a few crazy weeks with the St Louis trip, and Kansas City trip… and a bunch of other random occurrences that knocked me out of my schedule.  Hopefully I can start to rebuild said schedule and get moving forward once more.

ArcheAge

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In a similar fashion to Rift, I have suddenly become involved and attached to the ArcheAge community as well.  Right now I am largely focused on leveling, but at some point I plan on doing all the tradeskilly things in this game as well.  Last year the AggroChat crew made a serious push into this game, and while we faded into the background… I still found it extremely enjoyable.  Additionally like I said yesterday, many of the early toxic aspects of the community as a whole seem to be gone.  Right now I am trying to get back in tune with the game and try and remember how the hell to do half of the things.  On the positive as I grind away at questing I seem to keep getting really nice drops for weapons and armor…  however I remember that most of the best stuff I had was crafted.  I just happened to time my return to coincide with some welcome back campaign, and I keep accruing rewards into my inventory that at some point I will figure out how to use.  Mostly I would like to hit the level cap before worrying too much with them, but I believe some of them are xp bonuses that I might as well use now.  If you are actively playing I am Belglaive on the Tahyang server, but I am not sure what all it requires to actually friend someone in game.  I am not sure if cross server friends lists are a thing there like they are in Rift.

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

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I spent most of the month deeply frustrated with this game, namely because I was sitting at what felt like an artificial gear cap and being prevented from progressing in the story.  Since then however I managed to get a Void Ark run with some friends and got over whatever anxiety I happened to have about tanking it.  As a result I am now sitting at 205 gear score, and bumping up against the Nidhogg trial in the story.  It is my hope that at some point this week I can get a few friends together and run this and hopefully complete the 3.3 patch story.  I am still enjoying the game, but I lack the drive to play it… that I have in say Rift or ArcheAge right now.  For at least the foreseeable future my activity in game is probably going to be limited to our Tuesday night activities, or the occasional expert or other event that I organize with friends.  I love playing this game… but right now I only seem to love playing it with a group of friends logged in at the same time.  It is still an amazing game, but it has shifted into the sort of role that World of Warcraft has been in the past… that game that I only played when there was an organized activity.

World of Warcraft

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This one admittedly is barely making the list, and keeping its space on my sidebar.  Right now I am occasionally logging in to run Garrisons and get my free gold, but not doing much more other than that.  There has been talk of myself, grace and a few others doing random old world content for transmoggy bits and honestly…  that right now is about all I am interesting in World of Warcraft as a whole.  I feel like I am in a “desperately waiting for the Legion pre-patch” mode.  Largely because I am tired of not having any bank space, and removing any of my outfits is simply not an option.  I am not joking when I say that right now the only important thing to me in this game… is looking cool with my collection of old raid gear littering my bank vault.  If the new transmog system were actually patched in… I would more than likely go through a flurry of activity as I once again do awesome old world content for cool threads.  However I quite literally have hit a point where I maybe have 15 bag slots total between inventory, bank and void storage…. so I simply cannot play Belghast anymore without risking removing something.  So instead… I run the occasional garrison mission as I alternate through my army of alts… and then log out once again.

Things Removed From List

Overwatch

Zero clue why on this one… but the game released and I just have had no desire to really play it.  I am amped about just how excited everyone else seems to be about this game, but honestly it feels like I am more interested in talking about the world and the characters… than actually playing it.  If the player versus bots game were more compelling I would likely play it more often, but right now it feels like to enjoy it I need a group of friend to play it.  Ironically I have a huge group of friends playing it… but I think I am going through a “quiet time” phase where I just want to piddle around on my own in games rather than do a lot of organized play.  The few nights I rode along with people… I lasted 3 to 4 games before feeling the need to run and hide again.  I am certain at some point I will once again get the Overwatch bug, but the truth is I am just not that into competitive games.

Diablo 3

Removing this one again temporarily because well…. the season is over.  I have accomplished everything I could ever hope to accomplish, and now is the quiet time until the next patch.  This will be returning once again as another season starts and we all go through the crazy happy madness that is a season launch.  For a bit I was still farming for pets and such, but with the addition of several games this got removed from the docket.  I still very much love this game and look forward to adding it back to the list, but for the moment we are in the off season and the game for me at least is dormant.

 

E1M1

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Doomed

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Awhile back I wrote about my feelings regarding the Doom multiplayer tests on both the PC and PS4.  It felt so much like they had missed the mark, and it seemed very much like someone trying to recreate the experience of the original Doom… without realizing that certain parts of that experience were due to a limit in the ability of the technology at the time.  The experience just was not fun, and that is the most scathing indictment you can honestly give any game.  So as a result I had for the most part decided to ignore that there was ever a Doom 4… or in this case a weird reboot.  Then yesterday I started seeing the first impressions of the single player campaign come in, and they were positive enough that I thought I would take a look for myself.  Even though at this point I have only really played an hour and a half of the game, I am glad I wound up grabbing it.  The impressions I had of the multiplayer were correct, in that this is an attempt to boil the game down to its original roots.  While this doesn’t really work for a multiplayer experience, it does work really well for single player.  The game functions in a way that you don’t really see games function in recent years, in that the game is not open world.  It is a series of closed loop levels that are designed to be approached as a single map.  The first one is quite literally E1M1 as the title of this blog post suggests, borrowing the same naming as the original Doom.  They are a closed puzzle that needs to be solved and involves opening a familiar series of Blue, Yellow and Red key card areas to progress through.

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The combat itself is also really interested and reminds me of the way these games used to play, where you would have a truly frenetic amount of enemies spawn in on you and have to deal with them rapidly.  However once you dealt with that room you were granted time to roam around the area freely before moving ahead and engaging the next set.  In many ways it reminds me of the way that the Painkiller games felt, where each room is this challenge to survive and then you restock your ammunition and health in an attempt to prepare for the next such room.  What helps make this manageable is the games “Glory Kill” system.  When mob is near death it will glow slightly and stagger around letting you know that you can sweep in and with the F key engage a sequence where you do an almost Mortal Kombat like fatality.  Sometimes you rip the head off of the monster, other times you rip the arm off and beat it with it.  Other than just being a carnal ballet, they serve the purpose of giving you life or ammunition back allowing you to keep up the killing streak a little longer.  I found it very needed for getting through some of the later rooms.  Often times the mobs will spawn in with such number that you have to keep running around the room to avoid getting wrecked.  The imps are also more frustrating than they have ever been with their ability to hang off the edge of things and gun you down with their fireballs.

Nothing Will Save You

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Unlike the original Doom, there is no “save game” that you can rely on.  Instead there are a sequence of Checkpoints that unlock as you go through the level.  When you die you either fall back to the last check point or restart the level in its entirety.  These checkpoints generally coincide with the various lulls in the action that I talked about.  The only frustrating thing is that they sometimes encompass several rooms worth of encounters.  I ultimately stopped last night playing because I died and rolled back to a check point a few rooms back… and simply didn’t have the strength to deal with the shit storm I had just waded though to get there.  Even on normal difficulty that game is really tough at times, and you find yourself having to keep glory killing just to maintain your health long enough to push through to the next room.  Ammunition also feels like a constant problem with both the 20 round shotgun and the 50 round or so Heavy Machinegun.  Similarly the Chainsaw this time around relies upon gas tanks that you find scattered throughout the levels.  What was surprising is just how fast you get into the action, similar to the original doom you are planted in a room with mobs that you have to chew your way through with only a pistol.  The secret areas that can be found feel every bit as meaningful as they used to in Doom, with them often granting access to a weapon before you would find it in the normal flow of the game.

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One of the more interesting aspects of the gameplay is the weapon modification system.  Each gun has an Unreal Tournament style alternate fire system but these are unlocked by finding weapon kiosks scattered through the levels.  Each mod package changes the way your right mouse button interacts, and once you have unlocked multiple modes you can change between them with your R key.  For example with the shotgun its two alternate fire modes allow you to choose from what is ultimately a grenade launcher and a three round burst that can both be accessed by holding the right button for a charged shot.  I personally tend to favor the grenade launcher because it allows me to bounce a grenade between several different mobs taking out the entire pack.  However for boss fights or tougher enemies I could see how the three round burst would be extremely beneficial.  The problem there however is that when you only have 20 rounds in the weapon, chewing those up 3 rounds at a time means you empty the gun quickly.  The big takeaway is that the game is very much a 90s shooter, with 90s shooter sensibilities…  remastered for the 1080p and beyond world.  Some of these work amazingly well in single player, but not in multiplayer.  However I might change my tune once I see how the snap map system works.  In any case I am definitely enjoying the single player campaign, and it has just enough story and intrigue to keep the game moving forward…. but not so much that you get bogged down in character development.  This is in no way the rich narrative environment that Doom 3 was for me at least, but it has enough atmosphere to keep my interested.  If you want a good shooter, give it a shot… but if you are looking for a deep storyline…  this is not the game for you.

Old School New School

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Doomed

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Firstly if you didn’t check it out I highly suggest you read yesterday’s blog post if for no reason other than the amazing custom artwork by my friend @Ammosart.  As far as this weekend went, it was a bit of an odd one.  I once again played a lot of Destiny, but this morning that is not one of the shooter experiences I am going to be talking about.  I really hate it when game companies gang up on each other, because this weekend there were “special” beta tests going on for Overwatch, Battleborn and Doom.  While at first they might not seem all that related, they are each chasing a multiplayer experience that they would really love you to care about.  Battleborn is not even on the list of games I was interested in, thanks to a really bad alpha experience causing me to pitch it to the curb.  Doom however…  I really want to like and keep giving it ample attempts to sell me on its regressive notion of what first person shooter multiplayer should be.  Now please note…  I’ve had access to the alpha for quite awhile now thanks to a strange presell deal that they had for Wolfenstein The New Order.  I have not really talked about it before now however due to the NDA it has been wrapped in, but with this weekends big beta event… that has been dropped.

Doom Multiplayer is a game that really hopes that you remember Quake 3 Arena fondly, and have been craving that sort of gameplay with marginally better graphics.  The gameplay honestly gives flash backs to playing Rocket Arena… during a time when even then I thought the Quake Arena experience was far inferior to Unreal Tournament that I tended to play more often.  If you miss the days of being shot across the map from someone you can’t even see as you spawn in… then this is going to be the game you have been hankering for.  The big problem I had was in all of the matches that I have played… I never really found myself having fun.  I mean I did okayish, but it very much felt like wandering around the same claustrophobic hallways that we used to in Quake.  The worst sin however is the movement… it feels completely unrealistic and the same sort of stiff speedy running that those original Quake games had.  What it is trying to be is fast paced run and gun action, but in an era when we can do that without sacrificing animation and design aesthetics.  I’ve now played several different PC alpha tests, and installed it on the PS4 to give it a go there… and no matter what I keep coming up with the same impression.  This is not a fun multiplayer experience.

Molten Core!

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The general “unfun” nature of Doom was only drilled home thanks to also being in Overwatch this weekend.  It feels like both games are trying really hard to deliver something similar, at least in the department of a faced paced shooter department.  Also both games really want you to want to watch them as some sort of an e-sports extravaganza.  However Doom is a world that traded the drab green and brown nothingness of Quake for various shades of orange and blood red… whereas Overwatch is almost more game world than it actually needs to support the combat.  As you wander around the world there is a constant barrage of tiny details.  Posters on the wall, images up on computer screens… advertisements for murloc themed restaurants.  The world is vibrant and feels alive, and almost begs you to inhabit it, and what makes it even better is that every single character is just as vibrant and well designed.  Playing Torbjorn feels unique and completely different from playing Pharah or Reaper or Reinhardt.  The only negative here is that at times they almost feel too unique, in that the control scheme of one champion doesn’t begin to map up to playing another one.  It is fairly normal for “league” style champion design to differ wildly, but at least in League you are always going to be using QWE, but for Overwatch champions there is essentially an array of hotkeys that get used… and not all champions use all hotkeys.  The most confusing aspect of this is how some champions have a movement key and others don’t…  and even among the ones that do they don’t always sync up to exactly the same key.

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So what ended up having to happen is that I started to compartmentalize “this is how I play this champion” from “this is how I play overwatch”.  The only unfortunate thing about this game is that you can see how much effort they put into building the world, and personally I get a little nostalgic about “what might have been”.  Titan was supposed to be Overwatch the MMO, and I would have loved that.  Even if they had given me a game along the lines of Destiny or Division I would have eaten it up completely.  So as you are playing through the levels you see signs of what might have been.  As far as the game play itself it centers around running multiplayer matches, to rank up… to unlock loot crates… to get sweet skins and other cosmetic stuff…  that improve your game play experience for those champions that you really love.  At its core this game is a really tight multiplayer team based shooter, and if that is not the experience you have been looking for… this probably isn’t the game for you.  It plays like a modern version of Team Fortress 2 and feels tighter than that game ever did.  Every aspect of the experience seems like it has been painstakingly planned and the awesome thing about it is that for once Blizzard is probably being more forthcoming with information than any other multiplayer game has been.  For example they went into more detail about the netcode behind the game play than any company I have ever seen.  The only unfortunate thing is that I am going to have to likely wait until May 3rd to get to play the game again, given that is when the pre-launch open beta period begins.  The game lived up to all of my expectations, and I am amped to get to play it with friends.

Light and Poms

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Losing Light

This marks the second weekend of attempts to get a black spindle, and I am quickly reaching a point where I no longer want it.  The first weekend was a tale of me largely spending the entire day either waiting to get a group or making attempts on it.  For whatever reason Bungie seems to keep choosing Sunday as the day for Spindle runs… which is not exactly prime time for people playing the game.  On top of that… Sunday is normally a day that I have stuff that needs to get done, and instead for two different weekends my world has focused around trying to get a Black Spindle.  I reached a point yesterday where I wanted to reach through the internet and punch whoever it was that designed this mission.  The individual parts aren’t all that bad… but combined together is just maddening.  If you could simply respawn at a checkpoint before the 10 minute timer starts on the Ketch it wouldn’t be so bad.  I would happily grind that until we finally got it… but instead it is the frustration of having to clear to a boss… then do the run across the temple… then unlock the various chambers… then FINALLY go up into the ketch and do the “real” mission.  So you have 10-15 minutes of bullshit before you reach the point at which it is omg serious mode.

We tried several different methods of attempting to down the boss, the main one being that we jump to the middle and burn him down with swords.  Towards the end we started trying to just whittle his ass down while keeping the adds under control, and honestly neither really worked well.  Anytime we ducked outside of the entrance tunnel we would get wrecked, and almost one shot.  I guess that is the biggest frustration is that the room has no place where you can really set up OTHER than the entrance tunnel and clean out the adds.  The geometry of the room means that someone is always getting hung on something and stuck awkwardly out in the open… which means they are essentially dead.  I am not sure what is up with the mission but it felt like we did significantly worse than the last time…  and this time around I am 304 and decked out in raid weapons that deal extra damage to taken.  I know I am the albatross around the neck of the group, but I am not exactly sure what I am doing wrong there.  At this point I am not likely to spend another weekend of attempts on this stupid weapon… when I have two sniper rifles that I enjoy using already.  Sure this is the best sniper in the game, but if it quite literally makes one of my party members slam their controller down against the desk breaking it…  it is not worth the hassle or frustration.

Pom Pom Squad

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The highlight of the weekend however for me was getting a Pom Pom Beanie on Friday evening while playing Division.  Strangely enough this seems to be the chase item for most people because they are actually rather rare.  I have given food and water to every single person that I meet along the street asking for it… and have a huge amount of clothing options… and have gotten exactly one pom pom beanie.  Now these also can apparently appear on the appearance vendor that unlocks with the security tier, but I have yet to see any there.  What is awesome about mine is the fact that it fits so perfectly with the colors that I already choose…  black and green.  Other than that last night I got a string of awesome weapon drops…  and I finally abandoned my beloved LSW for a couple of ACR variants and eventually a P416…  which all seem to feel the same when firing them.  I also found an upgrade for my SRS marksman rifle but unfortunately the upgrade was only a green so it won’t last nearly as long.  That seems to be my combo of weapons of choice… a fairly accurate assault rifle that fires well in single shot/bursts and a marksman rifle for headshots.  This allows me to either spray and play, for random two mob encounters on the street… or get more strategic for larger groups.

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I am consistently amazed at the wide variety of feelings this game can make me feel.  There are moments when I feel stirrings of patriotism and sentimentality like when I come across a memorial like the one above, or improvised banners hanging out of windows that say slogans like “Can’t Keep NY Down”.  Then other times the game gut punches you with feels when it comes to finding a phone message from before the infection, or as society was crumbling.  Like last night I picked up a message from two parents that were coming into town to see their child because they missed them… and it feels all the more tense knowing that they had no clue what they were walking into.  We had a lengthy AggroChat show talking about the morality of this game… and for whatever reason it stirs something completely different in me.  I absolutely feel like the good guy, the one trying hard to bring some sort of order to a fallen city.  Sure the only thing that separates me from the looters is the badge I am wearing… but I am also saving countless random people from executions or muggings as I roam the city streets.  I might be more vigilante than righteous crusader, but I am okay with that.  I think you miss some of the nuance of the game if you are constantly focused on this objective or the next, and aren’t really participating in the events that happen on the street.  I cannot count the number of times I have rolled up on a group of Rikers with their guns drawn on a civilian, and even though it is a nameless faceless NPC…  I saved them from certain death.  Had I been a little slower on the trigger finger they would be dead on the ground, and those are the moments I feel heroic.  Those are the moments when I don’t question what I am doing in this game.