Summoners War – My Other Obsession

summonerswar2

Aside from World of Warcraft, the other game I’ve been obsessing about for the last 8 months or more is Summoners War, a tablet/mobile only free to play game.

I began playing this game in direct response to every other ‘free to play’ game I’ve ever tried. Basically, I got sick of every damn thing I ever tried to do in a F2P game being stuck behind paywalls, especially duration avoidance paywalls.

“Oh, do you want to do x quest? Well start it and check back in eight hours when it’s complete for your reward! Or complete it immediately for only 30 crystals! Oh, need crystals? You can buy 100 crystals for only $5.00 dollars!”

Um no. HELL no. LOLZ NO WTFDIAFBBQ.

I tried mobile F2P games. I did. The short list includes Transformers Earth Wars, Soul Seeker, Loot & Legends, Soul Hunters – Assassin’s Age, Star Wars Uprising, Transformers Battle Tactics, Marvel Contest of Champions, Star Wars Commander, Marvel Puzzle Quest, Puzzle & Dragons, Spirit Stones, Terra Battle, Marvel Avengers Academy, Puzzle Forge II, Slingshot Braves, Heroes of Dragon Age and Clash of Clans.

Of them all, only Marvel Puzzle Quest kept me coming back for a game that had some game in there without a truly horrendous paywall. The others were just a nightmare after a while. Granted, some are worse than others, but after the last one I almost quit entirely and settled on Solitaire.

FYI my son likes Cut The Rope. But there isn’t enough game there for me for long.

Then I did an internet search along the lines of ‘a mobile free2play game that doesn’t try to screw you out of a bazillion dollars every freaking day.’

Okay, the search may not have been phrased in quite that way.

Oh who am I kidding, of course it was.

What I came up with was Summoners War. It seemed to be a game that not only had a lot of folks saying it was a great game that allowed you to play extensively without having to pay, but the more I looked into it the more I found it has a massive online community. Wiki sites, Youtube videos, Twitch streams, Reddit, it’s a game with a ton of excited, engaged players writing about it…

And theorycrafting about it.

Ding ding ding!

What has WoW taught me?

If a game is good enough to attract a very large online presence that can find enough meat on the bones to develop thousands of fan written pages of theorycrafting suggestions, strategy guides, how to videos and leveling plans, then there is something there worth checking out.

So I tried it because hey, what have I got to lose?

I love this game. In fact I would love to give them money every month just to reward them for giving me a game I can play without feeling like I have to give them money.

Counter intuitive, I know.

Now don’t get me wrong. The game loves to pop up ads for their other games on the screen as you log in. It’s also how they notify you of new special events going on. They also frequently post ads for in game goodies you can buy when you transition from one part of the game to another. Not often enough to be annoying, just enough to remind you they would like some money.

But the difference here is you don’t have to watch out of game ads to do anything. You don’t actually have to buy anything.

No, I really mean it. I’ve been playing this thing for a pretty long time now. Every day. Hours a day sometimes depending on what content I’m doing.

If I’m farming Faimon Hell level 1 with my Dagora water element Warbear to shepherd low level monsters to get xp, you get mana and energy back at such a high rate that I have played, literally, for HOURS before I ran out of energy.

Other times, if I want to run a Hall of Magic dungeon repeatedly to farm a particular element to Awaken a monster to it’s final form, well I can blow through all of my current energy in about 20 minutes.

You randomly draw monsters from scrolls, and there are five grades (stars) of monsters that can spawn, with a max star ranking of 6. So of course the weakest monsters are one star, and the most powerful are the ‘natural five star’.

The common scrolls summon monsters from 1 to 3 stars in power, Mystic Scrolls can summon monsters that are guaranteed three stars or better, and there are Legendary Scrolls you can buy or earn through competing hard content that give you a four or five star on use.

But it’s not just a simple ‘buy our expensive scrolls to get good monsters’ thing as you’d expect.

In fact, if you apply yourself and do a little study and theorycraft monsters to accomplish specific tasks like clearing the very hardest levels of the Giants dungeon or the Dragons dungeon, what you find out is that there are some naturally occurring two and three star monsters that are some of the baddest mofos in the game, useful damn near anywhere.

That if you’re careful in your study, research a list of highly useful monsters for specific tasks, and know what to save to level up and what is safe to get rid of (feed) to other monsters to level them up or improve their skills you can go as far as you want in the game.

You can play every bloody thing in this entire game without ever spending a dime, and that is the truth.

But you have to accept that you’re in it for a long term game. It’s all about building the right monsters for the right goals and assembling a team composition that succeeds based on synergistic abilities modified by the custom runes that you equip to enhance aspects of abilities.

Yeah, it sounds like bullshit, but since I don’t raid anymore, this game scratches my theorycrafting itch.

For example, data research shows that up until the last patch at least the highest return on xp coupled with mana value in salable items and usable random monster drops as treasure came from killing Faimon level 1 in Hell difficulty, with one maxed out monster that can solo it carrying three other monsters that you’re leveling.

So I studied that dungeon, found that it was all fire monsters. Fire is vulnerable as hell to water based monsters, so I wanted a water based monster with a reliable self-heal that could deal sustained damage. A monster I could get myself instead of buying scrolls and praying for a lucky drop.

What I came up with was the water warbear Dagora.

The water warbear drops randomly from any of the Mount White Ragon dungeons, so early content you can do at low levels with a starter team. It’s a three star monster, but once leveled to 6 star and awakened and tricked out with Energy runes (mine is all energy +HP% runes so it boosts hit points as much as possible) it becomes a soloing badass. See, its special abilities are to do damage based on your max HP, heal yourself for 30% of your max HP pus get a defense buff for a few turns, and once every six turns be able to resurrect yourself if you die with 30% of your HP.

I mean, shit man. You just pound away at foes, automatically healing yourself periodically, and if you get a really bad run of luck and get bumped off, you self rez.

I’ve had a 100% success rate since I built Dagora at a very early point in the game, and being able to 100% solo Faimon Hell 1 means I can be carrying three other baby monsters for XP all day long AND getting other rewards like mana and monsters while I’m doing it.

So now I can level other stuff quick and reliably with goo energy rates of return. Suddenly, that opens up the rest of the game to seeking out specific monsters and leveling them up.

I ain’t saying you’d like it. I’m saying *I* like it. I find it endlessly enjoyable to have multiple monsters I’m leveling, teams for specific dungeon goals I’m building, strategies I’m trying out.

And now that I’ve built a big team of three star monsters, why, guess what? I am able to run higher level content that drops tons of resources, and that allows me to do stuff that awards tons of the premium in-game currency every week.

That lets me, for zero actual money, get in-game currency by the ton to buy the premium in game scrolls.

And that lets me do the GOOD summons, a lot, and heck if four star and five-star monsters don’t start showing up.

Some four star monsters are considered better than natural five stars simply because of their skills and where they are useful.

I’m at the point where I have a couple of natural five-star quality monsters, a BIG stable of really good natural four stars, I’ve leveled and upgraded a bunch of monsters to max 6 star badass quality. I’m able to 100% clear Giants B10 for sweet rewards, I get very good world boss kills every week, decent rank on world PvP, and I’m doing well enough in guild wars each week to have built tw five star monsters from guild rewards.

Oh, and did I mention that if your luck is just horrendous you have the options of saving low-level monsters that can be fused together to build higher rank monsters, some of which are must haves? Like the dark Ifrit, Veromos. He’s a badass used everywhere… and any free to play player with patience can plan which monsters you need to save to be able to eventually fuse him together.

I guess what I’d say to wrap up is, Summoners War is as massive a multiplayer game as WoW, with as rich and deep a gameplay mechanic as I have ever heard of, but with a level of entry that takes you as deep as you want to go.

It also has a ton of PVE if you want to do that and never play against other people. It has live one on one PVP, live multi-player raids at end game for three people to take on a Hydra, and weekly ranked guild battles, and on and on and on.

I also personally like the graphics. I find the design engaging. I love this natural 5 star dragon design for example (and no I do not have this dragon. It’s one of those rare maybe someday things like hens teeth).

summonerswar_zaiross

And finally, the thing that probably sells me on it the most. They have events all the time. Events with really sweet in-game rewards including their premium currency. If you play the damn game, they actually give you good stuff to encourage you to keep playing.

All I can figure is, they have figured out that if they hit a sweet spot and stay extremely active, with so many people playing they’re going to have a ton of whales supporting it.

Whatever it is, it’s amazing. There is always, ALWAYS something new to do, some new form of progression that feels like an attainable challenge that just takes time, patience and careful research.

One of my favorite things at this point eight or more months in is that I’ll be planning my next leveling / upgrading path for a goal based on what monsters I have or can fuse together, and halfway through it one of the great rewards I frequently get for being able to do hard stuff will drop a game changing monster that throws all my plans out the window because BADASS ALERT and now I want to change my strategy to accommodate the new monster.

Do you see? There isn’t just one way to achieve a goal. There isn’t even a best way to get there! There is your way, built on what monsters you have or can get or get from a drop or choose to farm, and how you gear them up with equippable runes.

Maybe someone else has a team to clear Dragons B10, but their team uses mostly four star monsters or even five stars, and yeah, you don’t have them and at early stages figure you never will.

But that’s okay, because if you search for Dragons B10 farm teams that can be built using easily obtained or farmed three star monsters or fused monsters like Veromos, why, that’s out there. Doable. Damn straight.

Like I said, I haven’t dropped money on the game. BUt I have a team I’ve built that has a 100% success rate at farming Giants B10, the highest level of the ten level Giants dungeon, which can drop some of the best grade runes as well as scrolls and other stuff.

For players just reading to see what I screwed up in describing this game, my Giants B10 auto 100% team is formed of Veromos as leader, with Ahman built as Violent with 100% crit rate, Belladeon not-Violent, Shannon and Bernard. Tried and true foundation of most starter teams for Giants B10, all six starred because I like to hit start on the run and go do other stuff, then glance down after a few minutes and see my rewards.

giantsb10

I had been working on a Dragons B10 team at the same time as building a Trial of Ascension 100th floor team at the same time, with Sigmarus, Veromos, Belladeon, Mikene and Ahman as my planned Dragons team, and Beretta, Veromos, Bernard, Belladeon and Spectra for a TOA 100 team. Just had Spectra drop for me last week, and I was super excited because I’d had the fire griffon once before but like a dumbass I fed it to a different monster because I didn’t understand how good its third ability really was. Once I started looking at Trial of Ascension I was seriously kicking myself for throwing away one of the most powerful monsters I could hope to have for it… because I didn’t know any better.🙂

I say those were the teams I was building… and both those teams would be viable and farmable or fusible for any player.

But then I opened some scrolls last night that I bought in the 750 gem/11 scroll premium pack (bought with event rewards and world boss winnings and your best buy for the gem price) and got three of the most powerful monsters in the game for those events, Chandra Verdehile and Hwa.

Damnit. Hwa with Verdehile are game changers useful damn near everywhere including pvp.

Welp. So there go those plans. Time to fall back and research some more. Because what those monsters can do can change my strategy from building a longevity and endure/outlast team that takes four minutes and replaces it with a speed kill team focusing on.. well, speed kills.

The long view.

Your mileage may vary. You may try it, and without a feeling of instant gratification or progression hate it with a passion. Or maybe you’ll see the massive amount of things that can be done that you simply can’t do yet until you’ve built the start of some good monsters and get overwhelmed.

But maybe you’ll try it and think, “Damn, here’s a game I can pop on my phone and play during breaks or anytime I’ve got 15 minutes to kill, and always have something to do, and always be improving just a little bit.”

A game that rewards careful planning, strategy and research.

And maybe you’ll look me up in-game as a friend, I’m Bigbearbutt. If you send me a friend invite, you’ll have access to use my monster once a day. It can farm Faimon Hell 1, so hey, you’ll have 1 run a day where you can let your other monsters be carried. It’s not much, but every little bit counts.

And be sure to say hi!

Unconventional Means

To start the Legion expansion, you have to pick what spec you’ll play as, since that determines your Artifact.

Once you reach 102, you can pick up a quest at your class order hall that sends you off to complete the story paths for the other two… should you wish to do so.

artifact-chains

Now, obviously the intent here is that you change your spec to the one for the new artifact, and try it out. Learn how to use it. That sort of thing. And it makes sense. Why stagnate? Why not try something new?

Scaling has been added to the Broken Isles quest zones, so no matter where you are your opponents will be around your level. The Artifact quests are no different. Whenever you choose to face them, they will remain around your level in difficulty.

Of course, we don’t know exactly how they’re coded to scale, do we? Are they level based only?

Do they care about iLevel, and will scale at 110 to ramp up to your new fancy raider iLevels? Do they compensate if you try to do them with, say, a different spec than intended and a leveled up Artifact already in your greedy little fingers?

Interesting questions.

I can tell you this. If you want to try to complete your other Artifacts using your primary favorite spec, don’t hesitate to give it a solid shot.

For my Hunter, I chose in Legion to go completely freaking crazy. For the first time in over ten years of playing Hunters, I chose something other than Beastmaster; I went Marksmanship.

Mayhap I’ll go over my reasons in a future blog post if anyone cares, but it’s not relevant to this discussion. What is, is that when I decided to go after the Beastmaster Artifact Titanstrike, I did so as a Marksmanship Hunter and wielding my spiffy artifact bow.

It was zero problem. In fact, having done the Hunter Titanstrike artifact quests in Beta as a Beastmaster, I’d say it was far easier this go around as a 106 Marks Hunter, and I attribute that completely to having a partially leveled artifact already in my possession. Also, when solo Marks I roll with my Bear pet out and proud and Misdirect to him frequently, so it’s not as if I was without a pet.

Okay, so DPS to DPS, fine. Big surprise there.

But what about DPS to something else?

Allow me to use as anecdotal evidence the strange case of the Cassie and the Enhancement Shaman.

My wife, who has hit 110 long before I did and as I write this is complaining that she still has two whole zones she hasn’t explored yet and the game has thrown a million new things at her since dinging 110 and is bitching about pacing, has completed all three of her Artifact stories.

Not leveling, just the stories.

And she did all three as… an Enhancement Shaman.

Yes. Yes she did.

No, I do not know what possesses someone to look at a healing Artifact story and think, “Meh, I’ll do it as Enhancement. How bad can it be.”

But she did.

She did the Elemental one first, and said it was fine, no problems at all.

The Restoration Shaman Artifact, she had the gall to complain that she almost dies once and it took a long time to finish as Enhance.

Really? Sigh.

But she did it, and I guess that proves something.

I’m not sure what. That if you’re really and truly crazy, you can find a way?

I mean love can find a way. That’s what I meant.

Still, I see it as inspiration. I still have yet to attempt the Hunter Survival Artifact.

Dare I try it as Marksmanship and see if it can be done by a ranged Hunter?

Yes. Yes, I think I shall.

Here goes nothing!

Updated on 9/18 – success!

They say a every pictures tells a story…

talonclaw

It turned out completing this on Marksmanship was easy, but gave me a few moments. I had to use Flare… wait, that’s on my bar, right? Oh yes, there it is!

And then they asked me to lay a trap, and quest completion required me to lay a trap. Oh shit, I don’t have traps! Am I going to have to switch specs to Survival just so I can get traps?

Nope.

The trap icon on the ground allowed me to interact with it directly, placing a trap just by clicking on it. Mission accomplished, panic averted.🙂

The spear Talonclaw is cool, and I am glad to have it. I definitely intend to try out the melee Hunter Survival spec at some point and see what it feels like.

Until then though, it’s Marksmanship Hunter and Guardian Druid all the way!

Artifact and Artifiction

We’ve barely started on our journey through this Warcraft expansion, but I’ve already developed a love / hate relationship with the artifacts.

 

The artifacts have class AND spec specific stories tied to them. Love it.

The artifacts give us something to build on throughout the expansion. Leveling them, expanding capabilities, becoming more powerful over time. Growing as we grow. Love it.

The artifacts give us new challenges to figure out and collect to unlock colors and styles. Love it.

The artifacts replace our weapons for the entire expansion. Hate it.

Sorry, it is what it is.

At this point I’ve done the artifact quests for the Frost Mage, Marksmanship Hunter, Guardian (tank) Druid, Outlaw Rogue and Retribution Paladin.

I loved them all. Each and every one was so much fun! I honestly don’t want to play through leveling so much as see ‘what awesome new and exclusive story will THIS share with me?’

Aside from the unique stories, the other thing I love is how each artifact spec story requires you to use various class specific abilities. In some cases, abilities I’ve never bothered having on my bar before because, hey, didn’t do anything to bosses in raids so why bother, amiright?

I’m not going to spoil any of the specifics, but let’s just say that there were a few times when I found myself at a loss until I remembered that the class or spec could do something.

The worst was definitely a challenge that I found impossible to overcome, until I remembered that Mages could, you know, Spellsteal. Once I tried that and stole a boss buff, OMG I felt like such a ditz.

I really like the way each one is designed to make you use abilities. I don’t know, but I’d imagine new players to a class that applied a level 100 token would experience it as a good training ground for the basics.

Frustrating as hell maybe, but then again maybe not.

The one class and spec I was least familiar with was the Outlaw Rogue. I mean shoot, they didn’t even exist before, so how COULD I be familiar with them?

And yet that was one of the easiest for me to complete, possibly because the spec was so new to me that I went through every ability, every optional Talent and figured out rotations and proc triggers before I went in. So I had it fresh in mind that I could Bribe humanoid NPCs. Protip; again, LOVED IT in the artifact mission.

But I hate the way artifacts clash with ALL of my transmogs.

It’s the one thing I wish were implemented differently.

Every character that has an artifact weapon has it transmogged to something else. Even my Druid has the fist weapons transmogged to better fit my favorite appearance like so;

bbb-legionmog

Not one single character uses the default artifact appearance.

I’m sure in time someone will unlock one of the alternate weapon appearances to something I like, but so far not yet.

But there is one artifact that takes it a different way, and I wish it were the standard.

Shocker, it’s the Druid.

The Druid artifact doesn’t just have a weapon appearance; it replaces your default form too.

And it’s marvelous.

bearform_bliss

This is so wonderful. He looks magnificent.

And, just like the other artifacts, there are different colors and appearances you can unlock!

This is the direction I wish all the other artifacts had gone. Not as a weapon, a trinket we carry, but as something that changes our appearance at a fundamental level to reflect the changes taking place from our choices and increasing growth.

If the artifacts changed every character appearance in terms of skin color, adding horns or other minor superficial modifications, applied glows or similar weapon enchant style effects, maybe added thorns and vines growing from or winding around/under skin, mecha skins, ice/faceted skin or fel/red/purple flames, hell you know exactly what I mean, right?

If that was done for all artifacts, then every player would have a truly innate difference in appearance from the artifact that implied how powerful YOU were becoming, a change that would still allow all transmog items including weapons to matter.

It’s the only thing about artifacts that I personally don’t like. I mean sure, the weapons themselves are badass, Ashbringer and Doomhammer, right? How can that not feel iconic and epic and engaging.

But I feel like if I’m the new wielder of Ashbringer, I have a responsibility to walk around, you know, wielding Ashbringer. Or the Doomhammer.

I don’t want to. I especially don’t want to be one of a dozen wielders of the Ashbringer in a raid.

It’s so cliche but it’s true, straight from Syndrome, once everyone wields Ashbringer, nobody does. Not really. They’re just cheap Holodeck replicas.

There can only ever be one real Ashbringer, and the five of us in this raid are just swinging a memory.

It recalls something I saw in the recent Marvel Secret Wars event, and was reflected again in Fantastic Four with the Council of Reeds. There were multiple Infinity Gauntlets, and maybe the intention was to up the feeling of godlike power but instead for me felt like it made Infinity Gauntlets a dime a dozen trinket. Having more than one cheapened the hell out of the impact.

It’s something that, again, helps limit my desire to hit max level. The single player artifact stories and questing are wonderful, but the suspension of disbelief gets stretched as more Ashbringers join an end game raid.

Druids have it going on. Artifact transmog doesn’t matter because your gear has never been displayed in forms, but now we do get a transmog. It’s called choosing various artifact themes and colors so your form feels a little more different, even beyond our normal hair color choices.

Can you imagine playing a Gnome mage that had as just one choice an artifact appearance that made you look like a mechagnome for mechanical Hunters? Or a leper Gnome for Warlocks?

Or a Dwarven Elemental Shaman that could have the stone Dwarf form appearance all the time, or fire or water for that matter?

I have one hope.

Just as I saw the farm in Pandaria and hoped that someday we’d see what became Garrisons in Draenor as the tech was developed, so too do I hope that once we retire our artifacts at the beginning of the next expansion we will get a new, expanded artifact system where we ourselves become imbued with the artifact power system and that we DO get to have dozens of skins or glows effects to seek out, apply and play with.

It could happen. Right?

Lurching through Legion

Welcome back my friends to a new blog post, my first about the new expansion in World of Warcraft. The Legion has returned, and Azeroth will burn through the changes.

sarcasticadh

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Long enough so that the only folks that will read this are friends of mine, so we can be honest here, can’t we?

A new expansion is here, and playing the characters, leveling through the zones. It’s pretty great.

No, it’s more than that. The feelings I’ve had leveling through the zones has been like what I think Vanilla was like, but probably wasn’t. It’s that good.

And yet… and yet, I’m only level 105. I look at the computer at night, consider logging into WoW, and I watch Daredevil or Justice League Unlimited on Netflix instead.

So, what’s going on? How can I feel like it’s great and yet not get drawn into playing for hours without end, losing myself within the rich and varied stories of the new zones of the Broken Isles?

My wife is level 108 on her main. It’s nothing here or there, but it’s indicative that maybe part of it’s me.

She’s always loved the story of WoW, playing through the engaging stories of the zones. But she’ll play through the story, she’ll enjoy leveling up and seeing what there is to see… but once she reaches the part of the game where the grind begins, she takes the path I’ve always wished I had the maturity to follow. She walks away to something new.

Once she reaches max level on her Enhancement Shaman, I expect she’ll try some zones on her Hunter in the other faction for a while to taste the differences, and then be done with WoW for a while again.

Me, not so much. I typically burn through the leveling so I can begin the grind necessary to gear for heroics, for mythics, for raids, for the raids after that, for whatever.

This time, Cassandra opened her box and I saw the wonders within. I didn’t blame her; I feel wiser for the foreknowledge, but sadder that innocence is lost.

The history of expansions past whisper their tale of woe to me. This questing, this rich and fascinating story, this too shall pass. When it’s gone, what will be left to do?

What indeed, but the grinding we know so well.

I have played several of my characters through the initial artifact quests, and I love them all. So much fun, such wonderful storytelling craftsmanship. They’re wonderful, and I look forward to playing every single one of my many characters through each of the specs and enjoying the work that was put into them. The small touches, the love and care shown by the developers.

Never before do I feel like we’ve been showered with a game crafted with such love and appreciation for the history that has gone before. Legion’s stories and artifact quests feel like a love letter from the developers to the players that have been along for the ride.

It really is wonderful.

But looming over it all, shadowing my happiness and appreciation is the constant awareness that sometime soon, the quests that took years to create will all be done and the end game will begin. An end game of hastily thrown together raids and instances and fedex quests used to link them together in a semblance of a story.

I can already sense it dimly, felt but not seen as I listen to the comments and complaints from others more advanced than I in our guild, those that are focused on gearing for raids.

It’s all so familiar. The expansion is brilliantly crafted, but in the end game the years of story and quest crafting fall away, given over to a push for new raids and little else.

It’s all so much the same even though it’s different. I’m not even there yet, but that is what holds me back from committing to the game. It’s what causes me to heed the whispers and slow my pace.

Everything I see in guild chat brings me back to expansions past. I recall the excitement we all felt, the hope for a new beginning, the wonder of the new stories, the hope that this time, this end game the progression will be different.

But it never is. Is it? We hope it might be. This time, THIS time the end game raids that come after the initial leveling quests, THIS time they’ve invested the forethought in ensuring the culmination of two years of playing the expansion results in a payoff that provides a feeling of satisfaction.

This time, the heroics, the mythics, the gearing path, the calls for more friends to run those multiple instances, the chat about grinding those world quests… I can’t forget the other times, the many other times I’ve been there before. And it’s always the same.

The anticipation is better than the payoff. The grind is never, NEVER worth it.

Every moment of enjoyment I have in the game playing my Hunter and wondering at the rich story, the great adventures, the lore from different eras of WoW brought together in one place is overshadowed by my awareness that this too shall pass. That there are only so many quests to be found before the grind asserts itself as the default state of the game for the next two years.

And then I turn aside, and do something else.

This too shall pass… but please, not yet! Don’t let this feeling, these quests… don’t let them be over just yet.

Good feeling… won’t you stay with me, just a little longer.

Legion is wonderful. There isn’t a single thing I could point to and say, ‘This. I wish this were different.’

I can’t. It’s simply wonderful. To be blunt, I can’t think of better value I have ever had for my gaming dollar than purchasing Legion. I’m doing things differently than ever before, just to see what they’re like, and the more I try, the more I’m taken aback by how polished, how FUN everything is.

But the grind. The same end game routine. The reps, the gears, the instance runs. It’s all still out there.

Waiting.

And I can’t face it. Not just yet.

So let the questing, the leveling continue.

Please.

Just a little longer.

 

 

A Tale of Two Prices

We decided to move Cassie’s home office from one room to another. Did a little light renovating, paint and carpet, that kind of thing and then moved the desk.

Setting up the computer, the new room doesn’t have a wired network connection so I looked into device manager to enable her wifi card.

She doesn’t have a wifi card. This may constitute a slight problem in receiving wifi signals. I don’t know about you IT professionals out there, but in my world a lack of wifi capability mean internet no workie.

Fine, no problem. The world has changed a great deal since internal wifi cards were ‘a thing’.

A quick search of my two local big box retail stores, Best Buy and Target, showed that if I wanted a USB to WiFi Adapter at Best Buy they had options from $25 on up to $150 or more. Oh, sort by in store availability? Yeah, if you want to spend less than $60, tough shit. Order it.

Okay, well, fuck you too. How about Target?

A simple search for “target usb to wifi adapter” instantly came up with an option for $17.99.

Select store availability, it’s in a store right down the road from me no more than two miles away, and I could buy it now online for free in store same day pickup.

Sold!

Do I choose free in store pickup? No, because then I have to wait for someone to go pick the order and take it to Customer Service. I’ll just drive down, get it off the shelf myself and check out like normal. I just saved myself time driving around hoping someone had something in stock.

I would buy something from Amazon, even fiddle around with Amazon Now which promises 2 hour delivery, but screw it. Target is two miles away, so why bother waiting two hours?

Also, I haven’t tried our new local Amazon Now thing. I find the entire concept creepy. It’s a local brick and mortar location for the Amazon website that is supposed to be saving me money by not having local brick and mortar locations. too surreal.

Drones, now drones are all right. Deliver my shit via drone, I can roll with that. Don’t have a store, man. You’re Amazon, be better than that. I expect Amazon to announce teleportation, or drone delivery, or mole machines. Or pneumatic tubes installed underground to deliver my stuff. Local warehouse delivery by truck is too plebian.

Off I go in my little fuel efficient white vroom vroom to get the part. It ain’t heroic, except when you’re bringing the internet in a sense you’re giving your wife the entire universe as a present, and what can be more heroic than that?

I walk into our local Target in Oakdale, stroll on into the electronic shit aisle, and look for the $17.99 USB to wifi adapter.

Yeah, um, no. Nope. Cheapest adapter they have on the shelf is $29.99.

Wait a minute…..

I take a closer look. That $29.99 adapter on the shelf is the same exact one their website lists as $17.99.

What the fuck, over?

I grab the one off the shelf, walk my happy ass on over to Customer Service and say, “Hi, do you price match yourself?”

Lady behind the counter grabs a tablet that is chained to the counter, NOT using a computer terminal but an actual tablet, and laboriously types in search terms and calls up the Target mobile website, pulls up that item and says “Oh sure, $17.99, right?”

Absolutely she can price match themselves.

I have to stop and look at that sentence again. That sentence is so wrong I can’t even tell if it’s poor grammar or just so stupid it makes my brain hurt.

How fucked up is that? I’m asking them to price match themselves. And she doesn’t even bat an eyelash, no recognition I’m asking a truly stupid question.

I want you to think about this for a moment. This is your current reality. I need you to adapt and adjust to this.

There is one price for people who walk into a store, grab something off the shelf and check out. There is another price for people who check online in advance.

One might say that if you buy off the shelf at a whim, the higher price you may be paying is the fee for being stupid. One might say that, if one were being an asshole.

Or trying to reinforce an idea. We’ll pretend I’m more of the second column than the first, all right? Pretend with me. You probably play an MMO or enjoy superhero movies, you can suspend your disbelief for the 2 minutes this will take.

If you have a mobile device with internet, and you know what it is in general you are looking for before you go shopping, check online. Take the time and check.

Even if you’re already there in the store and you’ve got the thing in your hand, you got a mobile phone? Stop and check. Is it cheaper online? Is it cheaper online at a competitor and you can ask for a price match? Is it cheaper online AT THAT STORE’S VERY OWN WEBSITE?

Is it a pain in the ass? I dunno, $12 is at least a pizza or something, a ticket to see Deadpool in theaters, a copy of Edge of Tomorrow on Blu-ray, so why just flush that money down the shitter?

I’m not saying get a cart full of groceries and spend three hours looking up heads of lettuce and rolls of toilet paper on the internet. Let’s not be stupid.

I am saying, if you’re holding a $60 game in your hand, or a $30 Lego set, or a $20 LED light bulb for your office, take a minute and check. ESPECIALLY if you could wait a day or two if Amazon will deliver it cheaper right to your door.

It’s a strange world out there, my friends. It’s a real strange world.

I am reminded of the time my brilliant wife Cassie worked out some kind of plan where, through price matching against other websites, uses of in-store ads and rebates, we somehow ended up walking out of Target with an Xbox One Master Chief edition and got an extra controller and two games free, and a serious discount on the console on top of it. I felt like the cops were gonna stop us while walking out the door, but it was just a very, very smart woman being meticulous in watching for interlocking deals and taking advantage of them.

The other part of it is to stand in front of someone at a Customer Service counter and not feel embarassed or rude in requesting a price match with a competitor.

If you would feel too embarassed to approach a clerk at the Customer Service counter to request they price match something you’ve found online, I don’t know what I can tell you other than to just encourage you to try, and reassure you that it happens all the time.

In fact, it is now so routine that even Target has tablets with internet access right there for the express purpose of looking up online ads to price match.

Stand strong and stay cool. It’s not rude to ask them to help you save money. In fact, I find most store clerks working that counter enjoy the feeling they’re helping you save money. Don’t forget, just because they work there doesn’t mean they’re rich or get store shit for free. They like finding ways to save money too.

Seriously.

Can you price match yourself?

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

*** I did not include links to the prices, because who knows if the links or prices will be the same tomorrow. If you’re curious the actual adapter with the price difference was a Wireless-N USB to WiFi adapter. And yes, it worked perfect when Cassie plugged it in and set it up. No problems.

Starting Tips for Destiny: The Taken King

It’s February 2016 as I write this, and Destiny is in ‘Year Two’.

I only started playing last month, and along the way I’ve learned why Year Two makes a significant difference along with other things that would have been nice to know that first exciting week.

Oh, and what is the significance of Year Two? The Taken King massively upped the end game power level, also called ‘light level’ of gear. Drops you get as Year One story/quest rewards or from Year One reputation vendors are going to be far lower light level than Year Two Taken King quest and story rewards. The good news? All random drops from mobs you kill in all content is balanced to the Year Two power/light levels. Even the original content monsters drop Taken King items. It’s important because it explains why you got a 185 light level shotgun from a random kill but the quest reward was a 35 light level auto rifle.

Anyway.

Here, in no significant order, are some of the things I wish I’d known that may help you out if you’re just getting started.

Using the ‘Boost to 25’.

The Destiny: The Taken King Legendary Edition is an outstanding purchase. It comes with all current DLC, the core game, and also an inventory item that, when used, boosts your chosen character to level 25 instantly.

I was excited to get that boost when I started, but I had a lot of questions, too. I play on the Xbox One, and my son and I both have our own unique Microsoft Xbox accounts and gamertags so we can keep our playing and friends lists separate.

After installing the game on the Xbox One, what happens if my son uses the boost to 25 token? Do I get one also, or is it one per game machine?

Answer: Each account on the Xbox that has the Taken King Legendary is handled as though that is the only account playing that copy of the game in terms of content. When I logged into my account and started the game, I also had the one time level boost to use on whoever I liked. Same with the special pre-order weapons pack that came with my game purchase.

What if I used the level boost and it turns out I hate the character? Answer is, you can’t get that boost back, but you can buy another boost. In the Xbox One store, you can purchase specific character class boost packages that come with a level boost and also a bonus item that you don’t get with the Legendary package, a special token that instantly unlocks all your special abilities for one chosen sub-class. To be clear, I think the price for that boost package is $30 and a boost to 25 is NOT WORTH IT. But, fully unlocking a single sub-classes abilities in one shot? That might be. It might very well be.

Which leads me to the next question. I boosted to 25, why don’t I have ANY of my special abilities unlocked except the class defining special one? The answer to that is you only unlock sub-class abilities by playing. They are not linked to a specific activity I can find, you just have to be playing and shooting and killing. So if you played from level 1 by the time you hit around 25, you’d have unlocked things naturally in ‘Year One’. With a boost to 25, good thing you’ve got 15 levels before the max of 40 to unlock some of them.

How long does it take to unlock all of the possible abilities of a sub-class? Well, as an example I boosted to 25, reached level 40 using one sub-class exclusively (Gunslinger Hunter), have been leveling my light rating (gear rating is measured in ‘light’, but it’s totally gear item level rating) and have reached 265 light, considered good enough to unlock all content except the top raids. I still haven’t unlocked 100% of my abilities yet. Working on the last two.  I haven’t looked at my time played, but I’d say I’ve got about 16 hours of fun in, and still haven’t unlocked them all fully. See why I think that for your wealthy player that wants to tear things up right away on an alt, a $30 class boost might be reasonable? MIGHT be. Then again, if you’re in such a rush to get to max, why play an MMO? Unless your friends all want to PvP with you, they’re all higher level, and you really want to have all the tools in your kit when you go after other players in arena (Crucible) matches.

About those three character classes. Each one has three possible ‘sub-classes’ to spec into. Level 1 characters only have 1 sub-class available to start. You unlock your second ‘Year One’ subclass at level 15. The good news is, once you have hit level 15 on your first character, your alts can choose from either of the two right at the very beginning and switch back and forth at will. Only downside is you only unlock abilities in the sub-class that is active at any given moment.

“But wait”, I hear you ask, “What about that 3rd sub-class?”

Ah, so glad you asked.

The Taken King is the only true ‘Year Two’ content so far, and it added the third sub-class for each main class. They’re really cool, too. They’re generally considered to have well thought out special abilities that reward smart players. The catch is, the only way to unlock the third class is to play through and complete the first three Taken King story missions on your character. After your first two Taken King story missions, you will get a new class-specific mission that is extremely cool and unique to each class. Completing that mission unlocks your third sub-class.

As you might guess, that means that you cannot get the third sub-class on an alt until that alt reaches a high enough level to complete the Taken King class mission. The good news is, you can start your Taken King story missions at level 25, so if you boost your original class and want to go straight to that third special sub-class, go for it.  You don’t have to wait to 40.

Leveling the normal way

Warning. This is a no shitter. If you’re going to level your character up, quest and do Bounties. you get XP from doing story missions and completing content, such as Bounties. Another very fun way to log in and knock out some leveling when you don’t have time to take on a challenging story mission is to go to a planet and do a ‘Patrol’ mission. Every planet has a zone that says ‘Patrol’, and what those are are areas you normally quest in, but instead of being there for a specific purpose, you are there to wander around, explore, and have fun at your own pace in your own way.

To e clear about this, trying to level by grinding away killing mobs just does not work. You either get zero xp for a monster kill, or so little it’s meaningless. I watched my son play multiplayer for two months without ever hitting level 40. I say down and quested and it took me two, maybe three days. QUEST.

Patrol Missions Rock!

A little more about patrol missions or patrol areas. I love these things.

The zones in Destiny are beautiful. Lush, vibrant, expansive, massive, multi-layered. Lots of buildings and caverns, lots of paces to go and big enough to give you a damn good reason for that Sparrow air scooter you can summon.

A Patrol Mission, which every planet and even the Dreadnaught has, sends you to that place to wander around at your own pace. There are Bounties that will give you bonus reputation and XP if you do a Patrol mission and kill x number of bad guys there, but you can do them anytime, you don’t need the Bounty.

When you are sent to a planet to do a Patrol, you can seek out green flashing markers. These are random quest givers that will send you on missions to kill bad guys, kill bad guys and loot stuff from them, seek out plants or minerals and collect them, scout out specific areas, recover documents, send radio signals, or even go on a kill mission to take out a super powerful enemy leader.

Other than the assassination missions that can be really tough and will have a recommended light level for you to use a guide when sooing, the rest can all be done by you and nothing in the game is timed. NO annoying timed missions, no irritating escort quests with stupid AI ‘companions’. Just fun do at your own pace mini missions.

Those all give you XP as quests. You can also gather materials found from plants and minerals in the zones as you are patrolling. If you have a Bounty to kill, say, 50 Fallen then those can be found in large numbers on Old earth in the Cosmodrome. If you have a mission to Vexx, they’re found on Venus and sometimes Mars. So patrols are nice to go knock those out.

Did I mintion I love Patrol missions? I can log into the game, get a new weapon, and go experiment with it for a while without worry or pressure. Also, I can indulge my love of sneaking around tactically looking for Scout Rifle headshots. In a multiplayer Strike or Crucible match, everyone runs like hell and bounces a mile a minute so it feels like there is less time to enjoy setting up that perfect shot on an unsuspecting target.

They’d only be better if you could come across a Deng standing guard duty leaning against a tree, cupping a lit cigarette in his hands. Pow!

Gear Quirks and Abilities

Speaking of abilities and unlocking them, your gear has abilities as well. And you unlock them the same way, by using the item. For armor it’s automatic, but each weapon has special abilities you unlock by using the weapon. They level significantly quicker if you use them, but then again you’re constantly seeking and getting upgrades, so you’d better hope you unlock abilities faster, right?

Just as in other MMO games, the gear you get is color coded as to rarity of drops. There are whites, greens, blues, purples and oranges.

After you get reasonably leveled, you will never see white drops again. But you will see the items the Gunsmith (mentioned later) sells as weapon missions be white in power. This means that, aside from one special ability, the weapon has no other extra featured or unlockable bonuses.

Just to screw with us World of Warcraft players, purples are specifically called ‘legendaries’ and oranges are called ‘exotics’. Ten years of playing WoW make that feel like an intentional fully extended middle finger, but I’m slowly losing my sense of ‘OMG a legendary dropped’ when I see those words and I’m starting to relax a bit. Me and Pavlov’s dog, we both are trained to salivate when certain triggers are pulled. Legendary? Where? Where? <pant pant>

When you’re playing, you will occasionally see monsters generate glowing hexagonal orbs and drop them to the ground. Those are your loot, and they are color coded. When you pick it up, it’ll either be a fixed type of named gear, or a generic ‘engram’ that you take to a vendor in the capital city, and the vendor randomly generates something for you.

Afraid you missed seeing one of those hexagonal engrams drop in the crazed heat of combat? Even worse, did you finish a quest and the timer begin counting down 25 seconds until you are automatically removed from the phased zone you are in, and you SEE that loot right there across the room but you don’t reach it in time before you vanish?

Never fear. In capital city there is a mailbox vendor, and if you missed any of the engram loot drops along the way, a nice big icon will be glowing to let you know it’s right there waiting for you, safe and sound. Don’t panic.

You will quickly come to LOVE these colored engrams. You see, a named drop is what it is, you can either use it or dismantle/destroy it for the component parts you use to activate your gear’s newly unlocked abilities.

But an unnamed colored engram… it holds the untapped potential of nearly anything.

You see, when you use an engram, what it turns into is randomly rolled. It becomes something new with a name, a gear type, a light/power level and special potential abilities. And while the engram might be colored, say, green, it won’t necessarily BE a green.

Green engrams have a chance to be a green, be some kind of crafting material instead of an item… or a blue!

Likewise, blue engrams could spawn materials or a legendary item instead, and legendary engrams can spawn crafting materials or… possibly, maybe, super rarely an exotic weapon or armor!

How powerful the item you get is also controlled by you! It’s insane but this is my favorite part of gear. How powerful the items are that you get are determined by how powerful OVERALL your current equipped light level (World of Warcraft players will recognize light levels as ilevel or item level) is.

The number always represents the light level of the item. For weapons, it is also the attack power. For armor, it is the defense.

When you’re playing out in the universe, you are using your equipped gear, and it might not be the best light level stuff you own. There are armor slots, and there are also three types of equipped weapons; primary, secondary and heavy weapons. There are several choices for each, but you can only have one of each type equipped at a time.

Each type of weapon handles incredibly differently, and each of those has it’s own stats and special abilities that can tweak their handling and feel even further.

What you like depends on your playstyle, so try everything, and switch things up because a bad experience with a sniper rifle may be from having a bad rifle with a crappy scope.

But as an example, you will likely be using the best light level armor you’ve got, but maybe you have a 225 light level sniper rifle as your highest light secondary weapon, but you are playing pvp in the Crucible and against other players you love the power of the short range shotgun. Your shotgun is only light level 215. For your overall light level, only the 215 shotgun you have equipped counts, not the sniper rifle in your bags.

How is this relevant? When a monster drops loot, be it a named item or an engram you activate at the capital city, the range of it’s possible light level is determined by your equipped gear’s overall light rating.

From what I’ve seen, the over/under seems to be a range of anywhere from -10 to +10 of your equipped light level OR MORE.

So out in the galaxy hunting baddies, your named item (fixed item) drops will possibly be of a lower potential light level than what you could normally get because you might not have your highest light level weapons equipped in all slots.

When you get back to the capital city, the key is to pause and equip your highest light level of everything BEFORE you talk to the engram vendor and activate them. Your new random items will then have a chance to be the best they can be.

I have frequently, maybe 15% of the time, gotten a blue when I activate a green engram and a legendary purple when I activate a blue.

I have only had maybe 20 legendary engrams drop so far, and sometimes they are crafting materials instead of items, but just last night I was lucky enough to get a legendary engram activate into an exotic, and that feels so, so sweet.

The biggest difference I have seen among the different rarity types is how many special abilities you will be offered that you can unlock. What abilities an item may have are randomly rolled. Greens and Blues, you’re stuck with what you get. You might also be stuck with what you get for a legendary, at least I am pretty sure you are. That is one reason the Gunsmith is so nice for weapons, as each work order for the same weapon rerolls the stats anew.

I know for a fact that with Exotic items, there is a way to re-roll the special abilities. Not sure where you get the item used to do it, might be a consumable purchased from XĂĽr. It hasn’t come up for me yet.🙂

Learning to Love your Legendary

With this constant search for items that have the all important higher light level, should you spend your materials and resources/glimmer currency on improvements? If you’re just going to destroy it in a few levels anyway when you get better?

I mentioned before that when you have unneeded items, you can dismantle them to get back weapon or armor parts used for buying gear abilities.

Legendary items have an extra option, called Infuse. With a legendary, especially one you really like, when you get a future item of the same type (Auto Rifle for Auto Rifle, or Gauntlet for Gauntlet), and that new item has a higher light level, you can enter into your legendary item options and select Infuse. You will be shown whichever items are available to be dismantled to power up the legendary. It also costs 3 Legendary Marks to do. When you Infuse a legendary with an item (green, blue, purple, the rarity doesn’t matter) it boosts the light level of the legendary to the same or very close to same light level as what you destroyed.

This way, when you find that perfect dream armor piece with special abilities that perfectly matches your favorite weapons and playstyle, you can boost it’s light level/power when you get other drops, drops that might have higher light but have crappy special abilities or appearances you don’t want.

If you play World of Warcraft, think about that interesting loot system for a moment. The random drops you get have an item level based on the average of your equipped gear, could be slightly higher, lower or the same. And if you find something you really, really like you have the option of taking the better drops you get and destroying them to power up your favorite item, keeping it fresh and relevant throughout all the content you are paying in as you raid with friends.

Instead of a transmog system to make your new drop look good but always have changing stats that might suck, you can find that perfect item and just keep using it, but still want to pursue wins because of the chance at exotic drops and improving light level / item level of that good gear.

I like that.

Legendary Marks will be mentioned more later, but for now know that while it costs 3 to Infuse your legendary gear to upgrade the power, when you dismantle a Year Two legendary, you GET 3 Legendary Marks. So, if you keep getting legendaries that aren’t as good as what you have, dismantle them and you’ll build a stockpile for future Infusion or gear purchases.

Exotic Items

So, exotics, the super special stuff.

What makes these super unique is that they have more potential special abilities than even legendaries. Some have unique special abilities, too.

You can only ever have two equipped at a time; one armor piece and one weapon. So if you have an exotic you love and another drops, you can either put it in the bank (you have vault storage in the capital city that ALL of your characters have access to) or you can dismantle it in exchange for an ‘exotic shard’.

When you find an exotic, you get the item plus you unlock pattern so you could craft that item again if you want. It takes some crafting materials and one exotic shard to craft an exotic once you know the pattern. There are large blue glowing wallscreens in the Vanguard quest giver chamber, on either side of the entrance. One has a sword on it, one has a shield. Those are where you can see all the possible exotic patterns for weapons or armor, and you can see by a little arrow icon which ones you have unlocked.

When you activate an engram, sometimes what you get instead of an item is a crafting material called a ‘Strange Coin’. On Friday and Saturday of each week, a special vendor will appear in the capital city called XĂĽr, Agent of the Nine. He is the Strange Coin vendor, and he sells exotic gear! He will offer one class specific random exotic armor piece at Year Two power/light levels, one random weapon or exotic engram, and some interesting consumables called the Three of Coins, which increases the chance of having PvE bosses or pvp Crucible matches give you a random exotic drop.

As far as I know, the Three of Coins does not have a time limit. The bonus chance is tacked on to your normal chance until an exotic drops, then it goes away. I haven’t used one yet, but there you go.

The last item XĂĽr sells is a Legacy Exotic Engram, and if you’re trying to get usable loot, DO NOT BUY. The exotic you will get is a Year One exotic with super low light levels by Taken King standards. It’s there for collectors to buy to be completionists.

I have so far purchased an exotic helmet that is simply amazing, and I have no exotic weapon yet. There was no exotic weapon this week from the vendor, just another helmet. But in the time I’ve been playing I have somehow racked up 63 Strange Coins, so next Friday and for two weeks after that I can go shopping. What he offers is random, but it should be cool.

Sometimes from random exotic engrams the armor type will not be usable by your class. You can either put the item in your Vault storage for an alt to use someday, or dismantle it and save the exotic shard.

Cheap Ass Sword Bitches

One thing that was added with The Taken King expansion are a brand new heavy weapon type, SWORDS.

I found this out in Crucible pvp matches.

For me, a Crucible match generally goes something like this;

Hunt players with an Auto Rifle.

Get some secondary weapon ammo.

If the zone is tight spaces and corridors, hunt players with a Shotgun. If it’s wide open, equip a Sniper Rifle.

Server announces ‘Heavy Weapon ammo is incoming.’

I do not get to a heavy weapon ammo cache in time to get two shells of rocket launcher ammo.

Five seconds later I am killed by a cheap ass sword bitch.

Swords in Destiny, for me, are the equivalent of rocket launchers in Unreal Tournament 2004. What I used to call a cheap ass rocket bitch has been reborn with the addition of swords, and all it does is inspire the lust of sword acquisition in my soul.

The way swords work is simple. You don’t get one until you have darn near beaten the game. You have to play through The Taken King story mode past the point where you have taken down the Taken King himself, which is surprisingly early on. Well, you take down a version of him. You give him a momentary set back. He’ll get better. I think he returns in a raid.

But anyway, not too far into the game you will get a shard of his amazing shattered evil sword. You will then get a follow-up quest from Eris Morn that sends you to talk to the Crucible quartermaster, and he wants you to forge and purify your own sword. He sends you off to gather 25 Hadium Flakes from chests on the Dreadnaught, and use Motes of Light (a crafting material you get from engrams) to purify it of the darkness and transform it into a weapon of power and light.

From that quest you get a legendary sword. It’s classed as a heavy weapon, and each swing uses a round of heavy weapon ammo.

Yes, I know. Each swing uses ammo. Just wince and move on, nothing to see here.

The good news is, there is a reason for that. A single hit with a sword in pvp can be a one shot kill on a player, and one or two hits in pve missions can be a kill of even an Ultra. If it didn’t take ammo, it would be completely overpowered in pvp. Well, it already is, but no ammo restriction at all would be so much worse.

As it is, using ammo is the trade off you pay for the sword to be so incredibly powerful. And one pickup of ammo gives you a reasonable number of swings.

Once you have your legendary sword, that’s not the end either. You can get a follow up quest that will have you work towards upgrading it into an exotic sword.

It’s all very exciting, and I want one bad. Ever since I explained how to get one to my son, he’s advanced much farther and has 11 of his Hadium Flakes already.

Anyway. Swords. In a gun game. And oh so cool. Also, you see someone wield one and you know how far he’s progressed, which is nice.

And then you see them all come out of their sheathes the second the heavy ammo drops and you run screaming for your life.

Alternate Gear Sources

There are other ways to get gear than as random drops.

Once you hit level 40 you can start accumulating Legendary Marks, which you can use to buy light level 280 legendary gear from various faction vendors/quartermasters.

The main vendors you can buy gear from are your class Vanguard quartermaster, the Engram vendor and an optional bonus faction quartermaster that can be found inside the giant building on the east side of capital city, where the ships are all hangered and you can buy new Sparrow jetbikes and new spaceships (which are mostly visual choices without game function differences).

The two optional factions are Dead Orbit and Future War Cult. If you choose one you can’t choose the other without switching. I chose Future War Cult, my son chose Dead Orbit, and he already hit reputation level 3 with them which unlocked legendary weapon items for purchase. The two optional factions are leveled whenever you get Vanguard rep, but can also be leveled by donating materials to them. I haven’t donated but clearly it paid off for my son because he’s running around with a 280 light Auto Rifle, his preferred primary weapon type.

I’m more of a Scout Rifle player. I prefer aimed headshots, he’s the pray and spray kind of guy.

The quartermasters offer different classes of gear at different reputation levels. And there are many more quartermasters/factions than I listed, all over the place. Some offer Year One gear (low level), others offer special things like Ghost Shells, etc. I’m just hitting the obvious starting points.

I think gloves and legs are mostly rank 1, chest, ghost shell and cloaks are rank 2, helmets are rank 3 for Vanguard.

The Engram vendor doesn’t sell specific gear, he sells Legendary Engrams, so what you get will be totally random.

The optional faction quartermasters, as I said, offer specific weapons at rank 3. Very nice if you have a preference.

So you can gain Legendary Marks once you reach level 40 by doing different daily or weekly activities. At the beginning with low light levels, all you can get is a Crucible pvp match once per day for 15 Legendary Marks. You have to participate, too. If you can’t kill a single person, don’t expect any marks. This is supposing you’re playing solo; queue up with a friend in a Fireteam and I believe you are aided by their performance too.

Let me give you this caveat. I am horrible at FPS console pvp. I mean terrible. I have played mouse and keyboard exclusively for a decade now. But other than maybe two or three early matches where I was truly shit and didn’t score a single kill, I haven’t had a problem since then in at least getting SOME kills and contributing.

For one thing other players never, ever stand still. Go figure. This is a news flash, right? You know what they call a player standing still taking careful aim? DEAD. So don’t stand still.

A big part of getting comfortable in pvp is finding a mix of weapons that you feel are effective for you. For me, it’s a Scout Rifle and a Shotgun, although an Auto Rifle or a Hand Cannon is a reasonable alternate primary weapon for me. If you go in with a sniper rifle, don’t be surprised if you get taken out repeatedly while trying to line up shots at range. Then again, it happens a lot, so I just lack skill.

As your light level increases, more options for Legendary Marks will unlock for you, including PVE multiplayer Strike matches with auto matchmaking (like WoW random heroic instances) so it’s not all pvp all the time.

There is no weekly cap, but some things like the pvp matches award Marks only for the first one you do each day, and other things only award them to you the first three times that week.

One other way to get them is by dismantling unused legendaries. Each legendary item from Year Two content you dismantle gives you 3 Legendary Marks. I mentioned it before, but you probably skimmed that.

The Gunsmith

One option for getting new legendary weapons is the Gunsmith.

He’s a strange vendor/quartermaster in capital city that offers light level 200 weapons to buy once you reach level 38. The weapon itself has a quest built in; the item description tells you what you have to do to complete the quest, using the weapon in the game.

When you complete the weapon quest, you don’t have to turn it in; you get improved reputation with the Gunsmith immediately. From there you can dismantle the weapon for parts or keep it and use it for as long as you like. A nice source of early 200 light level weapons of various kinds.

What is neat is, starting with reputation level 1, the Gunsmith has weekly legendary weapon work orders you can place. He resets on Wednesday with new weapons for quest reputation and to place more work orders.

You get to place as many weapon work orders as you have reputation level with the Gunsmith, and if you do all the available weapons you can unlock rank 1 in two weeks. Or a week and a half. So at reputation rank 1, you can pick a specific legendary weapon from the five he’s offering and place an order. You get a token in your inventory representing the work order, and at the next Wednesday reset you get the weapon, with randomly rolled special abilities. Which weapons he offers varies from week to week as well, so maybe this week two of his five offerings are Sniper Rifles, but next week those are gone and there are other types in it’s place.

Keep getting ranked up with him and you can place two or three or more orders a week, trying for those special rolls of special abilities perfect for you. Use your work orders for one of each different weapon or several of the same one if you’re trying to randomly roll specific special abilities on one weapon type. Maybe you like Scout Rifles and you really, really want one that has a special ability that boosts thrown grenade range. Keep placing orders for Scout Rifles and see if you roll one.

That ain’t all, either. There is a secret exotic class weapon quest you can get from him too!

Just from playing the game, you can get possible legendary drops that are mission turn ins for the Gunsmith. Turning in four of these unlocks the quest to get out there and earn your exotic weapon from him. And I believe later on you can get a follow on quest to get an even more powerful class specific exotic.

I haven’t gotten one of the drops yet, but my son has already done two. It’s not farmable but it’s realistic you’ll see it eventually.

Elementals

There are three types of elemental damage in the game; Arc (lightning), Void (shadow) and Sun (flame).

Each main class has three sub-classes, and each sub-class focuses on one element type for it’s super and the theme of it’s abilities.

Many weapons will also have a little icon next to the light level / attack power number, a red flame, purple shadow or blue bolt. That indicates the damage that weapon inflicts is considered to also be that elemental type.

This is primarily important because many enemies have special weaknesses to one elemental weapon type. Nobody is immune, and it’s not enough to make missions impossible, but it’s there.

The other reason it’s important is that many Bounty missions that you can be offered will specify as the win condition “Kill 30 enemies with Void damage abilities” which also includes weapons with void damage.

This leads into my last point.

How Many Weapons Is Enough

You can carry lots of weapons for each of the three types.

I suggest that you try to keep at least one of each sub category.

For example, for Heavy Weapons carry a machine gun, a rocket launcher, and once unlocked a sword. Then when you get a drop that is better, or a legendary that you really like, keep upgrading it and have it on hand.

As long as you have at least one weapon of some type you really like that has one of the three elemental energy types, you’ve got something to use for those Element-specific Bounty missions on hand.

I fell into a mistake early on, dismantling EVERY weapon I got except for the one Scout Rifle, one Sniper Rifle and one Rocket Launcher I liked. There was no need for that, and it limited me to being unable to do a lot of Element Bounty missions until I fixed it. There are lots of different sub categories of weapons for Primary and Secondary, so holding on to a void or arc shouldn’t be too hard.

Wrap Up

There is a lot of stuff like this in the game.

It’s incredibly fun just for the obvious game you see when you start, but the longer you play the more cool stuff you can unlock or activate and add more depth to all the things you can seek out.

I know I didn’t nearly cover everything, I barely covered anything, but hopefully some of this clears away some of the confusion as to what to focus on early and what to look for later on.

And especially how to maximize your chances to get better level loot!

If you would like to find me on Xbox One and join me in some Destiny multiplayer, my gamertag is thebigbearbutt. I would dearly love to try some multiplayer PVE Fireteam missions.

Thanks and take care!

Hey, if this helped you at all, could you please leave a comment and let me know? I’ve let the blog die down and if this post was actually helpful to you knowing it would encourage me to write more.

Good lord. Final word count 5942. I guess it’s another bearwall, folks. Sorry.

The Grumpy Druids podcast – Episode 4 now live!

Just wanted to let you know that I’m not quite dead.

In truth, and I know this is probably confusing, but what I’ve been doing lately is talking more than writing. As in, I’m still enjoying doing the Grumpy Druids podcast weekly with Mark, aka @Relwow the Flappy Bird.

That’s FLAPPY bird, not FAPPY bird.

Make a note, call Mark the Fappy Bird on the next podcast….

Anyway, Over the course of the week those things I used to post about I’m sort of saving up and unleashing on the podcast, and then if it seems useful I can add a few extra notes or things here. Like pictures.

As an example, our fourth episode of The Grumpy Druids podcast is now live! We’re aiming at unleashing these wild animals every Wednesday. You know, so there is something to do the day after all the good podcasts came out.

I know many if not most people don’t have time to listen to someone ramble on for an hour or so. I get that. I’m not done writing by any means, but it’s nice to do something quite different to experiment and keep things feeling fresh.

You know you hate that not-so-fresh feeling.

So, if you only like reading posts, I do apologize, and I wanted you to know I haven’t abandoned you. But in the meantime, if you DO occasionally give podcasts a listen, I invite and welcome you to give The Grumpy Druids a shot. I swear to you we’re trying to keep this beast under an hour and make it march most sprightly to some form of a point.

I like to think that we’re getting better with each show.

I like to think it, I didn’t say we were.

If you do listen, and I hope you do, please let me know below what you think, what you feel works, and what you think needs MORE work. We’re still feeling our way into our own voice.

Thank you for your time, and have a wonderful Blizzcon weekend!