Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Upgrading stinks with Destiny: House of Wolves

I've been playing Destiny: House of Wolves (HoW), the DLC for Destiny. And one thing stands out. The way to upgrade weapons and armor stinks. Bungie has now made their first person shooter a futile effort in gaming.

First, let me go over how upgrading weapons and armor before last week's DLC. The max level for weapons was an attack rating of 331. The max level for a character, that is her overall armor rating was 32. Now to get to 32, you needed four 32 level pieces of Legendary armor which are helmets, chest piece, gauntlets, and leg armor. Now, you can substitute one Exotic piece of armor but only one. There were two ways of getting 32 Legendary armor. One way was to get them in random drops from the Crota's End raid. Armor from the Crota raid were upgraded with Radiant shards from that raid. The other way was to get armor from playing in The Iron Banner, a team player versus player tournament. Those armor pieces were upgraded with Ascendant Shards. Those shards were obtained from the Daily Heroic mission which guaranteed two Ascendant materials at the highest level, playing in the Vault of Glass raid or as a random drop by completing Public Events around the map. While the Crota armor was more difficult to upgrade due to there being one place to obtain Radiant shards, the Iron Banner armor was much easier. A single player could farm Ascendant materials from the Daily Heroic mission and Public Events.

But with the new House of Wolves DLC, one can upgrade all Legendary weapons and armor to a maximum of 365 and level 34 character, respectively. Now you can upgrade Vault of Glass raid gear which only maxed out at 300 and level 30. (Exotic gear can be upgraded to max levels with one Exotic Shard.) To upgrade gear you must "Ascend" them with one Etheric Light piece. (Byf video below) This all sounds good until you see how it's done.

You see, you have to find Etheric Light. You can get them right now from four places. It can be awarded by doing the very difficult Nightfall strike as a random drop. According Byf's video below it's also random in the elite Trials of Osiris, a weekly team deathmatch. It's also guaranteed with the cooperative Prison of Elders at the highest levels of difficulty, levels 34 and 35. Prison of Elders is arena based combat ala Mass Effect 3's multiplayer. Iron Banner is supposed to award Etheric Light at levels three and five but we don't have all the details on that. Plus it rolls around about once a month.

Unlike farming maps for Ascendant materials which you can do by yourself. you are forced to do it in the three ways described above. None of those methods can be reasonably done alone. Trials of Osiris cannot be done alone since you need a three man team. While the Nightfall and Prison of Elders can be attempted alone, they are so difficult that you would be crazy to try. Prisoners of Elders is difficult at the lowest level of 28. I've completed level 32 Prison of Elders, with two very good players. It was painfully hard. So think how hard it is at levels 34 and 35. To show how difficult it was, Forbes reported that Bungie employees could not complete it at level 34.

But there's one more big problem. THERE IS NO MATCHMAKING FOR TRIALS OF OSIRIS, THE NIGHTFALL STRIKE AND THE PRISON OF ELDERS LEVELS 32, 34, 35. You must have friends to play at the time you want to play. That makes it almost impossible for a sole player to upgrade his gear to maximum levels. Under the old system it was possible. One may hold out hope for Iron Banner but will you get enough Etheric Light to upgrade much of your gear and weapons? What's worse, what happens if it is a random drop? Plus, if you don't like The Crucible, Iron Banner's game mode, you will have to suffer through it. I did. That being said, I doubt it will be a random drop but if it's just one piece of Etheric Light at each level three and five, that will make upgrading a painfully slow grind.

I'm continually frustrated with Bungie's micromanaging the way to upgrade weapons and your character. Bungie continually sets goals and puts obstacles in your path. While this may sound like a way to keep you coming and addicted, eventually it will backfire. Bungie better watch out. Players may end Destiny's run at year one.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Destiny: House of Wolves stinks

If you were hoping for redemption for the mediocre but addictive video game Destiny from the new DLC House of Wolves (HoW) , you can forget it. The HoW is very much like the main game. It's okay but has huge flaws.

A. The Good.

Gameplay and gunplay mechanics are excellent. Firing your guns are a blast. And your jump packs add much to the gameplay except for one jumping puzzle which is very difficult for the Hunter class unless she uses the super Bladedancer.

B. The Bad. And boy, is it bad.

1. The Story. IF you were expecting improvements in storytelling such as exposition and meaning, forget about it. The story is told through voice over as you are doing your mission from the two vendors of the new social area called The Reef. Yes, you heard that right. No cut scenes with exposition or action. There's not even characters talking to you directly ala Half LIfe. Heck, the Queen who sent you on these missions doesn't even make an appearance! That just makes the teaser trailer below a con job because the DLC doesn't live up to the hype.

The House of Wolves DLC has an anemic story compared to its trailer below.

So what's this DLC about? Something about Fallen guy Skolas who wants to be king of the Fallen or something like that. You, of course, have to hunt him down. Why? Don't know. Don't care.

2. The game design. In Mass Effect 3's DLC, you went to different places from the normal game maps. In HoW, you are using the same maps from the main game with the exception of the last part of the last mission. Okay, there are some minor differences. Some rooms are open on earth. But it's the same stuff. Ruins of a lost age. The only difference are the bosses. And they are just a variation of other bosses and enemies. This is lazy and cheap mission design. I mean this game had a budget of 500 million dollars!

3. The new leveling up process to the maximum. Before HoW, you could level up Legendary weapons and armor with Ascendant materials and Radiant materials for Crota raid gear. Cap level 32 armor came from the Crota raid and Iron Banner event. Yeah, it was bad for the Crota stuff since you had to play the Crota's End raid. But for all the Legendary you could farm Ascendant material from the Vault of Glass raid, the Daily Heroic mission at level 30 which was guaranteed, dismantling Legendary gear and doing Public Events. So you had multiple paths to get to the level cap of 32.

Now all Legendary and Exotic gear can be leveled up to the maximum. For armor it's 34 and for weapons it's 365. This sounds good until you find out how to do it. The process is called "Ascend." For Exotic gear, you need one Exotic Shard. Those can be bought from Xur at seven strange coins. Sounds good but remember you can only equip one Exotic per class.

That means you are going to have to wear at least three pieces of Legendary gear with an Exotic, assuming you don't get the armor piece from Variks, the Reef vendor. You can also have four Legendary pieces to max out your rank. Don't know if Variks refreshes his stock if it does. To level up any gear, you now need to do two things. Upgrade the gear to the maximum and obtain one Etheric Light.

So how does one get an Etheric Light? They are randomly dropped in Nightfall strikes now set at 32, the player versus player Trials of Osiris, and the cooperative Prisoners of Elders. For Prisoners of Elders, it's guaranteed at levels 34 and 35. Good luck playing at those difficulty levels, they're extremely hard. The Iron Banner tournament allegedly allows Etheric Light at levels three and five. I say "allegedly" as I have yet to see it. (Mashable article) But how much Etheric Light can you get? I've read it's dropped at level three and five. Does that mean that's the only amount for the Banner? Don't know but if you hate the Crucible, you're out of luck here.

I have played completed three Nightfalls, and three Prisoners of Elders matches two at level 28 and one at level 32, all with different characters. I have not received one Etheric Light. That stinks. Unlike using Ascendant material, you really can't farm for Etheric Light. Plus, you can only get one guaranteed Etheric Light drop per character on the harder levels per week. It's a crap shoot. So, again Destiny wants you to grind but punishes you for it.

4. The multiplayer modes. There are two multiplayer games with HoW. The cooperative Prisoner of Elders is an arena map where you face off against five waves of enemies. The difficulty levels are 28, 32, 34 and 35. It's extremely difficult even at level 28. Enemies swarm and flank you. And there are only three to a fireteam. There are no good areas for cover. Get the picture, it's near impossible at 34 and 35. Then there's this. NO MATCHMAKING AT LEVEL 32 AND BEYOND. So if you want to get in a match at your convenience to get Etheric Light without friends, you are out of luck.

Forget about the Trials of Osiris if you're not one of the best players in the world. I kid not. It's a three versus three deathmatch. There are problems not just with its elitist pedigree. (Check out the club for the Best of the Best, nine victories in a row.) One, there's no matchmaking. You must form a squad. Two, it's punishing. You must win nine matches to get the best stuff. Lose three and you're out. Look, I've suffered through Iron Banner and this thing is that but on steroids. Not interested, so no need to play this for the review since I'm not one of the best in the world and neither are many of you. Plus, I'm sure this type of thing will bring out the cheaters such as the lag switchers and modders. I've played many player versus player matches where I've seen them.

C. Conclusion

Destiny: House of Wolves is not an improvement but more of the same. Terrible storytelling. And now a fate based way of leveling up to the maximum levels. The game maybe addictive but is sadistic. The grade is C Plus. For us addicts, it's a B minus.

Destiny jumps the shark

So a couple of weeks ago, I'm playing the video game Destiny, specifically the Wrath of the Queen's bounties. That's where you hunt down targets across the maps. Well, I read the description of one target, Kaliks-12. Here's the quote:

"Kaliks-12 was high Servitor of Skriviks Ketch. It was captured during the Cybele Uprising with its mistress." (Video below)

Hold on. It's a servitor. In Destiny lore, these things are big ball like robots. (Video below) It is not an organic. So how does this affair thing work? I mean the thing has no penis. How does servitor sex work? It's simply ludicrous to write that the thing is having an affair. Folks, Destiny has jumped the shark.

Bill Maher destroys crazy Republicans

HBO's Bill Maher destroys crazy Republicans and their right wing conservative views. He does this by pointing out that "libertarian" Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) is now catering to the crazy conservative mainstream. Hilarious. Enjoy his New Rule.