Destiny Sparrow Racing League Event Thoughts

DestinyWith yesterday’s 2.1.0 patch for Destiny the new holiday event started: Sparrow Racing League. I spent a few hours messing around with it, playing a good handful of races and thought I’d put down some thoughts on what I managed to complete. I still have a few more things to unlock – I’m working on my Class A License quest, and there’s still S Class after that.

One thing to note quickly that I neglected to mention in the 2.1.0 patch thoughts yesterday is that the Three of Coins consumable now works in Crucible matches. Pop one any point before the end of match rewards, and you will gain the increased chance for the exotic engram. It’s not a guarantee still – I got one engram from maybe five or so matches, and a second from PvE. I think Crucible grinding with Three of Coins is actually a little easier than PvE though – match time can vary, and there’s no worry about performance or getting the Ultra damage for the kill. Just finish the match and reap the rewards. And since Sparrow Racing League is counted as a Crucible mode, you can pop those Coins during your racing.

Destiny Sparrow Racing League

As for the Sparrow Racing itself, it’s a mixed bag for me. Yes, it’s actually a lot of fun – the courses are built pretty well, they still feel like you’re in the Destiny universe as it lives and breathes. The rewards, for Crucible in general, feel like they got a stealth buff yesterday – I saw consistently higher light level gear dropped at the end, including a number of legendary items right up near 300 Light even before the Class A level. It feels a bit like Bungie is shifting the loot focus towards PvP more as we get away from launch – which combined with the shift away from DLC I think makes perfect sense. But while it is a lot of fun to tear through these tracks on your sparrow, it gets old relatively quick. Even if you don’t play Destiny all that much any more, I think you’ll still get pretty bored with the two track pretty quick. That’s really the weakest part of the SRL from a pure content standpoint – there are two tracks, and that’s it. Fun tracks sure, but limited in their longevity.

In terms of the other content, most of the really exciting looking Sparrows and fun horns are all tied to the Silver microtransactions. Sure you can earn a new Sparrow through the Class C quest, and armor and horns do drop after races, but you also add in the other typical Crucible loot to the table. You’re just as likely to get rare quality armor or Motes of Light/Strange Coins as you are the legendary quality gear. If you want the new Sparrows that they showed off in the trailer, you’ll have to drop some real money for them – randomly getting a legendary Sparrow for a few bucks. That’s actually my biggest issue with the new microtransactions added yesterday – anything that’s tied, gear-wise, to SRL is random. You roll the dice on your Sparrow or Horn purchase and hope to get a sweet looking vehicle or neat horn. I think Bungie might have made more from Silver had they just offered the Sparrows directly – that Arc based Sparrow is pretty sweet looking after all. The new emotes also are a mixed bag for me. I like the Jump on It emote, and the Jazz Hands one, but the rest just feel lackluster. I think overall the Fall set was better, but this is still early in the game from that standpoint.

One last thing that I’ve really felt with the actual racing is that this is the one game mode where player collision definitely matters. In PvE, you’ll only deal with it if your fireteam groups up too tightly. In normal Crucible, it’s also unlikely to really play a big part in any fights – maybe if you can’t get around a teammate while escaping through a doorway. In SRL though, you’ll be jostled around nonstop if you’re anywhere near the pack. Since you are all aiming for the same boost gates to keep your speed up, those gates turn into massive bottlenecks. It’s very easy to head into a gate with a great line, get bumped and pushed all the way back to sixth place. It’s frustrating, especially when you have racers who base their whole racing style on bashing into people; and really comes to head with the somewhat sketchy detection on hitting the gates. I’ve had plenty of gates where I’m clearly hitting the gate and I don’t get the boost. When that happens on the last lap, that really sucks cause that’s almost a guarantee to lose a place or two. Aside from that, I did have one other rather interesting issue pop up with the Vex gate on Mars – I hit it, and it pushed me right into one of the huge pillars. Cost me two places on the race, and was my first death – in race – since the event started. Maybe some network nonsense going on, but it really was frustrating.

All things considered, I think the Sparrow Racing League is a really cool idea for Destiny as a timed event. It’s limited in scope, and can certainly be frustrating to play, but when it works, it’s damn fun. Since we know that Destiny is going to be featuring these kind of timed events moving forward, it’s a good starting point, but I really hope that Bungie maybe gives us a little more with them. If this is a handful of content, I want them to maybe give us two. Two tracks is pretty weak, when all four main planets could very easily feature spots for some fun racing. But, it’s free to participate in, and again, it is fun when it works, so I do think that everyone that is still out there in Destiny should give it a try.

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Destiny: The Taken King – Launch Day Impressions

The Taken King LogoI’m officially back from out of town for a few days, and with my return yesterday came the launch of Destiny: The Taken King. I put in a pretty solid chunk of time playing around with it yesterday – unlocked each of the new subclasses, got a bunch of new items, leveled my Titan to 40 and played a handful of story missions. It’s still early to say for sure – I haven’t really begun to sink my teeth into the real end-game level content yet – but after yesterday I feel really recharged about Destiny as a whole. Let’s hit some high points.

Titan Flag

NEW SUBCLASSES ARE REAL
It’s probably the most visible part of the new content that isn’t directly related to the story, the presence of the three new Subclasses. Admittedly, I put a bit more time in with my Sunbreaker than the other two new Subclasses, but that’s just because Titans are the best. That said, I think these new Subclasses are probably the best built skill sets that exist so far. We’ll start with Titans, because again, best class. The Sunbreaker has a really solid set of skills across the board – ones that work awesome in PvP, and others in PvE. Hammer of Sol is going to be a gamechanger in both phases of the game – it’s damage over time aspect makes fighting bosses a lot easier. Melting Point, an upgrade for the melee Sunstrike, essentially makes any incoming damage after that hit count as precision damage. That’s an amazing PvE buff for fighting majors and ultras. As a Titan player, and one that tended to play Striker as much as possible, I am totally in love with Sunbreaker.

Warlocks have always been in a pretty good spot. Voidwalkers were always great for clearing enemies, especially low-tier ones. Sunsingers are phenomenal support classes, and have a built in fail safe with Fireborn. With the new Stormcaller subclass that utility isn’t going anywhere. They still are a bit of a glass cannon – fragile, but powerful; but man, Stormtrance causes some serious damage. It might be the best crowd control out there in terms of killing the enemies outright. Red bar enemies just melt away, and Stormtrance lasts a pretty decent amount of time. In PvP, I think it might not be quite as good as Voidwalker, but it still is a great slayer style ability. When you combine Stormtrance with a Sunbreaker’s Melting Point, the damage output here is just insane. My fireteam played through the Undying Mind strike – now on Xbox – and our Warlock just tore through Vex. Even majors were just chaff in the wind to the Stormtrance. A fireteam that’s properly chaining supers will absolutely tear through enemies.

Which brings us to the Nightstalker. Hunters might have a little bit more of an adjustment period with this one than the other classes. Gunslinger and Bladedancer are both designed around purely slaying enemies – they’re great trash disposal classes, and they shine in PvP. With the Nightstalker though, Hunters can finally play a more support focused role in PvE. Shadowshot is Destiny‘s take on a traditional MMO/RPG “chain” skill. It tethers enemies to a point, debuffing them and leaving them open to damage from your fireteam. Orb generation is still an issue with Hunters, but again, with proper super chaining, and good placement with the Shadowshot, you’ll do fine. Solo Hunters probably won’t get as much use with Nightstalker, and in PvP it’s definitely not going to shine as much as the other two. That said though, having another support option in a fireteam is always a great thing. More variety is always good, and these new Subclasses help promote that.

I don’t really want to go too much into the story side of things with The Taken King, both because I haven’t finished the storyline, but also because I think it’s worth experiencing for yourself. It’s a new feeling with Destiny to actually enjoy the story content. There’s been more character development and interaction in the first few missions in this DLC than there were in the entire base game. What I will say is that the new organization of the missions is such a huge benefit for the game. The “questification” of all the story missions is a simple change, but it’s one of the best parts of the 2.0 update. I’ve gone back through a few of the original questlines again, and with the new structure each one feels much more coherent. One of the biggest issues with Destiny‘s story in the vanilla launch was just how disjointed it was. You had these major missions that forwarded the main storyline, but at the same time minor nodes that had missions that were just as important to play through. The problem was that there was no good order to play them in. Now, you pick a quest, which all have a unifying theme behind them, and going through them feels a lot more proper.

One last thing that I want to look at is the sheer scope of this expansion. It’s a different beast compared with the previous ones. Bungie has gone out of their way to make sure that the naming is all standardized. The Dark Below and House of Wolves both bear the prefix of “Expansion #” before the name. It signifies the idea that they’re both direct add-ons to a vanilla game. With The Taken King Bungie has dropped the “Expansion” prefix. Instead it’s being treated a lot more like a old-school traditional expansion. I know that sounds kinda confusing, but you have to go back and look at PC gaming back in the day. Before add-ons were called DLC. We used to get huge chunks of extra content in these Expansion Packs – that honestly were usually closer to new games than anything. The Taken King feels a lot closer to that old idea. There’s hands down more content than any previous add-on for Destiny here. And with the recent court ruling for Marty that shed some light on the plan for Destiny, this kinda fits the bill. Every other year, the next numbered game is released – so we can probably expect Destiny 2 next year, with the off years featuring major expansions that help keep the game installed on hard drives and played. With a week of 2.0 under our belts, and just a day of TTK to build off of, I think that could be a pretty solid, winning formula moving forward.