I Want to Be the Very Best

Today marks the very first day of my new life’s work. I’ve decided to follow in the footsteps of many great trainers before me and abandon any attempt at being a productive member of society. Instead, I am going to wander through the wild parts of the world, capture creatures with funny names and huge powers, and then train them to battle other, similar creatures owned by people like me. All of my money will be earned by robbing the people I defeat, I’ll sleep in the woods, and I’ll rely on free healthcare to keep my captured monsters in peak fighting condition at all time. I may make friends along the way, I may encounter a friendly or combative person frequently enough to designate them my rival, and I may rise from obscurity to sit at the peak of the monster fighting league so that everyone in the world knows my name. Unfortunately, none of those things are guaranteed, but I know I’ll definitely have a great time along the way, bonding with my new pets and crying when I’m forced to say goodbye to them.

If you haven’t guessed what’s going on, I’m talking about my plan to finally go on the Pokemon Journey reality has always denied me now that Pokemon Go finally introduced trainer-versus-trainer battling. I imagine battling will change significantly as time goes on since it’s clearly in favor of people willing to spend money or who have done nothing but play Pokemon Go and the whole “use a shield to block a charged attack” thing is just plain weird, but I’m glad they finally got something out there. So far, I’ve declared one of my roommates is my rival, battled him a few times (we’re tied for wins and losses right now), and done absolutely nothing else with it because society is demanding I do my day job so I can pay my bills and afford to live in my nice house with my actual pets. Someday, perhaps once the holidays are over, I’ll go on a short Pokemon Journey to test the waters. After I’ve figured out how the battling scene is going, that’ll be it for me. I’ll quit my job, pack up everything I own into a backpack that breaks physics, and head off into the great unknown in order to find new Pokemon, battle new trainers, and become the legend I’ve always dreamed I could be.

I imagine it’ll be difficult to live off the land and spend all my time traveling between major cities, but I think I can manage it. I’m single, have no societal obligations that I’d miss, and am a rather hardy individual. I can walk for long periods of time, assuming my pack isn’t as heavy as a typical Pokemon Trainer’s backpack must be, given that it holds hundreds of pokeballs, healing items, berries, cases, bicycles, and so forth. If it’s a bit more realistic and not able to hold a limitless supply of whatever I want (if it removes the weight of the things I put in it, that would also be pretty cool. I could work with that), then I imagine the first couple weeks would be rough while my feet adjusted to the constant walking. After that, I’d be unstoppable.

Unfortunately for me, I seem destined to become a gimmick trainer. Likely a Hiker with a heavy focus on rock-type Pokemon. I could get behind such a gimmick, of course, but only after becoming the best there ever was. Then I’d go find some mountain path to live on and challenge every trainer who passes through before making my team of Geodudes all use “Self-Destruct.” The trick would be that I have a sixth Pokemon, maybe a Mew or something super cool and rare. It would also use “Self-Destruct.” That would be my gimmick and then I would become a different type of legend. I’d become even more famous than when I toured the world as an unbeatable Pokemon Master and trainers would come from far and wide to see if they could beat my team. Unfortunately for them, all my Geodudes would be immune to one hit knock-outs and the final Pokemon would change on occasion so they’d never be able to defeat me. Every match will end in a draw and I will establish myself as an unbeatable Pokemon Trainer. It will be glorious!

I will have to wait, though. Pokemon Go is still in its infancy and we’ve yet to see if it will truly last the tests of time. There’s also no move in Pokemon Go that functions like “Self-Destruct,” though I remain hopeful that they will either eventually add more game-like features to Pokemon Go or replace it entirely by creating Virtual Reality Pokemon. I would be all about that. Nothing quite like immersive games in virtual reality to make you feel like you’re not stumbling around your home while waving your arms dangerously close to every precious and fragile object you own. Heck, maybe they’ll figure out how to make Pokemon robots and then we can go on Pokemon adventures in theme parks. That’d be super cool.

Since none of that is happening right now, I’m just going to focus on battling my rival, enjoying the new combat feature of Pokemon Go, and trying to remember who half the people are on my Pokemon Go friends list so I can remote battle people without feeling weird about initiating an interaction with someone who is effectively a stranger. The feature was difficult to find and it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense about the way it works, but it’s fun to play. I think the Stardust and Pokemon Candy requires for learning additional moves are egregious, since it’s almost impossible for most players to afford something like that. Only people who play constantly have access to that kind of stardust and enough candies for powerful Pokemon or legendaries. I mean, I spent most of my candies and stardust just powering up Pokemon fairly recently, so I can’t afford to give anyone an extra attack, which means I’ll be vulnerable to anyone who has one since they’re great for countering Pokemon that typically counter whatever Pokemon has the second attack. The fact that you can add extra moves is a huge break from their established methodology, so I’m interested to see where they continue to take.

Whatever they do, though, it’ll be fun. I can’t wait to get out there and start playing again!

Pathfinder: Kingmaker has the Makings of a Great Game

A long while ago, I pledged to an interesting looking Kickstarter that was described to me as “Pathfinder the computer game.” Now, as the usual Game Master for a few different groups, I don’t get much of a chance to play in any tabletop games, so I instantly pledged to support the project just so I could maybe enjoy a game where I got to be a player. Like most Kickstarters, I pretty much forgot about it until October, when it came out. Unlike most Kickstarters, I shoved the emails into my Kickstarter folder and promptly forgot about it again. To be fair, I was rather caught up in a lot of stuff at work in addition to preparing myself for National Novel Writing Month, so I didn’t really have the time to be playing anything as time-consuming as Pathfinder: Kingmaker. It likely would have stayed in that folder, forgotten until my physical rewards showed up at whatever point in the future (they had a much later delivery date than the digital rewards that included the download code for the game), except I found out my grandfather was dying rather more quickly than I expected and I couldn’t process it emotionally because I’d been kept awake until seven in the morning that day.

After spending a few hours trying to deal with my emotions, eat something, get enough caffeine to pretend I wasn’t basically dead inside from emotional and physical exhaustion, I tossed aside my writing and decided to just find some dumb game to play so I could forget about Chris Amann and all his problems for a while. Which is when I remembered getting the notification email that my download code and digital rewards were ready. It took a couple of hours to track everything down, create accounts I’d forgotten to create. download the game, and figure out how to make it run optimally on my computer, but I got sucked into it immediately. I got sucked into it so thoroughly that I accidentally stayed up until almost four in the morning on a work night, playing it. And then I accidentally stayed up until almost two in the morning the following night. Since then, I’ve only allowed myself to play it on days when I don’t have anything going on the next morning, since I severely doubt my ability to stop myself from getting sucked into this game. I still play it pretty frequently, though. At least once a week, since I still need the escape it provides me. I just make sure to avoid it when I’ve got something important to do the next day that requires me to have gotten enough sleep, like writing.

As far as being “Pathfinder the computer game” goes, I’d say that’s a fairly accurate summary. The developers made some concessions when it came to adapting the rules since Pathfinder is a bit more complicated than most computer game audiences are looking for, not to mention how difficult it would be to program different numbers for all of the easily combined or excluded skills. It makes sense to get rid of crafting and profession skills because few tabletop gamers actually use them. The benefits of trying to implement those systems in a way that fits with Pathfinder doesn’t seem worth the absolute headache (and probably one or more years of development time, since they’re super complicated) including them would cause in everyone working on the project. It also makes sense to reduce the available spells a bit since there are so many “incredibly useful” spells that are actually only useful in one specific scenario that almost never comes up and can be neatly avoided thanks to video game mechanics.

The only real “tabletop game to computer game” issue is how encounters work. In the tabletop version of Pathfinder, encounters are supposed to drain the resources of the party until they are forced to rest in order to restore said resources. This means that only the weakest encounters won’t be a drain on the party and mid-to-low level encounters will still drain the party if they encounter enough of them. Since the rules are drawn from the tabletop version of Pathfinder, this same effect still applies to encounters in the computer game. However, since time is more compressed when one players is making the decisions for every character, you can get through a larger number of encounters in a smaller amount of play time on the computer game. That wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that a lot of those encounters require expending resources and, since there are more encounters than you’d expect due to video game design logic (players need something to fight or interact with every so often or they get bored), you find yourself needing to rest more frequently than you’d like. Throw in the time management mechanic the game has–stuff like hunting up food for six people can take seventeen hours despite the skill in the tabletop game stipulating that foraging for food happens during travel time–and the fact that camping supplies weigh ten units per single-use (which is measured per-person), and you’ve in the awful position where you can’t bring supplies to cut down on time but can wind up spending over a day just finding food for everyone. I get that the game developers needed to separate the movement speed effects of hunting for food from the “find enough food” effects of hunting for food since it’s difficult to track modifiers like that ahead of time and the computer game actually measures minutes and hours while the tabletop game measures days, generally. Still, it’s frustrating.

That being said, those are my only gripes about the game. Sure, spellcasters feel super weak at low levels, but that’s true in the tabletop game as well. In every version of it. They always have and probably always will. Any problems with using casters in Pathfinder: Kingmaker are a result of the weird resting and camping gear weight issues, so I wouldn’t call that a gripe in its own right. It’s an auxiliary gripe. Given the monumental task the developers set out to accomplish, how well they’ve done overall, how active they are in their fan community, and how often they roll out patches to fix the issues players find, I’m more than will to overlook these issues. In fact, I’m willing to advocate that you buy this game if you want something immersive, entertaining, and downright absorbing. Still, you should only buy it if you actually want Pathfinder the Video Game. It feels so much like the tabletop game that I’ve mixed up the video game with the tabletop game I’m in on Monday nights. I’ve called each character by the other’s name and forgotten who had what magic items frequently enough that I’ve started making lists to keep near each character so I can remember who has what (one is a bard and the other is a sorcerer, so they have a lot of magic item overlap). It feels like a good problem to have.

The story is what really does it for me, though. You’re essentially a mercenary hired by a local noble to take out a bandit lord set up in a neighboring unclaimed land with the hopes of establishing you as the baron of said land once the bandit lord has been killed. There is a great deal of additional political maneuvering behind their move, but you’re never really sure which side is in the right. You could make a snap judgment that one side is good and the other is bad, but honestly it’s more of a “Chaos versus Law” thing than good versus evil. The side setting you up as baron is the Chaotic side and the side trying to recruit you to their cause is the Law and Order side. There’s far more to each side than that, but that’s really the distinction between the two. The chaotic people seem nicer than the law people, but that’s often how it seems to anyone who isn’t lawful. You get a lot of information and a good number of chances to pick a side or help one cause or the other. It’s a lot of fun working through the game with these larger concepts in mind.

The combat is a bit dense at times, but that’s because you’re trying to manage up to six people’s worth of combat abilities and resources. There’s a lot to keep track of and, as long as you think of it as a turn-by-turn combat, similar to how the tabletop game does it, you’ll figure it out just fine. Aside from that, it’s actually really fun to do. I love watching the characters charge across the screen, see them line up their shots, or watch spells go whizzing around the battlefield as they all engage in the chaotic dance of combat. It’s a very cinematic experience, actually. To the point where you need to be careful or else a character might get mismanaged as you try to just enjoy the special effects on your screen.

The skill usage is a little opaque at first, but you figure it out pretty quickly. Everyone makes checks, but the little information ticker only tells you when a passive check (perception, for instance) is successful. Which makes sense, since you shouldn’t know that your characters failed to stop a hidden treasure chest. Active checks are made by finding icons on the screen or as dialogue options when talking to people. The number you’re aiming for is given and the roll plus the math happens behind the scenes. Unfortunately, there’s no part of the game that explains what happens when you fail a skill check, so it can be a mystery as to why the trap went off this time and not the last few times you failed to dismantle it. Unless you’re familiar with Pathfinder and know that failing to meet the Dice Check number by a certain amount or more results in the trap going off, you’ll be unable to figure out what’s going on. That being said, I have players I’ve been DMing for years who still don’t know how this works, despite almost exclusively playing rogues, so that’s not necessarily a failing of the game. Just, you know, keep it mind.

Character management is a bit dense, but that’s mostly because you have to become an expert in six or more character classes so you can manage their upgrades properly. Because of the wide variety of upgrades available in the game, you spend a lot of time reading up on what things do and comparing it to what your stats are. As someone familiar with Pathfinder, I expect this sort of thing but I can see how it might be difficult for someone with less knowledge or willingness to read a few walls of text. I recommend doing all your research ahead of time and rely on forums to help you pick what you should do since people who love to build characters and figure out how to do weirdly specific things are also the kinds of people who like to talk about both those things on dedicated forums.

Honestly, this game feels like a good bridge between the hardcore audience and the more casual audience. There’s everything here the hardcore min-maxing power gamer needs to build his ultimate murder-hobo but there’s also plenty of options that give less invested players recommendations and easy options for powering up. There’s even an option that’ll do the powering up for you, so you don’t need to think about it and, based on my own research into the matter, it actually builds good characters. They’re pretty focused around their core mechanic and lack the sort of weird-but-fun powers you get from a fully customized character, but they’re still very good (as in, they’re both effective and fun to play).

If you want a game that’s got a lot of gameplay hours for you, that’ll suck you in with a myriad of tasks, fun combat, and a great story, look no further than Pathfinder: Kingmaker. I love the game and am constantly looking forward to playing it again. The wide array of characters you can add and the sheer variety of characters you can create means that even multiple play-throughs could be fun and new. I suggest putting this game on your Christmas wishlist. Or just your Steam wishlist, if you think it might be a bit late to add something new to your Christmas one. Either way, get the game. You’ll enjoy it.

Despite all of the DOOM, There Isn’t Much Gloom.

I got DOOM for the Nintendo Switch. You’d think that I’d have chosen differently after buying Skyrim for the Switch and never playing it past the first few levels since it reminded me why I never played first-person shooters until I could get them on the computer. But no, I bought it for the Switch. And I’m once again remembering why I dislike playing first-person shooters on a console. I’m also enjoying the shit out of DOOM because it doesn’t really matter.

Sure, the graphics are updated and the game has basically been entirely remade to fit the modern era of consoles and gaming in general, but it was originally played on a system where you controllers your entire character’s movement and aim from a keyboard. The first people to play this game couldn’t look up or down at all and, instead, just ran around until the enemy was centered in their crosshairs. Despite all of the modernization, that strategy still works pretty well. The enemies tend to duck and dodge a bit more, but rapid crouching and very high horizontal aiming sensitivity made it a cinch to pivot and shoot them right in the face. Honestly, the biggest challenge is that I keep swapping my weapons instead of firing them because I can’t stop hitting the right bumper instead of the right trigger. It’s frustrating and literally the first time this has ever happened. There is no game where my bumper is the primary fire of my weapon and I play a bunch of other games on the Switch with mechanics tied to the triggers and bumpers without ever confusing which I’m supposed to be using at any given time.

Beyond that unfortunate habit, I’m having the time of my life. This is my first foray into the DOOM series and I’m enjoying the sheer over-the-top cartoonish level of violence in the game. Doomguy, the protagonist, is an incredibly angry person who punches the crap out of everything I’ve encountered so far. Annoyed at the guy talking to you on the computer? Throw the monitor away. Attacked by some kind of demon thing when you’re literally coming out of a stone coffin you’ve been sealed inside for who knows how long? Better grab what’s left of its skull and smash it on the edge of the coffin. Still super annoyed with the guy who is now talking to you over the elevator’s control system because he seems so smarmily self-assured while all hell literally breaks loose on the mars base you woke up on and you stare at the corpse of one of his soldiers or employees (you can’t tell which because it’s too mangled)? Punch the shit out of the elevator. Want to purchase an upgrade from a flying little robot dude but don’t have the money? Steal it and then punch the little robot dude until he stops trying to get his property back. Punching solves most of your problems and the ones that punching doesn’t solve are solved by shooting. It’s a simple, straight-forward game style that appeals to me when I’m stressed out or exhausted (which has been me since June).

Since I didn’t play the first games, I can’t really speak to how much has changed since then, but the modern game still seems pretty basic. Upgrades are point-based, the path is fairly linear since all roads eventually lead to your goal. Exploring is often rewarded, but you’re preventing from going too far afield so you never find yourself wondering if it’d be better to just focus on getting to your destination rather than running to every corner of the map. There is some hidden stuff, but keeping an eye out for alternate paths and actually exploring everything has gotten me all of the secrets so far. At least, I’m assuming I’ve found all of them since I’ve walked on every surface the game will allow me to walk on and two it tried really hard to prevent me from walking on. What makes this even better is that your character is constantly sprinting, the jump/climb mechanics are incredibly forgiving, and Doomguy doesn’t take fall damage so you’re not penalized for messing up a jump other than maybe being surrounded by demons who want to rip you to pieces.

The enemies are plentiful and annoying, but the health packs are all over the place, armor is readily available, ammo is never in short supply, and the badass melee kills just spew health packs when you get one just right. This is my favorite game to play an unstoppable killing machine dishing out mayhem and death to demons and mostly dead humans turned into quasi-demons that want to use your corpse to summon actual demons. Despite the low-key horror vibes of the game, the unending amounts of blood, and the horrific violence being perpetrated against the demons without end, none of it is really on-screen long enough to make an impact. You just wade through the sea of violence and mayhem, slaughtering demons by the wave and ripping them apart so they heal you whenever one flashes blue or orange. It’s a good time.

It’s a good enough time that I keep accidentally staying up too late playing it. My time is at a premium these days but I still find myself putting off my less urgent writing so I can take the time to play at least a little DOOM every day. It’s incredibly relaxing, really. Even with all of the harsh colors and the anxiety-inducing music (even the friggin’ PAUSE menu has a track that flip-flops between almost silent and pounding drums that make me certain I’m currently being attacked despite being paused in a single player game), it’s still responsibly for most of the peace and relaxation I’ve had. And that’s only possible because I got it on the Switch. Since I can go from unpacking my Switch to playing DOOM in thirty seconds, I’m much more willing to spend my five or fifteen minute breaks on it. Also, if I know I’m going to play it more, I just leave the game running and put my Switch to sleep so it only takes five seconds to get back to playing. It’s way easier to enjoy on the Switch than it’d be on my computer, even if the gameplay is more of a challenge without the precise control of a mouse.

If you’re looking for a game to play, I recommend DOOM, but only if you hate demons and don’t mind excessive violence against the worst things imaginable. Most of the game is demons and over-the-top violence against said demons, so demon lovers or violence haters should probably avoid it. Apparently there’s going to be a sequel to this game eventually, so you should get into this now while it’s still the only modernized DOOM game. Otherwise you’ll be committing to what might be a new video game series rather than just a series of remakes.

Let’s Talk About Pokemon Go’s Newest Adaptation

There’s a new Pokemon game coming out for the Nintendo Switch, called “Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee!” If you aren’t aware, it’s basically a remake of the original Pokemon games with a few changes. The biggest ones have to do with wild Pokemon and the player’s interactions with them. In previous iterations of the standard style, you would wander around in the grass until you spawned a random encounter with a Pokemon from wherever the grass is located. Then you fought the Pokemon until it was weak enough to be captured or you defeated it. Now, you actually see the Pokemon walking around and can pick which ones you encounter.  Additionally, you catch them like you do in Pokemon Go. You use a berry if you want to, select your ball, wait for the circle to be the right size, and then attempt to throw the pokeball so it lands inside the circle. Then you either catch it or you don’t. There’s no battling involved, except with the occasional trainer.

This was one of the first things we learned about the new game and it upset a lot of people. More so even than the fact that it was a third remake of the first generation of Pokemon games. The change is a pretty big departure from the core games. Battling wild Pokemon in order to gain XP and level up is such a core element of the game that felt like spending money on this game would be a waste. Wandering around, training Pokemon, and collecting XP has always been a core aspect of the games for me because I use them primarily as a way of shutting my mind down for a few hours or as a way of quieting my mind when I can’t sleep. That’s going to be a lot harder to do when I actually need to look at the game and employ motion controls with any degree of accuracy since you only get XP if you catch the Pokemon. How am I supposed to just cruise through the game with an overpowered team if I can’t dedicate a few mindless hours of battling wild Pokemon to each area between cities or gyms so my Pokemon stay above the curve by five to ten levels?

Thinking about it like that, it made it clear that this wasn’t a game for me. News that has come out since then, about other things that will be different about Pokemon: Let’s Go has made it clear that this game wasn’t meant for me or anyone like me. This game was meant for people getting into Pokemon for the first time. Children who have had to try to pick up the games that are always at least partially targeted toward older audiences, casual gamers who want a quiet couch game that doesn’t involve a lot of meta-analysis, or people who haven’t really played many games before but have started now that Pokemon Go has proven so popular and accessible. It’s a reintroduction to the series that somewhat mirrors the way the first game was simpler than all the ones since then.

For instance, Let’s Go won’t have eggs or breeding. All of the highly competitive aspects of the game that stem from that won’t be present either. There will be no breeding for natures, IVs, or EVs. Egg moves, secret abilities, TM/HMs won’t get passed down through generations to create the perfect Pokemon after a dozen hours of breeding, walking, and hatching. Now you need to catch the Pokemon or send them over from Pokemon Go if you want to try for a specific nature and all of that is more or less random. Sure, there are elements the game has that the originals did not, but it’s stuff like playing little mini games with your Pokemon to make it like you more or handing over surplus Pokemon for candies that boost your Pokemon’s stats (which actually maps pretty well to IV/EV stuff and the various stat-boosting items you could get when you inevitably wound up with more money than you knew what to do with).  Everything they’ve added fits within the relatively simple and less competitive framework of the original game. Your only real competition are the friends you battle against using the system link or the game itself, most of which is pretty optional.

In order to entice the older, more competitive audience as well–and I’m willing to admit that this idea has gotten me interested in buying the game again–they’re adding “Master Trainers” to the game. These trainers are the specific master trainer of one type of Pokemon and you will have to battle them with that specific Pokemon as well. Your Charizard will have to battle their Charizard, and it’ll actually be a tough fight since their Pokemon will allegedly be specifically geared toward fighting its own species. Gyarados has been able to learn thunderbolt for a long time, but trying to beat one that knows that with another Gyarados? That sounds like an incredibly tough challenge that would require me to not only level up my Pokemon, but maximize its potential stats and find a way to give it an unbeatable set of moves. Which is exactly what most of the super-competitive Pokemon players where saying this set of games lacked. I’m not that competitive, but the idea of being declared a Pokemon Master after all these years sounds incredibly tempting, especially for my favorite Pokemon.

I’m still curious about how the game’s going to go once it comes out, but the twin powers of nostalgia and disposable income have convinced me it’s worth buying. I doubt I’ll try to get anyone else to buy it and just make up for the lack of a trading partner with Pokemon Go, but I expect it’ll be a good time now that I’ve started looking at it the right way. This isn’t a remake, it’s a reintroduction, and I think that’s a great thing. I hope more people online start to see it for what it is as well.

Breath of the Wild’s Master Mode is Killing Me

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I really love The Legend of Zelda and Breath of the Wild in particular. It’s not like I’ve got a Triforce tattoo featuring the Triforce of Wisdom or that about 25% of my t-shirts are Legend of Zelda themed. It’s not like I can tell you just about anything from any of the games or point each of the references to past games in Breath of the Wild. Nope. Not at all. No one could ever guess that I spend a lot of my time thinking about The Legend of Zelda and it’s not like I should probably make The Legend of Zelda a category on my blog since I write about it so much.

With all the sarcasm out of the way, I want to honestly, earnestly say that Breath of the Wild is the game that keeps on giving. Not only did it give me over one hundred hours of fun during my initial run through the game, but subsequent DLC story content and the Master Mode version of the game more than doubled that. I’ve passed three hundred and fifty hours of gameplay on a single file and I’ve created two other files who probably add up to fifty hours total. The reason I created the first one was so I could stream the game on Twitch, because I thought that would be a lot of fun. I was right, of course, since it’s a fun game and having an audience only made it more fun, but it was impossible for me to make myself wait for my weekly streaming time and then I didn’t really feel like playing through it again on stream and in private after Master Mode came out. I wound up deleting that file so one of my friends could play instead.

The second file, though, was started because of a pet project of mine. While playing the game through the first time, I made my way to Hyrule Castle when I only had five hearts (but tons of stamina), in pursuit of a memory (one of the quests you get is to restore Link’s lost memories and one of them requires visiting Hyrule Castle). I had to make my way through what is basically the dungeon before the final boss with weak gear, no health, and nothing much in terms of healing items. While I was trying to find the right place, I got killed so many times it was almost funny. What actually was funny was a sequence of deaths brought on by an unfortunate auto-save. Every time I died right after entering Hyrule castle, I was brought to the same place, five seconds from getting one-shot. I eventually escaped by using the deaths to my advantage, trying different things to quickly escape the Guardians and simply repeating what worked until I made it to a safe place. I wound up with this really cool sequence of dodges, fire-powered flights, wall climbs, and a trip around a wall to a secret ledge. I probably died some fifty times figuring the sequence out, though.

Which is why I decided I wanted to make a “1,000 ways to die in Breath of the Wild” video to put on YouTube. I’ll put it to some kind of humorous music and make it out of segments of me dying recorded with my streaming devices. It’s going to be great. I was originally going to do it with a regular file, since it’d be easiest to power through it, but I decided Master Mode was the way to go since it eventually gets easy to avoid almost all deaths in a regular file with a modicum of skill and the eventual accumulation of good weapons and healing items. In Master Mode, sometimes you just die. A basic enemy can kill you in one hit, sometimes, and I struggle with killing them since they have a bunch of HP which regenerates if you don’t hit them frequently enough and weapons are a finite resource. Sure, you get bombs that are unlimited, but those take time to use without hurting yourself and lots of monsters have unpredictable invincibility frames when they recover from getting knocked around by a bomb. If you take too long to start dealing damage again, to make sure you’ve got your explosion lined up, then they just heal whatever damage you dealt to them. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially when bombs are all you have for an enemy with over seven hundred HP in the Trial of the Sword quests (which pit you against a bunch of tough enemies after taking away all of your gear and items).

That being said, it also means that you die fairly frequently and don’t need to stand around waiting for it to happen. Maybe you choose not to heal yourself mid-battle, just to see if it happens, but I played for half an hour the other day and died six times. Which means I only need to play for another eighty-four hours and I should be good to go! I’m hoping death frequency will go up once I get off the intro area and stop trying to avoid difficult situations. I’m also hoping to find places to try some incredibly stupid and badass stunts like that time I strung together a bunch of crazy tricks to trick a Lynel into running off a cliff to its death or that other time I used a bomb, the ragdoll physics, and four fairies to get down the tallest mountain in half the time it’d take to warp to the shrine I wanted to get to. Each of those involved several deaths, even if most of them got cancelled by fairies.

There’s a lot to say about Master Mode, but ultimately the most notable thing is that it serves as an easy way to rack up deaths for my stupid video. It’s basically the same thing as the standard game, but with a somewhat more difficult beginning. In my main file, I still pretty much effortlessly win all fights, even if they take a while longer to finish because the stupid Golden Lynel I’m trying to kill has seventy-five hundred hit points. Enemies, late in the game, aren’t really a problem so much as they’re a nuisance. I prefer to avoid them, but I’m not put out much if I need to fight them, even in Master Mode where they’ll almost one-hit kill you even with the best armor on. Still, it’s more fun to have the additional (generally small) challenge than to play without it.

 

This Game was the Very Best

All hyperbole and theme song references aside, Pokemon Blue was my introduction to handheld gaming and set me up for a lifetime of fun. It holds a very special place in my heart and I will always remember standing in my backyard, on the deck my dad had recently built (with the assistance of my uncles) while I powered on my very own copy of the game. I remember seeing the large, turtle-monster with the cannons sticking out of its back and thinking that was the coolest thing ever. I, of course, picked Bulbasaur as my starter Pokemon because a frog-plant monster seemed even cooler. Also, one of my friends said it got this move called solarbeam and, at the time, that was the most badass thing I could think of. Fire blast was pretty standard and hydro pump sounded kinda dull because my dad was a civil engineer and hydro pumps were things that just moved water around, so Bulbasaur was clearly the best option. Thus began my deep and abiding love for the grass type starter. The only Pokemon game since then where I’ve ever picked one of the other options has been Gen II (Silver/Gold/Crystal/HeartGold/SoulSilver) when I picked Cyndaquil because I was watching the anime at the time and Cyndaquil was my favorite of Ash’s Pokemon.

To get the first part of this nostalgia trip under way, I honestly miss the old days. Back before the internet made it possible to nail down the exact appearance percentage of all the Pokemon in every clump of grass, all you had was your friends. You found everyone with a version of the game, red or blue, and compared notes about where you found each Pokemon. Eventually, someone splurged for a walk-through and then everyone passed it around, trying to figure out where to find the best Pokemon. Then someone got a link cable and you all clamored to trade with each other until someone finally captured all 150 Pokemon, earning them the neighborhood crown until someone else revealed the secret to getting Mew. I was never the first to catch them all, for any version or generation of the game, and I’d never gotten a Mew in my life until Pokemon Go came out, but I was one of the best at figuring out where to get all the pokemon or remembering how to use the glitches so you could use Master Balls on Safari Zone Pokemon.

Back in Gen I, and even in Gen II, the games seemed so much simpler and more appealing. There was no meta to care about, no one even knew IVs or EVs existed, and everyone who tried a link battle with their friends inevitably lost to the other person’s team of level 100 Pokemon or their level 100 Mewtwo, specifically in the battles where we agreed no one would us Pokemon trained up using the Rare Candy glitch since they’d always pretend they’d leveled him up honestly and nothing beat a level 100 Mewtwo even with Same Type Attack Bonus boosted moves (Parasect was your best bet, but even that couldn’t hack it with a forty level difference). Back then, the games told a story and we got to watch the world and the people inside it change from one game to the next and even battle our previous player once we beat all of Silver or Gold.

Even setting aside the “crotchety old man” stuff, I miss the wild rumors that would circulate about the games. The wild speculation we all engaged in about Lavender Town and the ghost Pokemon you fought. The first Pokemon games coincided with my friends and I starting to get our first opportunities to access the internet and one of us inevitably came across some of the original “creepypasta” rumors about the first Pokemon game and we’d delightfully terrorize each other with stories about the old man in Lavender town killing all your Pokemon or the horrors of Missingno if you actually capture it. We all learned glitches we could use to duplicate Pokemon and convinced gullible people to do them since they had a tendency to delete all your save data instead.

The thing was, there was a community around the games and it lasted for years. Even as my friends and I get the new games, the feeling just isn’t the same. I’m still the best when it comes to knowing where to find Pokemon and I tend to have the highest Pokedex completion percentage, but the way the games are set up now makes competition pointless because you either cheat, trade your rare Pokemon away, or go to events to get limited legendary Pokemon that aren’t available through normal gameplay. Right now, there’s a “year of legendaries” event going on and my initial plans of taking advantage of it every month quickly fell apart as life intervened. Now I have no way to get those Pokemon unless I trade away something far rarer since everyone who has one knows they can ask for anything they want because it’s easier to restart and replay the entire game than get a specific event Pokemon. Sure, Mew was an event Pokemon and Celebi was as well, so it’s been going on since the beginning, but it’s so incredibly difficult to get them all now that it would take years to get all the event Pokemon and I don’t even want to know how much many in travel expenses.

I definitely enjoy the new games, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like I enjoyed Pokemon as a whole more back when I didn’t know as much and when I had a little less information available to me. When things were simple and I played under the covers of my bed using the plug-in game light I told my parents was for car rides, Pokemon seemed like this amazing world that I would step into and explore. Now, because of the meta, because of Pokemon natures, and because of the ever pressing need to figure out where I need to go each month to get event Pokemon, it’s much less a world for me to explore and much more of a part-time job that doesn’t reimburse your travel expenses. I’ll still play each one as it comes out (though I might take a pass on the “Let’s Go” series coming out soon) because I still get hours and hours of entertainment out of it, not to mention assistance with my insomnia issues, but I miss the days when it felt more real to me.

To once again continue the theme of reflecting on old games, today’s post is about Pokemon! Listen to me wax nostalgic, play the part of a grumpy old main yelling about change, and consider the pitfalls of the more modern games.

I’d Like to Craft a Clever Title, But I Emptied This Mine Years Ago

Like many people in this day and age, I played Minecraft. I got in fairly early, in its second year, and enjoyed it for a long time before the increasing variety of changes took it from a basic building and destruction game to the first of many “block games” that eventually changed to fit the mold of all the games based on it. The path it has taken is a weird one, but I kind of get it from a developer’s perspective. This game spawned a whole style of animation and gameplay and so many people used the low graphic style to create their own games that it wound up becoming the head of a movement it wasn’t a part of. Minecraft was just one more resource collection and building game, though it did eventually become the most popular one.

(Please read the following in your best “crotchety old man who just finished yelling at some kids who kicked their ball into his yard” internal voice.)

Nowadays, the game is full of extra critters, you can get experience points, there’s some kind of story mode that I don’t understand at all and definitely don’t trust, there’s magic and potions and flying now, and the whole point of building giant square buildings out of cobblestone so you’ve had a safe place to hide from the creepers while you waited for the forest fire you accidentally started to finally burn itself out several “chunks” away has been lost! The game doesn’t feel anything like the game I used to love! I used to spend many nights quietly toiling away in my mines so I could build mine cart paths that automatically took me from one mine to another and then to my base with the simple flip of a few switches and now I can’t spend any time in the mines without having to deal with some kind of tall goon that teleports over to me and silently screams as he beats me to death with whatever block he picked up before I made eye contact with him! These are the dying days of building games and I’ll always be angry that we were abandoned by the original creator of the game!

(Thank you for your patience. We now return to being a reasonable adult. Please read the following in whatever internal voice is most natural to you.)

Because Minecraft was a big part of my life for so many years, to the point where I have music I can’t listen to without being transported back to Minecraft worlds that no longer exist, there’s a part of me that feels like the paragraph above. At the same time, I appreciate where Minecraft has gone since then and I think it is doing a great job of serving its target audience. I might not be its target audience anymore, but that’s alright. My youngest sister loves the game and the adaptation its gone through to fit on mobile touchscreen platforms has really opened it up to many people who never would have otherwise played it. It went from being a game enjoyed mostly by hardcore gamers who enjoyed it’s retro feel to being played and enjoyed by millions of different people from all walks of life. I love it when games find a way to bring themselves into popular culture in a big way and I’m glad Minecraft found a way to survive the burnout of its creator. Not a lot of games are that lucky.

The game doesn’t really appeal to me beyond its basic roots. I played through the advent of random villages, temples, and ocelots, but I it became more and more important to maintaining my own projects to have a variety of resources and connections to the local area. I needed to be able to defend myself against enemies that would become more numerous and dangerous the longer I stayed in the area. If I found a village, I needed to defend it constantly from zombie invasion or expand it to the point where it could defend itself. If I wanted to travel the world to take advantage of the resources available in the various biomes, I needed horses which were also only available in certain areas. I had to have farms and herds of animals to provide food for myself, armor if I wanted to survive the constant need to leave my well-defended areas, and ready access to lava if I ever actually wanted to dispose of stuff permanently. It got complicated and they even took away my ability to rapidly clear the land through forest fires by limiting how far fires could spread. As they added more new elements and story to the game, my interest waned and other games took up the time Minecraft once did.

The game I loved is still in there and I keep the game updated in case I ever want to play it again, but I’ve got other things to spend my time on now. I miss the days of simple mining before I couldn’t spend more than an afternoon mining without running into some kind of ridiculous giant cavern filled with long falls, monster spawns, and resources that are more trouble than they’re worth. I’m sure the story modes are fun and there’s still a lot of joy to be had exploring the worlds that spawn whenever you start a new game, but I just don’t have the desire to catch up on a few years of updates so I can figure out how to trim out everything I don’t want and just focus on the basic resource collection and building elements. Maybe there’s a stripped-down game mode or someone has the install files for a previous version of the game I can use, but I haven’t found anything in my google searches. I’m alright with that, though. I’d probably only play for a few evenings or afternoons and then stop again. Nostalgia only gets you so far and I don’t really play many open-ended games without my friends any more. I get too bored and I’m pretty sure I’d wind up setting Minecraft aside to play Destiny 2 with my friends. I just don’t really have the desire to spend five hours building a castle no one is going to see.

I know servers are easier than ever to set up, but I don’t think I could convince my friends to start playing it again. There’s only so much time in a day and, even if we all had two hours a day just for Minecraft, I’m pretty sure my friends would rather use it for something else. It’s difficult to go back to old games these days, when there’s always something new and exciting just around the corner.

 

I’ll Always Love the Legend of Zelda

One of my first memories of playing video games was sitting on the carpet with my friends while we took turns playing Super Mario Cart. I remember the ease with which I made turns, hopped over puddles, and the ways we laughed whenever we ran into the moles that appeared in a couple of the levels. It was a fun, social activity. It set the foundation for the way I still view video games today, as an activity best done with friends. As I grew, and my friends all moved away or disappeared as such things do, I found myself less and less able to find people to play with other than my siblings. That was always fun, but my older brother wasn’t very interested in playing because he always won and my younger sisters weren’t as interested when I initially needed people.

Around that time, the N64 came out. I wanted one so badly, so I could play the new Mario game I got to try when we visited some of my dad’s friends, but no amount of begging or pleading would sway my parents. It was just not in the cards for us. Long after I’d given up, though I of course still asked frequently as a matter of course, we got the limited edition, see-through green edition that came with the expansion pack and Donkey Kong 64. I was so excited that I woke up at five in the morning or earlier every day during winter break to play it. Donkey Kong 64 was one of my first experiences with a game that was meant to be played by a single player and it was way more fun than I expected. Then, I don’t remember when it happened or who gave it to us, but I got my hands on a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and my world changed.

I honestly hadn’t expected much going into it. My first Legend of Zelda game was A Link to the Past, because we borrowed it from a friend for a while. My older brother enjoyed it, but I couldn’t quite figure it out. I was five or six while I was trying to play it and I just couldn’t figure out where to go next at one point, so I didn’t get very far into it before we had to give it back. When we got Ocarina of Time, I was excited by a new single-player game of course, but I was a little skeptical that it’d be nearly as fun as Donkey Kong had been. I let my brother take the first turn and I immediately fell in love as I watched him play. There was just something about seeing a child who looked like he was my age fight against evil and go on these adventures before ultimately growing up to continue them. Most of the thematic elements of the game went right over my head, but I had so much fun wandering around the world, searching for heart pieces and Gold Skulltulas before ultimately trying to look up guides online, that I didn’t care about anything else.\

A year later, not that long after my brother and I had gotten tired of finishing Ocarina of Time, we got a Nintendo Power magazine telling us all about the new Legend of Zelda game that was going to come out, Majora’s Mask. I demanded the game immediately, which didn’t get me very far, of course. I had to save and beg and wheedle and convince my parents to get it for the family since no one person could have a game console (there were four of us kids at that point and we used any power we had to get one-up on each other). I don’t remember the day we finally got it, but I remember how excited I was and then how frustrated I was when I couldn’t get through the first part of the game. At that point, due to how much we played video games and how many of us wanted to play, there was a strict thirty-minute restriction on how long your turn with the N64 could be. If you’ve played Majora’s Mask, you know that thirty minutes is barely enough time to get through the first part of the game even when you know what you’re doing and that there’s no way to save the game until you’ve finished. Needless to say, it took a lot of tries to figure everything out so I could actually finish the first part. My brother cheated by getting up in the middle of the night when no one would call him on playing for longer than thirty minutes but, joke’s on him, I beat the game before him using that method.

This game was different from Ocarina of Time, though. I’m not sure if it was because of how much I’d grown in the year between starting Ocarina of Time and playing Majora’s Mask or if it was because the themes of the game more closely matched the issues I was struggling with at the time, but I finally starting to realize what was going on behind the missions and adventures. I saw all these crazy characters who were struggling to deal with the things that happened in their life and they went from being hilarious or weird caricatures to being sad but truthful depictions of the way we struggled to cope in a world were we ultimately have no say in how things turn out. The big moment for me was watching the Zora hero, Mikau, tell his story and then die. I didn’t really understand what was going on and what the game meant back then, but it has stuck with me for over a decade as something that opened my eyes to the fact that lots of people feel powerless and want someone to help them.

I mean, even the hero can’t accomplish everything he wants. He has the power to help other people, to fix some of their problems or at least act in their stead when it is too late for them, but even he can’t find the person he’s been searching for throughout the entire game. It’s a lot like the stories we tell ourselves as we try our best to live our lives. It can be really easy to step in for someone else, to help them fix a problem that feels insurmountable to them but that we have the tools to address, but we often find ourselves unable to help ourselves in the same we. We struggle and fight our way through whatever comes up, but can’t always guarantee that the struggle is going to be anything but an obstacle to overcome. Winning doesn’t guarantee that we’ll get the prize we seek. Or any prize at all, for that matter.

As a ten-year-old kid, I couldn’t have put this into words, but I understood it. I felt it deep inside my heart and recognized it in this game that was a rush job slapped together using old assets by a team of people who had a vision and a plan and not much else. It reach into my soul and let me know I wasn’t the only one who felt this way or had experienced these feelings. It was a revelation and the reason Majora’s Mask is always going to be my favorite Legend of Zelda game. Even with Breath of the Wild’s amazing open world and the hundreds of hours of joy it has brought me, Majora’s Mask will always be the nearest and dearest to my heart because it taught me about depression and how to handle it before I even knew that’s what I had. It set the stage for a lot of the most important mental developments in my life and is more a part of who I am as a person than anything but “stories” as a whole. I’m glad I got to experience it when I did and I’m glad I can go back to visit it and find it the same after all these years so I can measure how I’ve grown and changed.

Marvel’s Spider-Man Swings in to Save the (Gaming) Franchise

While we’ve been struggling with the lack of internet in my apartment, my roommate and I both turned to console gaming to help us fill the lack of video games caused by the loss of our usual games (WoW and Destiny 2, right now). I went for Hallow Knight and A Night in the Woods right away but, after thinking it over a little, I thought it would be good to buy a copy of Marvel’s Spider-Man. I’ve been a fan of all Spider-Man games for years since I think it’s always a ton of fun to traverse the city and explore as much as possible. When people started saying this one was the best Spider-Man game yet, I knew I had to try it out. Since I knew my roommate (who owns the PlayStation 4) had been looking at it a few weeks ago, I decided to wait until I’d spoken to him to pick it up. Later that night, when we had a chance to talk, we both started the conversation with the intent to tell the other we planned to buy Spider-Man. One overnight download later, we settled in for our first day of taking turns playing the game.

I haven’t had this much fun in a brawler in ages and I could spend an hour wandering around the city without getting bored. The combos are so incredibly smooth and the pathing is so forgiving. Unless you’re my roommate. He always seems to wind up with the worst possible pathing and I honestly can’t tell him why. I can swing through the city fast enough to outpace whatever I’m supposed to be chasing down and he struggles to beat a timed mission because the target for one of his movement abilities either sticks to something he’s passing over or it jumps to something dumb the instant before he pulls the two trigger buttons to leap forward. When it comes to web-swinging instead of parkour or leaping forward, he has a bit more success, but he still almost always winds up in a difficult situation with the way the camera follows him. I’ve tried to figure out what I’m doing that he isn’t, but I’ve got nothing. It’s just really terrible luck on his part.

My favorite part of fighting is the different moves you can combo together that normally aren’t used in combos. For instance, I can air dodge, leap forward, and then pull myself down on top of a bad guy for a big hit and then instantly be leaping into the area again so I don’t get hit by any of the bullets that are now being fired at the poor guy I just punched. Throw in some fun ground-dodges and a certain fluidity to the brawling that makes it easy to fight large groups and I have a blast dancing around the street as I dodge bullets, rockets, and some big dude with glowing fists who creates shockwaves when he slams the ground. The biggest problem with the combat system comes when your enemies are really spread out and you need to dodge. There aren’t a lot of good options, so you kind of just prance around a bit before getting hit enough times that you get frustrated, leap away, and then swing in quickly from a new angle so you can punch the gunmen in the head after pulling yourself toward the ground from fifty feet above him. If you don’t do that, then you just need to wait for Spidey to dance-fight his way over to the gun dudes or buy the skill that lets you pull guns out of people’s’ hands.

While I’ve been playing for a while now, and gotten through a significant chunk of the plot, I can’t help but feel like there’s a whole lot more to the game than what they released. I know they’ve got some meaty DLC planned already, but I’ve gotta admit that I’m feeling aggravated that the game feels like it was built to sell me story chunks in video game form. It’s still a great cost to hours-of-entertainment ratio, but I just don’t like the feeling that the game is just tossing threads around so they’ll have loose threads to tie each DLC to the main story. I wouldn’t mind it if I’d gone into the game with that expectation, or if the hype had included acknowledging that they were setting the stage for a lot of story expansion DLC, but I had no idea and now it feels a little under-handed and sneaky.

Like all the Mary-Jane stealth missions. I go from pummeling bad guys and flying around the city to needing to sneak through a series of rooms using crappy barriers to block sight lines that are only considered blocked in video games. It’s a real pace-killer and I don’t really enjoy them that much. That, plus waiting for Dr. Otto Octavius to go Supervillain, are my two least-favorite parts of the game so far. Also, I’m getting a little time of every non “demon” bad guy being a dude in a tracksuit with a gold chain. There are guys without tracksuits, but they’re the brothers of the guy with the tracksuit and they all feel so stereotypical. Just like all the hoodie-wearing bad guys. The tropes and stereotypes get to be a little much at times. I once fought a group of enemies that was nothing but guys in tracksuits, one for each color of the rainbow. Also, during stealth missions, you can distract people using web shots and they all, without fail, say something like “Spider-Man is here!” or “It’s gotta be Spider-Man!” and then wander over to the noise like a super-powered man in red and blue spandex (or a black leather noir suit because the costumes in this game are hilarious) isn’t about to kick their ass. Also, if they come across an unconscious compatriot after saying “Spider-Man is around here, somewhere,” they still unfailingly say “what happened here?” like it’s some great mystery that someone was found beaten unconscious or webbed to a wall in area that you currently suspect Spider-Man to be around.

Essentially, the AI is kinda dumb. At least, most of it is. There are some interesting choices that make up for it, like when a paramilitary organization gets called in by the mayor and they start fighting the terrorists and gangs in the street. This particular paramilitary group doesn’t care much for Spider-Man and they make it clear with how frequently they fire their guns while Spider-Man is fighting amongst the terrorists. The New York police never once hit you with friendly fire but the paramilitary jackasses hit me more than the terrorists did and it is completely clear that they’re supposed to be doing it. The boss fights are just as interesting, since the bosses tend to fight a bit more intelligently than most bosses. They’ll move around, counter, progress attacks, and have little tricks up your sleeve that will make you innovate or figure out how to just constantly throw stuff at people because that hurts everyone the same and no one can block it.

It’s really just a ton of fun to play and I’m probably going to go spend some time playing it now that I’ve finished writing about it. I’ve still probably got a dozen hours of web-swinging in me before I get bored and I’m looking forward to making the most of them. I gotta find all of the various tokens so I can unlock the grunge Spidey outfit and fight people using the power of RAWK.

Destiny 2’s Future Looks Brighter Than Ever

When I finally managed to log onto the Destiny 2 servers on Tuesday, a few minutes after noon, it felt like I was playing a whole new game. Except worse because I knew I wasn’t playing a new game and had a whole pile of expectations about how things worked that wound up being wrong. There were some growing pains at first, and I’m certain there will continue to be more, but I’m optimistic the changes the “Live Team” made to Destiny 2 are going to result in a better gaming experience over the course of the next couple years. Even after only two days of play, both shortened by internet problems unrelated to the game, I can confidently say the game is miles better than it was before.

My only major gripe is how frustrating it is to try to track weekly progress now. Instead of having one place I can go to check out my progress on everything, I now have to go to the map location of each activity and hover over it to see my progress. This means that, in order to check my overall status, I have to do a few dozen clicks whereas I used to be able to check it by tapping or holding a few keys on my keyboard. Additionally, there wasn’t really a clear explanation of how the changes would roll out for the weeklies, so I was left searching for them until I hit both level 50 and the “soft cap” of my character’s power level (500). I’m sure the information is out there somewhere, but so much happened in the space of a week that it was almost impossible to process how the immediate changes affected my gameplay, let alone what the future changes would mean. You can even see it in the community as a lot of the once-reliable information resources are struggling to keep up with everything that’s rolled out and the vague promises that more will be coming as time passes. Even the patch notes are too dense to read through without missing stuff and I’m someone who literally studied how to parse texts in order to get at the meaning inside of them.

When it comes to actually experiencing the changes rather than trying to learn about them, things are much better. After the update, the gameplay feels so smooth that it’s like playing a different game. Shooting feels way better than it ever did before, as does bullet impact and ability strength. Reload speeds feel somewhat sluggish now, but I’m pretty sure it’s because everything else is so fast-paced now that the unchanged reload speeds feel extra slow. I feel like my character moves faster, that combat resolves faster, and that all of my abilities are available faster. In the first mission alone, I used my ultimate ability, my “Super” three times before the first cutscene interrupt the mission. It was amazing. I finally felt like the powerhouse the game’s lore and history says you should be. A one-man (or, in my case, robot) army capable of beating even the toughest foes into the dirt with enough cleverness and ammunition.

Probably the biggest change to the pacing of the game was the introduction of what feels like sharper contrasts around your character’s power level (or Light level). Before, I could easily muddle through encounters above my Light level so long as they weren’t that far above it. If the gap was bigger, about thirty or higher, I’d get stomped into the ground and the same wasn’t really true of when you’re that much stronger than your enemies. Now, even a ten-level difference is noticeable and that’s for both sides. Being stronger than my enemies lets me just soak up damage like nobodies’ business and laugh as my health drops into the red because nothing but a bunch of mini-bosses or a single-big boss could kill me before I killed them. Enough mooks could kill me, and they have the times I got overconfident, but it’s pretty easy to just mow them down on your way to the real fight.

The new story isn’t very long, but it sets up a few interesting questions and leaves enough of an open end that their promises of more to come might actually be in reference to lore and story content rather than just gradually shifting environmental stuff. It’s also pretty engaging, given that they revealed during the announcement of the expansion that they were killing off one of the favorite characters in the game. It’s hard not to get caught up in what’s going on, especially because the bad guys talk now and say things that make you actually think for a moment about what you’re doing and what a “Guardian” (the generic term for what your character is) is supposed to do in general, when confronted with a situation like this one. All that being said, it doesn’t really leave you with much question about what you’re doing by the time you get to the end of the missions and anyone who has spent any time thinking about mortality or taken a decent philosophy class in their life will be able to adequately answer the questions. It’s fun and engaging, but nothing particularly special.

What has wound up being the most fun part for me has been the sense of exploration and discovery I get as I re-learn how to play this game at the same time that everyone else does. I can google almost anything new I want and never actually get answers to my questions unless there’s a discussion on a message board with people also trying to figure it out. The efficiency of new weapons, the locations of enemies that give you good rewards, how to trigger the more powerful versions of the public events, where to go to find all of the vendors, and so much more. Everyone is still figuring things out and it feels great to be able to contribute to that.

That being said, here are some things I figured out, specifically for anyone playing Destiny 2:

  • Join a clan and have people on your fireteam. It makes life so much easier and certain bounties require it.
  • Do all the bounties you can. Glimmer is easy to get right now, so spend it freely (and they’re super cheap) and reap the rewards in consumables and tokens.
  • Try new weapons and probably stay away from any PvP experience right now because either I really suck, everyone else is amazing, or people have just figured out how to win by being super shitty and do nothing but play PvP so they can be shitty to people. Seriously, it sucks.
  • Keep an eye on your random perk rolls but only for Legendary and up gear. If you like the perks, just hold on to it since you can always strengthen that gun or armor later.
  • The Tangled Shore is super fun, so spend tons of time there.
  • Bows are silly but only really work well in the Tangled Shore. They feel a little underwhelming elsewhere.

I’ve got a lot more specific information, but that’s not super useful unless we’re chatting while you’re playing so I’m not going to post it here. If you play and are reading this, let me know if you’ve got any questions or found anything particularly fun you’d like to share! I’d love to hear about it.