Destiny 2: Review with a splash of Destiny

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Photo by Bungie

By Chris Parsons

Let's just start this off right... I am a fanboy. The experience delivered by Destiny and Destiny 2 has been nothing short of immersive and I cannot offer enough praise for that. The biggest complaint that I have seen has been that they skimp on story while they are creating a beautiful game. I can see pouring time and resources into something that is visually stunning, so that isn't a deal breaker for me, but I understand that there are people that crave brilliant storytelling. ( I just want to punch things and throw grenades.) The PVP is topnotch and a freaking blast.

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One thing that destiny has done  often and fairly well is provide updates and expansions for the games. I'm not going to get into bugs or glitches, but you can do some googling and get the laundry list of glitches and fixes. They have given a few expansions away but have made us pay for most of them. While I understand this from a financial standpoint, it is disappointing as a consumer, seeing as very little changes from expansion to expansion. You may be fighting more Vex than Taken today, but it's the same thing, and I'm not the biggest fan of that redundancy. I would like to see new antagonists introduced especially when spending $20 for the next little bit of content so that I can remain relevant on the PVP side of things, but lets see what the future holds. I have enjoyed playing the Curse of Osiris expansion, and flying from level 20-25. Seriously, I could not believe how fast those five levels went by on my titan. 

Clans! I have always been a primary solo player, even though I know that there is an awesome community out there, but recently I received a random clan invite and thought I should give it a whirl. I love that there is a level?reward system for clans. It's cool being rewarded for group contributions, and it's like getting extra stuff for something you were already going to be doing. I have had limited interaction with my clan, but the little bit that I have had has been positive. I'm sold!

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With shaders and gear in Destiny 2 I haven't been super impressed. I liked using a single shader to change the look of all of my gear, but I do like being able to change the color on weapons, ships and sparrows. It's just fun! You don't like the green jump ship that you just received, make it another color.  It doesn't really effect game-play, but it looks bad ass. Then we get a bunch of the exotic gear that was available in the first release, and it performs basically as expected. Great! You don't have to rely as much on getting the "god roll" that you did in the vanilla version and I think that's awesome too. With that said, there are those weapons that just hit a sweet spot. They may even perform better than an exotic weapon, and you just live this digital destroyer of evil. How do you get to make it better? Masterwork! It doesn't really give you an unfair edge, but it helps to generate orbs on multikills on a gun that you are already dominant with. Then the bragging rights that come with the body count, proudly displayed on that weapon. It's just beautiful. 

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With the story mode in the game you get beautiful cut scenes that give you an idea of why you just killed a room of 50 Cabal. There are also several planets for you to explore and partake in public events. When It comes to open world games I love getting to unite with strangers to defeat a common foe. The one thing that I would like to see is open world PVP. As a former WoW player I have spent so much time ganking players who were only attempting to complete what should have been simple quests. Something about that is just so fulfilling and it is the itch that Destiny just can't scratch.  

If you couldn't tell, I'm enamored by the player vs player element of games. I love the Crucible and I love the competitive playlists even more! I have noticed some latency issues and at first suspected my internet connection, but realized as I played that I too was killing people after they were already behind cover or no longer in my line of site. This could be an auto aim issue, it could be server latency or it could be bad internet connections, all I know is it's frustrating... Mostly when it isn't working in my favor... I love being able to level a character in with PVP and they give you a prime opportunity to do so in these games. The folks at Bungie have once again managed to offer a smooth, mostly perfect experience player vs player experience and my hat is off to them for that.

In conclusion, Destiny and Destiny 2 are a blast and you can easily get lost in playing them. Are they perfect? No. Are they fun and beautiful? Hell yes! If you haven't already get a copy and play. Destiny 2 is available on Xbox one PS4 and PC. Thanks for reading

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The X-Men & Fantastic Four In The MCU

By Jason O’Toole

Disney, in an unprecedented move, has purchased 20th Century Fox. Among the many things that this means for the Fox brand, the big question on most of our minds is how Disney will bring the X-Men and the Fantastic Four into the MCU. A sale of this magnitude will take a year to finalize. This year Fox will bring us what will most likely be the final films of their Marvel Universe. Deadpool 2, New Mutants, X-Men Dark Phoenix and maybe Gambit will be coming to theaters this year. Once that is all said and done how will Disney integrate these characters into the larger cinematic universe they have been building since 2008?

The reality of things is that most of the principal actors we have come to know over the last 10 years are about to be a thing of the past. The contracts that have kept the actors in their respective roles expire after Avengers Infinity War and its untitled sequel. While Robert Downey Jr. has stuck around past his contract we might be dealing with a clean slate after the next 2 Avengers films. This provides Disney with a perfect opportunity to introduce us to a whole new crop of characters that they now have the rights to.

The question on most peoples’ minds is will they recast the characters or bring in some of the people who have resonated so well with fans. The Fantastic Four films have been quite disappointing so recasting seems like the obvious choice for those characters. However, actors like Ryan Reynolds, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender have brought something amazing to their roles. It seems likely that Disney will start from scratch but the question remains, should they? While the X-Men films seem to have reached a natural conclusion, Deadpool, New Mutants and X-Force have barely begun.

The post Infinity War landscape seems like a perfect opportunity to introduce us to the likes of Dr. Doom, Galactus or even Kang the Conquerer. The question remains, how do you top Thanos? The most obvious choice from a comic readers perspective is Avengers Vs X-Men. This story would allow for a great build up that could play out over many films ultimately leading to a confrontation that could shake the very foundations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whichever choice Disney and Kevin Feige make it is surely a very exciting time to be a Marvel fan.

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The Last Jedi: The Change That Star Wars Needed

By Jason O'Toole

Back in 2015 we were all hyped that Disney was reviving Star Wars with The Force Awakens. While I personally thought that The Force Awakens was a fantastic new start for the franchise many people were not happy with the films nostalgic feel. The mixed response didn’t stop the film from shattering box office records and bringing Star Wars back into our hearts and minds.

Cut to two years later and Rian Johnson has brought us the next chapter with The Last Jedi. Those same fans who said that The Force Awakens was to nostalgic were now saying that The Last Jedi was too much of a departure from the Star Wars films they once loved. While the film has definitely brought many changes to the film franchise I personally think these changes were absolutely necessary to keep things fresh and usher in a new era for the franchise. Kylo Ren utters the words that sum up everything that Rian Johnson was trying to bring to the Star Wars universe, “let the past die, kill it if you have to.”

The heroes of the old films made many sacrifices to defeat the Empire and bring a new peace to the universe. The new film does not change that it just shows that while evil can be stifled it can never be snuffed out. While we will all miss the trio of Luke, Han and Leia it is time for them to move aside and give way for Rey, Finn and Poe.

The biggest complaint that has come up has clearly been the drastic change in Luke Skywalker. The onetime hero of the franchise has been drastically altered by Rian Johnson’s new direction. Luke saved the galaxy and starts rebuilding the Jedi order only to see in his nephew, Ben, what he once saw in Darth Vader. Luke is faced with a terrible dilemma, let the universe once again fall to darkness or act and end the threat before it begins. Many feel that this is completely out of character for Luke. Luke has a moment of weakness that I feel is completely understandable based on the things he has seen.

Ultimately, he decides not to go through with it but the damage has been done. This shatters everything Luke has been trying to build and his faith in the Jedi order. As penance he exiles himself to Ahch-To and cuts himself off from the force. As Darth Vader was redeemed before him Rey comes along to bring Luke back. His ultimate sacrifice at the film’s conclusion serves as a potent reminder that the past has to die to give birth to the future.

All of the expectations that we as fans had for the film are shattered. For the first time in a long while the future of the Star Wars universe is unknown. I, for one, think that is exactly what needed to happen to reinvigorate the franchise. My excitement for the future of this story is palpable and I hope yours is too.

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Marvel's Punisher The Terrible Fate of Lewis Wilson

Jason O'Toole

Late in 2017, Marvel and Netflix added a new hero to its streaming universe, the Punisher. While Frank and his allies hunt for justice is fantastic and action packed, it is the fate of Lewis Wilson that presents the most engaging part of the story. Lewis is a soldier who has recently returned from Afghanistan and is participating in group therapy led by Curtis Hoyle, an old friend of Frank’s, for P.T.S.D. His story starts off as a very real world look into what soldiers experience when coming home and trying to go back to their lives. This social commentary points the finger at our own government for failing to help the people who risk their lives defending our freedom. The story evolves to show us a man who is willing to go to extreme measures to show the government that they are the enemy. Wilson’s story becomes a very dark reflection of the road that Frank Castle walks. He too goes to extreme measures to achieve his goal. Lewis suffers because of the things he had to do and the poor reception he received upon coming home. During group therapy he says,

“I just know that I fought for this country and that it’s got no place for me. I don’t know what the rules are anymore. All I know is that we risked our lives and did terrible things and it meant nothing when we got home.”

The stress of trying to go back to his normal life ultimately leads to a very emotional moment in which Lewis almost guns his father down after having a nightmare. The stress leads Lewis down a very self-destructive path. He deduces that his only option is to find a way to return to a battlefield which is where he last felt home. This calls into question another tragedy that returning soldiers have to face. The skills taught to them by the government have very little to offer outside of war zones. Wilson’s attempt to find his battlefield in Anvil, a private military firm whose purpose is providing military and security services, is quickly halted when Curtis convinces the head of Anvil, Billy Russo, that returning to the battlefield is the worst thing for Lewis. Curtis is simply looking out for this young man that he is worried about. However, Lewis sees this as a betrayal. He genuinely tries to make his normal life work again but a series of setbacks and tragedies push him down a dark path. When confronted violently he reacts the only way he knows, by killing a man who encourages his hatred of the system. This terrible act forces Lewis to attempt to take his own life. In that moment Lewis has a profound realization that he needs to use the skills the system taught him to take it down. He uses his skills to arrange a series of bombings on government buildings. It is easy to see why Lewis felt he had no other options left. He makes a statement reading,

“The United States government has become a tyrannical force, using its power to persecute teachers and citizens, trying them in a court like criminals for seeking to defend themselves as the Constitution allows. They want to take away our guns, our freedom, and then we will be unable to defend ourselves. I have acted in defense of our liberty and identity. I have acted for all of us, to do what is right.”

Punisher as a show holds a mirror up to society and asks a very important question. Why have we failed these brave men and women? The show makes a very bold statement about our country. The questions that it poses are worth answering. These people defend the freedom that we all take for granted. We owe them more than we have given them.

 

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Tales From the Table.

 

My Introduction to Role Playing

 Rodger Moss

 

           My brothers bodies lay in front of me bloody, beaten, knocked out or potentially worse. My hands ache as they strengthen their grip on my katana. The rain that was a soft whisper earlier in the night has turned into a deafening roar, almost blinding me on the high city roof top. My breath is heavy and deep but steady. My body tense, yet ready to spring into action when the time comes. I know the enemy is around, moving closer and getting ready to attack. He will strike fast. Testing me as he did my brothers, and fade back into the darkness, calculating how to best me. Tonight it will all come to an end. The fate of the city rest with me and me alone. It has been a long war. Many lives cost on both sides, but peace and justice must rise above all else. I can feel the electricity in the air. Lighting strikes! I can see his silhouetted claws in the shadows. I leap into action.

          “OK, How do I fight?” I ask my cousin sitting in his basement. I was seven at the time.
He was a little older, thirteen. This was my first time role playing. We were playing a home brew of Palladium's TMNT and Other Strangeness. I was Leonardo, who was not my favorite Turtle, though I really wanted to have a sword. During this session, I had single handedly discovered Shredder's plan to bring Krang and his followers into our reality. This would destroy New York, yet more importantly, kill April O'Neil.

         “Here. Roll this d20. Subtract this, this, and add this... What did you get?” I did not really understand a word he said. All I wanted to do was hit Shredder. I wanted to knock him off the roof just like in the movie, then hit the sewers for a pizza party. I rolled this huge, opaque green die. Apparently, it was not good enough. Shredder killed me and won. That was my introduction to role playing. I failed in saving the world while dying in the process. I could not understand how a game based on my favorite cartoon could end with Shredder winning. As most kids do when things don't go the way they want, I threw a huge fit. Needless to say, my cousin was a good game master. He did not change a thing. Shredder still won. The day was lost for sure, but not the war.

         “You can make another character if you want and we can keep going. Now you can't be one of the TMNT because they are dead. However, you can make another mutant. Keep trying to stop Shredder as well as push Krang back to Dimension X. Do you want to try that?” my cousin asked.

           With that I was hooked. Even though I had lost, I could still win. Unlike the video and board games that I had played in my seven years on this earth, I could keep playing forever. At least that was what I had thought. That idea in which I was not playing a game that had an ending. instead I was part of a world that would change every time we played, blew me away. This was the last time I played that game. I made another character. By the next time we met to role play, X-men had taken over. I no longer wanted to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Now I just wanted to be a mutant with awesome eye beams, that could fly and teleport.

           Over the years I fought dragons, flown star ships across the galaxy, plundered pirate's treasure, learned how to hack into a mainframe, battled timeless evil, piloted giant death dealing robots, brought honor to my clan, and saved more than my fair share of cowpokes. I have played in more groups than I care to count. I have made and lost countless friends. I have seen the hobby go from boom to bust and back to a boom again. I have so many fond memories of sitting around a table, rolling fifty cent pieces of plastic and creating stories that would amaze the heavens

           I'm currently working on the campaign for our new show Dungeons and Dumbasses. Once again, getting ready for the fight against evil. It brought me back to where my love of role playing began. It all goes back to that cold basement. That damn huge, opaque green d20. Over the next couple of posts, I will dig deeper into my history from the table. You will read stories of me playing as well as tales as a game master from my many years of running games. I hope you enjoy. Please share with me your stories or fond memories from your role playing experiences.

 

Superhuman: Routine

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Routine

Written by Chris Parsons

What is it to be superhuman? Is it simply putting on a cape and fighting crime? Can someone be bombarded with radiation or bit by a bug to unlock unfathomable power? This is highly unlikely, but being a better you by honing strengths and minimizing weaknesses is viable. With you, the reader, I want to go on a journey at the end of which superhumans stand proud. Each week we will explore a different area of our lives and implement a plan for starting new habits that will  ultimately bring us one step closer to being superhuman. In an ideal world, this will be a six month ordeal, but lets just see where we end up.

There are 100s of cliches that say how important it is to wake up early, and many successful individuals would attest to this. Jocko Willink, a retired Navy SEAL and accomplished author, starts his day at 4:30am because of a belief that he must work while his enemy sleeps. We all know that evil never rests, so this is probably a great place to start. While waking at 4:30am may not be for all of us, waking up a bit earlier to work on a few things before “real life” starts happening can’t be a bad thing. So, in order to find more time in the day, Let’s start our morning routine one hour before we would normally wake up. The eight hours that most people claim to need isn’t actually what a human requires to work at optimum efficiency. Studies show that sleep cycles happen in three hour increments. Arnold Schwarzenegger claimed to slept six hours every night, and if six hours is good enough for the Terminator, it’s good enough for me. On a side note, do not press the snooze button, it will leave you more tired than you were before.

What we do following waking up is of the utmost importance. When we get up and begin to stare into our phone before even truly starting our day a few things happen.

 

  1. It messes with our dopamine levels

  2. It distracts us from tasks that we should be working on

  3. Seeing a bunch of notifications can cause stress

  4. We are waking up early to become a superhuman, not a zombie

 

So, we will start our day with an accomplishment; making our bed! Retired Admiral, William H. McRaven, wrote a book on it, so if you want to understand the methodology behind it read it. It’s called Make Your Bed, Imagine that... He has also given speeches on it that you can find by using the google machine. After doing this, we are going to outline a few key items that we want to accomplish. Make sure that you can actually achieve these micro-goals in the time period that you have allotted yourself.We will be doing something similar with our nighttime routine as well. We want to be in constant pursuit of goals and we want to be constantly achieving goals so that we feel accomplished in our endeavors.

It is at this time that we are going to start getting into working out. We all want the superhero physique, and this part of our morning routine will help us to achieve it. It also raises energy levels and will help you sleep better later, so don’t skip out on this. Bodyweight exercises are perfectly adequate if you don’t have access to weights or a gym. Lookup a few workout routines, and pick one that works best for your situation. You won’t regret it when it has come come to cosplay.

Follow your workout with meditation. Meditation is a fantastic way to free yourself of things that weigh you down. There are guided meditations and apps that can help you with this. Don’t look at what you can gain from meditation, but what you can lose. Buddha said, “Let me tell you what I lost through meditation: sickness, anger, depression, insecurity, the burden of old age, the fear of death.”

Now it’s time for the most important meal of the day! Assuming you don’t have any diet restrictions, due to health conditions or anything like that, I’m going to recommend a High protein breakfast. This type of meal is supposed to make you less hungry between meals, reduce metabolic inflammation, reduce risk for heart disease and diabetes, and help with anxiety. I will normally eat six to eight scrambled eggs and be pretty content until lunchtime.

One of the things that is most difficult for people is time management. If we sit down and schedule an entire day we are probably not going to be able to adhere to the schedule that we’ve created and end up failing because of it. If we fly by the seat of our pants, the lack of structure is generally enough to keep us barely treading water. The fix is beautiful in it’s simplicity. Schedule time blocks for a few blocks of time for uninterrupted work. For example: 9:00am-11:00am I’m working on ________ task, then making said task your life mission. After you have finished doing whatever it is, give yourself some time before scheduling the next task. Having these little blips of massive productivity can be extremely rewarding, and working on certain things at specific times of the day will help to refine your ritual and reduce stress because you know when you’re getting things done.

Before you lay your head to rest, after a day of performing like a superhuman, we need to once more ditch the phone. Give yourself at least 30 minutes before going to sleep where you aren’t staring at that tiny mind control device. Take a few minutes to reflect on what you have accomplished and how you could make it more efficient. Then review what it is you want to get done tomorrow. It’s good to write out a to-do list, but not completely necessary. Now give yourself a minute to decompress; let the stress from the day fall away.

 

Stay Geeky!