Enjoying Destiny 2

I’ve been playing Destiny 2 exclusively since it came out, which means Diablo III, Elder Scrolls Online, No Man’s Sky, LOTRO, Star Trek Online, etc. have been gathering dust (digitally speaking). I miss them all, but the compulsion to level up in Destiny 2 is an addiction that takes precedence. I imported my Destiny characters into Destiny 2, but I sort of miss that I didn’t create new ones. Besides, my Warlock is pretty pale in Destiny 2 – I don’t remember him being quite so pasty before.

I enjoyed the story of Destiny 2 more than that of the original Destiny. While this story didn’t seem as long, not as diverse in terms of discovery and exploration, it was more epic (there was a specific villain, not some unseen “Darkness”), and the conclusion was more definitive.

Though the story seemed short, the amount of stuff to do seems great. Each planet has many quests (now called Adventures), in addition to the usual patrols and public events. There are new challenges and other things to keep us busy.

Levelling up to level 20 is easy, but getting to a reasonable light level is harder. I know plenty of people who are in the 280s, which I’m 253 with my Titan at the moment. My Hunter and Warlock are still early in the story, so they’ve got a long way to go.

There seems to be a great controversy about the changes to Shaders, which change the color/appearance of our armor. It is now a consumable and must be applied to each piece of gear, rather than the old approach of applying to all the gear at once. It is also purchasable for real money, and we know we don’t like paying for stuff like that. At first, I would have been concerned, except I’m not much into fashion, but as I levelled and opened loot chests and such, I now have more Shaders than I know what to do with. I’ve yet to apply one, since I don’t think any of my gear is final, but sometime I may experiment.

The never-ending grind for better stats is not new, but it is very intense in Destiny 2. I hope I can sometime turn it off to play other games again, but we’ll see. I’ve been getting crashes (well, lock-ups) on my PS4 Pro in Destiny 2. It’s apparently a known and common problem, though not universal, so I hope they fix it soon. It is frustrating to crash at the end of a Public Event and not be able to loot the chest. Crashing in a mission is worse, however, but that’s only happened once or twice.

Overall, it seems like Bungie learned a lot from Destiny and has made Destiny 2 a very good game.

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.

Disaster in Destiny

For the first time in weeks, I played Destiny last night, and I made a huge mistake. My Warlock had a bunch of the SRL helmets that I’d won during the excellent Sparrow Racing League matches in the mailbox, since I don’t have a ton of vault space. Now these were nice helmets, ranging from about 310 to 318 light, so I could use them to infuse into my combat helmets to raise their light level. Alas, I didn’t have enough armor materials to do that, so I left them in the mailbox as storage. (Anyone who plays Destiny sees where this is going.)

A friend and I did three Heroic Strikes, which resulted in a bunch of lousy blue engrams (mostly arm armor – why does Destiny think I need more of that?). These crappy blue engrams pushed the valuable high light level SRL helmets into /dev/null. All I have left are 2 helmets with light 212 and 213. Oh NO! I was pretty bummed… Oh well, easy come, easy go. Now back to Fallout 4.

Hits and Misses in Destiny’s House of Wolves Expansion

I played WAY too much Destiny over the last week because of the new House of Wolves expansion. In some ways, HoW has revitalized the game. In other ways, it has made it more depressing. First the good:

While HoW doesn’t have a raid, it adds new (and quite fun) story missions, though now that I’ve done them with all three characters, I can’t imagine actually wanting to complete them again. On the other hand, they were all better than the ones from Destiny’s first expansion, which Bungie tried to get us to repeat every day via the daily mission rewards.

HoW also adds a new strike, which is pretty good and quite difficult, particularly as the Nightfall strike (where everything is much tougher and if the entire fireteam wipes, it dumps us back to orbit). Notice I said “us” in that last sentence – my fireteam wiped several times, including once at the end when the boss had just a sliver of health left. Darn…

HoW has two new types of cooperative game play: Prison of Elders and Trials of Osiris. PoE pits a 3-person fireteam against waves of ever-harder enemies, but can give nifty loot if you survive. ToO is PvP and I haven’t tried it, so I can’t comment on it other than saying it sounds hard and very unforgiving.

I have done PoE a few times, and it is a mixed bag. There is matchmaking at level 28, so you can always find people to play with. On the other hand, they are all better than me. I came in with the lowest number of kills in all the rounds that I played, sometimes by a lot. This is depressing, since I felt that I was always contributing and making kills, reviving others, etc., but when all it shows is that kills stat, then it looks like I’m being carried. Maybe I am, but it doesn’t feel that way at the time, so I’m pretty annoyed about this.

The other issue with PoE is that you need a key to get the good loot. We all got a key for finishing the story missions, but the rest must be “farmed” by killing “wolves” bands out in the wild on Earth, Moon, and Venus and looting the chests after they are defeated (often speeding away to re-loot the chest if there’s time). So I’ve looted a lot of chests and have yet to get a key. Some of my PSN peeps have managed to get several, and there are always groups in the Skywatch on Earth waiting for the wolves to spawn. It’s almost back to the bad old days of the loot cave – unless you waste a lot of time farming, you don’t get the good loot.

Which brings me to the bad stuff (in my opinion). All our gear got invalidated by the new expansion, but not as badly as with the first expansion. Now we can upgrade our stuff to the current levels if we have certain very rare components. I’ve already upgraded several of my exotic weapons and armor, so one of my characters can be level 33 (max is 34) and all of them have one or two fully leveled guns.

So what does all this mean? Well, to paraphrase Yahtzee Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame, it’s all about the numbers. We need to play harder missions to get better gear so we can play harder missions and get better gear. This was Yahtzee’s complaint about World of Warcraft, but is true about most MMOs, and particularly Destiny now. The materials needed to upgrade gear is almost impossible to get unless you play the highest level cooperative Prison of Elders missions, so those of us that aren’t very good or aren’t part of the “in crowd” will be left farther and farther behind.

Speaking of which – the raids needed fireteams of 6, so it was fairly often that you’d run into someone trying to put together a raid run, so even I could run the raids reasonably often. PoE will be a different story, since it is only 3 people. And the missions are hard enough that it won’t be easy to carry an under-levelled or under-skilled player. So I think PoE may actually lead to more frustration and disappointment.

I haven’t mentioned Bungie’s new emphasis on PvP with better daily rewards as well as the new weekly bounty system, but these seem to be improvements. But overall, while I like the gameplay improvements in HoW, I am disappointed in many other parts of it, including the race to get better gear for the sake of getting better gear. Since I just bought Bloodborne, we’ll see how much hold Destiny retains over me.

Please save us from violent video games!

As a followup on my earlier tweet regarding violent video games, I offer this post.

For those that didn’t read the tweet, I relate how important it is that the President and the Government protect us from violent video games. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been blasted through a plate glass window by some careless person shouting Fus Ro Dah!

And here in California, you can barely walk down the street without having to avoid crossfire when some wizard is shooting fireballs at some demons who thought it would be fun to eat at In-N-Out.

For those who are humor impaired, my point is that there are lots of violent video games that do not involve guns, yet they don’t inspire the same vitriol from government and media weenies as Call of Duty and, before that, Doom. I haven’t played too many Call of Duty games, but I did play Doom, Doom 2, and Doom3, and I have yet to don my Space Marine gear and feel the need to massacre demons from another dimension. In fact, I can tell the difference between fantasy and reality, and hardly ever fly starships or fight dragons in real life.

So I submit that the problem isn’t the video games, per se, but rather the lack of parental supervision or other monitoring to make sure kids understand that games are not real. But the government should keep its hands off our gamepads, Move controllers, Wii-motes, and so on. Virtual guns, phasers, longswords, dragon shouts, or fireball spells don’t kill actual people, so let’s keep some perspective when looking at video games.

Added a Facebook page

I recently added a Facebook page for TallGuyCalif. You can find it at:


If you’re one of my kin on LOTRO or otherwise enjoy the site, “like” the page and comment there.

Final Fantasy I & II for iPhone on Sale

I notice that Final Fantasy I and II for iPhone are on sale in the App Store for $4 each. I enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII on the PS3 and Crisis Core on the PSP, but these games look too retro even for me. I am sure they provide many hours of gameplay, but I tend not to spend hours playing iPhone games. Travelers could enjoy such long diversion on trans-oceanic flights.

I haven’t made up my mind if I should splurge and just buy one (probably FF II) just so I can try it out. They’re on sale for the week, apparently…

Video Game Voters Network

If you want to stand up for games and our right to play them, check out the Video Game Voters Network at http://videogamevoters.org/

Of course, it’s sponsored to some extent by the Entertainment Software Association, whose members stand to lose a lot of money if video games become strongly regulated, but this is a case of lobbying I can get behind!

Check out Yahtzee’s Zero Punctuation PSA about it. (Sadly enough, Zero Punctuation isn’t available for the iPad yet.)

Steam problems

I take back some of the good things I said about Steam previously. I bought the Company of Heroes pack a few days ago when it was on sale for $12.50, but didn’t install it until yesterday. I had Steam download it during the day, then I tried to run it last night. It wouldn’t run and didn’t even give an error message. When I ventured into the Steam directory to find the installation and clicked on the game EXE file, even that didn’t do anything.

Today, the results were the same, so I had Steam verify the integrity of the cache, only to discover that 20 files were corrupt! How does this sort of thing happen? There’s no evidence that my machine has bad hardware or is likely to corrupt anything, yet there were corrupted Steam cache files. Very concerning.

Steam is now re-fetching those 20 files and I will try to see if the game starts then. Not that I have time to play it any time soon.

Update: I’m pleased to report that after the 20 files were re-downloaded plus 1 for CoH:Opposing Fronts, both CoH and CoH:Opposing Fronts check out fine, and CoH starts, though I won’t be checking out the game play right away.

Steam vs. Impulse

I am a user of both Steam (http://store.steampowered.com) and Impulse (http://www.impulsedriven.com), so I thought I would compare and contrast them. It is nice that we have some competition and choice among digital game distribution for the PC, as opposed to the consoles, where the manufacturer has a lock on the services.

Steam, from tremendous game maker Valve, has got a tremendous selection of games, particularly very popular, mainstream titles. Impulse, from user interface wizards and game publisher Stardock, doesn’t have nearly as large a catalog, but does sell a number of big-name titles and, because it is the underdog, it tries a little harder. I have purchased a number of games from each and have had only good luck with both.

Steam has particularly annoying copy protection, which in normal mode launches Steam and signs you in over the network every time you want to run a Steam game. This is not a terrible burden, but it is a delay and could be problematic if your network connection is lousy. Apparently there is some sort of offline mode, but I haven’t tried it, so I can’t comment on it. Steam also installs your games inside its folder, which is bad if you’re looking to see if the game included a PDF manual or you are adding 3rd party mods (Oblivion, anyone?).

Impulse, on the other hand, verifies that you are legit when it installs the game, then never seems to bother you again. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t check in over the network or anything else. Impulse puts the game in the usual place (Program Files or wherever you install games). So for ease of use, Impulse is two steps ahead of Steam.

Both system give you several tremendous advantages over buying games on physical media. First, you can install the game easily if you get a new machine or on your laptop for travel and you don’t need the DVD in the drive (which is a practice that should be banned). I hear that some games have an installation limit, but it is normally pretty generous, like 5. Now that doesn’t mean you can (or should, at least) play the same game simultaneously on more than one computer, and I presume Steam would prevent that, but I imagine Impulse wouldn’t prevent it (though the game itself might). With both of these approaches, you don’t have to worry about losing or damaging your media, but you do need to remember your password and must worry about the company’s financial solvency. In addition, you don’t get a printed manual with the games, but that’s becoming the norm anyway, and much to our loss.

The biggest problem with both of these digital distribution systems is that they tend to charge full price for the games, while stores like Amazon and Walmart often discount games, even shortly after release. For a long time, you could be assured of paying MSRP at both Steam and Impulse, but that has become much better in the last year or two. Because of competition, both have sales every week, and sometimes, they are tremendous sales, like when I got Oblivion GOTY Deluxe for less than $8. The other great thing these companies do is put together game packs, like the whole id or THQ or Eid0s catalog, and sell it for a huge discount. Even if you only play a couple of the games, it is worth the price.

So both Steam and Impulse have pluses and minuses. I would say that if a game were the same price on both stores, I’d buy the Impulse one because of the constant checking in with Steam, but both are worthy sources of games. If you only have a Steam account, give Impulse a try, and vice versa.