Gaming

Destiny 2 Review: A Superior Smorgasbord of a Sequel

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The first Destiny was one of the biggest games in 2014, but with its massive following also came plenty of complaints among critics, consumers, and even from the most diehard fans. Destiny 2 aims to address each problem, and succeeds more often than it fails.

Destiny 2 is an online-only sci-fi first person shooter. Its release comes with a ton of baggage. Despite winning awards and garnering a large, dedicated fanbase, the first Destiny took a lot of criticism for its non-existent story, lacking content, convoluted level progression, and tedious grinding. The expansions alleviated some of those of problems, but expectations were understandably high for a full-blown sequel to improve on those aspects and then some.

There’s a lot from the first game directly carried over, with a couple of tweaks. You still have the three classes to choose from: the tanky Titan, the agile Hunter, and the spell-casting Warlock. Each one has the same three subclasses based on the familiar elements of Arc, Solar, and Void. You’re fighting the same alien races: the scavenging Fallen, the mystical Hive, the AI Vex, the militaristic Cabal, and the intradimensional Taken. It’s a bit disappointing to see nothing majorly new in these departments, but at least the essence of playing as those classes and battling those enemies still feels good.

More story to see

Destiny 2 makes it loud and clear from the start that Bungie, the series’ developers, heard the gripes about the storytelling in the first game. You’re thrown right into action the moment you start playing. As one of the virtually immortal, superpowered Guardians of the Last City on Earth, you have to stave off a surprise invasion of your home from an alien army seeking to control the source of your celestial strength; Light, as the game calls it.

It’s a whole spectacle filled with characters firing off rounds and dramatic dialogue alongside you, spaceships doing battle across a laser-lit skyline, and a big bad boss alien that’s half-Bane and half-Darth Vader, speechifying as it robs you of your power. That opening sequence alone feels like more than anything the first game showed story-wise in its entirety.

The premise of depowering the Guardians, the gifted group tasked with defending the solar system from hostile forces, would have been an interesting setup for a game that’s not a blockbuster tentpole title. Like a lot of AAA action games, Destiny 2 at its core is a power fantasy. So it’s no surprise that this initial conflict for the player is resolved immediately. It wouldn’t be much of a high-octane adventure if you couldn’t access your supernatural abilities and wield an arsenal of guns and explosives and blades ASAP!

As for the rest of the non-player characters robbed of their Light, their doubts and vulnerabilities are relegated to small moments and aren’t explored past your early interactions with them. It’s a shame, really, as the plot would have felt more meaningful if it didn’t wrap up so cleanly and conveniently.

The campaign’s saving grace is that it has awesome set pieces sprinkled throughout the levels. You’ll be gawking at the expansive landscapes and elaborate interiors of the outer space worlds you go to, that is, when you’re not running and jumping around machine-gunning legions of baddies and flinging lightning storms or burning hammers at gigantic bosses.

Satisfying side activities

If you’re still hankering for bits of narrative to chew on, the whole new Adventures are meaty little side stories. These mini missions flesh out the NPCs of the level you’re in, and you also learn more about the Destiny universe. They take you to sections of the sprawling levels the campaign doesn’t lead you through.

Whether it’s crashing a demonic chanting Hive concert or preventing the Taken from assimilating the time-traveling Vex, you discover separate plot threads that weave into the bigger narrative tapestry of the series. Along with the many Lost Sectors hidden in every area that contain loot guarded by powerful enemies, the Adventures give you more reasons to explore.

Making your way to tackle these content, you’re likely to come across Public Events. These are live timed combat encounters with unique objectives that happen in public spaces. Since Destiny 2 is an always-online game, you’ll see other players roaming the areas doing their own thing. While story content is limited to three players partying up, anyone within proximity of an ongoing Public Event can seamlessly join the action. And boy are these events bursting with action.

Apart from just being a joy to play with their challenge tuned for multiple people, Public Events also dole out substantial rewards, especially when optional goals are accomplished, incentivizing participation. This leads to chaotic firefights that can then lead to impromptu coordinated firing squads against alien hordes. Blasting rockets at spider tanks and destroying mining drills in tandem with strangers is exciting with the unspoken camaraderie.

Post-game play

If you’re looking for something more mechanically and tactically demanding, Strikes and their Nightfall versions await you after you beat the campaign. These are equal to the length and scale of the biggest story missions, but surpass them in terms of complexity and difficulty. Such operations will have you running through cordoned off dungeons and arenas, completing tasks like hacking terminals or smashing magic crystals while fighting off waves of enemies, and culminating in multi-stage boss fights. Nightfalls are modified Strikes, adding layers like damage multipliers and time extensions for a more challenging experience.

While you can finish the campaign by yourself, Strikes and Nightfalls require teamwork. The former automatically groups you with two other players if you’re not already in a party of three. For the latter, you need to either find two people to join your group or start up Guided Games.

Guided Games lets you matchmake with players from a Clan. Clans are basically communities players can set up and join, making it easier for like-minded Guardians to help each other and gain rewards.

For the hardcore

Rounding out Destiny 2’s cooperative content is the Raid. It’s the biggest, most intricate, and most difficult mission in the game, needing six players actively communicating and playing specific roles to complete. It can take hours spread across numerous gaming sessions. Only the most dedicated gamers will finish it, as the coordination, time commitment, and skill it demands are leagues above everything else in the game. For those who can answer that call, it’s worth the effort to see its visual splendor, conquer its challenges, and forge bonds with friends and even total strangers.

Lastly, there are player-versus-player modes for those looking to test their mettle against fellow Guardians. In the Crucible, two teams of four face off in dedicated PVP maps, with different objectives to achieve victory. There’s a more relaxed Quick Play mode if you just want to fight other people. Competitive mode sets goals that ask for more teamwork, while the Trials of the Nine invites the best of the best with fixed match setups for less randomness and more skillful play.

Overall, it’s a much slower version of Destiny’s Crucible, with the smaller maps and teams encouraging methodical collaboration over individual ability.

Loot lust

Tying all of this content together is the drive to get loot. Stronger weapons, tougher armor, and just cooler looking gear; Destiny 2 showers you in loot no matter what you’re doing. The rate at which you get high-tier equipment is vastly increased from the first game. How you get better loot is way more streamlined too, cutting down the dizzying number of currencies and upgrade materials from Destiny to a more manageable number.

You’ll be reaching the upper limits of your power level so much faster, and doing so gives you access to endgame content earlier. Being locked out of Nightfalls and Raids in the first game because of the boring grind and poor loot drop rates has been completely remedied in this sequel.

The only glaring problem is how shaders, the color modifiers for your gear, are used up when you apply them. You can earn them through a slow drip-feed from just playing the game. However, it’s easy to get tempted to pay real money for the blind boxes containing these cosmetics. Options are welcome, but you’ll feel the effect of these microtransactions soon enough. When you start hesitating to customize your character, fearing that you’ll have to grind to find those shaders again, it just sucks.

Destiny 2 is a behemoth of a game. It’s chockful of content with more to come in the free updates and the two major expansions. Casual players will have more than enough to consume over 25 hours, while hardcore gamers can easily spend upwards of 50+ hours taking on recurring weekly challenges and optimizing their gear. Either way, it’s a great time that can be made all the more memorable with friends to play with.

Destiny 2 is out now on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with a PC version coming out on October 24. PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold are necessary for 90 percent of the game.

SEE ALSO: 8 PS4 multimedia features you must try out

Gaming

God of War’s New Game Plus mode is here

It’s time for another play through, boy!

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A New Game Plus (NG+) mode for PlayStation 4’s God of War is here. This means whatever weapons, items, and armor you amassed during your first go round, you can take with you if you wish to go on another adventure with Kratos and Atreus.

The NG+ mode also lets you pick a different difficulty setting from the one you first played with. So whether you feel like taking on a tougher challenge or just breezing through the story mode, you can do so. The choice is yours.

Other new content include a new shield skin when you start a NG+ as well as new types of armor you can forge for the father and son duo. The additions also include new challenges like Realm Tears while on a time limit and a variety of new attack patterns for draugrs, witches, and other foes you’ll meet along the way.

Updates not just for God of War NG+ mode

If you’re still in the middle of your first run, don’t worry, the creators of God of War didn’t forget about us. There’s now a button that easily lets you transfer enchantments making it easier to go from one armor to another. There are also some bug fixes and quality-of-life improvements like keeping Kratos safe at all times during parry attacks and improved consistency with how enemy attacks can be parried.

If you’ve completed the game at least once, the update also lets you skip cinematic scenes whether you’re on NG+ or not.

God of War for the PS4 first came out in April 2018 and received glowing reviews from various media outlets. Many of whom even said it’s an early candidate for Game of the Year. It takes the franchise’s main character Kratos into Norse mythology years after he tore through the Greek gods.

SEE MORE: God of War: A must-play for 2018

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Computers

NVIDIA launches the new RTX 2000 series

Promises movie-like quality for games

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Throughout the years, video games have slowly edged closer to movie-like picture quality. As of late, cinematic video games — like The Last of Us — have begun their long renaissance. Now, NVIDIA has unveiled a new series of graphics cards that pushes that boundary even further.

The newly launched GeForce RTX 2000 series leaps miles apart from NVIDIA’s long-reigning GTX 1080 video card. Specifically, the series comes in three variants — the RTX 2070, RTX 2080, and RTX 2080 Ti.

Powered by the Turing architecture, the new series attempts to solve the industry’s problems. Most importantly, the RTX 2000 series highlights ray tracing, a feature missing from video cards before now.

Traditionally, video games have trouble rendering lighting. Usually, games fall into two categories: terribly drawn lighting which clashes haphazardly with stunning textures, or power-hungry graphics that tank your frames-per-second rate to single digits.

Ray tracing vastly improves how light interacts with surfaces. With the feature, the series brings professional-level graphics to a mass market. In terms of performance, the RTX 2000 cards promise six times the capabilities of the previous GTX 1080.

For starters, the RTX 2070 comes with 2304 CUDA cores and 8GB GDDR6 RAM. The midrange RTX 2080 offers 2944 CUDA cores and the same amount of RAM. Finally, the flagship RTX 2080 Ti boasts 4352 CUDA cores and 11GB GDDR6 RAM.

Already, the series promises support for upcoming games: Battlefield V, Metro Redux, Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Upon launch, the RTX 2070 retails for US$ 499. The midrange RTX 2080 sells for US$ 699. Finally, the RTX 2080 Ti sells for US$ 999. All three cards will also come with Founders Edition variants selling for US$ 599, US$ 799, and US$ 1,199, respectively. The series will officially launch on September 20.

SEE ALSO: NVIDIA Titan V breaks benchmarks and banks

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Gaming

ASUS ROG Zephyrus S is the slimmest gaming laptop available today

But doesn’t compromise performance

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Alongside the 17-inch ROG Scar II, ASUS has announced a new ROG device that they claim to be world’s slimmest gaming laptop. The ROG Zephyrus from last year was already thin by gaming laptop standards, but the new ROG Zephyrus S is 12 percent thinner with updated specs.

The ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) still has the look and feel of the original Zephyrus but it’s now only 14.95 to 15.75mm thick. Those numbers might not sound as sexy as other super-slim notebooks, but the Zephyrus S has desktop-grade gaming performance with either an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q or GTX 1060 GPU inside its chassis.

Powering the Zephyrus S is a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor with up to 16GB of DDR4 memory and storage option of up to a 512GB NVMe SSD.

The laptop’s display is a 15.6-inch 1080p panel with a 144Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, and 100 percent sRGB coverage. It’s definitely not the sharpest laptop display, but it’s one of the fastest for smooth gameplay. The display has a thin-bezel design as well, so the footprint of the laptop is just a bit bigger than your typical 14-inch notebook.

ASUS uses their Active Aerodynamic System (same as with other Zephyrus laptops) which opens a vent at the bottom of the laptop when the lid is lifted, and the vent stretches across the entire back of the body. This improves airflow by 22 percent over a conventional design as per ASUS.

Another distinct trait of the Zephyrus S is the keyboard. It’s still on the front of the device, which helps with cooling, but it might not be everybody’s cup of tea. The keys have 1.2mm of travel, N-key rollover, and RGB lighting via Aura Sync over four zones.

As for I/O, it has two USB-C ports (Gen1 and Gen2), two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, HDMI 2.0 at the back, and a headphone jack.

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) will become available starting September in the US and in October for the UK and Asia. Pricing starts at US$ 2,099 for the GTX 1060 model, while the higher-end GTX 1070 is priced at US$ 2,199.

SEE ALSO: ASUS’ new ROG Strix Scar II is world’s most compact 17-inch gaming laptop

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