Destiny Beta – Kuwaiti Player Review

My character dancing with some friends at The Tower.

When I first heard about Destiny I dismissed it. I thought, yeah, just another Call of Duty shooter but in space this time made by the creators of Halo. I didn’t give much attention to it, but two days ago one of my friends got beta access and invited me over to check the game out.

I was so so so wrong about Destiny.

Destiny is a first-person shooter game with role playing elements. You can choose between three classes, the mage like warlock, the aggressive/defensive titan or the agile hunter and level them up to get new abilities, new grenade types or augment your current skills. Its the bread and butter of role playing games these days and Destiny does it really well. You have different game modes, story where you play through missions for the story, explore where you can walk around a map and explore areas, find missions and do public events (rare events that randomly happen where anyone around you playing online can join in on), strike where you and team members have to fight really tough boss characters that can take up to 30 minutes to destroy, and the pvp mode called crucible, featuring modes like capture that is the only mode available in the beta currently.

After the long wait for the 13 GB download to finish, I started the game up as the the hunter class because I was going to play with some friends and they already chose the other classes. After 1 or 2 missions of the story where you get the full tutorial completed and get everything you need to start the game, you’re free to join others.

I joined up with some friends online and we blew through all the story missions including completing them on hard mode. We connected via voice chat and were coordinating the whole time, making wins that much more satisfying. Along the way we won some great weapons and armor from the missions we completed. I like the scout rifle and sniper rifle for my hunter because it matches the play style of the character.

On top of all that fun player vs. enemy content, there was still pvp to try out! We played pvp for hours and were having such a blast. I think its amazing that they found a great balance between the different class abilities so that in pvp nothing feels overpowered. Class design is done exceptionally well and don’t forget the multiplayer maps are really good designs too.

What we have here dear friends is a game that encompasses the multiplayer experience. Great gameplay, great game modes and great rewards for playing with friends.

Here are the things I like most about the game so far:

  • Every gun feels distinct, and I’m not just talking about from gun type to gun type, even the same gun types with different stats handle differently. If you have more impact you notice it, and if you have a higher rate of fire you notice it. The gun play is very well done.
  • The strike modes are sooooo fun. Battling really tough enemies that take upwards of 15 minutes to destroy with friends is really enjoyable. I played the strike mode in the beta maybe 6 times so far and haven’t gotten bored of it yet. I really hope they put a lot of strike modes in the final game.
  • At first I thought the hunter’s special move, the golden gun, was under powered, but after playing pvp I found that all the special moves for every class is very well balanced. They’re all strong in their own right and have good cooldown rates where the matches are not full of them. You have to use them strategically because you can only use them once or twice per match.
  • The loot system is done very well. You’re not overburdened with loot like in games such as Diablo 3, where you constantly get crap loot and have to keep teleporting back to town to sell them all or just throw them on the ground. With Destiny, enemies and bosses rarely drop any items and you only usually will get something as a mission reward, and even then they will only give you a max of 2 new items. Plus at any time you want you can open up the menu and dismantle and old or crappy item and it will instantly give you glimmer (the game’s currency). This is so much faster than having to go back to the main town to sell stuff and it is a really smart way to handle loot in general.

Another amazing feature of the game is special events. Last night they had an Iron Banner special event for PVP where you can get unique items that are only available during that time period. My friends and I played our best and we kept winning a lot. I ended up winning a legendary hand canon that is named after the Iron Banner event, and my friend won a legendary ship! If they have special events like this every weekend then it will entice me to play all the time and get the best gear!

And now for the most important face of all, which to me can be the deal breaker of playing a multiplayer game in Kuwait.

There is little to no lag in player vs. enemy. 

Seriously. At first I was put off that the game is entirely played online, and with Kuwait’s Internet that means its going to lag. We constantly have to play with lag in games like Diablo 3 and League of Legends, where 150-200ms is normal. But surprisingly in player vs. enemy, I feel very little lag, to the point where its negligible. Even with pvp its not that bad, where only a handful of enemies I ever played against I noticed were laggy. The net-code done for this game is amazing.

Do I have any criticisms? Yes. First, when my friends and I make a team to play pvp, every other game it disconnects either one one or all of us, forcing us to recreate a team again which can be a time drain. Bungie have already acknowledged the issue on their blog and hopefully it will be fixed by the time the full game is released. Second, although the special event was awesome, there was very little information given to the player about it. I didn’t even know how to join the event until I searched everywhere for it and finally found it. Also it turns out that there are special pvp bounties you can get at The Tower only during the event, and a special shop is open only open during the event also. I had no clue and only found out when I read about it online on forums. For the full release I really hope they put an announcement in game at least 24 hours before a special event starts with full instructions.

Destiny is the multiplayer experience. Getting online with friends, exploring new areas, kicking ass and getting awesome loot. Destiny is seriously contender for one of the best multiplayer games I ever played and I am so hype for the full release. Plus they didn’t even give us a raid mode in the beta where you have to team up with 6 of your friends to take on really even tougher bosses! I can’t wait for the full release!

The Best Socks in the World – Darn Tough Socks

I find it tough to find good socks. Firstly because it’s tough to find a pair that fit my large feet (size 14 wide), and secondly because its tough to gauge the quality of a sock until you’ve worn it a couple of times, and when you buy a 3 or 6 pack and realize they’re not as good as you hopped, you’re kind of stuck with them.

So I’m strolling around The Avenues Mall and I walk into Carbon Fiber. I notice on the socks rack a sock named Darn Tough Socks and the features entice me. They’re made in the US state of Vermont, they’re made of high quality materials and they offer coolmax technology that keeps your feet dry even during the hottest weather, plus they make a sock size of XL that fit my feet, which is tough to find even in Kuwait!

I purchased two pairs of the 1/4 coolmax cushion socks and after wearing them just once I fell in love. They feel great and don’t slip in any of my shoes. They’re also padded so comfort is great, and I can attest to the coolmax technology because I’ve been walking around outside when its over 45C and my feet have kept from sweating.

Now they are a bit pricey compared to other socks (5 KD per pair), but trust me, the price is justified. And by the way, if they rip or get worn out from use, you can actually return them for a brand new free pair with their lifetime unconditional warranty.

You owe it to yourself to check out Darn Tough Socks.

Dark Souls 2 – Beat

My Dark Souls 2 character “imnotabanana”

Two weeks of pain, sweat and tears trying to beat the game that takes no mercy, but I’ve finally done it.

I have beat Dark Souls 2.

I love the Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls franchise. I beat Demon’s Souls tons of times and I initially struggled with beating Dark Souls but after putting it down for a while and coming back to it I got all the energy I needed to beat it. Now I can add another Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls game to my beaten list. I really enjoyed this game. I felt the weapons and armor were more balanced compared to Dark Souls. There were a bunch of memorable moments just from battles with regular enemies, and there were many enemies that were very tough and needed lots of strategy to beat. Bosses felt cheaper and not as developed compared to previous games because the majority of them were big tough guys or 2-3 bosses at the same time. You’d think that throwing multiple bosses at you at once would make it impossible to beat, but surprisingly I beat many of the multi-boss fights by my self with few retries. I only ever summoned someone to help me maybe 2 or 3 times. The final boss was disappointing and seemed too easy, but I felt the same way about the final boss in the first Dark Souls.

In this game I had a really fun time with the Rat Covenant. It’s a covenant where you summon unsuspecting players to a trap filled labyrinth and they have to try and survive it all while fighting against you! I even recorded some matches and made a video of my most epic battles, which you can check out below:

Tales from the Grave of Saints – Funny Dark Souls 2 PVP

To conclude, I loved this game. but I think I may have enjoyed the first Dark Souls a bit more. There was more atmosphere, more memorable bosses and what seemed like a better world design. I can’t wait to see what comes next in the series.

Started Watching Game of Thrones

I’m a bit late to the party, but I started watching Game of Thrones. My wife has already seen the series up to the latest episode and she’s told me about it numerous times, but now I’ve finally committed myself to watching it.

I’m about halfway through season 1 and I’m enjoying it. The acting is superb, locations/sets great and the story is gripping. And oh yeah, there’s nudity hehehe.

Can’t wait to see what happens next!

New Laptop: Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro

My 2012 13″ Macbook Pro was starting to get a little slow and annoying, so I decided to check out some new laptops. Usually I stick with Apple laptops because of things like good battery life, nice design, nice quality and great screens, but this time I went with a Windows laptop. Why? Because I saw the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro in person and was impressed.

The coolest feature about it is that it can flip the screen and put it in a “tent” mode and if you flip the screen all the way back it can be used like a tablet. Aside from that its got a gorgeous IPS touch-screen, a higher than HD and higher than Macbook Retina Display resolution of 3200×1800, and its super slim and light weight. Plus its got the latest specs such as a i7 Haswell chip, 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD for the same price as a lower spec’d Macbook Air. So far I’ve been really impressed with the outright speed of the laptop. 3-second shut downs, 7-second start up and having both Chrome and Firefox open at the same time with 10 tabs each without any kind of slow down. It’s a powerhouse and the i7 and SSD will keep it that way for at least a year or two.

Unfortunately, there were a few hiccups when I first got it. The screen didn’t display yellow properly and I had to update the BIOS and download an energy manager app to fix it, the wifi was randomly disconnecting and I had to find the right driver to fix it, the touchpad was really inaccurate and it took me about an hour or two to find the right one to make it work properly, and the screen annoyingly flickers when the brightness is lower than 40%.

I almost contemplated taking the laptop back but I didn’t, and that’s because all of these issues were acknowledged by Lenovo and they pushed out fixes in the form of drivers. I personally think that’s great customer service and they are awesome for trying to fix the issues because lots of other companies would just ignore their customers!

The only issue that has not been fixed yet is the weird flickering at lower than 40% brightness, but Lenovo has acknowledged it and is working on a fix.

Aside from the initial issues, this laptop has 2 cons.

1. 3200×1800 is a gimmick, but its not Lenovo’s fault. You see, most applications have not caught up to high-DPI screens and as a result you get apps with teeny-tiny text that are completely unreadable without a magnifying glass, such as Google Chrome and Adobe Photoshop. The fix? Put your resolution lower. Right now I have my laptop at 1080p and the screen still looks just as good as with 3200×1800, plus its given me about an extra hour out of my battery life! Oh, speaking of batter life. That’s the other con.

2. Battery life. Most Haswell processor laptops are easily achieving 9 hours of battery life but unfortunately the Yoga 2 Pro doesn’t. If you use 3200×1800 on a balanced battery mode you get around 6 hours, but on 1080p on balanced you get around 7 hours and a half. To be honest it doesn’t really matter to me as I usually just keep my laptop in the charger, but the 7 hours is nice when I’m unplugged. So even though battery life is about 2 hours short compared to other laptops, its still plenty enough for me.

I give the Yoga 2 Pro a 4/5, and that’s after all the initial driver fixes. Everything about this laptop rocks, especially the fantastic speeds of the i7/SSD combo and the great looking IPS screen, but the 3200×1800 gimmick resolution and not-good-as-others battery keeps it from getting a perfect score. Hopefully app makers will soon start supporting high-DPI resolution so I can use the 3200×1800 again, but right now it’s just a gimmick.

IKEA Kuwait Website ROCKS!

You need new furniture, but who likes browsing through the huge furniture showrooms in Shuwaikh? And how many times have you seen something you like on display only to find out its out of stock? Plus you can’t budget anything because you won’t know what the prices will be till you actually go to the showroom!

I like to plan my furniture purchases, create a theme and buy stuff knowing that what I’m getting all works out and fits my budget. That’s why the IKEA Kuwait website rocks so much. It has the same functionalities of their international websites in that, it shows you what’s available to buy, if its in stock and how much it is.

My wife and I planned out our furniture purchases for 2 weeks before even entering the IKEA store. We changed stuff around based on stock, worked with the design we were going for and did it all behind a computer screen in the comfort of our home. When we were all ready to buy, all we did was print out our shopping list that had all the specific article numbers for the IKEA salespeople to easily add into their register.

In Kuwait that’s unheard of. There’s plenty of well known businesses here that still have 100% flash based websites that were made in the early 2000′s, so its nice to have such a great website here in Kuwait. The IKEA website made it an absolute breeze to buy all our furniture for our new apartment and I highly recommend checking it out.

http://www.ikea.com/kw/en/

My Contribution To TwitchPlaysPokemon

Twitch, the awesome video game streaming website, is hosting a special TwitchPlaysPokemon event where the chat box acts as the commands for the game Pokemon for the Game Boy. You type in the chat box a command such as “b” and a script bot will press the b button in the game. At the time of this post there’s been 8+ million viewers and at any given time there are 40,000+ people chatting in the chat box trying to control the game and play it. The game has been running for 5 days now and who knows how much longer it will take to beat it, if ever.

I contributed to this auspicious moment in history. Here’s a screenshot:

Surprisingly they’ve gotten pretty far in Pokemon, although it sometimes takes hours to get past something simple as a town or getting a Pokemon to cut a branch, something that takes a couple button presses in less than 5 seconds but TwitchPlaysPokemon took around 17 hours to do successfully. This event is a first of its kind and a bunch of memes have been created based on it. Many times during battle the game opens up the item box and continuously clicks on the Helix Fossil, so memes have sprung up about consulting the glorious and holy Helix Fossil. While I was watching yesterday they managed to “accidentally” release their starter Pokemon, a Charmander then evolved into a Chameleon, named ABBBBBBK ) which people have nicknamed him “Abby,” and right after it they released their caught Ratata, named JLVWNNOOOO which people nicknamed “Jay Leno.” The Internet has even named the Pidgeot “Bird Jesus” because he somehow got to a really high level and is fully evolved. It’s hilarious watching because start is constantly pressed and they keep saving the game after every few steps. Here’s a handful of the most funniest memes/fan art I saw:

http://gfycat.com/RingedWindyChrysalis

You can keep updated about the progress of TwitchPlaysPokemon by viewing this Google doc:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ka89uCBeLl9VV5GPlAKuW7yF8FGtnVmdbPnIwG8FnQ4/preview?pli=1&sle=true

An Ode To Suikoden 2

The year was 1999. I was but a mere 10 years old. While walking around Al Muthana Mall in Kuwait City with my dad, we entered a games shop store. “What’s the latest PS1 games?” I asked, one of the most common ways of finding out what new games are out back in the day. He showed me a myriad of games but only one caught my eye. On the cover there was a young boy with red clothes and I thought that he looked cool. Turning it around and reading about the game sparked my interest even more, you can recruit 108 characters? Create and build your own castle? Awesome 6 player battle system? I was sold and bought it right away.

That game was Suikoden 2.

Suikoden 2 is what is known as a JRPG, a japanese style game where you role play as the main character, gain experience and level up by fighting monsters in a turn based battle system and fight crazy hard bosses! I loved JRPG games when I was younger, especially Final Fantasy and Breath of Fire, but this JRPG somehow touched me in a way other games haven’t before. It was probably the first game I can remember where I got really emotional about the story and characters in the game.

I don’t want to go too in depth with the story, but the basics are that you and your best friend, named Jowy, are caught up in a huge war where at first you were by each others sides but through fate are divided and become enemies. The third main character is Nanami, your older sister who’s personality is easy to fall in love with. The game is full of great dialogue, fascinating plot developments and gripping story telling. When someone asks me to show them a game with a great story I always point them towards Suikoden 2.

The music is breathtaking. The main theme and most of the music in the game is orchestrated. The melodies and themes are gripping and really lend well to many of the scenes from the story. I urge you to have a listen to my favorite track called Reminiscence which is played at the start of the game:

Suikoden 2 – Reminiscence (IN COLOR!)

The character designs in this game are so fun. Many of them are cool, some of them are comedic and lots of them are really interesting. I found myself laughing tons of times during the game and it shows that they knew when to make you laugh for comedic relief.

You can actually recruit 108 characters in the game. Think of it like Pokemon where you’re trying to catch as many as you can. Some characters join automatically, while others are tough to recruit with certain requirements needed to be done before you can get them, like getting your castle to level 5, or already having 100 characters recruited. You can easily replay the game trying to get characters you missed, or even trying to recruit all 108. To this day, I have never completed the game after recruiting all 108 characters, which is what brings me to this blog entry.

You cannot get the “true” ending of the game without collecting all 108 characters before a certain event towards the end of the game.

I played the game when I was 10 and I recruited around 80 of the characters so I didn’t get the true ending. I replayed the game in 2007 when I was 17 and I recruited about 100 of the characters and still didn’t get the true ending. I felt this hole in my heart, like I would always have the burden that I never beat the game and got the true ending. I had to do it. It was my fate, just as it was the fate of the characters in the game to do what they had to do.

I put my nerd glasses on, downloaded a PSX emulator, loaded a PS1 save of Suikoden, where in the game if you do that you get special side quests related to the first Suikoden game as well as a handful of stat and equipment bonuses for characters from the first game, and started up Suikoden 2 again.

I rode a nostalgia trip. The beautiful orchestrated music, the fun battle system, the amazing characters and my very own castle. I seriously had so much fun replaying this game for the third time, and guess what, I did it. With the help of a guide on the Internet, I finally recruited all 108 stars of destiny and got to play and watch the true ending of the game.

I got tearey eyed while watching the true ending.

I highly encourage all those who enjoy RPG games to give Suikoden 2 a chance and you will easily see why this game is so great. Thank you Konami for making such a fun and well made game. It has a special place in my heart that I will cherish forever.