Destiny 2: By Gosh, the Price Is Right

I’ve tried Destiny 2 twice in the past, and both times it failed to impress me much. Nonetheless, not one to turn down a free lunch, I picked it up when they gave it away for free on Battle.Net, but even then I didn’t feel much motivation to actually play.

The warlock Ikora Rey in Destiny 2However, I’ve had a terrible flu the last two weeks, and binging on a simple game seemed like the best way to distract me from my physical misery. At last, Destiny 2’s moment had come.

I started over with a new character to refresh my memory of the game, but I’m still an Awakened warlock, so not much has changed.

I’m not sure exactly how far I am into the game, but the story feels like it’s ramping up toward a conclusion, and I’ve already been at the (pre-DLC) level cap for a while now. Honestly, leveling was so quick I have to wonder why they even bothered including it at all.

When I think of Destiny 2, the first word that comes to mind is “thin.” There’s no depth to anything in this game.

The skill trees are shockingly shallow. There’s not even the illusion of character customization. I’m generally of the opinion these sorts of things should lean towards the stream-lined end of things, but even for me this is too far.

Combat in Destiny 2Plus your active abilities are relatively weak and have very long cooldowns, so there’s not much to the gameplay beyond just shooting things. Ironically I find bosses are usually the easiest thing because you can quickly burst them down with your super weapon or ultimate ability, while hordes of weaker enemies are more dangerous because they’re too spread out to AoE.

Unlike Warframe or Anthem, which are hybrids of RPG and shooter design, Destiny 2 feels more like a pure shooter that had a few minor nods to RPG elements tacked on as an afterthought.

Similarly, the lore and story are equally shallow. None of the characters are at all memorable, save for Failsafe, who is good for the occasional chuckle.

I did have some hope that the villain was developing some nuance, but they just kind of threw that out now that I’m nearer the end.

I also find it weird how the whole story puts such a fine point on you being the only Guardian left with Light, but the game is constantly throwing you into groups with other players who clearly also have their powers. This kind of dissonance is not uncommon in online games, but rarely is it so obvious or extreme.

My character in Destiny 2That said, just because something is mindless doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Considering how underwhelming my first impressions of the game were, I’ve managed to have a pretty good time playing it heavily for the past week.

One thing I will say for Destiny 2: There’s nothing major wrong with it. Everything works, and there’s no significant blunders in its design. Even games I love usually have one or two major flaws, but Destiny 2 manages to maintain an impressively consistent level of quality, even it never really rises above “good enough.”

And there are a handful of things I’d consider worthy of special praise.

For one thing, it’s damn pretty. The graphics are of a very high quality, and there’s a really nice variety to the environments. Some are quite ordinary — forests, space stations — but some of the worlds you visit are quite exotic. Nessus and Io are very alien and absolutely gorgeous.

Also, I will say I really like the crafting system. Destiny 2 is one of those games that just never explains anything, so there’s nothing to let you know it’s even there, but you can craft an at-level version of almost any item you acquire over the life of your character, which is a great way to stick with the guns you like best and fill in any slots where you haven’t gotten an upgrade recently.

This is definitely one of those systems I’d like to see other games steal.

Jupiter's moon of Io in Destiny 2Speaking of items, while the drops are of course painfully rare, the special effects you can get on the top end items can be pretty fun. I found a submachine that starts spraying chain lightning and refunding its ammo whenever I take electricity damage. While somewhat situational, it’s nonetheless very strong and incredibly fun.

Finally, I will admit that the mission with the Almighty was pretty badass, if only for the impressive set pieces.

On the whole my time with Destiny 2 has been a decent ride, though I’m certainly glad I didn’t pay full price, and I’m not sure I’d spring for DLC.

For now, I might as well finish the story at least.

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BlizzCon 2018: It’s Worth It for the Warcraft III Remake

There was a profound level of cynicism going into this year’s BlizzCon. Blizzard themselves put a strange amount of effort into telling people not to get their hopes up, and the whole community — myself included — seemed to look toward the convention not so much with excitement as fatigue.

A shot from the cinematic trailer for Warcraft III: ReforgedI can’t say that pessimism has proven entirely unjustified, but for me, there is one silver lining.

A carnival of disappointment:

For the most part, BlizzCon 2018 has felt underwhelming thus far. Most of what’s been announced is predictable, uninspired, or otherwise disappointing.

World of Warcraft’s news so far consists only of a release window for WoW Classic, which I have no interest in, and a breathtakingly tone-death speech in which Jay Allen Brack sung the praises of Blizzard’s inclusive and welcoming community and then immediately pivoted into talking about Battle for Azeroth, an expansion specifically designed to divide the community and foster animosity between players.

Oh, yeah, and a new cinematic, which didn’t really offer much, actually.

Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch both got the expected new hero reveals. Am I the only one who thinks the Overwatch character looks like a grown-up version of the girl from Heroes? They’re both girls with white hair and red eyes…

Hearthstone has another new expansion, themed around Trolls this time. Maybe this is exciting for Hearthstone fans, but this just seems like more of the same to me.

A vision of the Xel'naga keystone in StarCraft 2: Legacy of the VoidStarCraft II saw Zeratul of all people announced as the next co-op commander. This got barely a mention in the opening ceremony, and I had to go to the official website to see the trailer and get details.

My knee-jerk reaction was serious disappointment. I can think of lots of more interesting characters to become commanders. However, having looked over the preview, he does seem to have some unique mechanics to offer, most especially his ability to enhance his army by collecting randomly generated Xel’naga artifacts.

His army is also more themed around the Xel’naga than the Nerazim, so it seems he won’t just be Vorazun 2: Electric Boogaloo. So Zeratul for me has been upgraded from “couldn’t care less” to “might buy, maybe.”

I still would have strongly preferred Selendis. Seriously, she’s been one of the most requested characters since co-op launched. What do we need to do to get her in the game?

Surprisingly little hype was built around the fact everyone on Battle.Net is being given Destiny 2 for free. That seems like it should have been a bigger deal. What I’ve played of Destiny 2 didn’t wow me, but now that I own the full version, I might give it another try at some point.

The wizard class in Diablo: ImmortalOf course, I’d be remiss not to mention the new Diablo mobile game, Immortal. As these things go, it actually looks fairly cool, but as it’s mobile-exclusive, I’ll never play it. I don’t use mobile devices. Never have.

Honestly, I’m wondering if Blizzard games are just not for me anymore. The company has evolved into a new direction. There’s nothing objectively wrong with it, but it’s not the same developer I used to love. And it’s just not the same without Metzen.

However, there is one thing here that excites me.

Warcraft III: Reforged

Now this was a pleasant surprise. I thought it possible a Warcraft III remaster might come someday, but I was not expecting it so soon.

I tell you, when they rolled that remake of the original Reign of Chaos trailer, I literally started shouting “Yes! YEEEESSS!” at my monitor. Such a moment of pure nerdgasm.

It seems too much to hope for, but how amazing would it be if all the cinematics were redone like this?

Arthas and Jaina in a cutscene from Warcraft III: ReforgedEven if they’re not, the updates to the in-game graphics are almost cinematic quality. It’s stunning. This is not a slapdash effort like the StarCraft remaster. This is a true modernization. In fact, the official site describes Reforged as a true remake, including balance changes and gameplay tweaks.

My one complaint is that it’s a bit over-priced. Pre-orders are already live, and even the base version is a whopping $40. Even considering what an impressive effort this is, that’s a steep price for a game from last decade with no new content.

I suppose I should try not to get too hyped. The other game remakes I’ve played — even good ones like The Age of Empires Definitive Edition — didn’t hold my attention for long. At the end of the day, it will still be a nearly twenty year old game I already played to death.

But Warcraft III was my favourite game of all time, at least until TSW came along, and even now it’s kind of a tie between the two. The thought of bringing it into the modern day brings out my inner twelve year old and sends a shiver of excitement down my spine.

If nothing else, I hope this encourages people who never played Warcraft III to give it a shot. It’s a true classic, and one of the greatest epic stories in gaming.