Destiny: Rise of Iron – Looking Forward

Destiny Rise of IronI’ve now played through the story content in Destiny: Rise of Iron on two of my three characters, and I’m starting to really be excited for what comes next. I know that seems really shortsighted of me, like I’m moving away from Rise already. But that’s not exactly what I mean here. Instead I’m talking more generally about how ever since The Taken King, Bungie has fundamentally changed how they’re approaching telling the story of Destiny.

In-game, that’s meant scrapping the amorphous story direction in favor of quests that tie together story missions with a coherent thread between them. That, combined with the better writing in the lead-ins to the missions along with new cinematics that advance the story and you’re starting to see player being able to better connect with the world. It’s not just players who go out and read the Grimoire – which we’ll talk about in a second – who have an understanding on the story now. Playing the actual game will get you enough of the story to know what’s going on. I don’t know if they changed writing staff for in-game work, but it certainly feels like it over the last year as it’s gotten less reliant on cliches and every character actually feels grounded, even the somewhat over the top ones like Eris and Saladin. Cayde-6 and your Ghost have emerged over the last year as the real standouts of the cast, mainly thanks to the strength of their voice actors. Rise of Iron continues that with Saladin and Shiro-4 both actually having character. With this most likely being the last big addition to the first Destiny game, Bungie has been doing a phenomenal job of doing as much as they can with the current framework. It’s night-and-day from how the game looked and felt at launch. And over this last year, it’s gotten me more excited about what Bungie could do with a new game.

One of the biggest things that I want to see in the sequel has to be an in-game way to read the Grimoire. That desire comes from just how damn good the Grimoire cards are. Much has been made about how threadbare the story is in Destiny, especially at launch. Where that doesn’t ring true is in those cards – they’re written incredibly well and flesh out the world so incredibly well. Things that seem like they don’t matter in the long run like Rasputin’s role in the grand scheme of things turn out to have much deeper ripples. Reading his cards in particular paints an interesting picture of just how the Traveler came to rest where it does now – there’s a very real chance that Rasputin shot down the Traveler to prevent it from leaving humanity behind for the Darkness. Why would Rasputin think that the Traveler would do that? Well keep reading the Grimoire and you see that it has a little history doing that – that is how the Fallen came to be Fallen; and beyond that, the Traveler has a intricate relation with the Hive and their Worm Gods going all the way back to the very beginning. Because the story is so well told in those cards and helps create a really interesting world to play in, that’s really why it has to be in-game in the sequel. There are way too many players who won’t read the cards because they don’t live in-game. I would love to see something like Mass Effect‘s codex – that would be the best way to do it I think. If you take that ability to dive deeper into the lore of the game, combine it with the more focused in-game storytelling along with the inevitable steps forward in gameplay and I think the series will be where we always wanted it to be. The future is super bright for Destiny and to me, Rise of Iron is a great step in the right direction.

Destiny: Rise of Iron – What Needs to be Fixed First

Destiny Rise of IronI have been loving my time with Rise of Iron – I picked up an old friend for my heavy weapon slot, my first weapon got a nice new coat of Exotic paint, and I have been really enjoying zipping around the Plaguelands. That all said though, there’s one thing that I really hope Bungie looks at fixing quickly – The Crucible. We’ve been in this ultra-fast time to kill meta for a long time now – it really goes all the way back to House of Wolves and Felwinter’s Lie style shotguns. Over the last six months or so though, it’s just gotten worse to the point now where unless you use a pretty select group of weapon, you’re at a distinct disadvantage.

It was already super frustrating to play in a handful of playlists – mainly the 3V3 games and Iron Banner – but adding Supremacy has just exacerbated the issues. Having to pick up the crests after a kill is a great way to fight passive play – I’ve always been a fan of Kill Confirmed in Call of Duty. In Destiny now though, forcing players into close range just has continued to push them towards the max-impact shotguns and crazy TTK primaries to have a chance. I’ve played enough Supremacy to at least finish out the Crucible quest and weekly bounty, and in those games I’ve seen almost nothing but Party Crashers, Conspiracy Theory D’s, Eyaslunas and Palindromes. Even weapons that are usually 6v6 standouts – Doctrine of Passing, Hawksaw, and most snipers – start to fall away a bit in Supremacy because of the nature of the game. We already know that the first Iron Banner after launch is Supremacy – that has me the exact opposite of excited for Iron Banner. I usually look forward to it for the weapons and armor – consistently some of the coolest looking gear in the game. But even with the changes to the system with Rise of Iron, I think it’s going to be a super frustrating week. Part of that frustration will come from the fact that there is going to be a pretty wide variety in Light Level for the first time in ages with Iron Banner/Trials. The other part will come with this current meta.

Destiny Crucible

Now that Private Matches are live, and the competitive scene can start to grow, we’re starting to see top level players really speak out about the meta. Guys like TripleWreck and KJHovey have put out videos and posts explaining just how bad this current environment is. The more eyes that see this, the more likely that Bungie acts quicker. I personally don’t agree totally with TripleWreck’s idea on how to fix it – I think a blanket primary buff feels like way too much of a step toward power creep. Instead I think a better fix would be to adjust shotguns again – they’re fine in PvE now, so just focus on PvP behavior. To me, the best bet is to just kill the range and handling – make it so you have to be even closer for those one-shots. There has to be some kind of trade-off to using this weapon, and right now there really isn’t. Same goes for those primaries that are good – drop the stability on those Pulse Rifles, make Hand Cannons more consistent across the board and limit the chances for two-shot potential guns; while the one thing that I do think deserves a buff would be Auto Rifles outside of that DoP archetype. There’s a lot of work still to be done, and hell, I don’t have anywhere near the level of data that Bungie does so hopefully they’ll have a better idea of how to address it. The other thing with Supremacy that I might want a little attention put toward is the score limit – FFA Supremacy feels like it goes a little long, and on some maps it can feel under populated. Maybe pull more from the 3V3 maps – good example was a FFA match on the new map Skyline. The match ignored the outdoor sections for the vast majority of the match, and spawns were all over the place. Maybe it’s just the game mode needing to work out a couple kinks, but still, it’s a bit big of a map for FFA.

Destiny: Rise of Iron – Launch Day Thoughts

Destiny Rise of IronIt’s finally here, the last expansion for DestinyRise of Iron, and man have I been super excited for this one. Over the last couple few months, Bungie has done a fantastic job of building the hype for this expansion, which is something they’ve always been great with. I played through the story content yesterday, along with a couple patrols into the Plaguelands and matches of Supremacy and thought I’d put down a few thoughts I had. Be warned, there will be spoilers for the story ahead.

Going in, we knew that this was going to be a smaller experience than The Taken King was.But that hopefully was going to mean that we were getting a well focused story – somewhat of a rarity in the world of Destiny unfortunately. After playing through the narrative, I honestly think that this is exactly the step that Bungie needed to take with it. Yes, it’s short but it tells a story that’s easily relatable – Saladin’s story is one that pops up pretty frequently in fantasy/sci-fi. The lone survivor/watch tasked with keeping an ancient evil from returning – it’s nothing groundbreaking, but easy to understand and get invested in. Add in the new CG cutscenes, and you have easily the most engaging story in Destiny yet. That alone would be good, but when you look at the actual content in the narrative, you see that Bungie is finally diving into the deep lore they’ve got and putting it into the game. This expansion in particular sets the table for some incredible possibilities. I mentioned that I’ll talk about spoilers – the biggest one is the final fight in the story missions. After tracking down a way to stop SIVA, you head back to the place where the Iron Lords fell – the Replication Chamber – to initiate the self-destruct. This is where you find that SIVA has taken the fallen Iron Lords armor and infected it, using their armor as surrogates to fight you. It’s unclear just how much of the Iron Lords remained in there – from a consciousness point – but it was a pretty awesome twist to end the story. I was totally sure that we’d get some kind of Splicer Fallen boss, not a totally new enemy. From a gameplay standpoint, that’s pretty cool because I think it opens up possibilities for Raid bosses in Wrath of the Machine.

The new strike is pretty cool too – The Wretched Eye – albeit a little straightforward. I hope that as we keep moving forward, we see more variety and complexity in the strikes. You already see elements of it in the new version of The Devils’ Lair, Sepiks Perfected – using the new Shock and Null cannons to break his shielding. I like the Wretched Eye fight for its frantic pace – there are a lot of things to keep track of – the blind, raging Ogre chasing you, the Splicer with one of the more dangerous enemy attacks out there, plus plenty of dregs and shanks that show up as the fight progresses. It’s one that I can totally see being a hard fight with some modifiers on for Nightfalls, in particular void burn. The new locations – both the Plaguelands and Felwinter Peak – are easily the best new locations that Bungie has put in since Vanilla. My only issue with Felwinter is that damn secret SIVA cluster hiding at the very top of the peak – platforming in Destiny is already tricky, and the jumps you have to make to get up there are frustrating as hell. The Plaguelands are really cool from a visual standing – it’s very different from any other area in-game. Earth is probably the most industrial location, and even the Cosmodrome doesn’t hold a candle to here. Lava falls, huge beached tankers, and giant Fallen keeps make each distinct zone feel different enough to keep you exploring. There are still a few secrets out there I’m sure, but I like that the Hive majors that drop Splicer Keys spawn often enough where just running Patrol for a bit should net you a good stack. I think when you look at the Dreadnaught and now The Plaguelands you can see that Bungie is trying to make Patrol a more rewarding and valuable activity. I’ve always liked Patrol just because you can hop in and explore the gorgeous vistas that Bungie has created. Now that Patrol actually can net me some useful rewards, it’s even better.

My only real issues that I’ve had so far are based around two things: the Archon’s Forge and Crucible play. The Crucible is still stuck in this really frustrating meta – crazy high power hand-cannons and shotguns just are the only competitive option, and Supremacy drives players to that even more. I know that we’re probably going to see a balance patch in the next couple weeks post-launch, but I really hope it comes soon. It’s just not fun to play in a lot of different ways, which is a shame because Supremacy as a mode is a lot of fun. The Archon’s Forge though is a little trickier to figure out what Bungie needs to do. It’s supposed to be essentially a new version of the Court of Oryx – a public space to play increasingly difficult challenges for unique rewards. The big problem is that it’s a handful of zones away – not a huge deal since you can spawn Sparrows in the Plaguelands; and that you can only have one offering at a time. The actual mechanics with the arena are a little odd too – you spawn the encounter, and if you don’t enter right away, you may end up locking yourself out. To re-enter, you need a Splicer Key; which is the case should you die and respawn yourself. I think of all the new content we have right now – at least until we see how the raid shakes out – this is where Bungie needs to look for some changes. I’m okay with only having one offering, but make it so it’s one of each rarity, and that they drop a bit more often. The loot also needs to be a bit more consistent, especially for the people who don’t actually present the offering – Court of Oryx was good because you could earn high Light blues even if you didn’t present the rune.

Overall though, from top to bottom, Rise of Iron is exactly what I think Destiny needed. It’s a fantastic addition to the game, and most importantly, shows what direction I think the game is heading as we move closer to the full sequel. If they can keep finding ways to tell stories that are focused – especially on a larger scale – I think Bungie will finally be nearing the potential that Destiny has always shown. Even if you’ve been away from the game for a while, this is a great time to get back – it’s totally worth it.

Forza Horizon 3 Open Beta Thoughts

forza-horizon-3Over the weekend, Turn 10 and Microsoft put out a demo for the upcoming Forza Horizon 3, pairing well with the first game being free for the first half of this month. I spent a little bit messing around with the new festival down under in Australia and wanted to put down a few thoughts I had with it.

Firstly, I’m admittedly not the greatest racing game player in the world, especially with the more realistic style games. That said, I have really enjoyed playing Forza games since I started my first time with Forza 5. The games have enough forgiveness to help those of us that aren’t the smoothest of racers. I’m sure that my Driveatar in the Forza world is a giant pain to deal with, with plenty of aggressive lines. That still is the case with the Horizon games – the races may be a little less strict, since their set on “real” roads – I just like the free roam nature a lot more. With this new game, the new setting really helps make it feel like a step forward. I know Forza Horizon 2 was set in a very different place from the first game – the Mediterranean Coast in Europe vs. Colorado – but this new variety in locations Down Under is so different from the other two games that it really breathes life into it. Driving from the beaches right through to a dense jungle in one fell swoop is pretty damn cool, especially when you look at what really makes the Forza games special – the visuals.

My favorite part of any Forza game is looking at these amazing cars, that I have a less than zero percent chance of ever owning, hopping in, and driving away with graphics that are incredible. They’ve always been some of the most visually impressive games on the Xbox, both while you’re actually out racing and when you’re inspecting the cars to see all the minute details. Even playing the original game now, four years later, it still looks fantastic compared with 360 games from that era – hell it looks better than some games do today. But looking at this new game, it’s like night and day – the graphics have progressed on consoles so far so fast that it blows my mind. These kind of graphics ten years ago were only possible on super high end PCs – now it’s on your TV thanks to a $300 console, and it’s only going to be better if you’ve got the Xbox One S uprezzing it to 4K. There’s a reason why everyone made a big deal about the PS4 Pro not having native 4K, while next year’s Xbox Project Scorpio is going to natively render in 4K. Ultra HD is here, and damn does it make games like Forza look amazing.

Racing games are weird to recommend, in that if your skill level isn’t great they can be super frustrating. I’m, again, not great with them, but thanks to shows like Top Gear, I really like luxury cars and high end sports cars and classic sports cars, so I’ll keep playing Forza through the frustrations. I have no problem dropping the skill level to easy to beat them if I have to. They’re a lot like Fighting games in that way – super frustrating, but I still enjoy a couple of them. The demo is free, and since the game is coming out soon, now is definitely the time to grab it to try it out. I thought it was a really fun time, maybe a bit more of the same with gameplay in the Forza world, but certainly a gorgeous experience.

Destiny: Rise of Iron Private Matches Pre-Launch Thoughts

Destiny Rise of IronWe’re under a week away from launch for Destiny: Rise of Iron, and with this week’s weekly reset made a major new feature in the addition live in-game now. If you’ve been playing Crucible over the last two years you already know that the addition of Private Matches has been one of the biggest features coming to the game. It’s not exactly the Custom Games that the community has been clamoring for, it’s absolutely a step in the right direction. Bungie has a history with Destiny of doing something in-game the week going into a launch – House of Wolves had the Queen’s Wrath, Dark Below had Eris show up, and Taken King had all the changes to the in-game systems live early. With that track record, I think we were all looking for something this week, but I don’t know how many people were thinking Private Matches a full week early. A final Iron Banner with Saladin at the Tower was my bet, turns out we got a pretty sizable patch last week and now a whole new way to play PvP matches.

Private Matches are a super important part of an FPS game’s longevity. They’re what keeps the game in players’ consoles/hard drives for years, not just the online play. It’s the ability to set up a private game that lets a competitive scene grow and thrive – MLG wouldn’t be as big as it’s grown without private lobbies. Over the last couple years, as Destiny has evolved and Bungie has tried to pin down just what they want the game to be, the lack of a private world for a competitive community to grow has been a bit of a noticeable gap. In one day, I’ve already seen tons of different options from streamers and community pillars hosting private games, or putting different ideas for what to play out into the world. We as a community have been trying modes like Hide and Go Seek, Infection; as well as going in-depth with testing things we’ve wanted to learn. There’s plenty here to dig into with Private Matches – maybe not as robust as Bungie games have had in the past, but still plenty to mess with.

Just going in to the maps solo yesterday, I got real sense of nostalgia – which maybe sounds a little weird. It’s really cool to go into these spaces that we play frequently, or in other cases, haven’t seen in months alone and find new things. I never once noticed the little floating Hive lights on the Drifter in one of the hallways back by the heavy spawn. Turning off the HUD and just exploring the arenas alone, listening to the ambient sound design, maybe putting on some music outside of the game and taking it all in is something that I think is going to be a real cool part of Private Matches. If nothing else comes out of it, it’s worth doing to go in and grab the 27 new Dead Ghosts that Bungie put into the Crucible Arenas. Each map has its own new Dead Ghost, and they can only be found in a Private instance. There are guides up already on YouTube or reddit, but I recommend trying to find them first without one – you’ll get a real appreciation for the maps. I came out of my Ghost hunt yesterday with, I think, a better understanding of the work the Crucible design team puts in. From details that litter the maps, to the actual mechanics like where boundaries are and what constitutes a soft-kill zone, you can really learn them with just a few minutes running solo.

Destiny: Rise or Iron Final Prep Tips

Destiny Rise of IronWe’re in the final couple weeks before Rise of Iron launches on the 20th, with the 2.4 patch live in Destiny now. I’ve seen a bunch of different Destiny community heads talking over the last few weeks about how to prep for the new expansion. So I thought I’d share how I’ve been prepping for the launch.

In-game, it’s been finishing up my exotic class item goal. I have all three Faction Titan marks, and one of the Faction items on each of my alts. Since grinding to level 25 has been a bit of a slog up until recently with the better rep gains, I never really intended to get all nine right away. I’ll aim for finishing the collection moving through Rise or Iron. It’s the same with the exotic swords – I have one already and just need to run the strike on the other two, I just haven’t gotten to it. And honestly beyond that, my whole time playing has just been because I like the game. Once I finished my Iron Banner weapon suite with the last event, I focused more on just enjoying the game, especially since I finished the Moments of Triumph. Since the time on those is really coming to a deadline, I would say that should be your primary focus for sure.

My advise beyond that is pretty simple. Make sure you have a good stockpile of materials – weapon and armor parts, planetary materials, Motes of Light and Strange Coins. If you want to, you can certainly edge your Factions to level them as sson as Rise of Iron launches for a quick boost. But the most important thing is to not burn yourself out – don’t play because you feel like you have to. Take a break, play something else in the meantime. Overwatch is free play on console this weekend, give that a shot. Watch some college football or NFL this weekend. Don’t burn out on Destiny before the expansion even launches. That’s really the most important bit of “prep” advise I can give.

Destiny: Rise of Iron Patch 2.4 Notes

Destiny Rise of IronAfter I wrote up my thoughts on the weapon balance changes coming with the 2.4 patch for Destiny, Bungie released the full patch notes before maintenance ended and the patch went live. Much like with the weapon changes, there’s a lot here that I think is a really good thing, and a couple other parts that could need more time to really nail down.

First, my favorite change in the patch has to do with Public Events. Back in Year One, they were something we chased down – hell, destinypublicevents.com was bookmarked by many a player in order to find them easier. They were rewarding, there was often a Vanguard bounty for finishing a few of them, and honestly, they were just fun to do. With The Taken King, they changed – only netting you a handful of Motes of Light, and no more Vanguard bounties to do. Well we don’t know about a returning bounty yet, but completing that first Gold Public Event is about to get a lot more rewarding. You’ll still get Motes of Light and XP, but on top of that you’re earn Legendary Marks and a Legendary Engram. We don’t know if that’s per character or account, but either way, a guaranteed legendary is always a good thing, especially with loot 2.0 from April. That, along with the new patrol zone when it opens up, really should help populate Patrol as a mode again. It’s not exactly the Loot Cave, but it’s a great way to get a quick upgrade.

The other really big change that I like is that Legendary weapon Engrams aren’t going to drop from post-game Crucible results anymore. Instead of getting weapon engrams, you will earn the Crucible specific weapons – Eyasluna, Red Spectre, those weapons. They’ve also fixed the drop rates on the Crucible ships as well – although that was an unannounced change in the patch notes. We know about new cosmetic options – sparrows, ghosts, shaders, ships – so having those drops rates actually working is a great thing.

If there’s anything about the patch that I’m not high on, it’s that engrams have been decrypting a little lower than I was expecting. I had blues that were decrypting at 240 or so, which is easily 60 Light below what I was getting before the patch. It could just be because at this point Year Two items are officially legacy gear, so they’ll be lower across the board; or it could be a little bug. We probably have to wait until the 20th to know for sure. I think pretty much everything else is a good move. The changes to the Crucible modes Elimination and Salvage are exactly what they need to keep them competitive. One heavy spawn helps fight camping and drives the action towards that ammo crate’s spawn. The new scoring in Salvage should push people to actually play the objective since you get rewarded more for captures now. There are a couple more little tweaks and additions I like – previewing the exotic weapon ornaments, Banshee selling armor materials, previewing a couple new shaders, and knowing that exotic boots are decrypting above 335 along with the Trespasser dropping from special weapon engrams is cool. It’s a great taste of what we can expect from Rise of Iron in just over a week now.