To be completely honest, I give Destiny and, by extension, Bungie a lot of shit because of the economy and the bullshit idea that people are attracted to the endless grinding in the game. I will continue to do so until those things improve.
In my previous review of Destiny, I stated that aside from some key issues, that I really enjoyed the game and frankly, that still hasn’t changed. In fact, despite the new content in the game with the second major DLC, The House of Wolves, the same flaws are still present (getting worse actually) and the basic game play is still fun. If you don’t want to read my ranting and raving, you can pretty much stop reading now. The content is great, but the random number generator/lookup table lottery and the currency issues are still there: fuck Destiny.
Although The Last of Us has been out for nearly 2 years on the PlayStation 3, and nearly a year on the PlayStation 4, it is still a massively popular game both in terms of single player and multiplayer. The latter, called Factions, has just started getting a whole new wave of players because Naughty Dog and Sony just launched a standalone package of it this week. No longer does it require a full copy of The Last of Us to play; for $9.99 (US), you can now get the Factions multiplayer by itself in a fully usable form, though you may wish to invest a bit more and get the additional map packs and maybe some of the additional weapons DLC packs. While you can kill with any weapon in the game, some of the DLC offers distinct advantages that are well worth the purchase price.
That said, here are a few important and good things to know.
Factions Has *NO* “Levels”!!
The numbers to the left of a player’s name in the lobby screen are not an indication of how powerful the player is, with one caveat. This number is the number of “weeks” their character has gone through with their colony of survivors. The longer the colony survives and the more parts you earn, the more one-time boosters you earn to help you in the game, and potentially the larger your colony. Initially as you survive to and through a certain number of weeks, 15 I believe, you gain more load out points which enable you to pick up more and/or better skills and weapons, including an in-game “purchasable” weapon that is usually absurdly powerful. But once you hit 13 load out points, you’ve hit the ceiling, the only differences between you and someone with 100 or more weeks of survival are skill and experience. They will have no special advantage over you which is a great equalizing factor. This weeks indicator should imply that the player has a certain amount of experience, and should be better than a player that hasn’t played as much, but in all honesty, it rarely does.
The reason I have to emphasize this is that my buddy was playing in a match recently and after the match got a PSN message that basically read as the following:
you’re an asshole, My friend and i just started playing and you were a dick. level 200’s should have their own areas.
First of all, since there are no levels, there’s no way to protect a new player from vastly superior players that have thousand yard stares; the game just doesn’t distinguish player skill or ability that way. While I’ve played TLoU on both PS3 and PS4 and have gotten a lot of experience in both single and multiplayer, my colony survival length has never been all that high; currently it’s at 22 weeks, which makes me seem like a newer player; I may not be on the same skill level as some of the more dedicated players, but you’d be a fool to take me for an easy mark in this game. Similarly, while my buddy and I were playing a few nights ago, a member of our team had a colony that survived for some 800 weeks; frankly, he played like shit.
While I do mostly agree that more experienced players should be put in games together as opposed to dropping new players into matches against them, it’s the perfect place and way to learn. I hate to admit that this is true, but the best way to learn is from players better than you. Second best way is to learn from players that at worse than you if you have enough sense to figure out what they’re doing wrong.
In short, think it’s unfair some “level” 200 kicked your ass? You may actually might have only caught them on a good night; everyone gets lucky some time. Beware the “level” 5 that has been in the entire match but some how managed to avoid death altogether while racking up 6-10 kills; they’re the ringer you need to look out for.
Think Like a Tactician
Watching my aforementioned buddy play this evening, I saw him make a silly mistake that resulted in him getting killed in one particular match: he walked into a room and went straight towards the exit on the other side. A few steps into the room, he was shiv’ed by an opponent. To taunt him, I wrote a message a little less revised than this one to him on Twitch:
Lest you seek a wake with mourners, always be sure to check the corners.
I think that’s pretty clear; check the corners to make sure there’s no one standing there next to you, wondering how you didn’t see them. It might be a little slow to do it, but it’s far better than having someone kill you a moment later because you didn’t bother to look for them. A lot of the time, if they’re hiding like that, they’re out of ammo, and looking just to get to a supply box to get some ammo; very few players are actively waiting and looking for situations like that, though it does occasionally fall in their lap. Don’t be a statistic!
Related to this idea, is to be mindful of your flanks and those of your teammates. Always keep your eyes open and if you see an opponent moving in a teammate’s blind-spot, mark them by aiming your weapon at them and tapping R3 (press the right stick in). Unless they have Covert Training 3, they’ll be marked and your character will shout out a warning; this works even if you don’t have a headset or don’t feel like talking to the other players, and helps you and your team. In fact, marking an opponent can even be more helpful than shooting at the enemy in some situations. I’d like to say I hate to quote a character or movie, but keep your head on a swivel, always look for your enemy to come at you from the side or back or above or below. Never just approach anything looking in a single direction.
Oh, and one other significant thing… DON’T FUCKING RUN UNLESS YOU HAVE TO!!! And *IF* you *HAVE* to run,DON’T RUN *TOWARDS* your allies! When you run, you appear on the minimap as a red dot that is clearly visible to all enemy players. When you run towards your teammates, you effectively tell your opponents exactly where they are. Similarly, although not necessarily as important, if you get downed in combat, I strongly recommend against crawling towards your teammates as that tells the enemy where they are or what direction they’re in. Crawl away from them or sit tight, and if someone’s nearby, they’ll be able to catch-up with you easily enough to revive you.
There are times in Factions when you can and should run-and-gun, but Factions is not Call of Duty, Destiny, Gears of War, or similar game. It’s a game of strategy and patience. I’m not an expert on it myself, and I usually die more often than I kill in it, but it’s a game that balances stealth with brutality, teamwork with opportunistic action, strategy with spontaneity.
Accept That Your Teammates Are Idiots
Unless and until proven otherwise, accept and expect that your teammates are complete idiots with one exception: you know them and you’ve been playing with them for a while. Playing with strangers has frequently left me speechless, and not in a good way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve actively gone in the opposite direction of a teammate because he or she decided to run full speed across the map, or walk right past an enemy to try to get a supply crate or help an ally up, just to get downed a moment later. In one game, where my best friend was on the opposing team, in the middle of a mass firefight he retreated from the fire I was pouring his way. I took off after him; so did my three teammates who were firing on the rest of the enemy team, so we all got shot in the back because they all wanted the easy kill — the kill I earned.
Which brings me to another minor irritation, kill theft. While it doesn’t really matter if someone else finishes off a kill you started, it’s something you start to take personally in game. The catharsis of downing an opponent, and then executing them is what mainly makes playing Factions worthwhile. I could make the argument for sharing the kills — all participants in a kill get parts (points), after all — but when your adrenaline is pumping because you just faced a [virtual] life and death encounter and lived to tell the tale, you want your points and you don’t want to share them. But what’s REALLY killer about this, that proves that your teammates are idiots, is when they would rather go for an execution rather than fight another nearby opponent or pick-up (revive) you or another teammate.
Your teammates will also lob nail bombs and Molotovs and smoke bombs on the freshly dead opponent you just killed or, worse, empty rooms. They will anger you in many unique ways. Get used to it; this is the world in which we live and play.
All Weapons Are NOT Created Equal
While there was a large range of weapons in the game to begin with, recent DLC has added some particularly wicked ones including the frontier rifle, tactical shotgun, and crossbow. I have only tinkered with the frontier rifle, but it is just about as deadly as the various sniper and hunting rifles, capable of downing a foe at a long distance in a single hit. The tactical shotgun takes a few hits to down your enemy, however it’s rapid fire enough that you can usually accomplish that up close or at a distance with a few taps. Perhaps the most wicked of all is the purchasable weapon, the crossbow. In the real world, a crossbow is no more or less deadly than a regular bow. In Factions, it probably does just about the same amount of upfront damage as the bow as well, however, it also has a bleed effect that can be just as deadly. When hit by a crossbow bolt, the target starts bleeding out, and if they’re not bandaged within a certain length of time, they will be downed even from a single bolt. As of this time, no other weapon in the game has the bleed effect, so it’s particularly nasty and a little unexpected if you haven’t encountered it before. Even if you have, it can still cause you (or your opponent) to waste time and bandages fighting its effects, effectively removing them from the fight for a short period of time. Being a[n in-game] purchasable weapon, thankfully, players just can’t start the game with it, but have to find or earn enough parts to buy it.
While the bow and shiv are the classic silent weapons in game, a number of weapons have silenced versions that require the use of additional load out points. I highly recommend using the silent or silenced versions of a weapon whenever possible in Factions; unsilenced weapons can generally be heard across much of the map, and certainly give away your location. When used in combination with Covert Training 2 or 3, a silent weapon will keep you off the minimap unless you start running.
More to Come!
This will be a post I update as I come up with or receive tips from you and the gaming community at large. I don’t think there’s a single person playing Factions that doesn’t want a challenge; while we all relish the easy victories, they ultimately are boring. We need new players to be ready for and to inspire us. So get cracking.
Not that I want to be hacked, but I just made a post on my newly revitalized home page discussing the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, High Sparrow, and why the execution Jon Snow performed wasn’t murder. The reason I might get hacked or attacked has to do with Kit Harington’s comparison of the execution his character performed to the beheading murders that ISIS has been performing. If I disappear off the web, at least you know why…
With the upcoming release of Marvel’s Avengers 2, Ant Man, and Fantastic Four this year, and a cubic fuck-load of them coming up in the subsequent years, television, one way or another, has begun to embrace superheroes again. There’s been Smallville, is The Flash and Arrow, and both Gotham and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have built up very loyal, very large fan bases not only for the universes in which they take place, but for the quality of their writing and productions. Hell, I find myself seeking out every little tidbit of information I can find on what’s going on in Agents so I can try to glean some insight into the upcoming films. But… That’s not what I’m here to write about.
What I am here to write about are two newcomers to the scene, Daredevil and Powers. The former, as I’m sure you’re aware, is based on the Marvel comic of the same name, of which a certain Affleck sort of disgraced a dozen years ago. Actually, I take that back, that film wasn’t his fault. He’s an actor, there’s only so much you can do with the shit you’re handed. As the trailer for Batman Versus Superman: The Dawn of Justice just dropped today, it’s not getting my blood pumping, and I’m hoping that very same Affleck can pull it off. If he doesn’t, then maybe it is him after all; then again, the premise for it seems a bit weak to me, but it remains to be seen exactly how it develops… I’m getting off topic again… Similarly, Powers is based on an Image comic of the same name developed by [Sony] PlayStation Originals, and is a fundamentally different sort of superhero story.
Because it’s much more fresh in my mind and simpler to explain, I’m going to start with Daredevil. To sum up Daredevil in the most simplistic of terms and as quickly as possible, Daredevil is essentially Batman with a couple of key and important differences. Difference #1, Matt Murdock is not rich (at least here in this Netflix Originals series), doesn’t have a warehouse full of gadgets or a secret lair other than his home. Difference #2, while Bruce Wayne doesn’t have any super powers, Murdock does; albeit it’s kind of a lame power in the spectrum of super powers. His power is, essentially, the ability to see. How is that a super power? Well, it is when you’ve been blind since you were a kid… I’m not going into the details, but that’s his super power, and I know I’m vastly oversimplifying everything about the differences between Murdock and Wayne, but in all honesty, those are the big differences. They’re both vigilantes that stalk the bad guys, doing whatever it takes to put them out of commission, and both have rules against killing. (Though frankly, that hasn’t been the case in the Batman films since Tim Burton’s original 89 film, the comic still sticks to it.)
I’m going to go slightly off topic for a moment to explain my background with Daredevil. It’s at least tangentially related, I promise. Many years ago, in my late teens and early twenties, I had a pretty good friend that I played role playing games with as part of a group of friends. Most of us attended Martin L. King, Jr, Senior High School here in Detroit together, though a few were from other schools. This particular friend went by the name Dizzy, and he was the biggest fan of Daredevil I have ever met. I still don’t know any one that liked Daredevil as much as he did, and he would talk to us about him as we’d discuss the Avengers, the X-Men, Fantastic Four and a whole host of other characters in and out of the Marvel Universe. Despite all our protestations that this character was the best, or that one was awesome, Dizzy stuck to his guns that Daredevil was the best.
I lost touch with him around 95 or 96, and only saw him once during that time when I happened to run into him at Fairlane Town Center while I was skipping a class at the nearby Henry Ford Community College. He’s a good guy and I’m sure he’s out there, holding the faith even after the Affleck film. Honestly, after watching the complete first season of Daredevil in the last 26 hours or so, I’m much more inclined to agree with him now than I was those twenty something years ago.
I went into this Daredevil series a little wary and certainly little positive expectations. While I respect Netflix’s production value on House of Cards and what little I’ve seen of Orange Is The New Black, I wasn’t sure they were going to put the same effort into a superhero series about a character that — in my opinion — wasn’t an A-list top draw character. Well, I was fucking wrong. Everything that I’ve seen in these episodes was extremely well crafted, and aside from two moments that kind of irritated me, I was very satisfied with it. (One of the two moments really isn’t the show’s fault; I was watching while doing my job, and I missed the message of an extended conversation in a foreign language because I was too busy focusing on work to read the subtitles. The other was Murdock peeking at what was under his bandage when he damn well should’ve known what was under it.) The attention to detail was on par with all the other Marvel Studios productions, and even the fight scenes came off as being very realistic and visceral. Nothing was particularly over the top as you sometimes see in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (don’t get me wrong, I love those moments) or Black Widow’s combat in any of the Marvel films thus far; in fact, I’d go so far as to say they were about as good as you can expect a normal man to do. And believe it or not… I really appreciated that authenticity. Daredevil isn’t shown as a godlike character, all capable, all knowing, but as a man that is struggling just as much as you or me. And it’s not just him. All the characters seem to have their flaws and faults, and are seen to be struggling with them, including the villain, Wilson Fisk (The Kingpin). To be brutally honest, I think I liked him and his right hand man, Wesley, the best of all. (I’m a sucker for a villain that knows he’s the villain, and loves his job. Heath Ledger’s Joker is probably my all time favorite villain for that portrayal and reason.)
All of these things come together to build a very compelling story and television series that I would gladly watch again.
Powers… not so much.
I had no expectations going into Powers at all, because I wasn’t familiar with the comic in the least. The only thing I took with me going in was that it was a Sony produced series and I had seen a preview or two that made it look kind of interesting. As I watched the first episode, I cringed at a few badly done things, and got a feel for the overall plot, which I’m going to more or less ruin here, and the shockingly low production value. The basic premise of Powers is that there’s a downside to a world full of superheroes; they too have their faults, addictions, self-confidence issues, and cross the lines; sometimes not even realizing that they’re causing as much damage and death as the supervillains (and not so super villains) they seek to stop. The show follows Christian Walker, a superhero who lost his powers, and his partner Deena Pilgrim as they work for the Los Angeles Police Department’s “Powers” division which is responsible for bringing in super powered villains mostly without the help of superheroes. Frankly I love the concept. As my buddy put it in a conversation with me yesterday, the big picture looks great, but it’s when you start looking closer, at the day to day stuff, that it starts to look bad.
And he’s right. I told him a couple weeks ago that Walker looks like he was carefully crafted to look like David Tennant in Broadchurch. My guess is they wanted to make him look haggard and hung-over at all times as he struggles to deal with the loss of his powers, the loss of his relationship with his his one time super powered love, Retro Girl (who, according to Wikipedia, is actually supposed to be dead as that was the first case he investigates in the comic), loss of essentially all of his friends except his partner prior to Pilgrim, who, by the way, dies stupidly in the first few minutes of the first episode. The “Downtrodden Song” by Denis Leary pretty much sums up Walker’s life.
The sad thing is, I actually don’t mind Walker all that much. He’s pretty much completely unlikable, but stepping back, resisting the urge to just slap the labels “cliche” and “rip-off” on him, you can respect what he’s been through. I can’t say that he is a rip off of Broadchurch’s Alec Hardy (Tennant) because the comic has existed for 15 years, and I don’t think Broadchurch was a comic or book prior to become a BBC television series a few years ago. So technically, this crap that has affected Walker is original, and he just happens to look a hell of a lot like Hardy. But you can definitely see the design influences from Broadchurch on Walker regardless of whether anyone at Sony/PlayStation Originals wants to admit that fact.
Putting characters aside for a moment, I’d like to talk about something that really bothers me in Powers. Although it’s trailed off, the first episode looks like a commercial for Sony products as they’re all over the place, clearly displayed. Yes, Sony is a major brand name, and I’ve had more Sony products than I care to count at the moment, but everywhere you look, people were using Sony smartphones and tablets and Vaio computers and PlayStation 4s and televisions. I get it, it’s a Sony production and it’s smart to self promote, but that level of representation is not realistic nor representative of the real world. I am very much an Android device user and developer, but throw a fucking iPad or iPhone in there, because we all know those are way more common than Sony’s phones and tablets. Product placement is important, there’s no question about it, but the ubiquity of a single brand in a film or television series is not only unrealistic, but it’s jarring and becomes a point of focus in a bad way.
Back to characters and plot… Perhaps the biggest problem for me with regards to the series thus far, is that I don’t have a sense of who the real villain really is. That would be good if this were a mystery, but we have two very obvious bad guys: Johnny Royalle (played by Noah Taylor) and Wolfe (played by Eddie Izzard). While it’s made very clear that Wolfe is the overall major villain, and he’s played well by Izzard (but then I’m biased, I love the guy), there’s the question of Royalle. Royalle has been teleporting in and out of, I kid you not, “The Shaft” prison to harvest blood or something else from the regenerating Wolfe to make into a drug called Sway. (Let me comment on something completely unimportant for a second; when I imagine characters teleporting in or out of a room, I imagine an aggressive popping sound or a boom of some sort, or hell, even just silence, not the adorable little Snapple-lid-just-popped-up-as-you-open-it sound. Thanks guys, well done.) Royalle has been doing his cutesy teleporting thing for a while to make the drug, and it’s spreading among the “Powers Kids” that either have low level powers or are groupies of those kids, and gives them an enhancement to their abilities or kills them. Depending on which of the two they are. An unforeseen side effect is that anyone that takes Sway is apparently getting linked to Wolfe which will undoubtedly play out in some horrifically written way in an upcoming episode, as they’ve already forewarned us in at least two episodes by episode 8. Naturally, desperate to get his powers back from Wolfe without knowing how it was made or the side effects, Walker took Sway to put Wolfe back in his cell.
You would think that the drug alone would be enough to cement Royalle as the primary villain, and even though he taunts his former best friend, Walker, repeatedly through the first few episodes, he ultimately still cares about him and knows he’s in over his head. Frankly, Royalle is more wishy washy than a soaked wash clothe. He can’t decide if he’s really a bad guy or a champion of the under privileged Powers Kids as he keeps flip flopping all over the place, then begs Walker to help him fix his mistake, extracting whatever from Wolfe, by killing their former mentor. Yeah, that’s right, Wolfe was their mentor back in the 90’s on how “Powers” (as super powered individuals are called in case you haven’t gotten the drift) get their abilities, refine them, and should act. Then he ate a bunch of people, freaked them out, and they gave him The Shaft. Sorry, couldn’t resist. I wonder if it was throbbing… Anyway, Walker, the fine upstanding good cop that he is has agreed to help Royalle put Wolfe down… Note that in earlier in the exact same episode, Royalle first teleported Walker into a sealed room then teleported out with all the air, then later teleported them to the edge of a balcony, and pushed him off; rescuing him in both cases. Naturally, these kinds of actions engender friendship and trust, right?
As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, there’s the the production itself. Everyone is pretty damned well dressed, even the poor people. All of the women’s hair and make-up are perfect at all times. While most of the powers’ visible effects are decent, those characters that can fly look like ABSOLUTE SHIT while doing it. It almost emphasizes the wire-rigging frequently used to demonstrate flight; in particular Walker during his fight with Wolfe in the Shaft; he looked a thin version of Fat Bastard from Goldmember hanging in mid-air. It looked terrible. It still looks terrible.
Here’s the thing,while PlayStation Originals undoubtedly is a separate production entity from Sony Motion Pictures, there absolutely positively has to be some cross-talk between the two houses. There’s undoubtedly a sharing of resources, crew, equipment, editors, special effects, make-up, costuming, and production teams. Correction, PlayStation Originals would be absolutely stupid if they weren’t trying to take advantage of essentially in-house resources, advice, and expertise, even if they had to pay for them. I don’t expect that Sony Motion Pictures would try to charge [Sony] PlayStation Originals the going rate for their help; actual cost maybe. Even if they did have to charge full price for it, it would be a steal for PlayStation Originals. Sadly, to me, it looks like they’re going it alone, trying to prove that they don’t need any help at all, not even from their bigger, more experienced brothers and sisters.
Walker and Royalle talked, among other things, about pride being the problem in dealing with Wolfe, that it was pride that was letting him control them. Maybe it’s pride that’s also ruining this golden opportunity for PlayStation Originals… If so, then that, like Powers, is just too bad…
Just the other day I was commenting on how I was beginning to be cautiously optimistic about the new Star Wars, but I may have spoken too soon. On MoviePilot.com, there’s an article called Star Wars Episode 7: Kylo Ren and the New Empire in which the author discusses the 20 or so new novels, comic books, etc., that are scheduled to be released to fill in the 30 year gap between Jedi and The Force Awakens. Why does this sound as if all the novels and comics that already exist in this period are simply being swept away? This sounds an awful lot like what Lucas was doing for the Clone Wars cartoon, making the Mandalorians pacifists.
I’m suddenly no longer optimistic.
It could be argued that all the expanded universe work (which has now been rebranded as “legends”) was never canon, that all of this new work will be. I’d be fine with that if Lucas had licensed everything then was hands off with the outcome all these years. But that’s not the case. When Timothy Zahn was writing Heir to the Empire way back in the early 90s, he wanted to use Obiwan’s clone in the role he named Joruus C’Baoth, but he said in an interview that “Lucas had other plans for him.” Later, when R.A. Salvatore was writing the inaugural novel in The New Jedi Order series, Vector Prime, he was explicitly told to kill off a major character by Lucas. The sometimes silly, sometimes convoluted plots of the game The Force Unleashed also lend credence to the Lucas is overseeing everything argument I’m making here. 20+ years of creativity does not get spawned and set free without some specific guiding force (oddly, no pun intended). The expanded universe was even blessed by references to some of it in the films, such as the presence at the pod races of Aurra Sing in the Phantom Menace. Therefore I would say that the expanded universe was as canon as the films, because even Lucas is contradicting himself. (“Always two, there are, a master and an apprentice” yet Count Dooku, Darth Maul, and Darth Sidious/Palpatine running around more or less at the same time; yeah, I know, Yoda could’ve been wrong.)
I don’t know… I just have a very bad feeling about this.
It’s been several months since the release of the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and I’ve been relatively quiet about it. In fact, I’ve only talked it over with friends and family as I still wasn’t sure what to think of it, and I didn’t want to ramble on without having an opinion on it. It should be clear, by now, that I have a very emotional attachment to Star Wars; if not, take a bit of time to read my other posts:
Back? Great! By my rough estimate, I’ve read around 80 Star Wars books. My favorite author, for comparison’s sake, has written approximately 60 (including two Star Wars books), most of which I’ve read. So you might say, I am more fully invested in the Star Wars universe than any short of the one in which we live. I know its character very well, I know much of it’s legends and mythology, I have a feel for the ebb and flow of its stories despite the myriad authors that have taken turns at shaping it. Star Wars has always been very near and dear to my heart, and even as an adult, I wish I could stowaway on board the Falcon, or grab the controls of a X-Wing and make the jump to light speed to escape the realities of this world. I honestly think that if the opportunity to do so suddenly presented itself before I could finish writing this post, I’d be gone in an instant and never look back.
So ever since it was announced that Disney bought the Star Wars franchise and would be producing new films, I’ve been dreading the outcome. Yes, I also saw it as an opportunity for the reduced Lucas influenced (LucasLite™) films to potentially get back to what we originally loved, but it’s also a great opportunity for them to ruin everything we (“I” really) ever loved about them. Given that I’ve liked much of J. J. Abrams’ work, I was (and still am) cautiously optimistic about the new main storyline films. I think there’s much to be hopeful about them, yet I can’t help but be nervous about them as well; after all, not everything that Abrams’ has touched has turned to gold nor have I loved all of his work.
That said, the trailer for The Force Awakens was released several months ago, and it looks amazing. The sound of the X-Wings give me chills, and while the radar dish on the Falcon has changed shape, the ship as whole does appear to be amazingly detailed and accurate enough to pass muster.
You of course know all this, and, by my own admission, I’m late to the party on writing about it. So why write about it now? After I finished my shift at work this evening, I wandered into the den to find my sister watching the Star Wars: A New Hope (Special Edition) on VHS. (Long story short, lets just say that due to a cable dispute and on-going renovations, her options for cinematic entertainment this evening were rather limited; my original non-SE VHS copies are inaccessible as are my DVDs.) Still, watching the Falcon maneuver and the X-Wings fly in formation to the Death Star… It gives me chills as much as it did 30 years ago, and the sound of those engines drew me back to the The Force Awakened trailer which faithfully recreated them.
There is still much to be nervous about with regards to this new film, and it’s still 9 months away from release, but I have to admit that I’m growing cautiously optimistic and excited about it.
In the interest of self-education and enlightenment, I’d like to open a private discussion via email with people of other faiths. I identify as a Baptist Christian, primarily due to the religious beliefs I inherited from my parents, however I’ve adopted a viewpoint and certain beliefs that I think some Christian sects would consider heretical and/or blasphemous. Nonetheless, I have been curious about Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Shinto, and other religions and would like to learn more about them. I’m not looking to convert to another religion, or attempt to convert anyone else. This is for my own selfish educational purposes, and I’m willing to help provide insights into Christianity as I see it in exchange. This shall be an intellectual, judgement free discussion; I’m not a very judgmental person to begin with and I have no desire or interest to offend anyone. A few years ago, as part of my undergraduate studies, I took a class on interreligious discussions, and would like to follow up on it by actually participating in some. As I said before, these discussions will be private, one on one, and will not be shared with anyone without your express permission.
The religions I’m most interested in learning more about are Islam, Judaism, Shinto, and Native American religions, though it wouldn’t hurt to learn more about Catholicism and other Christian sects as well. Frankly, I’m interested in learning a bit more about just about all religions, so if I didn’t expressly mention yours above and you’re interested, feel free to drop me a line.
Whether you’ve gotten the idea from this page or not, the fact is that I love movies, books, games, and writing. Not necessarily in that order, but that’s the order my fingers demanded I write them in. So there’s that. I’ve played a LOT of games, I’ve written about a few here, and I talk about them frequently with my friends. Hell, I’ve been streaming quite a bit on Twitch since I got my PS4 a bit more than a year ago. (I still find it strange mostly talking to myself, so I don’t often broadcast with my microphone on.) If you’ve been paying any attention to my Twitch page recently, then you know I’ve been playing a LOT of Dying Light.
A few things you need to know about me and my relationship with horror, the undead, and the horror-survival videogame genre. I don’t generally write in horror; it doesn’t interest me much, and never really has. On the whole, I find horror films silly and mostly going for over the top gore and cheap theatrical tricks to scare the audience. I find suspense much more appealing; what you see on screen in a horror film is make up and faked. What is done in suspense films is almost purely mental, and almost certainly possible; what one can do with such tools… Well, lets just say that I’ve taken pleasure in plying psychological warfare in a few stories. But I don’t write much about the undead… In my opinion, the old stories, legends and mythology are the best. What they don’t cover, Dungeons & Dragons covered to my satisfaction, so with the rare exception, I don’t write about them. They’re fine as they are.
While my bias against horror films can’t really be carried over to videogames (the characters, while perhaps photorealistic and carrying verisimilitude, are completely fictional and you don’t identify with them in the same way as actors on screen) I just haven’t been interested in the gore factor for the most part. I played the original Resident Evil on the first generation PlayStation, along with its sequel, but as I write this, I’m finding myself hard pressed to name a single horror genre game that I played since that time until the release of Left 4 Dead and its sequel. Truth be told, I played those two for the social interactions with some friends I rarely get to see, though I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t enjoy them.
A few years ago, Dead Island came out to rave reviews and I considered picking the game up. A few friends raved about it but I wasn’t in any hurry to play it. It just wasn’t my thing, though I was admittedly curious. A couple years passed, I got engrossed in The Last of Us, which while technically a horror game was, I’d say, far more of a suspenseful game than horror. But then (to get to the point)… Techland released Dying Light. My buddy, looking to use a Sony supplied weekend coupon accidentally purchased it after watching some streams of it being played by some reviewers. Upon release, he immediately got sucked into the game and ranted and raved about it. But he’s far more into horror than I am, I thought. It’s right up his alley.
And it is. He suggested I check it out but acknowledged that it might not be all that interesting to me, so using SharePlay over PSN, I played for a couple hours on release day. I’m not going to say it was the best experience of my life, but I found it very engrossing. I did get slightly motion sick, which I attributed at the time (and apparently correctly) to the disconnect between my PS4, the approximately 2,000 miles between us, and uncounted miles that the digital video traveled from his home in the Seattle area and mine in Detroit, and for the control signals I sent back to have effect. Mind you, everything was nearly instantaneous, with no noticeable lag, but there was something that caused me to develop a headache in that short time I played. Nonetheless, I played for another 3 hours over SharePlay two days later. The next day, my payday, I bought the game, and I’ve played almost nothing but Dying Light ever since.
Though it is indeed a horror survival game, it’s like saying Grand Theft Auto is a driving game. There’s so much more to the game than simply surviving. There are tons of side missions to be performed, and when you don’t feel like doing a mission, you can roam and explore the open world environment, fighting and killing the various types of zombies for fun and profit. There’s a distinct role playing game element to it as well, as you don’t just look for weapons to kill all these monsters, but you learn new skills to fight and evade them, not to mention learn how to craft new tools and weapons along the way. Unlike Destiny, not all of the missions are “go here, kill that”; more than one has been to find and recover something for some one, or to go save someone in trouble. One of my favorite missions… Well, you’ll just have to play it yourself…! Get bored just running around? Play with a friend! The game supports at least 4 players in co-op mode, though they only recently fixed a bug that kept me crashing back to the PlayStation home screen.
To make it even better, I don’t know how many hours I’ve put into it thus far, but I’m only just now reaching the 50% completion mark. I don’t mean to pile on to Ready at Dawn’s problems and join a bandwagon bashing the apparent 5-10 hour length of The Order: 1886, but if you get into Dying Light, you will be playing it for a very long time. Techland did a kick-ass job on Dying Light, in my opinion, and it makes me wonder what I missed with Dead Island.
The game isn’t perfect, however. There are the occasional bug that you’ll hit, like the co-op crash I mentioned above, and there was an easy way to exploit another bug (a race condition I do believe) to duplicate items but it was patched. Though that particular duplication bug is history, there’s another one that’s slightly more difficult, but just as reliable. It’s only a matter of time until it’s patched too, but as you can see, there are both positive and negative bugs in the game. I’m sure Techland is hammering away on them even as I write this, but aside from the now dead co-op crash, I haven’t encountered any show stoppers.
So what do I think of Dying Light? If you like killing zombies, you will probably love the game. If you like parkour, you’ll probably have a hell of a lot of fun in the game as well. Is it worth the $60? I personally say hell yes, and I’m definitely considering the season pass to get any expansions that might be released. Should you buy it? That’s up to you. Take a few of my broadcasts for a drive and decide for yourself.
From the title alone, you should get the gist of how I feel about Destiny, but it isn’t the whole story. Honestly, when I’m not getting pissed off by the random number generator (RNG) driven reward system and the fact that I’ve done everything in the game (except the Vault of Glass) multiple times because there’s only a limited amount of things to do at this time and nothing new has popped up in the weeks since its release, I actually enjoy the game.
If you read up on Destiny on Reddit and a thousand other sites, you will find one common thread: the game uses a random number generator to decide what “drops” during the game, whether in combat or at the conclusion of a strike or mission. Sometimes it’s useful, frequently it’s not, usually because you have something better already. Sometimes you’ll be the biggest badass in the game during a strike and get nothing; other times you’ll really suck and get something exotic as a reward. It doesn’t make any sense, but that’s the nature of randomness. Worse, you can go to a vendor, Xur for instance, spend your hard earned Strange Coins and Motes of Light to get a piece of exotic equipment and come away with something completely unusable by your class.
As someone that first learned to program more than thirty years ago and an avid gamer, I understand the attraction to using a random number generator and a look up table (LUT) to determine a player’s loot. It keeps things from getting stale. Is a special reward really special when everyone knows you’re going to get it for completing a particular mission? Not to knock World of Warcraft (which I also play), but that gets boring and predictable. (In fairness, World of Warcraft has had random drops in game for a very long time though most mission rewards are fixed. In the recent Warlords of Draenor expansion, some missions (and/or follower missions) award you a generic item that becomes something specialized for your class’ specialization. So Blizzard has obviously thought about that.) The problem with RNG+LUT is just that unpredictability, especially when you have no ability to trade or sell items that aren’t important to you. In Destiny, that means if you get an item on your Warlock that is only usable by the Titan class, you have two choices: put it in your vault and use it on a Titan character you also created or disassemble it for parts. And hopefully those parts will be useful to you; unfortunately, some items will break down into parts that are only usable by the class the item was intended for, leaving you with parts you can’t use unless you move them to another class. You can’t even sell the parts, at this time, just to try to turn a buck.
Speaking of money… For a game that has no economy whatsoever, there’s a shit load of currencies in it. The primary form of money is called glimmer, which is described as a form of programmable matter. While the concept is interesting, the fact is that the concept is totally wasted because you don’t actually do anything with it other than pay for things, such as weapons, ammo, and upgrades. If you could use it to customize your appearance, make unique equipment or even just put it in your character’s hair to change the style and color, then it would be something neat to play with, and something more than just a currency. Given that it does nothing of the sort, they may as well call it dollars or pesos or gold coins. Want to know something extraordinarily silly? You can only carry a maximum of 25,000 glimmer at a time. Considering a 32 bit integer takes 4 bytes and offers a range of 4 billion numbers (unsigned in this case would be most useful), I really don’t know why Bungie chose to use less than a 16 bit/2 byte number as the maximum amount of cash you can carry. Maybe it’s a practical limit… After all, while you can’t always count on getting precisely what you wanted to buy thanks to the RNG+LUT, you can still buy almost everything that costs strictly glimmer with little effort because you accumulate a lot and many of the enemies, especially the “majors”, drop items that help you earn more glimmer just by killing members of their species. Still, I think the 25k limit is awfully arbitrary, pointless, and oddly specific. I’m pretty sure Bungie isn’t saving a lot of memory by limiting it to a 16 bit integer.
If that was the extent of my money gripes, I’d be fine with it. But, as I hinted at before, there are other forms of currency: Motes of Light, Strange Coins, Vanguard Marks, Ascendant Shards, Ascendant Energy, Crucible Marks, and the recently added Exotic Shards. Aside from the Vanguard and Crucible Marks and Exotic Shards, all of those are obtained RANDOMLY throughout the game, either as drops in combat, mission rewards, upgrades mailed to you for public events or reaching new reputation levels, bounty rewards, decrypting engrams, or disassembling things. And like all other drops, they’re random enough that you can’t count on getting them on any regular basis. Well with a caveat: certain daily and weekly strikes and story missions award Notes and Strange Coins the first time you complete them for their respective periods. The Vanguard and Crucible Marks are earned, however, by either completing strikes and missions or fighting it out in the PvP Crucible. Strange Coins and Motes of Light are used to buy equipment from the NPC Xur; the various shards and energy are used to upgrade equipment when combined with the various resources you harvest on each of the worlds, glimmer, and parts you scavenge from equipment like I mentioned earlier. The Marks are used to buy equipment from the Vanguard and Crucible quartermasters. For a game that is based around combat, there’s a whole lot of economics going on even if you can’t sell your unwanted equipment.
Now, I started this review some weeks ago, and I’m only just now working towards finishing it the day after the first DLC pack was released. While I’ve been playing Destiny regularly since it’s release and still have only stuck my proverbial toe into the Vault of Glass, I have mostly enjoyed the game. My frustrations are illustrated above, and led by the striking lack of content to keep the game fresh for a long time after the initial play through. And that continues in The Dark Below; three new missions, more bounties making you play through things you’ve already mastered, a new strike and raid, and new equipment for $20… (Or $35 or $17.50 depending on your perspective if you purchased the “season” pass.) I can’t say the DLC is worth that much, honestly. Wait for it to go on sale if you can; sooner or later it will be offered for about $10 in some special deal. The missions are tough and interesting story wise, but I find the lack of Peter Dinklage’s narration a bit disturbing even though it was replaced by the new NPC’s. I never thought that I’d miss “Dinkelbot.” (Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Dinklage!)
The bottom line of both Destiny’s main storyline and the DLC is that there are a lot of brilliant scraps of story that are laid out on the table, but there’s so much missing from the bigger picture that you’re not really sure what’s going on. Just like with Watch Dogs, I keep saying that we’re still early in the game’s lifespan, but that is sounding more and more hollow to me. It’s becoming more obvious that Activision, Electronic Arts and other major publishers, distributors and, yes, developers have decided to push DLC as the next big thing in their efforts to make themselves rich. Rather than focusing on making the best damned game they can, they strip out whatever they can get away with to sell as an add-on later, thereby securing their own destiny. While I like Destiny, I think it could have been so much more had this money grubbing scheme hadn’t been a factor.