After 30 Hours in Destiny

A list of things I have accomplished…

Reached level 25. I was stuck at 23 with a full set of blues, but I reached Vanguard rank 2 and spent some marks on purple gloves, then got lucky and received a chest piece from a purple engram dropped in the Crucible. If I get purples to replace my helm and shoes, I should hit 26 and be ready (gulp) for the raid.

Earned my first exotic weapon. It’s a machine gun called Super Good Advice. It has low stability so it kind of sprays bullets everywhere. I don’t love it, but it does feel special to have a beast like this in my armory. There’s a rare chance, whenever you turn in a bounty mission, to pick from 3 exotic bounties, which have 3 parts. My first task was to search chests on Mars, and would have built more suspense/anticipation if I haven’t found what I was looking for in the first one I opened. The second stage was to buy an item from the vendor who’s only available on weekends. I started this bounty on Friday, so was able to pass this stage immediately. The last stage was to kill 500 enemies with machine guns, which took a few days and kind of just felt like a grind. At the end of it, I like the concept of exotic bounties, but wish the required tasks were more interesting and had more story to them. Maybe some of the others are more interesting.

Tried farming. Yes, I have visited the cave on Russia a few times, each for no more than 15 minutes. I got a few blue engrams and quickly grew bored. Though a public event can pop there, so that’s kind of nice if you just want to kill a little time.

Enjoyed the Crucible. I’ve never been very good at competitive FPS. My K/D ratio in Modern Warfare 2, the last one I played for any significant length of time, was atrocious. I’ve actually been having fun and performing decently in Destiny, consistently near the top of the leader boards. The Titan’s shoulder charge ability is almost entirely to thank for this.

Made new friends. I’m a solo player in almost everything, even MMOs, but I’ve been having a blast running with other people in Destiny. It probably helps the headset I picked up is super comfortable (Sony Gold). I’ve been playing with one new real life friend, a few randoms I met on reddit, and one of my old college roommates who just picked up a PS4. It’s nice to feel connected.

Overcome challenges. Once you hit some of the high-level missions in Destiny, you run into serious difficulty. Enemies have elemental which require a certain damage type, and you can only have elemental damage on your secondary and heavy weapons. A little coordination with your Fireteam helps here.

Two challenging missions have made a real strong impression so far. First, I ran last week’s heroic strike with two new friends from reddit. It was TOUGH, and the last boss fight saw us talking a lot, coordinating supers and running around reviving each other. The boss is a bullet sponge, sure, but it’s still a fun fight. The adds require you to shift your attention, and you’re never standing still for more than a few minutes.

Last night, I ran one of the new epic missions for the current Queen’s Guard event. It was me at level 25 with my friend and his buddy, both level 21, on a level 24 mission. They basically died in one hit, and this was a mission with a lot of Hobgoblins, which are infuriating Vex snipers. We had a lot of “oh shit” moments, and the boss fight at the end was hectic, exciting, and very satisfying to beat. Plus, guaranteed legendary.

30 hours in, I’m still having a blast with Destiny. I want to level up some of the factions to get new gear, and I’m looking forward to trying out the raid and higher level strikes. I haven’t tried the Hunter or Warlock classes yet. Crucible is still madly entertaining. I have enough strange coins to buy an exotic piece of armor this weekend, so I’m excited to see what the vendor has in stock.

But the current available content won’t last forever. Eventually I’ll get tired of all the strikes in the playlist. But if Bungie can keep up a cycle of interesting events, and the expansions contain enough to keep me busy, I can easily see putting another 100 hours into this game.

Right now, my main concern is that the expansion is going to cover little new territory. I don’t think we’re going to see a new planet, and I have a feeling the new story missions will overlap a lot with areas we’ve already visited. I hope I’m wrong!

Check out my Titan here: http://destinydb.com/guardians/playstation/2305843009214962285-mean_cheez#1. I’ll try to remember to grab screenshots soon, I’m terrible about remembering to take them on PS4.

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A Loop of Destiny

I’ve been playing Destiny on PS4. It’s not perfect. The story is incoherent and bland (though a dig through the grimoire cards on bungie.net reveals considerably more interesting world building). Boss fights could use a chop to their HP, and maybe a more varied pool of tactics. There are more, though few have made enough of an impression to remember. In spite of its flaws, I’m a little in love with the game, and I think it comes down to a supreme satisfaction with its core loop. Let me try to break it down.

I load up my Titan and head to the Tower to check the day’s bounties. Bounties are parallel to missions, tasks like “kill 200 of this enemy type” or “kill 100 enemies with precision kills” or “earn 9000 experience without dying.” You complete bounties during the course of other activities. They are available for PVP matches in the Crucible, along with PVE content. I check a few vendors in the Tower while I’m there, and it’s fun because Destiny’s movement feels good. I see other players in the Tower, running around or dancing at each other, and there is a strong sense of place. I like visiting here.

I check my friends list. Doesn’t look like there’s anyone online. That’s okay. Two of the bounties I picked up want me to complete patrol missions and kill enemies on the Moon, so I head that way. I zip around the Moon, completing patrol missions and killing mobs. I run into a few other players, find chests, and harvest resources I know I’l need soon to upgrade my weapons. Enemies drop six or seven pieces of loot, both regular pieces and unidentified engrams. Loot drops show up as bright, glowing crystals colored by rarity: green, blue (purple & gold I’ve yet to see!). Seeing these drops gives me the same feeling as red box drops in Phantasy Star Online.

After my bounties are done, I head back to orbit. I check the side of the map to see the daily heroic story mission. The daily missions reward extra reputation points and tokens to use for more powerful gear. They’re missions I’ve played before, but at a higher difficulty and with modifiers to add different challenges. Before I start, I check my roster and see one of my friends is online. I invite him to my fireteam and he joins me for the mission. After it’s done, we join one of the Strike playlists and hop into a random dungeon.

Two strikes down he has to go, so we leave the queue and I head back to the Tower. I have new weapons and gear to check. I equip a few upgrades, then break down the rest for upgrade parts. I take my unidentified engrams to the Cryptarch and get a few more pieces. I turn in the bounties I completed for more experience, then check out my new skills, gun and gear upgrades. I buy a new armor shader and admire myself dancing on the edge of the balcony overlooking the City, beneath the Traveler’s sphere.

For me, these are satisfying loops, made even more fun when you can play with friends. Shooting feels good, movement feels good, and new activities are easy to access. The story is forgettable, and I hope they spend more time on developing characters and fleshing out the world in future chapters. But if they don’t, I’ll still enjoy the game. I’m making my own stories.

Dungeon Delving in Diablo 3

The world of Sanctuary is a giant, gothic pinata filled with gold, gems, and skull-studded pauldrons. Crowds of colorful demons explode with all kinds of loot, an upgrade around every corner, and I’ve spent the last few weeks in front of the PS4 hoovering up as much as I can.

When Diablo 3 first came out on PC in 2012, I only played for about a month. I made it through the first two levels of difficulty but quickly ran out of steam. It’s changed a lot since then: more control over difficulty, the paragon system, more frequent & more exciting loot… I’ve watched all this, but waited to jump back in because I knew it would be coming out on PS4 and I had a feeling I’d have a blast playing from the couch. I was right.

Diablo’s clicky action translates like a dream to the controller, and the introduction of a dodge ability (mapped to the right stick) gives me a better sense of mobility. Menus are a little less intuitive to navigate, but everything’s still pretty easy to figure out – it just takes a little longer. The action shines at an almost-rocksteady 60 FPS, broken only occasionally in the particle showers of co-op.

Couch-co-op is really where the game shines. “Apprentice Mode” erases any level disparity, so my girlfriend’s level 40 witch doctor scales up and she can hold her own with my level 70 crusader. It takes 10 seconds or less to hop into a game with friends. Really, the only drag is inventory management with multiple people. You can only have only character’s menu on-screen at a time, so we’re always in for some downtime when we head back to town.

I’m having a blast with the game, and my only regret is that its release fell so close to Destiny. My attention will soon be divided.

I hit 70 with my crusader and started earning paragon levels a few days ago. I’ve been running bounties on Master, building up my DPS and trying to optimize gear until I’m ready for the first level of Torment difficulty. I’m running with Blessed Shield and I feel like a homicidal, hyperactive Captain American, tearing through hordes of demons and watching my shield bounce between them. Right now it seems like the best way to boost my DPS is to stack crit chance and crit damage gear, and I’m seeing some huge hits. Looking forward to finding some of the really crazy legendaries!