Michelin guide: three stars

While my last adventures in Black Desert Online were tremendously fun I craved a more relaxed play session on the next day. I decided to tackle the numerous gathering- and cooking-quests my Witch had still in her log.

One of those quests asked me to make Good Feed, which is used to feed pets. I have splurged on a couple of those for christmas, so this was the perfect oppurtunity to learn how the food is made, and then make some more for personal use.

Black Desert Owl
The Owl’s my favourite. Isn’t it adorable?

The necessary ingredients for one crafting process of Good Feed are 6 units of meat, 4 units of wheat flour, 3 mineral water and one fish.

Meat is gathered by killing animals and using a butcher knife on their carcass. I bought a couple of those knives (since they have a limited durability, as most things in BDO do), went to an area with lots of boars and bears and began the rather grisly work.

Black Desert butchering
Being impaled by blades of grass sure ain’t a pleasant way to go…

Once I had a sufficient supply I moved on to making flour, which is done by processing wheat. Processing is seperate from gathering and cooking and a collective term for a whole bunch of ways to, well, process raw materials to refined materials which then can be used to make a final product. There’s heating, drying, filtering and, among others, grinding, which is the one used for turning wheat into flour. I had enough wheat in stock already, so I ground some of it into flour.

Black Desert grinding
For processing no actual tools are needed, mortar and pestle just poof into existence

Getting mineral water was the easiest task, because it can be bought from an NPC for some silver. Those NPCs also sell a range of other basic materials, such as sugar, salt and leavening agent. Alternatively, as I found out later, I could have used one unit of purified water instead of three mineral water. Purified water is made by buying empty bottles, filling them with water at a river or pond, and then filtering it.

Fishing is a science of its own, as is the fish itself.

Black Desert fishingjpg
A job for my Striker. He already looks the part.

First of all, once caught fish spoils after 24 hours if not used, processed or sold. Drying can be used to make it durable, but then you need to double the amount for cooking (meaning you need two instead of one, or four instead of two etc). A higher rarity, on the other hand, means that you need less. One green fish is as good as two white ones, a blue one double that, and so on. Drying keeps the rarity intact, so if you for example use a dried green fish it’s equal to a fresh white one.

Secondly, fish not only serves a purpose in cooking, it’s also a trade good. This means that you can sell them to Trade NPCs. Profit for all trade goods can be maximised by selling as far away as possible from where they were caught/bought/found (as long as you have both locations, origin and sale, connected via the contribution point system), and selling where only few or no units of the exact same trade good were sold recently.

The fishing process can be done either actively by playing a minigame when somethig bites and (optionally) using bait to speed up the process, or as an AFK activity taking substantially longer.

I fished actively until I had a couple whites, a couple greens and one blue fish. Since one white fish suffices for the pet food I decided that I’d use the white ones while fresh and dry the rest for another time.

Having all ingredients ready to go I went back to my residence where I had a cooking utensil already placed. For a not yet known recipe the correct amounts must be chosen by hand.

Black Desert good feed
The ingredients topple into the pot, cute!

I hit the ‘Cooking’-button and hoped for the desired outcome. To my delight I received not only one, but two units of Good Feed. Success! I turned in the quest for silver, cooking XP and contribution XP, then proceeded to make pet food until I ran out of fish and meat.

Black Desert cooking
Hmm, tasty. Wait a minute, am I eating cat food here?

I’m having loads of fun with life skills in Black Desert. Leveling up the various skills feels always rewarding, especially because the chance to get not one but two, sometimes even three units of your desired product rises with every level of the corresponding skill. What’s more, when cooking or using alchemy you get some byproducts every now and then. Those have funny names like ‘Dish with Poorly Prepared Ingredients’ or ‘Dish with Weird Texture’, and can be sold to certain NPCs for more XP, silver, beer or other ingredients.

I’m not yet deep enough into it to make an educated try at ranking this gathering and crafting system against all others I have experienced, but judging by my first impressions it might come second only to Star Wars Galaxies in terms of complexity and fun (out of competition: EVE Online, because it’s probably the best and most complex, but it’s not for me).

I strongly recommend trying it.

 

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My next adventure in BDO

When a character hits level 50 in Black Desert, the Black Spirit starts to give out a choice of new daily and weekly quests.

These require to kill a bunch of mobs and reward a Boss Scroll. These scrolls are used to spawn a specific boss mob at a specific location and expire after one week if not used. So to get the maximum out of the daily you have to do it every day, but you don’t have to kill the boss on the same day. You can save some scrolls and kill the boss multiple times back to back later. The bosses give loot every time, though with only a small chance for their specific piece of Boss Loot, which is what you’re after of course.

When my last adventure had me ding level 50 I was eager to take my first shot at these bosses. I accepted one daily and one weekly each out of those on offer and set my course to the one closest to me.

This quest required me to kill 100 mobs, which would be quite a lot in other games. In BDO it’s not that much. Still, most quests don’t ask for triple digits, and I assumed these mobs would prove to be tougher than what I had fought until now.

The mobs in question were called Calpheon Shrine Force, some kind of cultists, who reside at Kzarka Shrine in the Calpheon area. A quite daunting staircase chiseled into the mountainside led up to the shrine.

Black Desert Staircase

Here I fought the first of my targets. They were indeed a bit tougher than what I was used to, and hit quite hard if you let them. So I gave my best to not let them by using grapples and knockdowns generously.

On top of the staircase a path led into the shrine itself. Mob density became higher, and soon I found myself fighting multiple enemies in melee-distance at once while being shot at by some of their ranged buddies at the same time. I had to chug a health potion and/or take cover every now and then, but managed to stay alive.

I came to a large round chamber which looked like it’s used for some sort of unholy summoning ritual. There were lots of cultists there, but those were my lesser concerns. Large tentacles seemed to grow out of the stone ground and writhed wildly about, as if trying to catch anyone careless enough to come close to them. I really did not want to give them that opportunity.

Trouble!

By now my kill counter neared the 100 mark anyway, so I started thinking about a discreet departure. And by that I mean that I chickened out and started running for the exit screaming like a little girl.

Only that I, again, had no freaking idea where exactly I was and which way I had come. I quickly set a course for home, so that my GPS, excuse me, my fantasy world magical pathfinder, would show me the way. That thing tends to get confused in narrow and complex environments pretty quickly though, and after running in a full circle through some corridors looking all alike I was back at the summoning circle and the tentacles of doom. I admit, I panicked a bit at this point.

You see, in terms of Death Penalties BDO has a bit more up it’s sleeve than most of it’s contemporaries. When you die in PvE you lose experience, and there’s a chance that gems you have socketed into your gear are destroyed. There may be more than that, I don’t actually know. I’m sure that it’s nothing really earth shattering, but I’d like to keep the suspense and sense of real danger the fear of dying gives me alive (no pun intended) for as long as possible.

Anyway, I continued to run, just following my nose this time. Somehow I managed to find my way out and suddenly stood on the staircase leading down again. I jumped and stumbled it down more than I ran. As soon as I had reached ground level and was out of range of any mobs I just froze in place and took some deep breaths for a minute.

Then a terrifying thought occurred to me. Would I have to do THIS every day now? I quickly checked if this was the daily or the weekly and let go a sigh of relief when I found it was the latter. I checked in with the Black Spirit and received my very first boss scroll for my efforts. It says it is used to summon Muskan, the Monastery Boss, and that he is recommended for a group of 5 players. I decided to postpone my meeting with this baddie for now, and take a shot at the daily first.

This quest required me to kill 20 giants. Now that I was comfortable with. I had already been in that area and killed lots of those guys for leveling. Very soon I held the scroll to summon Dastard Bheg, the Altar Imp Captain in hand.

When trying to activate it, it unsurprisingly directed me to the Altar Imp area in Serendia. I made my way there, cleared the area of mobs, and activated the scroll again.

Hellooooo beautiful!

Not knowing what exactly awaited me I started to beat the crap out of him. He didn’t seem to mind at all for a while.

Another thing BDO does a little differently than other games is that as long as you don’t have enough Knowledge about a certain type of enemy you are not shown the exact amount of health he has left. The HP bar stays full until the end, just the color changes from yellow at the start, to orange when he’s damaged a bit (probably around 50%) to red when he’s critical.

I gave him all I had, but the bar stayed firmly yellow for quite some time. All the while he violently lashed out with his grappling hook on a chain, costing me about a quarter of my HP whenever he managed to hit me. After a while he started to glow red and lashed out rapidly in all directions, knocking me on my butt with his first hit, making me unable to evade the next few. I kept chugging potions as quickly as the cooldown would allow, yet very nearly died. Then I was back on my feet. Ha! I wouldn’t let him catch me off guard again. I danced around and kept hitting him while staying behind or jumping above him, and soon his HP turned orange. ‘I have you now! ‘ I thought and continued pummeling him. Finally his HP bar turned red and shortly after…

Yeah, go back to…wherever it is you came from!

The loot was nothing to write home about, but it was a lot of fun, and I look forward to beating the snot out of that guy again tomorrow. Maybe I’ll try to upgrade my gear a little bit beforehand though…

Black Desert Online – making adventuring great again

When I reached level 49 with my Witch the Black Spirit offered me a new quest. As long as you don’t finish that quest you can’t ding level 50. This is important because from level 50 onwards you’re enabled for PvP.

I had already read that some folks decide to lock their life skill characters at 49 so they can go out and do their stuff without ever having to worry about being ganked by some bored PvPer. Since there’s a penalty system in place for killing folks who haven’t flagged themselves for PvP this doesn’t appear to happen all that often, but it’s still a thing to consider.

While I thought about it I had an idea. During 2017 a few new classes have been added to the game, among them the Striker, a martial arts fighter. I’m a big fan of martial arts, and had already thought about trying him out. So why not play one for a while, and if I liked him let the Witch sit at 49 and level the Striker beyond 50 as my combat main?

Which is exactly what I’ve done. The Striker has lots of punches, kicks and combinations thereof in his arsenal, is beautifully animated and pretty fun to play. And he’s at level 50 already. Here’s how that happened.

Since I’ll continue to do life-skilling with the Witch I fully focused him on combat content from the start. Playing on one of the double XP servers and stacking all available daily boosts to combat XP on top of each other makes leveling a breeze. I outleveled main and combat quests very quickly just by killing enough mobs to fulfill said quests. Hence I decided to ignore all further quests for a while and just go to where mobs of the appropriate level are. The map has helpful icons depicting what type and level of mobs inhabit certain areas, even if you’ve not yet been there.

Black Desert Map Mobs

This indeed led me to regions I hadn’t been before very soon. A change of scenery was nice after having stayed in Heidel’s surroundings for quite some time.

When I reached the mid-40ies I chose another unexplored area where skeletons ought to dwell. After crossing a river the landscape changed dramatically, and instead of Serendia’s wide open spaces with mountains and the occasional group of trees and shrubs I found myself in a pretty dense forest.

BlackDesert64 Forest

It’s beautiful. The music there is quite ominous for some reason though. While I still relished the ambiance dusk came, and the world went very dark really quickly.

Black Desert Dark Forest
Like, really dark.

The spooky music made a lot of sense all of a sudden, and I now felt a very real sense of danger. I was far from known and safe territory, surrounded by high level mobs (which are stronger at night to boot), and I could hardly see the path right in front of me. Now I know what those lanterns and corresponding oil the game keeps handing out are for. Sure enough I had neither with me.

What the hell, I thought, I’m here to kill mobs, so let the pummeling commence! First I backtracked a couple of yards to park my horse in a supposedly safe spot, then I stormed into the fray.

I killed mobs left and right, just following the little red dots on my minimap. Soon I had no idea where I was anymore. The enemies didn’t exactly look like skeletons, but they gave XP and loot either way. They weren’t pushovers, but I didn’t take too much damage, so on I went.

After a while I arrived at a graveyard, and here I finally found the promised skeletons. Battering those is tremendously fun because they shatter to pieces, bones flying everywhere, with appropriate sounds to go with it.

BlackDesert Skeletons
I came back at daylight for your viewing pleasure. Yes, that’s a ribcage flying there.

I indulged in beating the crap out of the scraggy fellas until I dinged 49. Then I consulted the Black Spirit and took the quest to get to 50. Seeing that I had to travel a good bit further into unknown territory I decided to make my way there right away. So I just had to fetch my horse and…dude, where’s my horse?

Not only had I no idea where I was and where I had parked my horse. The button used to either whistle for your horse to come to you (if it’s close enough) or show you a path to it…was gone from the UI. Just not there. That didn’t bode well.

After contemplating alternatives for a minute I concluded that my safespot hadn’t been safe after all, and my horse had indeed died. This hadn’t happened to me before, so I wasn’t quite sure of the consequences. What I did know was that I now stood in pretty much the middle of nowhere without a horse.

Well, it couldn’t be helped. The course to the quest’s target area was plotted, so off I went. Fortunately the Striker can give himself a little speed buff regularly and is additionally wearing a pair of boots with +1 speed at the moment.

After a while I reached a little village that looks kind of like a base of operations for a bunch of lumberjacks. I ignored all of it’s inhabitants but one for now – I was relieved to see that there’s a stablemaster there. Sure enough he resurrected my horse for a fee, and it wasn’t even transferred back to Heidel, where I had stabled it last, I could use it right then and there instead. It has a Death Count of 1 now, which as far as I know might be a problem should I decide to use it for breeding. I will deal with that when/if it comes to that. At least I didn’t have to walk the rest of the way.

I reached the quest area without further complications, summoned the boss I had to fight, gave him a walloping, finished the quest, and after one more killed mob I dinged 50.

This was the first time in quite a while that I felt like I had a real adventure in an MMO. Which is exactly what I was hoping for when I picked up the game. So: yay!

What’s more, the next adventure was already waiting around the corner. But that’s a story for another time.

Gaming resolutions for 2018

Normally I don’t make resolutions because I know from experience that I do what I want to do and don’t what I don’t anyway.

Or so I believed for a long time. From late 2016 to mid-2017 I went through a tough stretch in my life that made me revaluate a lot of what I do. Thinking about it in earnest I had to realize that I actually do things that I don’t really want or like to do fairly regularly, especially in gaming.

I’m not a hardcore achiever when playing games. I never chased after world firsts or top ladder spots etc. But I too set goals for myself. During 2017 some of those were reaching a certain rank in competitive Overwatch every season I played, getting the first Relic Weapon with my Warrior in FFXIV and getting my 1000th registered kill in EVE Online.

Of those three I achieved the second and the third. Did I have fun while working towards those goals though?

In EVE, yes. I didn’t try to force anything here, I attended to fleets (which are fun) regularly and the kills just happened.

Still 10% snuggly, am I? Say that again when you’re at the business end of my rocket launchers!

The other two? Hell no.

Getting a Relic in FFXIV is pure grinding. Finally getting it was great and all, even checking off some of the intermediate steps felt like nice little achievements. But it wasn’t actually fun to do. To be honest, some stretches were soulcrushingly boring and repetitive. I didn’t stop though. I’ve come this far, I really want that Axe, yada yada.

Worth it? Debatable…

I already talked at length about Overwatch. It’s still a great game, but I still can’t stand losing matches and losing rank. Trying to reach my goal there had me screaming in rage at my monitor more than once, which can’t be healthy.

So here’s my gaming resolution for 2018:

Don’t continue doing things long after they have ceased to be fun!

I have set myself no specific goals whatsoever for Black Desert up to now, and I’ll try to keep it that way. The same goes for EVE. Just playing and having fun feels really great. And isn’t this what games are supposed to be all about anyway?

A happy and healthy year 2018 to everyone!

Stay awhile and listen: Killing Joke – Pylon

killing-joke-pylon-cover

Completely out of the blue a co-worker asked me the other day if I knew Killing Joke. I had heard the name before, but hadn’t consciously listened to any of their music, although they’re around since 1979.

He showed me the video of Hosannas From The Basements Of Hell, the title song of their 2006-released album. For reasons I cannot easily explain I fell in love with it right away. Normally I tend to like music with a lot of variation, so the rather simplistic song structure could have very well put me off. But somehow the atmosphere created by the soundscape of guitars, synthesizer and Jaz Coleman’s raspy voice pulled me in.

I started to investigate about them, and found that they initially made relatively mainstream pop music, albeit with guitars and real drums. Later their sound became more rough and Rock-influenced (a good bit of Punk’s also in there). They changed their style more than once during the years, yet always sounded unmistakably like Killing Joke.

I bought the aforementioned Hosannas From The Basements Of Hell, as well as their latest album Pylon, which came out in 2015, and was not disappointed.

While Hosannas is great, I like Pylon even more. Compared to Hosannas it’s a bit smoother and more mainstream again, but still rough around the edges. Most importantly, not a single song of theirs feels trivial and irrelevant to me, which a whole lot of today’s mainstream music unfortunately does.

Song recommendations: Euphoria, War On Freedom, New Cold War.

Thanks Frank, great stuff! It had been a while since I ‘discovered’ new great music to enjoy, so this came at a perfect point in time.

Third time’s a charm

I still haven’t found my perfect MMO, so when a game comes along that at least on paper ticks more than a few boxes on my feature-wishlist I have to try it out.

Unfortunately not a single promising title released in 2017 as far as I’m aware. So when my annual winterly urge to make myself at home in an MMORPG came around two weeks ago, I had to consider older games, even ones I have already played in the past.

I don’t know what it is about winter / Christmas time, but seriously, every time December comes around and I’m not deeply immersed in an MMO already, I get a serious urge to do just that. I guess it’s not surpsising then that I started playing Everquest II in December 2004 and EVE Online in December 2005, for example.

Anyway, the only MMORPGs I have played after Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies that felt like virtual worlds to me and have numerous sandboxy features that I liked were ArcheAge and Black Desert.

I quit ArcheAge with a heavy heart mainly because its gear progression is P2W through and through, and even if I were fine with not being competitive in PvP I’d have to stomach losing my land again and again because of server merges (and because land rushes are “fun”, according to TRION…^^). So AcheAge’s a no-go.

Prior to the launch of Black Desert’s EU/NA version I got pretty hyped about what I saw and read about it. So hyped in fact that when December 2015 came around (notice the pattern?) I made an account for BDO’s Russian version, installed a translation patch and started playing ahead of time.

The character creator’s quite good, the game looks great and the starting town Olvia has a lot of charm. The presentation of story, if it’s there at all, is pretty bad though. Unlikable characters, stiff animations, cliché story. No wonder the Black Spirit, your main story giver, tries to coerce you into a killing frenzy regularly.

That guy’s completely trustworthy, I’m sure…

The tutorial just teaches you the most basic, obvious stuff (press Space to jump and Shift to run…my, who would have thought?), whereas most of the important and not really self-explanatory stuff is kept from you. I took every quest I found (which, as I know now, weren’t nearly all of them, as the game hides a lot of them from you by default), ran somewhere, did stuff and ran back. I never felt that I knew what exactly I was doing or why I was doing it. Combat was ok (I played a Musa, basically a guy with a Katana), but everything died so fast that it didn’t seem to matter which skill I used, just spamming left click did the job. Nice looking, but gameplaywise very bland.

Lakisa tried it too and wasn’t too fond of it either.

So the start wasn’t that great. Maybe too much got lost in translation, I thought. I decided to quit for the time being and start again with the launch of the EU version, which was slated for March 2016.

Alas, my enthusiasm for the game had taken a hit, and shortly prior to the EU launch I learned about another huge turn off for me: RNG based gear upgrading. ArcheAge did burn me out heavily with this kind of crap, and I didn’t want to suffer through something like that again. So I didn’t buy it.

Near the end of that year I felt I was missing something again though (I feel I’m on to something here). The game was on discount, only 10€ for the base game. I had followed coverage of the launch and beyond, and it didn’t look half bad. I also read up on gear upgrading again, and while the system it still basically the same, it doesn’t sound nearly as bad as ArcheAge’s, and most importantly: no cash shop items to improve upgrade chances as far as I’m aware.

So I finally bought it. Long story short, it grew on me a bit more this time, but something was still off. I felt aimless, directionless. I made it to Level 29 (this time on a Witch), dabbled a bit in trading, fishing and letting workers do their thing. I rented a nice residence in Heidel. I absolutely should have enjoyed it a lot more, but somehow I just didn’t. I wouldn’t say that I consciously quit this time, I just stopped logging in any more.

Which brings me back to about two weeks ago. For lack of alternatives I decided to give it another go. I patched the client and continued where I left off. I like the same things I had liked before. The story is still crap, combat is still extremely easy. Somehow though I’m having a lot of fun and don’t feel aimless at all this time around.

There seem to be a lot more life skill related quests now (or I didn’t see them before), which is great. I’m cooking, chopping, hacking, gathering, filtering, drying, skinning and brewing my butt off, I grow wheat and carrots (for making beer and feeding my horse, respectively) in my gardens, I haul trade items around, let workers get stuff that I’m too lazy to gather myself, the list goes on. When there’s still time after all of this, I follow the main quest and kill hundreds, more like thousands of baddies in the process. Soon I’ll arrive in Calpheon which I’m very thrilled about. Heidel is a pretty big town already for an MMO, from what I’ve heard Calpheon must dwarf it. Can’t wait.

So the third time seems to indeed be the charm in this case. I know I have said this numerous times before and got disappointed in the end, but right now I can see me playing BDO for a long time.

A quick list of great (for me) features to close things out:

  • A virtual world

The world is pretty huge and seamless. No loading screens, no artificial boundaries. And as far as I’m aware, no teleporting whatsoever. You are in Olvia and want to go to Heidel? Mount your horse and hit the road. What, you left your mount in Heidel? Well, then off you go on foot. Your warehouses (think bank-space) are also local. The worker farming potatoes for me just outside of Velia stores these in my Velia warehouse. If I want to use those potatoes anywhere else, I have to ride there and get them, or alternatively pay for a transport service. Initially I wasn’t sure if that’s too much realism for me, as it obviously makes things a bit inconvenient at times. I decided to roll with it, and now the game world feels a lot more like a world that I can immerse myself in. Also helping:

  • No throwaway areas

At first I felt the compulsion to complete every quest I saw right away. Pretty much every Themepark MMO since WoW taught us this behaviour. Arrive at quest hub, take all quests, do quests, go back, get rewards, take quest leading to next quest hub, go to next hub, never look back. Rarely ever is there a reason to revisit an area once you’ve done all available quests there. BDO is much different. There’s always reason and/or need to go back, at least if you have any interest in life skills (anything other than combat, really). If you’re interested in getting good at Alchemy, for example, I hear there’s no better place to be than Olvia, which is the town where every character starts the game. Also, that you didn’t see any more quests in an area last time doesn’t necessarily mean that there are none now, because with a higher character level or higher proficiency in certain skills quite a few new quests become available all over the world.

  • Complex systems for those who want them

Trading, gathering, farming, processing, crafting, worker-crafting, hunting, fishing, whale-hunting, housing, horse-breeding, leveling, gear upgrading, node wars and undoubtedly some more I don’t even know of yet. I can do all of these on one character if I want to. Or only two or three. Or none of them. My choice. Each of the systems seems to be a science in it’s own right.

The map doesn’t look more like Civilization than an MMO-map for nothing

I have yet to find a thing in BDO that’s as shallow as ‘press button, wait, done’. I’m also told that pretty much everything can earn you a lot of silver if you commit to it, so no one system seems to be vastly superiour to all others when it comes to becoming ingame-Rockefeller.

  • So much to explore

Did I mention that the world is huge? I have played 100+ hours on this character, yet well over 80% of all landmass is still hidden in fog (meaning I haven’t been there yet). The ocean I haven’t even begun to explore. In the regions I have been to I found towns, villages, farms, tree-lined roads, forests, swamps, mountains, watchtowers, castles, battle-scarred fortifications, outposts, caves and more, as well as a diverse cast of wildlife and monsters. Climbing on top of watchtowers or into caves is, again, seamless. And the view from far up is breathtaking. Which brings me to…

  • It’s gorgeous

Holy crap, is this a great looking game. Admittedly the default settings go a bit overboard with some features. But once I turned off all color filters and distance blurring the game started to look, well, real. Astonishingly Pearl Abyss is already working on an engine overhaul to make it look even better. I’d already be happy if they managed to remove the pop ups though, which unfortunately take away much immersion while moving around. This gripe aside, it’s by far the best looking MMORPG around.

Case in point. This is with distance blurring and color filter still active though. A matter of taste, really.
  • The cash-shop can be completely ignored

Unfortunately this isn’t a cash-shop that only sells cosmetics. It also sells inventory and warehouse expansions, pets that pick up loot for you, stuff like that. I don’t have a problem with that though. The game is giving out inventory expansions as quest rewards rather generously, warehouse expansions can be rented with contribution points, loot can be picked up by hand. So what you can buy in the shop pretty much boils down to cosmetics and convenience. It’s not the best or fairest monetization model out there, but in my opinion it’s definitely one of the better. For a game that costs just five bucks right now (ten again when the sale ends) and doesn’t restrict you in any shape or form content-wise if you don’t spend another dime beyond that, it’s a pretty great deal.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to brew beer and cook pet food and pick up my worker’s produce and catch some fish and kill some Orcs and train my horse and…

Having much fun in Destiny 2

What I knew about Destiny 1 when it launched is pretty much this: A Diablo-style ARPG that plays like a first person shooter, with MMO-like raid mechanics. Which sounded right up my alley. I don’t like to play shooters on console at all though, so I gave it a pass.

Hence when Destiny 2 was announced for PC I got pretty interested. I followed it’s development loosely, and when the console version was released I tried to use reviews and such to get a feel for the game without spoiling too much. The general consensus seemed to be that it’s more of the same, with some improvements but not much innovation. In short, if you liked part one you’ll like this one too if you don’t have too high expectations.

This, combined with the fact that some friends of ours would also be playing it on PC, was more than good enough for me.

So I bought it on release day. I loved it from the start. So much so that I decided to snag a Collector’s Edition on day two, which then was available again on Amazon. I offered it’s code for the base game to Lakisa with a heavy discount, which was enough to persuade her to give it a try and play the game with us.

Now, four weeks later, I’m still having a blast, playing at least for a bit every single day.

There’s no need for me to cover the basics of the game, those can be found everywhere. I’d rather elaborate what it is exactly that I, personally, like about the game so much.

  • It’s incredibly quick and easy to get in and out of the action.

While the menus are a bit consoley and could be more convenient, the act of going somewhere and doing a thing couldn’t be easier. It gets even better in relation to grouping. When I log in and a friend is already playing, I just join his group (called Fireteam here), and boom, one nicely animated load screen later I’m standing right next to him and join in whatever he’s doing. He doesn’t even have to invite me or anything.

  • There are no artificial barriers between my friends and me

95% of the game’s content can be played as a group, no matter at what character- and powerlevel everyone is. When a friend plays a new character I can just join like described above and play alongside him, even the low level main story missions.

  • Every little thing I do feels rewarding

For me there’s always something to do, and nothing feels like a waste of time. This is because the game always drops loot, and the loot scales with my powerlevel. Granted, at around 270 and above most loot doesn’t help to push the powerlevel much further, but I still feel rewarded when my efforts net me heaps of Glimmer, Shards etc. (think crafting materials), as well as XP for Bright Engrams (cosmetics, faster/different speeders and ships). Even when I help out said low level friend I get all of this, and there’s always a little chance to snag an Exotic that I don’t have yet too.

  • It’s collector’s heaven

When I first found out that only one exotic weapon and one exotic piece of armor can be equipped at a time I was a bit miffed. I considered these to be the ‘Unique Items’ of this game. At least for weapons that’s not quite true however. Exotics are more like ‘these unique items have extra special abilities, so you have to choose one’. Legendary weapons, which are one rarity step below, are also unique. And there’s lots and lots of them. And you can collect them all. Want the best hand cannon? Get Better Devils. Need a great Submachine gun for PvP? Try to snag Antiope-D. Looking for a solid allround scout rifle? Nameless Midnight might be for you. Getting a weapon I don’t have yet feels great every time, even if it’s one I probably won’t use much. Plus, you never know when a mechanic comes along that calls for just this weapon. Speaking of which…

  • The raid mechanics are even better and more fun than I had anticipated

I have played the raid only twice up till now, and finished it once. But boy, did I have fun. I didn’t think it possible in a shooter, but the mechanics are really interesting and engaging, and the much faster pace compared to the MMO raid-combat I’m used to makes it all the more fun. It’s also much more forgiving since dying doesn’t cost anything and a wipe doesn’t cost too much time either. If we don’t have to talk things through after a wipe we can be having a go again 10 seconds later. The mechanics also make you think about the build and weapons you use. Your normal go-to subclass or power weapon, for example, might not be the best pick for a specific encounter. Planning, preperation, execution. Fun and profit.

  • The open world feeling is really good

I didn’t have high expectations in this regard, but was in for a pleasant surprise. Not only are the zones pretty big, they are also chock full of stuff to find, of nooks and crannies to explore. I like the Lost Sectors in particular. An inconspicuous street door or a little hole in the ground can lead to a vast basement vault or underground cavern, filled with enemies and a boss guarding a treasure chest at the end. This is what I had hoped for back when Hellgate London came along in 2007. I actually think of Destiny 2 as the game Hellgate wanted to be in more than one regard.

Sometimes I just cruise the landscape looking for treasure chests and boss enemies, joining public events and exploring Lost Sectors when I stumble upon them. I just do whatever strikes my fancy. There are full fledged MMOs out there which make this kind of play less fun and much less rewarding than Destiny 2 does.

  • There’s no global or general chat, and no whispers to strangers

This might sound odd, but for me it’s a blessing. I’ve written about my negative experiences when playing with strangers lately. And I know for sure, without a doubt, that I would have had some more by now if Destiny 2 had global chat and /whisper to non-friendlist people. I really don’t need self proclaimed “pro gamers” telling me I’m doing “their” public event wrong or that I suck at PvP, thank you very much. Great stuff Bungie! I mean it, thank you!

  • The story’s pretty good, the voice acting is great

I have seen some scathing reviews about the story in Destiny 2, and while I can comprehend some of the criticism, I think it’s not that bad at all. Ok, the antagonist looks goofy as hell and is cliché to match. During my second and third playthrough I skipped every cutscene with him. The cutscenes starring the good guys I quite like though. The characters might not be very relatable, but at least they’re likable. They’re also perfectly animated and the lip-sync is the best I’ve seen yet. I’m generally not a sucker for high end graphics, but in a game that aims for photorealism I can appreciate when it’s done right for once. And boy, is this a gorgeous game.

I love the voice acting. Nathan Fillion’s Nathan Fillion, not much more to say there. I also was genuinely delighted to hear Lance Reddick’s voice right at the beginning of the story. He’s just great too. Nolan North as the character’s ghost shows his incredible versatility once again, I wouldn’t have known that it’s Nathan Drake talking to me without looking it up. Even some characters with very small roles have good voice actors, like James Remar (Dexter’s foster-father Harry) and the one and only Peter Stormare as leaders of two of Destiny 2’s factions.

There are of course many who are already complaining that they have nothing more to do. That they are finished, that the game is dead, whatever. For them, this might be the case. In my opinion they’re doing themselves a disservice by rushing through the content and ignoring everything that doesn’t reliably push their powerlevel.

If you play the game like me, you’ll have fun for quite some time and won’t grow tired of it. I’m still not quite at max powerlevel, I haven’t got every weapon and every piece of armor I’d like to have, I’ve not yet seen every Lost Sector and not found every lore object.

What I have loads of, though, is fun.

Now all Bungie has to do is give me an ingame means to take screenshots, and I’ll be happy all around. Seriously guys, PC games have to have this feature, especially when you decide to block the usage of FRAPS, Bandicam and the like. I’m giving you free advertising here…wouldn’t it be great if I had nice screenies to go along with the text? 😉

d2_cayde_6
Malcolm Reyn…err…Cayde-6 seems to agree.