Tuesday, June 30

Her Story (iOS) Review: Her Benevolence

Some of my favourite games from my childhood used full motion video (FMV) to create some narrative context for fantastical violence. Crusader: No Remorse, Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger, and the original Command and Conquer are just some of the games that made "cinematic" a staple adjective in modern games writing. Looking back on the aforementioned examples though, it's hard to see these hammily acted scenes as anything other than kitschy. 

Her Story is anything but kitschy. 

I can't say much for fear of spoiling any revelations, but know that Viva Seifert, the sole subject of Her Story's multitude of film clips, puts on a chilling performance. Her efforts, coupled with a melancholic, unsettling score, had my heart racing long after shutting down the app. The clacking of a worn keyboard and humming of a monitor long past its prime serve as punctuation for short punches of powerful dialogue. 

I made the mistake of starting my playthrough in bed, late at night, just after receiving an SOS from a family member. I had an hour to kill before I was needed, and started searching through the 90s era database for clues as to what her story was really about. Within minutes I was hooked, and by the close of the first hour I was well and truly spooked. 

I hardly slept that night, and I didn't dare restart my investigation until daylight hours. The crazy thing is that your sole means of interaction across 2 hours is typing in search terms. Picking the right keywords brings up clips that provide additional vital clues. There'll be those who try and argue this isn't a game, but who would pay that any mind when the results are so compelling? 

My only complaint is that even after viewing the majority of the clips, I didn't get a satisfying resolution. I just heard some scary shit and had trouble sleeping for a couple of nights. I mean I know what happened, but there are loose ends that are killing me!

For me, in the Year of our Lord Luigi 2015, the sole measure of a game is whether or not it can pull my attention away from Destiny. Her Story is so captivating that I forgot about upgrading weapons and plundering vaults for days. Now go. Go pay the paltry price of admission, turn off the lights, and make sure your doors are locked tight. 

Monday, June 29

Three days left to live

Pill dick
Your drunk eyes are nice
Boyfriend points
Eat out
Fuck it's hot in here
Double dip
Alpha male
Big dog got top gunned

Sunday, June 28

Destiny: House of Wolves Review (PS4): House Rules

Author's note: This review is very jargon heavy, so I'd recommend reading my review of the base Destiny game first if you haven't done so already. 

Destiny and its first expansion, The Dark Below (TDB), made for an interesting beast. The single player campaign across both releases can be mowed through without much concern for strategy, and experiencing it again with subsequently-created characters creates a strong sense of tedium. It was only when modifiers were introduced -- that increase the damage dealt and received by elements and specific attacks, or require you to swap between weapons -- that Destiny shone, and shone brightly. The endgame, for the most part, was characterised by introducing difficulty and a hint of unpredictability to the same levels that I and countless others had played over and over again for months at a time.

Also grinding. 

Over time Bungie made some effort to ease the brutally stingy nature of the random number generator (RNGeezus) that doled out rewards at the close of single and multiplayer activities. It also opened up the Weekly Heroic strikes to matchmaking, which made it easier to earn currency to more quickly progress through the mid twenties (i.e. level 25-28). The Crucible (for those not in the know, multiplayer) still offered few worthwhile rewards unless the Iron Banner (ie. level advantage-enabled tournaments) was running.

I made and attained the personal goal of hitting the level cap before House of Wolves (HoW) was released, and also made the decision to hang up my Iron Regalia Boots until the expansion materialised. All up it meant there was roughly 3 weeks where I wasn't combing the familiar depths of our solar system for sweet, sweet treasure. It was a break I needed though, as the life of a lone wolf (ie. one who does not have Destiny-playing friends and doesn't consult LFG sites) Destiny player can feel unrewarding at times. 

HoW is literally and philosophically a game changer. Literally, in that there's a wealth of new content available for high level players. Philosophically, in that by transparently advertising rewards for completing certain feats and activities, I made more of an effort to find companions to tackle big game challenges. 

Heroic additions
First things first, the new single player missions are fun, quickly consumed, and great additions to the Daily Heroic rotation. You wouldn't go as far to say that the new missions add coherence to Destiny's narrative as a whole, but you get a mildly interesting standalone tale with some likeable, though utterly disposable, new characters. 

Experienced players will be mildly disappointed by the lack of new locations, but the inescapable feeling that HoW is like a set of mirror tracks isn't exactly an unpleasant one. Quick glimpses of locations that were previously barred to raid parties are reason enough to play through the new story missions, but there are some worthwhile rewards for players before modifiers are reintroduced. 

First and foremost is the new special weapon variety, the sidearm, which will make Call of Duty players feel right at home. TDB's quest weapon was powerful, but required a lot of grinding to make it into something worthwhile; Vestian Dynasty, however, is strong out of the box and useful in many situations. Additionally, Motes of Light are offered up far more often, meaning you'll have additional means to afford exotic gear from Xur on weekends. 

The new strike is a step above all those that came before it, and is a lot gentler in terms of level design. Not to say that it's a pushover in Nightfall or Weekly Heroic varieties, but it's designed to be enjoyed as opposed to endured. Frequent encounters with big enemies are a welcome change to the wave-based nature of previous strikes, and I've been more than happy to play through it repeatedly with both of my characters. 

In addition to scripted missions, every week you can pick up fresh Fallen bounties from the Reef social space. On completion, you'll not only gain a significant experience boost for new weapons and armour, you'll also get a chance to find Fallen treasure chests that contain ammo syntheses, engrams, and treasure keys for the Prison of Elders. 

Captivated by the Elders
Minor spoiler alert: finishing all of the new scripted PvE activities opens up the Prison of Elders (PoE) for Fireteams of 3. PoE, for those who enjoyed Gears of War or Halo, are your Horde and Firefight modes that pit a team of Guardians against 5 rounds of wave-based encounters and boss fights. Unfortunately, only the lowest tier of this activity is open to matchmaking; meaning that players wanting the high level gear offered as rewards for completing the harder difficulties are going to have to make friends (or acquaintances at the very least).

For my part, I finally downloaded a 'looking for group' (LFG) app to find teammates. It turns out there are a shitload of people wanting to play Destiny's many different activities at any point in time. The random teammates you acquire through LFG apps and sites aren't, from experience, the most dependable of companions, but they will try their damnedest to get the job done (as they're after the same loot you're yearning for). Over the last few weeks I've seen my friend list swell from just over 20, to more than 50, and I'm regularly invited to raid the Vault of Glass (never mind my success rate), and partake in other activities I've already completed many times over.    

PoE is a solid addition to the weekly schedule, and the 4 difficulty settings make for genuinely different experiences:
  • Level 28: a calm jog through manageable boss encounters and waves of standard enemies, with modifiers offering a gentle challenge. A PoE run at this difficulty takes slightly longer than a strike on a higher level playlist, but if you're packing a treasure key, the rewards can be significantly greater. For example, my first PoE chest contained a second Gjallahorn. 
  • Level 32: entirely doable, but some combinations of enemies and modifiers will require multiple attempts if your Fireteam is careless. The fifth wave is comprised of a boss fight that has some raid-like qualities. For example: Qodron, the Forever Eater, detains Guardians in a fashion similar to the Templar in the Vault of Glass.  
  • Level 34: as above, but extremely difficult if your fireteam is below the recommended level. Some modifier and enemy combinations can have you stumped for as long as an hour. Some boss fights are brutally difficult at this level. 
  • Level 35: thanks to some extremely talented players I met through a Kotaku Australia readers' Vault of Glass run (and a recent hot fix which nerfed the final boss), I was able to conquer one of the greatest challenges available in Destiny. Six waves await, and you'd be wasting your time if you were to attempt this without having first hit the level cap. The sixth wave pits you against the Kell of Kells, and features all the hallmarks of Bungie level design. It's thrilling, frustrating, and extremely satisfying. 
It's possible to hit the new level cap of 34 just by completing the Level 32 variety each week,  but if you want high level gear that buffs anything other than your strength stat, you'll need to save up some cores and have a gamble with Variks, the Fallen judge who oversees PoE. 

Knowing (for the most part) what weapons and armour are available for completing PoE runs at higher levels was the key reason for my becoming a more active Destiny player. It's also a welcome change to the seemingly arbitrary way that most players had to progress through the endgame. No more hoping for those raid boots to drop after beating bosses for the upteenth time. 

Just like your favourite band
What becomes apparent after you claim your first weapon from Variks, is that the new, high level weapons aren't as good as the gear you'll find in the raids from the base game and TDB. If you take a primary from the Vault of Glass, like Vision of Confluence as an example: a scout rifle that deals solar damage, and fires in full auto mode; "ascend" it to the highest attack level and you'll find it infinitely more useful than any of the legendary primaries you can earn from PoE or the Crucible. 

Ascending old weapons to the new attack stat cap is possible through use of Etheric Light for legendary weapons, or an additional Exotic Shard for older exotics. While older armour can also be ascended, there's more promise in the older items of weaponry I had locked up in my vault for months now. 

Destiny is a game that is battling with its brief history. New legendary weapons can be reforged at the Tower's Gunsmith, allowing you to try and "roll" for some better perks. None of the combinations I've seen so far come close to compensating for a lack of elemental damage, and some of the new perks seem almost useless to me. For example, why would I be interested in a rocket launcher that allows me to sprint faster after a kill, or a fusion rifle that that deals more damage when I'm airborne? This ability to have a mulligan with legendaries also makes these weapons seem 'legendary' by name only. The only exception to the above comes in the form of the sidearm, the new type of special weapon that I mentioned earlier. 

If you're interested in reading into this further, Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton gives a great overview of how the shiny new guns won't cut it against an old Felwinter's Lie or Two To The Morgue.  

The new exotic weapons are also interesting in that some appear to fuse weapon types, much like the Vex Mythoclast (a hybrid auto and fusion rifle). Queenbreaker's Bow is a cross between a sniper and a fusion rile, whereas the Lord of Wolves is a shotgun that fires like a pulse rifle. I've only managed to earn Lord of Wolves so far, but it truly earns the exotic slot (for those not in the know, you can only equip one exotic weapon at a time). It looks otherworldly in comparison to other shotguns, and its high impact and large magazine make it highly effective against packs of enemies. 

That being said, I'm still finding it hard to get away from my Gjallahorn and Ice Breaker, so while they have allure, the new exotic weapons face a similar struggle to their legendary counterparts.  

Spreading wealth at the top
The increased level cap has been reason enough for all Tower vendors to stock new armour at the previous high of 36 light. This means that anyone who found themselves #Forever29 or 31 will be able to hit level 32 after spending a few hundred marks.

Thanks to a friend who has recently started playing, however; it's interesting to note this change still hasn't helped the grind for players in the early twenties. The highest level you can hit with rare gear is still level 25, and you still need to hit rank 2 with Vanguard or Crucible before you can purchase legendary armour. This then makes levels 26 through 31 seem redundant, as you'll surpass them as soon as you rank up with the Vanguard, Crucible, or with the clans; provided you have enough marks, which you should because it's not like you can spend them beforehand anyway.

I'm still struggling to see why you'd want to increase your reputation with a clan unless you really like their aesthetic. Increasing your Vanguard or Crucible reputation level still grants engrams that can decode to clan gear, and perk rolls for these seem to be just as useless and/or arbitrary as those for non-clan armour and weapons. Clan armour is also sold at 36 light, so the path to the level cap works in exactly the same way.

The last thing worth noting is that HoW exotics already have the maximum light stat of 42, whereas older exotics acquired through engrams or bought via Xur still need to be upgraded. It's not a huge deal, but again there seems to be a penalty of sorts for working with older gear.

Feuding with friends
Big changes came to the Crucible with the launch of HoW. There's not only new maps and modes to play with; the Crucible is now offering more than a pittance if you enjoy playing against other players. Playing a match of the daily featured game type now grants an experience bonus, a small package of Motes of Light and Passage Coins (for the Trials of Osiris), and even has a high chance of granting a legendary weapon.

It was almost farcical (in the best way possible) how during the first running of the Iron Banner after HoW launched, players seemed to be getting legendary weapons after every second game. I amassed enough Passage Coins to buy each of the 'boons' for the Trials of Osiris several times over. This renewed sense of generosity has actually compelled me to play more PvP than I would outside of the Iron Banner tournament as well.

The new maps range from cramped and uncomfortable, to beautiful and spacious, but if you're only into playing Destiny for PvP, I'm not sure they'd be reason enough to take the plunge. No, that would likely come in the form of Trials of Osiris (ToO), a 3 versus 3 elimination mode that is run on weekends, and offers the chance to win some exclusive, Ancient Egyptian-themed gear.

I've played ToO with LFG randoms and known Destiny enthusiasts, and while more fun with people you know, it can be genuinely exciting either way. My only advice would be 'prepare to be Thorned', as almost every player you'll encounter through this mode is packing that exotic hand cannon thanks to its ability to poison targets.

ToO matches play out on the same map every time for a given week, and this has seen the development of some clever strategies. One of the funniest matches I played was against a group who camped at the starting point on 'Pantheon', a map from TDB. My Fireteam was wiped 4 times in a row when we tried to rush the platform they fortified, but we turned the tide once we pulled out our sniper rifles. 

That sense of panic that sets in when you're tied on match point (first to 5 wins) with your Fireteam downed is something new to the Crucible. It's something that I'd also argue is sorely needed. With almost all of Destiny's modes playing like CoD with double jumps, it's good to have something that feels different, with higher stakes too.

Feast fit for the House of Kings
Despite my complaints, this latest expansion for Destiny is well worth the price of admission. It makes the later stages of the end game far gentler, and provides a slew of challenges for any type of Destiny player.

The emerging challenge for Bungie will be making Destiny less of a grind for new players, whilst also honouring the time invested by long time enthusiasts. In the short term, my suggestion would be to remove the reputation rank requirement for buying legendary armour from Tower vendors, but other than that, Bungie needs to be a little more explicit in how to traverse the game post-campaign.

I know people who've played the game for more than forty hours who are still struggling to come to grips with the light system. You can have spectacular mysteries like the Vault of Glass and have players know how to progress, and I'm sure we'll get there by the time The Taken King comes along.

I don't see me hanging up my Starfire Protocol any time soon. I've still got to finish Crota's End on hard, and somehow find my way to Mercury. I still want to finish Crota's End on hard and somehow find my way to Mercury. For someone who used to jump from game to game on an almost daily basis, I'd argue that is an achievement. 

Saturday, June 27


You were not ready
Delicate creature
Torn asunder

You survived
Against all odds
Prolonged convalescence

You cherished family
Rejected all others
Trust hard earned

You were Mum's only daughter
Groomed frequently
Put a bow on it

You are loved
As much as blood
Be at peace now

Good dog

Sunday, May 31

Splatoon, and other things that shouldn't exist

I've been playing Destiny almost exclusively for the last 3 months. I might play the odd round of Hearthstone, or an old Virtual Console title as I wait for sleep to take me, but on the whole, it's fair to say I'm obsessed with my second life as a space magician (and my third life as an alien woman who can kick and shoulder charge intergalactic evil).

For 3 months I've played the same missions again, and again, and again, hoping for a chance at weapons and armour that people brag about (or secretly yearn for) on various forums. I have earned some items of so-called 'phat loot', and despite my expectation, finding Gjallahorn (and Vision of Confluence, and Monte Carlo, etc, etc) wasn't reason to down tools; if anything, it fuelled my desire to see more of this post-apocalyptic vision of Earth, and the galaxy surrounding it.

Destiny, as a shooter made by a time-tested developer, makes sense to exist and be enduringly popular in this day and age. While it isn't gory, it is certainly violent. People like violence in video games. People like space ships and visions of the future, be they positive or otherwise. I can accept that Destiny is thing in the year 2015.

Splatoon doesn't make sense. I don't know how it exists in a world where Call of Duties, and Batmans, and sexy Witchers shoot, bludgeon, and butcher everything within range. Destiny is colourful, but few shades of its palette are bright enough to match the neons that players splatter across skate parks and warehouses in Splatoon. Splatoon doesn't support functionality like voice chat, that most Destiny players use with a modicum of respect, but others use to mercilessly criticise any mistakes you might make. You don't need to attack your fellow players to win in Splatoon. I say again, no one has to die in Splatoon.

You can just paint. You can just equip a big paint roller and run. No one has to die.

I've won matches in Splatoon with a kill count under 5. I watch the mini map, not to detect enemies, but to discern where best to place my giant brush.

Splatoon is a miracle. A flawed, beautiful miracle.

Saturday, April 11

Safety tips from Australian men

Watch your back
At night
Walking home from work
In broad daylight
At work

Watch your back
In parks
Move only in groups
These spaces aren't for you
Not ever

Watch your back
Don't wear headphones
You'll never hear them coming
Your fault

Watch your back
At home
At any age
You're a target everywhere
Flip a coin

Sunday, March 29

Destiny Review (PS4): The cold, dark loneliness of space

I made the big mistake of playing the Destiny beta. I maxed out three characters, of each race, trialling each of the classes. For twenty hours, I grinded through the first few missions on Earth. I had fun at the time, but I was concerned that the lack of a coherent narrative and Peter Dinklage's failed attempts at humour would make for a dry final product.

First contact
I think it a mistake because that was about 15 hours that counted for nought when I logged in at launch. Worse still, playing through the, for lack of a better word, "campaign" is a genuine bore. Your first 15 hours of Destiny proper are mind-numbing. You're held back from the best game I've played in recent memory. You box with kid gloves and gain nothing, *nothing*, until you reach the end game.

Sure you can fight other players in the Crucible, take bounties (quests) for player versus enemy AI (PvE) and player versus player (PvP) modes, and even play co-op, but it feels like there's nothing at stake. If I could start a new Destiny character at level 20, I would.

I can't though, and I didn't bother to start again until I found some relatively-high level gear for the Titan class. That's because the arbitrary nature of progression in the end game can be sidestepped to an extent; and just as well too, because it took about two full days' worth of play to get to the point where a second character didn't seem like a colossal waste of time.

Scenery changes, but the action remains largely the same: travel to an area, interact with an object, defeat waves of enemies. Repeat. Every planet also has at least one Strike mission which matches you with two other players to partake in the same cycle with witnesses. Without the mad loot game that characterises the end game, these routs pose little in the way of excitement.

My second run through the campaign was an afterthought. When I was done playing the actual game (with my level 31 Warlock), I'd load up my second character and play through as much as I could bear. The low level game, again, is tedious and unrewarding. It still looks pretty, but the beautiful rehearsed dance of high level play always felt like it was too far off.

Destiny's planets are hollow and fenced off, and it's hard to understand why when you first start your journey. The threadbare story provides no motivation to push through. Even after reading a great many Grimoire cards (earned for hitting specific milestones, and accessible via developer, Bungie's website or the companion app), I'm none the wiser as to what is actually supposed to be happening in this intergalactic adventure. In hindsight, it doesn't matter, but it doesn't make the first leg of your travels any easier to endure.

If Destiny up to level 20 was all you got, I'd consign it to history as another high-profile developer fuck up. A Timesplitters-cum-Haze from the people who brought you Halo and Marathon. Thankfully, it gets a lot better. It blossoms into one of the most refined experiences I've had since repeated playthroughs of Final Fantasy VII on the PSone.

You are now watching the throne.

It gets better with time
"Time heals all wounds. You get better at anything with practice. It all just takes a little time." - That's 5 actual days worth of time playing Destiny talking there.

When you first hit level 20, you should notice that some of your equipped armour has a stat called 'Light'. Accumulating Light is how you progress in Destiny's end game. At first, it feels like a relentlessly cruel and random process. Actually, it always feels like that. Random Number Generator Geezus (RNGeezus) is a brutal deity, and I pray to her almost daily.

My initiation to the end game started with Daily Heroic story missions. These are the same PvE missions I'd already beaten, but now with modifiers that allow the action to escalate into something that is actually compelling.

I can still remember my first. A mission from Mars (the last of the four planets you'll visit in the campaign). Even played at the lowest (Heroic) difficulty level, it was unconscionably brutal. I was lulled into a false sense of security, ploughing through the enemies that dotted the way to the final encounter at a reasonable clip. Then the big boss man showed up. I died so many times, and so much faster than I was used to. It took hours for me to formulate a strategy to actually finish the fight. Instead of holding a position and taking cover when required, I was now required to move. To run. When I got swamped, I knew it was no longer an option to shoot my way out. I would cower. I would emerge when it was safe to shoot, to breathe. After two hours, I emerged victorious.

The rewards were meagre, and they continued to be for weeks. I was submerged in a sea of useless blue and green (rare and uncommon items respectively). For almost too long (my guess: 20 hours) I stayed at level 24.

Even though my progress was stalled across a few weeks, I returned nightly to play Daily Heroics and hope for better. I also started partaking in Strike playlists so I could burn through more PvE bounties and earn more opportunities to pray to RNGeezus. With the right team, Strikes are great fun; even when played in radio silence.

When the stakes are higher, and your opponents are more durable (and aggressive), shooting waves of aliens is infinitely more entertaining.

Heartbreak no longer guaranteed
Funnily enough, because it took so long for me to get a decent internet connection when I first moved to Melbourne, I didn't play Destiny for the time that RNGeezus was considered evil. Rare and Legendary Engrams (items that need to be taken to an NPC to be converted to gear) could yield utterly useless uncommon equipment. Now the colour reveals the bare minimum rarity of the item you'll receive (just don't always expect it to be for the class you're using). I can't imagine the heartbreak of purple turning to green.


I progressed, but not solely through the grace of RNGeezus. I completed enough matches (PvP and/or PvE) to earn currencies to be used at specific vendors, where I could buy legendary gear. Also, some of my engrams (read: a LOT of them) were converted into a currency which is only good with a vendor that only works weekends. Xur sold me the Starfire Protocol, an exotic (read: highest grade of rarity) piece of armour that finally compelled me to change to the second Warlock sub-class, the Sunsinger. I now began to explore my character, and that is when things got very interesting.

Sub-class specific abilities can be switched at will. The progression table is a fluid thing: nothing is permanent. I've now found a mix of abilities and gear that can be devastating in PvP, and entirely functional for Daily Heroic play. That being said, I'm still shy of the level cap, and that won't change without luck (or me spending hours at a time completing raids multiple times).

The Dance
Now properly equipped, Destiny is the most time effective game on the market. I know exactly how much time I need to invest to get what I want out of it.

Do I need upgrade materials for my gear? Daily Heroic for 15 minutes.
Do I want to farm for gear and not feel like the only intelligent life in the galaxy? Strike playlists or the Crucible for 20 minutes, or for as long as I'm willing to play.
Do I want to hit the level cap? Hours in the Vault of Glass, or competing in the Iron Banner (level advantage-enabled PvP).

The choice is mine. I can engage in the well-rehearsed dance of PvE, or yield to the chaos of competitive multiplayer.

It also feels distinct from other first person looters, like Borderlands, in that there is no aimless wondering in Destiny's end game. Yes, you are beholden to a random number generator if you go farming for loot, but I always feel like I can get what I need from a Destiny play session. I could play missions and Strikes at low difficulty levels, but why would I? That meaningless swim through fodder is kept to a minimum, and it's a big reason why I keep coming back.

Cheat codes
Do you remember sharing cheat codes with your friends back in school? Maybe asking them how to beat a certain boss fight, or how to beat a puzzle in an adventure game? As Brendan Keogh aptly pointed out, that's kind of what it's like to play a raid in Destiny.

The co-op missions (2 are available right now) can be played with up to 6 players, and they require a lot more than shooting. They require specific knowledge, and involve anything from jumping puzzles, to battling new and exclusive enemy types. I've made 2 attempts on the Vault of Glass, and each time I've been guided by contemporaries to achieve great things. I've been shown secret loot chests, and how to hide from Gorgons. I don't have the 3 hours needed to make it to the end, but it was still well worth the time.

Different people also have different approaches to the kind of tense combat situations you find in a Destiny raid, and it's fascinating to witness and take part in this violent logic. When taking on the Templar, the first group of players I ran with wanted to split into 2 squads and manage its deadly entourage. We never managed to succeed. The second group was led by a rowdy, undeniably brave teen who ordered:

"Oi, you fucks stay here and just fucken slam the cunt when I bring down his shield."

O captain, my captain.

Sadly, you can only play raids with "friends". There are forums where you can assemble a ragtag group of Guardians, but if you hang around in the Tower long enough or perform well in a strike, odds are you'll be invited by randoms to friend up and tag along for a run.

Weekly Nightfall strikes are also barred to friends, or otherwise arranged groups of players. Weekly Heroics, thankfully, have now been opened up to matchmaking, so there's now more avenues to earn higher level gear. They're by no means as satisfying as raids, but it's great to see more game types available to more casual players (that may sound ridiculous, but based on my reading, I'm pretty sure I'd fail to be considered a hardcore player).

So exotic
The final component of Destiny's end game is the Exotic Bounty, awarded when you complete the same standard PvE and PvP enough times (don't ask me how many, I was just excited to get one every couple of weeks). These multi stage quests are, in certain cases, ridiculous in what they ask of players. My first required me to, at one point, maintain a kill/death ratio above 1.0 for a number of matches. Later I needed to complete a Weekly Heroic or Nightfall, and this was before matchmaking was an option.

The best that I've completed (which, suitably, awards one of the less-favoured weapons) involves playing standard match types for extended periods. 25 strikes, 10000 points in the Crucible: stuff I'd normally do over the course of a week's play. Sure I needed to turn in some stages on the weekend, but apart from that, the only requirement is for me to play a game that I love. Easy.

Another castle
In December, The Dark Below offered up another raid, a higher level cap, new story missions, and by extension, more Daily and Weekly Heroics. There appeared to be some quirks at launch, particularly for those who got exotic gear before the expansion launched. Again, because of internet woes, I was forced into a sabbatical, so I managed to avoid any woes.

The expansion (again, need a better word) campaign, like that in the base game, took time to reach its potential. Later missions are gated behind some woeful search-and-destroy quests, and even require weekend work. The resulting Heroic Dailies are a worthwhile addition to the rotation though, so it was worth the pain.

Again, my first is a prominent memory. With the raised level cap, there's only one difficulty setting, and Dark Below Daily Heroics are damn near insurmountable for any characters below level 30 (the level cap for the base game). I was level 29 when I first tried to rescue Rasputin with Heroic modifiers enabled. For hours I ran up against a wall of high level Hive enemies. Finally, I managed to make it to the last stage of the wave based encounter, only to be tracked down and butchered when trying to hide and recover health. I gave up.

A week later. The same mission, one level higher. The difference was unbelievable. I triumphed with a single attempt.

That lingering itch
Destiny, for me, is the gift that keeps on giving. My golden shotgun, sliding from kill to cover. My grenades that burn with the brightness of a star, that track and stick to targets. My 20 minutes a day that result in everything I need. My beautiful desert patrol on a hoverbike, boosting and flipping from mission to mission. My triumphs over that which I previously thought impossible.

Destiny is exercise. It's a vanity project. It asks for a lot up front, but delivers well after you've paid up.