Destiny & The Things You Need To Do Today For A Brighter Tomorrow

Mida Multi-tool

Mida Multi-tool

One of the great things about Destiny is the flexiblity in play styles. You can do what you want pretty much whenever and with whomever you want. Beware though. Rushing around like a loon without any focus will cause you to do some annoying stuff later.

The first and foremost of these things is resource collecting. You might not think that Spinmetal you’ve seen lying around the Cosodrome is worth picking up right now but when you realize you need up to eighty of them to get your post level twenty weapon upgraded. How many weapons do you use? I personally have four in common use. The same goes for all the locations. There is always a local resource that you WILL need at some point for upgrades. Get them whilst you are exploring and you save time in the long run. More importantly it gives you time to savour the environment rather than just sprinting from one mission to the next. I must stop doing that.

There is another point to this. Reputation. Below level twenty you can only gain Vanguard and Crucible reputation. By far the most efficient way to increase your reputation with a faction is to complete bounty missions. Each bounty has a clear requirement. Something like collect 200 sensor mites from the Cosmodrome. That means kill stuff in that zone and when you are done we’ll give you some experience points and some Vanguard reputation. The Crucible ones are often something like kill twenty five hunters in the Crucible.

Why bother with reputation though? Drop rates for legendary equipment are deliberately low. Often when they do drop they are not for a weapon you like using. That can get frustrating fast. Once you reach level two in a faction you will be able to buy legendary armour and at level three some weapons. Believe me this has been very handy. As I still haven’t had enough drops to load my character out completely. The icing on the cake though is that there is a tiny chance of getting a yellow bounty. These are a little more involved, a lot more fun to get and result in an exotic item.

I haven’t mentioned Vanguard and Crucible marks yet. Where glimmer is the currency for most vendors for reputation based vendors you need to spend marks. I’ll use Crucible marks as an example because I’ve made more use of them. I love playing Crucible matches but early on realized I could get extra benefit from completing bounties as I did them. I am currently level three and have bought two pieces of armour and a shotgun using the Crucible marks I gain every time I complete a match. You can only gain one hundred marks per server week (Tuesday is the reset day I think). This prevents players from farming these marks all the time and leads to a more balanced play style.

All of the information above will only really pay dividends once you reach level twenty but it will really be worth it. That isn’t the end though. What do you do when your Crucible reputation hits level three and there is little point raising it anymore? You buy a class item from the Dead Orbit, Future War Cult or New Monarchy faction vendor of course. With this equipped all your Vanguard and Crucible reputation goes to the specific faction. These factions can only be joined at level twenty and are a great way to get up to level two in a faction fairly quickly using both PvE and PvP bounties. These vendors have their own legendary equipment for you to purchase with Crucible marks.

The final point I’ll mention is that raising a faction level to three produced a legendary engram reward for me.

Have fun!

 

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

Although not obviously a young adult book this was a book that I could read with my children. It made a nice change for me to read a fantasy story that was more interested in court intrigue and petty back-biting than expansive battles and an obvious good versus evil. Even the villains in this story had heart and character. One of them was clearly unhinged but rather than being evil for evil sake there was a sense that his life and choices built up rage and resentment towards his brother to the point where he snapped. I liked that.

Every chapter changes the point of view and this could have been confusing. The author put the name of the character at the start of the chapter to make it clear and easy. IN fact everything about this story works to make it easy to read. I flew through this book a lot faster than I thought I would. The descriptions of how wizards learn the laws of physics and then tweak them to create magic really worked for me. Changing the nature of things rather than creating or destroying them fits a lot better with my mindset than an abstracted view that magic just is.

My favourite character was the cat. A wizard’s familiar. Except he wasn’t just a cat he was a shape-shifting demon. It was the small things that made this book really work. From the lovable minor characters to the use of language this fantasy story provided me with entertainment throughout. It was more Philipa Gregory than George R.R. Martin and with less executions than either.

Destiny The End Game

Destiny on PS4

The title of this post is not really true. Yes I have finished the campaign by making it through The Black Garden but that is by no means the end of the game. I still haven’t found a legendary special weapon and the legendary and exotic equipment I do have has not been leveled up. I haven’t felt brave enough to attempt the raid yet. I want to raise my reputation with several factions about the embarrassing level they are at now. I also have other characters I want to level in different ways and focus on different things. Most importantly I am still enjoying the game.

What did I think of The Black Garden? In general I thought there could have been more plot in the second half of the campaign. All of this was wiped away as I entered The Black Garden though. The entrance was an exercise in perfection. As I walked through the vista that awaited me was astounding. Me and a friend just stood there for a minute admiring the view. That is where the level was clever. It made sure the players got to enjoy that moment of calm and clarity before the final onslaught.

I see this game a a hybrid shooter and Massive Multiplayer Online(MMO) game. One of the things I’ve always found frustrating in MMO games is that once you are a few levels above the monsters they cannot harm you at all. In Destiny they can still hurt you. Especially the more powerful creatures. If you want to raise the challenge the players can raise the level difficulty. This all means that even if a player has spent a while doing other things and is doing a level twenty mission with level twenty five characters the challenge was still there. Like most levels and particularly the boss encounters the players could not just run in and go toe-to-toe with all the nasty monsters. Teamwork, smart positioning and communication were vital to stay alive. I nearly died a couple of times in the final encounter because I thought it was finished. Several waves of baddies with a big nasty provide a pretty still challenge but I found some of the other levels more difficult.

The ending of this phase of the story was a little like Return Of The Jedi and I was expecting a little more. There was a missed opportunity to hook me further in towards buying the big update (DLC). One thing I’d really like to have seen was a subtly different story arc for each class. This would have added something extra for people leveling up a second character.

So what’s next for me in Destiny? I will be leveling up the other classes. I want to look at different factions as I’m hoping that later on there will be content that is only available for people with the correct faction. I’m still enjoying the PvP aspects and am looking forward to getting utterly destroyed in the new form coming this week. Equipment and skill choices will have much more impact and reward the people clever enough to tailor their equipment selections in the most efficient manner. I still haven’t plucked up the courage to try a Raid yet – my fear of causing us all to get wiped out is too great.

In summary I’ve played Destiny for over thirty hours and can see another thirty before the first DLC is released. For me that will be a key point. I probably would have bought it already if there were more details about what is included.

Locke & Key Volume 2: Head Games by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

Locke & Key Volume 2: Head Games by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

I have been as guilty as others in the past of not giving enough credit to the artists  involved in Graphic Novels. That is almost impossible in this series. Gabriel Rodriguez has done such an amazing job of visualizing the story that it was impossible to picture things in any other way. I loved the embossed cover and the great use of colour that really made the key pop. If anything though the quality of the art got better when I looked inside. When I read a book like this I tend to do it twice. Once looking at every picture and word in every frame. Once I’ve finished that I sit back a bit and just look at the flow of the pictures and the narrative they represent. That was where this book really stood out for me. The little extras at the back of the book showing the stages of a cell being layered were fascinating.

This is the second in the Locke & Key series. The first book left a huge amount open questions that I couldn’t wait to be expanded on. Not many of them were answered and I now have a longer list of questions. Somehow this manages not to irritate me as I thought it would. Although I was aware of the larger story arc there was an abundance of quality writing to keep me thoroughly engaged and wanting more.

This book focused on Dodge and all the nastiness he represented. There were very few positives in this book. It was really dark and brooding. By the end of this part of the story it was very hard to imagine how anybody involved could survive Dodge’s machinations. The bounds of reality were stretched back upon themselves in this book and I certainly will not be putting any keys near the back of my head. I’ve already bought the third book and will be reading it very soon.

 

Game Review of Destiny on PS4

Destiny PS4

I don’t normally review games. In fact my only blog post on games was about the story for the Agent class in Starwars Galaxies (SWG). I had planned on writing a similar post about Destiny as I knew it was going to be worthwhile but my love of this game has got in the way.

My initial plan was to do nothing else other than go through the story arc on my own and then explore the rest of the game. I started playing on my own as was instantly immersed in the story. The tutorial if you can call it that starts with you running and quickly moves in to shooting and punching just to survive. It was quite intense. I’m now lvl 25 and parts of the game are still intense. There was a level of this game that involves no player interaction at all. Just a long scene. It sounds crap and it shouldn’t have worked but it did. There was a point to every cut-scene. The dialogue and the voice acting were of a quality that impelled you to watch and listen. The only negative for me is that so far the story dialogue does not alter if the player starts again with another class and so running through for the third time may get a little tiresome.

Visually this game was breathtaking. I created a second character just so I could watch the opening sequence again. Yes I know that was sad but I enjoyed it just as much. This has been my first next-gen game and if this has been any kind of indicator then there are great things to come. The soundtrack played an important role in my enjoyment of this game. As you approach a boss the music score ramps up the tension and I could feel my heart beating faster. These things combined to make this a truly enjoyable gaming experience.

As I said earlier I started out planning to run through the story. Then I started exploring. I ran around the open-world doing little Patrol missions just to get a feel for the worlds and then I spent way too much time in the team player versus player (PvP) games. Like Halo before it there is an Unreal Tournament feel to the PvP. This is a good thing. I’m too old for twitch gaming so I had to rely on cunning to get any kind of a decent score. I’m love to see an instant kill fusion rifle only mode harking back to the Insta-gib days. The jump and glide system is similar to Halo and gives a three dimensional feel to some of the levels. Death from above is really satisfying.

Destiny is not without a few niggling issues though. It is a hybrid first-person shooter and MMO. That means things like item farming and drop rates are always going to be an issue. Personally I’m all for rare stuff being genuinely rare and hard to get hold of. It was frustrating to have five legendary drops in a row all become rare items but it made that time a legendary pop seem all that more special. According to the next patch notes this will be tweaked this week. Even the patch notes for this game have been well done. The author of the final copy is obviously a gamer and has added a little humour to help us empathize with the developers. More importantly though they are clear and easy to read patch notes.

There is a lot of open-world but there is not a complete planet to traverse. I have wandered off the map a few times. There will be more content. There are rumours that Destiny has a ten year story arc. How many games that will cover is not clear but there are at least two sets of downloadable content (DLC) to purchase already. Personally I’d like to see a more detailed list of contents for these before I pay out nearly the cost of another game (but I probably will). The public events are an interesting idea that reminds me of the early days in Ultima Online (UO). Although the ones I’ve seen have only been small there is the potential for these to become epic battles that little the surface with piles of Fallen (pun intended).

Overall I’d say that this game has more in common with SWG than it does with Halo. I’d rather play this hybrid than either of the other two. Destiny is a well thought out game that will only mature and develop over the next year or two. I certainly don’t expect to be trading my copy in any time soon.

You Are The Hero by Jonathan Green

You Are The Hero by Jonathan Green

As soon as I heard about the Kickstarter project to create this book I was on-board instantly. For me this is a validation of my youth. A way to explain how I became the person I am today. I imagine my face was a little like those of the first monks to see a Gutenberg bible. I’ve seen one and regardless of what you think about the content they are amazing.

This book was supposed to be a paperback. Having received my stunning hardback I can’t imagine it having been printed any other way. The quality of this book started with the cover and continued throughout. I love the cover and how it took me back to my childhood grabbing the latest book from the library. Before reading this book I took half an hour or so just flicking through the pictures. OK so I have done the same thing two or three times since then.

The importance of the Fighting Fantasy series has been underplayed for a long while. Reading this book made me consider not just the impact they had on me but on the entertainment industry. When I was young and reading these books I was also a gamer. Back then whether it was a book or a game everything was linear. Every single story led game had one clear route. Then came Fighting Fantasy. Other kids like me (but more talented) took their experiences and love of choices to make games with multiple routes and a split narrative. Would we have had games like Fable 3 without Fighting Fantasy? Maybe but in my opinion it would probably have been a few years later. For me these books were an important part of my self-discovery and will always hold a special place in my heart.

I have always had trouble explaining the books to people that have never played them. Now though I can lend them my weighty tome so that they can learn for themselves. I hadn’t realized how much I didn’t know about the series until I read this. I might have to see if I can get hold of some to go through with my youngest.

This book was obviously a labour of love and Jonathan Green’s efforts have resulted in an outstanding book. It may not be cheap but it is worth every penny.

Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story by Vanessa Gebbie

Short Circuit by Vanessa Gebbie

A lot of books about the art and craft of writing have very uninspiring covers. From bearded academics to meaningless out of focus shots. This cover makes a refreshing change. At first glance if it just a head with cogs grinding away. The more you look at it the more symbolism pops out of you. It helps that this is a nice sized book that really shows off the cover art.

I love short stories. A great one is a perfectly formed effortless read. They look so simple, so easy. Surely anybody could write a decent one with a minimum of effort. It turned out that writing short fiction that flows is a damn sight harder than it looks. This was the position from which I bought this book.

First things first. This book is not going to explicitly state a definitive way to do anything. You will not become a best selling author just from reading this book. What this book does give you are some extra tools. One of the key lessons that gets repeated is that reading is key. Targeted reading if possible. Each contributor to this book has put a selection of their favourite short stories at the end.  I have put together a list based on recommendations in this book for further reading. That was instant win for me.

For me the structure of this book worked really well. There are discreet sections by the various contributors. Each section starts with an informative and easy to follow description that succinctly demonstrates the title of the section. Some books would stop and be happy with that, but this one goes further. At the end of each section there are exercises that help build on the points made. Some are as simple as getting you to think of a situation and twisting it in a certain direction. They are simple and yet highly effective in getting the reader to think and imagine something they had not thought of before. The bits I wasn’t so sure about I could look at the recommended list of short stories by the author of that section and get a better idea of what they were talking about.

Although I read this story from cover to cover I think the most benefit can be gained from dipping in and out of it as needed. I found this to be an inspiring read and already have post-it notes adorning several pages.