Happy Friday, Huddies! The weekend is finally here, which means that I’ve got some much-needed gaming ahead of me, including some Civilization 6, Nier: Automata, and I might check out the new horde mode in Titanfall 2. What about all of you? What are your gaming plans for this weekend?
In the meantime, let’s take a look at what’s going on in the news:
Destiny 2 PC Beta Dates and System Requirements Revealed
While Destiny 2’s beta test wrapped up for console players early this week, PC gamers have had to wait patiently for their own chance to check out Bungie’s hotly anticipated online shooter. At the dev’s official blog today they finally announced the dates of the upcoming PC beta test. For those who have pre-ordered Destiny 2, “early” access opens up on August 28 while the open beta runs officially from August 29 – August 31. Additionally, they revealed the beta’s minimum and recommended system requirements, which look quite reasonable.
It’d be an understatement to claim that the SNES Classic is one of this year’s most hotly anticipated pieces of gaming hardware. Fueled by both the tremendous hype of nostalgic Nintendo fans and the absurd scarcity of last year’s NES Classic, would-be SNES Classic owners swarmed to Walmart.com last week when the throwback console appeared for pre-order.
Since then, however, Walmart has explained that the item’s product page was prematurely uploaded to their site and that all of last week’s pre-orders have been canceled as a result. When questioned about it by The Verge, a Walmart rep told them: “We know this is incredibly disappointing to those customers and we apologize for the mistake. We will update our site as soon as product [sic] becomes available.”
If you’ve not checked out Halo 5’s Forge mode, do yourself a favor and give it a go, even if you don’t have an Xbox One since it’s available for free on Windows 10 PCs. The Forge community, it would seem, is an inexhaustible source of creativity, and this week’s latest creation is definitely one of my all-time favorites. Two days ago, Forge user Spartan Blood 1 uploaded “Classic Duck Hunt,” a map that puts one Spartan in front of 90s-style TV monitor and launches the other seven into the air ala Nintendo’s classic light gun game. Best of all, there’s no sign of that pesky dog.
Happy Friday, fellow Guardians. Yesterday, Bungie gave the world its first look at Destiny 2 in action. To celebrate, we’ve lined up a special edition of the Quest Log dedicated to some of the Destiny news highlights from yesterday’s event.
Bungie Shows Off New Classes and Mechanics for Destiny 2
In the gameplay trailer featured above, we got our first look at Destiny 2 in action. All in all, it looks like more of what we’ve come to expect from Bungie’s always-online shooter, and I know I’m not the first to say that it looks more like a significant expansion to me right now than a full-fledged sequel. That said, we saw a few significant changes to the Destiny formula, including three all-new sublcasses. It’s worth noting up front that these new subclasses are actually three of the originals from Destiny 1, so from the looks of it, each class will continue to have just three subs.
Warlocks are getting the Dawnblade, which will replace the Solar-based Sunsinger subclass. Titans will have access to the Sentinel, a void-based warrior who wields a magic shield not unlike Captain America. And last but not least, the Bladedancer subclass for Hunters has been replaced with the similarly Arc-based Poledancer… er, Arcstrider.
Each of the three main classes will now have a baked-in special power in addition to grenades and melee abilities, and the weapon system is being re-tooled. Gone are Primary, Secondary, and Heavy weapon slots. Instead, two “primary” weapons can be equipped in Kinetic and Energy slots with a third slot reserved for so-called Power weapons. In other words, players will have to decide whether or not they want to wield a sniper rifle or a rocket launcher but not both.
Destiny 2 for PC Will Be Sold Exclusively through “Battle.net,” Will Launch after Console Version
Before yesterday, we knew very little about the PC version of Destiny 2, and Bungie answered a lot of questions that were at the top of my list during their event. The most surprising revelation, however, was when Blizzard Entertainment co-found Mike Morhaime appeared on screen to announce that Destiny 2 for PC would be sold exclusively through Battle.net and support all of the game client’s social features, including voice and cross-game chat.
This was surprising for a number of reasons. First, I and the rest of the internet were under the impression (because Blizzard outright said as much) that “Battle.net” was no longer a thing. “The Blizzard game client/launcher/app” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, so maybe old habits die hard, but the service’s name is all over the official press release (linked below).
Second, this will mark the first time a non-Blizzard game has appeared in the launcher. The move makes some financial sense since Activision-Blizzard, the parent company to Blizzard Entertainment, is publishing Destiny 2, but it’s still a break from tradition, considering that all other Activision-published shooters have been sold through Steam.
Still, the move seems like a welcome one, and PC fans are hopeful that it’ll help to quell rampant cheating in the game. I’m also a bigger fan of Blizzard’s app’s social features and tools, so I’m looking forward to that, too. Who knows, maybe we’ll even see a cross-game promotion into Overwatch, StarCraft, or HOTS? It’s not super-likely, but also not impossible.
Finally, we got some disappointing news: the PC version of Destiny 2 will launch “some time” after the console version. There has been no confirmed release date.
Destiny 2 Capped at 30 FPS on Consoles, Un-capped on PC
We learned a few more details about the differences between the console and PC versions of the game. Destiny 2 will run at a capped 30 frames per second on consoles, including on the 4k-supporting PS4 Pro, although Bungie declined to comment on potential differences for a possible upcoming Scorpio version of the game. On PC, it’ll support up to 4k resolutions along with an uncapped frame rate, re-mappable keyboard controls, in-game text chat, 21:9 monitor support, and custom FOV settings.
No Dedicated Servers for Destiny 2, Says Luke Smith
So here’s some bad news: Luke Smith explained in an interview with IGN that Destiny 2 would follow in suit with its predecessor by not supporting dedicated servers. In other words, most if not all (outside of some key hub areas, if Destiny 1 serves as a good example) multiplayer networking will be peer-to-peer, in which one player actually hosts the multiplayer data in addition to running local processes. If you’re not really sure what that means,check out this guide that I wrote about the differences between the two.
This is a real shame and likely a move that will ultimately prevent Crucible, Destiny’s PVP competitive game mode, from fully living up to its potential. In Destiny 1, at least, lag wasn’t typically a huge deal for PVE multiplayer, but Crucible often suffered from high latency and low tick-rates due in part to the game’s P2P networking. Dedicated servers would have meant a more consistent competitive experience and possibly more players on-map in PVE, but the cost must have outweighed the benefit for Bungie and Activision.
Console Exclusives Are Still Bullcrap
Okay, not really news so much as a rant, but PS4 Guardians will once again receive exclusive content for Destiny 2, this time until “at least Fall 2018,” which means that both PC and Xbox One players will have to wait at least a year to get the same content for the same money as Sony players. The exclusive content for Destiny 1–which included Crucible maps, weapons, and PVE strikes–has yet to make an appearance on the Xbox One version of that game even years after the original exclusivity window, which is really disheartening.
At the end of the day, platform exclusives benefit only the publishers and console manufacturers at the expense of the gamers. They’re also a way of life in the modern gaming space, but it’s hard to think of any other examples quite this egregious.
If I’m not playing Destiny 2 this fall (or whenever it lands on PC), it’ll be because my conscience got the better of me and I simply couldn’t support this kind of practice any longer.
Welcome, Gamers, to our first Quest Log of April. Looking for what’s going on in gaming news? You’ve come to the right place.
Destiny 2 DLC Launch Dates Leak
Redditor /u/noblesteeda posted on the Destiny subreddit an image of what appears to be an official dossier from Bungie to GameStop regarding their upcoming launch and post-launch plans for Destiny 2. The document also details what specific cosmetic customizations for Destiny 1 guardians will carry over into the sequel (which is mostly just a confirmation of what we’ve seen before) and a pre-order bonus exclusive to GameStop. More interesting, however, is the language surrounding the optional season pass that Bungie naturally wants to incentivize players to buy. The pass will grant gamers access to the first two planned expansion packs, the first of which is due this winter, with another one due next Spring. If that seems like a relatively short time to release two full-blown expansions packs (it probably is), remember that they did something similar for the original game’s release.
Yesterday, the official Overwatch Twitter account tweeted out a 20-second video that seems to be teasing… something. Some keen fans noticed what appears to be an Omnic-themed (the Omnics being the sentient AI race in Overwatch lore) skin for Tracer, and a post on Facebook by the game’s lead character artist has only fueled the fires on that hope. The game’s one-year anniversary is just around the corner, so it’d make sense to see some a celebratory seasonal event. But will that event also include Doomfist?
8-bit Bayonetta Launches on Steam, Accompanies Countdown Clock
In what initially looked like an April Fool’s Day prank, Sega have released 8-bit Bayonetta on Steam. The game, which is free to play, sees players battling waves of enemies in just one environment and features sprite-based artwork that is reminiscent of classic action platformers (albeit not actually 8-bit, by the looks of it). It’s a fun diversion, but what’s more interesting to fans of Platinum Games’ stylish shoot-em-up is the countdown clock that appeared on Sega’s official site around the very same time the mini game launched.
In an official press release today, Aaryn Flynn, the general manager of BioWare, laid out their plans to support and improve upon Mass Effect: Andromeda post-launch. The hotly anticipated sci-fi RPG has been met with a good deal of controversy, largely stemming around the game’s character animations since it hit shelves just two weeks ago. The first patch, due this Thursday, will allow players to skip ahead when traveling between planets, increase inventory limits, and “improve eye appearance for human and asari characters,” among other changes. Hit up the link below for the full release as well as the patch notes.
Welcome back to The Quest Log, gamers! I hope there are some Guardians among you, because Destiny 2’s still dominating the headlines this week. That’s not all that’s happening, though. As always, we’ve compiled a list of the hottest gaming news highlights below. Enjoy!
Destiny 2 Pre-orders Are Live, PC Release Confirmed
Just this past Monday we learned that Destiny 2 was officially a thing. Since then, we’ve gotten not one, but two (brief) trailers. The first, a delightful teaser featuring Cayde 6 front-and-center, gave us a glimpse at a burning Tower and Last City, implying that the Cabal were at the heart of the threat. The second launched today, and while it still doesn’t show off any actual gameplay, it does promise “a ton of loot.” Pre-orders are live, and, as expected, the game has been confirmed for a PC release.
I won’t make a habit of including game launches in news, but Thimbleweed Park is one that’s mostly slipped under our radar before. A point-and-click adventure game, heavily inspired by classic Lucas Film Games (later, LucasArts), from none other than the man who created Monkey Island himself. Thimbleweed Park promises plenty of humor and puzzles, and I can’t wait to sit down with it.
Battlefield 1 Will Allow “Premium” Users to Share DLC Maps with Friends
As has largely become the norm, Battlefield 1 offers an optional “premium” (i.e., season) pass that grants players access to all of the upcoming multiplayer maps as they’re released. Since the days of Halo 2, paywall-restricted maps have caused a divide in multiplayer shooter communities. Some players have them, some don’t. EA thinks they’ve found a workaround, though, and they call it “Premium Friends.” The gist of it is that if you party up with someone who owns the Premium Pass, you can play along with them on any and all of the maps. Hit the link up below for more details.
Club Penguin, the kid-friendly MMO that initially launched in 2005, was never my jam. I was way too old for the game by the time it came out, but I know there are plenty of gamers today for whom the name is bound to kick up some nostalgic dust (metaphorical dust, to be clear). Today, after months of warning and the fateful flipping of the game’s iconic iceberg, the game closed down for good. In its wake, Disney are pushing a mobile-only game called Club Penguin Island.
Happy Monday, gamers! And welcome back to The Quest Log, where you’ll find the hottest gaming news highlights. When I started collecting news items to highlight here, I didn’t intend for Activision Blizzard to dominate the post, but here we are…
Bungie Officially Announces Destiny 2
After a very official-looking poster began making the rounds on the internet last week teasing a September release date and an upcoming beta test, Bungie have finally made Destiny 2 official. All we have from them at this point is a very simple and uninformative teaser image, but expect to see some more substantial news right around the corner, especially with the Age of Triumph event kicking off tomorrow.
Well, they’ve finally gone and done it. Over the weekend, Blizzard surprisingly pulled the curtain back on StarCraft Remastered. Here’s what fans of the classic RTS can expect:
A trailer’s live that demonstrates the upgrade in resolution. On top of audio and visual enhancements, the remaster will also integrate fully into Blizzard’s modern social and multiplayer platform.
“Battle.net” Is No More
It’s the end of the era (but not really). Blizzard’s online gaming service and game client will henceforth be known only as the “Blizzard App.” Battle.net first launched along with the original Diablo and helped to usher in an age of online gaming that was more accessible and more compelling to gamers than it had ever been before. The studio laid out their plans some time ago to phase out the name “Battle.net” in favor of a more cohesive developer identity, so while this isn’t a surprise, it might take some getting used to.
Final Fantasy XV March Update Brings New Content to Final Chapter
The long-awaited March update to Final Fantasy XV has gone live, bringing with it a number of improvements aimed at the epic RPG’s endgame, including buffs to some upper-level spells and an “alternate” route to progress through the game’s ultimate chapter, allowing players to take control of Gladio and Ignis as they search for Noctis. The update is free to all owners of the game and launches on the eve of “Episode Gladiolus,” the DLC mission that launches tomorrow and stars, you guessed it, Gladio.
Earlier this week, Jason Schreier with Kotaku reported on some rumors regarding Destiny 2. It’s worth reading the entire post—it’s not too long—but some of the highlights are that, one, the franchise will finally be coming to PC; and, two, Bungie’s approaching Destiny 2 as a completely new game rather than an enormous expansion pack as some fans were hoping, which means leaving old player characters, gear, and collectibles behind. While the former of these should come as welcome news to virtually everyone, the latter is naturally far more divisive among the Destiny community, with some fans over at the Destiny subreddit already pledging not to pick up the game if the rumors prove true. Others have already started a petition asking that Bungie reconsider their stance on the matter.
While it’s probably a safe bet to assume that Schreier’s lead is reliable, there’s next to no official word on Destiny 2. We know only that the game is currently slated for sometime next fall, which means that a lot can change between now and then, and even the most likely rumors should be taken with a grain of salt. Historically, Bungie has stated that their plans for the franchise span ten years, and it’s often been inferred by the community that character carryover would be a part of this plan. I can’t say I was particularly surprised, however, when I read Kotaku’s article, and while I empathize with my fellow guardians who aren’t keen on leaving their progress behind when Destiny 2 finally does hit shelves, I can’t help but imagine that it’s the best possible thing that could happen to the series. Starting fresh in Destiny 2 gives Bungie the opportunity to deliver a better experience, one in which they don’t have to worry about working around existing technical limitations or balance concerns. It allows for a sequel that’s both novel and familiar, and I think that’s what most Destiny fans, whether we realize it consciously or not, are really clamoring for.
I don’t mean to suggest that there isn’t a middle ground somewhere. Suggestions have been made that Bungie allow players to carry over their avatars—at least cosmetically—while leaving their stats, abilities, and items behind in an approach that would mimic BioWare’s with Mass Effect 2 in which players were able to import their characters’ appearances (along with certain diverging choices made throughout the first game) without carrying over any stats. But it’s worth noting that Mass Effect 2 popularly ditched the somewhat clunkier roleplaying system of the first game in favor of a more straightforward shooter, a move that was motivated at least in part to enable a more cohesive and well-balanced experience in the second game. That’s exactly what I’m hoping for with the next Destiny.
Schreier has a good track record with these types of leaks, which has sometimes made him the target of scapegoating by some overeager and anxious fans all-too-willing to shoot the messenger when the news is bad. He popped into at least one popular post over at Reddit where one commenter noted that Schreier’s name lent credibility to the rumors. Almost immediately afterward, another asked the journalist to plead to his source that any decisions regarding character carryover be reconsidered. Jason responded that his source assured him Bungie knew just how sensitive the decision would be for fans and that they were doing their best to approach it delicately.
It remains to be seen just how delicately the issue can be handled (here’s to hoping it goes over better than that debacle with paid emotes leading up to The Taken King last year), and I doubt there’s anything Bungie could do to appease everyone. There simply isn’t a weapon exotic enough, a Sparrow fast enough, or emote silly enough to dull the blow some hardcore players are bound to feel. But the apprehension fans are expressing about starting fresh in Destiny 2 is misplaced.
One of the primary driving forces behind player action in a game like Destiny is the sense of progress you feel when you find that next, better weapon or piece of armor, particularly so in this case because Destiny’s character progression (i.e., light levels) is tied directly to your equipment. Sometimes that gear is a means to an end—finally being able to take on the raid or improving your odds in Iron Banner, for example—but often it’s an end unto itself. After three years of collecting gear, grinding up light levels, and ticking away at countless quests and bounties, it’s natural to start thinking of these characters as investments of a sort, and within that context, starting fresh for the sequel effectively promises zero return on those investments.
It’s a problem that isn’t necessarily unique to Destiny, but it is atypical for the bulk of popular game franchises. There likely isn’t a player out there expecting to see his or her progress from the past games carry over to Gears of War 4, for instance, and Call of Duty players are all too familiar with the annual recycling of their unlocked weapons and feats as each new game in the series is released. The new iterations of these series feel familiar to their respective fans, they feature similar mechanics and the same skills required for player success will typically carry over, but they’re not seamless, contiguous expansions of their predecessors.
It’s far more typical that when one of these games doesn’t differentiate itself heavily enough from the rest of the series, the reaction from fans and critics alike is negative. Franchises like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and virtually every sports game series imaginable frequently take flack for IP milking, and it’s normally not enough to just slap on some half-baked new gimmick in a game (I’m looking at you Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and your tower defense minigame). Without showing some evolution in the underlying formula for these series’ successes, they start to feel stale. Those that are story-driven may get by simply as continuations of narratives that fans are already engrossed in, but eventually developers need to find some new means of differentiation. Battlefield One’s breaking from the modern shooter mold this year and going back to before basics by setting the game during World War I. Assassin’s Creed is taking a year off from its annual release cycle in an attempt by Ubisoft to ensure the next game is up to snuff after several recent near hits and misses. And it seams like every new sports game has some unique take on franchise or career modes to appeal to players who are interested in more than a mere roster update.
Destiny, however, isn’t a traditional game. Before it was ever announced, rumors were floating around that Bungie was working on a Halo-like MMO, and in some ways that description still holds up. It’s foundational tech feels like a natural evolution of the mechanics and gunplay that made the Halo series so memorable fifteen years ago, but it borrows the social and character customization elements of action RPGs and MMOs to make for an experience that falls into a far less crowded niche.
It’s drawn a fair share of comparisons to the Diablo series, and, as the Kotaku article linked above mentions, the game’s devs have been rather transparent about the inspiration they’ve drawn from Blizzard’s flagship aRPG. While they play very differently from one another, Destiny and Diablo take similar approaches to limited online multiplayer, pseudo-randomized loot, and character development. In both games, players essentially re-run existing missions on a regular basis, driven not by a new experience, per se, but by the potential for new or better gear and skill or talent progression.
When Blizzard rolled out their sequel to Diablo in 2000, their fans voiced similar concerns as those of the Destiny community today. We didn’t want to leave our warriors, sorcerers, and rogues behind. We didn’t want to lose our top-tier weapons and armor. In effect, we didn’t want to feel like all the time we had spent playing the first game had been worthless, and, somehow, Diablo 2’s reboot felt like just that.
At the heart of our apprehension both then and now, I think, is player motivation. The challenge and reward cycles of these games are at least potentially cyclical and addictive. At times—and vanilla Destiny suffered from this more frequently than it does currently—running the same strike or raid or story mission for the umpteenth time can feel a bit like dropping a coin in a slot machine. There’s no real joy to be derived from the play of the game when this happens; all that matters is the payoff in the end. It’s streamlined and efficient gambling, and when that’s the case, these games suffer.
When Diablo 2 finally did launch, the vast majority of us forgot almost immediately about why we had been so worried to start over. We were too busy figuring out our kits, finding all new gear, and exploring unfamiliar maps to care anymore. For a time at least, we were able to enjoy playing the game again without fretting about the micro-gaming that many of us had devolved to in the first game. Like Diablo, Destiny is at its best when it allows and encourages players to enjoy actually playing, when the loot drops at the end of a challenge compliment it rather than define it. I don’t mean to argue that players shouldn’t continue to quest for specific items or goals, but I do believe that Destiny’s fans love the game not because of the light levels they’re able to achieve but because of the experiences it offers them along the way.
By ditching our characters and progress for the sequel, we enable Destiny 2 to offer us entirely new experiences, and I believe that’s what every player really wants from the continuation of the series. We eat up new content in the game as quickly as Bungie can get it to us, and then we suck on the bones until every morsel is gone. The last two major expansions each provided healthy portions of new game, but inevitably the complaints will resurface that there just isn’t enough content in the it because how could there be? What’s there is just too good, and we don’t really want the ride to stop.
At the same time, Bungie has been restrained by the groundwork they laid with Destiny 1. The Taken King showed just how dramatically Bungie could re-write the rules of the game for the better, but the systems originally put in place by the vanilla release haven’t been gutted so much as tweaked and enhanced. Light levels, for example, work entirely differently than they did in vanilla Destiny, and the change has empowered players to customize their guardians with the gear and abilities that best appeal to them rather than shoehorning everyone into the same few weapons and armor that feature enough of an arbitrary stat to max their level. Even still, the stats and mechanics at the foundation of the game are fundamentally the same.
In order for Bungie to really make something better, they need to feel free to rebuild Destiny from the ground up. They need to change the foundation. It’s an uncomfortable thought, maybe, because Destiny is already an excellent game, but its sequel has the potential to be something so much greater.
The earliest footage I can remember seeing of Destiny made some ambitious claims that never really came to fruition. Bungie had plans for open worlds and space exploration that dwarf what we see in the current game. I remember feeling disappointed when I finally got my hands on it because of just how restricted the game world felt when compared to my expectations. The Tower, which had looked so alive and spectacular at first glance, proved shallow and cheap once you scratched the looping animated paint away from its surface. The people and robots sitting around fires, sweeping leaves, and talking with one another weren’t NPCs. They were furniture, just part of the environment. I wanted to interact with them, and I wanted desperately to explore the city below me.
Like the rest of the game, I came to love The Tower for what it was, and I’ve since spent more than my fair share of time sitting down at the very edge of the place staring up at the Traveler illuminated by a pinkish sunset, listening to the chatter over the intercom and the sounds of ships coming and going. I expect Destiny 2 will bring us more of these kinds of experiences, but I’m hoping for something much deeper. By shedding the baggage—the good and the bad—of the first game, Bungie has a chance to offer us just that.