Destinys-Seven

In a previous post I expressed some frustration with a few points against Destiny. From that I boiled it down to it’s seven worst offenses that I wished would be addressed. This was written back in May heading into it’s second expansion, House of Wolves. Now we’re knocking on the door of it’s third expansion dubbed The Taken King. I couldn’t think of a better time to check the score card on how Bungie has fared with tackling some of these issues within Destiny. Let’s dive in and see how things have or haven’t improved over the past five months.

1) Story (Fixed)

The launch of Destiny was surrounded with controversy regarding the game being heavily modified from what it was when it was first revealed. Stories swirled about marketing dictating the Traveler serve as an icon of the series as Halo’s rings did, and that the writer’s original plan of making it the villain of the story was squashed. The departure of key people played into that story quite well. So what was shipped was a Frankenstein’s monster style assembly of what was finished, then further butchering the content so they could have a constant flow of DLC expansions mapped out. We’ll never know the truth of that. All we do know is a lot of people were unhappy with the disjointed and seemingly unfinished end product they got on launch day. It was underwhelming given both the history of Bungie’s work and the expectations created by the hype train. Without being able to retcon the original game entirely they seemed to have made due by improving the quality of the story with each expansion. If they could manage to string in some of the established grimoire lore during play or even at loading screens it could go a long way to remedying the questions of who and why that bubble up during the game. Item descriptions drop proper nouns like they’re going out of style. Who are Osiris, Toland, or Saint-14? What are the Battle of Six Fronts, Twilight Gap, or The Vault of Glass? There’s so much story that can be pieced together that is written. Unfortunately Bungie doesn’t help the players realize this since the grimoire cards and their supplemental texts can’t even be accessed in the game itself. Throw the players a bone here, ya know?

I’ve always envisioned Destiny’s base game as a Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, meant to serve as the backdrop for greater tales. With most D&D campaign books you get an intro module at the back of the book to help players get comfortable with the world. The expansions of The Dark Below and House of Wolves acted as new modules for your characters to run through. The dungeon crawler aspect of the game just solidifies this comparison. For those who aren’t big on tabletop games, imagine it bit like each episode being self-contained story versus a giant serialized epic. Sure enough TDB got the ball rolling with a far more concise and rewarding story. The missions carried a central storyline and villain through out, which lead into the strike. This naturally lead into the final assault on Crota with the raid, completing the self-contained story within the expansion. HoW, the second expansion, stayed true to this path with creating a new story that connected to the world of Destiny through a post-campaign adventure that again was self-contained. In this remote location of the world an event happened, a villain was established, allies were gained, and the content (mostly) felt like a natural progression of the story. The placement of Trials of Osiris and Prison of Elders were nice additions but didn’t necessarily feel like they were connected to the overall narrative told with Skolas in HoW’s story.

With talk of a restructured original story for the base game, a new recording and dialog for Ghost’s lines, and the new story of The Taken King referencing the events from the first expansion makes it seem like Bungie is starting to really focus on telling a cohesive tale of our Guardians tromping about space. I’d say this issue has been fixed as much as it can be and hopefully should be a non-issue for players who are picking up the game fresh this year.

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Earlier in the year PSN ran a sale focusing on Japanese developed games. At the time I was looking for a break from Destiny and the seriousness of western style games in general so I figured this was the perfect gateway out. I ended up blind purchasing Hatsune Miku: Project Diva 2nd fSword Art Online Re: Hollow Fragmentand Tales of Hearts R. Surprisingly the most cohesive title of the bunch ended up being Tales. Previously I never thought of myself as much of a Tales fan. I played Tales of Symphonia on GameCube back when it released over a decade ago, but hadn’t touched another (of the many) Tales games until 2012 with Vesperia. It made me realize that Symphonia wasn’t a fluke in their catalog and the series might be worth a closer look. Eventually that’d lead me to the rerelease of Tales of the Abyss on 3DS, and most recently to Hearts R. All well built JRPGs that stay the path instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. Honestly, I’m completely comfortable with that. Either way, let’s focus on the title at hand.
Tales of Hearts R Book

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CrateMany things are considered gamer culture at this point. LAN parties, Twitch streams, and PAX are all evidence that there’s something more to games than just a way to kill time. There’s a common language, repeated themes, and icons (both characters and symbols for that matter). It’s not new ground to tread to say the explosive barrel or crashing crates is right in there, but I haven’t been able to pull up anyone trying to figure out why that is. Whether it’s crates, barrels, vases, or pots – We’ve all played at least a few games where destructible objects has had us smashing every object we see. I really want to know why it just feels so damn rewarding to do so.

Mechanically there are some obvious reasons like the potential secrets hidden within or behind the crate. I get that as a gameplay advantage. This falls flat as an answer for me though because even when you reach the final dungeon of a game you keep doing it. Every crate gets broken to collect another potion that you’re sitting on 300 of already? That hardly seems like a just reason to break 17 crates to find one inconsequential bit of gold. It’s a behavior driven activity in that case. Why do we desire to break the crates? Behaviorally it could possibly be an aggression release or some form of compulsion. I wouldn’t say that’s wrong, but it does feel incomplete as an answer. This leaves me wanting to know the relationship between the action and the pleasure it brings to the player.

It’s intriguing to me because eventually this becomes second nature when you play. Entering a room and your first instinct is to remove all the crates by any means necessary. The mechanical gain of rupees or hearts ends up being a supplemental gain compared to the joy of the action itself. The zen of box breaking. Only once the room rests barren do you consider advancing. There’s something to be said about that.

Ocarina of Time - Pots Room

So many pots, so little time.

My first guess is creating belief in it all. Being able to interact with the world draws you in. It grounds you there because you have influence on the world state. Another point of contact as you connect to Hyrule by smashing every pot in the house. Is it because it’s an activity that you could actually be doing yourself in the real world? In the realm of fantastical beasts, literal wars of good versus evil, destined heroes, and eating to regain health – Is it the simple things like throwing a vase that let you slip into the world? This reinforces your existence here in your escaped world.

Extending on that thought, you don’t exist in a world you can’t touch. I don’t think many people like dragging a box 30 feet to where you know it needs to be, but imagine if that wasn’t in there. If you could just move the environment or reshape it without traction. Squeezing a 6’x6′ box into your inventory and jauntily unloading it hardly has the same feel. Even worse is how odd a game with distinct objects that are just part of the environment. A crate that can’t be moved at all. Clearly your hero has flung enemies to the wayside by the dozens, but a moving box won’t budge regardless of how much thrusting, kicking, or rolling into you try. Interacting with the world is essential to being there. Remember that moment at E3 2013 when in Battlefield 4? You know the one. The players fight their way up a tower on a multiplayer map. Then once they reach the top of the peak, they jump out the window and from the distance watch the same structure they were just in dynamically collapse. Finality of events like this, the permanent alteration to the world makes it feel alive.

Allowing you the player to destroy the world one crate at a time seem potentially tied into the idea of permanent alteration. Maybe it’s just therapeutic to create a clean space? Much like Tetris and having a blank stage is just freeing. Compulsion forces you to have a clean level. Perhaps it’s the lottery prize effect? One of these three hundred crates must have some hidden treasure in it! I honestly have no idea why it’s so essential to a good dungeon crawl. I just know without being able to break crates, a game feels empty to me.

 

 

Welcome to my Friday Five, where every week I put together a list of five awesome items from various topics.

This week’s list? Health recovery!

On Tuesday I’ll have a minor surgery and expect to feel like a truck hit me when I’m done. With that in mind I thought it’d be a good idea to get ahead and write my Friday Five before then. That means I’m writing this on Monday before the big day. I’ll likely be on the mend (or dead, hopefully the former) so it got me wondering about how awesome it’d be to heal up the way some of my favorite games do. How great would that be? Aside from dealing with health insurance, medical bills, trepidation of procedures, hospital stays… You still have to endure surviving on painkillers with a slow non-Wolverine like recovery. So while I’m surviving off of Tylenol 3’s and jello cups, I’ll be dreaming about how wonderful it would have been to get my health on with any of these alternatives.

5) Sucking on flames and neon, Infamous: Second Son

All the powers you can acquire in the game are amazing. Flying, speed running, turning into smoke fumes, firing lasers. The power usage being tied to your health, and your health being tied to the environment makes for a constant cycle of fun. My usual play style for most games is ignore any defensive skills or buttons and aggressively assault everything. This means I’m normally a physical attack or tank. There’s a lot of projectile play in Infamous but they give you enough support when you’re in the mix to not just fall over dead. To ensure that quick fix? Absorbing the elements around you. My favorite of which is stripping all the live neon from signage for health regen. As a bonus, the visual effect reminds me of Dumbledore’s Deluminator from the Harry Potter series, quickly siphoning the lights into you for a boost of energy.

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Welcome to my Friday Five, where every week I put together a list of five awesome items from various topics.

This week’s list? Feel Good Games!

These are games that just make us smile. Fight all you want but you can’t resist the charm of the characters, the allure of innocence, or the captivation of colors that besiege you. You’ll find no grit, no moral gray zones. They’re ridiculously joyous activities that get even better with company. The kind of games make you feel like maybe things are quite alright in the world, walking away feeling lifted or inspired. Sometimes it’s the visuals, sometimes the themes covered in the narrative. Either way here’s my list of games that at some point just made my day a bit brighter than it started.

5) The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

LoZ: ALBW was a huge shot in the arm for the Zelda franchise. It had been ages since I connected with one due to either art direction or motion controls detracting from the experience for me. Then along comes a sequel to A Link to the Past, my favorite game in the series. In every way possible ALBW followed that up right. An open experience that lets you adventure freely through a familiar setting, clever puzzles, with a richly animated world. Aside from the silky smooth 60fps Nintendo gave us, Hyrule and Lorule provide a colorful and interesting backdrop that you actually want to spend more time in… which I did, a lot. According to the timer I spent 20 hours playing through this and I honestly don’t know where that time went. It was easily the fastest 20 hours I’ve ever spent playing a game. Time just melted away, and to this day it holds rank on my 3DS as the game with the longest average play time. I can’t recommend this game enough to anyone with access to a 3DS craving a good adventure.

Highlights: All the cool special weapons and instantly having access to them all. Shoot fire, create pillars of sand, hookshot to your heart’s content. This approach greatly varied up how you could tackle the game’s dungeons and made everywhere you explored rewarding. You never hit a barrier that you had to wait until the game said it was okay to go there. There’s so much to appreciate in running around as an old fashioned hero saving the day with no silly morality systems to manage. Link just travels the lands and rights the wrongs he encounters, helping everyone and anyone in need. Continue reading

Been playing a lot of Rocket League this past week online. I’ve noticed a lot of my teammates mean well but lack tact when playing. I decided to write up some advice in hopes of reaching as many people as possible. A beginner’s guide of sorts. It might mean the people I compete against get better, but it’s far more frustrating for me when my teammates score an own goal or cluster on the ball. All my time with Rocket League was spent on PS4. I don’t think there is much difference between the PC and PS4 version but I thought I should clarify. Anyways, here’s a bunch of tips to help improve your team play and hopefully your enjoyment of this fantastic game. I’ll break it down into General Knowledge, Strategic Thinking, Offensive Play, and Defensive Play.

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