Destiny Exotic Weapons – What Makes Them Truly Special

Destiny XurJust in case you were away from the internet on Friday, Xur finally broke down and sold the best weapon in Destiny again this past weekend – Gjallarhorn. He sold it one other time way back in week 2, when the vast majority of players either didn’t have enough coins to grab it, or didn’t know how amazing a weapon it is. Now that the pendulum has swung back the other way and a huge chunk of players were able to pick up at least one of the “Destiny Nuke” I think it’s a good day to talk a little bit about those Gold Colored weapons. They’re the most coveted weapons in the game, and for good reason.

The Exotic items in Destiny are the carrot on the end of the proverbial stick for most players. Not only do they break up the homogenized designs of the current stock of items looks, but they all feature unique upgrades that help justify their usage. Those unique perks are also why you’re only allowed to equip one weapon and one armor piece at a time. Any more and gameplay balance would be destroyed – and some would argue that it already is by certain items. And that’s why certain Exotics are valued so highly by players – we’ve been chasing Thorn, Gjallarhorn, The Last Word, Icebreaker, Red Death, Bad Juju, and Truth since Day One. These are those weapons that have pushed past balanced and are pretty much indisputably over powered.

Destiny Thorn

What makes these ones that much stronger is the design of their signature perks, when compared with their weapon class. Thorn has insane range and accuracy, well beyond most hand-cannons’ along with the powerful damage-over-time; The Last Word has incredible hip-fire power, and a full-auto rate-of-fire that few, if any hand-cannons can touch. Icebreaker takes special ammo completely out of the equation, allowing a much more conservative approach to just about any encounter. Red Death is pretty much the best answer to Thorn’s DoT in PvP play, and is just the best all around pulse rifle with a sweet spot in all stats. Bad Juju is the other style pulse rifle – fast rate of fire, full-auto fire, and you don’t have to worry about reloading it with its exotic perk. Add in that perk increases your super ability cooldown, and it works in both PvP and PvE. Gjallarhorn’s Wolfpack Rounds melt any boss encounter trivial by ensuring the maximum amount of damage possible; while Truth makes just about any shot a guarantee with aggressive tracking and proximity detonation, a combo that only appears on its exotic counterpart Gjallarhorn.

Destiny Invective Shotgun

There are other, less OP examples in the mix too. SUROS Regime has a health regenerating perk that no other auto-rifle can touch, along with stats that push it to the top of the weapon class. Vex Mythoclast, in addition to being a fusion rifle as a primary, functions like an auto-rifle much more so than a fusion rifle. The MIDA Multi-Tool is just what it says – a multi-tool – that is a great scout rifle, and makes you move faster in ways that can put this up there in the top level of PvP weapons. Invective does similar things to Icebreaker, just in a shotgun form. And it’s in these perks that we as a playerbase determine value and worth in our exotics.

That’s where the difficulty lies on Bungie’s side. They need to figure out a perk that is worthy of being called Exotic, without making it completely gamebreaking. It’s not a sure thing though. No Land Beyond could have been a pretty cool weapon – I think it’s a super design that’s killed by game mechanics: no ammo, and the exotic perk (bonus precision damage) is pretty lame. Hard Light is in a similar boat – it looks pretty spectacular compared with the rest of the auto-rifle group, at least until we see more Omolon guns. But with auto-rifles already weak, especially the max rate-of-fire, min impact variety, and an exotic perk that combines two low-level perks (Armor Piercing and Ricochet Rounds) into one mid-tier perk, there are plenty better options. Pocket Infinity should have been cool – a fusion rifle where the penalty for missing is removed by allowing a longer burst – is killed by a decreasing damage output and super low ammo count.

Super Good Advice

Then there are the exotics that have good value, but just can’t quite break into the top level. Super Good Advice has its uses – breaking detainment in the Vault of Glass and Quodron’s fight, along with shooting tons in PvP – but it’s just not worth using over other exotics, especially in the heavy slot. Thunderlord, while better in just about every regard, suffers from similar problems: Truth and Gjallarhorn are both better exotic choices. I do like that Thunderlord offers a great Arc heavy option, and for Arc Burn missions fits perfectly with Fatebringer/Praedyth’s Timepiece-Found Verdict builds. Plan C is easily the best pure fusion rifle in the game – an instant shot when switching to it is killer in PvE and PvP, but fusion rifles are weak right now, and I wouldn’t take it over others. Patience and Time fills a different role from Icebreaker, in that I think it’s a bit better in PvP with it’s lower recoil per shot, and giving you invisibility. You’ll note that I haven’t talked about Hawkmoon and Monte Carlo here – I play on the Xbox One, so I have no hands-on with them. In truth, the only vanilla exotic I’m missing is Hard Light, but my fireteam has it, so I’ve seen it in action.

As DLC has been added in to Destiny, we’ve gotten a grand total of six new exotics – three in each, although one is PlayStation exclusive still. The problem is none are really worth taking over older ones – it’s a problem that has plagued Destiny in all facets of the game. Dragon’s Breath is a pretty good DPS rocket launcher – especially with bosses that don’t move much thanks to the sunspots it produces with the exotic perk – but Gjallarhorn is better. Nechrochasm, the only arc exotic primary, is obtained through a long process of evolving a common weapon through the course of Dark Below content, all the way through Crota’s End. Unfortunately, it’s terrible. It’s a bullet hose auto-rifle, so that’s strike one; strike two is a low ammo count; and it strikes out with an exotic perk that could be cool – producing Cursed Thrall explosions on precision kills – but is unreliable in practice. Forth Horseman is a PS exclusive shotgun, and honestly seems pretty solid. The House of Wolves exotics suffer from a similar problem to Nechrochasm – they’re only obtained through the Exotic Cipher, which is only obtained sometimes from the level 35 Prison of Elders Skolas fight. On top of that – they aren’t anything spectacular. Lord of Wolves is probably the best pick – a shotgun that functions like a pulse rifle, hits like a truck, has lots of ammo, and has a perk that helps reduce companions cooldowns – but I tend to use it only when I’m messing around. Queensbreaker’s Bow is cool from a far; but in practice, it’s too slow, does too little damage, and just really doesn’t feel special. Dreg’s Promise is the exotic sidearm, and is pretty much the sidearm version of Hard Light – it looks cool, but it’s just not good.

So from a gameplay standpoint it’s easy to see why certain weapons are used and other are dismantled right away. But to me, the other side of the exotic weapons is the design of the weapons. Each one has a unique look and its own backstory. There’s more work and effort put into these guns than the vendor weapons found at the Tower. And that’s a side that really can’t be quantified. It’s easy to say why those top-tier weapons are there gameplay-wise. From that same standpoint, it’s easy to dismantle Pocket Infinity. But Pocket Infinity looks really cool, and you have to go through a pretty in-depth process to get it. To me, it’s a show-off piece, and points to one one thing I wish Destiny would put in the game. Bungie likes to downplay the RPG/MMO side of Destiny, but moving forward I think they really need to start embracing it. One thing that they could do that I think would go over great with the players is adding in some kind of social space that each player calls their own. Whether it’s a room on the Tower or actually making use of those jumpships we’ve got on the loading screen, either works. I would love some private social space where I can display my exotics, connect to the bounty board, maybe some day read those Grimoire cards. But that’s the beauty of Destiny as it exists now – it’s clearly going through some evolution, and that’s the most exciting thing as a fan.

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What To Do Until The Taken King Launches

DestinyIf you’ve been checking out Infinite Lives over the last year or so, you know that I’m a big fan of Destiny. Sure it has it’s flaws, but I still maintain that it’s been the most fun game that I’ve played in the last year, in addition to being the game I’ve played the most. So heading into the fall and the second year of Destiny‘s life, I’m pretty excited to see what Bungie has in store. But there’s still a month of time to wait. If you’ve been playing Destiny straight through, you’ve probably run out of things to grind in the game. Instead of continuing to play through PvE that you’ve beaten time and time again, or dealing with a stale meta that has a non-existent margin of error, I think it might not be a bad idea to put Destiny down for a little bit.

Burnout is a pretty serious issue in gaming – I’ve talked about it before. It’s really easy in the current gaming world to hit a wall with a game that you dive in heavy with. I’ve talked about it with open-world games like Sunset Overdrive/Grand Theft Auto in the past. Hell, I hit it with Destiny back in January/February – I took a four month break from a game that I really love. If you’ve been sticking through the summer with Destiny and the House of Wolves expansion, but are starting to hit that point now, I really recommend putting it down until The Taken King launches. There are other things out there – the Summer Spotlight has some cool deals, there’s always the Games with Gold/PS+ games and don’t be afraid to play catch-up. I’m working through Shadow of Mordor now, along with slowly plugging through New Vegas.

Destiny Taken King Collectors Edition

This is always a tough problem in gaming. The deeper you dive into the games you love, the brighter they burn, and the faster you can hit that wall. As we’ve gotten more and more set in the Fall-Spring launch windows, it’s easier and easier to fall into the same trappings. There are only so many games that you can pick up at launch, and that means you limit the games you play. Add in that the summer has traditionally been a slow period and it makes these last few weeks that much more excruciating. So my advice is to just take a step back, unplug for a day or two, and go in to The Taken King, or whatever you’re looking forward to, fresh. It’ll help keep it fun for longer, and will give you, I think, a more enjoyable experience the whole way through.

The Dark Side to New Content

DestinyOver the last week, I’ve really been keeping my eyes on the Destiny sub-reddit, both because I like seeing the thoughts of the community on the new content, and also because I know there are people over there who know way more about Destiny than I do. I would say that in general the response has been positive from the community, but over the last couple days, especially after the weekly reset, I have noticed an increased trend in the number of complaining posts. Generally it’s about the new Treasure Keys – the good vibes on farming the chests from a couple weeks ago are all but gone now. Instead, they’ve been replaced with players clamoring for easier and easier access to them.

Those are clearly the minority opinion, but it is vocal, and that can make it hard to ignore. Is the new Treasure Key mechanic perfect? Not at all – I do feel that their drop rate is a little low for what essentially is a roll of the RNG wheel. But making them available for sale from Xur or the Speaker for Strange Coins/Motes of Light is insane. Those two currencies lost any value with House of Wolves – they’re far too easy to obtain now with Nightfall/Heroic/Daily/PoE/ToO/and so on and so forth. I did like the idea of turning in one each of the new Tokens for one Key – only because they have similar drop rates and require farming anyway.

Destiny Treasure Keys

To me though, the influx of posts about the Keys really shows a deeper problem. It’s all too common in player communities these days to get a little whiny whenever changes are made that aren’t exactly to their specifications. The sense of accomplishment for finishing the new activities is lost on some of the more jaded members. It’s the same problem with those players spamming “Max level, must have max GHorn” posts on the LFG sites. There is a section of the community that’s really quite spoiled and entitled. The problem is that with new content, whether it’s House of Wolves, or Call of Duty maps, is that it emboldens that behavior. It’s not indicative of the whole community, but with sub-reddits and forums, they can be hard to ignore. Just keep your own playstyle strong and make sure you don’t take short cuts and any game can be tons of fun.

Christmas Network Difficulties – What They Really Told Us

If you were like many gamers last week, you probably tried to hop online to play some new game you might have gotten for Christmas; only to wind that hackers had DDoS’ed the networks of both major home online consoles. They were both down for two days before the engineers were able to get the networks reliably working again. This isn’t the first time the networks were taken down, by apparently the same group this year. And while this really is getting old, I think it’s becoming a sad part of playing games in the current console world.

It’s a part of having all the awesome new potential that the new online only consoles have. We now have to put up with consumers with technical skills that can take down the network for everyone, with little to no consequence. There’s no real way to truly combat them either, without really restricting a bunch of the freedom we have. I think what this has shown has just reinforced my thoughts on “gamers” across the board.

At their core, gamers are good – we like playing the games, want to share our experiences and find communities to play with. However there are plenty of other people within the communities that have other motives. If their goals aren’t being met, than they see it as a failing of the companies we support, and as a result they have to take in their own hands to “fix” it. That could amount to complaining about the ending of a game (Mass Effect 3) to taking more unscrupulous methods, like this past week’s attack. Ultimately, it’s really unlikely that these attacks will actually amount to any changes. Microsoft and Sony both have their courses set – any attack that they think would legitimately worry them would be dealt with much more aggressively than the recent DDoS attacks. The attack on the Sony executive’s plane is an example – the consequences of that attack will be much more dire than anything that comes of this DDoS attack. These gamers are the incredibly vocal minority – entitled, spoiled and loud – and as a result they get press time with their attacks. It’s like the GG fiasco earlier this year – change scares them, if it’s not the change they want, so they attack it.

There’s no real way to counter them, other than just suffer them gracefully. Unfortunately it’s part of life these days – hopefully in the new year there’s a better community spirit to counter these pointless outbursts.

Let’s Talk About Internet Pressure

Sony PSXThis week I’ve actually been paying a little attention to the Sony hack, since the group allegedly has threatened the opening day showing of the new Seth Rogen movie, The Interview. Today most major national theater chains pulled support for the movie, saying they won’t show the movie. Whether or not the threat was ever legitimate isn’t the point anymore – it worked. And while this isn’t directly related to gaming, it does get me thinking about similar situations in our world.

Mass Effect

The first example I always go to is the Mass Effect 3 ending situation. I never understood the complaints for the ending – it was open ended on purpose to make the player think about just what the ending entailed. But because it wasn’t a clearly defined ending, a large number of players took umbrage with it and pestered BioWare to the point where they had to address it. Which I thought set an incredibly dangerous precedent. Game developers lost a lot of control of their story direction, because if the internet fan uproar is enough, they’ll have to address it, potentially even changing it.

Halo Master Chief Collection

The other major example that I’ve been keeping my eyes on lately has been the fan reactions to Destiny and Master Chief Collection. In particular, I’ve seen a pretty common thread with Halo players wherein they say that the best course of action moving forward is to boycott 343’s Halo 5 when it comes out next year. While boycotting might actually serve a purpose detailing unhappy fans, the likelihood of it actually happening on that scale is slim. The same sort of sentiment is pretty prevalent within Destiny discussions – complaining that Activision made Bungie pull major sections of the game to sell later as DLC; which, while there’s absolutely no evidence to support that, isn’t outside the realm of possibility. A good chunk of the DLC lives on the disc right now, so I don’t see it being crazy to think a lot of that was originally set to appear at launch. Whether any sort of boycott response to DLC or future Destiny games would change anything is ultimately a moot point. Activision and EA, both seen as the evil corporations in gaming, have a pretty decent track record of not bowing to fan pressure, generally. Activision in particular is used to hearing this thanks to Call of Duty.

Ultimately, I know that this sort of reaction is not going anywhere – it’s a part of the anonymous web culture. For better or worse, the power of the web allows this – the strength in the communities, the websites that let us share our thoughts about the games are also places for dissent. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it either – I’m not saying that. I’m saying that we need to be more responsible with it. I don’t think at all that the Sony hackers are in the right here – exposing controversial private emails is one thing – threatening public terror attacks is on a whole different level. I just wish that people would use a little more common sense with these sorts of things.

Dead of the Winter News and Notes

Over the last few years it’s become pretty typical for some big news to come out in February, along with some of the first major releases of the year. Last year, it was the PS4 announcement and Dead Space 3 released. This year, it’s the news that Sledgehammer games is being added as a full developer on the Call of Duty franchise, meaning that there are three different developers working on the series now; and we get Thief in a few more weeks, along with a Titanfall beta.

Sledgehammer Games

I think there’s a few things we can infer from the Sledgehammer news as it relates to the direction of the series. First off, now it’s a three year dev cycle, I think the single player campaigns might get a bit of a boost – longer development time leads to longer, and more detailed campaigns. It’s a pretty typical argument against the Call of Duty games is that the story is an afterthought and tacked on; I tend to disagree with that, but I do think they could do more with them. Hopefully, the extra time for each developer (Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games) will give us bigger stories to play, but keep the trademark multiplayer intact. The other thing that I think we can infer is that this might be an indication that the development time on Xbox One/PS4 games is notably longer than the previous generation. Activision wouldn’t want to risk missing a year with no Call of Duty – especially this year with two major shooters already highly promoted and anticipated (Titanfall and Destiny) so by adding a third developer they ensure that the annual releases are still there, but there’s more time for development. One last thing that I think we can look at here is that I think this means that we might be getting a third sub-franchise within the Call of Duty umbrella. Infinity Ward has Ghosts, Treyarch has Black Ops, which I would bet we see at least one more entry of; but there’s no early indication what Sledgehammer Games will do. They did help out with Modern Warfare 3 back in 2011, so I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to think we see MW4, but it could also be a totally new IP. We just have to wait to see what they announce, which my guess is will happen this spring, probably before E3.

Nintendo

One last thing I want to get my thoughts out on is the Nintendo situation. They announced they expect to take a full year of losses again, and while that’s never good news, I don’t think they’re quite to the point of death yet. I still think the 3DS will do well at least for a few more years, but they need to offer something strong on the console front within the next two years I think to really ensure that they don’t go the way of Sega. I think their woes can really be traced to the obvious lack of third party support, which can be rectified with a strong console offering; but the real issue is that Nintendo’s classic “pillars” have been down of late. Mario is spread too thin, the last two Zelda titles were re-makes/re-imaginings and Metroid has been dead ever since Other M. Donkey Kong has never really been strong enough to carry a console and we won’t see Super Smash Bros. until later this year. There’s still plenty of life in Nintendo, but they really need to look at the current market and adjust their strategies to deal with the current make-up of gamers.

Looking Ahead to 2014

It’s officially 2014, and with the first official post of the year, I thought it would be appropriate to look ahead to the rest of the year and what games I think will be the big ones coming up. I think 2013 was a little bit of a step back from the previous two, and that helps set up this year for a big surprise year.

Thief

First up is a game that I am really pumped for, and it comes out next month – Thief. I can remember playing Thief II back in the day on the computer, but the series has been dormant for a while now, which I think actually helps this game. Stealth games are making a little bit of comeback, thanks in no small part to games like the Assassins’ Creed series and Dishonored. The latest gameplay videos show a game that look a lot like Dishonored actually, which isn’t a bad thing, but still retains the series focus on stealth over combat. Plus the videos just look gorgeous, showing off the power of next-gen consoles. Can’t wait to see it in action on February 25, 2014.

Titanfall

Right after Thief drops in February, March brings us Titanfall, the first game from Vince Zampella’s Respawn Entertainment studio. Based around the Gamescom trailer from last year, the game looks like a really entertaining mix of Call of Duty, some Mechwarrior action and the chaos of the full scale battles of Battlefield. It’s going to be refreshing to play something that’s not CoD or Halo or Battlefield, and the actual gameplay looks pretty damn entertaining. It takes the standard shooter formula, adds in the awesome mobility of Tribes, and then tops it off with giant Mechs – it’s a no brainer. March 11 can’t get here fast enough.

Also in the first half of the year, Watch Dogs is supposed to be dropping, and it looks like it could be one of the first real examples of true “next-gen” gameplay and design. The design and story look fresh and intriguing, but we haven’t seen a ton of actual gameplay in a little while. I’m still excited for it, but I would like to see a bit more here this month.

The summer, usually a dead-zone for big games see a few nice little presents – the Destiny beta, and in June, Elder Scrolls Online drops for the consoles. ESO could be the MMO that finally gets me into them – I’ve avoided them for years, but I love the Elder Scrolls universe, so I might take the plunge. I just hope that Bethesda can launch a smooth game – not usually their M.O. as well as still working on Fallout 4.

Destiny

The last of the big releases I want to talk about is Destiny – Bungie’s first full game since leaving Microsoft. Based around everything that Bungie has been showing so far, the game is shaping up to be a bigger, better version of Mass Effect. I always trust Bungie to have a really well crafted universe and story, and a polished product, so I think as long as the persistent universe game world works as well as they want it to, Destiny could be the second half of the year winner.

There are a few other big names I expect to see this year – Halo, Call of Duty, Uncharted all come to mind right away, but I think the new IP’s will have a banner year, and really will set the pace for the first year of the next-gen consoles.