Wednesday, September 3, 2014

"Waiting on Destiny..." pt. 2 - CounterSpy

Our Destiny is close...

Many have been counting the days, and we're down to four... and a bit. And as you can read or have read in Part 1 of this two-parter mini-series, with the impending arrival of something much anticipated, I always have that Jones for something, anything, to play, but am reluctant to invest too much in a bigger game. 

In Part 1, I subtly recommended Trials Fusion to pass the time (besides doing something really worthwhile with your life, but who DOES that anyway?) until Destiny arrives on Tuesday.

Today, here's another little Gem to ease your minds and itch those fingers, a Playstation Exclusive, Indie Cold-War Stealth-Action game named: 


The first thing you will notice, is the art - because calling it an "art-style" would simply not do it justice. It's something between Spy vs. Spy and Cold-War Comic Books, and it's just stunning, both in its execution and its inherent, tongue-in-cheek character.

Granted, the Cold War was not necessarily a "funny" time - although in hind sight, the enormity of this most boastful of conflicts could seem a bit ridiculous. It's no coincidence that the biggest single thing that stopped the two nuclear superpowers from annihilating each other (and the world) was called "MAD": Mutually Assured Destruction. Gotta love those acronyms, you really do...

CounterSpy's Setup is not too historical. CounterSpy is meant to be fun, and does not take itself too seriously - but in its setup, it already makes a fair bit of a statement. 

As an agent of C.O.U.N.T.E.R., you work against BOTH superpowers, the Imperialist Aggressors and the Socialist Aggressors, who plan to launch a nuclear strike at the Moon (You know, where that Wizard came from...). It's quite refreshing to have you NOT fight the "Red Menace" for a change - or at least, not exclusively. 

Being with COUNTER, you are tasked with infiltrating Military Bases on both sides and recover secret plans to stop the impending doom of mankind. Because if the Moon goes "Boom"... yes, you get it: Doom. Helping you in that endeavor is, once you've unlocked the respective blueprints found on missions, a healthy mix of Weapons (Stealthy and Not-so-Stealthy), Boost-Formulas you can buy for one mission, and the most deadly weapon of all! No, it's not that Barbara-Streisand-Mech from Southpark, and Michael Bolton has nothing to do with it. It's your MIND!

At it's heart, CounterSpy is a 2D Stealth-Action Game, but it comes with a 3D twist: Once you get into specific Cover, things turn 3D, and previously unreachable enemies become members of an animated shooting gallery. Don't let yourself be fooled, though, this does not turn CounterSpy into a 3D Third-Person-Shooter. It's more of a "Puzzler", in that aspect. 
Since you cannot change the camera when in cover, and enemies you can't see or shoot can most definitely can and will shoot you, each encounter has to be approached with a bit more tactic than you might think, choosing when and where to go into cover, or use the wider, yet flatter, view of two dimensions. 

Here you will also encounter what might be perceived as one of the game's short-comings, but most of that stems from what we, the players, are used to expect when "going into cover". CounterSpy simply is not, and once you understand its quite unique boundaries, you'll have a lot of fun experimenting. 

Stealth is recommended (tip from the Devs: Holding the Roll Button will automatically snap you into cover when you get close enough, for quick and sneaky Stealthiness), and if that is not to your liking, a fast dispatch of alerted enemies will do you good. Because DefCon is rising (that's like "Winter is coming", only Cold-War-ish). Once you get detected or killed, DefCon rises in different ways(actually it goes down, with 0 being the maximum DefCon; hey, I didn't invent that system, blame the Imperialists!), and once it hits zero, you'll only have a limited time to reach the end of the level and stop the rockets' launch. 

The DefCon level is also persistent between missions for each side, and since the final mission will play out where the highest (numerically lowest) DefCon level is, you should do what you can to keep it low (i.e. high. Dammit!). 
One way to lower it, and another lovely comedic nugget, is to subdue an Officer instead of shooting him. Because, as every enlisted Soldier knows, officers are cowards, and without backup will quickly surrender in the face of adversity. And thus lower your DefCon Level by One.

Speaking of levels, the missions are randomly generated from existing "building blocks". Which means that you might see the many different rooms on each side of the Iron Curtain several times during a playthrough, but no mission will ever be the same - which is good for people that want to play again and again, but bad for those that want to perfect "runs" or something.
If you do like to beat other people's scores, the game gives you challenges from friends or others, score challenges you need to beat. If you do, you can find your beaten buddy in the guise of a deceased rival Agent somewhere in the next level for a big cash boost. And make no mistake. You might set out with the noble goal of saving humanity from its own folly, but everything, Weapons, Ammo and Formulas, everything needs cash.

In the following gameplay, I have tried to show as many aspects of the game as possible, going stealthy, semi-stealthy, failed-stealthy and loud. Yes, that was on purpose. I speaketh the Truth!

As much fun as it is, CounterSpy is not without its issues. Some smaller bugs, like wrong animations, enemies that see through walls or seemingly cheap "You could not help but be detected just by entering the room" moments, can be seen in the vid above, but my personal biggest gripe, are the loading times on the PS Vita (and, from what I read around the net, on the PS3, too). Because those are excessive. Like 60 seconds for a mission.

That said, it still looks awesome on the Vita, and even better on the PS4, something the videos do not adequately capture (as I don't have a PS3, I cannot judge on that). The gameplay is fun and diverse, often challenging, and only sometimes (mostly due to little bugs) a bit frustrating. 

With Cross-Buy on all three Sony Platforms (PS3, PS Vita and PS4), as well as networked cross-saves, the small-budget price and bite-sized missions of CounterSpy do make a great distraction from waiting on your... Destiny. Whatever it may be.

For a look at the skillful and stylish Moto-Cross Simulation "Trials Fusion" check out Part 1 of this mini-series Here. (There. At the "Here". It's a Link. Just trust me.)

I hoped you enjoyed what you read, and watching my (potentially embarrassing) gameplay (as always, please watch in HD). And if you want to show your support, why not use one of the links to Amazon UK before you want to buy anything there? I'd sure appreciate it.

... Or, I guess, you could tell me how awesome this was in a comment, but... well. You know.

For all your Playstation or Xbox or PC Gaming needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere...   

(All content property of its respective owners)

"Waiting on Destiny..." pt. 1 - Trials Fusion

It's less than a week now, that Bungie's ultra-hyped Destiny will arrive. 

Many have been counting the days, and we're down to five... and a bit. And maybe it's just me, but those last few days before an eagerly awaited release are the absolute hardest to wait through (there's a small phonetic pun here nobody will appreciate, but I know it and I am awesome). 

So... what do you do? I mean, apart from work, taking care of the family, your pets (animal or otherwise), cleaning up your room or flat, or generally doing something useful with your life instead of wasting it on video games... 
What do you do? Yes, you could explore Destiny's Planets with that cute little, Google Maps powered Destiny Planet View (which always manages to crash my Firefox, but runs fine on Chrome, for some reason), but... what do you PLAY?

A looming big release might have your fingers itching, but do you really want to invest in another big game (I'm looking at you, "Diablo 3 - Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition" )? Despite the fact, that you might either leave a quite expensive game to collect dust on your shelf when your Destiny arrives, or become so engrossed in it, that in four weeks you'll wake up in the morning, thinking about your new legendary dagger and those Greater Rifts, and wondering if you ever even get to get on with your Destiny...? 

So, I have a two suggestions, one right Here, the second right There (via the link): two smaller games, at first glance shorter games, with less of a price tag, but just as much potential to keep your mind off of those insufferably long, final days until your Guardian can... save humanity. Or something. Definitely something noble and worthwhile. 

Trials Fusion

People familiar with the Trials series will know what I mean, when I say that rarely has there been a game that could be as skillfully gratifying - and frustrating - as Trials. 

What is Trails? Originating in real life, Trials are ridiculously strange and difficult obstacle courses to be traversed with your bike - be that mountain or motocross - by equally ridiculously skilled drivers. Seriously, seeing some of these people blithely violate all common laws of physics is a rare treat. The Trials-series brought that treat to the gaming world, and it has been going strong ever since. 

The latest iteration, Trials Fusion, also made its way onto next-gen consoles, and the upgraded graphics and smooth frame rates are a joy - even when its possibly surprising learning curve and difficulty might leave you a bit frustrated, mostly right at the start, and towards the end. Trials starts relatively easy, more as a flowing racing game of motocross, and once you get a hang of the controls (which is not as easy as it might seem, but it's really worth it to grit it out), and how leaning and landing correctly are really essential, you will be gleefully racing to beat your friends' scores in no time, or compete in online Tournaments that task you with finishing three courses in a row as quickly and cleanly as you can. 

Trials does get progressively more difficult, however, until a point may arrive (it did for me at the second "Extreme Difficulty" track), where after fruitless 30 minutes and 250 hopeless retries, you start thinking about visiting something "extreme" on the people that made these tracks, and, despite the frustration, still managed to make you want to try again. Because eventually you will get to tracks so cunningly difficult, you will have to bring all your skills, learn some new ones, and just hope you'll get to the end - which is an achievement by itself, and rarely have I felt more satisfied than when finally finishing a course I never thought I possibly could. 

The tracks are also not as obvious as a first time run might make them look - there's lots of hidden paths, hidden features, bonus levels and other stuff to find. To spice things up, tracks also come with specific challenges, and those are mostly not of the "easy" variety. But, just as the game itself, once you go for one, you will feel a very strong need to finish it - no matter how impossible your success might seem, or how embarrassing reaching it might have been.

Trials Fusion also introduced aerial acrobatics, but to be quite honest, those tracks are far less intriguing than the general Trials tracks - of which there are quite a lot, both from the game, the two-of-six DLCs that have already been released (and those are a good reason to get back on your bike for all you veterans), and the by now over 20.000 user-generated tracks made with Fusion's Track Editor. 

All in all, Trials Fusion, with it's Season Pass, is not only a refreshingly welcome change of pace from shooting things (although it should be mentioned, that at the end of each track, the rider is subjected to a crash and/or horrible death), but also a great investment for some short-lived fun that may just take over your life. Until your "Destiny" hits, that is. 

Yet, I would be amiss in not issuing a few warnings: 

First, since every DLC comes with new elements for the track editor, to be able to play those tracks, you need the DLC. Like, BUY the DLC, which is not the nice way to go about these things.
Second, and this can be a bummer, Fusion is not only a game you will not quite enjoy as you'd might think playing it on your PS Vita via Remote Play (no analog triggers), but touching the front touch-screen in anyway whatsoever will restart the whole track. It's an issue that has been lamented since Fusion's launch in February 2014, but it's still present - and breathtakingly annoying.
Third, unless you're really into beating your friends' scores and times, I would advise you to turn off their ghost images in the options menu. Otherwise you might find yourself constantly pressured by little icons on the screen showing you how much better your buddies where, and possibly miss out on much of the fun that comes from simply enjoying the intricately crafted tracks and their many hidden features. 
And finally... not even mentioning the most horrible Title Song, ever ("Welcome to the Future! Man! Machine! The Future!"), this is one game, where you might want to play your own music, too. Unless you have a PS4, that is... (Shame on you, Sony! Shame on you!) 

For a look at stylish Cold-War Stealth-Action Game "CounterSpy", visit the second part of this mini-series right Here! (No, you click on the "Here". The one right there...)

I hoped you enjoyed what you read, and watching my (mostly embarrassing) gameplay (as always, please watch in HD). And if you want to show your support, why not use one of the links to Amazon UK before you want to buy anything there? I'd sure appreciate it.

... Or, I guess, you could tell me how awesome this was in a comment, but... well. You know.

For all your Playstation or Xbox or PC Gaming needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere...   

(All content property of its respective owners)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Road to Destiny... Pt.4: The Crucible - PvP

The Future. Touched by the Light of The Traveler, we have braved the Stars. But an ancient Darkness is coming to end us all...

Destiny...The Place you will come to Rule. And Own. But not Teabag.

The Beta is near, and after showing you some of the Alpha's Solo and Co-Op Activities in my last post, let's take a look at the Competitive Multiplayer:

"The Crucible": It's Player-versus-Player Warfare - Train for the "Fight for the Light" by shooting other people that Fight for the Light. It totally makes sense.

Then again, PvP never had to make sense. It's about the friendly, competitive challenge that engaging another human-controlled player inevitably comes with. It's definitely not about owning people, or tea-bagging them into rage-quitting. Thing to note here: No corpses in Destiny - No Tea-Bagging. All that's left after a kill is a lone Ghost, one of each Guardians' floating robotic helpers - you might even be able to get revived, although that never happened in the Alpha to my knowledge.

Yes, you play with your own Guardian, with your own weapons, your own gear. No more Red vs. Blue. You also have access to your full inventory, and can change gear, weapons and even class ability upgrades at any time during the match. But don't you worry about high-level players having access to much better gear. Destiny is not Battlefield, after all. "Level Advantages (like higher Damage or better Protection from high Level Gear are) Disabled".

In short, this means, that in The Crucible, a level 20 gun will do the same basic damage as a level 1 gun, while level 1 Head Armor will offer the same protection as its level 20 counterpart. It's a very nice way to level the playing field, while still retaining your individual play-style preferences.

Now, there are small differences, since the bonus stats of Uncommon and Rarer Gear are still in effect, and weapon upgrades, like scopes, that are unlocked by using a single weapon quite a lot, can give the more experienced player slight advantages. But if there's one thing Bungie is good at, it's matchmaking - something we've had to experience in the steep decline of match-making from Halo Reach (Bungie) to Halo 4 (343 Studios) - so the chances of level 20s battling level 5s are pretty slim.
As to what game modes will be available, the Alpha only had one ("Control" certain static areas on the map and kill enemies for points), but teased with icons of at least 5 more. One can safely assume that the (sad) staple of FPS Player-vs-Player "Team Deathmatch" will be present. Possibly there might be a "Free-for-All" Everyone kills Everyone game mode, as well. Hell, if Halo is any indication, two of the other icons may even just be "Big Team" Versions of Control and TDM, increasing the usual 6v6 into 12v12. 

Something I am personally hoping for, is a mode that combines different game modes, like Killzone's Warzones or Ghost Recon Future Soldier's Conflict. Control was a lot of fun, but I like variety plus fun even better.

The two Maps in the Alpha were called "Rust Lands" - a relatively small, no-vehicle map in a dilapidated industry/warehouse area on Earth - and "First Light" - a bigger map, with both spawning offensive vehicles and use of your own speed bike, plus several threatening turrets on the Moon's surface.

The gameplay on each map differed accordingly, but take a look for yourself in the video montages below.

And before anyone worries, I am, at best, mediocre in PvP, yet I never really felt helpless, nor frustrated. And best of all: (almost) no more Bunny-Hopping. If you ever played Halo games, you will be familiar with the concept of simply hopping everywhere. Thankfully, with the new double jump feature, that was almost completely absent from MP. In the 20 or so matches I played, I saw a single guy hopping up and down behind some cover.

And there you have it. All the things you could do... in the ALPHA. Yes, all caps. It deserves it. There were full Xbox 360 and PS3 games that had less content (Homefront, anyone?). If the Alpha is just a part of what the full game will have to offer, I honestly cannot wait for September.
So... you know. Wake me up, when September comes...

Seriously, though, Destiny is shaping up very nicely, indeed. If you get a chance to pre-order, see for yourself in the upcoming Beta, starting July 17th on PS3 and PS4, and the end of July on Xbox One, Xbox 360.

This marks the end of my four-part Destiny Blog Series. If you missed one, click the following links to get touched by the Light (ooohhh, that sounds dirty!):

Part 1: Destiny - First Look Alpha Impressions
Part 2: Destiny - Who you are and where you gather...
Part 3: Destiny - Things to do, Things to Kill...

For all your Playstation or Xbox or PC Gaming needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere... 

The Road to Destiny... Pt.3: Things to do, Things to kill...

The Future. Touched by the Light of The Traveler, we have braved the Stars. But an ancient Darkness is coming to end us all...

Destiny...The Place you will come back to. Again and again. Because (possibly), there's just so much to do.

With the setup, races and the social hub explained in my previous post, let's look at some of Destiny's activities showcased in the Alpha (apparently that's what you call game modes or missions, now, because we're not playing video games, oh no, we're "engaging in social activities").
And "engaging" surely is the word, since most of what you do is about either "engaging" other characters (violently), or preparing to engage other characters (violently). Oh, yes, you can also chat and dance and mess around, buy stuff and upgrade stuff, but Destiny is a First Person Shooter - so saying it's mostly about shooting things, albeit in a very "social" spirit, is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Now, as I said in "that other post", you launch your "activities" from orbit.  the Leader triggered his exit into Orbit, you automatically came along. The Alpha featured Four, Three "Campaign" Activities for Solo and Co-Op Play, and The Crucible, Destinies Player vs. Player Action (the latter of which will not be included here, but be looked at in the next post, specifically):

"The Dark Within" - Story Mission: Find out what the Fallen are hiding at Skywatch, part of the old Russian Cosmodrome. 

A pretty straight-forward Mission of "Go, Look, Kill" from early in the game. Fun, but nothing special. Good, creepy atmosphere, though. Playable with up to three players.

"The Devil's Lair" - Strike Mission: Deep within the Cosmodrome, a powerful evil Servitor is up to equally evil Shenanigans. Go and stab the evil Cyclops in its eye! (creative license, people!)
A Co-Op Side-Mission (Strike) that is so much better than the Story Mission, simply because it's bigger, longer and features three nice set-piece encounters: a "Survive the Enemy Waves" and two nice boss fights. Recommended to be played with the maximum three players, unless you're hopelessly overlevelled for it. 

Now, both of the Alpha's Mission Types, Story Missions and Strike Missions (and, I guess, the "Raid" Missions not present in the Alpha, all of which can be replayed) featured two Difficulties: Base and Legend. Legend (possibly an allusion to Halo's "Legendary" difficulty, who knows?) ramps up enemy level, HP, armor and damage (all of which was already said by "ramps up enemy level").
The game even tries to show you if you are prepared for it, by giving you "effectiveness percentages" of your currently equipped gear.
It's as confusing as it sounds - until you understand that the game is not lowering (red) or raising (green) your gear effectiveness by the stated percentage, just that it's better or worse than what the game deems necessary for the challenge. 
To illustrate, playing the Story Mission on Base with my low-level starting character, I didn't die once. Playing it again on Legend (which switched the Mission Level from 3 to 6) with a slightly better character, I died a lot - and felt like I was not doing much damage, to boot.

"Explore the Cosmodrome": Take a look around, see what you can find and/or kill. This time, nobody will tell you where to go.
Well, until you accept one of the myriad (and, to be cruelly honest, for the most part dreadfully boring and monotonous) Patrol Missions you can find in the wild via Beacons, that tell you to "Go and kill" or "Go and Look". Bungie did state on their website, however, that the Alpha featured content they would never let the game ship with, so I dearly hope for better and more diverse Patrol Mission in the full game (or even already in the Beta).

Here's some non-commentary footage to give you a bit of the sense and scope of the Alpha's Free Roam Exploration:

Basically, you run or speed-bike around the huge (HUGE) Cosmodrome area (I'd say about a good two to three times as big as the bigger areas in Borderlands 2 - and that's just the part of the area you had access to), kill the constantly respawning enemies, look for loot in little nooks, crannies and caves, take a few Patrol Missions, and maybe get lucky and trigger a Public Event. 

Public Events, as the name suggests, are public... well, events. Mini-Boss fights, Defend-and-Survive Missions, stuff like that. They're not easy, especially with a lower level, but the rewards are big, too. You even get some (considerably smaller) reward, for just competing. And, presumably, anyone in the area can join in - should it happen in their instance of the game. Exploration will already invariably have you meeting strangers in "your" game world, other players that do other stuff. You can help them, join up with them, or just ignore them - the choice is yours (but remember those Orbs of Light!).
Together we guard against the Darkness!

Well, that's the things you could do in the Alpha by yourself or in cooperation with others. In my next post, I will look at The Crucible PvP - and all the things you can do UNTO others :)

For Part 4 of my Destiny Blog-Series, click here: Destiny - The Crucible PvP

For all your Playstation or Xbox or PC Gaming needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere...  

The Road to Destiny... Pt.2: Who you are and where you gather...

The Future. Touched by the Light of The Traveler, we have braved the Stars. But an ancient Darkness is coming to end us all...

Destiny...The Place you will end up. Whoever you are...

With more and more info constantly dropping on Destiny (like the Trophy/Achievement list), and the Beta, only two weeks away (on Playstation, a bit longer sadly on Xbox), expected to present many more people with a bigger part of the game, let's take another look at what the Alpha already showed us. And let us being with the setup, and the social stuff:

The Races and Classes:

Destiny features three Races:
Human, Awoken (who may or may not be Alien-Human-Hybrids) and Exos (who may be Sentient Robots or things wearing a robot-like Exo-Skeleton that makes them look like Sentient Robots).
Both genders are featured for each race, but the races, and their numerous customization features themselves, are only cosmetic in nature - and differ in their dance moves. Those features are quite extensive, with different faces, hair, colors for everything, and even the, almost obligatory by now, Face Paint. Or Tattoos. Or maybe the Exos have Etchings. Or something.

It's not as deep as other games', bu it is still quite fun to create your character. And the chances that you will see someone running the exact same face are really not that high.

The Three Classes, on the other hand, that's where the RPG elements come in. Each Class has different abilities (double-jumps, melee attacks, grenades and "super powers") and different basic stats: The Titan has more armor, but is slower, the Hunter has less armor, but moves faster, while the Warlock can recover from injuries much quicker.

Each Class has its own Ability tree, with additional abilities and ability upgrades to unlock, and it works (or worked in the alpha) by leveling up, then using the ability to upgrade it. Upgrades were not of the passive, permanent variety, though. To explain, once you gain the ability to double-jump, you will eventually unlock three different upgrades (more distance, more speed, more control in the air, etc) but only one upgrade could be applied at a time.

The most "interesting" ability are of course the "Super Powers" - Supers, in short. Once you unlock it, you charge the ability by killing enemies or just waiting for a long time (in the Campaign), or generally earning points (in "The Crucible" Multiplayer). But since Destiny is all about working together with your fellow Guardians, those life forms touched by "The Light" and chosen to fight against "The Dark" (yeah, it`s quite original) in a semi-Utopian Future, there is one more way to quickly charge your Super: Wait for someone else to use his and be effective with it. 
Every time you successfully end an enemy's existence with your super, you will generate "Orbs of Light". These pick-ups are not for you, but for every other Guardian on your team (which are all Guardians during the Campaign, but only your, well, team, in The Crucible). It's a small, but very clever way to encourage sticking and playing together.
When you are "Super Charged" - little, cute side note: the Super Charge Bar turns yellow, when filled; and so does your PS4 controller's LED light - each class can unleash it's own special brand of "Super". There are actually two different Supers per class, but in the Alpha you only had access to the first due to the Level Cap.

The Titan's Super "Fist of Havoc" has him slamming down his fists in good old "Hulk SMASH!" style to obliterate anything around him. His second Super, not unlockable for the Alpha, will see him create a bubble shield around him.
The Warlock's "Nova Blast" sees him jumping into the air, then firing an arcing"artillery" shot at what he's aiming at, similarly obliterating anything around the point of impact. The second Super, which we didn't see, "boosts the effectiveness of all his abilities" by infusing your Warlock with the Power of The Light. Whatever that means.
The Hunter's "Golden Gun" is a bit more difficult to use, but it offers you three extremely powerful shots from a Golden Handgun - powerful enough, to kill any enemy in Multiplayer with one shot. The Hunter's second Super, "Bladedancer" seems to also infuse him with light, but that light allows you to run around really fast and stab people to death. 
And I will unashamedly admit, that I very much dread this one, because it so eerily reminds me of "Marathon-Lightweight-Commando with the Tactical Knife", the most annoying thing to ever come out of Call of Duty.

Some might already have seen this vid in my first Destiny Alpha post, but it shows the three classes and races in Campaign Action (albeit only the female of each, but they are known to be the more deadly, anyway):

The Tower:

The Social Center or "Hub" is called "The Tower". And lo and behold, there is a tower at its center. The Tower is where you go to purchase weapons and new gear, decode "Engrams" (i.e. Blueprints) for weapons and new gear you looted from fallen enemies, upgrade your jump ship, your speeder bike, and much more.

Gear and weapons, as you might expect, will play a central role. The better the gear, the better the... well, gear, but better gear also comes with bonus perks, like faster reloads, more ammo, or quicker recharge of your abilities. The Tower also features a Vault, through which you can share your equipment between characters - and thankfully, it has 20 slots each for Armor, Weapons and Resources. Take that, Clap-Trap Vault. Presumably, you will also get missions here (more than just the "Do this and get stuff for it"-Bounties), enroll in a faction for PvP for more access to different gear, get mail (whatever that means), and possibly even more stuff. Or just... well, you know. Be social. (And please excuse the commentary.)

The social aspects still seemed a bit stunted, with emotes and chatting with strangers apparently the only option you had, but the Alpha really only showed a small part of what we expect to see and have available for us in the full game. And let's be honest, that whole social MMO thing is still pretty new on consoles. Console players lack the ease of impersonal communication a keyboard provides - and who wants to start chatting with some squeaky 10-year old, by mistake?
One thing you couldn't do from the tower was launch a mission. Which was weird, and, coupled with the pretty long load times, a bit aggravating. No, to launch a mission - sorry, an "activity", you had to go into Orbit. At least, if you had joined a "Fireteam" (.i.e. Party), once the Leader triggered his exit into Orbit, you automatically came along.
From Orbit, in your nifty Jump Ship, you could launch your activities -  or first gather friends, and then launch your activities.

On which I will expand (copiously) in the next posts :)

For Part 3 of my Destiny Blog Series, click here: Destiny - Things to do, Things to Kill...

For all your Playstation or Xbox or PC Gaming needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere... 

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Road to Destiny... Pt. 1 (Destiny PS4 Alpha Impressions)

The Future. Touched by the Light of The Traveler, we have braved the Stars. But an ancient Darkness is coming to end us all...

Destiny... The Place where it will all end. Or, maybe, all begin? Who knows?

I do. At least, I had a chance to see (my) Destiny in... I'm hesitant to say "in its full glory", because this was supposed to be an Alpha Test. But truth be told, that Alpha looked more polished, played far better and was a lot more stable than some "finished versions" of certain Battlefield games of a certain Franchise I will not mention here.
To illustrate that point, during my... I'd say good 15+ hours of the Destiny - First Look Alpha, in Single Player, Co-Op and Competitive Multiplayer, 15+ hours in which I raised all three possible characters/classes to the Alpha Level Cap (of 8), explored every part of the Alpha Campaign Map, and participated in every activity and mission the Alpha had to offer, I disconnected once (ONCE!), couldn't log in three times, and was victim of a single obvious bug, where I repeatedly found myself in a completely empty Social Hub usually teeming with other players.
Let me reiterate. One Disconnect. About 10 Minutes of not being able to log-in (which means I couldn't play). One Obvious Bug.

Of course, I only saw a fraction of Destiny's full content in the Alpha, and it was a part of the game we had seen footage from for quite some time, so it stands to reason, that this was a quite polished tidbit I could test. And it played like a dream:

Solo-Missions and Exploring in a huge area, in which you could just run into other random players, potentially having the joy of triggering a public event - a mini-mission with often surprising difficulty, but grand rewards.
A full Co-Op Mission with diverse and fun engagements, featuring two good boss-fights.
Two PvP Maps for "The Crucible", playing a venerable "Capture and Control" game-type, in a PvP Suite that already seems more polished and balanced than many other shooters were at release.

And it really played amazingly well. And it looked amazingly... amazing. Digital Foundry took a look, and the Alpha ran at a solid 30 FPS in 1080p - and Xbox One owners rejoice, that same is the very possible performance you will get to enjoy, too. At the cost of any Kinect features, but still, I'd say it's a win. Final PS4 numbers for the full game are not yet known, by the way.

Destiny's release is less than three months away, and if this is the state of the Alpha, I can see great things for the coming Beta in July, and even greater things for the full release on September 9th.

Destiny doesn't reinvent the wheel. It's not terribly or outrageously inventive, like for example Okami, Shadow of the Colossus or Little Big Planet were. It's a Sci-Fi Shooter from the guys that brought you Halo 1-3, plus ODST and Reach. That heritage is very evident - some might say too evident. If you played Halo you will find yourself instantly on very familiar ground with Destiny. You will also, obviously, see parallels to Borderlands.

So what's so special about Destiny?
No, it's not (yet) perfect. Yes, everything it does has (kinda) been done before.
But never has "Everything" looked and worked this good.
And in an Alpha, to boot.

In the last week(s) - hey, I do have a life - I have taken the time and now posted several more posts about many if not all aspects of the Alpha, look at the different Classes, the "Alpha Campaign", Co-Op, PvP Multiplayer and other stuff.
With quite a lot of direct gameplay footage, so scroll down below for Part 2 :)

Now, you had enough of pretty pictures and want so see some Action? You wanna take a look for yourself?
Well, here you go (but please look in HD)!

Spotlighting the 3 Different Classes with Action from the Alpha's Open World, on good Old Earthen Russia:

For Part 2 of my Destiny Blog Series, click here: Destiny - Who you are and where you gather...

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