Jiangshi Finally

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One of the issues with Destiny 2 is what I have called the progression problem.  I am stuck in a gravity well right now and finding it impossible to get out of it.  I’ve been sitting at 304 for two weeks now and once again the Tuesday reset has come and given me no forward momentum to break free.  In there were I raiding or doing the nightfall on a regular basis I would be opening up more chances to get unstuck.  However if you are not doing raid, trials or nightfall…  essentially you have three milestones each week to have a shot of improving your overall power level.  Last night I streamed for the first time in a very long time, and on Twitch no less…  so you can in theory see the entire journey of what I do on each character every week.  Unfortunately I got two sets of arms and a chestpiece, all of which armor slots that I already had and also as a result…  I am no closer to 305 than I was at the start of the evening.  Right now I am down to needing helm, boots and class item and unfortunately Destiny 2 doesn’t really give me any options to do some activity that targets those specific slots.  I need to try to get the Nightfall in this week for no reason other than it offers a few more chances at getting some progress.

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To add insult to injury I got nothing really from the Cayde-6 chests including one of them literally dropping nothing at all.  Bungie is apparently still tracking down this bug so I fired off a few responses to them stating what I did.  I literally landed on the planet Titan and started chasing chests, with the 3rd chest I opened in a row producing no results.  I am sure this is some sort of anti-chest farming routine that takes away rewards if you open too many chests in too short of time.  The thing is… do we really need this?  What are they trying to prevent, given that there is no actual economy in this game to protect?  This honestly feels less like protection and more like purposeful throttling of the player base, which is sort of the theme I keep feeling with them tamping down the number of sources we can use to improve our power level.  I am wondering if post TwitchCon this weekend things might loosen up a bit.  My working theory is that they are trying to keep the console community strung along until the PC release happens…  that way they do not have to maintain two vastly different release schedules.  As a result I have this feeling that the PC time table will be accelerated in an attempt to get the two platforms back in synchronization.

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Yesterday I talked a bit about chasing some of the rarer drops from the Gunsmith and one in particular… the Jiangshi AR4 by Omolon.  Other than the fun hanging out while streaming…  last night was a bit of a bummer because it meant that I felt like I made no progress.  As I was winding down the evening… I opted to spend down my Gunsmith packages a bit and much to my shock finally got the weapon I had been questing for.  Granted I am still looking for the Frontier Justice Hakke Scout Rifle… but that is a mission for another day.  I played with this weapon quite a bit in the crucible as I started the weekly grind process on my hunter… and other than the fact that it needs some infusion fuel…  it is so damned good.  I had latched onto Uriel’s Gift and generally use that weapon, but the Jiangshi is also extremely fun and probably going to get some rotation along with The Number.  The big thing this weapon has going for it is the stability and the big strike against it…  it lacks Uriel’s overpower High-Caliber rounds.  I have a feeling that post TwitchCon there is going to be a massive nerf of High-Caliber rounds and as a result the other weapons that are not Uriel’s Gift are going to start to shine a bit more.  I would love to stream more often because I had a lot of fun last night, but not even sure when I would make it happen on a regular basis.

A Little Luck

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Last night the loot gods were very good to me.  Weekly reset is a time where the impossible seems possible…  or at the very lease you have a new round of milestones that can reward “powerful gear” otherwise known as Luminous Engrams.  For the unindoctrinated… these are a weird cross between purple and gold and contain gear that is always a significant upgrade over whatever you happen to be wearing.  This always probably needs to have its own caveat given that when you hit the current hard level cap of 350…  this will in theory constantly keep rewarding you maximum power items.  These right now seem to be the primary method of moving the needle forward… and I guess that makes sense given that the normal mode of the raid is 260 to 280 power.  This makes sense due to the general difficulty increase as you progress through raid bosses and the hope that you will be slotting in items you get on the first few bosses to keep ratcheting your power level as you traverse the content.  This is the point where I am going to apologize because I will inevitably for a long time keep calling it Light instead of Power… and while I am trying my best to catch these several of them are going to slip through the cracks.  Functionally now that we are all arriving at 265 we are settling in for the long game of slowly incrementing our levels each week through doing events.  The folks that are pushing 300 right now did some sheer madness…  namely I know it was super popular in the reddit circles to roll 3 of exactly the same class so you could swap gear and get three times the weekly engrams…  greatly increasing your chances of moving things forward.

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What I did not expect was for Cayde-6 to pay out this week the way that he did.  For the also unindoctrinated…  once you hit level 20 and complete your main story quest each of the traditional NPCs does a specific thing.  Ikora Rey for example lets you replay three missions a week and then in turn rewards engrams based on the faction tokens you get from doing this.  Zavala is once again all about the strikes and the nightfall, and Cayde-6 unsurprisingly is all about sending you on a quest to gather up loot he has stashed.  He sells 5 maps per week for 5000 glimmer each and they are always going to be in whatever zone happens to be the Flashpoint area.  This week for example it was Nessus and when you purchase them a series of Spade icons appear on your map with no real indication of how to actually get there.  Other than a few rare cases these icons are “breaking the border” of the map… meaning you need to figure out if they are in a cave system or if you need to climb up somewhere and jump out in what is officially unmarked space of the map.  Occasionally there are gimme chests like the one this week that is literally in the middle of a structure that is impossible to miss…  but I won’t go into any spoilers about any of them.  Last week I got one exotic engram, one legendary… and a bunch of random junk that Cayde-6 will buy back from you…  like a Spinfoil Hat.  This week was insanely good loot wise because not only did I wind up getting four legendary engrams and one exotic, I also got a 271 weapon.  So that means in theory you could possible get power level increasing upgrades from him going forward.

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Since I was functionally gifted almost the right number of items for a specific quest…  I decided to make last night all about trying to catch up on the various exotic weapon quests.  When you finish the main storyline there are a number of blue crown icon quests that start showing up on the various planets.  From what I understand each of these ultimately leads to an exotic.  I had already been working my way through the one that rewards first the MIDA Mini Tool submachinegun and eventually the MIDA Multi Tool scout rifle made famous in Destiny 1.   The quest where I needed all of the engrams however I am still working my way through by doing silly things on Nessus.  However one of the first steps in the chain involves going to Master Rahool in the tower and decrypting 5 legendary engrams and 1 exotic engram.  The quest itself pays out one legendary engram, so I knew that this was one of those times where it would be easy to move forward in the quest chain since I had everything sitting there and ready to go.  The only quest that I have not started is the one for the Rat King, but I will be doing this soon given that I am hearing this is a decent week to try and get through it as one of the steps requires you to make insanely good time in the Nightfall.  I feel like I am still making progress, but a lot of that progress is slow and incremental.  We’ve entered the cold winter phase of Destiny, when every few points of light requires a large amount of effort.  I’m completely fine in this territory because I have been there before, but I am wondering if we end up losing a few people in the post 265 slog.

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.