The Taken King: A returning player’s perspective.

Hello everybody,

It has been a long time since I put fingers to touchscreen, about 2 years actually, but I find myself quite “taken” by Bungie’s latest expansion The Taken King, so much so my blogging bowels are a bubblin’ and I need to relieve myself. But first a little background.

Pre-blog briefing

It’s not unfair to say that one major factor in my purchase of a PlayStation 4 was Bungie’s newly forged affiliation to Sony’s latest console. As a Halo stalwart who loved what Bungie created there I was giddy to see my beloved Dev putting their content exclusivity chips on blue, which they had up until my that point not brought a game to. Superior doohickeys under the hood and my favourite developers endorsement? I think this best sums it up…


Diving deep into a bucket of water.

Launch day came. Midnight purchase. All night gaming. Great fun. Mechanical silk. Graphical glitter. Epic Story? Two out of three ain’t bad…

Beyond level 20, that’s where it unravels somewhat. Now I’m aiming to collect light stats? A frustrating chase where hours of play often come up fruitless. Perhaps I was unlucky but as a man who has flirted with, nay, heavy petted MMO’s in the past the grind to gear ratio was seriously off kilter. Lacking the time and patience to endure the end game shenanigans myself and some friends took an under geared stab at The Vault of Glass. The last nail in the coffin. Game over.

TLDR: I wanted, I mean really wanted to like Destiny. But it was half baked and I was left “vexed”

It seems I wasn’t alone as I know of more people who quit than stayed but, thanks to the likes of Nevin on the Ready Up Live Podcast, I still had an ear to the ground if not a foot in the door.

The King is Coming.

 

In the few months running up to TTK I took my usual passing glance at the morsels of information Bungie served up via streams and interviews,  however my interest piqued about 3 weeks prior to launch when they mentioned a major overhaul to the levelling system. Light and level are now seperate you say? Light is just and average of the attack and defence of any armour or weapon you equip? What’s that? Oh a stream of the first mission and it looks incredible!… Wait. Stop. Don’t pre-order – let’s await the reviews to see just how good it is.

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” –Michael Corleone

Jumping back into Destiny in Year 2 is honestly what I expected the game to be from launch, and indeed should have been given the info that floated up from Marty’s court case. The mechanics of course are still there, 30 seconds of fun done by the masters of that gameplay loop, but this time there is a story and characters to care about and root for. Echoing reviewers across the industry, Nathan Fillion puts in a stellar performance injecting his trademark wit into his role as Cayde. Other characters make less of an impression  but, unlike the vanilla game, still do enough to deliver the much improved and meatier script swings your feelings toward the inhabitants of The Tower more into the well acquainted camp and away from the complete stranger container they huddled into before.

The leveling system is leagues better from that of year 1. More attack and defence stats equals better light level regardless of gear rarity, its honestly a joy to see the light ticket go up as it happens with regularity, rather than the fits and starts of vanilla. No longer do I resent that yellow number under my gamer tag.

The simplification of the currencies and materials required to upgrade gear no longer leave your noggin raw from scratching. The quest system UI makes picking an objective clear as crystal, and for me at least it has  helped immensely in indicating my objectives and helping me choose which to go for, like a good website the new layout mean I don’t have to think about how to pick what I want, I just do it. More importantly there is now an abundance of activity to occupy a guardians time with actual useful rewards upon completion of a number of quest lines.

Destiny is no longer we the convulsed barren land whereby only hardcore grinders can earn the best loot. The game’s various systems are still as deep an ocean as before, but instead of expecting players to be record-breaking skin divers desperately holding their breath, Bungie has provided a yellow submarine kitted with all kinds of dials and periscopes to help navigate the swell of enjoyment lurking below.

As a returning player who never really got Destiny despite his best efforts I am glad to say I finally do,  and to anyone who finds themselves in a similar boat to me I would say fuck the boat, get in the sub and dive in. There really isn’t better time.

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Play Mobile: Futuridium EP

It seems the only gaming I get to actually do as of late is during those snatched moments on my iPhone and when I buy a game I want to get my money’s worth. Futuridium Ep definitely makes you work for it.

Futuridium on iOS

On their site the developers of Futuridium describe the game as a “retro fast paced shoot’em up with a modern twist” and to be “insanely fast, [with an] insanely hard difficulty level” and boy are they right. I’m not going to lie, if like me you think you can breeze through this game, think again. The difficulty curve on this space em up is steep enough to make you pass out from the G-force, but if you persevere the reward is a definite draw to play on.

The art style of Futuridium for reason makes wonder if this is the creation of some unholy carnal act between the movie Tron and the PS1 classic Wipeout, all polygons and sharp edges. It’s pretty pleasing to look at with its Technicolor palette and could never be described as dull. Not the most graphically refined which I think was the intention this title as just enough polish to make it nostalgic rather than dated.

The touch based control scheme took me a bit of time to adjust to, unintentionally banking into the dreadnoughts below numerous times, I think this partly may be down the to the responsiveness of the touchscreen being a little lacking. However once you have had a couple of test flights so to speak then the challenge really begins – The premise is to fly your ship and shoot the blue cubes, when all are destroyed then you unlock the core and away you go to the next level. All the while you energy is sapping down only to refill at the end of each level, so efficient gun play is essential. Continues are given dependant on your score, but if used your score is wiped and you continue from where you left off with nothing to show, great if you just want to see what the next level looks like but if you are looking to set a high score this game is unforgiving with your shortcomings.

The soundtrack itself should be quite pleasing to fans of glitch hop and electro, jazz flute fans less so, regardless the soundtrack goes really well with game play and if you want to listen to the tracks sans space flight the option is there in the menu. Another nice little feature not really seen on the iOS store that can also be found within the menu is the ability to gift the game friends who co-exist in the Apple ecosystem, if you can’t persuade your friends to buy and you think they must play then buy it for them! I do think a slight trick was missed here would be if the game was multiplayer, then this kind of gifting would mean more but still, nice nonetheless.

Overall if you can get used the ever so slightly awkward controls and the punishing progression mechanic then this should keep the hardcore gamer and the masochist in you both entertained. Its available on iOS now for £1.49 or your currency equivalent. Insert coin and get blasting.

Crysis 3: – Could be Beta

For the three of you who read my previous post on my highlights from the Eurogamer Expo back in September, you may recall my excitement for Crysis 3. Well on Monday Crytek brought out the open multiplayer beta to Xbox PS3 and PC, so imagine my joy when I was provided with the chance to get another hands on.

crysis 3 beta

Let me just say that much of my initial awe conjured by this game came from the sheer graphical prowess, for those of you who haven’t seen how lush this game is just check out the tech engine demo trailer her on YouTube. Anyway at the expo I was playing on a PC so obviously I knew it wouldn’t sizzle quite as much on my Xbox. Imagine my disappointment when I first fired up the game to discover that, compared to the PC, the console version is a ghostly shade of what I had experienced previously. Sure the 360 is getting a little creaky in its grand old age so I even had a look at it on the more powerful PS3 and honestly it left me a little sour. Not to go on but just to make my point if the PC version is Evian spring water then the console port is a muddy puddle. The TLDR version: – Comparatively its dog shit.

Before the beta boots up you are given a little video about what you get if you pre-order, which consists of some pretty middle of the road trinkets, including some ‘exclusive’ dog tags which are marginally better looking than BF3’s array, an arrow skin – that’s right a texture for something as skinny as Kate Moss back in her smack taking days. Also included in this ‘limited time off’ is early access to a ‘Recon Arrow’ which if I’m honest I have no idea what it does exactly but it flies for miles. Another skin is thrown in, this time for your nano-suit. A more game influencing reward is you get the iconic Crysis hunter bow straight out the gates, which you can fire whilst cloaked, as well as a perk which makes you as quiet as a girls constrained fart in a movie theatre. Minus the skins these little bits do give some definite advantages in-game but I worry this could shit in the cereal of those who do not pre-order. Quick scenario, you go and buy Crysis 3 on launch day and hastily skip home game in hand, you slip the disc into your gaming platform of choice and fire up a game of Crash Site. 30 seconds in you find that the game is populated by silent invisible ninjas with weapons forged on mount Olympus raining a hail of arrows from three miles away upon thine hapless skull. I can see your happy face now, not showing the slightest hint of rage, still holding your favourite peripheral of choice in one hand, whilst with the other pulling down your pants and bending over waiting for the next round to begin, all the while still smiling, overjoyed at the best purchase you ever made. If only you had pre-ordered and got all this great stuff plus the five level xp boost thrown in and you could have been the one administering your barbed shaft between the oppositions butt cheeks. Well at least you aren’t getting XP from buying Doritos (*cough* 343 *coughcrysis 3 multiplayer screenshot*).

Ok rant over regarding pre-orders because the one good thing the normally tight-fisted EA have done, for those who buy the game pre-release, is throw a copy of the original Crysis in for good measure. It’s a good move as far as exposing the series to new players like myself.

Putting the console graphics and pre-order gripes aside the beta itself is actually quite fun to play, it offers up two maps and two modes to dip your nano-penis in and get the juices flowing. The maps Airport and Museum are both on the medium to small side which keeps the action dial positioned between steady and frantic. As I mentioned earlier I am somewhat of a noob to the series, so I’m not sure if this is indicative of the map sizes to be found in this game or if larger scale warfare and by extension bigger maps will be included. I hope the latter is true because having played my fair share of Halo BTB and Battlefield Multiplayer, when it comes to games I am certainly from the school of ‘size does matter’.

The modes included are Crash Site, a standard King of the Hill scenario, much like Battlefield 3’s Conquest mode or Halo’s creatively titled King of the Hill gametype. Its fun to play with a team of Spartans errr I mean Nano-guys and defend an objective, the one thing it seems to lack is much tactical play, with players opting to just run at the crashsite in one large pack than employ any real strategy. Having said that, unlike Battlefield’s multiple crysis 3 multiplayer museumzones in conquest which require a bit of planning within your squad to attack, the nature of Crash Site is basically to rush between one single moving zone, so I guess the run en masse is a relevant tactic. When I say that you find a lot of people charging around the map, the game-play never gets overly frenetic, allowing time to pick a cover point and pull off some precision shots, or in my case shoot just left of my foe before being dropped like OJ;s murder charge.

The Hunter mode is both fun and infuriating, much like the Halo infection game type, one person starts as a hunter complete with permanent invisibility and bow, whose tasked with the sole aim of sneakily killing other players and recruiting them into your ranks before the time runs out. I do like this mode on either side but being on the non-invisible side fills me with a kind of palpable fear, knowing that as my cohorts fall one by one, there is another transparant killer on my tail. It makes me feel shameful that I don’t behave like Arnie in this situation by smearing mud on myself and going down fighting, instead of actually desperately fleeing these ghostly apparitions whilst having a fecal crysis in my nano-pants.

crysis 3 hunter mode

I’ll just quickly round this out by talking about the kit, which although I have not leveled that far I have found that the guns available to me handle rather well, the Feline is quite a joy to use actually, rapid fire and decent damage albeit not the beefiest sounding gun. As for the perks, the ones you start with are pretty strong with the invisibility of course being a favourite, but the auto armour which is meant to provide a health boost is pretty much useless at tier 1.

Overall I have been enjoying myself in Crysis 3 but if I am honest the multiplayer doesn’t excite me as much as other shooters in my collection, I found that after a few rounds I wanted to play something else. I had this down as a must buy back in September and, if I had a good enough PC, it would probably still be on that list, however as it stands I think that primarily a console user this title has slipped onto the rental list for me. That’s not to say I wouldn’t buy it later, this is just a beta after all, but from the game-play I have experienced here and the COD poor graphics I have seen so far, my eagerness to get this game has dwindled.

– The Quim Ninja

Have you played the Crysis 3 Beta? Any thoughts good or bad? Let us know in the comments. If you haven’t given it a shot then the open beta runs until February 12th

The power of 4

Red Guy – “Oh Shit!”

After our too long absence Quim has talked about his enjoyment of the Master Chiefs fourth outing so what I have to say is hardly going to be surprising but since we love Halo so much I thought I’d mutter on about it for a bit.

It’s a mammoth task 343/Certain Affinity have taken on. In attempting to recreate an experience which defined the console multiplayer fps experience, it was never going to be easy. So how close have Microsoft’s in house design company come to taking forth the mantle from Halo’s original creators? Damn close, so close in fact that Bungie would feel the clamy breath of the new wave Spartan IV’s on the back of thier necks, were it not for the Mjolnir armours visor being in the way.

For me this is the stand out new weapon, it was hard to believe any pistol could top the magnum or the plasma but if anything can this is it.

The pace and flow of the game is perfectly measured and all of our fears about ordinance, weapon waypoints and instant respawns were completely unfounded. What 343 have achieved here is nothing short of spectacular dragging the most possible from the 360’s ageing hardware but more importantly making sure Halo once again feels special and different to the other fps offerings out there.

As a Spartan the idea is that you are a super soldier, gun fire, explosions and vehicle warfare hold no fear for you and your mastery over any weapon you lay your armoured hands on. This is the essence of Halo and it shines through once again. The rush you get from scoring multikills, headshots and vehicle takedowns is something that just can’t be matched by other shooters. We’ve played it half to death now and each match is still insanely enjoyable and leaves you gasping for breath and wrestling with the familiar Halo shakes.

New game mode Dominion is certainly the pick of the bunch, taking elements from Battlefields Conquest mode but creating an altogether original monster that creates some really tense and exciting moments.

There are clearly still some teething issues with the matchmaking system and the servers (all of which could probably have been identified and abolished with a brief beta). The strain was way too much on the opening week rendering the multiplayer pretty much unplayable at peak times and more recently problems have been appearing that are at times game breaking, lag, glitches even mini Covies have all been well documented. However all of this can be forgiven because of the love and dedication that has gone into crafting the maps and the game types.

Personally I was never on board with the idea of loadouts and weapon unlocks for Halo as it does detract somewhat from the purity of Spartan combat but I have to say they have implemented them well here. Progress is much slower than it is in some games of this type but that’s to be expected when 343 have worked so hard to maintain the balance of the the previous games in order to make sure no one ever really feels as if they are at a disadvantage simply due to their lack of unlocks. This in itself is testament to the amount of thought that has gone into overhauling a game without destroying it’s core. I don’t think I have come across a single player online who had any problems with the way the game plays the only issues seem to be about the networking. Joining games in progress is never fun especially when you are dropping in so close to the end of a fight but that should mean you get into the game quicker….. it doesn’t work however, the whole matchmaking just seems broken especially when playing in a larger party. Many times we have had to resort to playing custom games which is actually pretty fun, especially game types like hog wars and 8vs8 Griffball which are epic.

All this said weekly playlist updates are working well to keep things fresh thus far and with more game types like griffball and assault on the horizon along with new maps and stacks of forge efforts already kicking about things look good for the future of Halo.

Spartan IV’s ….. they ain’t no Master Chief … but they’ll do.

Also the campaign is pretty damn sweet.

Thanks 343

eremenko