I’m Sorta Okay At Destiny 2, And That’s Alright

There’s no better reminder of how “a step above average” you are at a video game than seeing the performance of a high-skill group of players who have practiced their coordination and communication. I used to get this through watching the professional Overwatch league, back in the days when I watched and played that game before I chose to uninstall all my Blizzard games for reasons of moral concern (which has only gotten worse over the years since). Now, I get it by watching my friend and his fellow members of what our (I kept writing “his/my friend’s clan” even though I’m a part of it because I’m still only dipping my toes back into Destiny 2, but I changed it all in editing because I’m trying to push myself to become a more active member of the group) clan calls Team 1 as they prepared for the latest raid and now practice for future guided raids.

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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.

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.

 

This Game Has A Destiny Too Complex To See

One of the games I’ve been playing a lot recently is Destiny 2 on the PC. It isn’t Borderlands, but it is still a shooter with super interesting guns and special powers you can swap around. That’s close enough for me to enjoy, especially since I can easily get all of my friends to show up on an evening to play some Destiny 2 with me and I’ve yet to actually finish the story of a Borderlands game with anyone but my librarian friend. It may not have the same sense of humor, cell-shaded glory, intriguing characters, smooth control scheme, super supportive community, excellent campaign mode…. Okay, maybe the comparison isn’t as great as I’d originally thought.

That isn’t to say Destiny 2 is bad or that I’m not enjoying it. I actually really enjoy Destiny 2, even the online PvP (Player versus Player) modes. I play it all the time by my own choice, even if I never really play it by myself. The campaign doesn’t have as much replayability, but it is also super easy to just power through if you’re interesting in earning the XP for your clan (a loose association of players that can bring you some minor benefits and is basically just a list of people who’ll do the three-player missions with you) or trying to increase your chances of getting a rare gun. It was a lot of fun to play through the first time, even if it wasn’t super compelling. You can definitely tell that the main focus of the game is supposed to be on what happens AFTER you complete the campaign.

There’s already a lot to do after the campaign ends, and there will only ever be more as new content is created and released. There are Strikes, which are three-player missions that have a good chance of dropping good gear, which come in a couple different flavors. Vanilla (normal) strikes are relatively easy and vary widely, but don’t drop very good gear that often. Heroic strikes are more difficult and drop better gear along with having a chance to drop the best gear. Nightfall strikes are even more difficult and have special rules, but also drop better gear in addition to having the best chance of dropping the rarest gear. There’s the Crucible, which is the main PvP mode, and the Trials of the Nine, which is a special format of the PvP mode that gives you really great gear if you manage to win 7 out of 9 matches. There’s also the Leviathan Raid, which is the highest-tier of end-game content, requires six people, and is the best way to get gear. There’s also a number of things that happen on each world, such as public events that anyone can join, small adventures for alright look, and the constant grind of earning tokens you can trade in to each world’s representative for random loot around (but usually below) your level.

All of this content is geared toward players who enjoy making multiple character, doing weekly or daily grind sessions to get the best possible weapons, gear, cosmetic items, and emotes. There’s some room for more casual players since the best way to get gear to do the weekly milestones, which basically just requires that you just play a little of every game mode every week. You can do it in a couple of hours one night a week if you’ve got a decent group of people to play with, though doing the Raid can easily double that. You can just keep playing with the same character the entire time or switch between a few characters to get the weekly rewards all over again as you help the more casual members of your clan earn their weeklies. Personally, I like to play it whenever there’s someone online to play with but I usually stick to one character because I’m not super motivated by the rare weapons. I just like to “Captain America” things as a Titan (you get a shield you can bash people with, block attacks with, or throw at distance enemies to damage and blind them. It’s so much fun to just run around punching the crap out of enemies in a shooter. And, if you get the right gear, it’s a totally viable strategy.

The sheer variety of play style available to the players is where Destiny 2 shines. There are three very different classes with different styles of play and each of those classes can be played in a number of very different ways based on the special properties of your armor. I have arm armor for my Titan that includes the lunge distance of my melee attacks and the damage the attacks do, which stacks with a class ability that does the same thing. If you set it up right and time everything well, you can fly around a battlefield like superman, punch everything to death. Warlocks do incredible amounts of damage in general but are probably also the biggest utility class since you can modify them to increase damage, heal, use more grenades, be super mobile, and so on. Hunters are the high-damage, very mobile sort of class that have the best mobility and the most options when it comes to attacking (In terms of strategy rather than in terms of abilities). Each of these has sub-classes that change their abilities and grenades, and writing about them all would be at least a full post per class.

The biggest problems the game has come in the form of the continued support from the studio, Bungie. There have been a number of uproars in the player community already in regards to some the questionable decisions Bungie has been making, all of which is compounded by the fact that Bungie isn’t very good at communicating with its fan base. There was the XP debacle (XP was being weighed so that super grind-y players didn’t get too many of the loot boxes you get by leveling up or by purchasing from Bungie), the only recently resolved issue involve the DLC (players without the DLC got locked out of almost every post-game activity that was a part of the weekly reward system), and the tumultuous Prometheus Lens arrival and subsequent nerf (PvP used nothing but this gun because it could nearly insta-kill other players and a large segment of people wanted to keep it around. Personally, I hated it since it made every PvP match the same boring grind of who pulls the trigger first). In the last couple weeks, Bungie has really started communicating more clearly and openly about what’s going on, but a lot of players are still left wondering just how all of this stuff made it through testing or why Bungie made some of their clearly dumb decisions they’ve subsequently backtracked on.

I can’t really hold the game accountable for the mistakes of the company that made it, though, so I would definitely recommend getting Destiny 2 (and its DLC because the extra missions they’ve added in Curse of Osiris were a lot of fun).  I’d recommend playing casually or settling yourself in for the cycle of frustration and excitement my roommate seems to go through every week or two, but that’s really up to you. If you’ve got an open evening every week that you’d like to fill and a group of friends you like to game with, I strongly suggest filling it with Destiny 2. You’ll have a lot of fun, if nothing else.