Destiny 2 beta: Welcome back, Guardians

Bungie’s anticipated follow-up to Destiny, Destiny 2, finished its open beta on July 25. Thousands of players logged in to get their first taste of what’s to come in early September. The beta featured the opening campaign mission, Homecoming, as well as a strike mission and limited Crucible action.

One of the glaring issues with Bungie’s first entry was the lack of a compelling campaign. Many players, including myself, were left disappointed and slightly confused as to the type of story that Destiny was trying to convey. It wasn’t until after Bungie released various downloadable content did the overall story begin to finally take shape. However by then, the Destiny community had already begun to fall off a bit. If the sequel’s campaign is even remotely like Homecoming, Bungie has answered many of its players’ prayers and will deliver on their initial promise of providing a hardcore first-person shooter with fantastic storytelling.

Homecoming opened up with the Tower being assaulted by the Cabal. Players may remember the Cabal as the main enemy you face on the red planet Mars from the first game. While the Cabal didn’t necessarily play a very important role in Destiny, it appears that they will be the main baddies in the sequel. The Cabal Red Legion, led by Dominus Ghaul, is hell-bent on stealing the Traveler from the humans, because they feel they should be the rightful owners of its power.

As you make your way through the burning rumble of what remains of The Last City, Earth, the Red Legion is seen off into the distance preparing to take the Traveler away. Once the mission completes, Ghaul appears and does the typical bad guy routine of having a monologue explaining his intentions, then promptly kicks you off the side of the Tower. The level of desperation and loss of hope right at the beginning is a shot to the gut, but firmly cements the tone for what the rest of the game is sure to bring. I’m extremely excited to see how the Guardians regroup after this preemptive strike on their home, and how they plan on regaining the Traveler and their stolen powers.

The Inverted Spire Strike was a nice addition to the beta. I didn’t participate in many strikes in the first game, but the beta’s strike is a good indication that I plan to change that. Guardians begin by battling against waves of Cabal and Vex as you make your way deeper into the planet. Possibly my favorite part of the entire beta came about halfway through the strike. Players come across a giant drill and you must make your way on the sides of a rocky mountain, trying to avoid the drill. Honestly, I died probably seven times to that damn drill, but they were the most enjoyable deaths I’ve experienced in a game. Not only are you trying to avoid the drill, but various enemies are also trying to kill you. Once you’ve survived the deadly machine, the strike boss appears as Protheon, Modular Mind. Protheon is a giant Vex that can be a handful, because it summons an army of Vex to accompany it in battle. After shooting off pieces of its body, the giant Vex will eventually die and you’ll receive a piece of armor and weapon.

The class system is essentially the same with some slight improvements. Players will still choose between three classes: Titan, Hunter and Warlock. Having played exclusively as a Titan in Destiny, I kicked off the beta as a Titan. The Titan is mainly a meat shield, as they possess increased defense over the other two classes, but deals out an adequate amount of damage. Players can choose to either have a bubble shield as their super attack, meant to protect yourself and fellow teammates from damage, or a Captain America-esque shield. Just like Marvel’s Hallmark hero, you can throw the shield at enemies from afar, or get in close to wreck havoc. Titans can also create a mini wall to crouch behind for added protection.

After completing Homecoming with a Titan, I went back and tried my hand with a Hunter. Hunters are the most agile of the trio, as they have a dodge move instead of the Titan wall to evade incoming projectiles. While I preferred being a Titan, and I plan on selecting the Titan class when Destiny 2 releases, I did like the exotic handgun for Hunters. It’s similar to the Boltok Pistol in Gears of War where it’s a one shot handgun and seems to deal out roughly the same amount of damage as the Gears of War counterpart. Instead of the jet pack that Titans and Warlocks have equipped, Hunters have a standard double jump to reach higher heights. Unfortunately, I was unable to use the fire pistol super attack, I did use the super attack that gives Hunters a long staff to deal solid melee damage.

Final time I went through the campaign mission was as a Warlock. Ultimately, I thought the Warlock class was the most inferior of the three. Warlocks have a jet pack, but it’s a weird suspension jet pack like you’re floating. Seems that makes you an easy target for enemies that can actually hit their shot unlike the Stormtroopers from Star Wars. One thing that was interesting was the Warlock’s ability to create either a healing circle or an empowerment circle to give extra damage to anyone that’s in it. The heavy weapon you use is a sniper rifle, and unless there are far bigger maps than this mission, which I fully expect, it was borderline useless in Homecoming.

My time in the Crucible was short-lived, but I still got the jist of it. The game mode was a defuse and set charges, similar to Demolition in Call of Duty. If you are attacking, there are specific points on the map that you must set a charge on to detonate, and the same goes for defense but to protect. The attacking team can outright win the round if they eliminate the opposing team without having set a charge. The Crucible rounds are now a four-on-four affair, as opposed to the previous six-on-six matches from Destiny 1. Other than the change in team size, Crucible seems to be a typical online experience that you would have in any first-person shooter.

Final thoughts

Bungie’s beta for Destiny 2 did everything that it set out to do. It presented a clear change for the better regarding the campaign, increased the customization of the three classes but still kept much from the first game and reinforced the value of completing strike missions. If Bungie is good at one thing, it’s listening to its fan base. The latter half of Destiny 1’s life showed a completely new experience that vanilla Destiny did not when it released, and it seems that has seeped over into the sequel. The developer is focused on providing players an amazing experience in Destiny 2 and if this beta is any indication of the future, I think everyone is in for a treat.

Destiny 2 releases on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 6, 2017, while the PC version will release on October 24, 2017.

D23 Convention recap: Finally time for Kingdom Hearts 3?!

The bi-annual convention held by Disney at the Anaheim Convention Center reared its beautiful head this year. I attended D23 for the first time and needless to say it was amazing. Moreover, the news that came from the convention regarding the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts 3 and much-anticipated Avengers: Infinity War were more than enough to crank the hype level to an 11.

Square Enix released a new trailer that revealed a new world for Sora and his Disney companions: Pixar’s Toy Story. Andy’s house joins Tangled, Big Hero 6 and Mount Olympus as only confirmed worlds. The video showed Sora interacting with sheriff Woody and intergalactic ranger Buzz Lightyear. Interestingly, the video also contained battle game play that confirmed that players will not be forced to swap Donald Duck or Goofy for a character in the world they’re in, like substituting Donald for Hercules on Mount Olympus. A player’s party seems to be unlimited, as the video showed Sora, Donald and Goofy fighting Heartless alongside Woody and Buzz.

The end of the trailer also revealed that Kingdom Hearts 3 will, hopefully, release sometime next year. Following the trailer, co-director Tetsuya Nomura hinted at the possibility of the player controlling a second character other than Sora.

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What’s becoming arguably the most anticipated movie of this decade, it’s hard to imagine Avengers: Infinity War garnishing any more hype than it already has. Well, I stand corrected. Marvel and Disney showcased a trailer of the ultimate superhero mashup that answered many key questions, one being how the Avengers meet up with the Guardians of the Galaxy. The video, which has yet to be released to the general public, showed the Guardians arriving at an undisclosed location. Once they arrive, a body hits there windshield, and it turns out to be Thor Odinson. The trailer also showed various battle sequences of different Marvel heroes going up against the Mad Titan Thanos. It was revealed that Thanos will have the Black Order by his side, otherwise known as the Children of Thanos in the movie.

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For more information regarding the aftermath of Disney’s D23 convention, and all things entertainment, be sure to follow Avery Feyrer at @CoffeeBlack_910 on Twitter.

D23 Convention: Where the Magic Comes Alive

Viewing a large convention event of any kind behind a screen versus physically participating in one can be a bit of an eye-opener. The grand scale of the amount of people you encounter, the volume of information your brain tries to process all at once and all while your five senses are being overwhelmed is something you can’t truly prepare for. Thinking that I was ready for what was about to transpire, I tackled Disney’s D23 Expo as my first ever convention with a feeling of adventure, but not to get my hopes up. After experiencing only one day of the Disney festivities, I have to say that D23 completely blew any expectations I had out of the water and was the perfect first convention to hang under my belt.

Now, just to clear one thing up: I did not initially want to go to D23. About a year ago, my girlfriend, Blanca, asked if I wanted to go with her to the convention. I like to see myself as being a Disney fan, but compared with her there isn’t a competition. Disneyland is like a second home for her, so of course she wanted to go to a convention specifically for Disney. Being the idiot that I am, I declined the offer, using the excuse of “I’m not sure what I’ll be doing a year from now”. A few months later, however, my good boyfriend sense of mind finally came into effect and I purchased myself a ticket.

So, on the morning of July 14, 2017 at 2 a.m., Blanca, her sister and I made the trek to the Anaheim Convention Center. Up until that morning, I had received countless emails regarding the convention, so my general perception of what I was about to witness had begun to take form. I expected to see a few people in cosplay, the occasional “ooh” and “ahh”, but other than that, I was more looking forward to buying some souvenirs.

As soon as we reached the center, my heart began to sink a bit. The line was at least 3,000 people in it, moving incredibly slow and I started fearing this was all for naught. I don’t know if the ghost of Walt Disney felt my concerns, but it was at that moment when I realized the day was going to be one of the best. Whether I turned my head left or right, I saw countless people in various costumes, all of them looking magnificent in their own way. It didn’t matter if I saw seven different Ariels walk by, each had their own personal take on the mermaid. Instead of dreading how much longer this line was going to be, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to marvel at all the incredible cosplay designs people had thought of.

Upon entering the facility, I could feel my eyes widen like a kid in a candy store. Everywhere we looked there was something that begged to be investigated. Blanca suggested that we start in the middle and work our way to the outside of the convention room. (At the time, I thought the part of the convention that we were in was the entirety of it, so Blanca’s suggestion made sense to me…until I realized how truly big this convention center was.) Our first stop was this Animation station area that showed the various degrees of how the animated movies evolved throughout the years. It was incredible to see how far Disney’s creations had come. We spoke to a gentleman about an upcoming tour with the Imagineers, Disney’s magic workers that make everything special, so we promised to return.

After taking quick peeks at the recently announced Star Wars land and the Pixar area, we made our way to the place I was most excited for: Marvel’s stage. Beautiful costumes from the upcoming film Black Panther were on display, as well as some intergalactic gear from Thor’s next adventure. The art work on these outfits were wonderful to see up close, especially after watching them on the big screen. Aside from the costumes, there were also a few gaming stations that had Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, Marvel Heroes Omega and Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2. Blanca and I took a crack at Marvel vs. Capcom, my first time ever playing one of those games. I chose an unlikely pair in Thanos and Iron Man, don’t think they’ll be friendly in the next Avengers movie, and Blanca selected Captain Marvel and Rocket Raccoon. Despite many negative comments regarding the character design, the game felt very smooth and efficient. Most of the time I was simply button mashing, but some of the random attacks were awesome.

Once the battle for the Infinity Stones was over, we made our way back to the Imagineer tour. Seeing what goes on behind the scenes in making these classic rides, characters and movies really gives you a new sense of appreciation. There is so much work that needs to be done by so many different people to make the magic happen. Disney has people working on sound, 2D and 3D designs, there was even a guy who had a virtual reality machine to help envision the parks and rides. They have so many resources at their disposal to enhance fan experience and they do a fantastic job doing it.

Nearing the end of the tour, we were appropriately directed toward a gift shop. Seeing how my main goal for the day was to spend extreme amounts of money, I happily obliged. While waiting in line, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed to see what I had missed (trying to conserve battery) when I see the Marvel account tweet that Chadwick Boseman is over at the stage near Blanca and I had played Marvel vs Capcom. I tell Blanca and her sister to stay in line, as I race back to the stage and luckily, I’m able to snap a quick photo of him from afar. As I made my way back to the gift shop line, I spotted another celebrity out of the corner of my eye: Janina Gavankar! If you don’t know her by her real name, don’t fret, I didn’t either. What I do know her by is another name: Shivakamini Somakandarkram, otherwise known as, The Shiva. Gavankar played Somakandrakram in the fantasy football comedy The League, and is now recently the lead character of EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II. It was strange, though, because there were hardly any people near her, so at first, I questioned if it was really her. After checking her Wikipedia page, a handful of times, I safely took a few photos as well.

Feeling pretty good about myself after those two celebrity sightings, I let loose in the gift shop. Never had I ever shopped without looking at the price tag until that moment. It was glorious. I thought, “This is what being rich feels like, isn’t it?” I came away with some good quality Disney memorabilia, but of course I would find more in another larger shopping center that I thought did not exist.

To wrap up our extensive day, Blanca and I stumbled upon an elderly woman signing autographs and speaking with people. Curious, we went over to do some more investigating and learned that she was in fact the 1953 model for Tinker Bell, Margaret Kerry. Excited to meet an actual Disney legend, we waited in line for what seemed for ages, lots of people love chatting to Tink apparently. Kerry was an absolute delight. When I told her my name, she said that she’d never heard of an Avery before, and asked if I told people I owned that label company. It’s funny because I would tell everyone that that was my company when I was younger.

Following our conversation with Kerry, we decided it was time to call it a day. There was just too many things around us to spend money on and we were satisfied with our purchases. Overall, D23 was an experience I will never forget. If I could go back in time to when past Avery had originally declined, I would slap him in the face. Being someone who wants to attend many other gaming conventions, going to D23 was an eye-opener and set a standard for what I should expect. It’s unfortunate that the Disney convention is every other year, because I miss it already. In 2019 though, I vow to be a part of the cosplaying community and then people can ask for my picture.

Final Score: 10/10

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review: Swinging into the MCU

Marvel’s prodigal son has officially returned. Yes, Spider-Man did make his first “debut” in Captain America: Civil War (and also was recently revealed that he previously appeared in Iron Man 2), but this is the first solo Spider-Man movie since the Andrew Garfield project. However, we’re going to use the word “solo” very loosely here, as Spider-Man: Homecoming was as much an Iron Man movie as a Spider-Man movie.

The events of Spider-Man: Homecoming take place directly after Peter Parker’s involvement in Civil War. We are not told the origin story of the teenager getting bitten by the radioactive spider or see him cry for the umpteenth time over the death of Uncle Ben. The movie assumes that we know the basics of Spider-Man, and to a point, it does the movie both a disservice, but is also necessary for the narrative. The deal between Marvel and Sony to finally include the web-slinger in the Marvel Cinematic Universe this far into the game makes things a bit awkward. When you think of Marvel heroes, Spider-Man tends to be near the top of that list. So having to implement him while we are nearing the end of Phase 3, especially given that we are only three years removed from Garfield’s Amazing Spider-Man 2, there never really seemed like a good time or way to execute this. While no one is truly at fault for this, it’s just unfortunate to see arguably the most recognizable superhero get awkwardly squeezed into this larger universe.

One way that Marvel thought would help introduce Spider-Man into the MCU was to have a prominent Avenger guide him along the way: insert Tony Stark. While Parker and Stark share a very special connection in the comics, Homecoming is a pseudo-Iron Man film. From the beginning to the end, Stark’s presence weighed heavily on the film. While it’s understandable to have him in the film in order to help out Parker, it just seemed that we were being force fed some more Iron Man. This is a direct cause of introducing Spider-Man in Phase 3, and so this is just something that we have to deal with.

Regardless of Stark’s major inclusion in the film, Tom Holland did not disappoint in his first full rodeo as Spidey. Toby McGuire will forever have a special place in my heart, but Holland absolutely nails the high school teenager turned crime-fighter. The entire cast did a phenomenal job, especially Michael Keaton’s Vulture. Many critics have noted that most Marvel movies have weak villains, but Vulture is not one of them. Keaton was the best Marvel villain since Loki in the first Avengers movie, and it’s not close. Vulture’s ascension toward becoming a villain and his imminent downfall might be the first time a villain’s story was as important and interesting as the superhero. It’s also an interesting move that Sony and Marvel decided to have Vulture discover the identity of Spider-Man. It’s to be determined what he does with this information, though seeing how he reacted to Scorpion confronting him about it in the end scene, it seems that Vulture will keep it to himself.

One of the biggest reveals toward the end of the movie is finally telling us that Zendaya is indeed M.J. Many people guessed that the actress would be playing Parker’s love interest in Homecoming, but that role was taken by the senior Liz and daughter of Vulture. Following her father’s arrest and her subsequent move out of Queens, it seems that it’s time for M.J. (Michelle, still no-known last name) to take center stage. Zendaya’s M.J. is so far considerably different than the past love interests of Spider-Man with Kirsten Durst’s Mary Jane and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. While Durst and Stone were more of the typical damsels in distress, Zendaya showed extreme independence and a general sense of not caring about anything. It’s a refreshing take on the character and will be intriguing once she receives more screen time in the sequel.

Minus the large amount of Robert Downey, Jr., Spider-Man: Homecoming was the best Spidey movie since McGuire’s Spider-Man 2. Given the obstacles needed to hurdle in order to even get the web-slinger in the MCU and the awkwardness of inserting him this late in the game, Homecoming did what it needed to do. It presented a new, fresh take on the hero and his friends, and introduced new enemies that we haven’t seen before. Hopefully Sony and Marvel come to terms on a new deal that will extend Holland’s Spider-Man in the MCU, but in the meantime, let’s all just enjoy the ride.

Final Score: 8.75/10