It’s Still Not Too Late to Play Destiny, But Maybe You Shouldn’t

Back in 2014 when Destiny was first released on the PS4 by Halo heavyweights Bungie, I was strictly a “FPS belongs on PC” guy. Murdering virtual simulacrums of sentient beings is the most fun with a mouse and keyboard, of that there is no doubt. As such, I decided to skip Destiny when I eventually got my hands on a PS4 a couple of years later. I was sure that it would eventually find its way to PC, and resolved to wait patiently with my trigger finger lodged securely in my asshole.
The PC release announcement never came, but the sequel, creatively titled Destiny 2, was released on PC. I jumped straight in on release day, but immediately felt out of place. I always have a problem starting a game series by playing a sequel, it’s like defying the natural order of the universe. I felt like an imposter just sauntering into the ranks of the Guardians like “Hoo boy, what a hectic few years, eh guys? Can you believe we totally killed that god-king spacebug? And what about the rampant, uncontrollable nanotechnology huh? Crazy times, crazy times…”

destiny guardians
Hoo boy, another day at the office, right guys? I hate Mondays.

I felt bound by my own neuroses to purchase and finish (to the best of my ability) the original game and catch up to the rest of the watchers on the tower. I wasn’t disappointed! Destiny is still a great game with a surprising number of players still knocking around on its servers. All of the main story can be played through solo anyway, but if you want to try out Strikes (Destiny’s 3-man dungeon-type scenarios) or the Crucible (PVP) the matchmaking system will usually see you right. A couple of times I was dumped into a strike on my lonesome, but I was always joined eventually by a fellow late-bloomer or a loyal veteran getting their weekly MMO style checklists done.

South-Park-WoW-Guy
Hey, HEY! No. That’s a negative stereotype and I won’t stand for it.

The only problem is the content that can’t be accessed unless you have a pre-existing party, and I’m speaking specifically about the raids. Huge, six-man scenarios that rely on teamwork as well as individual skill to clear. With the majority of the organised playerbase moved on to the sequel, coupled with my crippling fear of strangers, I was incapable of finding a group to play with. Let me emphasise that many fans of Destiny explicitly point to the raids as some of the most fun you can have in the game, with puzzles, tough enemies and desirable loot rewards.

Oryx_first-sighting
Damn, this looks badass. Sure wish I could have been there.

With this in mind, I would advise anyone thinking of trying out the original Destiny to go for it, by all means, but keep in mind that without a few like-minded friends it’ll be a bit tricky to experience everything the game had to offer at its peak. If, unlike me, you don’t mind jumping into a franchise halfway through and faking it until making it, I’d direct you towards Destiny 2, where there’s still time to find an active clan or enough random people to see everything the game has to offer. Oh, and if you’re worried about missing out on the lore from Destiny 1, don’t worry about it, there isn’t any.

destiny-guide-grimoire-cards-categories
To read about the story visit http://www.whythefuckwasn’tthisinthegamealready.com

I jest, but Destiny is notoriously terrible for telling stories through the medium of video games. There’s a rich world to explore if you feel up to digging through a fan archive of the now inaccessible web-based “grimoire cards” that previously shed a small amount of light (get it) on the subject. Or if you have some time to kill, check out this video. You’ll be up to speed in no time. Or, uh, in an hour and a half.

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Eyes up, Guardian. Enjoy!

Nier: Automata Is Too Smart for Me

Nier: Automata is a great game, both on a surface gameplay level and a thematic level. Director Yoko Taro and the team at Platinum Games pulled out all the stops and created something truly unique, equal parts fun, moving and thought provoking. The fun was SUPER fun, and when I was moved I was MOVED. My only problem is that I don’t have too many thoughts to provoke.

me smart
This may come as a shock.

Let me explain in simple terms, mostly for my benefit- I am dumb. I’m a big dumb idiot. My cultural range is basically just video games and the bare minimum knowledge about cinema, TV, books and music to make it by in most casual social interactions, should they occur (god forbid.) So when a game like Nier: Automata comes along, with references to deep thoughts on the human condition and the nature of reality by famous philosophers, I have to stop and scratch my head. I have to stop and scratch my head a LOT, because the references get thrown around thick and fast.

Many enemies are named after eminent philosophers from the past. Engels, Beauvoir, Kirkegaard, names I was totally unfamiliar with before a cursory google after seeing them in-game. The only reference I actually caught was Nietzsche, a philosopher so famous that auto-correct knew who I was talking about when I misspelled his name. Even then, this one is mostly cheating because the character Pascal is actually reading one of Nietzche’s books at the time of the plug, and calls him a nutcase. Oh, by the way, Pascal is ALSO a philosophical reference. Who knew.

nier pascal
A simple, fun character with a totally not tragic storyline

Well, the internet knows, for sure. People much smarter than me have analysed this game to death already, far beyond my critical range of “the graphics are nice,” “The story seemed sad but I didn’t get it unless I’m thinking about it constantly” and “I want to propose to 2B’s glorious ass.” Actually, forget I said that last one. Her ass is probably satirical or symbolic or a statement on the vapid hollowness of mankind’s unchecked lusts, or some shit. If you’re at all interested in the hidden complexities of Nier: Automata, I heartily recommend the below video by Super Bunnyhop. George Weidman is smarter than I can ever aspire to be in my entire life.

This is a call for help. This is a call to arms. Dunces of the world, unite. I know you’re out there. I can’t be the only one that enjoys video games way above their intellectual station. Jesus Christ, video games are becoming too smart for me. Maybe I should take a step back and see if I can fit that triangle shape through the square hole if I tilt it just so.

Seriously though folks, I’m not writing this article just to berate myself for not being more intelligent (I get enough opportunities to do that in my daily life) but also to praise the game as a start on the path to greater knowledge. As much as I have begun to suspect that the game itself may actually be anti-philosophical thought (with the machine life forms repeating the same mistakes of human history over and over again, and Pascal’s aforementioned derision of Nietzche as a whackjob, among other things) I would have had little reason to ever research these fascinating people with their deep ideas had I not been led there by the game itself. It should feature a built-in Wikipedia link.

In summary, Nier: Automata is like a gateway drug for future nihilists.

nier sad A2

Uh… Good job, Platinum?

Fallout 4 Survival Mode Survival Guide (Survival)

In a post I wrote a little while ago I talked about the Bethesda creation club and their new paid (but not really paid) mods (but not really mods.) After the story interested me I decided to give Fallout 4 another whirl after trying and failing to find any interest on it’s release back in 2015. My disappointment on the game as a whole not withstanding, I found the game’s Survival Mode, added in an update mid-2016, had breathed new life into the Commonwealth. Inspired by my recent 100 hours getting my jugular torn out by irradiated dogs, here’s a few tips on how to make it through thiss unforgiving difficulty setting.

Collect Empty Bottles

Yes, if you have a less than capacious carrying capacity then lugging around all of the junk you stumble across may sound like a hassle, but in Survival mode you’re going to need water to live. Funny, that. A couple of times every in-game day you’ll find yourself getting thirsty,  stunting your action points and making you sick if you don’t get some fluids in you… But most all naturally occurring water sources in the Commonwealth are irradiated beyond any real use. Carrying around your own empty bottles ready to fill as soon as you find a pure water source means you’ll have all the clean water you need to survive on your post-apocalyptic adventure. (An easy water source early on are the sinks in Vault 111, or you can just abuse the awful settlement crafting system and build yourself a water pump which inexplicably purifies any groundwater it produces.)

See Delicious Animal? Kill Delicious Animal

Hunger is also a problem, and there ain’t no place for vegans after a nuclear holocaust. In your travels you’re sure to find murderous hotdogs, walking seafood buffet Mirelurks and mouthwatering Brahmin herds. Don’t let these innocent creatures suffer another day in this hellish future- Fucking kill them! Feast on their succulent flesh. Not right away, obviously. Eating raw meat has only slightly less awful consequences in Fallout 4 than it does in real life. Luckily there’s a cooking station right there in your home town of Sanctuary waiting for you to practice your culinary skills, or you can be proactive and build one yourself with the right perks.

Don’t Pay Money to Die

If you have the Automatron DLC, you will get a quest at level 15 to save a traveling caravan from a band of marauding robots. For gods sake, don’t do it until you’ve built up your character a bit. Completing this quest sets you on the main quest line for the DLC, causing extremely deadly robots to start randomly spawning all over the Commonwealth, and they want to ruin your fucking life.  This one might be because my sneaky sniper build is almost totally ineffectual against their cold steel skin, but these things appearing all over the game hampered my enjoyment of the game so much I actually rolled back my save a good few hours to avoid it happening altogether. I would still recommend the DLC though, when you’re ready for it- the villainous Mechanist is a cool character, especially if you choose to engage him as the Silver Shroud, and you gain the ability to build and customise your own robotic companions when the quest is complete. Speaking of building stuff…

Don’t Build Stuff

I’m specifically talking about Settlements themselves, here. Getting a few perks in weapon crafting can dramatically increase your murder prowess, but that shit takes materials, yo. Materials that you should not spend on making the world a more civilised place. Materials that the innocent folk of the Commonwealth have in spades. So, as soon as you unlock a settlement, job one is to trash the fucking place. Scrap everything that isn’t nailed down, demolish their houses, leave the settlers cold and alone, and move on. “But Joebotnik,” I hear you cry, “I thought you said junk is a pain to lug around!” but fret not- those Settlers you just evicted? They’re your pack mules now! With the Local Leader perk you can convince some poor shmuck to carry your worthless trash from settlement to settlement, meaning any crafting material you leave at one location can be accessed from another. Dictatorship sure has it’s merits. Ave, true to Caesar.

Hopefully these few things I’ve picked up will help you on your way to… ugh… find your son and get the most enjoyment out of staying alive in the harsh environments of Fallout 4. Let’s face it, after dealing with Cazadores in Fallout: New Vegas, the Commonwealth is a cakewalk.

 

 

Space Invaders Early Review: 27,000 Hours In So Far, Here’s What We Think

Well guys, I tried. Three solid years of playing this game and I officially give up. I wanted to give a fair, complete, comprehensive review, but it seems there’s no end in sight. I will update this page if that changes, but for now, I will just be giving my first impressions. Before I begin, I want you all to know that when I say I tried, I really mean it. The only time I spent over the past three years not playing Space Invaders was the time I spent writing this review- a slow, tortuous period thanks to the crippling arthritis from which I now suffer.

I- THERE IT IS I SEE IT THAT FUCKING SHIP IT’S BACK OH MY GOD IT’S ALMOST GONE FUCKING SHOOT IT FUCK OH MY GOD

Sorry. Post Traumatic Space Disorder.

On to the review. Heralded as one of the catalysts for the golden age of video games, Space Invaders is a simple game about destroying foreign invaders before they can tear down your walls. As timeless a concept in Trump’s America as it was back in Berlin circa 1978. You are a tiny moving gun turret, Earth’s first and only defence and one of the video game industries earliest and most memorable mascots. You face weird little squiggly alien things who mock your very existence by sauntering from left to right across the screen, getting lower and lower until the human race is destroyed. Let there be no mistake – their goal is genocide. There is only one way to stop them – Genocide.

You can move left and right, take cover, and shoot. Your ammo is limitless, much like the horde of aliens you face, but you can only have one bullet on screen at a time. This makes picking your moments the key to victory, as a single missed shot is precious time wasted, and precious space invaded. However, should you chance a shot at the back lines, you will be rewarded handsomely for scoring a hit. The enemies at the higher end of the screen reward more points, with the occasional appearance of the special spaceship zipping across the top of the screen scoring you the mega bucks if you land the kill. The aliens themselves are capable of firing their own projectiles, wearing down your barriers, deflecting shots and destroying any player foolish enough to be hit.

The soundtrack is a nice touch. A single, repeating, ominous note that speeds up the closer the zerglings get to the bottom of the screen. If you suffer from anxiety, or are on anti-psychotic medication, I would advise you to stay away from the frontlines on this one. The sound is the alien drumbeat of war, and I hear it in my dreams.

I have destroyed all the aliens on screen, and yet more appear seconds later. Their ardour is endless, their lust for blood, insatiable. What do they want with our planet? Resources? Labour? Is it simply the thrill of dominating a lesser species? I may never find out. But as long as there is breath in my body and cartilage in my joints, I will never give up the fight. But as it stands, I simply do not feel comfortable assigning a score to an unfinished story. If the final stage turns out to be a visual novel, I’ll let you all know. I will one day finish this review and give it the score out of 10 the planet deserves. Fellow citizens of Earth, this Space… remains un-invaded.

 

This article was inspired by a writing prompt from Brian Crecente because I am wasting my life.

Game Journalists Need to Stop Being Horrible at Video Games

A recent gameplay preview of Studio MDHR’s upcoming Cuphead has some people scratching their regular human heads. Dean Takahashi is a writer for VentureBeat, and if his name rings a bell you may remember him giving the original Mass Effect a terrible review 10 years ago because he forgot he was playing an RPG and went through the majority of the game without levelling up any of his characters. He called it “Mass Defect.” This man is a pioneer in his field.

Well, he’s at it again. A video of his first blind run of the tutorial and first level was released onto the VentureBeat Youtube channel  and it’s a trial to watch. It takes him one and half minutes to follow simple, on-screen instructions trying desperately to teach him how to air dash (the music is perfect for this, by the way) and when he finally gets into the game proper he is mercilessly destroyed by the enemies of the first level for 20 odd minutes before he manages to make any tangible progress. Truly, Cuphead is the Dark Souls of 2D Disney renaissance inspired retro platformers.

It hurts.

This is not long after Polygon released a video of one of their hapless interns fumbling at playing DOOM last year. The footage is like watching your dementia-stricken grandmother try and navigate Windows 10 while having the stroke that kills her. In Polygon’s case the video just helped lend itself to their image of “normies” falling into a job in video game journalism. I can only imagine the look on the poor saps face when, instead of going to his 6pm wine tasting, he finds a controller in his hands and a camera thrust in his face.

IT HURTS MORE

No, really, how does this happen? I feel like we need to make a PSA for journalists begging them not to let themselves be filmed playing a game if they aren’t any fucking good at it. I’m really trying not to be too harsh here; I know everybody has to start somewhere, but I think a person working in VIDEO GAMES journalism needs to be at least slightly competent at playing them in order to actually… You know… Write about them. This is very important because critical feedback changes the development of future games. In the developer commentary for Half Life 2 Episode 2 one of the developers Greg Coomber said they greatly dumbed down a maze-like chase section because one of the testers got lost running in a circle for half an hour.  Who knows how many other games have had to be simplified just because some chimp with a controller can’t turn left?

These are not people you need to be catering to, developers. These are people who need to be removed from the gene pool. These are people who should leave the more complex electronic entertainment to the market demographic they’re aimed at (kids and friendless manchildren like myself) and be kept in a padded room with a set of Hungry Hungry Hippos.

I leave you with a challenge – The Takahashi Run. Dean Takahashi challenged anyone else to do better than him in their first blind 26 minutes of Cuphead. I want you to do WORSE. I want you to fail as many times as possible on the first level of Cuphead. Points will be awarded for creativity and how much pity I feel for you. The winner will… I dunno. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.

What Will the Upcoming FromSoftware Game Be Like?

It’s been five months since FromSoftware closed out the Dark Souls series with the final piece of DLC for Dark Souls 3, The Ringed City. The full game was, as expected, critically acclaimed, and one could be forgiven for expecting the company to keep the Souls train a-rollin’. Thankfully, that does not seem to be the case. Company President Hidetaka Miyazaki confirmed that Darks Souls 3 was the series swansong, and that he wanted to create something completely new for future games. The developers have pushed the boundaries before with the release of Bloodborne, a game that stuck close to the already established mechanics of the Souls series while toying with the new, Victorian London-esque setting of Yharnam. But what can we expect from… From… next?

As yet, the developers have been tight-lipped about what direction their next game might take. After a brief flurry of recruiting new talent to the company, all has been silent. So, in lieu of actual news, I thought I’d throw a few speculative spitballs at the wall and see what sticks.

The Setting

I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say that the next game will steer clear of the medieval style setting of the Souls series. From have done the sword and sorcery thing to death now, with steel-clad knights and dagger-wielding thieves stretching across four whole games. The success of Bloodborne, a game many (myself included) consider to be one of the greatest games of all time, must have bolstered their courage to think a little outside the box and experiment with interesting new settings. I’ve seen some people speculate that a sci-fi world may be next in store, or perhaps something set in a more realistic, modern-day world. Personally I’m hoping for their take on a present day, post-apocalyptic kind of setting. A modern day apocalypse designed by FromSoftware is one of the most horrifying things I can imagine. But would the tried and true Souls gameplay stand its ground in a new setting like that?

The Gameplay

It’s hard to think about a sci-fi Souls game and not consider the Surge from developers Deck 13, or a feudal Japan setting and not think about Nioh by Team Ninja. Other creators have taken note of From Software’s success and attempted to emulate them, in turn beating them to the punch on these new time periods. These games also have a variation on the Souls RPG elements; punishing, checkpoint based nature, tight, visceral combat, deadly enemies and huge bosses. The question is, I think, are From going to try and fix what isn’t broken and veer away from their previous accomplishments, or move forward and continue tweaking what they’ve already accomplished? Again, I’d have to refer back to Bloodborne as proof that they can do essentially the same thing with minor differences and make a huge impact on the final product. I would hope that next time they’ll push the boat out just enough to stay interesting, without going too nuts on new features. Yharnam had trick-weapons, a minor change with big implications on the standard gameplay. But a more futuristic setting, for example, would have vehicles and technology to consider. Small changes that open new game design doors.

The Soundtrack

The soundtrack is totally going to be awesome you guys. I can feel it.

So… What now?

Now we… Keep waiting. While they were initially aiming for a 2017 release for anything new, as it’s now September with no word I think we can safely assume it’ll be 2018 at the earliest before we get any scraps of info from the FromSoft table. But hey, that gives us plenty of time to speculate! What do you think? What would you like to see from their next game?

Bethesda Creation Club Disappoints Modding Community

The recent launch of Bethesda’s Creation Club has left most Fallout 4 and Skyrim mod users scratching their heads. The club was envisioned as a way for mod creators to get paid for their hard work by submitting it to a Bethesda quality control system. This enables mod users to download and play with the mods via an in-game marketplace without worrying about bugs or crashes, as they are essentially using content with the Bethesda stamp of approval. Meanwhile, the creators get a structured design & testing process before the finished mod is made live and payments can begin to be made. The big problem right off the bat was, of course, the price of the mods themselves.

Mods have long been free to use. Most creators make new content for the games they love on community modding sites as an act of passion, as a hobby. Some put up links for donations if people felt like giving back, but many were happy to just create something amazing and hone their craft, perhaps for a future career in game development. Meanwhile the players are, of course, happy to be given free content made by fans, for fans.  Adding money into this equation has long been a contentious issue for the community, starting with Steams Community Workshop back in 2015.

Essentially a prototype for what we are now seeing with the Creation Club, previously free mods were listed on Steam for a price, with a portion of the profits going back to Valve and Bethesda. People kicked off, and it took a change.org petition with over 100k signatures to get Valve to back down on the entire idea. The backlash was so severe it’s a miracle that Bethesda tried again at all, but I suppose the promise of easy money is too big of a draw for them. Who knew.

Ah, but I’m sorry. The Creation Club isn’t “paid mods” despite the fact that you have to pay to get the mods. Their excuse for this is that you don’t actually pay for the MODS, you’re paying for Bethesda bucks. If you wanted to buy (sorry, obtain) everything they just released for Fallout 4, it’ll set you back 3000 Creation Club credits. That’s somewhere in the region of £30 (for the record that’s a couple of weapons, items, and skins.)

Now, my main problem with this is that for LESS money you could go and buy the Fallout: New Vegas ultimate edition. That’s a vastly superior game to Fallout 4 (but I’ll go into that another time,) the entire game, with all of its quality DLC for £15. The price/substance ratio is way off here, and that’s not to rag on the mod creators that signed up for this, either. The mods themselves look great (I was sorely tempted by the customisable backpack) but the simple fact is you can find free equivalents to most (if not all) of these mods online.

In the end, the concept of paid mods is a complex one. Creators do deserve remuneration for all their hard work, but to suddenly charge for something that has been free since modding games was first possible is a hard pill to swallow for many people, even when the mods themselves are high-quality officially sanctioned mods like these. Perhaps if the mods were made “official” paid mods, doing away with these club tokens with a substantial price drop? What do you guys think?

I’d say the sole positive note in this whole trainwreck is that now PS4 users, previously unable to use the mods enjoyed by PC and XBOX ONE users, can have at least some modded content in their Fallout 4 and Skyrim games… For a price. And let me tell you, considering what you can get for free on other platforms, that price ain’t cheap.