Destiny: The Taken King Early Exotic Thoughts

Destiny Fabian StrategyNow that I’ve got a couple weeks with The Taken King under my belt I have a handful of Exotic weapons and armor in my inventory. It’s a good mix of Year One and Year Two items, which I think is how most players’ inventory is shaking out so far. So with that in mind, I thought we’d talk a little about those exotics that I’ve actually had hands-on time with. That unfortunately means no Touch of Malice or Black Spindle quite yet.

We’ll start with weapons – which is where I have the most variety. This is also where the least amount of variance between the Year One and Year Two versions of items is. There really isn’t a whole lot that can happen different within weapons – a Year One Bad Juju behaves pretty much exactly the same as Year Two. In truth, the only real changes I’ve seen I think are much more related to the 2.0 Patch weapon rebalancing. So with that in mind, we’ll focus more on the Year Two weapons – just know that for the most part any Year One weapons you liked that came with us will still work just fine. I’ve gotten hold of three brand new primary Exotics – two auto rifles and a scout rifle. The two auto rifles both are similar in terms of archetype, but with their individual talents behave very differently. The first I got was the Titan exclusive Fabian Strategy from the Gunsmith. This is an interesting Exotic – in that it really doesn’t feel particularly exotic. Instead it’s talent grid just makes it a really strong, reliable weapon. It’s a workhorse gun – doesn’t do anything super fancy, just kills lots of bad guys dead. It is currently bugged – the Front Lines perk doesn’t actually increase your fire rate right now – but even without that, it’s still a really solid choice for primary. Big clip size, it keeps you healthy with Life Support and does extra damage with Crowd Control – it’s everything you need in an auto rifle, and a perfect Titan weapon. The other auto rifle – the Zhalo Supercell – is on the other side of the spectrum. It’s an Exotic that actually feels exotic, thanks to the electric bullets. The unique perk that allows the bullets to chain Arc damage to grouped up enemies helps keep it feeling special – and also helps clear out groups of low tier enemies. The other unique perk pairs well with that talent – double kills charge your super and give you ammo back. If Fabian is Ol’ Reliable, Zhalo is the flash that you need every once in a while. It’s not a gun I would use every mission, but when I do, it just is cool. The only new scout rifle I’ve used so far is the Boolean Gemini – a quest reward from the Reef. It’s got a lot in common with the Fabian in that it’s not a particularly exotic Exotic. Sure the bullets have a real weighty sound behind them, and look pretty, but the actual behavior of the weapon isn’t particularly outrageous. That doesn’t mean it isn’t great, but it doesn’t stand out to me. The unique perk is actually a binary set to choose from – one rewards precision kills with extra agility, and the other reward body shot kills with extra armor. In other words, you’ll be getting extra agility, because why would you not be getting headshots with a scout rifle? Since it’s a relatively easy weapon to get, I think it’s one that everyone will have at some point, just don’t expect to keep using it.

In terms of Special weapons, I’ve only gotten one new exotic – and access to Invective through the kiosk. The new exotic I have though is the new sniper rifle – Hereafter. Hereafter is a mixed bag to me – it’s got some real good parts, but I think it falls down a little when compared with other snipers. One thing that I’m not a huge fan of is that it’s Arc damage – I would have really liked to see a Void sniper show up as an Exotic this year. In general Void damage is pretty rare in exotics in that Truth is the only one from Year One. Where I do think that Hereafter will shine is in low pressure situations – strikes, daily missions, patrol – that sort of stuff. I don’t think that it really is a Nightfall/Raid weapon just because the unique perks just don’t fit well with tough enemies. The big one is that precision kills have a (really good) chance to blind nearby enemies. With only four shots in a magazine, that means you need to make sure that you’re getting kills – and in those high level activities, enemies that can be one-shot are a bit more rare. It’s a messing around weapon – just one that happens to look and sound really cool. If you can get your hands on Hereafter, I think you’ll like it, but also see that other weapons do the same thing it does without taking up the Exotic slot.

Destiny Empyrean Bellicose

We’ll move on to armor now, because I have yet to get my Exotic sword, so no new Heavy weapon. The Armor is where there’s a little variance with Year One and Year Two. The biggest one that I’ve noticed is with the Insurmountable Skullfort Titan helmet – it used to just spawn you with melee energy and give you Transfusion. Now it also gives you a second melee charge (unless you’re a Defender right now). But in general, most of the Year One items are pretty much the same – just with their unique perks moved to be intrinsically unlocked. So we’ll focus again on the new items for Year Two. I’ve got one for each: my Titan, Warlock, and Hunter. And because Titans are the best, we’ll look at that one first. I managed to snag the new Empyrean Bellicose. I initially thought this was one of those Exotics that is only good for a shard. In practice though, I’ve been really enjoying using it in the Crucible. Its whole shtick is that it essentially gives Titans Angel of Light – letting you hover in midair while ADS. It’s a really niche perk, but I gotta say – in PvP it netted me a bunch of kills the other night that I don’t think I could have without it. It’s not a top-tier helmet at all, but it’s a fun one to play with. My Warlock has the Impossible Machine gauntlets – the only Stormcaller specific Exotic so far. It might be the only option, but I think it’s a PvE no brainer. It gives you Landfall – the AoE attack for Stormtrance, which means that you are free to take either Superconductor or Ionic Blink. In PvE, Superconductor plus Landfall is a genius set – AoE safety, and extra chaining damage. If you’re playing Storm Caller, this is definitely the way to go. Finally, my Hunter has the new Sealed Ahamkara’s Grasps. These are essentially the Hunter’s Skullfort – you get a second melee charge, as well as a chance to reload your primary on melee kills. That second part seems pretty nice, but the double melee is where this really shines – and only with Nightstalker does the true use really show up, thanks to the sheer power of the Vanish node for Smoke. It’s a giant safety button, and having two ready at just about any time is undeniable in its utility.

So of the new Exotics that I’ve gotten to use so far in The Taken King, I really think that Bungie has the right plan. A lot of what has been going on in TTK so far has been a much more clear focus on specialization. There aren’t a lot of broad stroke items that you can use for everything. The ones that are still there aren’t based around vertical power gains, instead they just keep you in the fight more. As was the case in Year One, these are still the items that we will be chasing down – so get hunting.

Let’s Talk About that Crucible Questline in The Taken King

The Taken King LogoSince the launch of Destiny: The Taken King, I’ve been running all over the place completing quests and bounties galore. But there’s one quest line that has stayed in my inventory this whole time has been the first Crucible quest chain. Over the last couple days too I’ve started to see more posts on the Destiny subreddit bringing up this particular quest. So let’s talk a little about it.

I think there are two ways of looking at this quest. The first is the way that a lot of the Reddit posters have been – that of the hardcore player. The people who play the game pretty much exclusively and play it a lot. The other is more in line with I think how Bungie approached it. It’s designed to be a welcome to the Crucible – across the whole spectrum. It shows you the ropes, and gradually ramps up the challenges. In theory, both views can and should work together. Hardcore players, especially players that focus on PvP, can complete the quest pretty quickly; while at the same time new players have a framework to guide them through the ins and outs of each different game mode. That’s actually really smart game design – older, more seasoned vets get rewarded quickly and new players have a good learning period to figure out the different modes.

Destiny Crucible

Where I think the roadblock may show up is once you hit the end of the Factions section and get to Trials Practice. Every previous step has you win two games in a specific game mode – not terribly difficult, especially if you go in with a few friends. Trials Practice however, requires you to win five matches of Elimination. That’s more than just an increase in wins required – Elimination is probably the most hardcore mode in Destiny. I think that this is where the quest gets a little wonky. It works perfectly up until then, but then the pressure steps way up, and the margin for error drops out. The value of a win shoots up and as a result you start to see the new Crucible issue – quitting. Because a lot of players are just trying to finish the quest, the most efficient way is to leave forgone losses to get into a new game quicker. You see that with the weapon bounties – the next step of the quest chain – a lot more.

Where I think the biggest disconnect here is that the PvE counterpart to this is no where near as deep. Both quests are designed to teach players about the playlists available and end up with the second tier rewards – just below the Raid. The problem is that the PvE is three steps – five normal strikes, five Heroic strikes and a Nightfall. That’s it, and you have a built in Nightfall reward in the quest. That’s easily done in a full day of play, with time to spare. The Crucible quest has more variables in play that make consistently completing steps difficult. Unless you and your group are pretty consistent PvP players, this is definitely a bit of a slog. It’s not empirically a bad quest, but it is one that I can see that turns off players. Just be ready to explore the new weapon meta and find the weapons that work for you in any game mode.

Fist of Havoc

One last note about Crucible quests, now that Mayhem is live this week, this might be the time to go through those PvP Subclass quests. I just wrapped up the Striker one, and I would have loved Mayhem for the Fist of Havoc multikills. If you’ve been putting them off, this might be the best week so far to try them – those emblems are pretty sweet looking.

Rainbow Six: Siege Beta Thoughts and Impressions

Rainbow Six SiegeOver the weekend I got the chance to download and play the new beta for Rainbow Six: Siege. The game may have been delayed until December, but Ubisoft didn’t delay the beta at all. I actually think that this whole situation may end up being the best thing for the game. Pushing it back to December puts it right in the middle of Holiday shopping, plus gets it out of the super crowded late October/early November time period. Keeping the beta now also keeps the demand for the game up through the delay period. Of course we have to wait until December to really know if this is a return to form for the longtime classic series, but I have to think that we might be on that track after this beta.

We’ll start with what I didn’t like with the beta, because there isn’t a ton to talk about here – and the issues I have aren’t really deal breakers. In truth, my biggest issue is a personal one. In the PvP multiplayer, you only have one life. I have never liked game modes like that – Gears of War, Search and Destroy, and so on – just because my style of play is way too aggressive for it. In games like this where realism is a huge part of the play, it may make sense, but it also makes it super easy to die because of a tiny mistake. The margin for error is so small that it all but requires you to play slower and more defensive. But that’s not an actual problem with the game – it’s just a personal conflict with the mechanics.

In truth, I think the PvP actually works really well. It definitely better to go into the matchmaking with as close to a full squad as possible. This is a game where teamwork is paramount – lone wolf players will have a serious struggle, at least with what we have to play right now. Either side, attackers or defenders, need to coordinate their tactics in order to succeed. Attackers need to keep communication lines up to figure out not only where the enemies are, but also where traps are, and where they’re breaching and moving. Defenders need to coordinate how they’re setting up the defenses – which walls are being reinforced, where the barricades and traps are being set and making sure that if there’s a weak spot, everyone knows it. If there’s an actual gameplay critique here, it’s that the two different game modes really aren’t that different. TDM Bomb has the attackers diffusing a bomb – one player has to have the diffuser, while the other mode has attackers trying to find a biological weapon and then control the point for a set time. Not strictly bad, but I hope the final game has a few more modes in it.

Where I really think that Rainbow Six: Siege will shine is in the classic Terrorist Hunt mode. It’s a co-op mode for up to five players, tasked with taking out a set number of terrorists on a map. In the beta, we have two different maps – both feature in the PvP and co-op. Whether or not that’s going to be the case in the final game – in that the multiplayer maps will all feature as Terrorist Hunt maps – remains to be seen. Regardless, Terrorist Hunt is exactly what a game like Rainbow Six needs. There’s a reason that it was so popular in the two Rainbow Six: Vegas games. With the new feature of special operators in Siege I think that Terrorist Hunt could end up being the real meat of the multiplayer.

Those operators are all pretty cool – they essentially act as special playable characters. Each CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) has a selection of operators, and each operator has a special set of weapons and gadgets. They fit into heavy, medium or light archetypes too – heavy armored characters move really slowly, but can take a few more bullets. The opposite is true too – light characters move a lot faster, but are much more fragile. Getting to know how their actual gadgets does take a few games though – but could be cleared up in the final release when the operator videos are live. I assume that there will be at least a few more operators in the final build, per CTU – which means more options, which means more variety, and that’s always a good thing.

Ultimately, it’s really hard to say with certainty that Rainbow Six: Siege is going to be a winner. But I do think that it has a couple things going for it that set it up to succeed. There’s no other shooter this season that falls into that same “super realistic” style which means less direct competition. Pushing it out of the really crowded time frame adds to that – by the time the game launches, shooter players will have already beaten Halo 5, Star Wars: Battlefront and/or Call of Duty and they’ll have picked which multiplayer to stick with. Come December that should mean an audience that is ready for a new game, and Rainbow Six is dropping at that same point. We know nothing yet about the story – but Tom Clancy games are generally strong in that aspect. It’s a game that I think is set up for success and we just have to wait to see if it delivers.

Fallout 4 Character Progression Thoughts

Fallout 4 Box ArtShifting gears away from Destiny for a bit, today Bethesda put out a nice little article about the changes headed to character leveling and progression in Fallout 4. One of the things that I’ve been really curious about was what kind of changes were going to be taking place with that. Prior to today, we knew that there was something happening, but no specifics. Now we know exactly how it’s going to work – and I really like what they’re doing.

In the past Bethesda Fallout games, you had three things to keep track of – your character level, your skill levels and your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats. Each one of those played a role in determining which perks you could select upon leveling up. In Fallout 4, that’s all being streamlined – character level still exists, and is still dictated by XP; but skills and S.P.E.C.I.A.L. are being rolled together. It sounds a lot more like you only will need to worry about your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats now – the perks you select will be gated based around the amount of points you’ve put into them. That seems like it could keep some players locked out of certain perks, but there are a couple things that should keep that from happening.

First, there isn’t going to be a player level cap. In that regard, Fallout 4 is going to be a bit closer to Oblivion. I would guess that certain enemies will scale with you as you progress, that way there’s always some challenge, even for end-game players. But it does give you even more opportunities to be able to grab, eventually, all the perks in the game. For a completionist like me, that’s a great aspect of the game. I already plan on sinking a ton of time into this game as it is, and the idea of being able to experience all the perks in one save file is a really nice thing. The other side of the coin though is that in order to put points into your S.P.E.C.I.A.L., you’ll need to use a top-level perk that lets you put a point into them. In previous games it was called Intense Training – with ten ranks. I would assume that there isn’t going to be a limit on the ranks this time around, but we’ll see.

Fallout 4 Perk Poster

What originally worried me about that shift was that it sounded like a limit to the number of perks available. The cap on S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats is still ten, which means 70 base perks. I was worried that would be it – 70 may seem like a lot, but in a game where 100 hours is bound to be the low end, that’s nothing. Luckily, today’s post cleared that up. Considering that a number of the perks have multiple ranks – many of which are where some of the classic perks will live now – the stat based perk count is looking to be right around 270. That’s a lot more appropriate for the scope of the game – and it gets better when you consider the likelihood that there will be quest-based and collectible-based perks. They confirm the latter by saying that the skill magazines now grant different levels of a perk, as you collect them. They used the Grognak the Barbarian skill book – a series mainstay – as an example, as it gives you the Barbarian perk.

Bethesda is saying that the pacing is closer to Skyrim‘s leveling, which I remember being pretty quick early on, before slowing down at the higher, more powerful levels. If that’s true, that should mean that we’re able to get a good base of perks early on, before we dig into the really tough sections (Deathclaws). From what they’ve been teasing with the perks, it looks like specializing in early game builds is probably in your best interest, while still allowing you to have a really well rounded character in end-game play. With the removal of skills, some classic perks have been looked at again and shaped into new forms that make sense with the new system. Gun Nut is a good example – it used to just be a boost to Small Guns and Repair, now it helps determine what weapon mods you can put together.

As we get closer to the November launch of Fallout 4, I find myself getting more and more excited for it. It was already my most anticipated game of the year, and while I am still trying to stay relatively blind as to a lot of details, things like this and the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. videos that they’ve been releasing each week really help keep the hype high.

Destiny: The Taken King – Crucible Impressions in Year Two

The Taken King LogoOver the last week we’ve been talking a lot about Destiny‘s new expansion, The Taken King. However, I’ve been pretty much ignoring a pretty big chunk of the game – the PvP Crucible. So today I want to quickly talk about some of the changes that I’ve noticed since I’ve been playing a bunch more Crucible than I was in House of Wolves.

Let’s start with the new game modes. The Taken King adds three new ways to play PvP: Rift, Zone Control and Mayhem. Two of those – Rift and Zone Control – are actual game modes, while Mayhem is more of a modifier, like Inferno. Since the launch of TTK, only Rift and Zone Control have actually been active – Mayhem ran during the preview weekend though. What I like with these new modes is the focus on objective gametypes. Rift plays similar to Ricochet or Uplink – you capture a neutral object, then deliver it to the enemies’ goal to score points. It’s a pretty intense mode – but good team play can really shift the balance fast. That said, being the spark runner is a lot of fun – especially scoring the rift. The dunking animation is really awesome, plus the points you get from it are well worth the effort. I don’t recommend running through Rift much as a solo player, but it is still a lot of fun.

Destiny Crucible

Zone Control is pretty much straight Domination. It’s the Control gametype already in the game, just with the scoring simplified completely. Instead of kills being boosted by holding onto control points, your team’s score goes up from controlling those points. It’s standard Domination, just with the Destiny twists of Supers and Grenades and Melees and Heavy Weapons. It does require a bit of teamwork to really succeed, but it’s not as imperative as it is in Rift. Zone Control does give people who aren’t great at firefights a good way to contribute to the team by grabbing the points. Heavy Ammo control is still very important – especially with the addition of Swords as a weapon type.

Mayhem, as I said, isn’t strictly a new game mode. Instead it acts as a second modifier on top of a normal game mode. Like Inferno removes the radar, Mayhem cranks up all your recharge rates to maximum. You’ll get your Supers every couple minutes – and grenades and melees even faster. When Mayhem Clash is up, that’s when this really lives up to the name. It’s just Supers and Grenades all over the place. One nice thing with Mayhem is that Heavy Ammo drops from enemies that have it again – just like way back in the early days of Year One. In general, I think Mayhem is a great way to get through some of those class specific Crucible quests – you just have to wait for it to be active.

Destiny Bannerfall

Beyond the new game modes, the other real big change to the Crucible is the influx of new maps. On the Xbox we have nine new maps to explore and play on. Of the group, I’ve played all but three – the two former PlayStation exclusives, and Crossroads. Those that I have played though, I really like. There’s a good mix of ranges and sightlines – some are built more around close quarters engagements (The Drifter, The Dungeons and Memento to a lesser extent); while others are much more varied in combat (Bannerfall, Frontier and Vertigo). I really don’t think there’s a purely “bad” map in the bunch – some are definitely a bit tougher to learn the flow of, but in general I like them all. My favorites have been Bannerfall, Frontier and The Dungeons for a few different reasons. Bannerfall is a fantastic mix of all ranges – any weapon can do really well, as can any class. Frontier is a long range masterpiece, without feeling overly huge – which was an issue with First Light and Bastion in particular. Frontier is the first map where I don’t feel punished for using Scout Rifles. The Dungeons is the exact opposite – it’s an Auto Rifle/Handcannon/Shotgun map for sure, which is right in my wheelhouse.

Which brings me to the weapons themselves. A lot has been made going into the 2.0 patch about the weapon meta being shuffled. While the patch didn’t hit the reset button entirely, it did fix most of the issues that were there. In particular, Handcannons got taken down a few notches – they’re still powerful in their proper range, but beyond that, they aren’t the snipers they used to be. Auto Rifles definitely got the boost they needed – in that they are actually useful again. It’s been fun to actually run around with Suros Regime again. The big issue that I still have is with Shotguns. Even as a major Shotgun guy, the high impact, long range archetype is still almost unstoppable. And again, there’s a vendor selling a Felwinter’s style shotgun. Yes, Shot Package got nerfed, but it didn’t get anywhere near the nerf it needed. I fully expect that with the 2.0.2 patch we’ll see another pass at the Shotguns in PvP – and they still need it. Classwise, not a whole lot has changed. Blink is still annoying, but it is easier to track now. Hunters and Warlocks are still a bit stronger than Titans, but Sunbreaker does even the field a bit. Overall, as it stands after a week, I actually think the Crucible is in a pretty good spot. The real tests will be when the Power Level enabled playlists go live again like Iron Banner – that’s where the meta really starts to take shape.

Destiny: The Taken King – One Week Later

The Taken King LogoToday marks the one week “anniversary” of the release of Destiny: The Taken King. It also marked the beginning of Year Two in Destiny. There are a lot of changes that were brought to the game, most of which have been discussed at length, here and all over the web. What I want to talk about today is more about the specific Taken King content, not the 2.0 patch changes. That means story content, quests and gear, and the new strikes. I haven’t run through the new Raid yet – my fireteam is still in the process of gearing up to a higher light level – so my thoughts on that will have to wait.

Destiny Cayde-6

I want to start with the story content. I’m going to stay as spoiler free as possible here, just because I actually think the story here in The Taken King is actually worth experiencing yourself. I said after the 2.0 patch changed the missions to quests that even the threadbare Vanilla content makes a lot more sense. The quest structure makes all of the story stuff feel a lot more coherent – even tackling a few quests at once is a lot more straightforward than it used to be. The new stuff though is easily the strongest that Bungie has put out for Destiny. The dialogue is hands down better across the board than it was a year ago. The fact that the story is told only through a few characters actually helps here. It allows Bungie to better flesh out their actual characteristics – Cayde, Zavala, Ikora and Eris all feel a lot more fleshed out than they used to. Nathan Fillion’s voice work stands out – Cayde’s character is made by his voice work. The actual missions really stand out as well – there’s a lot more variety in their structuring. Sure there’s still a lot of “go here, fight a bunch of enemies, face boss, rinse, repeat” but that’s standard in any FPS. What’s different here from previous Destiny stuff is the way you get to those fights. There’s more vertical platforming – and platforming in general – including a few missions that really focus on it. There’s more use of the mechanics that previously were only in Raids – the use of relics to progress through areas. There’s the first true stealth mission in Destiny – which is probably my favorite single story mission in the new content. I know the community loves to rag on Bungie for reusing locations in DLC, but in this case I really like the missions that go back to familiar places, but in different ways. It’s funny to think that a year ago the story was far and away the weakest point in Destiny, but now I think it’s absolutely worth going through.

Destiny Grimoire AlakHul

Continuing on from that, the new strikes I think in general really shine. On the Xbox, there are three new ones – the Fallen S.A.B.E.R, the Sunless Cell, and the Shield Brothers. Of the three, I think I like the Darkblade boss fight the most, but I like the actual strike with the Fallen S.A.B.E.R. I had a feeling that the back door over by the Grottos would play into some future content, and while I didn’t see it being a strike, I am glad to see more of Rasputin’s bunker. Saying that they have “raid-light” mechanics is a little disingenuous, but the boss fights definitely are a bit more involved than they used to be. During the Shank fight, the environment is just as much a threat as the boss itself; the Darkblade fight takes place in blackness with a teleporting boss; and the Bond Brothers have a somewhat unique take on Romeo/Juliet bosses. What I really like though is the presence of strike specific rewards. So far, I’ve been able to get the Undying Mind’s unique hand cannon – the Imago Loop – and the Shield Brother’s scout rifle – Treads Upon Stars. I love the idea of strike specific gear – it gives you reason to keep playing the strikes to try and get those unique pieces of gear. Combine that with the new loot mechanics, and there’s even more incentive.

Destiny Boolean Gemini

Which is a good segue to talk about the loot itself. Bungie said going in that this was the biggest amount of weapons and armor added in since the game launched. It feels like a pretty good amount of the rare quality gear is very similar to the previous DLC gear, just reskinned – but with the new perks and shaders it still feels new. The weapons are a little different though – with the addition of the three weapon manufacturers, they have a bit more identity. I’ve found myself really enjoying the Hakke weapons – the pulse rifles, side arms and shotguns in particular. The new variety of the weapons is what I really like – there are quest specific weapons, similar to Murmur; there are the strike specific ones; and there are class specifics as well. That extends to the Exotics as well – I love that each class has pretty quick access to a legendary and exotic weapon through the Gunsmith. In terms of Exotics, I’ve only gotten three brand new items across my characters. One piece of arms for my Warlock through Xur, a helmet on my Titan through an engram and the Boolean Gemini through Petra Venj’s quest line. I do have a few of the updated Year One exotics though, which I find myself using a lot more on my Titan. I think in general I like that there’s a lot more gear to chase down – after finishing the main story, you should have quest lines that will net you around three or four exotic weapons. That really helps whet your appetite for collecting I find.

I’ve been a big defender of Destiny over this last year, but I really think that now is absolutely the best time to jump in. With the Legendary Edition for The Taken King giving you access to all of the available content, for a pretty solid price, that’s honestly a fantastic choice if you haven’t experienced Destiny.

Destiny: The Taken King – Nightstalker Hunter Class Overview

Destiny NightstalkerRounding out our look at all of the new Subclasses that have been added in with Destiny: The Taken King, today we’ll look at the Hunter’s Nightstalker tree. This one is a little different than what most Hunters are used to with their subclasses. This does give them a Void damage option though, and I think really helps make Hunters much more important in full fireteam play.

Before we get to where this class really shows its differences from other Hunter trees, let’s start with the grenade options. As a Nightstalker, you have your choice of either the Spike Grenade, Voidwall Grenade or the Vortex Grenade. The Spike grenade is straight from the Defender Titan tree – it’s very similar to the Lightning grenade, but not quite as effective. Try sticking it on walls and ceilings for best results. The Voidwall grenade is the new one – when you toss one out, it will hit and send a burning wall of Void fire out in both directions horizontal from your grenade. It’s a great zoning option, and does offer a sustained damage choice. The Vortex grenade comes from the Voidwalker Warlock – it’s a good sustained damage choice too, creating a swirling vortex of Void damage. I like the potential for sustained damage on each grenade option here, it’s just a matter of picking the one you like best and are most comfortable.

The melee attack though is one of those places where the Nightstalker shows off its differences. Gunslingers have the Throwing Knife – ranged damage. Bladedancers have Blink Strike – extra ranged melee damage. Nightstalkers have Smoke – a thrown pellet of smoke that acts as a slight damage, but a blind debuff. The damage it dishes out is increased should you stick onto an enemy, but that’s really not the focus. Use it as a debuff to blind enemies and help your fireteam – that’s what Smoke is all about. It can be augmented with Envenomed, Vanish in Smoke, and Snare. Envenomed adds a poison damage to the smoke – similar to the Darkness clouds that Hive Wizards spawn. Vanish in Smoke makes any allies near the smoke explosion disappear. Snare lets you put the Smoke pellet on surfaces and has it proximity detonate. I think in general, Vanish in Smoke is the best PvE choice – it’s a great way to get your fireteam out of the danger, quickly. The other two choices are solid all around, but I think shine a bit more in PvP – the smoke already is a slowdown effect, so adding in extra damage is always a good thing; while being able to set traps with it is also a great tactical play.

Destiny Shadowshot

Which brings us to the major change to Hunters’ gameplans – the Shadowshot. You hop up in the air, pull out a Void bow, and launch a shot that tethers enemies. It slows them, anchors weaker enemies and also suppresses and weakens them. It’s a major debuff across the board, hitting pretty much every stat that you want to keep an eye on in PvE. In add waves, it’s awesome for grouping them up for other supers. Against bosses, the slow effect is awesome, the damage buff means Sunbreakers don’t need to close to melee range to apply it, and it can still tether adds too. If that’s not enough, it has three upgrades – Blood Bound, Black Hole, and Quiver. Blood Bound makes it so the enemies you have tethered explode when killed – similar to Bloom on Voidwalkers. It also makes it so damage to tethered enemies is shared – great for tethered majors. Black Hole pretty much is a straight buff to Shadowshot – it gives it more range, longer duration and more tethers. Quiver gives you three shots per Super bar – with reduced Void Anchor range though. Against bigger waves of enemies that are spread out, this isn’t the worst option, but I tend to like the other two more. I see Quiver being the PvP choice, if you decide to go Nightstalker in Crucible.

Finally, let’s look at the class specific perks on the Nightstalker. The first column has Courage of the Pack, Light of the Pack, and Lockdown. Courage of the Pack helps out with Shadowshot. Killing tethered enemies gives you increased recovery and armor as well as nearby allies. This stacks up to five times. Both of those are definitely good to have on hand in high level PvE. Light of the Pack makes killing tethered targets drop Orbs of Light. Hunters across the board have some Orb generation issues, and this really helps alleviate those issues. Lockdown makes your grenade and smoke effects last twice as long – zoning effects to the max. In PvE, it’s got utility, but in PvP this is definitely a good pick. The second column brings us Keen Scout, Predator, and Shadestep. Keen Scout has you sneaking and sprinting faster, and also gives you the Enhanced Tracker (radar), with the power to also mark targets you shoot. Predator lets you shoot your Void Anchors onto surfaces, turning them into traps – similar to Snare for Smoke. Finally, Shadestep gives you a dive/dodge roll to use. I think here that Keen Scout is a fantastic PvE choice – every part of it is useful across the board. Shadestep though is a great pick for PvP – mobility is always a great thing to have in the Crucible.

In general, the Nightstalker gives Hunters a much more important and active role in fireteam play. It’s even more apparent at the high tier level PvE play. Tethering enemies helps control the flow of a fight, the grenade and melee choices just help play into that idea even further. Orb generation is still a little weak, but can be buffed with a perk. It might not be a PvP powerhouse – although I certainly see some situations where Shadowshot could be supremely useful in objective modes. Take the time to really get comfortable with the new abilities and I think you’ll find it to be a fun one.