Destiny, I fucking love you!

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I can’t think of another game that has polarized opinion as much as Destiny. When I hear complaints about the game, I usually react by nodding my head in agreement, before returning to work on adding to the 350+ hours I’ve already sunk into it. I’ve even concluded that had I’d been reviewing the game, I probably would have given it a seven too. Despite all that, I love Destiny. Regardless of its many flaws, Destiny is quickly becoming my most played console game, ever. With that in mind, (and before I write about the things I don’t like) I thought I’d go through the things I love the most about Destiny.

Destiny_20141119212713 Hand Cannons. Oh my god, Hand Cannons! I love these bad boys so much, I very nearly made two of these things Hawkmoon and Thorn. Once in a while, I come across a weapon in a game that has the magical X factor, and I fall in love with it. In Halo 3 it was the Spartan Laser. In Gears of War it was the Longshot Rifle. But In Destiny it’s a whole damn class of them. Nothing else feels as good as headshotting enemies with a Hand Cannon – not even killing a Hunter in PvP just after they’ve popped their Bladedancer special. Hand Cannons are so much fun to use, if I had an actual physical version, I would do dirty, dirty things to it.

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Raids. When I first started playing Destiny, all the talk from those further along than I was about the Vault of Glass, and just how good it was. After a frustrating few weeks of no raiding, I eventually lucked in to a group of friends tackling the Vault, and found out for myself what the fuss was all about. Without a doubt, the Vault of Glass is some of the best designed, and most enjoyable video game content I’ve ever played. I could go into more detail, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. What I will say is that in my opinion, the Vault is the perfect example of how you create co-op gaming where every player has a meaningful role.

Destiny_20141124221420 The Iron Banner. Version One of the Iron Banner was not good. All that weaponry and armour we’d been carefully gathering and levelling was more or less meaningless in IB v1, and players were not happy. Bungie went away, reworked the mode, and sent Lord Saladin back to the tower. The first few minutes into my first game, I headshotted another player on the other side of the map with Bad Seed Down, and instantly I was converted. Power finally fucking mattered. Oh boy, did it matter. Since then I’ve taken part in every Iron Banner, and learnt the joy of headshots with a fully levelled Hawkmoon. After a shaky start with destiny’s PvP, I can honestly say that Iron Banner is one of my very favourite parts of Destiny.

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Warlocks. Apart from having an exceptionally cool sounding name, Warlocks are also blessed with having some of the best looking armour in the game. The Iron Banner set for example is simply beautiful. And if there’s anything better than swishing around in robes, firing off Nova Bombs – I’ve yet to find it. I do have a Hunter and Titan, and I’ve found them quite fun to play, but they don’t have the same sort of swagger the Warlock does. Flying electrical fists and golden guns are all well and good, but let’s be honest, they’re not the same as tooling around in a cool outfit, wielding Hawkmoon, and fucking shit up with purple balls.

 

Destiny: Crota’s Cheesy End

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Sorry about the title, I couldn’t help myself.

Cheese. Bungie does not like it apparently. Not if the content of their latest update is to be believed, anyway. If you’ve been following Destiny’s progress, you’ll probably know that the new Raid – Crota’s End, has been suffering from a particularly cheesy odour since it’s introduction as part of the Dark Below expansion. Tales of Guardians using various cheesy methods to run through the raid easily, hoovering up loot, were becoming commonplace, and it was only a matter of time before Bungie stepped in.

Not cheesing this time round.

Not cheesing this time round.

Now that they’ve at least begun that process, I thought I’d talk why I’m glad they’re trying to de-cheese the Raid. Firstly, I’d like to say that I’m not against cheesing per-se. As someone who’s crimes include hiding beneath the stairs in the Cerberus Vae Strike, I’d be a massive hypocrite for a start. But mainly it’s because the whole thing is a massive grey area. Where does cheesing end and exploiting a game bug begin, for example? If its possible (although highly unlikely) to be killed whilst hiding in a “cheese spot”, is that cheesing? There’s no right or wrong answer in my opinion.

So why don’t I like it in the Raid? I’ll explain. Destiny is a strange game when it comes to challenge. Unlike similar games within the genre, its possible to replay the entirety of Destiny’s story mode content whilst being hugely over-levelled. The gear and weapon levelling mechanics eventually render the game’s “normal” difficulty curve meaningless, and beyond the odd Heroic stipulation on various Bounties, the game never really insists you turn the difficulty up. The vast majority of Destiny’s PvE content therefore, relies upon the player choosing to be challenged to remain meaningful, and that’s why I have a problem with Raid cheese.

Definitely cheesed this one

Definitely cheesed this one

Players solo-cheesing their way through Crota’s End are rendering the most meaningful content in the game meaningless. They’re rendering the achievement of earning Raid gear meaningless. And in a game that relies upon the player to keep content relevant, I don’t understand why you’d do that. What is the end game anyway? You cheese your way to a full set of Raid gear, and then do the Raid as intended? That doesn’t make any sort of sense. Destiny is all about the gear you’re wearing, and the guns you’re wielding, and I personally don’t know how you can take any pride in that when you’ve cheesed your way there.

As I’ve said, cheesing is a ridiculously grey area, and something I myself have partaken in, so I don’t want you to go away thinking I’m making a judgement here, because that’s not my intention. This is an expression of bewilderment at the specific issue of soloing Crota’s End to short-cut your way to Raid gear and weapons. So by all means, feel free to ask me why I’m not also questioning whole Raid groups cheesing bits of the Vault of Glass, or to tell me I’m taking a bunch of pixels way too seriously. I won’t mind. Yes, its ridiculous the Raid can be solo-cheesed. Yes, Bungie should fix it PDQ. But also yes, I think the players have a responsibility to resist the cheese, no matter how fragrant.

 

Everything stops for Destiny.

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As per usual, a long period away from my blog usually means I’ve gotten my head buried in a new game, and so it has been this time around. The release of Destiny in the early part of September has seen my tenuous grasp upon the idea that doing something productive with my day is probably “a good idea” finally desert me, and all I have left is the bewildered mental haze I now find myself in. Thankfully, just as I was about to decide that playing Destiny at 7 AM whilst my children were getting ready for school was something I could totally do, I realised the danger I was in and pulled back. Currently I’m using the fact that bounties don’t refresh till 10 AM to stay off the game until a reasonable time, and over time, I will kick this habit.

But I didn’t want this post to be exclusively about Destiny, so I’ll move on to the tiny bits of my life that haven’t been consumed by Bungie’s latest game. A few months ago, I stopped writing for The Game Jar. The seed for doing so was planted during E3, during which time I paid absolutely no attention to what was going on there. Man oh man, did it feel good. For that short period I wasn’t thinking about games. I wasn’t pouring over coverage hoping to find inspiration for my writing. I even started to wonder whether I gave a shit about gaming culture at all. When I did eventually get back to paying attention to gaming, I did so knowing my heart wasn’t really in it.

Part of that was because of the pressure I felt under to produce content for the site. Admittedly it was pressure that I stupidly placed upon myself, but it was still there, and just I couldn’t find a way to stop worrying about it, no matter how hard I tried. Then, when it looked like the site was going to go through some big changes, I asked myself whether I still enjoyed writing about games, and the answer was a pretty convincing no. I’ve never been one to do things hard-heartedly, and once I’d combined that with doubts about whether anything I’d written was at all interesting, to anyone, my decision was made. I felt like I didn’t have anything interesting to say.

But I’d be lying if I said it was all about my own confidence in my work, other hobbies were calling out to me. You may have noticed that over time the content on this blog has shifted, and that’s because it reflects how I’m spending my time now. Modelling – a pastime I’ve indulged in for a very long time – has returned to me, and I now find that I want to spend the majority of my days painting toy soldiers! I do miss writing about games from times to time, and I certainly miss being part of the Game Jar crew, but I’m reluctant to swap my paintbrush for a keyboard. Hopefully, when I feel like I have something to say again, I’ll figure out how to spend time on both things happily.

So that’s where I am today. Stuck between my desire to play Destiny, and paint little plastic men. With my bingeing period over, things on my blog should get back to some sort on normality. Already I have updates to projects piling up, awaiting  photographs and other such finishing touches. Over the next few weeks I’ll get caught up, and we can all pretend this whole sordid affair with a certain game never happened. Until then, thank you for reading, and please keep visiting my tiny little corner of the internet. I’ll get lonely if you don’t :-p

 

 

Three is the magic number (sometimes).

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Originally published on The Game Jar October 12th 2012

Number three. In Half Life terms, three is a never-ending wait for a game that can never live up to the hype. In Fable terms, it’s a terrible second half of the game, which then drags the good bits down with it. But does it always have to a bad thing? Making a third game in the trilogy means two games worth of practice previously, right? Some developers do get it right though, so here’s my take on three games that perfected the formula the third time around.

Halo 3 Not only is Halo 3 the best Halo game ever made in my opinion, it’s one of the best games ever made. It’s nigh on perfect. It’s why I hold out no hope for Halo 4. It’s why my love for Reach was always a little white lie. With Halo 3, Bungie had perfected their craft. Whenever I look back at any of the Halo games, it always seems to me that Halo 3 was the last Halo that Bungie enjoyed making. Although Reach was a good game, it never felt like it had the developers heart and soul poured into it, Halo 3 was the conclusion of a story they’d been telling for some time, and their desire to do it right shone through. Even though some criticised the graphics, I thought it looked beautiful. The jungles were lush and vibrant, the deserts were dry and arid. With two other game’s worth of weapon balancing to fall back on, Halo 3’s combat was as tight as a drum. The guns felt great, vehicle combat was awesome, and they even gave us a new toy; the Spartan Laser. I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved that gun, so I’ll stick to telling you that it’s in my top five of greatest ever video game weapons. As good as the campaign was however, Halo 3 had a bigger reputation to live up to; multi-player. The original Halo’s LAN multi-player is regarded as a seminal moment for the FPS by many gamers, and Halo 2 was just as loved as the first, and as a result the third game had huge on-line shoes to fill. To my mind, it succeeded. Still to this day, objective based games on the Vahalla and Sandtrap maps are some of my greatest gaming memories, nothing will ever touch playing Rocket Race with friends on either of them. I’m running out of room here, and I feel like I’ve missed loads out. Saved films and screenshots, the huge amount of stat tracking, just two things introduced by Halo 3 and only now being done by other games. I could go on into a whole other article just to do halo 3 justice, but I won’t. Quite simply, Halo 3 is the best Halo game ever made.

Mass Effect 3 Admitting this game is the best of the three is a little painful for me. After I’d finished it first time around, I spent a fair bit of time telling my gaming friends that I didn’t like it very much. Then, after many weekends spent playing the multi-player and another go at the campaign, I had to grudgingly admit that Mass Effect 3 was the best of the trilogy. With the first game, Bioware nailed the compelling storyline bit, but the mechanics were a little unwieldy. With the second game, they polished the controls, but the story was a little basic. With the third game Bioware combined the best of the first with the best of the second to produce a Mass Effect game that was almost perfect. For a long time I let the ending overshadow the rest of the game, and whilst I still don’t like it, I have come to realise just how great the rest of the game is. Thanks to two previous games worth of back-story, ME3 takes the friendships you made along the way and gives them real emotional weight. Losing a character that’s been with you for so long really hurts, putting the others in the way of danger becomes the hardest decision you have to make. And don’t think being a Paragon in the two previous games makes things any easier, either. The “right” choices from the first two games have a lasting effect on the third, and it’s not long before they stop feeling so “right”. It’s hard to think of another game that tracks so many previous choices and successfully weaves them in to a coherent, gripping narrative but Mass Effect 3 does just that. The fact that I and so many others had such a strong emotional reaction to the ending demonstrates one thing, that Bioware has created a galaxy full of characters you genuinely care about on an emotional level, and not many games can say that.

Gears of War 3 Why is Gears 3 the best of the trilogy? Simple, Horde 2.0 is why. Declaring Gears 3 as the best of the three based on one game mode might seem a little crazy, but not in the case of Horde mode. Have a think now, how many reviews did you read post Gears 2 that referenced Horde when describing some other game’s survival-based feature. “What’s Halo ODST’s Firefight mode like? Kinda like Horde, only with Halo…” That was what my friends and I were saying at the time, and it was a similar kind of description for Call of Duty’s zombie mode too. Other games had done co-op survival modes in the past for sure, but none of them had done it with such style. With Gears 3, Epic Games blew the mode out in almost every direction. More weapons, more enemies, more deliciously sadistic executions.., and all playable with four other friends. In my opinion Horde 2.0 is about as perfect as a co-op mode gets. But it doesn’t stop there, for the first time in a Gears of War game you could instajib the COG too, via Beast mode. All of our Locust-loving fantasies were indulged by Beast mode, finally we could blow those filthy humans into meaty chunks by picking the Boomer Locust, we could turn them into a bloody smear on the floor by running them over with the Berserker, we could take them apart in many, many different and violent ways. As you’ve noticed, I’ve gotten this far into the paragraph and I still haven’t mentioned the single player campaign. That’s not because it’s bad (it’s really very good), it’s just that kick-ass multi-player has always been the game’s party piece, and with Gears of War 3 Epic Games has made one of the finest multi-player shooters money can buy.

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