Destiny Rise of Iron – Game Informer Info Bomb

Destiny Rise of IronOh dear – Game Informer just proved why subscriptions to gaming magazines are still really important. They unveiled their cover game for September and it’s Rise of Iron, and hoo boy did we learn a bunch. Let’s go over the big points.

For starters, the Light level changes were nailed down – at launch it’s going to be 385, and after the hard mode Raid launches it’ll be bumped up to 400. That’s pretty much about where I thought made the most sense – we still have a sequel coming next year after all. We also know that there are five new story missions coming with Rise of Iron, which seems low, but if you look at what Bungie has been doing since Taken King, what really matters more are the Quests. I thought that when Bungie restructured all of the story content with the 2.0 patch, that was one of the best changes of the whole patch. Looking back on Taken King, there really wasn’t a whole lot of story missions, but the Quests kept you playing PvE events after you finished Regicide. Chasing the Calcified Fragments, finishing the subclass quests, going after the exotic weapons, and dealing with the Taken War ones all made sure that there were plenty of stuff to do for a while.

Rise of Iron Artifacts

Moving on to the other real big change we know about – Artifacts. They were introduced back with The Taken King as a new equipment slot. Ultimately though, they ended up being just another factor to account for with your Light Level. With Rise of Iron we’re getting eight new Artifacts that you can use on any class. Each one has a specific ability associated with them, similar to exotic perks on weapons and armor. Some of them seem like they might be clear go-to choices, others might fly under the radar a little. The big ones I’ve seen people talking about are the Memory of Felwinter, which removes your super ability, but gives you two grenades and melees and also a stat boost across the board; the Memory of Jolder, which removes your sprint delay; and the Memory of Radegast, which lets you reflect projectiles back with your sword. It’s a really cool way to make artifacts actually feel like an important part of your character.

There are tons more to sift through – we know that we’re getting new full sets of armor from Iron Banner, Trials of Osiris, the Raid, the new Archon Forge, and the Iron Lord armor. There are tons of weapons that are coming in too. On top of that, we know that every class item, outside of the raid items from Year One are returning as well. Bungie is putting a pretty evident focus on customization – the new Ornaments, which change the appearance of weapons and armor along with Chroma mean that your Guardian is now even more your own. Taken King took the foundation that the Vanilla game laid, and made pretty much element of the game better. Rise of Iron looks to be continuing that trend, while also shaking up a lot of the building blocks that we have come to know. I think when you look at the new exotics, in particular the new Khvostov, and the new Artifacts, the Crucible is going to be a very different place in a couple months. The new Artifacts in particular are literal game-changers; perhaps more so than anything they’ve added to the game before. As Game Informer keeps putting out more info as the month goes on, and with Bungie planning a reveal stream from Gamescom, there is going to be tons to talk about this month.

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A Couple Headlines I Missed

I’ve been talking a lot lately about some specific games – Destiny, Division, Battleborn beta – but there were a couple news stories that caught my attention over the last couple weeks too. I wanted today to bring up a few of those stories.

Final Fantasy VII

FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE COULD END UP BEING HUGE
One thing that I really was caught a little off guard by was a report from Square-Enix talking about the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake. We know that it’s going to be an episodic style release, telling the tale of Cloud, Sephiroth, Aeris and the rest of the crew over the span of, I would guess, a couple years. What we didn’t know was the size of those episodes. I was expecting them to follow the natural story breaks from the original – the initial prep for the Shinra infiltration, leaving Midgar, so on and so forth. What we learned though was that each episode – which we still don’t know how many there will be – will be the size of Final Fantasy XIII. That’s pretty damn big episode. I may think that FFXIII is one of the worst in the series, but I can definitely appreciate the size of the game. If they manage to pull that off, those episodes can absolutely end up really diving into the world of Final Fantasy VII. A game that I was already excited about just became one that is racketing up my list.

Gears of War 4

GEARS OF WAR 4 TRAILER AND BETA SHOWS GRITTY FUTURE
Gears of War is one of those franchises that I just never really got into. I played the first game, way back when it first game out and actually really enjoyed the campaign. It was the multiplayer that just didn’t appeal to me – I never have liked one life only modes. But one thing that the series has always done exceptionally well is commercials/trailers. The original trailer is well remembered for its use of the Gary Jules cover of “Mad World.” With this first real trailer for the upcoming Gears of War 4, they picked another chilly, atmospheric cover of an older song: Disturbed’s relatively recent “Sound of Silence” cover. The song pairs really well with the new footage – the tone matches perfectly, which has always been a strength of the studios working on the games. There also has been a closed Beta going on over the weekend, which I am not a part of. What I’ve seen though certainly looks just like Gears of War – shotguns dominate, it’s brutal, and probably the best third-person shooter out there these days.

 

New Destiny Content, Cross-Platform Play and Division Final Thoughts

At the tail end of last week, while I was putting down my Call of Duty: Black Ops III tips, we got a couple pretty big pieces of news. So to start off this week, I thought we’d hit those big points, along with my final thoughts on The Division now that I’ve finished pretty much everything the game has in store.

The Division BetaLet’s start with The Division since it’s pretty fresh in my mind. The more and more I played through the story content, I can’t help but cool on the game. I loved the first third or so of the game – I thought the early game missions were tuned, difficulty wise, pretty much perfectly for the level scale. The second third though felt like a major turning point to me – the main missions slow down during that level 14-20 area and in fact the game directs through a whole neighborhood without a mission. Normally, I’m totally fine with an RPG steering you towards side quests, but the side content in The Division is so repetitive that it really felt more like an obligation. That feeling really got hammered home once I hit the final section of the game – those last few levels and missions. Once you hit level 30, any side mission is, from a reward standpoint, useless. Once the Base of Operations is fully upgraded, those encounters don’t give you loot that really makes sense. Side content only rewards up to Blue quality items – by the time you’re in those last few neighborhoods you’re chasing purple and higher, especially once you hit level 30. I honestly only finished all the side content in order to reveal all the collectibles on the map for the achievements to collect them all. Add in to that that the actual story content feels really hollow as it comes to conclusion and the last taste that The Division left in my mouth was really bland. The actual ending was so anticlimactic that I really don’t feel at all excited for the free content headed our way next month. And that kills me because the foundation that the game has is so damn good. I don’t know where along the lines the decision was made to keep an actual confrontation with Keener out of the game, but that is the big misstep that I think hurts the story the most. I feel like, while I’ve been avoiding comparing The Division to Destiny because the games are very different, I find myself now going back to the same thoughts I had with Destiny’s story ending. It’s so blatantly setup for future content that we know is right around the corner that it just takes away any sense of accomplishment for finishing the story. I still think The Division is the first really good game of the year, but I’ve definitely cooled on my opinion with it.

Moving on though, we got a piece of news last week that I’ve been waiting a long time for. Microsoft announced that cross-platform play is not only possible on the Xbox One, but is essentially here. We all expected Microsoft to eventually push cross-platform play with PC, but last week they announced that Rocket League will feature it, and it will be cross-console – that’s Xbox One and PS4. That’s pretty huge – it essentially kills the console war idea – both manufacturers realize that working together is way more beneficial than not. That’s not to say that exclusives and that sort of thing are going away, but we’re slowing moving toward the idea of gaming being unified as a whole. I look at it the same way I do with movies or music. I love music, but I don’t listen to one specific label or band – I wouldn’t do that with gaming, playing only one console or developer. It’s just silly. Now, there’s still a lot of hurdles to get over before this is the norm – but Microsoft has basically put the ball in Sony’s court. By saying that it’s up to the developers, and giving them the power to put it in, that’s a good move – and important for them after their stupid GDC party move. Microsoft has a big year I think this year – they’ve been lagging a little behind Sony so far, but with Xbox One going down to $300 for the Spring Sale, and a pretty damn solid lineup of games this year, they could be a good position.

Finally, rounding out the catch-up from last week, we finally – finally – got some concrete details about the next update coming for Destiny. We’ve known about this amorphous “spring update” for a while now, but the little breadcrumbs Bungie had been giving us were starting to get a little stale. Finally though we know not only when it’s coming, but we have a little bit more concrete idea of what it is going to contain. The new update – now called the April update – will be pushed live to the game on April 12. It’s bringing with it patch 2.2.0, which will feature the first major sandbox (meta) update since the end of last year. We got a little more cemented list of what to expect from the update – sort of. Bungie did their usual trick of being vague – new PvE challenges, new gear and new light levels – but did say we’re getting a new quest and strike coming. The biggest talking point among the community though has to be the image that Bungie used as a header for the weekly update: Destiny Taken Guardians. It’s not too hard to see why we’ve been talking about this image since last week. To me, there are two big points that it raises. First, there’s the obvious visual look – those are guardians, and they are Taken. There’s a few possibilities to explain that – the boring, and probably right answer – is that it’s just a shader. A freaking cool looking shader, but still just a shader. The other options could be that that’s just how the armor looks – I doubt that is the case because of what that armor is, which we’ll talk about in a second. The third possibility is that this is a new enemy type. I think that eventually we’ll see enemy guardians in PvE – but I really doubt that we’re going to get that during Destiny 1‘s life. That seems like a perfect twist to put in for the sequel – which you might remember is something I said during my fantasy development for that game. The other major talking point from the image though is just what that armor they’re wearing is. If you’ve been playing Destiny since launch, that armor is probably very familiar to you. You were chasing it for most of last spring and summer – it’s the armor that was rewarded in the Prison of Elders. Hell the background of that image even looks like the Reef. That opens up a couple questions. Is the Prison of Elders going to be the new PvE activity that Bungie said is going to favor replayability? Again, that’s the boring answer, but probably right. The community has been asking for old raids to come back – technically, the challenge tiers of PoE were considered raids. Does that open the doors for the others? I actually hope not – as fun as the old raids were, I want to see the game moving forward. Add in that to make them work in the current PvE space would be a pretty involved undertaking, and I doubt that is something we’d see in a free update. I could see them adding the Taken into Prison of Elders as a new, selectable, tier – essentially acting as a new difficulty level for it. Since Bungie said that replayability is a big part of this new activity, I think that Prison of Elders is a good start, but definitely would need a little work. We’ll learn a bit more this Wednesday, and the next two after that, as Bungie does their usual livestream reveal thing. These are usually pretty solid watches, so if you can, I would tune in. I’ll offer up my thoughts on them afterwards of course as well. Regardless, Destiny definitely finally has some life injected back into it.

News and Notes Catch Up

Fallout 4 Box ArtWe’re still in a little bit of a lull in terms of big game launches – we’re a couple weeks away from The Division still, but there have been a couple headlines that popped up over the last couple days that have piqued my interest. Like I did with the FPS news last week, today I’ll talk a little about what I’ve seen and my interpretation of it.

We’ll start with the news today from Bethesda about the first three DLC packs for Fallout 4. Monthly DLC packs are headed to the Commonwealth starting in March, ending in May. The timing makes sense – the game came out in November, so most of the hardcore players have pretty much beaten everything that the base game has to offer, and really it’s just standard timing for big game DLC launches. The interesting part is that they come with a price raise. The season pass, until the 29th of February, costs $30. On March 1 though, the price will jump up to $50 to account for the new expanded DLC plans. So if, like me you’ve been waiting for the actual plans to pick up the season pass, now is definitely the time. I don’t think we know if that $30 will include everything moving forward, or just these first three DLC packs. What I do know is that these first three packs are pretty cool sounding. First up, Automaton will add the ability to build and create your own robot minions, and has some story content to go with it. In April, we get the Wasteland Workshop – bringing with it arena battles and new workshop items. The big one comes in May though – Far Harbor. Bethesda is calling it the biggest DLC they’ve built for Fallout, and it’s going to be set up in Maine. Now that we know that there’s more DLC coming after May, bringing the total value up to around $60, Fallout 4 will be staying on my Xbox all year long.

Mass Effect

Next up we learned today that a writer from BioWare, Chris Schlerf, has joined Bungie to work on Destiny moving forward. That’s in and of itself a pretty big news story, but bigger because Schlerf was the lead writer for the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda and had been on the team all the way back to 2014. In all likelihood, ME:A won’t be impacted too much by this – I would think by now that the story is all fleshed out and they’re in full swing to, hopefully, get the game out this year. Adding a writer from a studio that has a track record of consistently strong story content in their games to Destiny is a really intriguing move though. Destiny has been continually made fun of for it’s certainly threadbare story. Yes, The Taken King improved that side of things a whole bunch, but I’m really interested to see what bringing in someone from a studio that has always put a lot of emphasis on story to a universe that, I think, has a really strong potential is exciting. With Destiny 2 not coming until next year, that give Schlerf and the writing team plenty of time to come up with a real beast of a story.

I’m expecting this week’s Update to have a little bit of everything in it. They’re bound to wrap up Crimson Days, but now that we have the road map, I would love if they started to talk a little more about this spring content we’re getting. Tomorrow I think I’ll put down a couple of ideas that I really hope that Bungie at least has considered for the spring update.

Let’s Talk About Destiny’s Future

This week may have been the most important week that Destiny has had in a long time. Not only did we get Crimson Days – for better or worse – but we finally, finally got some actual guidance on what is coming down the pipe for Bungie/Activision’s game. The timing also sheds, potentially, a little light on why things have been quiet lately. Let’s talk about it.

DestinyFirst off, Bungie’s been saying for a while now that there’s something else coming this spring. There’s still no definitive time for when that comes our way – my guess is still April – but we know now that it’s a PvE themed event. And in truth, Bungie for the first time switched up their terminology with it – they’ve been calling all of this recent content “events”. This week they called it a content update – not the same that they’ve called the DLC, but still a different term could mean a little different actual content. And based on some of the details they outlined, that looks pretty true. A Light Level increase is coming – the first since the launch of Hard Mode put it at 320. The real eye-catcher to me though was that they said the content is designed with replayability in mind. That sounds like Strikes/Raids/Arena kind of content, and not timed content like Festival of the Lost/SRL/Crimson Days. Trying to predict what that is is a little silly right now though since we have absolutely nothing to go on, so I’ll hold off on that. I do have something that I hope it is though.

The other real big news dealt more with the long-term future for the game. Kotaku had an article a few weeks back saying that Destiny 2 was pushed back to 2017 – it had yet to even be announced and it was delayed. What we learned yesterday was that is indeed the case – the true, full sequel to Destiny will hit next year. We are getting something substantial this year though – with a “large expansion” this fall. My guess is that will be somewhere in between The Taken King and Dark Below/House of Wolves; probably paid content too – Bungie/Activision needs to bring in some revenue this year aside from just Silver purchases. And here’s the thing – that could be exactly what the game needs. Pushing a true sequel back to next year should make everything better. It gives Bungie more time to craft exactly the game that they want – and take everything that the community has said about the state of the game. My biggest hope is that they do move away from last-gen consoles – it has to be only on PS4/Xbox One. The only real question that I can’t help but ask is timing – 2017 is a long time away, and is a big window for launch. If it’s fall 2017, that might end up being too little, too late.

The Taken King Logo

Finally, my last takeaway from this week’s news is one that I don’t actually know is fact. It’s the timing of the news – Bungie put up their Weekly Update literally minutes after Activision posted their investor call notes. I don’t know for sure – and we probably won’t ever know for sure – but it really feels like that Bungie was held up a little by Activision on this. Maybe it was behind an NDA to not say anything before the investor call. Maybe it was a good faith thing to push both items up in the news cycle. Maybe it’s a result of the CEO shake-up at Bungie. Regardless, I think it made me think that Activision has a little more control over Destiny than we maybe thought. There’s still a long time to go – it’s still a ten-year plan for the series after all – so there’s still a lot to learn.

Weekly News Recap – Week of October 12, 2015

The busy season has been running pretty hard so far – with Destiny, Battlefront Beta, Rainbow Six Beta all getting some serious playtime. That said, we’re about to really hit the crazy time with five major releases in the next month coming out, along with others too. So news has been a bit on the backburner for me, as I would rather focus on writing about the games I’m playing. That said, I did see a couple headlines recently that I think are worth talking about.

Mass Effect

EA GAMES – NO HD REMAKES SOON
I saw this one earlier today, and I’m torn on it. EA has doubled down on their comments from E3 about HD remakes. Don’t be expecting to see an HD Mass Effect collection anytime soon, or any other last-gen EA classics. Now that we’re deeper into the current-gen of consoles, I’m starting to move away from wanting HD remakes to fill out my library. So in that regard I’m glad to see EA focusing on making new games. That said though, there are a couple games that I would really have liked to see get the sprucing up – Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Dead Space all jump to mind. We’ll have to see if they relent in the future, but for now, don’t expect anything like that.

Halo 5 Guardians

HALO 5 ROLLS OUT FOR STREAMERS AND PRESS
This week we started to see just how Microsoft plans on launching Halo 5: Guardians. Based on what we’ve seen so far, it looks a lot like a soft launch style event – Twitch streamers got the game, along with members of the press and community members. I also saw today that the launch event will be held online, as they see more and more players moving to digital releases. Again, I’m kinda torn here – in general, if there’s a game that I really like and want to support totally, I buy it physically. I know that makes no sense, but it’s just how I’ve kinda grown with gaming. We’ll see how it works out on the 27th.

Fallout 4 Box Art

FALLOUT 4 CONTINUES TO RAMP THE HYPE TO MAX LEVELS
Over the last month or so, Bethesda has been releasing a whole bunch of videos for Fallout 4. Each one has detailed just what each of the seven S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats actually entail in game, done in the style of old PSA safety videos. It fits so perfectly with the style of the game, and they act as perfect ways for new players to get some info on the game; and at the same time, series veterans have some great videos to dig through for details. This week they also put out the Live-Action trailer – not quite the same level trailer as say the Destiny Live-Action ones, but still really cool to see. It’s got both the humor of Fallout, while still showing off some action. Plus it’s got Dion’s “The Wanderer” as the soundtrack, so I’m all in on that. November 11 can’t get here quick enough.

Weekly News Recap – Week of August 31, 2015

Well it’s finally here, the new releases have started to come our way. September has just barely begun and we already have two big titles out, in the first week. New launches usually means a few headlines worth talking about, and this week is no different. Let’s go over a couple.

Metal Gear Solid 5

METAL GEAR SOLID V – MICROTRANSACTIONS AND SERVER ISSUES
Probably the biggest new game that launched this week, Konami’s hugely successful tactical espionage thriller Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has had an interesting first week. While the reviews for the game have been super strong, and it seems like the public opinion is right in line with them, I have seen a bit about the microtransactions that are present in the game’s Forward Operating Base mode. From what I’ve read, it looks like the FOB mode pretty much requires you to spend actual money on in-game currency to succeed. The other issue that I’ve seen this week is the servers for the game have been spotty. It’s been playable, but there have been some online issues, which honestly seems like it’s pretty much standard for launches these days.

Mad Max

MAD MAX – POST APOCALYPTIC OPEN WORLD FUN
The other big game that launched this week is the licensed Mad Max game. While it’s not a direct tie-in with the movie from earlier this year, it’s clearly designed to take advantage of the success of the movie. I spent some time this week checking out some streamers playing it, and I have to say, while the game looks good, it also looks very much like a game with a high chance for burnout.  The map looks pretty damn big, and there seems like a lot of collectible type activities in the game. It’s the kind of game where I think you have to play this and this alone to really get everything out of it, and this fall is just too busy to me to do that. It still looks cool, but I just think there are so many games this fall that you really need to pick and choose your games carefully.

The Taken King Logo

DESTINY 2.0 PATCH INFO
In this week’s Bungie Weekly Update we finally got a few more concrete details about the upcoming 2.0 patch for Destiny. We already knew that the patch would be coming on the 8th of September, but now we know a little more about what is actually going to be in the patch. The changes to the character level are taking place on Tuesday, meaning that Light will be separated from Level, as well as the weapon balance. The Questification is taking place as well, along with the extra bounty space. The kiosks will also be installed, meaning that those emblems and shaders you’ve been wondering how to get will be right there to see. The other really big part pertains to the bounties. Any uncompleted Year One bounty will be lost – so make sure they’re finished up or you lose the XP. Eris Morn is losing her bounties as well, probably because she will be a big player in The Taken King. The House of Wolves targets are also disappearing, so make sure you’ve gotten all their Grimoire cards before Tuesday. But the biggest bounty news relates to those Exotic bounties. Any Exotic bounty you have will be automatically completed on Tuesday and you will receive the weapon from the appropriate person. That’s awesome on Bungie’s part. People who have been stuck at the Void kills for Thorn no longer need worry, you’ll get a Thorn very soon. It’s a good way to make sure that those Year One Exotics are put right into the kiosks immediately.