Destiny 2 Beta

Destiny 2 is an online FPS-RPG, and of course the sequel to the 2014 release, Destiny. Published by Activision, and primarily developed by Bungie, Destiny 2 held an open beta period over August 29th and 30th this year. Slated to release in the first weeks of September, it will mark the first of many triple-A releases heading into the last quarter of 2018.

The beta released with a short taste of the story, a 3-player strike, a quick match player vs player map, and a competitive player vs player mode. We sat down with the beta for as much time as we could, which we will confess, was not as much time as we wanted.

The campaign is peppered with some pretty heroic cutscenes, some cheesy writing, and a very seamless multiplayer integration. I won’t go into story details, as many people will want to experience that themselves. I did want to focus on the very cool way Destiny 2 handles introducing multiple people into the same campaign mission. Essentially, you’re playing a single player game, but when it comes time for a boss battle, or particularly tough battle, a couple allies are introduced to your map. It’s not like they spawn and drop in front of you. Rather they are already present as you run around the corner and face the battlefield. They’re often already fighting the first few enemies. I’m no scientist, so I’m not sure how the coding works for this, but it felt cool. You roll up, you’ve got your orders, boom, there’s one of your allies struggling against waves of enemies – time to kick ass together.

Quick match in the beta is limited to one map and one game mode. The map is pretty close-range, and as I tend to enjoy Sniper Rifles as my Power Weapon of choice, I found that switching to the Grenade Launcher was much more…satisfying. The game mode is Control Point, which will be familiar to many FPS players – there are 3 control points, hold them to win. Pretty simple. What has changed quite a bit between Destiny 2 and its predecessor are the Abilities and Classes, of which you really get a feel for in the multiplayer mode.

Every major class, Titan, Hunter, and Warlock, got a new subclass. The Sentinel, The Arcstrider, and The Dawnblade, respectively. The newest Titan, the Sentinel drops a huge shield on the battlefield – creating a nice piece of cover. The Arcstrider – the Hunter subclass – is very similar to the Bladedancer of Destiny 1, but wields a thunder staff. The Warlock’s newest spell-slinging class is the sword-wielding, Solar Energy hurling Dawnblade. As well, each subclass has new latent abilities, which look to be customizable (but I could not change them in the Beta). The hunter has a Dash, their grenade type changes, and they have access to some cool chain abilities that trigger off melee kills, or critical point kills. It seems like there will be a lot more customization within the classes – both from the ability trees, and the mods you can use on your gear.

One thing I did notice with the game are its cooldowns. Abilities seem to take much longer to recharge, which emphasizes managing them properly and encourages more accurate shooting. This felt different from the original Destiny, though there may still be plans to include abilities or mods that shorten cooldowns in the full release. I also felt like the movement was more sluggish. I primarily played as a Hunter in Destiny, and decided to roll with the same type of character for the Beta. I fondly remember sprinting, into crouch sliding, into shotgun, and melee – and that felt good, smooth, and fast. It could be the transition from gamepad to mouse and keyboard (I’m playing on PC for Destiny 2), but my momentum was often stopped or slowed to the point that movement did not feel as fluid. It may just take some keybinding changes, or again, more gear/abilities that affect Mobility.

Overall Destiny 2 feels a lot like Destiny 1, and I think the major differences will lie in the small changes to the classes and abilities. The beta did not include a large story component, so I was not able to glean whether the core gameplay loops are as tedious as they were in the early stages of Destiny’s release. A lot of veteran Destiny players assured me the game got better as more content was released, so here’s hoping Destiny 2 is a big update to an already fun platform. I for one thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Beta, and am looking forward to exploring what the full release has to offer.

- Will

The Top 5 (Really 10) Games of 2016

2016 has proven to be a monumental year for creativity in the video game industry. The indie scene continues to produce wonderfully unique games that challenge what a game is. A lot of fresh ideas were implemented in the Triple-A/Blockbuster titles, which brought a breath of fresh air into the big budget productions.

Graham and Will agree on most things, however we've put together 2 separate Top Fives, as there was surprisingly little overlap, and we get to talk about more games that way! 

Graham's Top Five

5. Titanfall 2 - 2014 saw the release of Titanfall, a multiplayer-only first-person-shooter that mixed human Pilot and Mech (Titan) combat. It's sequel, Titanfall 2, added a fast-paced, adrenaline-rushed, undeniably smart campaign, and polished up some of the multiplayer gameplay. Titanfall 2 does a lot of things well, from movement and locomotion, to a variety of actually fun weapons. Respawn Entertainment has done a great job of taking the best of a variety of FPS games, and seamlessly blending them into a genuinely fun experience. 

4. Doom (2016) - id Software and Bethesda teamed up to reboot the fundamental Doom franchise in which you play as "The Doom Guy," and kick some serious ass. This is an all-out, guns-blazing, frantic shooter that has you dissecting waves of enemies in the most graphic of ways. You're forced to switch weapons on the fly, close in to melee for the finishing blow to regenerate health, and generally destroy each wave as though it was a puzzle. Another smart first person shooter for 2016, Doom is nothing short of exhilarating. 

3. Gwent (Standalone) - For those who remember, Graham nominated Gwent - the card minigame found in The Witcher 3 - as his game of the year for 2015. Much to his delight, CD Projekt Red released a standalone version this year. Consider this a competitor to Hearthstone, Duelyst, and Magic Online. As of this article's publishing date, the game is still in closed beta, however it shows some real promise. The strategy is surprisingly deep, there are a number of different factions you can play - each with their own style of play, and the cards are steeped in Witcher lore. 

2. Superhot - Developed by The Superhot team, this indie FPS uses time in a very unique way. The shtick is that time only moves when you physically move. So a bullet flying toward you will only close that distance if you move in the game world. Each level is essentially a puzzle, pitting you against multiple enemies armed with various weapons. Superhot gives you all the time in the world to plan your next move, allowing you to combo off in ways very similar to the high-speed combat of Hotline Miami. Superhot offers more than just a Matrix Simulator, as the main missions evoke an eerie feeling of being monitored. 

1. Banner Saga 2 - This is a true sequel. Banner Saga is an indie strategy narrative developed by Stoic Studios whose main plot unfolds over three installations. The first game was a unique blend of story-telling, Oregon Trail, and chess. The sequel, Banner Saga 2, improves on its predecessor in every way. The writing is better. The combat is deeper. The characters and level progression is more fleshed out. Banner Saga 2 is an exploration of loss and hope in a world-ending conflict, and it does a wonderful job of immersing you in that world through its unique art style, beautifully haunting music, and deep characters. 

Will's Top Five

. The Witness - A beautifully sculpted puzzler, The Witness brings back fond (and frustrating) memories of Myst and Riven. Designed by Jonathan Blow, this game pushes the envelope on what is and is not a puzzle. At its core, the player is solving dot and line puzzles, but the systems and rules that build on that are amazing. From colours, to sounds, the puzzles become increasingly complex yet somehow manageable. The Witness was oddly soothing to play as well, as the island you are exploring is full of colour and vibrancy. 

4. Titanfall 2 - 2014 saw the release of Titanfall, a multiplayer-only first-person-shooter that mixed human Pilot and Mech (Titan) combat. It's sequel, Titanfall 2, added a fast-paced, adrenaline-rushed, undeniably smart campaign, and polished up some of the multiplayer gameplay. Titanfall 2 does a lot of things well, from movement and locomotion, to a variety of actually fun weapons. Respawn Entertainment has done a great job of taking the best of a variety of FPS games, and seamlessly blending them into a genuinely fun experience. 

3. Banner Saga 2 - This is a true sequel. Banner Saga is an indie strategy narrative developed by Stoic Studios whose main plot unfolds over three installations. The first game was a unique blend of story-telling, Oregon Trail, and chess. The sequel, Banner Saga 2, improves on its predecessor in every way. The writing is better. The combat is deeper. The characters and level progression is more fleshed out. Banner Saga 2 is an exploration of loss and hope in a world-ending conflict, and it does a wonderful job of immersing you in that world through its unique art style, beautifully haunting music, and deep characters. 

2. Stardew Valley - A spiritual successor to the Harvest Moon series, Stardew breathes new life into the stagnating farming genre. Eric Barone, under the pseudonym Concerned Ape, essentially single-handedly created this beautifully calming game. It is highly addictive, and attracts many types of players to its charming world. Don't feel like farming? Forage for produce! Don't feel like foraging? Take a day off and go Fishing! Don't feel like fishing? Grab your sword and bombs and head into the Mine! Stardew offers up a variety of activities to fill the avid farmer's day. Coupled with the social aspects of the game, Stardew Valley will have you managing your virtual time much more often than you do your actual time. 

1. Overwatch - Blizzard Entertainment's version of the ever popular Team Fortress series, Overwatch is a multiplayer, team-based first person shooter. Blizzard saw a genre that had not had much innovation in it for years, yet was still very popular, and set themselves to improving it. Overwatch offers a variety of roles between Offense, Defense, Support, and Tank; the right mix of which improve a team's chances of completing the map's objective. There are a number of game modes, such as casual Quick Match, 3v3 Elimination, and Competitive, which allow for any player of any skill to enjoy the game how they want to. Overwatch does a great job of opening up the FPS genre to people who simply cannot aim, by including characters that are not aim-dependent. Blizzard has hit it out of the park yet again

 

Scotch N' Games - Pokemon Go at a Glance.

It's hard to be alive and not hear, or read, about Pokemon Go right now. Your 10% battery notification most likely just went off, and now you have to go read some blogs on your laptop while your phone charges. 

Well, hopefully I can sate your appetite for Pokemon Go with some of the more bizarre headlines, stories, and incomprehensible facts about the record-shattering mobile app. 

Let's begin: 

  • While Google and Apple do not formally release app information like daily or total downloads, there are a number of sources that give a decent estimate, here are some crazy numbers: 
    • Over 10% of all Android devices in the US have installed Pokemon Go. 
    • More than 10 million users downloaded the app in Japan, the day it was released. 
    • Pokemon Go is estimated to have 21 million daily active users in the US alone. 
    • It is currently the top grossing game in the app store. 
  • Pokemon Go gets people outside, it also gets them to unexpected places:
    • Two Canadian teens accidentally crossed the Canada-US border, fully engrossed in the game. Border agents picked them up and contacted their mother. 
    • Two men fell off a cliff in San Diego. Lifeguards contacted emergency services, after they found one man unconscious about 50 feet down the cliff, and another man at the bottom of the cliff on the beach.  
    • A man in Michigan found an intoxicated, unconscious woman, behind the wheel of her still moving vehicle. 
    • At least 3 bodies have been found across the US due to people coming across them whilst playing the game. (Wyoming, California, and New Hampshire)
  • The financials, so far: 
    • Nintendo saw its stock value double after the release of Pokemon Go - there's just one hitch - they only own 32% of The Pokemon Company. Niantic Labs, and The Pokemon Company allied for the creation of the app. Today (July 25th), Nintendo's shares plummeted by 17% (a cozy value of $6.4 billion dollars) as the realization that they won't be making nearly as much money from the app set in among traders and stock holders.
    • Pokemon Go is currently grossing roughly four times as much money as its top contenders: Slither, and Clash of Clans.
    • Nintendo produced the Pokemon Go Plus, a bluetooth device that allows you to play the game without pulling out your phone. Its MSRP is $35, however all pre-orders are completely sold out, leading to some astonishing E-Bay sales of the product (pre-order!). Most sales are between $100-200. 

Ok, your battery is probably sufficiently charged to challenge a gym, or just get out for a stroll - please look both ways before walking off a cliff. 

-Will

 

Scotch N' Games' Favourite Whiskies of 2015

Hello Scotch N' Gamers! 

Welcome to our next definitive list, the SnG best o' 2015! We're celebrating Robbie Burns' day in style, recording our voices as they get raspier by the dram. So to help you wash down that chunk o' haggis, here are the top scotches from Will and Graham: 

Will has a hard time deciding what he considers "the best," so he chose three, again. 

The first, and probably the main scotch he thinks about is the Lagavulin 16yr. This peated scotch is the definition of good whisky. On the eyes it's a deep reddish colour, with an inoffensive scent. It drinks exceptionally well with a rounded and complex flavour profile. It does ring it at a slightly expensive $120-130¹, but well worth the money if you can spare it, or decide to treat yourself.

Will's second choice is quite the opposite to the Lagavulin. He's been going back to his liquor cabinet for late night drams of Aultmore of the Foggy Moss. This sweet scotch has barely any smokiness, so presents a different flavour profile than the Lagavulin. It also costs less money! Sitting at around $80, the Aultmore is a great buy, especially for someone who is averse to the often overpowering peatiness of many scotches. 

Will's last choice is the Newmake scotch a friend of his made. This is a bit of a cheaty-face selection, as it's unavailable basically everywhere except the friend's basement. But Will thought that this whisky was undeniably cool, and wins a place in his top scotches of 2015. Unfortunately for the common people, it cannot be purchased, but he does recommend that everyone try their own hand at aging some Newmake! Slàinte!

Graham follows suite with another three favourites! His list includes the nostalgic Ballantine's Finest, his Scottish Grandfather's drink of choice. Ballantine's is an everyday man's whisky, nothing exuberant, but rather a solid companion for a cold night. Ringing in at an inexpensive $26 this is a Scotch that will get the job done.

Graham's second drink of choice was the light-bodied Oban 14yr. A very pleasant and well balanced scotch, the Oban boasts a beautifully sweet honey flavour, and a slight peatiness on the finish. The Oban costs a not-astonishing $110, which puts in the middle of the pack price-wise, and is well worth the money spent. A high recommendation from one of the best scotch reviewers on Scotch N' Games!

Well check this out! Will and Graham barely agree on favourite games, but for once they decided that they both really enjoyed the same whisky! Graham's third pick is also the Newmake Scotch. The adventure and potential danger of going blind has got Graham all excited to name this one of his top three whiskies of 2015. 

¹: All prices are reflective of those in Toronto.