I wasn’t going to blog any more book reviews. I was done. Then I read this and I had to shout about it.
I read episode two of DIE last night. I’ve been trying to pin down what it reminds me of. I started off thinking it was like the old D&D cartoon was invaded by Neuromancer and Hellraiser with Cthulhu as the Dungeonmaster. That was a bit much though and didn’t leave room to describe the future episodes. The best I could come up with is that it was like Ready Player One for old school RPG fans. I feel like I should also be mentioning Scott Pilgrim in the description but I don’t know why yet.
I got the same feeling reading this as I did the first time I read Weis & Hickman, Pratchett, Moore or Gibson. Something about this spoke directly to my brain in a way I can’t quantify. Very rarely does a second of anything make me go back and read the first straight after. I might be getting a little obsessed by this.
It wasn’t just the story though it was the little touches. In the first issue the characters are handed their die. The only one they can use in that adventure. In the second episode the inside cover has a picture of the character, their dice type and a two-dimensional deconstruction of their die. I loved that. That was the kind of detail that really made it pop for me.
There there was the big page of text at the end. An insight in to how the writer’s research inspired some aspects of the story you say? SOLD!
This story was a fun lunch time read but was a surreal completion to a circle long in the making for me. I remember reading Forbeck’s Blood Bowl novels when they first came out (and re-read a couple of times since). For me it was Forbeck that brought life and character to what was essentially a board game version of American Football with a little extra violence and a nod to the wider Warhammer world.
I’ve owned four different editions of the board game and the PC/console games too and it is clear that they’ve ran with the way the author set things up and built upon it (stay with me there is a point somewhere). Forbeck has written a lot of really good tie-in fiction and really captures the mood and spirit of games. In this instance every time I was reading the sportscasters I was actually hearing the voice from the PC game and that was funny.
If you’ve read Forbeck’s Blood Bowl novels (if not they are well worth checking out) this story re-caps in basic terms what happens to Dunk and his team in the books but in typical Blood Bowl fashion descends in to mayhem and the inevitable bloody end that all connoisseurs of The Game demand.
This was the seventh book in the Beast Arises series that I’ve read. In terms of action this is the book where things really start to kick in to action. Koorland with some nudging took charge and added impetus to the response of Terra. The search for the only known living Primarch began. The elusive gene father of the Salamanders had been fighting for more than a thousand year on his own. The crash course in being a leader stunned Koorland and I really enjoyed how he still didn’t see himself as a worthy leader.
For me the most interesting part of this book was how the Astartes that are seen as gods amongst men are seen as wayward children to Vulkan. There was a sense that Vulkan had foreseen this situation and knew how it would conclude and yet held himself apart from the Astartes. It would have been easy for this to have come across as a cheesily forced enigma but it didn’t. There was a surprising depth to the character of Vulkan that I really enjoyed.
There were some unanswered questions in this book like how did the Orks know where Vulkan was (If they did) and if they did were they aware of his singular threat to The Beast? Hopefully These questions will be answered in the next book.
This is the Chaos Marines Codex for Warhammer 40k 8th edition. Before I talk about what is inside this codex I’m going to talk about what isn’t in it and why you don’t have to buy it (yeah I laughed as I typed that). If you bought the Chaos Index you have the base rules to field all your old Chaos models. That’s a key point for me. The Indexes allow us to keep using our old models and units. An example of this is a Chaos Lord on a bike no longer exists in this Codex. You can however take it as an Index approved unit. It has also been made very clear that if Death Guard or Thousands Sons are your only Chaos units then you are better off sticking to your Index rules until the shiny new Codexes for those armies arrives (Gimme Death Guard NOW). You also are not able to build a Chaos Daemons list from this book, as per before use the Index for now.
So that was a lot of reasons not to buy this book now for my opinions on why to buy it. I’ll start with my personal Chaos army and then go to generic stuff afterwards. My Chaos army celebrates my Lord Nurgle. Part of that is my Death Guard, which I’ll be running as a detachment in their own right but for me the core of my army are a renegade chapter now called The Granddads that worship Nurgle (stop shaking your heads). I also have some Daemons which will be another detachment spread through my horde. This is where one of the key benefits of the Codex come in. If you don’t belong to one of the main Legions the special ability for your army is being able to advance and charge. Chaos Beasts suddenly got fun, and jump pack troops deploying away from the enemy in cover and not gambling on that 25% charge chance is suddenly viable.
Overall I think this Codex has opened up a lot of ways to play and to compliment the various Legions and Daemons or lead themselves to victory over the corpse throne. I’m a little disappointed with the relics though as for instance if you follow Nurgle you are more or less reduced to Puscleaver which replaces a power sword and is useless for either the Daemon Prince or Sorcerers in my army. The Warlord trait I personally find it hard to look past an extra wound and Feel No Pain on a 6+. I’ve also found my Forgefiend to be miserably bad in the couple of battles I’ve used him. Even if standing still at full health he only hits on a 4+ and I found myself either moving or wounded in every round. I barely hit and felt the points were not a great investment. Yes I’m saving up for a Chaos Landraider but again I wish I had the option for a Redeemer. Mutilators, Mutilators, Mutilators. I want to use them so badly but I can’t ever see them being worth the points. They are so slow that the only real option is to come in from reserve and gamble on the 25% of charging. They invariably are going to get minced which might be a good distraction if they can make a few saves but most troops can just walk back out of range and still fire at them. Oh and if you are not collecting skulls then you cannot have enough psykers.
There will be some criticism about an excuse to sell more Codexes. If adding colour to your army with a unit of Plague Marines is all you want then you don’t need to wait for a specific codex you can run that in either the Index or Codex. Personally I hope Games Workshop keep up this frenetic pace of releases so that Codex creep is less this edition. Some armies such as Tau are already feeling under-powered with their lack of a psychic phase and wet paper towel close combat weapons. I am enjoying 8th edition more than I ever did 7th edition.
I didn’t so much read this as I did listen to it. I like audio books but they cost a lot more than I can afford more than once in a while. You’ll notice I didn’t say it was expensive. When everything involved is factored in I think that £20 was a fair price for this product. I bought this directly from the Black Library because I try to put money as close as I can to the content creators. This story was excellently narrated by Gareth Armstrong and had a great sense of gravitas.
This was the third book in The Beast Arises series. I hadn’t read the first two in the series and chose this one for a couple of reasons. Firstly the blurb made this sound like a book I would enjoy but more importantly it was by Gav Thorpe. For a gamer of my age the 3rd and 4th edition 40K codexes were things that I routinely broke the spines of through overuse (and that is without considering some of the really cool 40K novels written by Thorpe).
I wasn’t disappointed. There was a great variety of action in this book. From personal combat and system wide ship conflict to the political machinations of the High Lords of Terra. The multiple threads of this story converge in to a shock ending that means I can’t possibly avoid buying the fourth story in the series. Whilst the politics of the Imperial Navy and their protracted tactical battles were interesting I love anything to do with The Inquisition. Throw in Assassins and you get a story that felt made for me.
I just need to decide whether to save up for the audio books or the physical books. For those really invested in making sure they have a whole series there is an option to buy the whole series in advance at a discount. This at first might sounds silly but I personally hate it when I’ve read most of a series and it gets canned. This way there is a pretty good chance the series will complete if people have already paid for it. There are worse things to do with your money.
A little while ago I decided to go back and read some Chaos Marine fiction to inspire me to start painting my army again. What better place to start than the first Traitor Legion. As a Warhammer 40k player it is really easy to see the universe in terms of good versus evil or to add in a pinch of politics by viewing armies as either authoritarian or libertarian. As with just about everything worthwhile there is a lot more to it than that. The most inspiring and fascinating thing about this book for me was how the author managed to portray the devotions and fervour of the Word Bearers in way that was eerily similar to those of the loyalist chapters worshipping the rotten corpse atop the golden high chair. Sorry I may have got a little caught up and paraphrased one of my favourite lines from this book.
There is only war! That means every 40k novel has to have battles. This book deals with battles on two levels. The overt and frankly huge pitched battle between the Imperial Guard and Scions of Mars and the Chaos Legion of the Word Bearers. The brutal and attritional nature of warfare was hammered home like an orbital bombardment but that wholesale slaughter is just a means to an end. There is a secret buried within the heart of Tanakreg. The Magos is determined to keep the Wordbearers away from the secret he thought forgotten two millenia ago. The warp fueled visions of the Dark Apostle on the other hand have driven him to sacrifice an entire warhost for the opportunity to retrieve the prize he has glimpsed.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have already bought the second and third parts of the story. Unfortunately I’m now going to be to busy reading to start my painting yet. Oh and I just ordered a couple of codexes too.
Getting to level twenty is the easy part of playing Destiny. There are clear goals and a path to follow. Then it stops. You’re alone. WTF?
I’m not going to go through everything step by step but hopefully I will give you enough information to use a search engine or your favourite video sharing site to move forward.
I’m going to start off with Ascendant Energy and Ascendant shards. They seem so unimportant when you hit level twenty but that soon changes as you upgrade weapons and armour.Once you have advanced a bit there are a lot of thee to be gained from doing the raid. Before then there are two ways to ensure getting some. The quickest and easiest is to do public events. If I want to do one of these and don’t have much time I’ll head to Earth on a patrol mission and zip over to The Divide or Mothyards. How do I know when to head to the right one? Destiny Public Events (http://destinypublicevents.com/) is an amazingly useful and accurate site. I find that the events normally start withing 5mins either side of the stated time. The first event you complete on any given day will result in a present from the postmaster. This is repeatable on different characters. You don’t need to be particularly high level to do that. I have two characters that I do this with regularly and it results in fourteen materials a week. On average that is one weapon and armour upgrade a week. Not too shabby. The other method is to do the Daily story challenge on the left side of your destination screen and raise the difficulty to lvl 24. Do that once a day with each character and you get another fourteen a week (double that if you bump it up to maximum difficulty.
Materials are all well and good but how do you get that shiny Legendary equipment you so desire? There are lots of methods. Raising your Vanguard or Crucible rank to level two is the most guaranteed way. I’ll start with the Crucible as that is simple. Pick up crucible bounties head to orbit and jump in to a crucible match. You will get reputation whether you win or lose the match (more if you win) and also crucible marks. Reputation opens up the vendors to you but marks are the currency. There is a 200 mark cap on both vanguard and crucible marks so try to spend them before you hit the cap. Winning four crucible matches is roughly equivilent to the average bounty reputation gain. This can take a while so don’t bother doing it unless that is the part of the game you really enjoy (like me). You will get blue crucible armour and weapons at the end of matches which makes it a good thing to do when you first get to level twenty. There is one more type of bounty. Exotic bounties. I’ve seen it written that there is a 2% chance of them popping when you hand in any other bounty. For me they’ve always appeared when handing in at least four at a time (yes I know it is more likely). These can be really frustrating especially when you need void kills in the crucible and everybody knows you’re only using your shotgun but they are generally good fun and a welcome break from routine.
Vanguard reputation is a different beast. You get this from the grey bounties but also from doing activities like strikes, missions and patrols. My personal favourite bounty involves punching thirty monsters to death without dying. Always fun. This brings me on to the strike playlist. You will get engrams for completing these strikes. Don’t worry if you don’t have mates to help you the strikes playlist will matchmake some help for you (and them).
There is no match-making facility for the weekly and weekly nightfall strikes. You either need friends or to be very cunning in how you do it solo. There are not many people that can do a nightfall solo and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you know the strikes very well. What if you don’t have friends? Why is there no clan or guild facility in Destiny? There is. This is where you need to access http://www.bungie.net. If you are logged in to your Playstation account in your browser you can use that sign-in to authenticate with. There is a clan section where you can join a clan and use the forums to arrange meeting up with people to get things done. It pains me to be social but it is useful and you get to interact with new and fun people. I will talk about the Strange Coins from the weekly strikes below. Nightfall rewards reflect the difficulty. Rewards that I’ve seen include ELEVEN Ascendant Shards, exotic armour and weapons and some very nice Legendary weapons.
Xur. The weekend vendor that swaps exotics for Strange Coins and exotic engrams for motes of light (you can get these in multiple ways but most reliably as you gain xp on a lvl twenty character). A weekly strike on lvl 28 will net you nine coins. Manage the level 24 on an alternative character and that adds another six to get you an exotic every week if you want. There are plenty of options but my recommendation is to get an exotic helmet rather than any other armour slot. This is because to reach level thirty you need thirty light in each slot and that can only come from exotic or raid gear. As you can only have one piece of exotic armour equipped at once I recommend the head slot because the raid helmets only drop on the hard level raid (everything is level thirty). The raid on hard is the only thing I’m yet to try and I’ll hopefully give it a go soon.
The raid. It is great fun and really intense but worth every minute. If you’re lucky enough to get in a group with experienced players you can almost walk through it. Somehow though being in a group of raid virgins working it out together is more fun. Until you hit the tiredness wall and have to stop before you face-plant the floor. It does save the raid at key checkpoints and the leader of the firegroup can get the group together to try again later in the week. Don’t forget that this like most things resets on a Tuesday. The weapons and armour you get make repeating the raid slightly easier and that is something to beware of when watching videos online. That person with full raid armour and weapons will damage Praetorians and oracle a lot more than you will even with fully upgraded exotics with the right damage type. Try it as soon as you can. Even if you only get as far as killing the Gatekeeper you have the potential of getting raid gear.
These are the things I’ve done and are by no means exhaustive or definitive. Play how you enjoy but have some targets and ways to get there too. Most importantly, have fun.
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.
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.
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.