Xbox Live August Games with Gold

Sunset Overdrive Xbox BundleAugust is just a few days away, and that means a new set of “free” games coming to Xbox Live. This month’s set has a few really solid games available, especially on the 360 front. It’s also the last month before the big new games start coming out – which is the perfect time to pick up a couple of these games and go through them.

On the Xbox One, the two games are Warriors Orochi 3 and WWE 2K16. I think the WWE one might be the more fun pick, but that’s maybe because I like the WWE games. Since 2K has taken over the series, the mechanics have gotten a bit more stable and while the source material is still as goofy as ever, the games are pretty fun. The character creator suite is actually pretty solid – you can make some close recreations of older wrestlers, or just total abominations. The achievements aren’t particularly crazy, and there’s still people playing online to get those ones taken care of.

What I’m really excited by are the Xbox 360 options – Spelunky and Beyond Good and Evil HD. Spelunky is one of the earlier examples of  modern rouge-like dungeon crawlers. It’s one of those games that I remember seeing explode over the internet, but for whatever reason I just never picked up. Now that it’s free, it’s definitely on my radar again. The same applies to Beyond Good and Evil – I very clearly remember when it came out back in the day, but it just never appealed to me. However, I totally understand the reverence that the game has garnered over the years. There’s a reason that the sequel, which has been seemingly in development for ages, is so highly anticipated. Since we’re still waiting, now might be the best time to pick up the re-released HD version.


Destiny Rise of Iron – Armor Quests?

Destiny Rise of IronI saw a post on the Destiny subreddit earlier today asking why in the current game we have quests that net you both legendary and exotic weapons, but the only quests that earn you armor are the three faction class items. I thought it was a pretty good question to ask – the lore associated with the factions in general is pretty weak in-game and that extends to the quests for the armor; while the weapons we hunt down, especially the exotics, have multiple step quests with clear lore behind them. Sleeper Simulant, Touch of Malice, No Time to Explain and the three exotic swords all have their own story. The story behind the class items boils down to you grinding a ton of rep out for a faction.

Now, after reading the post, I think it’s probably too late to see anything like the level of detail we’ve got for the weapons coming for armor quests. There’s a new 2.3.1 patch coming our way – we don’t have a date quite yet for it, but I would be tremendously surprised to see any new content coming with it, including the missing Taken King exotics. So while that probably isn’t the answer that a lot of fans really would like to hear – we’ve been saying for a while that we just want more and more with this game – it got me thinking a little moving forward. What I have been thinking is that we may very well get those armor quests, with some actual story behind them, in Rise of Iron.

We still are in the dark about a lot of specifics with Rise of Iron – actual story content, strikes, the raid, weapons and armor all still are unknowns. What we do know is that we are going to, at some point, pay homage to the fallen Iron Lords at Felwinter Peak. What that actually means we don’t know for sure, but I see it ending with a full suit of armor and hopefully a suite of weapons too. That has me thinking that at some point, whoever resides in Felwinter Peak will give us a whole bunch of quests. I mentioned this a few weeks ago with some of my predictions for Rise of Iron that I want these Iron Lord quests to be numerous and rewarding. I want there to be a bunch of these quests, and I want them to each earn you at least a legendary – quests to get you a helmet that is similar to Colovance’s or a set of gauntlets that maybe Jolder would have worn. That will immediately put some much needed lore into the armor, as well as make the quests more engaging. Keep them from all being the same requirements, which is tricky, and you might have the one of the best aspects of Rise of Iron‘s PvE side of things. One of the things that I think we as a community have been asking for is direct paths that are predictable and known toward power – that’s a big part of why we liked the quests because we knew what we were heading toward. I want more of that as we move forward with the unique loot – it doesn’t have to be exotics in my mind.

Destiny Rise of Iron Winter Cosmodrome Stream

Today was the first stream from Bungie talking about Rise of Iron since the announcement back before E3. We knew going in that it wasn’t going to be a particularly detailed stream – Bungie said in advance that it was just a tour of some of the new changes to the Cosmodrome. That said, there were still a couple little details that we learned today that I want to talk about.

Destiny Rise of Iron

Let’s start with the location – the Cosmodrome is probably the most traveled location in Destiny. It’s where our journey begins, our first missions and strikes all take place there, and it’s our home planet. So going in to Rise of Iron, I think Bungie deciding to revisit the Cosmodrome and update is a good move. It makes sense that it’s the first place that Bungie is updating – there’s still unfinished business with the Fallen, and it’s the first location overall. Now that we’ve seen parts of the new Winterized Cosmodrome, I like how Bungie is approaching updating it. They could have easily just thrown a layer of snow and ice over Old Russia and called it a day, but they’re taking the lore behind what’s going on, as well as using the actions we’ve taken since launch to help shape the new spaces. The Fallen Walker from the Public Event in the Divide we’ve taken down time and time again is now a husk, now part of the environment. That means The Divide will be the first area to have its public events changed. The Breach is probably the one area we saw today that has had the most changed. In the past, it was just a series of hallways and platforms – now that the Devil Splicers have blown a hole in the wall, those pits have been filled in with the snow. A lot more of the Breach is available to explore – I’m sure that there is more than we saw today there, including maybe more on the far side of the wall. So while we really didn’t see any truly new areas – the only really new thing was a tease in the Rocketyard wall leading to a brand new area, possibly to the Plaguelands – I think today’s stream was cool from a design perspective.

Beyond the actual Cosmodrome though, we learned two major details, in addition to trying to gleam what we can from the gear and menus. Let’s start with the little bits first – the three weapons we saw all looked like they’re similar to the current archetypes. The auto rifle was a Suros one, which looked similar to the New Monarchy on currently – what was interesting was the gun looked like it had some kind of tie to SIVA, as the logo was on the side of the gun. The scout rifle we saw looked like a Vision of Confluence style gun, but we didn’t really get that good of a look at it. The pulse rifle though I think is interesting – the scope on it was similar to Universal Remote’s, while the color scheme didn’t really look like any current weapon manufacturer or vendor set, so I wonder if it’s one of the new foundry weapons. The other little detail was a quick look at Deej’s UI showing his Light Level at 355. The streams in the past haven’t been at max level, so I highly doubt it’s going to that. What’s more likely is that it’s going to be around 400. Finally, we learned about the new pre-order incentive for Rise of Iron. We already are getting a sweet Iron Gjallarhorn, and now we get a Gjallarhorn themed Sparrow – the Gjallarwing – to go along with it. It’s nothing particularly crazy, but it is a cool looking Sparrow, and I think it’s a nice little gift for fans. The other detail is that we now now we’re getting the next Rise of Iron info when Bungie is at Gamescom next month in Germany, which will be talking about the Crucible. That one I expect to be a little longer and more in depth, since they’ve said that there’s a good amount of change coming to the Crucible.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III – Fracture Game Mode Thoughts

Over the weekend Treyarch turned on the double weapon XP in Black Ops III, as they usually have some kind of double XP on weekends. But this weekend they also had a second treat for us – a brand new game mode called Fracture. I put in a handful of games on Friday and thought I’d put down a few thoughts on the mode.

Black Ops 3

This is the second new game mode that Treyarch put in to the Call of Duty world – the other being Safeguard. Calling Fracture totally new though is a little disingenuous to me. Fracture is essentially the Black Ops III spin on the classic Headhunter game mode of FPS games past. You kill the enemies, pick up the item they drop, and deliver it to a capture point. The last time I can remember a major FPS having Headhunter in it is Halo: Reach. I can’t remember with certainty if the capture point rotated in that game, but in Black Ops III, the capture point will cycle around the map every couple minutes. It can make for a couple tense moments per game as you try to score with a bunch of points and the zone rotates, as well as make sure you are paying attention to the map rotation and flow. Depending on your play preferences, Fracture is one of those modes where you can do whatever you like – if you like objective play, you can be the scoop-up man; if you’re a pure offense player, run a slayer class; or you can run a more balanced class to handle both sides of the coin with some support built in. Since the games tend to flow based around where the capture point is, the best weapon type might change over the course of the game. Some points help facilitate the slower, more long range weapons like LMGs and Snipers. Others require you have the speed to navigate around small rooms and tight corners and that’s where the fast SMGs and Shotguns thrive. That kind of variety in each game can even vary more depending on the map. I played on Rift, which played right into my style of assault rifle overwatch play with the M8A7. The next game was on Knockout, and using the M8A7 was a lot trickier – that’s one where using a faster weapon would have been the way to go. More than the other slayer-based modes (TDM, FFA and Kill Confirmed) I think the map really can dictate the flow of the game.

Which brings me to the parts of Fracture that I wasn’t crazy about. Overall I would say Fracture works pretty well – most importantly, it’s fun. But it does have some issues that I kept seeing. The biggest being that even with the rotating capture zone, there is still a lot of camping. I didn’t see it from the top level players I kept seeing, but just about every game I played there were a couple dots that always seemed to pop up around the zone, and they usually showed up in corners. Camping is one of those problems that never, ever will go away in competitive games – you see it in Halo, Call of Duty, Destiny, Overwatch, the list goes on all the way back to the old days of Quake, Doom and Unreal. That was the whole idea behind Kill Confirmed originally – push players to play more aggressively to actually score. You can argue the effectiveness across the whole player-base with that, but I know I find myself rushing for those tags and having to stop myself when I switch back to TDM. Fracture/Headhunter takes that idea and adds in the extra layer of needing to score in the zone – again, all to try and keep camping at a minimum. The problem is that instead of traditional camping, you get poaching – they set up at the capture point, and pop you as you move in for the score. It’s not particularly effective if you’re paying attention – a good grenade/rocket/C4 pack will take care of most poachers, as will a lot of scorestreaks. It’s one of those things that you just have to deal with, and know that there will probably be going on when you spawn in to the game. The other big trend I kept seeing was the prevalence of SMGs, regardless of map and capture point. This is one of those things that I’ve seen creep up in the overall Black Ops III game since I’ve been back – the Kuda, VMP and Vesper are all crazy good these days and really can’t be touched time-to-kill-wise in a lot of situations. It’s so late in Black Ops III‘s lifespan that I don’t really see much in the way of a big change coming, but I do think the VMP in particular needs to come back to the pack a little bit. My last minor complaint with Fracture is just that the score feels a little low – the score limit is set to 60 now. Games go fast, maybe a little too quickly; I think a score of 75 might be the better number. It opens up the potential for one or two last capture zone rotations, which are really when I think the most action happens as you try to rotate over and get the score.

Fracture is one of those things that Treyarch does well – they keep supporting their game deep into its lifespan with some unique ways. It wasn’t too long ago they added in the contracts as a way to earn extra cryptokeys as well as access to the new specialist Blackjack. It’s one thing to bring out DLC map packs for shooters, but what we’ve seen from Activision’s FPS developers with Black Ops and Destiny is that they’re willing to add in a little extra. It helps keep the games feel fresh as they enter the dog days – Call of Duty tends to be a one-year game each time around; Destiny is a little different beast of course. We’re starting to get just about to the next wave of games, so while we wait, Fracture is a great way to keep Black Ops III in your rotation.

Nintendo Goes Retro: The Mini NES

Mini NES.jpgWe know that Nintendo has a new HD console in the works with the NX, but we don’t know a hell of a lot of details about said console. But this week Nintendo announced a different console, one that’s aimed in a different direction. Coming this November 11, Nintendo is bringing a Mini-NES to us, complete with HDMI video out, a classic NES themed controller and 30 pre-installed classic games. I think this is an excellent way to bring what made Nintendo so special to us older gamers to a younger generation, the kids just starting to play games now who never had the opportunity to play the NES. They’ve never had the joy of getting a cartridge to work after you spend 10 minutes blowing on it and the console; they know the names of the classics but haven’t (most likely) ever had the chance to play the originals. It’s also a fantastic way for us older gamers to reacquaint ourselves with our favorites, especially if you’re like me and gave your original NES away back in junior high and just haven’t been able to find another at the local retro shop since.

A lot of the games that will be part of the new Mini-NES are available already in other forms, mainly on the Virtual Consoles for Nintendos current group of consoles. That doesn’t mean that this is a rehash though – based on what Nintendo has said about the controller being based on the NES one, there’s something very different about playing those classic games on that controller, it’s a special feeling playing the games with the exact controller they were designed for. We don’t really think a lot about that these days, the controllers on the big two consoles are functionally identical, it’s just a few minor design and layout details that differentiate them. The NES controller is such a different feeling and looking controller compared with what we’re used to now – it’s blocky, almost uncomfortable in your hand; it’s incredibly simple in its design, two buttons and a D-pad. It’s actually something I’m really curious to see how the younger generation of players will react to – it’s a weird situation because there are tons of players who are familiar with the controller, but just as many who aren’t.

Mega Man 2 American Box

What they are familiar with, at least more so, are the games the Mini-NES will come with. The list of 30 games hits some of the biggest games that the NES had, including games that started franchises we’re still playing to this day. There are plenty of Nintendo favorites on there, along with a couple other third party gems. The full list includes:

  • Balloon Fight
  • Bubble Bobble
  • Castlevania
  • Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
  • Donkey Kong
  • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Double Dragon II: The Revenge
  • Dr. Mario
  • Excitebike
  • Final Fantasy
  • Galaga
  • Ghosts’N Goblins
  • Gradius
  • Ice Climber
  • Kid Icarus
  • Kirby’s Adventure
  • Mario Bros.
  • Mega Man 2
  • Metroid
  • Ninja Gaiden
  • Pac-Man
  • Punch-Out!!
  • StarTropics
  • Super C
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Super Mario Bros. 2
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • TECMO Bowl
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Just looking at the list there are plenty of games that I’ve already played and beaten time and time again, but keep wanting to play another time. Games like Super Mario Bros 3, Mega Man 2, The Legend of Zelda and Metroid are some of the best NES games of all time. There are a couple deeper cuts in there that younger fans might not have ever played – StarTropics in particular jumps out to me. If you’re a new fan to gaming, or you’ve been playing for a handful of years, this is an incredible collection of games that forms the foundation of modern gaming. If you want to get a history lesson while playing some really amazing games at the same time, this Mini-NES is a must have this November.

Summer Slow Season – What to Play

Sunset Overdrive Xbox BundleWe’re halfway through the month of July, which is traditionally the slowest time of the year when it comes to new game launches. Typically we see indie titles, arcade games, or re-releases and remasters. We use the summer for E3 and conventions and playing catch-up before the deluge of games returns during the fall. So with that in mind, I thought I would offer up a couple games that I have been finding myself playing during this slow time, along with a couple remasters that we know are on the horizon that I think, depending on price, are worth picking up.

First up, the obvious picks: Destiny and Call of Duty: Black Ops III. As a long time shooter fan, there are always a couple or more FPS games in my rotation. I keep a few on hand that way no matter which shooter mood I find myself in, I have something ready to go. It used to be Halo/Call of Duty/Battlefield, while these days I’m finding myself moving away a bit from Halo and Battlefield as I wait for their next entries. Destiny instead scratches that slower, Haloesque style combat. The Crucible, while certainly not perfect, has been a lot of fun to play again. What I think really helps is that it’s very different from Call of Duty, which I load up when I really want to scratch that twitch style FPS. There’s a reason that I keep going back and talking about them here, and that’s because they’re easily my most played games currently. If you like FPS games, and aren’t playing Overwatch, I really think both Destiny and Call of Duty are worth your time.

The other style game that I always have one or two on hand of is RPG, and that’s where I’m a little behind right now. I finally went back and have been finishing up Dragon Age Inquisition, which I have been playing for a bit over a full year. It was just on sale, so if you picked it up, there’s a lot to dive into, just don’t get burned out like I did and you’ll find yourself really enjoying Thedas. I’m powering through it though because I have Witcher III on deck, which I’m really excited to finally dig into. I also recently picked my first MMO up with Elder Scrolls Online and I’m slowly starting to get a handle on it. I talked last year about the beta, and I do want to revisit it here as I keep progressing through the game. It may be an MMO, and there are definitely some portions where spending some extra money feels like it’s beneficial. That especially extends to the DLC which all look like the amount of content they add in is definitely worth investing in. I don’t like that you have to use an intermediate currency instead of just directly using dollars. There are loads of good RPGs available right now, including Fallout 4, which I still need to dive back into. Summer is a good time for RPGs in general since you need to spend a bit more time playing them than other games.

My hard drive is currently rounded out with a couple less intense games – Mega Man Legacy Collection and Minecraft. While there’s nothing new coming out, this is the perfect time to go back and play some classic games. Combine that with the backwards compatible titles that are available now and there are plenty of options if you’re feeling a little burnt out on what you’re currently playing. Don’t feel like you have to keep going down that rabbit hole, branch out, find a sale or a used disc and try something new. That’s really what the summer is about for gaming.

Destiny Year Two Moments of Triumph

DestinyBungie Day was last Thursday, the day of the year when Bungie celebrates the community that supports their games with some pretty cool presents for fans. Usually it’s some kind of a video showing off all the amazing fan created content that has come out over the previous year. This year it was a video celebrating ten years of Bungie Day as well as 25 years of Bungie as a developer. I went into this year’s Bungie Day maybe expecting a little more Rise of Iron but I’m still happy to Bungie celebrating the community.

What we did get for Destiny though was the official confirmation of the Moments of Triumph for year two, as well as those Moments of Triumph going live in-game. Last year, the Moments weren’t actually in the game, you had to track them on instead. This year, building off of the Sparrow Racing League record book, the Moments have their own book – in-game – which lets you track them and also receive the rewards right away. The rewards this year I think are actually better all around too – two shaders and two emblems for in-game rewards, and completing all of the Moments gets you a code to order a shirt from Bungie’s online store. Sure you still need to pay the $25 for the shirt, but it is actually a really cool looking shirt, and no one is actually forcing you to do that part. Completing the Moments still gets you the in-game rewards no matter what. I like the two emblems designs, both based around heraldry and shields, which have always linked well with prestige. The shaders too I think are cool because they’re both pretty unique in terms of their color scheme – sure, there are blue ones and yellow ones, but there really aren’t any that have these mixes. I think they actually look really good with the Iron Banner armor, at least on Titans, which has been a set of armor that has needed a good shader to pair with I think.

Moments of Triumph Year Two

The challenges themselves are a little different than last year’s were, which makes sense since we don’t have quite as much content to pull from as Year One. There are a few really easy ones that you just come naturally from playing – finishing the Story content ending with the Regicide mission, equipping and fully levelling a Year Two subclass, playing the April Update story missions to completion. Then you get a few trickier ones, the ones where if you haven’t done them, you might want to get started sooner rather than later. Firstly, the overall Crucible quest that culminates in The Mountaintop is a long series of quests that has you pretty much hitting every game mode in the game, and using all four primary weapons for multiple games. It’s long, and can definitely get frustrating – even after they changed the requirements for some of the steps to not require you get get a win. Take it in steps, don’t beat yourself up trying to complete a step and if you still have friends playing, get them involved too just so you can party up and have fun. The Exotic Sword quest Moment also is a long one – you have to get one of the legendary swords levelled up to 280, fully upgraded and that’s when Shaxx will set you on the path. The rest of the way is just grinding your way through the two slow parts – 25 kills with swords in the Crucible, and getting the rare planetary materials and element kills. Once you’re at the final step, the special version of the Sunless Cells can be tricky, especially if you play with two randoms, but it is doable – just make sure you make it clear which element you’re chasing. The last two Moments are related – complete King’s Fall on Hard, and find all 50 calcified fragments. The raid isn’t crazy tough, but it does require a full fireteam of six, which might be the hardest part. If you haven’t played the raid before, I definitely recommend playing a couple runs on Normal before diving in on Hard – the mechanic changes between the two are enough to make it really frustrating. While you’re raiding though, keep an eye on the challenge mode battles because you need to do all three of them in order to get all 50 of the fragments, along with the ones that are actually hidden in the raid. This is another Moment you probably want to get working on quick since there are a couple that you’re at the whim of Bungie on: the Tier Three Court of Oryx bosses and finishing a Nightfall Strike that takes place on the Dreadnaught. I recommend to help figure out which ones you’re missing and how you find those ones.

The Moments of Triumph really exist to give us something to chase down during these last couple months before Rise of Iron launches. Some people already have all eight taken care of, others are missing a handful. Regardless of which side you fall on, you can always find some people to group up with and help out. I don’t think you need to worry too much about really gearing up for Rise of Iron quite yet, especially since we don’t really know about the launch much yet and what we should be getting ready to gear up with, instead you can chase these Moments of Triumph and help your friends get them done too.