Time to Talk – My time with Destiny 2

 

Destiny 2

Destiny 2 with the new expansion Warmind has left me thinking about how I feel about Destiny 2 and the whole franchise as a whole. As a base product I love Destiny, it is hands down the best feeling FPS game out there. But as time goes on with Destiny 2 it just feels like there is something missing.

I am an avid player of Destiny. I have been since year one, the week I began included the now infamous single instance of The Queen’s Wrath event. And I went on over the next 3 years of D1 to clock up 554 hours of game-time.

Now I was never one of the players that focused wholeheartedly on Destiny. I played it to achieve a certain goal with each new content drop. With release Destiny it was pretty much just to play the new game and see just what Bungie had concocted. With Dark Below it was to see if Bungie had improved on the story that had been a mess in the base game. With house of wolves it was to see what new game-play features the team had thought up in absence of a full raid, and also to begin using LFG features to play some of the harder content.

Through all of this I was excited to check out the streams and posts to see what the new content would be, and devour as much information as I could. Then the Taken King came and it seemed as if most of our prayers had been answered, we got an interesting story with a compelling villain and characters and it motivated me to be there the day the King’s Fall raid dropped so I could finally put a true end to Oryx. And again a few weeks later when the Heroic mode went live, so I could use my shiny new raid loot to complete the hardest challenge in the game.

It was great and kept me coming back daily for a month or two, then as always with Destiny I had my fill, and moved on until the next content drop could pull me back in. Which eventually was challenge modes until I had them all completed and moved on once again.

Rise of Iron didn’t pull me straight in, and personally Rise of Iron wasn’t worth the $40+ (NZ) cost at launch. Until the Age of Triumph, which was a great send off for D1. We got old raids back, and new challenges to complete. We had more content than ever to play and it was awesome. But as always I played my fill and left until D2 released.

I was, as most veteran D1 players were, a little annoyed that the only things I brought from 3 years of D1 were my characters faces, and a couple of fancy looking emblems. I’m not talking in terms of power or stats here, I’ve played WoW for 10+ years and you always expect the first rare you loot to be better than the epic you have from a raid boss.

Especially off the back of farming amazing armor sets, weapons and ornament in the age of triumph raids, and long or complicated quest lines for things like Sleeper Simulant and Outbreak Prime.

But D2 felt so DAMN GOOD, that I put that all to the side and played my arse off so I could be day one raid ready with my new clan. I enjoyed it so much that  I had three characters all leveled and set to go for the raid when it dropped. This enjoyment was fueled by what appeared to be a great content line up with faction rallies and iron banner weeks leading up to the prestige raid.

My clan and I loved it, we were on most days helping each other out to complete exotic quests. I ran the Arms Dealer quest strike with many people to help them get the Legend of Acrius quest going. I also led a few raids and some guided games, just because I was having so much fun.

Then the wall hit me and the clan in the face with the prestige raid, we had done weeks of preparation getting people geared up, and theorising on what we might get from the hardest content, and we loaded in the day it went live only to find that the preparation we had done meant nothing.

The gear and weapons we had couldn’t get better, we were all at max power and prestige didn’t raise that. We all had normal raid sets that didn’t help us at all, so after a while of throwing ourselves at the prestige raid we all bounced, because the amount of work we had put in added to the time and patience needed for the prestige raid would give only a recolor (with shiny parts) of armor we already had.

We planned to come back when power levels were higher in the next expansion, then it might be fun to team up and complete this challenge.

Meanwhile the PC version launches and I start playing that with a couple of friends. With just a single character. Because you know, bugger playing through all that content more than four times. They didn’t have the time to play as much as I did….. cause they have jobs. But slowly they got there and I lead a sherpa raid with them and three other first time Leviathan raiders, it was great fun.

Then the hammer dropped, and Curse of Osiris launched to a messy story with the fabled character from D1 Osiris, essentially not really being IN the expansion beyond the opening cinematic. A new patrol zone that is a small circle, missions re-purposed as strikes, and the Infinite Forest which turned out to be nothing more than a fancy pathway to a door across a chasm.

The forged weapons seemed interesting, until you had to grind out content to give you materials on a chance drop for weapons that looked cool but weren’t much more than that. The exception being the quest for Saint-14 and his Shotgun which was interesting AND had a great reward, but it was hidden behind a bit too much boring content.

Eventually I forged them all just to be rewarded with Sagira’s ghost shell which looks great, but is functionally boring given how much time is put into getting it. And that was about it until Warmind dropped. I couldn’t even be bothered to do the Raid Lair even though I hear it is enjoyable.

Warmind isn’t terrible, but it does little to improve on what is becoming a stale formula. The story is again VERY short, and it doesn’t fit all that well into the lore behind Destiny. Apparently the warmind Rasputin has been on Mars rather than Earth this whole time, and went dormant not because of the Darkness and sleep of the Traveler, but to contain some Hive and a Worm God. Which is a good reason but HOW is there a Worm God on Mars, and given that Worm Gods gave Oryx and his/her siblings power. Why are we able to kill one so easily. Oh and now Rasputin feels used and wants  to exert power himself.

All of these story beats are individually interesting but we don’t get enough explanation of each point for them to come together and make sense as whole.

This dissonance leads into warmind’s game-play as well. Mars has a new patrol area which is a great improvement on Mercury, there are hidden collectibles which lead to an exotic sword and exotic sparrow. The war-sat public event from D1 returns with a Hive twist. Ana Bray has a long, possibly five weeks long, quest for an exotic scout rifle (who knows if it will be worth the wait) and a challenging quest for the return of the Sleeper Simulant.

Escalation Protocol (EP) is another addition to Warmind, which at the time of writing this is a very challenging pseudo horde mode akin to the prison of elders in D1, but in the open world. EP recommends a base power level of 370, however the soft cap for gearing without powerful engram rewards is 345. This means EP will demolish groups of random people for weeks.

This in itself is not a problem we should not expect challenging events to just hand gear to us, otherwise it is not a challenge and we would be complaining about it being too easy. However EP was sold as needing a group of 6-9 people to complete all 7 waves of enemies. Destiny 2 only allows you to take a group of three into a patrol space meaning you have to hope that there are three to six people there to help out. Or you have to hope that you can get two or three people to RANDOMLY load into the same area together so each person can then invite two others.

Essentially this serves as a time gate, we have to wait weeks until most people are at required power levels (I am at 353 after two weeks of milestones) in order to complete it with people in the wilds or mess about with networking to be able to play with proper groups.

This seems to be Destiny’s downfall, a lot of good ideas but they don’t make the last step to get everything in sync. As Destin Legarie says in his video review on IGN “It’s one step forward, two steps back, and Bungie seems cursed to repeatedly release updates that get a few things right, while convoluting systems that no one took issue with.”

As I think a lot of Destiny players are, I am waiting for E3 next month to see just what Bungie has in store for Destiny 2 in September. I don’t think it is exaggeration to say that Destiny needs this next expansion to be as good if not better than the Taken King in order for enough people to want to keep coming back.

No fan wants to see a franchise they love fail, but we each have a certain amount of tolerance and if Destiny keeps making missteps the fan-base will move to greener pastures. I will probably play through the new content when I feel like it but I certainly wont be bursting at the seams to play each weekly reset, and pestering friends to come and play. If more people feel the same way or worse Destiny will slowly die, and I don’t want to see that happen.

So hopefully the next few weeks will have Bungie showing us that they understand their community and fill the gaps that are currently such a problem for the longevity of the franchise.

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God of War: A Bold New World

 

This new God of War for the PlayStation 4 is in a word a masterpiece, that does not mean it’s perfect but a seriously great game. To be able to take the rage fueled revenge machine that is Kratos from the original God of War games, and turn him into the multi faceted character that he is in this game Sony Sana-Monica has achieved something truly remarkable.

In this new title Kratos has left the destruction of the Greek Pantheon behind for the Norse realm of Midgard where he is living a peaceful life with his wife Faye and son Atreus. And doing so by hiding the truth of his God-hood as best he can.

The game begins straight from the title screen the first time you boot the game up and if you were to marathon the story from there you may notice that the game will never cut for a single moment. This technique makes God of War incredibly immersive as you are always following the main characters  from the very start of their adventure.

God of War begins with Kratos and Atreus collecting wood for Faye’s funeral pyre. The main quest of this game is set off by her final request to have her ashes scattered from the highest peak in the realm. So Kratos does what any good Spartan would do and begins by testing Atreus to see if he has the skills needed to survive the journey. And so begins the games tutorial.

In just this simple tutorial you can see how Kratos has changed, he is genuinely sad over his wife’s death, there seems to no longer be any rage left in him. However he still has his hangups, as seen when he and Atreus have a moment where they can see the far of peak that is their goal and reminisce about Faye, but he is unable to comfort his son.

This is God of War’s crowning achievement, its characters. Kratos and Atreus’ relationship and they way it evolves throughout the story is incredible. Even the other characters that weave in and out of the story are thought out and evolve alongside, and often due to Kratos and Atreus.

What is just as great is that as the story progresses I found that every question I had about this new realm and the people within was answered, and often not in the ways I was expecting. This made the story compelling and its twists and turns difficult to predict. Which I like very much in a story driven game.

As in the Greek mythology driven God of War games, this new Norse mythology based game is woven around Kratos and his family. Some of the twists and turns will be seen well in advance if you have some knowledge of the Norse mythology. So for me some of these didn’t have as great a pay off as they might for someone with no knowledge in this area. However that should not take away from the many twists and turns that this game has that no-one will see coming.

Generally game-play is great as well Kratos’ new weapon the Leviathan Axe, which mimics Thor’s hammer from the Marvel films, feels incredible. The act of throwing it at an enemy and ripping it back into your hand is probably the most satisfying weapon I have ever had the chance to use in a game.

Even with the axe embedded in an enemy or pinning an them to a wall Kratos is by no means powerless. He still has his fists and a shield that can be used to lethal effect and there are even some brutal execute animations that show just how powerful this God can be. There are other weapons in the game that Kratos can use but they are spoilers and I wont mention what they are here.

Atreus is always by his Fathers side and becomes very useful in any fight. He uses a bow and various types of arrows to inflict damage and help to stagger the enemies you are fighting with Kratos. All under the guise of being trained by his father.

Here I should mention the voice performances of Christopher Judge ( Teal’c in Stargate SG-1) as Kratos, Sunny Suljic as Atreus, Jeremy Davies as the Stranger, Danielle Bisutti as the Witch in the Woods, and Alastair Duncan as Mimir. All of these actors give superb performances, which only serves to heighten the excellence of God of Wars story and characters.

It is a story you should experience even if only for the relationship between Kratos and Atreus, and by no means do you need to have played the original God of War games. You only need the idea that Kratos killed all of his Pantheon in rage fueled revenge for his first families deaths.

This game should be in any PS4 owners library, it is another in an incredible line up of first party PlayStation games.