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The Dark Below (TDB) was without a doubt an expansion of Destiny’s PvE offerings. Walking a different path, House of Wolves aims to support both PvE and PvP. The expansion includes a campaign mode, the Prison of Elders for PvE, additional PvP maps, and the Trials of Osiris for PvP players. It is a more robust offering than TDB and doesn’t just add more content. It makes some welcome changes to important features. Ultimately House of Wolves is the better expansion and shows Bungie is learning from past mistakes, incorporating player feedback, and understanding how to handle the blend of genres that is Destiny.

If anything House of Wolves shows a clear improvement over TDB’s campaign. However, among the rest of what HoW offers… the campaign it’s still Destiny’s weak point. It’s not the soundtrack (which is still suburb), the voice-acting, art design, graphics, or the lore. It’s the presentation. How the story is presented to the players for them to digest. There’s a lack of information given to players regarding the underlying mechanics driving the story forward. After watching the opening cutscene/cinematic to HoW, players may ask themselves several questions. So the House of Wolves betrayed the Queen… why? What was the nature of their relationship? How, or why were they working together, or why was she controlling them? You get some details regarding this, and some references to the Reef Wars that proceeded the game. After the ball gets rolling, the plot boils down to: stop evil alien bad guy from doing bad evil alien things. Alas… a lot of the more interesting lore and info is behind tucked away in grimmoire cards. A problem Bungie still needs to address.

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Destiny’s all new social area, Vestian Outpost in the Reef

Fixing the presentation involves the two factors I referred to above; the level of information given to players and how to portray that information. Most of the ‘why’ behind your actions is given to you in loading screens, or when you first land on the planet. At this point players are more focused on editing their loadouts, deleting weapons, using materials etc. When players land they are more focused and jumping onto their sparrows, or shooting stuff. While a bit cliché and traditional, using cutscenes (need to be skippable, come one Bungie is 2015) is probably the best way for players to sit, watch, and listen to what is occurring. This would also enable Bungie to present more information to the player; what happened, why, and what consequences will occur if the guardians fail. They can also build on the presentation, incorporate cinematic set piece events to ratchet up the scale and scope. Additionally, doing this enables some world building, breathing life into NPC’s, making them more memorable, and fleshing out their personalities.

The missions themselves are entertaining from a gameplay standpoint. Mission for mission HoW is better than TDB. HoW introduces some new enemy variations and a new pike right off the bat. The constant involvement of the antagonist Skolas is a nice touch. The campaign is longer than TDB, but also follows the same backwards approach for the missions. However, it does bring you to some new areas within the worlds. While I won’t go into details, for spoiler reasons, it’s nice that off-limits areas on Earth and Venus predicted to be in later expansions… are actually used. The story told in HoW is also more cohesive compared to TDB. Lastly, although the four alien races are fighting against us, at times it was tough to remember they are highly intelligent beings. Variks (a fallen still loyal to the Awoken Queen) translating what Skolas says helps give him a persona that no villain/antagonist has had in Destiny yet. It’s not fantastic, but it’s a start.

For many, the lack of a raid in the new expansion is a bit of a letdown. After playing the expansion, I can say with all honesty the Prison of Elders (PoE) was strategically a better choice. I will always welcome a new raid, but the PoE is a worthy replacement. Bungie was smart about what they included with the expansion. Both raids required a fireteam of six. While I am in a small clan, having 6 people available at the same time can be a chore. PoE is a robust offering that fleshes out Destiny’s PvE offerings. Three guardian fireteams are needed for this end-game content, making it more accessible.

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Cult of the Worm is this weeks level 34 Prison of Elders

PoE is an arena game mode consisting of several rounds where players can fight against one of the many alien races. That’s not to say that only one race will be featured for the entirety of PoE. You might have to defeat Cabal in round 1 and the Vex in round 2. PoE is offered to players at level 28, 32, 34, and 35. Each with its own rewards and reasons for playing. The level 32 and 34 are themed around a specific boss and offer pre-determined rounds. They are rotated in every week like the Nightfall and Weekly Heroic Strikes. They can also become available at either the 32 or 34. The level 35 is always set, and like a raid, is consistent every week. The only thing that changes are the modifiers. The level 28 PoE features matchmaking, there are no special 28 PoE instances but the instance is random. In addition to regular rewards, completion of PoE gives access to the treasure room that features two small chests and a large chest. The large chest needs a Treasure Key to open and has a chance (albeit miniscule) for an exotic, as well as various Queen’s wrath weapons and class items that drop much more frequently.

PoE also comes with the inclusion of new modifiers, which have also made their way into other game modes such as the Nightfall and Weekly Heroic Strikes. Each round features some objectives giving players something else to handle besides clearing the arena of all enemies. This fix of objective completion and enemy combat makes PoE truly stand apart from other game modes and goes beyond the simple arena mode. However, the objectives are small in number and are fairly simple.

The main flaw with Skolas’s revenge (level 35 PoE) is the level disadvantage it gives to players (max level is 34). While difficult now, it will run into the same problem Crota’s hard mode does. When players finally reach and exceed that level, it becomes much too easy. Doing Crota’s End on 33 or higher doesn’t pose much of a challenge. Whereas Vault of Glass on level 30 does. This comes down to the game mechanics. It will ultimately be interesting to see how this end-game content holds up after the next expansion arrives this fall.

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Variks, House of Judgement vendor. The Judgement’s Change needs both types of cores and gives players a random Prison of Elders weapon.

Etheric Light, armor, and weapon cores are big rewards for the level 32, 34, and 35 strikes. The rewards for the weapons and armor cores have been ok at best. Most of the perks on the guns give shank burn (i.e. awful perk), and the armor all sports strength (arguably the most useless armor stat). While they are still useful, due to other perks, I found the best use for the cores is the Judgments chance that requires one weapon and one armor core. The chance gives you one piece of random PoE gear (weapon or armor) and also comes with a random roll. This means you can get weapons that have other perks besides shank burn, and other stats besides strength.

On the PvP side of things is Trials of Osiris. Trials is without a doubt aimed to please top level PvP players. It’s effectively end-game PvP content. Exhilarating, rewarding, frustrating, and disappointing are all descriptions I would give to Trials. Set up as a first to five wins, it’s a 3v3 elimination style game mode. Players can revive teammates, but once all three members of your fireteam are dead, you lose the round. Rewards are available for the amount of wins you rack up, and boons can be purchased with Passage Coins to help you reach higher reward tiers. However, these Trial’s passages go up to 9 wins and 3 losses. Once one of those conditions is met, you have to turn in the passage for a new one. If you want that armor piece at 5 wins, but only had reached 4 before your 3rd loss… tough luck. You have to start over. If you lucky, or skilled enough to get 9 wins and 0 losses (i.e. flawless) a trip to the Lighthouse on Mercury awaits you. Here you can receive some of the best gear in the game. It’s incredibly difficult to get here, but there are great PvP players among Destiny’s community willing to help those out if you can find them.

While teams spawn on both sides of the map, because nothing is changed from previous map setups including special and heavy ammo drops, one side can gain advantage over the other simple by what side they spawn on. However, the advantage is minimal, and good PvP players can overcome the disadvantage. For the duration of the match players are always spawned on the same side. Over the five rounds, players can learn how the opposition plays and then adjust their strategy accordingly.

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House of Wolves also added a new weapon type, the sidearm. Vestian Dynasty is one of only two sidearm guns in the game.

Tactics, patience, and good communication come into play. In close matches Trials can be absolutely exhilarating and rewarding, especially if you next win gets you a good reward. However, since this is top level PvP content… you’re going to run into extremely talented, and coordinated players. This is where the frustration and disappointment comes into play. If you do not have a good team, or are not a great individual PvP player, you can get destroyed without winning a single round. Zero wins Trials Passages are not uncommon. As good a game mode as Trials is, it’s flawed in the way it’s designed. With top-tier PvP players running trials all weekend, going flawless five or six times (not joking), it can discourage average players from competing. Why spend three hours losing in Trials when you can do something else? We’re already seeing this. The first weekend, I ran into both skilled and unskilled teams. While I still managed to get to rewards during the second and third weekends, the level spike of competition was noticeable. I’m unsure of how this will play out in the long run. Will average players still throw their hat in the ring, or abandon the game mode entirely? A short fix, might be to match teams up against other teams of similar standing (2 win team vs 2 win team). Although, that won’t fix the problem one of the two win teams was made up of top-tier players that just started their passage.

Lastly, there are a few weapons that are used exclusively in PvP. Thorn has the worst reputation and is arguable the best PvP gun in the game. It’s not uncommon for all six players in Trials to all have Throrns equipped. I’d go so far as to say that’s’ relatively normal. This has led to monikers such as Trails of Thornsirs and Thorns of Osiris (personal favorite). While other guns are used such as the Vex Mythoclast, Red Death, and Mida-Multi Tool some weapon balancing is needed. Auto-rifles, once proud kings of PvP, and PvE for that matter, are now the worst gun class in the game. It’s a constant ebb and flow that Bungie has to work with, something I don’t think can ever be perfected given the amount of expansions and sheer number of guns available. Nerf one gun and another will takes its place.

The patrol mode saw some improvement with increase instances from the House of Wolves. Completing a House of Wolf instance, similar to a public event, will spawns a chest containing rewards; rare and legendary engrams, treasure keys, glimmer etc. This is addition to additional target bounties from the Reef in certain patrol locations. It’s a good step in always having something going on in the patrol areas. However, lower level players may find that these instances do not work in their favor. Running through Dock-13 on Earth to scan a location, resulted in my death at the hands of a level 28 fallen captain. My innocent level 14 hunter never stood a chance. This does illustrate the fact Bungie might want to implement a high level patrol mode in the future. New players picking up the game will frequently get discouraged if future expansions keep adding more and more higher level enemies to the patrol game mode.

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The rewards players can receive in Trials of Osiris. The first package is at 2 wins, while the last package is for 8 wins. Trials Supplies are purchased via Passage Coins and help players get rewards.

One of the big issues players had with TDB dealt with how new gear and guns were implemented. Out with the old and in with the new was the previous underlying philosophy, but that’s changed with the introduction of Etheric Light. Players can upgrade old 300 and 331 attack weapons to the new 365 cap. This includes old legendary armor from the game’s launch or TDB expansion. While not immediately noticeable, Etheric Light also serves another function; diversification. With the raid gear as the only way to reach 32 in TDB and level 30 during the games initial launch, meant it was effectively the best armor available. So that meant everyone was wearing it. Now that any piece of armor can be maxed to the highest level, guardians will be wearing all different kinds of armor instead of just the raid gear. The inclusion of Etheric Light is a great way of keeping old gear relevant, but also means more players will hold onto more things. Bungie is probably prepared for the flood of “more vault space!” demands from the internet. With the last-generation consoles demanding consistency between the games… that might not be possible. And to answer your question… yes, I am in dire need of vault space.

Only new gear is able to be reforged (with the exception of Iron Banner weapons). With the gun-smith now relevant, players can cry in agony together as that perfect roll eludes them and their once vast stock of weapons parts vanishes before their eyes. Reforging guns for new perks is great for players who do not get good rolls and want a shot at something that better, or fits their playstyles. The cost is deceptively low, but like a gambler at a slot machine it doesn’t take long for you to spend a lot.

There is a dark side to reforging however. As I mentioned earlier many guardians were aesthetically similar due to the raid armor. Weapons are experiencing a similar problem. With guides’ online and recommended rolls for weapons many players will be using extremely weapons and perks. Scout rifles with full auto and firefly, shotguns with shot package, sniper rifles with hidden hand are practically indistinguishable from other weapons in the same class (disregarding a weapons base stat differences). I rarely see sniper rifles without the top aim-assist scopes or the hidden hand perk. Shotgun rolls for PvP are specked to max out range, and thus all have very similar rolls. Matador 64, Party Crasher+1, Her Courtesy, and Felwinter’s Lie are all perfect examples of extremely similar shotguns. It’s an unavoidable tradeoff. With the power of the internet, it doesn’t take long for someone to figure out the best builds and put it online. However, getting perfect rolls is not easy. I should know, my Ash Factory rocket launch has been rerolled countless times to no avail. I’m broke and my weapons parts are non-existent. Like an addict, I’ll keep forging (pun intended) on ahead. Someday I’ll get that perfect roll, maybe someday.

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Trials Passage needed to play the game mode. Win 9 matches without a single loss and gain access to the elusive Lighthouse.

To round this review off, I present to you the odds and ends. Errors between the consoles and Bungie’s servers are still a problem. Players can get booted from Trials, or while in the PoE. This is incredibly inconvenient and infuriating. This is especially true since PoE does not feature checkpoints. Connection for Crucible has been spotty, and has taken a noticeable decline in quality since the expansion. Crazy lag and more red-barring from players has been more common. To illustrate a video was posted a few days ago showing someone getting killed in the Crucible… and the game glitches resulting in 87 straight deaths for the player. However, this increase likely due to the increase in player involvement in PvP due to Trials (i.e. people wanting to improve in PvP). This expansion has included even more materials and items, meaning you’ll have even less space. The amount of emblems I have received has been nothing short of aggravating… because I have nowhere to put them. However, they did up the maximum stack amounts on weapon synths from 20 to 100, which is a welcome change. The Speaker is now relevant, offering players the ability to exchange a plethora of materials; motes of light, glimmer, radiant and ascendant materials etc. A great move by Bungie and something I have definitely been using to my advantage. The expansion also adds more reputation with the Queen and with House Judgement. It will be interesting to see how cumbersome this system gets overtime, as there are increasingly more places to allocate your reputation towards. Destiny’s next expansion, The Taken King is expected this fall (title leaked, technically unconfirmed) will probably add vendors and reputation.

The gameplay mechanics are as tight as ever, there is more to do every week, more rewards, and a nice sense of progression. Being able to finally play new missions and game modes was refreshing. The campaign was a clear improvement in both quality and scope over TDB. While it’s nice to see a better campaign, with the amount of lore and story possibilities available to Destiny, the campaign does come with a touch of disappointment. Its presentation and scope of the campaign need to improve. I don’t think they’ve quite nailed down how to present a deep and rewarding tale in a FPS-MMO hybrid such as this.

The Prison of Elders, at various levels, now gives players more to do on a weekly basis in addition to the Trials of Osiris on weekends. It will be interesting to see how Trials evolves over the next few months. Will the remaining participants be only elite PvP players, or will average PvP players still keep try for reward packages. The changes introduced to weapons, gear, and materials were long overdue. It seems Bungie has figured out the best way of keeping old gear relevant for players. They’re learning from their community and incorporating feedback. However, they recently nerfed the Qodron PoE boss fight in a way that it’s laughable. Sometimes they do need to stick with their gut, and not listen to the community. As much as I praise them for doing so, it is a delicate balancing act. All in all I highly enjoyed what I’ve played of HoW. If you passed on the first Destiny expansion and were deciding to dive back in, I would definitely recommend House of Wolves.

8 out of 10

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  1. Bryan Weatherall

    June 12, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    I really enjoyed the amount of detail you put into this review, it’s great!

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Sea Of Solitude Review

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Sea Of Solitude Review

Sea Of Solitude is a game which was developed by Jo-Mei Games and was published by Electronic Arts. It is available on PS4, Xbox One and PC via Origin. It is a single player third person adventure game. The game has the player control a character named Kay who explores an abandoned and flooded city.

This was a game which caught my eye only very recently when I first heard about its release. After watching the trailer, I thought the art style, strong colours and animations looked very interesting. Also as a person who went mad one day and subscribed to EA’s Origin Premiere late last year so that I could play some games I had missed out on over the years, I was pleased to see something new added to the store that wasn’t a typical Electronic Arts style major franchise game. Knowing I could get this one for free was enough to give it a go. But if you’re not part of that program to get it for free, I’d say that the $26.95 asking price for this digital title is certainly worth it.

The game isn’t too long, most hardened gamers will probably be able to finish this one in a single session, which I actually managed to do yesterday morning. I didn’t time myself, but I’d say to expect about 3 or so hours out of it, a bit more if you look around for collectables.

Sea Of Solitude Review

Sea Of Solitude Review

On the surface, Sea Of Solitude is about a young girl named Kay, who is searching through a city, which is for some reason flooded. You start the game all alone on a tiny boat, way out at sea on the water. You make your way to the city, where you find a monster clad in darkness is blocking your path. Through exploration and activating certain things, Kay brings light to an otherwise dark city.

Underneath the main plot though, is a game with strong messages and themes related to loneliness and relationships. Kay as a character is someone who has become lonely, isolated and quite depressed after issues with her family and her boyfriend. The game sends the player on a journey to free Kay and other characters from suffering from the effects of loneliness and related themes. What I didn’t expect this weekend, was to play a game which seemed to have the objective of tackling these mental health issues in this way and I never expected to play something this weekend from the gaming genre with such deep meaning to it.

In many ways, Sea Of Solitude reminded me of my experience with Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice which was also a game that focused on mental health issues and is still a game I hold in very high regard. Both of these games were experiences that I could not put down once I started playing as I just had to find out what was going to happen with my character. Games tackling these mental health themes and the issues involved are quite rare in this medium, so when an experience like this does come along, it’s very unique and interesting. The difference between Sea Of Solitude and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is that Sea of Solitude is a little lighter in tone and not the intense gruelling experience that Senua’s was. This makes a player’s time with Sea Of Solitude one that is peaceful to experience.

Sea Of Solitude Review

Sea Of Solitude Review

The art style in Sea Of Solitude is something I enjoyed looking at. The animations are very rounded, colours stand out on the screen and the use of blacks in contrast with visibly bright blues, whites and orange was what I loved the most. The music and also the voice acting, was soft and did fit in well with the tone of the game’s themes and art style. All together, visuals and audios seemed to be just right.

The gameplay in Sea Of Solitude is something I’d say is probably a little simple. It’s essentially a platforming game where you will jump, swim, drive a boat and shoot flares onto enemies. There aren’t any button combinations to learn or any level up systems. The game is accessible to people of most ages and even to people new to gaming could easily pick this one up and get through it.

Overall coming out of playing Sea Of Solitude, I was filled with positivity and happiness. The story is quite heavy when playing through it, but very warm in the end. The art style and animations are nice to see and the sound and voice acting was just right. I do like to see that the games industry can use the medium to tackle such heavy topics and release games like this which show how well this medium can tell a story and provide its audience with something of great meaning. I’m happy to recommend Sea Of Solitude for your gaming collection.

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Stuber Review

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Stuber Review

Stuber is a film which comes directed by Michael Dowse and stars Dave Bautista, Kumail Nanjiani and Betty Gilpin. The film is an action comedy adventure about an Uber driver and a policeman who go on a wild ride together.

Going in to see Stuber I didn’t really know where to set my expectations. Knowing only that the film was a comedy, meant I went in for the lols and didn’t expect all that much from the story. But coming out of the film, I’m sorry to say, but it’s not really that great.

The film starts off okay and the opening scene features both Vic (Dave Bautista) and Sara (Karen Gillan) engaged in a dangerous shootout with some bad guys. Both are seriously injured and Vic loses his eyesight, which means he gets some urgent surgery. His eyes need time go recover, but as soon he’s able to walk he calls for an Uber and continues on with his police business, which is catching the bad guys who got away in the opening scene. This is where Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) comes in and the journey between this awkward duo begins.

I wish I could say that it was all good once the Uber ride began but it wasn’t. The film is only really mildly funny. Dave Bautista who I do really like in action films really isn’t great at comedy. Kumail Nanjiani basically was just screaming and yelling the whole time and talking about his Uber rating and reviews. I admit I did find some of the bad reviews he got from his previous customers in the film funny when they were shown, but that’s about it. Some of the jokes were also drawn out way too long. Dave Bautista’s character being blind was kind of funny in the first minute when you saw him trying to walk around without being able to see. But it’s only funny once and they did this joke over and over again almost all the way until the end!

In addition to this, for quite a bit of the film, I wondered if this was some sort of product placement or advertisement for Uber. There were so many mentions of Uber, Uber reviews and the difference between Uber products and services. What are we paying to watch here? Who cares about Uber!?

In the end I would suggest avoiding Stuber at the cinema this week and choosing literally any other film currently showing. After leaving this I instantly thought that Stuber needs to be on my list of worst movies of 2019 which I created just after seeing this and that says a lot because I was not compelled to make one after seeing X:Men Dark Phoenix.

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The Biggest Album Debuts of 2019: Updated Chart

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Biggest Album Debuts of 2019

The Biggest Album Debuts of 2019 – Billboard has been publishing a list of the most popular albums in America every week since March 1956. They include the “equivalent album units” for the albums in the top ten. What’s not included is a way to view the biggest debuts for each year.

For anyone else who is curious, here is a chart that ranks the biggest album debuts of 2019.

NOTE:

  • This only covers first-week album sales in America that debuted in the top ten on the Billboard 200 chart
  • EPs are included in this list
  • “Equivalent album units” factor in traditional album sales, concert ticket/merch bundles and streaming numbers

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL AND UPDATED LIST

ArtistAlbumFirst Week “Units”
Jonas BrothersHappiness Begins414,000
Ariana GrandeThank U, Next360,000
Billie EilishWhen We All Fall Asleep313,000
Backstreet BoysDNA234,000
BTSMap of the Soul: Persona230,000
KhalidFree Spirit202,000
Juice WRLD

Tyler, the Creator

Death Race for Love

Igor

165,000 (1) (2)
Vampire WeekendFather of the Bride138,000
DJ KhaledFather of Asahd137,000

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL AND UPDATED LIST

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