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Destiny 2 Beta Observation: We’re Weak!

I played the Destiny 2 Beta a bit more last night and my observation is that we Guardians are weaker than we were in Destiny. Our guns are weaker, our abilities are less powerful, and our grenades are downright paltry.

I created a Hunter last night and played with both the Arcstrider and Gunslinger abilities. Both are good, and the Hunter was indeed more agile and able to avoid (or get into) trouble than the Warlock and Titan I created the night before. It was when I used the Golden Gun super ability that I realized that we’ve been nerfed. It used to be that Golden Gun would kill any red bar enemy. Well, I shot and hit a Cabal Gladiator (which are admittedly pretty tough) and needed a second shot to finish him off. Then I started playing with grenades. It used to be, if you lobbed a grenade into a mob of red-bar enemies, some would die. Now, they all get hurt some, but fewer or none die outright. Sure, it varies by grenade type, but they sure seem weaker.

I think this is a strategy by Bungie – they’ve said they want to make the game harder, and by weakening us, that’s one way to do it.

I enjoyed playing the Destiny 2 beta, but it doesn’t seem to be holding as much interest as I thought it would. After dinner last night, I created my Hunter, then did the first mission and the strike. When I started, almost my entire PSN friends list was playing Destiny 2 beta. When I was done, I was the only one. Most of the others were still logged into PSN, but were playing other games, including the original Destiny. I will likely play some more Destiny 2 beta Crucible before the beta ends, but the limited content makes it not overly compelling to play for too long.

Destiny 2 Beta guns and abilities – different, but good

Having only played the Destiny 2 beta for a couple of hours last night, I found that I like the changes that I saw to guns and abilities, and for the few that I didn’t like, I can live with them.


There are still 3 gun slots, and 3 ammo types, just as before. The top gun slot is for kinetic damage primaries, essentially as before, but some new types are added, including SMGs (which are terrible, at least the ones I have). The second slot is also for primary-type weapons, but these have burn damage (solar, arc, void). So auto-rifles and hand cannons with burns are common now, and green ammo is plentiful and you can carry a lot. The third slot is for your big guns, which now includes shotguns, grenade launchers, fusion rifles, and rocket launchers, all of which use purple ammo. Since purple ammo is hard to come by in the Crucible, we won’t be having lots of shotgunners, as we did in the early days of Destiny (well, until recently when they nerfed the green ammo). I have yet to see a sniper rifle, so don’t know where or if they fit in.

They’ve gotten rid of Sunsinger Warlocks, which is somewhat OK. Sure they were handy for Nightfalls and for cheesing the bridge to Crota (until they patched that), but the ability to revive was held in reserve until needed, thus Sunsingers didn’t contribute orbs to others, because we didn’t use our super ability unless we had to.

The new ability each class has is interesting. I’ve only experienced it with Titan and Warlock, but Titans can make a little shield quite often, which can be handy, while Warlocks make a healing zone, also nice. This is activated by holding the circle button on PS4, and so far, seems more useful in PVE rather than PVP. As we all get used to it, I’m sure we’ll get good at these abilities.

Overall, the changes aren’t so significant that the game feels unnatural, but they do take a little getting used to.

The Destiny 2 Beta is good, but shows an annoying mechanic

The Destiny 2 Beta performed very well for me last night, with none of the problems I saw on Reddit or Twitter while I was at work impatiently waiting to get home to play. I didn’t get disconnected once, and all the activities provided worked just fine. Since I’m on PS4 and preordered, the beta opened up for me yesterday. I hope the Xbox One players that can start today have a similarly good experience.

The first character I created was a Titan, and I played both Sentinel and Striker in various activities. I also created a Warlock, and played a bit with that. I’ll make another post later about the abilities of the classes. The gameplay was very comfortable, yet new, as the gun configuration is different from Destiny 1, as are the abilities. For the most part, though, it was easy to play and felt right.

The bad news is that Bungie has figured out how to make their engine draw big moving, rotating equipment, and they love using it. In both the mission and the strike, they have huge rotating machines that are meant to be puzzles, but they’re just annoying. In the mission, the rotating cooling rods are insta-death, while the strike has huge rock crushing arms that are just as good at crushing Guardians. While they don’t insta-kill, they do stun and are tricky to avoid. In any case, I still don’t know how to get to the strike’s final boss, because I was busy with the puzzle and got pulled along. So this does not bode well if they’re going to over-use this new, annoying mechanic.

Enjoyed the Titanfall 2 single player campaign

I recently finished Titanfall 2’s single player campaign. It isn’t too long, but it is well done, fun, and hits you right in the feels. The story holds together with a fair bit of pilot (out of the Titan) action as well as some really fun Titan-on-Titan battles, and a Titan boss fight at the end of each chapter.

The checkpoints are pretty frequent (with exceptions, below), so even if you make a mistake and die, you’ll be back in the action very quickly. In “normal” difficulty, the battles aren’t too tough, and since my goal was to experience the story, normal mode was good enough for me.

The mechanics and controls are very intuitive and convenient, so the game felt very comfortable (I played the original Titanfall on PC and, later, Xbox One, but am now playing on PS4, and it works fine). The graphics are pretty good, as is the sound and voice acting (though everyone has a South African accent, which is somewhat amusing – I didn’t expect South Africa to be the first to colonize other planets, though perhaps Elon Musk had something to do with that). There are some very interesting game mechanics in the middle of the story that I won’t spoil, but they’re pretty awesome and lead to some nifty puzzles.

There are some nifty collection parts to the missions too. Most areas have some pilot helmets hidden around them, so collecting them gives a nice sense of accomplishment (though I didn’t prioritize it, so didn’t always collect all of them). Some of the helmets are pretty obvious and easy to get, while some I stumbled upon by accident, and a few were visible, but in areas I had no idea how to get to.

My only complaint is that some of the wall-jumping puzzle sections are incredibly frustrating, and there are no checkpoints in the middle, so I had to start over (and over and over and over…). Two in particular were really annoying. I knew exactly what I had to do, but getting the timing, jumps, and speed right can be a challenge. After making seemingly endless (but probably 25) attempts on one, I even tried lowering the difficulty to easy, but that doesn’t seem to affect the wall running difficultly. Eventually I got it by watching people do it on YouTube and tried to exactly follow their path.

The campaign for Titanfall 2 is good fun, pretty challenging, and well worth it. Then I did just a taste of the multiplayer, and that was fun too (though I was pretty bad at it). Well worth getting!

Lack of gear diversity in Destiny makes it a chore to play

How can I possibly say there is lack of gear diversity on Destiny, when there are hundreds of items in each category, more than anyone can possibly know, and all of our vaults and gear slots are completely full? Well, I think the current light level scheme and rewards mechanism are forcing us into using just a few guns and equipment pieces, and this lack of choice is annoying and tedious.

The problem is twofold:

  1. Rewards drop based on your current light level, not the highest light you can be nor on the highest light item in that category in your inventory.
  2. Therefore, you have to always equip your highest light items at all times, thus neglecting gear that would be good (or at least worth trying), but it is a lower light level.

So this is a different lack of diversity from when everyone was using Thorn and The Last Word in PvP and Ice Breaker and Fatebringer in PvE. Now the entire community isn’t forced into using the same guns, but each individual is. Sure, if you do the raid enough times, you might be able to infuse some of those lower light guns you’re interested in, but since we haven’t used them, we don’t know if it is worth it.

So I can be 398 on my Warlock, and 397 on both Hunter and Titan, and I’ve been noticing this during this week’s Iron Banner. I started off around 390 on all 3 characters, but had some reasonable guns at that light level. As I get new drops, I tended to use the higher light drops to infuse my known good guns, thus (a) not being able to try out the dropped guns, and (b) leaving others far behind, thus leading to a lack of diversity in my choices. If I wanted to switch to an auto rifle rather than my Clever Dragon pulse rifle, too bad, I don’t have one anywhere near my light level. In other words, I felt forced to use the same guns over and over, and while that worked, I would have preferred more choice.

How to fix it? There are many ways:

  • The Division’s gear score is one way, and since they don’t have gear XP, it is easy to swap stuff around to try out different loadouts.
  • Make loot drops take into account the maximum light of the character, not just the currently equipped light level
  • Even better, make loot drops look at the maximum light within the category of the drop. So if I have a 395 light primary gun and a primary drops, it would be higher than 395, even if I was being held back by the ghost and artifact. (And no, my ghost and artifacts are pretty good and not holding me back, plus I know how to get then in the Archon’s Forge.)

So while I’m disappointed at being almost forced to use the same loadout over and over again and am not able to experiment as freely as I’d like, Destiny is still kinda fun and worth playing occasionally.

My gaming news, including Skyrim SE, LOTRO, VR, The Division, & more

Since my hiatus from Destiny has allowed me to play other games, I’ve played lots of them. Since I’ve had all these (mostly) good experiences, I thought I should write it down.

I’ve spent most of my play time in LOTRO, which I mostly stopped playing when Destiny came out two years ago. I still logged in occasionally to pay my housing upkeep, but I let my VIP payments lapse (in terms of total dollars “invested,” LOTRO is by far my most expensive game, with maybe 5 years of VIP payments, plus buying all the DLCs – they’re good at extracting money from me). I made it to Gondor and did most of the Dol Amroth quests with my level 100 Lore Master, but then stopped. Now that they have tons of new content, I wanted to experience it, since I love the lore and the Tolkien universe.

First, being in Middle Earth without being VIP is very constraining. Most of the quests are locked off, travel is expensive, and many perks are disabled. So within minutes of restarting, I was paying up for a few months of VIP. At that point, the quests unlocked so I could deal with the baddies in Perlargir and all around central Gondor. Hopefully soon I will hear over to Minas Tirith and experience more of the story.

The game play came back very quickly, though I’m not as adept a Lore Master as I was, since I’ve forgotten what about half the skills do. The combat is quite boring, compared to Destiny and The Division or even Elder Scrolls Online, but it is a bit more strategic as I can’t just power through mobs, but have to worry about crowd control, debuffs, buffs, etc. And when I try to power through, I aggro a bunch of enemies that run over and kill my poor, squishy LM.

One of my favorite parts about the Rohan expansion to LOTRO was the war steed combat. I loved that and ended up being pretty good at it. But in Gondor, the enemy density is high and the terrain isn’t well suited to it. However, I still use the war steed, because it is fast and I can mount in combat. Unfortunately, even a light war steed turns like an aircraft carrier in confined spaces, so I’ve died several times trying to maneuver through a narrow passage to escape a bunch of enemies only to become stuck, dismounted, and killed. Also, the rubber-banding effect where the game lets you progress past an obstacle you hit on your war steed only to pull you back a few seconds later is still present. In fact, I had one instance yesterday where I was maybe 5 seconds and hundreds of feet past the obstacle when it yanked me back. It isn’t a game killer, but it is an immersion killer and quite annoying.

I also played with some VR games (well, really VR tech demos) on my new Playstation VR. It is a very comfortable unit and works quite well. The resolution isn’t great, but you quickly forget about it. I really enjoyed the shark encounter scenario in the VR Worlds Ocean Descent “game.” Even though I knew I was sitting in my chair at home, I was very concerned about that shark prowling around my cage, and when it attacked, I cringed in chair. Very well done!

I played a little of, and then deleted, Transformers Devastation and Lords of the Fallen. Transformers was a pretty OK action game with some RPG elements. It had a cartoony look that fit the theme, but as I was never a Transformers fan, it didn’t grab me for too long. Lords of the Fallen is an excellent Dark Souls clone that was difficult and very tense. Unfortunately, I have Dark Souls and never finished it, so I’m sure not going to finish this one.

So in my quest for action games, I went back to The Division. After this latest patch, it is quite fun. They’re trying to out-Destiny Destiny with all the loot that drops. I kill random baddies on the street and they drop top-of-the-line gear (though none better than what I had, so far). Some of the missions and encounters are still too hard to solo, at least for me, but it is a much improved game.

Finally, I tried Skyrim SE. Since I already had Skyrim and all the DLC on Steam, I got SE for free, which is damn nice of Valve and Bethesda. Unfortunately, Skyrim SE doesn’t support my 3440×1440 monitor. Sure, I could and did edit the .ini file and make it draw at that resolution, but the UI is cut off at top and bottom in that case. (To be fair, the original Skyrim is the same.) It is sad that a new release is so limited in what it can support. Even LOTRO, STO, and Fallout 4 support my monitor with only a little stretching sometimes. In any case, I never played the Skyrim DLCs, so I had thought maybe I’d give it a shot in SE, but since I used mods in Skyrim that don’t work in SE, I don’t want to mess with trying to load the saves, and I sure don’t want to play the whole thing again! So perhaps I will go back to Skyrim some day…

Done with Destiny, Back to LOTRO and STO

Between griefers and trouble finishing a Heroic Strike while wearing a Speaker mask, I’m just done with the frustration of Destiny and the Festival of the Lost. I’m tired of doing pointless quests for a random chance at crap. So I’m taking a vacation from Destiny (in fact, I nearly deleted it out of frustration, but held my temper in check).

Now I’m going back to explore the last 2 years of content that I’ve missed in LOTRO. I’m also going to catch up in STO, too. And, frankly, I’m looking forward to getting back to significant story lines and (hopefully) fun quests. Sure, neither have combat that compares to Destiny, but they have atmosphere and are fun.

Destiny, screw off!

Star Trek Online for PS4 is pretty good!

Star Trek Online for PS4 is Star Trek Online. Sure, the controls are different from the PC version, and it’s a little dumbed down, but the basics of the game is still there and it is still fun. It also looks pretty good, so they’re taking good advantage of the PS4’s graphics capabilities. There were a few bugs that I ran into, but none game-breaking, and I can’t link my Arc account for some reason (perhaps because I have a lifetime subscription on the PC version), but the game was entirely playable. If I didn’t have so many hours invested (is that the right word for a game?) in the PC version, I’d play it more in a heartbeat.

The control scheme is the biggest change from the PC version. In space, it uses the gamepad sticks very intuitively for ship control and camera control. Since the gamepad only has a few buttons, we only get a few powers that we can use, but the L1 button (left bumper for you Xbox folks) can be held down to bring up a radial menu of powers, it tends to work out. R2 (right trigger) fires phasers, while R1 fires torpedoes if they’re bearing on your target. Switching energy profiles is easy with the D-Pad, as is speed control. The ground controls are similar, but it uses “shooter” mode rather than RPG mode (options in the PC version). L2 is Aim Down Sight. Overall the control scheme is simple and works well.

I’ve been using a gamepad with STO on PC from the beginning, and I have lots of powers mapped by using triggers and bumpers as modifiers for the ABXY buttons on my Xbox 360 controller. On the PC version we’d be at a severe disadvantage if we could only access a few powers, so we’ll have to see how the console version compensates for that.

The early missions are a bit of a mash-up of the original Borg invasion missions from the early days and the more current Star Fleet Academy stuff, but fairly well done and a nice introduction to the controls and to the game. Loot drops are auto-looted if you get close, which is a nice improvement. I’ve never spent much time in shooter mode on ground missions on the PC, but I see that works pretty well on the PS4.

It looks like the Temporal Agent start isn’t available on the PS4 version, which is a bit of a shame, given the tie in with the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, but perhaps it will come later.

I did pick up the free (yesterday) 23rd century costume pack as well as a nifty Andorian Escort ship that was also free. That ship rocks – it’s almost unfair how quickly it stomps enemy ships to the curb. I don’t know if it was a mistake or not, but I’m happy I got it.

My biggest disappointment is that I can’t link my Arc account to the PS4 version. I get to the Link Accounts screen, press the button, then the screen just reloads each time I press it. I’d sure like to be able to link my lifetime account and thousands of Zen to the PS4 version. I don’t actually want to play my PC characters on the PS4, but I’d sure like the unlocks I’ve earned over the years. If I can’t do that, my play time with the PS4 version may be at an end or at least very minimal, since my best experience with STO is going to be on the PC.

If you’re an existing STO player, there probably isn’t a compelling reason to play on the console version, but the console version is probably much better for people that are new to Star Trek Online.

No Man’s Sky is tedious, annoying, boring, yet strangely compelling

Yes, annoying, tedious, and boring describe No Man’s Sky (NMS) pretty well. You’ll note that the word “fun” isn’t there, but there is joy to be had in the game. NMS is an inventory management and resource gathering game. Sure, the setting is a procedurally-generated galaxy with tons of worlds that nobody else (players, that is) has ever seen. But really it is about getting a space ship with more inventory slots. And getting a multitool (magic mining laser/gun) with more inventory slots. And upgrading your exosuit so it has more inventory slots. Sure, there’s exploring new worlds that are very much like all the other worlds, and meeting aliens, one at a time. Occasionally we can shoot space pirates too (or be killed by them). But overall, it’s all about managing inventory well enough to build the things you need to fix the new space ship you found that has one more inventory slot than the last one.

Even though the worlds are all different, they are largely the same, in that the mineral deposits look the same on all the worlds, and since that’s all that is important, that’s the defining characteristic. Sure, the animals are different, and the weather can be very different, but in your exosuit, who cares. On the other hand, some of the views are spectacular, and it is fun to be the first player to explore a place, including naming things.

The biggest problem I see with NMS is scale. The galaxy is huge, as are the planets, yet I’ve got a space ship that is reasonably expensive to launch and tedious to land. Much of the exploration therefore is done on foot, which is tedious and not much fun. There is a galactic map, but no ground maps where you can mark a favorite trading post or a rich mineral area. So, in short, it’s a big universe, and you can visit a lot of it, but once you get there, you can’t cover much ground. I think something like an in-atmosphere flyer that you can call and get picked up nearly anywhere and jump off quickly would be perfect. Something like the ability to get vehicles in the latest Saints Row games would work. I think the NMS universe is great and I’d like to be able to explore more of it. I’m already on my 3rd star system, and I really regret leaving the first two so quickly. I may even go back to check them out again (if I can find my way back on the map).

So at the moment, the challenge and interest slightly exceed the tedium, so I’ll keep playing No Man’s Sky for a while more, at least.

It’s easy to lose yourself in the world of Pokémon Go

Last week, I installed Pokémon Go as a bit of a science experiment. I wanted to understand why so many people have their faces glued to their screens even more than usual, falling of cliffs and the like. My wife also wanted to know if there was a lot of Pokémon activity near our house, so, of course, I volunteered to study the issue. (It turns out there are a couple of Pokestops near our house, which could account for some of the activity.)

When I installed it, I picked up the initial Pokémon that appeared in front of me, then didn’t do much with it until Saturday night. We were on our way back from a family gathering, and my wife was driving, so I pulled out the phone and looked for Pokémon (is that the plural of Pokémon?).

While we were on the freeway, I didn’t see a single Pokémon. I saw evidence that they were in the surrounding neighborhoods, but none appeared to me, which is good, because we don’t need more distracted drivers. Once we got off the freeway, however, things changed. I live in a touristy town, so along the main drag, there were several Pokestops per block, many of which were accessible as we were driving, so I collected many, many Pokeballs. This is good, because I’m pretty bad at flicking the Pokeballs to capture a Pokémon, so I need a lot. In addition, many Pokémon showed up for me to capture, some of them repeats, but still, it was very easy to capture a bunch. I can’t tell you how many I have right now, because the servers seem to be down, as usual, but I jumped from Level 1 to Level 4 pretty quickly.

The reason I say it is easy to lose yourself in the game in the title of this article is that the 20 or 30 minutes it took me to catch my Pokémon went by in a flash. I completely lost track of time, I was so busy accessing Pokestops and capturing Pokémon. I’ll even say it was fun. But it really takes you out of the moment and requires lots of concentration, so I understand why people fall of cliffs or walk into walls. For a casual game, it is surprisingly intense.