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.

Ghaddammit, Ted!!

Tonight, courtesy of a very good friend with all the right connections, I managed to see a preview of the film Ted (Seth MacFarlane, 2012), which opens this Friday. The film, in case you’re unaware, is about a grown man John (Mark Wahlberg) and the teddy bear, Ted, which came to life when he was a lonely 8 year old kid. Obviously, the bear has been around the block after 27 years, and this film is really about them, and John’s relationship with Lori (Mila Kunis).

Before I go any further, let me emphasize this as best I can:


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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Although I’ve more than once on this site screamed that “this will be the last spoiler warning I ever give” because I generally just don’t give a damn, since this film has not yet been released, I feel obliged to at least warn folk this time around. I’m not going to say that I’ll never give you a heads up again, but I think it’s unlikely that I’ll care as much to do so in the future. Any how…

So, there’s a book. It’s called “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.” It’s been out for a few years and it’s garnered a lot of attention. Ever hear of it? Yeah, I’m sure you probably have. We all knew this movie was coming. Well, anyone that vaguely heard of it the book at any rate, so I’m not going to go into any details about the plot. But I will say this right off the bat:


Ok, let me back up a bit, and explain a few things. I saw the movie tonight, Monday December 19, legally and for free with a number of friends. It was a preview showing they were doing in Birmingham, Michigan, and the head of my program at Oakland University alerted the department students that this preview was happening. So, a few of us independently got ourselves passes and guests and made our way to the theater to watch this film. After nearly getting killed on the escalator due to bad planning with regards to admittance to the theater, we all surrendered our cellphones and all other recording devices prior to entry into the exhibition room. (By bad planning, I mean they allowed the line of people passing through security to grow long enough to block the top of the escalator where people were basically being thrown into the line by virtue of no place else to go and the irresistible force of the heavy machinery deciding you can’t stand still…) Surviving the chaos, we turned off our phones, had a metal detector run over us, and handed over the phones. Fine whatever.

Then we got a verbal warning as a collected audience about the slim chance that we might have managed to sneak a recording device into the theater. If there had been time and room for a strip search, I’m sure it would’ve been conducted as well. At the height of our boredom and wandering minds (mostly wondering what time it was since we all had to surrender our phones), the theater darkened and the movie began.

And I began to wonder how bad this film was going to be.

I didn’t jump on the Millennium Series bandwagon until kinda late. In fact, I didn’t read Dragon Tattoo until early this year, and I haven’t read the other two books yet, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect out of this film. I generally avoided the previews and trailers, because I wasn’t sure I was going to watch this film. My expectations were really, really low that they could pull it off. And the opening computer generated animation with the techno music reinforced my fear that this was going to be a shitty film enjoyed with friends. As speechless as I was with the opening, I was just as speechless with the abrupt end of it and the shift to the much slower pace that I expected of the film. If I had to describe this transition, I’d have to say it’s like using one of the openings to a James Bond movie — perhaps “Casino Royale” with Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” blaring — and then suddenly finding yourself in “The Da Vinci Code.” That’s the God’s honest truth: the opening is so out of place with the rest of the film that I honestly think it was bolted on by some Sony exec that thought it would liven the film up.

In reality, the film doesn’t need it. I think Sony would be better off dropping that opening, and use something more at home with the film’s actual pace, utilizing bits of footage that they undoubtedly shot but didn’t use in the film… Perhaps some news coverage of the Blomkvist trial… Really anything connected to the film rather than some abstract music video. Don’t get me wrong, it was interesting to watch, but ultimately it’s a horrible way to open the film.

Once you get past that opening, the movie is overall very good. There are a number of *REALLY* uncomfortable moments in the film, however. Maybe the film is taking a European ethic with regards to sex scenes, maybe it was just in an effort to be faithful to the book, but there are a couple of key sex scenes in the film that you wouldn’t normally see in a Hollywood film. In both cases, my “trained” American film sensibilities screamed that the sex acts would be cut at a certain moment, and we’d be on to the next scene or at least jump a few minutes or hours in time to the aftermath. That’s how Hollywood has trained us for decades; we don’t see people having sex, typically, for longer than a few seconds except on very rare occasion. THIS is one of those rare occasions, and it’s very uncomfortable, even for someone that was expecting them like I was. They were [mostly] faithful to the book, but they made even me uncomfortable.

That said, all in all, this is one of the more accurate film adaptations of a novel that I’ve seen. There were differences, naturally, some of which my dear friend E. and I predicted before the film as a way of “dumbing” down the story, others we suspect were done to eliminate possible confusion. As I seem to have guessed a few things incorrectly in the book that were apparently told correctly in the film after all (despite my proclamations otherwise to E. on the way home), I won’t go too far into them, but fans of the book: you will notice the differences, but you probably won’t be too upset with them. The quality of the film and the story outshine the sometimes significant discrepancies, and in the end, no harm is done to the story.

Rating… I think I used a 10 point scale previously, so I think I’ll stick with that here… I’d give it a 9.5 our of 10; I have to knock half a point off for that opening, but otherwise Stieg Larsson’s work is too good to be muddied by the differences between novel and film.

My Take on KillZone 3

Although I’m not going to go into any detail, I’ll confess that I’m biased in favor of my PS3 rather than m Xbox 360. It feels better put together, seems to have more power, and I don’t have to pay to play online with my friends. So, yes, once again I am biased. In the interests of full disclosure, this isn’t exactly a professional, journalism oriented site. Strictly speaking, it’s a blog, though I’m trying to be honest, objective, and fair in most cases. Except for when it comes to my feelings towards Siffie.

Now, I could tell you the basic storyline of KillZone 3, but I don’t even know most of it. I can tell you what I know based on the ending of KZ2 and what I’ve seen in the promos for KZ3, but you can find that on just about any site. Not being a real journalist does hinder a good preview/review because I haven’t seen any more than what the average person has: I didn’t exactly receive a review copy from Guerrilla Games. Still, from what I’ve seen in the open beta, the maps are incredibly detailed, huge, and flat out beautiful. The Frozen Dam map is quite nice, and I love the fact that it’s not even remotely symmetrical. Symmetry is fair, and is often present in multiplayer games, especially in first person shooters, but it makes learning a map entirely too easy. The lack of symmetry makes them interesting and gives players spending time to learn them a huge advantage. I love that.

One of the biggest improvements in the game over KZ2 is the frame rate. In the previous game, the frame rate was usually pretty good but it often would get bogged down if there were a lot of players in the same area, dropping grenades, etc.. From what I’ve seen in KZ3, aside from two occurrences a few seconds apart, there was no noticeable slow down in the 6+ hours that I’ve played in multiplayer. This is good. This is really good.

Guerrilla has tweaked the multiplayer classes a bit from KZ2, and it’s obvious that they learned a lot from the prior game. For starters, they’ve eliminated the Assault class, with the rocket launcher as its default weapon. The Saboteur has migrated into the Infiltrator and the Scout has been renamed the Marksman. The Engineer and Tactician are still there, and still provide similar roles to what they did in the prior game, but there are some things you’ll need to know.

First, the primary and secondary abilities of each class now have three levels each, offering increased functionality and abilities with increasing skill level. For instance, the Marksman primary ability, cloaking, only works for a limited time. Unlocking the next level allows you to remain cloaked until you kill an opponent. Unlocking the top level allows you to remain cloaked even when killing an opponent if you use a silenced weapon. The secondary ability, which works automatically, keeps the sniper off the enemy radar to an extent. Maxing it out, and it completely disables the enemy radar and the Tactician’s marking ability within 15 meters.

This is great. But the drawback, versus KZ2, is that you no longer have the ability to mix and match secondary abilities from other classes. So, my KillZone 2 Combat Engineer (an engineer using the Tactician’s secondary ability to summon air support drones combined with the primary turret building ability) is history.  I understand why it’s gone: it could severely hamper teamwork, and often had results unforeseen when Guerrilla released KZ2. For instance, my Combat Engineer could hold down an area by himself by building two automated turrets, adding air support, and getting behind cover with a shotgun. So far, in KZ3, the only time I’ve been able to have two turrets simultaneously is after I’ve gotten killed, and came back to build another one. A slight irritation I have with the new version of the Engineer is that he no longer comes with the shotgun, but now is equipped by default with a light machine gun that isn’t nearly as effective. On the other hand, one of the maxed out abilities of the Engineer is the ability to hack enemy turrets, and take control of them. I haven’t done that yet, but frankly I’m drooling over unlocking it.

Another change is that the C4 explosives are no longer a secondary ability of the Saboteur/Infiltrator. It is now available to all classes, once unlocked, and can replace grenades. Personally, I prefer grenades over the C4, but I like having the option to use it and still have my normal secondary abilities.

Perhaps the biggest game changer is what has happened to the Tactician. No longer does he wield spawn grenades to give his allies a tactical advantage at any point on the map. Now, like Capture & Hold objectives, there are several specific spawn points on the maps that the Tactician must capture in order to utilize. And just like Capture & Hold objectives, they can be captured by the enemy by simply being within a certain radius of the spawn point. The more Tacticians in the area, the faster it gets captured. This change prevents a common occurrence from KZ2: a Tactician would run into an objective and drop a spawn grenade right there, which would cause extremely chaotic battles and cause objectives to be lost or won entirely too easily. Guerrilla to fix this early in KZ2 by eliminating the temporary invulnerability when spawning in at locations other than the base, but ultimately it still caused a tremendous amount of chaos, and grinding through lives. The new system works better, I think, though it makes camping them entirely too easy. Once you know where the spawn points on a map are located, it’s just a matter of finding a good position to be the spawn camping bastard that everyone hates.

Another minor gripe is that the Marksman’s tier 3 primary skill allows them to remain cloaked after making a kill with a silenced weapon, but the only silenced weapon the Marksmen has regular access to is a silenced pistol. There is no option for a silenced rifle, assault or sniper, in his arsenal. Besides the silenced pistol, I think there’s a silenced submachine gun that the Tactician has access to, but, needless to say, the game’s sniper class should have normal access to a silenced sniper rifle, even if it’s not as powerful as the mid or top end rifle.

All in all, I’m very impressed with the game, and I’m really looking forward to seeing everything else that it has to offer. Though I’m currently unemployed and short on funds, I’ve already pre-ordered my Helghast edition, primarily for the cloaking sniper figurine. I’m even weighing the cost of getting the PS Move and Sharpshooter accessories to try to take the experience to another level, but I’m not yet convinced to do that… For those of you interested in a rating, I’d have to give KZ3 something in excess of 9.0 but not quite a 10. It’s really, really good, but then I’ve only seen a single level.

Review: Star Trek Online

I’m a Star Trek fan, but let’s get something straight: I am neither a Trekkie nor a Trekker. I am just a fan that has enjoyed most of the Trek legacy and hopes that a new series will one day wander back on to TV sans Rick Berman.

So when I found out about STO, I was curious. The boss, Mr. Cardassian Head himself, egged me on and convinced me to pre-order and get the lifetime subscription. He swore that if I wasn’t entirely satisfied, he’d pay me back for it AND let me leave his lab for a month. Can’t lose right?

First of all, I knew he was lying from the start. He’s evil and a genius, but not unpredictable. Still I get to be a lifetime subscriber to a new game that I’ll get to watch evolve. Still a win because I still wish I had that option with World of Warcraft.

So I buy it and start playing. Early on, I noticed that the missions are even more repetitive than those in WoW, but there are the missions that break the monotony. But for the most part you fly to a solar system, destroy any enemies and/or scan anomalies and sometimes beam down to a planet to do the same. Boring after the 30th time you do this.

The thin motivation for doing this countless times is that you get bridge officer points to spend on skills that improve your ship piloting and combat abilities, and when you get enough you get promoted and a new ship.

Though I’ve now had this game since mid-January, I hadn’t played much since February when I made Commander 4 and stopped playing out of boredom. On Friday I decided to try to get some more of my money’s worth out of the game, and pushed my character up to Captain 5 today.

You want to know something? This game is still boring.

The one saving grace of this game is that if you get a sufficiently powerful ship, like a Defiant class escort, there are times when it actually feels like and episode of Star Trek Deep Space 9.

Beyond that, it mostly feels like any Bermanized Star Trek series: predictable, combat oriented, pointless, and more often than not, boring.

How predictable? I don’t even bother to read missions any more other than to see where I’m supposed to go. The biggest surprise I’ve had in the game recently was a new game mechanic that required me to to shoot control panels to deactivate a force field that protects another control panel that disables another force field. Brilliant. Who do I kill now?

There’s the option to explore as well, but that exploration yields more of the same with little more to offer. You never discover anything amazing, or never before seen… Just something ripped out of the existing series’ mythology.

Maybe I’d enjoy this game if I played it with a friend or two but as of now, I’d rather not play at all because if the boredom doesn’t irritate me, the bugs and limitations do.

While you do move about in a 3Dish environment while flying your ship, you are limited to moving forwards or backwards like an airplane: you can’t just go straight up or down, you have to angle your ship generally in that direction while moving forward or backwards.

You don’t currently have the ability to see any interior of your ship except for the bridge. When on a planet, you have to move around plants you should be able to just push through. And worst of all: today I discovered a bug in the bridge officer point rewards. It indicated I received 501 points, but gave me less than 470, which makes me wonder how many points I’ve been cheated out of.

My verdict? Don’t waste your time with STO unless you have money to throw away and are the most diehard of Trek fans. If that’s the case, I can give you a PayPal address to send money to every month.

The boss hasn’t stopped laughing at me. I wonder if I can find a way into his bedroom tonight to smother him in his sleep…

Oh a rating? I’m not even going to give it one, because that might give someone the mistaken impression that I have some dignity left after becoming a lifetime STO subscriber.

Review: Super Street Fighter IV

I’m not entirely sure why he wants me to review a video game, but as he says, I’m not the evil genius, he is. So, I’m going to be telling you a bit about my personal experience with Capcom’s Super Street Fighter IV on the PlayStation 3 console. Once upon a time, I was reasonably good playing Street Fighter II and its derivative titles, but until last year I hadn’t played any of the titles in more than ten years. Suddenly, there was Street Fighter IV, and a fellow associate convinced me to get it. The Evil One apparently hadn’t figured out how to incorporate games into his grand scheme at that time, so this was purely a fun oriented mission.

I enjoyed playing SFIV, though being an old school player, I never could get the hang of the ultra combos or the EX special moves. Nonetheless, my associate and I had a lot of fun beating the hell out of one another. Among our favorite competitions where Dan vs Dan (damn blonde Dan to hell!), Ken vs Abel, and Chun-li vs Sakura. A quick explanation about Dan vs Dan: we felt that Dan was such a pathetic character that if we managed to master him and be able to defeat anyone with him, then we’d truly be masters of the game. Needless to say, we feel that we’ve achieved this goal.

All that said, there were some things in SFIV that got dropped from SSFIV that I miss. They’re insignificant, mind you, but I miss them anyway.  In the new Endless Battle mode, which grew out of the ability to create custom matches, you no longer see the character your opponent has selected until after both of you have chosen. Again, not significant, but it was that touch that lead to the Dan-Dan matches more than anything else. I also miss the win-loss statistics that were given after each match so you knew readily when you were on the losing side for the night. Most of all, I miss some of the alternate outfits and colors that I either unlocked or bought in SFIV, now to be replaced by others in SSFIV. Maybe they’re still there, waiting to be unlocked again, but I think some went away. (Blonde Dan, if you’re gone, may you rot in hell!)

The new features are quite nice, however. I do like the fact that all characters are unlocked right from the start; I never did unlock Seth, Akuma, or Gouken on SFIV despite beating the game with all the other characters. I also love the replay feature; especially after performing two ultra combo finishes for the first time ever against a stranger last night. (I’m sure he’s wanting my head as much as the boss probably does…) Most of all, I love the fact that all the characters now have two ultra combos that you can choose from when you select your character.

Ultimately, the things I miss from SFIV aren’t enough to get me to even put that disc in my PS3, but I still miss them. Maybe they’ll return in an update… I hear the Evil One has contacts at Capcom… But I’m not going to hold my breath. If I had to rate the game, I’d give it 9.0 out of 10.0 somethingerothers as a game in general, and a perfect 10 in the fighting game category.