Destiny: Rise of Iron and Me


Hi guys, it’s been a while since I’ve posted and longer still since I said “fuck Destiny.” That doesn’t mean that I’ve moved on from Destiny as my go to game to relax, nor does it mean that Bungie has solved all my complaints. In fact, in some ways, Bungie seems to be trolling me… Any way, the newest, and probably last, expansion to the original game was released a few weeks ago, and I thought about “reviewing” — I guess that’s what I technically do here with my rants— it on release day, but I was busy playing and stressing about a the latest in a series of job interviews for a big company. (Incidentally, I’m still stressing out over it as I wait to find out whether they’re going to hire me or not.) So I’m only now getting around to talking about the latest changes.

First of all, the most cursed thing about Destiny is still there: the random number based loot tables. As always, no matter how well you do in the Crucible, strikes, daily missions and [probably] raids*, you have no idea what the hell your reward, if you even get any, will be. (*I added an asterisk because I’ve been in the unfortunate position of having never done a raid, so I don’t know the loot outcome. I just suspect it’s the same as everywhere else in Destiny. If you want to carry me in a raid, let me know!) This means you might have to grind away at an activity that you’re pretty sure will drop your desired loot until you actually get it. That’s just wrong if you ask me. I’m not going to bitch about it today, I’ve bitched enough about it here already. (1 2 3 4 5)

As I mentioned in parenthesis above, I’ve never done a raid. Why? No one to do them with. My best friend stopped playing Destiny for several reasons, not the least of which is the random loot issue. I have a few other friends that play Destiny occasionally, but honestly I’m probably the best player of my actual acquaintances. So that leaves me with three options: matchmaking in game, which Destiny does not support for raids; use the PlayStation 4’s Community feature to find a group; or cobble together a group through Bungie’s forums or somewhere else. Since the first of these is apparently a non-issue and will not be resolved by Bungie, I’ll address the latter two. For the moment at least.

The problem I have with both of these two options is pretty much the same: sure I could get in touch with hundreds of people, but these are all players that value their time enough that they want a perfect or near perfect run. I’m good, but when it comes to a raid or strike I’m not good enough to feel that I’m carrying my weight in the game. I would much rather play with people I know personally and/or have played with regularly and are playing casually— despite the time a raid may take — rather than demanding perfection from me or them. After that, I’d rather play with completely random strangers that have just as much — or little — faith in my abilities and once the raid is over, we never have to see, hear, or play with each other again. Matchmaking makes that possible, but Bungie is extraordinarily confused on the issue despite their stance that they will not add matchmaking to raids. Why, then, do they have a matchmaking system for strikes? Why not just do the same thing there? The Nightfall strikes once used the matchmaking system, but has since stopped. So why not either implement it for raids or kill it for all PvE? (PvP is different since you have to have enemies after all.) I don’t get it, Bungie. You have it both ways but it shows you’re seriously confused about what your vision is.

Ultimately, Rise of Iron really adds very little that’s truly new, not counting story. Gameplay mechanics haven’t changed really, though you get a few new patrol types in the Plaguelands. Yes you can use a flaming axe at various points and places, but it behaves almost exactly like the Sword of Crota with the exception that it has an ammo counter that counts down even when you’re not swinging it and you can extend the allotted time by finding a fire pit from which to pull flames to recharge it. Beyond that, there’s the Archon’s Forge which I’m sure you’ve heard all about, and it operates very similarly to the Court of Oryx, though even the initiator can get locked of the event. Don’t ask me how I know. Any way, Archon’s Forge is fun enough if you can find players to join you AND one or more of you have offerings to allow you to actually trigger it. There have been a number of times that my fun in the Forge has come to a halt when all of us collectively just ran out of offerings. So, needless to say, the drop rate for the offerings is low enough that you can easily run out of things to do and you can only carry one at a time. To be perfectly honest, I wish they made that change to the Court of Oryx — or better yet, put it somewhere in-between — because I’m running around with more than a hundred Stolen Runes, Reciprocal Runes, and Antiquated Runes right now.

As for everything else in Rise of Iron… Well, the new Fallen are interesting, but they’re still basically the same. The new social area is nice looking, though it may have a few bugs that still need to be worked out. What I mean by that is that one of the bounties/missions requires you to climb up on the mountain in which the Temple of Iron  is built, and apparently there’s nothing to stop you from going beyond what you’re supposed to do. Similarly, the Iron Banner opened this week and opened a section you couldn’t go into before (though you technically came from there in the mission to liberate the area), and you can just keep on going very far away from the Temple. I don’t know if these “bugs” are to enable some future event(s) that might take place there, or just left open for the sake of leaving them open, but it definitely reminds me of the alpha and early release days of Destiny when you could go into the upper court at the back of the Tower and poke around the edges.

I think the biggest single change in Destiny actually launched just before Rise of Iron: private Crucible matches. I think they’re probably a great way to train as part of a clan or fireteam for the public Crucible, but I haven’t actually had anyone to train with… Oddly, you can still launch a private match solo, and run around doing… whatever… At the very least, it’s a good way to get yourself familiarized with the various maps.

So, in the end, I can’t say that Destiny has really improved or captured my imagination and attention this time around, but it’s sufficient to keep me going for now. Destiny 2 is rumored for release next year, and while I may buy into it, I’m probably not going to pine away for it the way I initially did with Destiny. Bungie kinda killed that level of interest for me with the random number loot and the lack of universal matchmaking. If raiding requires more than one person (or you to be a superstar with the game), then you need to have matchmaking. Even World of Warcraft has matchmaking for their raids and instances. Unless Bungie changes their stance on the issue and the random loot, Destiny 2 will have to wait for me to get around to buying it. Sadly, I don’t think that Bungie will miss me.

Destiny Has a Few New Tricks (Updated, Again)


I suppose I really shouldn’t be surprised, but I’ll confess I was and still am. Most of the time [in this modern era of gaming] when a developer releases a new update, or a new game, there’s little that’s really new to game. Sure, games have done a lot to distinguish themselves from other game franchises, but it’s rare to see something really new in that franchise. Look at Call of Duty, not counting the different versions of the game (standard, Black Ops, Advanced Warfare) it’s virtually the same game with each new release. The enemies change, but the basic game play stays the exact same. Though honestly, that could be said for most first person shooters. Doom is fundamentally the same now as it was when it was originally released twenty years ago; sure it has new creatures and updated graphics but fundamentally, just go and kill everything.

I’m not trying to say that’s a bad thing, it’s just that it gets ridiculous sometimes. I respected and loved Insomniac’s Resistance series because they changed things from release to release. The first one had some unique weapons, particularly in multiplayer. The second one introduced co-op with unique classes such as the medic which was responsible for keeping the team going. (Yeah, I know classes like that were introduced in some version of Quake, but Resistance 2‘s implementation was beautiful.) And Resistance 3 changed again. I respect that a lot, and I really, really, REALLY wish Insomniac would do a Resistance 4 (and more) for the PS4.

What I expected out of Destiny, based on The Dark Below and the House of Wolves was more of the same. Not “it’s the same as all other FPS games”, but more of the same that we’ve already seen in Destiny. Over the last 36 hours or so, I’ve noticed that there are some new, unmentioned things in Destiny. The new subclasses, weapons, armor, strikes, and raids are getting all the attention, but as far as I know, no one’s mentioned anything about the new details in things that we’ll probably find ourselves doing far more often. (Aside from play the Crucible for those who get off on that.) While what I’ve seen has only been in the Patrol missions, I’m sure that we’ll see new touches in the other modes as well.

So what am I talking about? For starters, what I’ve encountered twice so far while doing Patrol missions is a new type of mission; basically the goal is to collect energy samples for analysis. Unlike all the other collection or analysis missions in Patrol, you simply have to go and stand in various spots for a few seconds. Easy right? The catch is that you have to be fast about it; each spot gives you about 10% of the amount of energy you need, but it decays very quickly. If you stand still for a little too long, the energy that you’ve collected disappears. So you have to be quick to get the percentage up and finish the mission; that means riding your sparrow, which is really not suited for the job given it’s sluggish acceleration, terrible braking, and imprecise handling. And then there’s also the various enemies in the area shooting at you and obstacles to making maneuvering even more difficult. It can be done, and fairly easily, actually, but it can be a little frustrating as you try to do everything perfectly and as fast as possible.

The other mission caught me off guard. I was actually between missions at the time when suddenly Nolanbot said there was an incoming transmission from an unknown source. Initially I didn’t really think anything about it, I think I was slightly confusing the mode with the story mission when the Stranger first contacts you. When it finally did register that this was different, I started recording the video I’ll add below. (Long story, but I currently have the worst internet connection of my life, and that includes dial-up.) The gist of it is, that the Ghost can’t make any sense of the transmission, and works on decoding it. Initially, the mission description is nothing but question marks on the screen, and it remains on your screen unlike with other Patrol missions. As you’ll see in the video, I’m left running around trying to randomly discover what I’m supposed to do until enough of the message has been decoded to give me enough letters to guess what my objectives are. It then led to another two quest objectives . Ultimately, all three objectives were very easy to complete once you knew what they were, and I think it’s an excellent new addition to the game and hope there are many more similar missions and surprises in The Taken King.

Update 9/21/2015:

Alright, now that I’ve had about a week of playing The Taken King under my belt, I’ve encountered the mystery transmission mission several more times. While the list below isn’t necessarily the complete list of mission objectives for these missions, they’re what I’ve encountered most often. By cycling through these actions, you can frequently figure out which of the objectives you’re supposed to accomplish before the decoding process has even begun. I’m doing these from memory, so if I miss one, I’ll update the list again later.

  • Head shots (Heads Blown Off)
  • Dance emote (Dance Floors Mastered)
  • Kill enemies (Enemy Creatures Slain)
  • Find chests (Treasures Reclaimed)
  • Sit emote (I think…)
  • Dropped items from enemies (Bodies Looted)
  • Generate Orbs of Light (Orbs Generated)

Destiny Weapons (and More) Update (Updated, Ironically)


As I sit here waiting for this 17 GB update to download on my current impossibly slow internet connection, I thought I’d share a few thoughts with you about this new update. At this point in time, I’ve been waiting about 24 hours on the download to complete and my PS4 is reckoning another 18 hours before I’ll be able to really see the changes. That said, let’s take a look at my preferred guardian on my personal account. (Although I do have a warlock on my “work” account, it’s not yet high enough level to warrant looking at and doesn’t have so much as a single exotic item.)

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Destiny Warlock

What we see here is that my level is 32, light level 145, with 34 intellect, 45 discipline, and 51 strength. For the most part, the latter three stats can be ignored. Until yesterday’s update, the light level and character level were inextricably linked past level 20. By that I mean that once you fought and quested to level 20, you had to get equipment with various light ratings to go any further, which is a fundamentally flawed system. Frankly, for all that I’ve done in Destiny, I should long ago reached level 34 but because the fucking random number generator in the loot system didn’t see fit to give me equipment with a higher light level than what I have, I got stuck at level 32. This leads me to believe that I could only have gotten higher if I had the opportunity to raid (Vault of Glass and Crota’s End) at all or hit the Crucible a lot more. (More the former than the latter I’m sure.) As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not really a PvP type of person, and I only know two people with PS4s and Destiny, and I rarely even get to play with them, let alone contemplate doing the raids because Bungie is too high on themselves to institute the grouping system on raids. Bastards. (This MAY be mitigated by a feature in the upcoming PS4 3.0 firmware update.) So, bottom line, no matter how hard I worked over the last year, I could never feel that sense of accomplishment by reaching level 34.
That changed yesterday.
With yesterday’s update, light level became a reflection of the quality of your equipment and was separated from your experience point total. This means that completing raids, missions, strikes, and just flat out killing things for the hell of it once again matter. I know I nitpicked about the stupidity of the light level, if not in a post here, then certainly with my aforementioned friends, and my inability to climb higher on the level ladder is a perfect demonstration of why it was bad. Perhaps it was intended to showcase the power of the exotic items or make you feel all the more powerful and fortunate once you got them, but to those of us that haven’t been able to raid, it’s been a source of constant frustration. So I applaud Bungie on realizing that this is an issue to many players and resolving the issue.

While I still, apparently, have between 14 and 24 hours minimum depending on the way the wind blows before my download is complete, I’ll delve into the new light level. In the past, the light level came from the total amount of light your equipment possessed at any given time. I believe the light only came from your armor, and as I mentioned above, it determined your level above 20. Under the new regime, the light level comes from an average of your armor, equipped weapons, your Ghost’s shell, and a new piece of equipment called an “artifact.” Without having a special Ghost shell or an artifact at this point, my light level is currently 145 based on my weapons’ and armor ratings. Considering the new maximum for “Year 1” equipment after this crucial rebalancing of ratings is 170 for weapons and armor, I’m doing pretty well. I should note that my currently equipped exotic weapon, Plan C, hasn’t been fully upgraded yet (I need an exotic shard from Xur) so that rating will increase once I get one. Assuming it’ll be sometime this weekend, I can probably expect my light level to increase to 150-155 or so once I upgrade the weapon or swap to a different, fully upgraded weapon. I don’t expect to hit 170 until I get an artifact and/or shell for my Ghost, but it’s possible those things won’t actually become available until next week’s launch of The Taken King. Which, I would like to point out, you and everyone else (except me, naturally) have already downloaded.

That’s right, I said you’ve already downloaded the next expansion. While I have no evidence to back this up, think about it. Why the hell is a weapon rebalancing update so big? I’d give the update 1-2 gigs if the only things it was doing were changing some of the core files to handle the new balancing system, updating the sound files for the Ghost voice from Peter Dinklage to Nolan North (not sure if the switch-over was activated yet), and a few performance and tuning changes. In these days of high speed broadband, which I’m sorely lacking at the moment, terabyte sized drives, and 50 gigabyte games, we tend to forget that 1 gigabyte is a huge amount of data. Having worked with audio recordings as part of making films, a few megabytes can record many hours of high quality sound, and most of the weapon balancing data could be done in a XML or even comma separated values file probably less than 5 megabytes in size. So why is this weapon balancing update 17 gigabytes?

The simple answer is that it downloaded all the new assets necessary for the Taken King, including the Dreadnaught, the Taken themselves, new weapons and armor, new audio files, and god knows what else Bungie needed for next week’s launch. It makes no sense that Bungie would launch an update this large this week, and then turn around and do another one on Tuesday. For those of us that already have Destiny, yesterday’s patch IS the next expansion. When next Tuesday rolls around, those of us that pre-ordered the expansion digitally will probably see a very small update take place that unlocks all the new content, but it’ll be just that, a very small update. Bungie wants players to start diving into that new content immediately, so it makes perfect sense to put it in place ahead of time. It wouldn’t surprise me to see videos showing exploits to get at the new content early start popping up at some point today or tomorrow.

That about covers everything… I think I’m going to sit back and listen to the Ramones while I wait for this turkey to finish downloading… By the way, what’s up with AT&T? They promised U-verse service in Detroit over 7 years ago, and the best I can get in my centrally located home *IN* Detroit, is their 1.5 MB downstream DSL. What the hell is up with that?

Update: Now that this gigantic update/expansion is finally installed, nearly 48 hours after it was released, I’ve had a little bit of time to play around with it. First of all, like I mentioned, the levels are now completely experience based rather than light/equipment based. That left me free to climb to level 34 ahead of the official release of The Taken King. But I think that that ascension was a little too fast. I literally went from 32 to 34 in the span of minutes as I did several bounties and quests. Minutes. While I acknowledge some of them were experience heavy, Bungie should have tweaked the level profession at higher levels to reflect the increased difficulty in leveling. Maybe it was a fluke, I’ll find out as I work on my other characters.

Another thing is that a fair amount of content that shouldn’t be available until Tuesday is now through various bugs and that’s even affecting rewards. Faction specific quests should probably be avoided until the official launch.

Also, don’t forget to visit the gunsmith and try out the prototype weapons; the ones for which you do the telemetry testing are supposed to be sent to you free of charge on weapons day. Well… One at least. It’s unclear if you’ll get all of them if you test multiple ones

Destiny, The Taken King, and Further Thoughts


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.

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Destiny: House of Wolves or Fuck This Game Part 2


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.

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Destiny or FUCK THIS GAME!


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.