Hand Cannon

Second Chamber - Embrace your Destiny

Overview

Today I’ll be giving my thoughts on Destiny’s latest expansion - Rise of Iron.  Marking the end of Year Two of the ten year saga of Destiny, it is the final expansion before Destiny 2’s release sometime in 2017.  The expansion’s content has been released slowly since its street date, which has helped players savor Destiny’s swan song.  Much can be said about the expansion’s positive aspects, but there are still those lingering issues that plague Destiny, in both broad and narrow scales.

Pursuit

The issue I have with Rise of Iron is its story, specifically how it has no coherent narrative thread in the form of a pursuit.  In The Dark Below we murdered Crota, and in so doing learned about the Hive and their magic.  In House of Wolves we hunted Skolas, learning as we did about the Fallen and the Reef.  In The Taken King we faced off against Oryx, alien god-king of the Hive; we completed our education on the Hive and their dark philosophy.  In all of these, those final conflicts were the result of mission after mission of exposition, pursuit, and effort.  We learned as we fought, and became invested in the defeat of these powerful foes.

In Rise of Iron we defeat a progression of loosely connected members of the Devil Splicers, never getting a handle on who they are, their motivations, or their goals.  We learn about the Iron Lords, but the vast narrative potential teased by their history is almost completely unexplored.  This could have been an opportunity to delve into the techno-religion of the Fallen, the history of Earth before the City was built, or the even current state of the leaderless Hive.  All we get are more hints and teases from a handful of Grimoire cards.

I had hoped the Dormant SIVA Clusters would correspond with a narrative similar to the exquisite Books of Sorrow from The Taken King, but they cannot hold a candle to that masterwork.  The Lords of Iron Grimoire cards approach that high watermark, but they are far fewer in number and only hint at a greater history, and do not explore it in anything remotely satisfactory detail.

Positives

Don’t get me wrong - Rise of Iron is well worth the purchase.  It delivers solid gameplay, both PVP and PVE.  The revamped Strikes are quite enjoyable, as is the new Raid; I’ve yet to endure the Raid, but I watched it streamed live the Friday it dropped, and was thoroughly entertained.  The new weapons look - and sound - amazing, as do the new armor sets.  The new characters are fun to interact with, and Nolan North once again knocks Ghost’s lines out of the park.  The Plaguelands are a big, fun arena to explore.  The Archon’s Forge is a fantastic space, and Bungie has taken great steps to correct its minor issues.

Thoughts

This expansion was a lull; a not-so-epic event that rounds out the story of Destiny’s first book.  If The Taken King was the climax, Rise of Iron is the denouement.  And while having every conflict be catastrophic or potentially world-ending does get old after a while, this feels a bit too small-scale.  If the goal was to have a more intimate exploration of themes like old heroes, the dangers of the Golden Age, and how far one can go for the sake of power, it missed its mark.  We get some cryptic lines and hints about new abilities and a group of people far out in the solar system; the groundwork is being laid for Destiny 2.

But if this franchise is to be lauded, then Bungie have to go get their collective act together.  Snappy gunplay and crisp audio only go so far.  Mystery for the sake of mystery is only useful as an appetizer; it cannot be served with every course.  If answers do not come in Destiny 2 for at least a few of the franchise’s major questions, then I fear no amount of PVP is going to save the series.

Look for my own thoughts on storytelling coming to Handcanon soon - I’ve been collecting my thoughts and ideas on several of AAA gaming’s more controversial titles.  For now, if you’re a Destiny fan, I would recommend Rise of Iron.  It’s worth $30, and should tide you over until we get some solid info on Destiny 2.

--Nigel

First Chamber - Divided Opinions

Hiya, Canon-heads!  Should that be what we call you?  I don't quite know - still trying to figure out what to call our fans.  Though, honestly, isn't that something that the fans themselves decide on?  Nigel here!

We're trying something a little different.  We've actually had meetings over the past two months, I've just been EXTRAORDINARILY lazy in posting my notes.  Totally my bad.  We're plugging away at some of the areas that still need work, but will hopefully have some fresh material for people to look at.  That's right, if you want to help us with our development, stay tuned.  I'll reveal my cunning plan at the end of this blogpost.

But first, the different stuff.  We're changing our meeting days from Tuesday to Thursday.  Also, we want to put more stuff on this blog.  Stuff that isn't just our meeting notes.  I mean, they're cool and all, but we are a game company; why don't we talk about games more?

So, I'm going to put in a little brain power and share my thoughts with some of the games I've been playing recently.  Of the trio, I have my hand in a fair number of console games.  I'm not some Dew-guzzling demi-god, but I've got decent hand-eye coordination and a basic grasp of media critique, so I figure I can at least sound like I know what I'm talking about :)

So!  Games!  What games?  Glad you asked!  I've been hip-deep in The Division since it came out, and the 1.2 Update has hit today.  Being a Responsible Adult, I'm at work rather than melting rogue agents in the Dark Zone, but with any luck I'll be able to log a few hours this evening once I get home.

There's been some controversy about the narrative design of The Division, mostly focused on the role you play as judge, jury and executioner in a functionally lawless Manhattan.  You play an Agent of The Division, a super-secret network of highly-trained sleeper agents who are activated by the President when all other forms of law enforcement and security have broken down.

And that last part is the crux of things.  "When all other forms of law enforcement [...] have broken down" implies a *lot* about the state of the world.  Honestly, the world outside of Manhattan is functionally unknown; it's not clear just how far-reaching the virus that caused the chaos has spread.  Given the basic parameters of the virus that we learn over the course of the game, it's not unreasonable to assume that most of the world looks like Manhattan, more or less.  Which leads to all sorts of interesting questions.  And that is what I feel we get out of The Divisions - a lot of questions.  Which I like, don't get me wrong.  It feels like a world we're really only just beginning to scratch the surface of.

I could write a novella about my thoughts on The Division, but for the sake of time I'd like to switch topics to a more recent release:  Overwatch!  Blizzard's finely crafted foray into not just FPS, but team/character FPS to boot!

I've had a long relationship with Blizzard Entertainment, which has been both fruitful and frustrating.  I grew up playing their trifecta of franchises; Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo.  I played World of Warcraft, too, and that game is one of the big sources of inspiration for our own tabletop game.  The impact WoW had on gaming and gaming culture was enormous, and will no doubt keep on rippling through time.

I have only gotten the chance to play the open Beta for Overwatch, but those handful of days were fantastic.  Blizzard have brought their meta-design, what I have long called "complexity through simplicity" into the FPS space, and they have done it well.  Each character is an iteration of their core class functions, but none of them feel similar.  Soldier 76 is not McCree, despite the fact that they're both assault class heavy-hitters.  Zarya and Reinhardt could not be more different, but they're both tanks.  And they both perform the tank role super well.

Narratively, we see yet another fantastic world being built.  But this is where Overwatch and I butt heads.  Overwatch, as a *game* is very, very tight.  Good controls.  Impeccable level design.  Razor-sharp balancing.  As the game is played it will be tweaked even more so, I'm sure, to refine that balance even further.  But the presentation we've gotten, the game we are going to get, is threadbare when it comes to story.

But why?  Why do I need a story to stitch together an endless series of deathmatches?

Well, to be honest it's what Blizzard's been good at.  Some studios make games that tell great stories, while other studios make games that are fun to play.  Rare are those who make games that excel at both.  And, look, I'm not saying Warcraft or Diablo were Citizen Kane or anything like that, but those were early enough in both gaming history, and Blizzard's corporate history, that I can let their relatively thin stories slide by.

Overwatch gives us lots of teasing information, hints and glimpses of a rich and complex history.  I want to dive into that world, crack it open and see what makes it tick.  What we do see has a lot of the spices Blizzard has always used; high school composition notebook staples like corruption, madness, and inexplicable war against implacable foes.  Upon those tried and true bones the sinew is strung.  The story is as close to the real world as Blizzard is likely to ever get, and I want to see what their interpretation is.

There will be some graphic novels coming out, and with every animated short we see more and more of the world.  I have no idea what the future of the game itself will bring, but I really hope Blizzard can include some sort of single-player mode or movie gallery - something - to let me explore more of this cool future history they've created.

So, rambling done!  For now; I think I'll write another of these next week.  Maybe a week and a half, we'll see how my time pans out.  What are *your* thoughts on the games I've covered?

Oh!  The secret!  On how to help!

Email us.  Use that Contact page and send us an email.  We'll pick from the people who reach out to us to proofread our setting document.  We want people's opinions on what parts of the setting are good, and what need more detail (Or less!  Scott does love to write!).

Peace, y'all.

--Nigel