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Should You Come Back For Destiny’s April Update?

Destiny players have had a long wait for new content. September’s The Taken King expansion was broadly praised, both for its new content and the way it reworked existing mechanics. For several weeks afterward, the community was thrilled with the experiences on offer. In the interim, we’ve had a few small, limited-time events, like the Sparrow Racing League and the Festival of the Lost. However, there’s been little in the way of new core gameplay experiences. This week’s free update changes that, with a content drop that sits somewhere between a large patch and a small expansion. But if you’re a lapsed player, is it enough to bring you back?

That was an easy question to answer with The Taken King – an unqualified yes, thanks to smart changes across the board to gameplay, and an abundance of fundamentally new experiences. Needless to say, the April Update is nowhere near the size of that ambitious offering last September. But even stripping away considerations of the scope of the content, the April Update is a mixed bag of good and bad. 

Light Value

For many players, pursuit of the higher light values is the centerpiece of the experience. Bungie’s biggest success this time around is offering multiple viable paths to the new cap of 335 light. While not all of these events have opened as of this writing, players can engage with Trials of Osiris, Iron Banner, the new Prison of Elders Challenge of the Elders, Court of Oryx, Nightfall strikes, and even a refresh of the most recent raid, King’s Fall – each offers viable rewards to help push you up the ladder. I love this structure, as it encourages engagement with multiple in-game activities, rather than funneling the entire community towards one or two activities to repeat ad nauseum – a problem we’ve seen in previous releases. 

I also like the new, simpler approach to infusion. By allowing players to gain a one-for-one light value trade-off between the item they destroy and the one moving up in power, there’s no more second guessing about whether it’s worth it or not. More importantly, it furthers one of the original design goals touted by Bungie when it first launched The Taken King: Let players look the way they want, and use the gear they like. 

My only issue with the light value system is its seeming focus on equipped gear to determine subsequent drops, rather than taking into consideration your best gear, whether equipped or not. After numerous experiments in the last couple of days, it seems clear that the game is looking at the weapons and armor I’m currently wearing to determine subsequent drops, rather than examining the broader capability of my guardian to reach a certain level. When I equip gear that sees my light level hovering around 295, I mostly receive new loot around 295-300. But when I put on other gear in my inventory that has me at 310 light, it appears I’m more likely to see drops as high as 315 light. As such, there are times I feel obligated to wear armor and weapons that aren’t ideal for the fight at hand, simply to ensure the best loot. And just like it’s been for some time, the same is true when I decrypt engrams. I’d love to see the Destiny loot system do a better job of analyzing my full character’s potential, rather than the happenstance of my currently equipped build, and thereby provide freedom to wear what I want at all times.

I also find myself wondering about the value of chasing the new 335 light level cap. Few of the new or refreshed activities really demand anything above the previous cap of 320, and even PvP game modes that account for light power, like Iron Banner and Trials of Osiris, shouldn’t see a dramatic power differential between someone at 320 and someone at 335. Without much in the way of fundamentally new activities that demand the higher light value, chasing those extra 15 points feels like it has less value than it has in previous cap increases. Nonetheless, the Pavlovian desire to chase those higher numbers remains, and that has its own odd appeal, even if the reasons for doing so are lacking.

Prison of Elders

The biggest new gameplay drop in the April Update comes through two new styles of play in the Prison of Elders. House of Wolves players will recall that this round-based arena combat mode provides a fun and relatively uncomplicated series of combat encounters, capped by a ridiculous treasure room and some guaranteed cool loot, presuming you have a key to the big chest.

The key system is (thankfully) gone, but the chest remains, and the new level 41 Prison of Elders turns out to be great fun. Matchmade teams tackling a random mix of rounds makes this an easy path to some entertaining fights, even if you’re a solo player. The “Takenating” of the existing arenas looks appropriately menacing, but certainly doesn’t change anything functional about the play spaces. I enjoy the new challenge presented by seeing the Taken enemies show up here. They are relentless and plentiful, and mowing through them is satisfying. Even so, repeated plays reveal that Prison of Elders simply isn’t as engaging when you’re seeing the same enemies repeatedly. The constant appearance of the Taken can begin to feel a little repetitive, especially if you’re playing this level 41 mode multiple times in a row, as seems to be the intent. I’d like to see Destiny’s many other foes play a more prominent role, as they did in the previous PoE iteration.

The Challenge of Elders is a new twist on the PoE formula. A series of three set boss fights remains the same throughout the week, and different boss fights will rotate into the equation in subsequent weeks. A score is calculated for your team’s current run as well as a cumulative weekly total, and hitting a particular threshold in both values rewards a weapon and armor piece, respectively. To rack up the points, different actions provide particular score values, so it’s wise to tailor your style of destruction to fit with precision kills, grenade kills, or other bonuses. Take too long in a given boss fight, and your score starts taking a hit, but it’s not an especially hard hit. As such, even a moderately talented team will find it’s pretty doable to nail the required score thresholds. As a strong but not amazing player, I was able to manage a two-person run at Challenge of Elders last night, and the best players will be able to swing a solo excursion. Even if Challenge of Elders isn’t as hard as it might have been implied to be prior to release, it’s a good time through and through.

Next Page: What's new with storytelling in the April Update, and are the changes and addition to armor and weapons worthwhile?


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Final Fantasy XV Deluxe & Ultimate Editions Announced, Come With In-Game Content

One of the final announcements made at Square Enix's Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV press conference was a beautiful steelbook edition of Final Fantasy XV. While no price was given, this bundle comes with the game, the Kingsglaive Blu-ray disc, and three in-game items: a Royal Raiment Outfit, a Masamune weapon, a Pplatinum Leviathan recolor for the car.

Shortly after unveiling the Deluxe edition, Square upped the ante with the reveal of an Ultimate edition, which comes with all of the aforementioned content, as well as an exclusive Play Arts Kai figure of Noctis, a 192-page hardcover artbook, a different steelbook case, a soundtrack, and four additional in-game items: a travel pack, camera kit, angler set, and gourmand set. This edition is limited to just 30,000 units and is only sold through Square Enix's online shop.

Preorders for both editions begin tonight.

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Ninja Theory Explains How Hellblade’s Characters Come To Life With Only Two Animators

Hellblade's protagonist, Senua, moves with an impressive level of realism, and the latest developer diary for the game explains how that's possible with only two animators on the team.

You can check out the video below to learn more about the game's motion-capture process, and figure out what is going on in the image above.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Fore more on Hellblade, head here to learn about it mysterious face-capturing technology. Hellblade is coming to PlayStation 4 and PC this year.

[Source: Ninja Theory]

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10 RPG Franchises We’d Like To See Come Back

These days it seems like anything is possible in the gaming world, thanks to the growth of crowdfunding and social media. Series that were once relegated to memory are suddenly coming back. Did you ever think we’d have a chance at Shenmue 3? How about Square Enix reviving the Nier and SaGa franchises? This got us thinking about our favorite RPGs of yesteryear. While plenty of great series have vanished, we think many have potential to thrive again. Without further ado, here are the 10 RPG franchises we’d love to see return.

Note: This list is presented in alphabetical order

Chrono Trigger/Cross

The Chrono games remain cherished classics that still hold up well, and we’d love to see what the series could bring to a new generation. Trigger and Cross don’t have many direct links to each other, aside from both delving into alternate timelines. If a new Chrono game became a reality, it’d be smart to stick with this approach and continue in the tradition of the vibrant art style and fantastic music (More Yasunori Mitsuda, please!). The chance to recruit a slew of characters and travel to different eras again is just so tantalizing. This is one series that never wore out its welcome, but at the same time left us feeling like it still had so much more to give to the genre.  

Dark Cloud

This is another series that ended way too soon. Level-5 had topped itself with the fantastic Dark Cloud 2, but never moved forward with another entry. Instead, the company focused on making other great games, such as Dragon Quest VIII and Rogue Galaxy, but Dark Cloud still remains one of its most talked about franchises, and new fans are discovering it thanks to Sony recently making Dark Cloud 2 available on PSN. Hopefully, a new iteration would keep the bevy of customization, entertaining city building, and fierce hack-and-slash combat.

Earthbound (Mother) 

We can pine for this revival all we want, but its chances of happening are slim to none (all the key creators are either unavailable or have moved on). This is a shame because Earthbound had its own unique flavor and humor, coming off as anything but generic. The zany RPG series didn’t take itself too seriously, parodying plenty of popular culture in its real-world setting. Can you imagine a brand-new game that captures its essence? Earthbound has one of the most dedicated fan bases around, allowing its legacy to live on (just head to fansite Starmen.net for confirmation). That enthusiasm deserves something new to fawn over. Plus, it’s about time the characters and world got more love than Smash Bros. appearances. At the very least, we’re getting some re-releases of entries for now, and we're still holding out hope that the never-released-in-America Mother 3 will get localized someday.

Jade Empire

Jade Empire is a universe brimming with untapped potential. It focused on what BioWare does best: multidimensional characters, great dialogue, and creating a fascinating world. It stood out for its mythical China backdrop and how it was infused into every element of gameplay. Your orphaned main character sets out to save Master Li, your caretaker and teacher. You fight using traditional martial arts, but can also develop different weapon, magic, and fighting styles along the way. In addition, two moral philosophies rule the Jade Empire: The Way of the Open Palm and the Way of the Closed Fist (similar to Mass Effect’s Paragon and Renegade system). Seeing BioWare revive this IP and make it grow would be exciting, especially considering how much the team has learned in recent years with Dragon Age and Mass Effect. Not to mention, numerous people at BioWare have said they wanted to return to Jade Empire at some point.

Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic

We all have Star Wars fever with the recent movie, so why not capitalize on that? Yes, BioWare devoted a whole MMO to Star Wars, but we want something more in line with the earlier Knights of the Old Republic games. This is the perfect timing to capture a new audience that didn’t play the first games and finally give fans of those games something new to dive into that’s not as exhaustive as an MMO. Choosing to align with the light or dark side is always fun, and being a part of new stories in the universe and meeting new intriguing personalities (like HK-47 or Jolee Bindo) makes the experience all the better. Lightsaber fights never grow old, and BioWare has proven time and time again it has a flair for science fiction. 

On the next page: recruiting stars, vampires, and Norse mythology…


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