The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Noteworthy Games

Portal 2: A Reflection and Recollections of the Perpetual Testing Initiative

“All right, I’ve been thinking. When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don’t want your damn lemons! What am I supposed to do with these?! Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am?! I’m the man who’s gonna burn your house down! With the lemons!” –Cave Johnson

Chell finds herself pulled out of stasis by the AI Wheatley, who informs her that the Aperture Science facility has fallen into a critical state and that they need to escape. Leading Chell through old test chambers, Wheatley attempts to work out a plan while Chell locates a portal gun. However, they inadvertently reactivate GLaDOS, who separates the two and sends Chell into a series of test chambers to continue on with where they’d previously left off. When Wheatley figures he’s got a solution, he creates a distraction, allowing Chell to escape into the maintenance passages beyond the test chambers. Chell sabotages the turret production line and disables the neurotoxin generator before heading off to face GLaDOS, successfully inititing a core transfer. Wheatley takes over Aperture Science’s main system and places GLaDOS in a potato battery powered CPU. However, he reneges on his promise to send Chell to the surface, and when GLaDOS reveals Wheatley was designed to inhibit her, he throws the pair into a shaft leading into the bowels of Aperture Science. Making her way through the old Enrichment Spheres, Chell learns that Aperture Science was once a shower curtain manufacturer for the military and received an incredible amount of funding to test their products. Helmed by Cave Johnson, Aperture Science began exploring the realm of science with a reckless abandon, and over time, the company began failing even as Johnson started developing an illness from testing products on himself. His final act was to transfer control of the company to his assistant, Caroline. When Chell reunites with GLaDOS, the two set their differences aside to return to the upper levels and stop Wheatley from destroying the facility. GLaDOS reveals that she has Caroline’s memories and begins opening up to Chell. Upon their return, Chell makes her way through Wheatley’s test chambers to stall for time and manages to elude his crude traps, eventually returning to GLaDOS’ main body. She manages to change out the personality cores and places a portal on the moon, sending Wheatley into the depths of space. Back in control, GLaDOS stabilises the facility and decides to let Chell go, figuring that killing her is too much effort. Wheatley laments his decision to betray Chell and wishes things were different. This is the adventure that Chell goes through in Portal 2, the 2011 sequel to 2007’s acclaimed Portal, a highly innovative and remarkable puzzle game built in the Source Engine with Half-Life 2 assets.

In contrast to its predecessor, Portal 2 is much livelier, and although Chell is exploring an abandoned, derelict Aperture Sciences, Portal 2 never had the same sterile, cold feeling that Portal did. Portal 2 explores a greater range of Aperture’s constructions, and in doing so, also explores a greater range of emotions. Wheatley provides an endless supply of comic relief, driving players forward with an improvisational tone even when he does take over Aperture and develops GLaDOS’ old tendency to want to kill Chell. When she falls into the depths of Aperture Science, Cave Johnson’s old recordings give insight into a once-brilliant mind and his fall from grace. The ruins of the old facility are the only remainders of his legacy, giving the entire area an air of melancholy. GLaDOS is a more multi-dimensional character, carrying out her directive per her programming but also recalling that she was once human and coming to understand why Chell chose to act the way she did. The characterisation creates a much richer experience that ultimately tells a story of regret and longing, as well as coming to peace with what has come to pass, set in the cavernous interior of Aperture Sciences. Besides an enriched story, Portal 2 features all-new mechanics to properly differentiate itself from its predecessor and Half-Life 2. Aerial faith plates propel players to new heights from fixed points, thermal discouragement beams require careful placement to activate exits, hard light bridges to reach distant points, special gels encourage lateral thinking to help players pass otherwise impassible areas, and excursion funnels provide a thrilling way of transporting player and materials across chasms. Like its predecessor, players must use a combination of their knowledge of previous mechanics to devise solutions for clearing different areas, and as Chell edges closer to escaping Aperture Science, she learns more about its storied past. In this way, Portal 2 and Portal share the same relationship that Halo 2 and Halo: Combat Evolved shared; both sequels participate in extensive world-building that enriches the player’s experience of the world, at the expense of the suspense created through the minimalist story-telling of their predecessor. In addition, the sequel’s introduction of new mechanics also changes the strategy players take in completing the game – in the case of Portal 2, the new mechanics cement the notion that the game has evolved into a separate entity from Half-Life 2 with its own distinct elements, but it also creates the caveat that some areas must be cleared a certain way, which restricts players’ freedom to solve puzzles in their own way.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • An indeterminate amount of time has passed since Chell last ventured through Aperture’s test chambers, and in that time, the facility has become dilapidated, overgrown with vegetation and mould. It is through these test chambers that Chell makes her way through, and initially, she’ll find the single-portal gun and advance a short ways before locating the full portal gun. Like its predecessor, Portal 2 gradually introduces players to game elements, although players familiar with Portal will doubtlessly have itched to advance further more quickly.

  • It’s been eight years since I last wrote about Portal 2 – eight years earlier, I had been staring down the MCAT, and at this point during the summer, I had just begun my MCAT course; my physics course had finally ended, and I could turn my full attention towards what would certainly be a challenge. However, in between studying, I was able to unwind by going through a friend’s Steam library: in between study sessions, I was able try a few of his games out, among them Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Portal 2. I blazed my way through the former before beginning the latter.

  • Chell’s gear has changed somewhat since the original Portal: long fall boots take place of her original her knee replacements, and she dispenses with the top of her jumpsuit. I’ve seen a few Chell cosplayers at Otafest in past years: when I first attended, Portal 2 would’ve been two years old. The game’s requirements aren’t steep at all, and even in those days, my old desktop had no trouble running the game smoothly, although there was the minor annoyance that the light on top of the portal gun never lit up owing to a limitation in my old GPU. This particular matter is no longer an issue, and in my current screenshots, the light on the portal gun lights up as expected.

  • Death lasers (formally, “thermal discouragement beams”) replace the high-energy pellets of Portal, and require redirection towards a receptacle in order to activate doors and lifts. Like the high-energy pellets, lasers can kill Chell, but only after prolonged exposure, and they typically must be redirected using a combination of portals and redirection cubes. Portal 2 also introduces hard light bridges, which function similarly to those of Halo. The new mechanics of Portal 2 are fun additions to the game, adding further nuance to various puzzles. Not everyone shared this sentiment, and many regarded Portal‘s simplicity as being more conducive towards creative solutions for solving a particular test chamber, whereas the new mechanics made it clearer how one could solve the test chamber and restrict novel solutions.

  • The lift taking players to the next level have changed in appearance: originally, they were solid, and Portal loaded different segments similarly to Half-Life 2, but by Portal 2, they look sleeker, and the game loads new levels quite separately. The lifts are surrounded by screens that give a visual representation of how a new mechanic works, and one of my favourite animations was the one depicting the turrets in action, showing the automatic chambering and firing of rounds. In Portal, turrets could be disabled by knocking them over, and while this is still viable in Portal 2, there is a rather more entertaining way of dealing with turrets.

  • Using a redirection cube allows one to focus a laser on a turret, which heats up its inner structure and eventually causes it to explode: back in Portal, the high-energy pellets could only knock turrets over, which, while functionally equivalent, was nowhere nearly as satisfying. Because Chell is completing these test chambers to occupy GLaDOS while Wheatley works out an escape plan, there’s the sense that something big is in the making.

  • The new test chambers of Portal 2 have a different aesthetic than the test chambers of Portal, being composed of sliding panels rather than the metal cubes. The amount of portal-conducting surfaces are also reduced in many places. While this initially felt restricting, it’s also a bit of a clever way to subtly hint at where portals should be placed. Here, I grab ahold of a weighted cube and make my way across a hard-light bridge: it suddenly strikes me that, since the Perpetual Testing Initiative days, I’ve not actually gone back through Portal 2 until now.

  • Test Chamber 20 is the only test chamber that’s completed and ready to roll: it most resembles the test chambers of Portal and every surface is capable of conducting portals. While seemingly simple, it involves redirecting the lasers into the right receptacles using a combination of redirection cubes and portals. I’ve heard that it’s possible to finish this test chamber without placing any portals, but this requires precise use of the redirection cubes. Once this test chamber is cleared, Wheatley returns and prompts Chell to go into the maintenance access surrounding the test chamber.

  • Portal‘s maintenance areas had a more Half-Life feel to them, and Portal 2 modifies them to have a different aesthetic. I can’t help but wonder if the design was inspired by areas of Facebook headquarters. Once Chell’s escaped, Wheatley will have her help in sabotaging the turret manufacturing line and disabling the neurotoxin supply before taking her to face GLaDOS. Chell manages to perform the core transfer, placing Wheatley in charge of Aperture Sciences, but the additional processing power drives him insane, and he reneges on his promise to Chell. When GLaDOS insults Wheatley, he loses his cool and smashes the lift Chell is in, sending her and GLaDOS tumbling into the depths of Aperture Sciences.

  • After falling into the depths of Aperture Science, some four-and-a-half kilometres beneath the surface, Chell is briefly knocked out and comes to just as a bird carries GLaDOS away. This is the loneliest it gets in Portal 2, and Chell can only count on her wits to figure out how to return to the surface: there is no Wheatley to lighten the moment up, and no GLaDOS to make snide remarks. The sense of scale at Aperture Science becomes apparent here, giving an idea of just how extensive the facilities are. When I first came here in Portal 2 some eight years ago, I was thoroughly impressed with how the older facility was presented, and it was here that the melancholy in the game became visibly felt.

  • Wandering through the unused sections of Aperture Science, I would come upon the vault door that leads into the next section. Portal 2‘s designers stated they wanted to play with some visual humour, in which they would use an immensely large vault door to conceal an ordinary door. At this point during my first play-through, I was wrapping up a physics course and making more headway into the MCAT preparation course. The timing of this was excellent: I had been a little worried about a potential scheduling conflict, but with physic concluding, I was free to focus purely on the MCAT.

  • By the time I’d set foot in the catwalks leading into the first of the Enrichment Spheres, Portal 2 had been out for just over a year. One of my friends had already completed the game and began using the music to test to in accompanying his videos of his Otafest experiences. Portal 2‘s soundtrack was carefully composed to fit the atmosphere of different areas of the game. The music of the Enrichment Spheres, in particular, create a light-hearted sense of science fiction that suggests a combination of whimsy and cleverness that is needed to complete this section of the game.

  • I’m guessing, then, that for my friend, Otafest represents a similar challenge for visitors in that it requires an open mind and awareness of one’s surroundings to ensure one doesn’t miss anything. This turned out to be true: when I attended Otafest a year later, I planned to attend for one day and played things by ear. While it was a fun experience, I would subsequently learn that I’d missed a bunch of events and a chance to collect special pins. For future conventions, I planned ahead and would go on to have a more comprehensive experience. Here, I pass through one of the older offices, and a trophy case of Aperture’s best achievements of the day are visible.

  • Besides Otafest vlogs, my friend had also made extensive cross-overs of Portal and Team Fortress 2 with The Melancholy of Suzumiya HaruhiLucky☆Star and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I’ll admit that I don’t fully understand half of the intended themes in crossovers, and upon asking my best friend to take a look, and they were similarly uncertain as to what was going on. If I had to guess, they probably represent how he may felt about certain character interactions and themes in a show, brought into a context he was familiar with. Portal 2 captures the feeling of loneliness and the hubris of ambition in this section, so for me, these sections of the game were the most memorable.

  • Chell eventually makes her way into the control rooms that activate the different mobility gels: these modify the properties of a surface, allowing for movement in areas that would otherwise be impassible. While it’s a lonely journey through the bowels of Aperture Science, Chell is accompanied by Cave Johnson’s hilarious, but also increasingly erratic dialogue, which gives a rather detailed history of Aperture Science, which began as a highly successful company that Johnson ran into the ground with uncertain, experimental projects. While a man of science, Johnson evidently had a stubborn pride about him, as well.

  • After reaching a series of abandoned offices, Chell will find the potato that GLaDOS is stuck to; a bird had carried her away earlier, and GLaDOS becomes deathly afraid of birds for a period after she reunites with Chell. Having GLaDOS attached to Chell’s portal gun, Portal 2 suddenly feels a lot less lonely, and the two work out an alliance with the aim of getting back to the main facility so that GLaDOS can stop Wheatley from destroying everything in his incompetence.

  • Once GLaDOS is back, she’ll occasionally react to Cave Johnson’s recordings: it turns out that GLaDOS was built from Caroline, Johnson’s pretty-as-a-postcard assistant with a bright personality who was also evidently competent. Upon hearing one of Johnson’s recordings, GLaDOS responds with a heartfelt and genuine “Goodbye, Sir“, hinting at her origins. It turns out that Johnson had intended to have his mind transferred, but in the event that he died before the process could be carried out, Caroline would take his place. These exchanges match the melancholy, wistful feeling one gets when traversing these test chambers. The inquisitive player can locate a picture of Caroline and unlock an achievement for doing so in this test chamber.

  • I still have vivid memories of being stuck in this enrichment sphere after arriving for the first time: I had started playing Portal 2 as a bit of a study break, having hit a wall of sorts in revising the new MCAT materials, but wound up without a means of completing this test chamber. I ended up putting the breaks on Portal 2, returned to hit the books and ended up understanding the concept I was looking at. The early summer of 2012 was characterised by me being entirely focused on the physics and MCAT courses; most days entailed me going to campus to take the courses and then returning home in the afternoon to study.

  • By June, my physics course had nearly wrapped up, and all that was left was the MCAT course, which ran until the end of July. I spent many a beautiful day indoors doing review problems with friends who were also facing down the MCAT or had previously done so. I constantly swung between an impatience to take the exam and a gripping panic during this time, but with support from my friends, I weathered on. Most of my days were punctuated by a great deal of gaming, which helped me to unwind and focus in between studying sessions.

  • Finally, August came, and I sat the exam. When I had finished, it was as though a great weight was lifted off my shoulders. With the remaining twenty days of the summer, I spearheaded an effort that some of my colleagues had taken to submit a paper to an undergraduate journal earlier that year: we had become swamped with coursework and the paper was shelved. However, two of the remaining colleagues had expressed an interest in continuing, and since I was not officially doing summer research then, I had unlimited time on my hands.

  • After receiving everyone’s drafts, I ended up writing out the entire paper and then asked that my colleagues review it as they were able. As August drew to an end, and my final undergraduate year started, we had a fully finished draft. My supervisor was happy to review it, and we ended up submitting it to the journal. It was accepted some time later, and I was invited to participate in the undergraduate research symposium with my older project from a summer earlier. Seeing the extensibility of this project led me to build my undergraduate research project off it, and for my troubles, I ended up doing very well.

  • As I return further up the facility, I recall that because I had been in the midst of MCAT season and had wanted to finish Portal 2 as quickly as possible. I therefore skipped over the sections of Portal 2 where Chell and GLaDOS return to the more modern Aperture Science facilities, returning to the point after the pair reach the stairwell leading back into a more modern-looking test chamber, shaving about 15-30 minutes off my run. In retrospect, I needn’t have skipped this part, but what’s done is done.

  • According to the screenshots, I finished my first run of Portal 2 precisely eight years earlier and ended up writing about the new mechanics here. At that time, this blog was really more of a side resource where I could go to write shorter articles, supporting the content at my main Webs.com page. However, as the limitations of Webs.com became increasingly apparent, I transitioned all of my writing to this blog. Here, I make use of a portal conducting gel to coat the interior of this shaft, allowing me to freely place portals in critical areas to reach further up.

  • While I had finished Portal 2 and wrote about it eight years ago to this day, that same summer saw Valve introduce the addition of Perpetual Testing Initiative, adding co-op chambers for players to complete. Any owner of Portal 2 was automatically granted a special discount coupon for Portal 2 to gift to friends so that they could claim a copy of the game for 5 USD. My friend, having heard about my enjoyment of the game, sent me his coupon, and a few hours later, I was the proud owner of Portal 2. I started my journey late in August, and finished the campaign a second time just before term started.

  • On my second play-through, I went through every area of the game, including the shafts leading back to the more modern facility and the crawlspace just beneath the modern test chambers. As I passed through familiar test chambers and the bowels of the facility alike, I recalled with vivid clarity the old thrill of studying for the MCAT. Three days later, my MCAT results came back, and it was to my immense relief that I’d done rather well. I wouldn’t actually use the results in later years, having developed a keen interest in software development following my undergraduate thesis, but the lessons and experiences from taking the MCAT persisted: besides being a better tester, I also relaxed considerably regarding challenges.

  • I don’t believe I have any screenshots of Portal 2 left over from those days: all of the screenshots for this post were taken relatively recently. Upon returning back to the modern facilities, it’s evident that Wheatley has made a mess of things, creating illogical tests. Fortunately, there are solutions to Wheatley’s tests, and the introduction of the excursion funnels, which act similarly to the hard light bridges but also offer laminar flow, allowing players and objects to be pushed across an area.

  • Despite displaying fluid-like properties, the excursion funnels are not liquid in nature. Special switches allow their direction to be switched, and they become an invaluable mechanic for crossing over large chasms opening into the deepest reaches of the Aperture Science facility. Wheatley’s tests leave massive gaps in the floor, which expose infrastructure and also give an idea as to how vast Aperture Science really is. Chell can exit the funnel at any time by means of normal movement, but careless movement at the wrong time will lead to death.

  • Besides Chell herself and objects like weighted cubes, the excursion funnels can also be used to transport mobility gels great distances. Solving puzzles with a combination of the mobility gels and excursion funnels turned out quite fun: by this point in time, familiarity with all of the mechanics means that players will have no trouble figuring out what needs to be done. Of note was the part where one needed to use the repulsion gel on turrets to safely deactivate them: once coated, they begin bouncing around erratically and plummet to the depths of the Aperture Science facility.

  • A distant light can be seen as Chell heads towards Wheatley with every intention of stopping him and restoring GLaDOS’ access to control Aperture Science. Traveling through this excursion funnel, with a distant light illuminating the way, players cannot help but feel that they are almost at the light at the end of the tunnel. This screenshot here perfectly captures how it felt to watch the days between myself and the MCAT count down to the doom of my time.

  • The fight with Wheatley is hilarious: while he takes measures to prevent himself from being defeated the same way GLaDOS was defeated, conditions transpire against him, and Chell is given all of the tools needed to stop Wheatley, by corrupting his main core with alternate cores and prompting a core transfer. Once successful, Wheatley is sucked into space, and regrets betraying Chell, while GLaDOS stabilises the facility and allows Chell to walk free, since killing her was too much work. This brings my third play-though of Portal 2 to an end, and having gone through both Lucky☆Star and both Portal games, I turn my attention towards The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya next, which holds the answers to lingering questions I had surrounding Otafest.

Being more extensive than Portal in every way, Portal 2 ultimately is an immensely enjoyable and immersive experience overall. In particular, I was most fond of the game’s midsections, which sees Chell explore the abandoned ruins of the old Aperture Science. The sheer scope and scale of the old Enrichment Spheres are a monument to Aperture Science’s hubris: Portal 2 demonstrated that level design and voice acting alone can tell an incredibly compelling story: Cave Johnson himself never appears, having long died from being poisoned by the moon dust used in creating portal-conducting surfaces, but old heirlooms and artifacts do much in filling in the gaps. Together with the derelict state of the old facilities, one really gains a sense of the hopelessness and desperation Johnson had to bring back the glory days even as Aperture Science fell further into ruin. These missions are reminiscent of exploring haikyo: although the walls of abandoned buildings might not speak, an entire story lies beyond their silence, told in stone and mementos alike. Altogether, Portal 2 places a much greater emphasis on the human elements of the series compared to its predecessor, which, while succeeding on the merits of its simplicity, left many questions unanswered. Portal 2 answers some of these questions and suggests that behind the events of Portal, there was a human element to things, which help players to really understand the dangers of an unchecked desire for progress. Together with areas that capture the scope and scale of Aperture Science, moments that help characters grow, and a generally livelier atmosphere, Portal 2 represents a novel direction for Portal that adds nuance to the series, and while its story leaves players no closer to understanding the role Aperture Science and the Borealis plays in Half-Life 2, does offer closure for those who had lingering questions after completing Portal.

Portal: A Reflection

Didn’t we have some fun, though? Remember when the platform was sliding into the fire pit and I said ‘Goodbye’, and you were like ‘NO WAY‘, and then I was all ‘we pretended we were going to murder you’? That was great.” –GLaDOS to Chell

Twelve years after Aperture Sciences is abandoned, Chell awakens in a Relaxation Chamber and is given instructions from GLaDOS, an AI overseeing the facility. She acquires a single-portal gun and begins the testing procedure on the promise that cake is to be provided for all successful testers. As Chell progresses through the different test chambers and picks up the full portal gun, things become increasingly dangerous: some test chambers are flooded with toxic compounds, and GLaDOS also introduces test chambers with automated turrets. Chell eventually acquires the weighted companion cube in one chamber, and is forced to destroy it to continue. In the final test chamber, after successfully finishing it, Chell finds herself facing certain death, but uses the portal gun to escape to safety. GLaDOS attempts to persuade Chell into returning back into the facility, but she ventures deeper into Aperture Sciences’ maintenance areas, eventually locating GLaDOS’ chambers. Here, Chell eludes GLaDOS’ attempts to kill her and manages to crippled the system, causing an explosion that propels her to the surface. Beginning its life as a Source Engine re-imagination of an older title (wherein recycling assets from Half-Life 2 and using the Source Engine simplified the development process), Narbacular Drop, Portal was released in October 2007 alongside Half-Life 2 Episode Two and Team Fortress 2 as a part of the Orange Box. The game became an unexpected hit for its clever mechanics and narrative, as well as for its unique aesthetic and promotion of scientific principles in problem-solving.

Because of its minimalism, Portal is characterised by the immense sense of loneliness that Chell faces during the game’s events. There are no other humans in Portal, and as Chell progresses through each test chamber, the only interaction she has is with GLaDOS, an AI that becomes increasingly sarcastic and hostile as the game wears on. Chell also finds signs that everything is not what it seems after finding an opening to the maintenance area in one of the test chambers, where another test subject had hastily scrawled “The Cake is a Lie” on the walls. In spite of these ominous signs, Chell initially complies with GLaDOS right up until the final chamber, where it is revealed that GLaDOS had planned in killing her after all. After escaping, Chell is truly alone, and so, begins to follow signs left by the previous test subject, eventually deciding that the only means of survival is to destroy GLaDOS. In the absence of human contact, Portal succeeds in creating an unsettling atmosphere that suggests loneliness can drive individuals to follow anything that resembles social interaction. In Chell, this first takes the form of trusting GLaDOS and obediently completing test chambers, and then in placing her trust in the previous test subject’s discoveries. With its dark humour and play on the human psyche even as players complete the puzzles of the test chambers, Portal quickly became a success, and Valve would follow up with a sequel, Portal 2, in 2011.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because Portal was built in the Source Engine and recycles assets from Half-Life 2, the game even utilises the same menus and sound effects. The Portal Gun itself is a re-skinned Gravity Gun with the power to pick stuff up and place them, aside from its portal-making functions. Initially, the puzzles of Portal are very easy, designed to get players used to finishing test chambers, but as the game wears on, they become increasingly challenging.

  • According to my Steam achievements, the first time I played Portal was back in September 2011. This would have marked the start of a new term after a summer of research and adventure: besides building the prototype renal model that would form the basis for my undergraduate thesis, I also travelled about both to the Eastern Seaboard and regional mountains, spent memorable days at LAN parties and enjoyed the beautiful summer weather on campus. Entering the new term, I found myself rejuvenated and quite ready to get my GPA back on track for the Honours programme.

  • Late in September, Valuve made Portal free to pick up, and having seen one of my friend’s The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi mashups with Portal, I decided to grab a copy and began playing it later in the month. The first month of term is always slower, so I hastened to finish Portal before things became too crazy, and I would end up wrapping up the game closer to the Thanksgiving Long Weekend in October. Subsequently, I focused my efforts into my studies and wound up doing okay, sufficiently well to return my GPA to the faculty satisfactory standing of a B- or better.

  • I have no screenshots from that particular playthrough of Portal, but if I did, they likely would’ve been 1024×786. In order to acquire screenshots for this post, then, I beat the whole of Portal in a shade under two hours. While there are no mirrors in Portal, the fact that the game does render portals fully means that it is possible to see Chell, and as such, Valve ensured that Chell has a player model – I do not believe that Half-Life 2 actually rendered Gordon Freeman, but thanks to the simplicity of Portal, no crazy models are needed: Chell only needs animations for running and jumping. In Portal, Chell is equipped with the advanced knee replacement mod, which allows her to automatically right herself when moving through a portal and absorb the impact of a long fall.

  • All of the puzzles in Portal involve reaching an exit to the test chamber, and then variation comes from how to open the door and getting to the door. Weighted cubes can be acquired to activate switches, while other switches are activated by redirecting high-energy pellets into them. The pellets are Half-Life 2‘s Energy Balls, using the same asset and possess the same properties: coming into contact with one is instant death, and since they follow a linear trajectory, it takes a bit of creative thinking to direct them into their receptacles.

  • The relatively small number of mechanics in Portal belies a certain ingenuity in the game. The use of momentum in the fling manoeuvre is probably the feature that defines Portal: after players are introduced the idea that “speedy object in, speedy object out”, the game is really able to get creative with its level design. Obstacles and hazards are incorporated in a way as to challenge the player to see what is possible with portals, and because of the pure number of portal-ready surfaces available, players can also explore novel ways of getting around more quickly even in more ordinary environments: some test chambers are quite large, and portals can be used as a shortcut to traverse great distances quickly.

  • The fifteenth test chamber exemplifies the sort of genius that went into the integration of game mechanics with level design in Portal: it is a deceptively simple setup involving the Emancipation Grill and glass walls that prevent players from easily traversing the level. The lack of pits also means that flinging is not immediately an apparent manoeuvre, so players must get creative in portal placement in order to pass over the glass walls, then make use of the high-energy pellets to activate a platform. Because the platforms move in the opposite direction as one’s destination, use of portals is required to advance towards the exit.

  • Half-Life 2‘s sentry guns are repurposed as sleek, Apple-like turrets with a laser sight that indicates where it’s pointing. The turrets are sentient, and speak to the player. Chell can take a few rounds from a turret before dying, and the turrets themselves can be defeated simply by knocking them over. This is typically achieved by dropping objects into them, directing high-energy pellets at them or else opening a portal in the ground underneath them. In situations where none of these are optional, the old Half-Life 2 standby of picking up an object and using it to absorb incoming fire is also a possibility.

  • The weighted Companion Cube is a Portal icon, and while only appearing in test chamber seventeen, very quickly became counted as an integral part of the Portal universe. It is the only cube that must be destroyed, introducing players to the incinerator, but as it turns out, the Companion Cube is not unique, and others are shown in spin-off media, as well as Portal 2. Players who pre-ordered Portal 2 also received a Companion Cube pin as an in-game cosmetic reward for Team Fortress 2, and during my short-lived days trading for Team Fortress 2 hats to help a friend out, I ended up picking a Genuine Companion Cube pin up for myself.

  • The penultimate test chamber is the trickiest, requiring a combination of everything that players have picked up: flinging, use of the high-energy pellets, weighted cubes, avoidance of turrets and caution to avoid the hazardous sludge, as well as implements that require careful timing to activate. By this point, Portal has introduced everything that players need to survive, so even the most intimidating-looking test chamber suddenly becomes a fun challenge to overcome, rather than a rage-inducing puzzle.

  • The last test chamber supposedly marks the end of Portal, but players will feel a sense of unease: given how quiet its been, the probability of there actually being cake seems slim to none, and the mysterious scrawl from an earlier test subject indicates that there is more to Portal than meets the eye. Once players activate the platforms and prepare to progress into what GLaDOS promises to be a celebration, the truth behind Portal becomes apparent.

  • There is no cake, and instead, GLaDOS means to burn Chell alive by dropping her into an incinerator. Fortunately, armed with what is about an hour’s worth of skill with portals, Chell is able to beat a quick escape and avoid being charbroiled. From here on out, Portal dispenses with the highly-structured environments within the test chambers, and puts the player’s knowledge to the test as Chell pushes through the back doors and maintenance passages of Aperture Science.

  • The fact that Aperture Science possesses monitors and keyboards suggests that it was once staffed by humans: a purely automated facility would not have a need for any HCI and by extension, any I/O capture devices. Because Portal recycles so many of Half-Life 2‘s assets, the game does distinctly feel like Half-Life 2 without the Gravity Gun and things to shoot at: the sterile interior of the Aperture Science offices do have that gritty and worn feel as Half-Life 2‘s interiors did.

  • An ominous orange light fills these back ways, along with bits of lighting from lamps illuminating these areas. Filled with pistons and other hazards, it takes a fair bit of observation to figure out where to go, and even though I’ve already beaten this game some eight-and-a-half years earlier, some areas still required that I slowed down to find a suitable surface to place a portal on. Progressing through these areas, markings hastily scrawled in red paint point Chell in the right direction, and with GLaDOS hellbent on killing Chell, players have no choice but to trust these markings.

  • The page quote I’ve got for this Portal talk is probably my absolute most favourite line from the entire game. While it’s not very convincing, it exemplifies the sort of humour that went into Portal. It suddenly strikes me that ten years ago to this day, Otafest 2010 would’ve been starting: back in those days, Otafest happened on University grounds, and so, the organisers opened the event in the afternoon to avoid disturbing the researchers on campus, and the first day’s events were of a much smaller scale.

  • After clearing an arena’s worth of turrets out, Chell travels upwards into the Aperture Science facilities, passing through a cavernous open area that eventually leads into the chamber where GLaDOS’ main body is held. The use of distance fog in conjunction with the orange lighting creates an atmosphere that is simultaneously ominous, yet melancholy, and the colours stand in stark contrast with the welcoming glow of the portal gun. The scale of the interior at Aperture Science suggests to players that they’ve become entangled in something vast, although Portal does not explain what it is.

  • The rooms overlooking the skybridge leading into GLaDOS’ chamber brings to mind an atrium in the Professional Faculties on campus, which had a similar (but warmer) aesthetic. During my time as a university student, I only ever had one class in the Professional Faculties building, which was located a fair distance away from the events of Otafest: the proximity of the Science department’s buildings to the campus student centre meant that the areas where I took most of my classes in, and where my old office was located, would see host to most of Otafest’s events until they moved the venue downtown during my final year of graduate studies.

  • After surviving numerous perils, Chell finds herself face-to-face with her nemesis. Defeating GLaDOS is a relatively simple task: once the rocket turret is deployed, it’s a matter of using portals to redirect rockets to hit GLaDOS’ main body, and then chucking various personality cores into the incinerator before the molar concentration of nerve gas becomes lethal to Chell.  Eventually, damage sustained during the fighting causes the facility to go critical and explode, forcing Chell up to the surface. It turns out that Chell was dragged back into Aperture Sciences and put into stasis, being reawakened an indeterminate amount of time later for the events of Portal 2.

  • I will, of course, be writing about Portal 2 come June, and for now, the fact that we are sitting a decade after Otafest 2010 means I’m feeling nostalgic, so I will be revisiting Lucky☆Star tomorrow, which was when ten years earlier, the main events of Otafest 2010 would have taken place. The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi is another one of the anime that brings back memories of a simpler time, but since I’d forgotten so much of what happened, I do plan on spending early June on a re-watch before attempting to write about it. Because we’re on course for the end of May, as well, the last post I have planned at the moment is a massive one on Halo 2, which joined The Master Chief Collection nine days ago.

While elements of dark humour typically go over my head, what’s not lost on me in Portal is the strong gameplay. The gradual progression allows players to be slowly introduced to game mechanics, and so, when players reach the later test chambers, a bit of creativity will yield a solution. For instance, using portals allows Chell to “fling” herself great distances: as GLaDOS puts it, “speedy object in, speedy object out”. By applying the conservation of momentum, players can reach otherwise unreachable areas needed to solve a test chamber. Momentum is first introduced in a simple room with a pit, but later rooms with the emancipation grills and impassable glass walls prevent players from simply using portals to enter. Instead, players must recall that they can create a portal in the floor and then near the ceiling, after which they can build up the momentum needed to fling themselves into the next area. The end result is that players feel very clever for having completed Portal‘s puzzles, and after GLaDOS goes rogue, players are assured that they know all of the tricks needed to survive. Using only the most basic of mechanics and the laws of physics as defined by the Source Engine, Portal managed to create an experience that was memorable: this sentiment is shared by countless others who’ve played through it, and the game is counted as one of the best games ever made. My time with Portal began in 2011, shortly after Portal 2‘s release and Valve made Portal free to download for a while: coupled with an interest in the series stemming from a series of Otafest videos one of my friends had uploaded, I finally had the chance to experience what is one of the best-known games in recent memory.

Star Wars Battlefront II: A Reflection on the Campaign

“We’ve been fighting for our whole lives. It’s taken us too long to realise that we were fighting for the wrong side. This war is far from over. We would like to help you, if you’ll let us.” –Iden Versio

After she allows herself to be captured by the Rebel Alliance, Iden Versio escapes from captivity and erases a coded transmission the Rebels had acquired concerning the Emperor’s plan for Endor. While on an assignment to neutralise the Rebel forces that landed at Endor, the second Death Star is destroyed. Iden and Inferno Squad (Del and Gideon) comply with orders to retreat and secures TIE fighters, rejoining the Imperial Forces and meets with her father, Admiral Versio. With the Emperor’s death confirmed, the Empire begins to enact Operation Cinder, a contingency plan that would have seen the destruction of Imperial worlds. After Del encounters Luke Skywalker on Pillio during a mission to destroy the Emperor’s storehouse, Meeko and Iden are sent to Vardos to extract Protectorate Gleb. Witnessing the Empire’s disregard for its own people, Meeko and Iden defect to the Rebel Alliance. They meet Lando Calrissian, who gives Iden and Del a chance to prove themselves as being trustworthy by having them participate in the liberation of Naboo alongside Princess Leia. Iden and Del are then sent to Takodana to find Han Solo, who was locating an Imperial defector holding the key to freeing Kashyyyk. Iden learns that Gideon is on Bespin and commences an operation to capture him alongside Admiral Versio, but the two manage to escape. Lando, meanwhile, heads to Sullust to secure an Imperial weapons cache, but ends up destroying the munitions factory there. The Empire is pushed into a corner, and the Rebel Alliance launches one final attack on the weakened Imperial fleet at Jakku. Iden boards Admiral Versio’s Star Destroyer and attempts to rescue him, but he resolves to die with the Empire, asking Iden to live a full life. In the aftermath of the Battle of Jakku, Iden and Del share a kiss. Decades later, Del is captured and interrogated by Kylo Ren, who is searching for a map that will lead to Luke Skywalker. Kylo Ren turns Del over to Gideon, who executes him after expressing his disgust at the choices Del had made. This is Star Wars Battlefront II‘s campaign, a short but vivid experience that marks the first time I’ve played a Star Wars campaign since the days of Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader.

Battlefront II‘s campaign ultimately acts as a highly cinematic tutorial for players looking to get into the multiplayer, providing nonstop fanservice in allowing players to experience the story from the perspective of heroes like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Lando Calrissian. Iden’s own story is a compelling, if generic one, exploring how the Empire’s atrocities and determination to hold onto power in accordance to Palpatine’s wishes was something that even some of the Imperials did not agree with. The campaign thus shows that Palpatine’s preferred approach in ruling by fear meant that in his absence, the Empire was only loosely held together and disintegrated within a year of his death, which stands in contrast with the extended universe, which saw the Empire continuing to wage war against the New Republic. The divergence of the story between what is official and what is now part of the legends means that some of the latter’s greatest stories will never be brought to life, and while the story of Battlefront II might have been familiar in its presentation and themes (compared to the more complex themes the extended universe deals with), DICE’s implementation of the campaign means that in addition to being a good entry point into Battlefront II, it also provides an authentic and rather enjoyable Star Wars experience: famous planets and weapons are reproduced faithfully, as are the characters and starfighters. Overall, while perhaps nothing remarkable from a thematic or narrative perspective, the technical excellence of Battlefront II‘s campaign, in the visuals and sound engineering, shows that the technology and resources definitely exist to make a Star Wars game of the same enjoyment as something like 2001’s Rogue Leader.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Battlefront II starts with Iden on board a Rebel Mon Calamari cruiser. After she uses her droid to hack her way out, Iden retrieves the intel surrounding Palpatine’s plans at Endor and then escapes. The last time I played Battlefront II was two years ago during the open beta, and the game today is said to be nearly unrecognisable from its state back then, showing what can happen when market forces compel developers and publishers to re-evaluate core mechanics to a game’s progression system.

  • Because Battlefront II now features a conventional progression system rather than the luck-based micro-transactions systems the title first launched with, I will periodically be playing the multiplayer aspects. My primary interest in Battlefront II actually lay in the campaign, arcade and instant action modes, which allow me to experience blowing stuff up Star Wars-style and relive combat within the universe. With this being said, I would very much like to give Galactic Conquest a go, since these would allow me to fight in iconic locations throughout the Star Wars universe.

  • As Iden, a member of the Empire’s elite Inferno Squad, players will initially fight for the Empire. Seeing the second Death Star destroyed from another perspective was a sobering experience that also served to show that at Endor, there were winners and losers. The films and stories predominantly tell of the Rebel Alliances success here, although some also have depicted the chaos and confusion on the Imperial side after the Death Star was destroyed. On Endor, this does not stop Iden and Inferno Squad, who fight their way through the victorious Rebel soldiers and secure TIE fighters.

  • The Empire’s TIE fighters have long been described as being inexpensive, expendable fighters that possessed superior speed and manoeuvrability because of their light weight. Lacking any sort of life support system, shielding and hyper-drive, the TIE fighters were essentially engines bolted onto a cockpit and a pair of fast-firing laser cannons. However, for gameplay reasons, Battlefront II‘s TIE fighters are more durable and act as a good all-around vehicle for space combat.

  • The flight controls in Battlefront II are actually somewhat cumbersome and cannot be fully customised, forcing players to acclimatise to the strange combination of mouse and keyboarding flying. When I reached the first space mission, I actually stopped playing and spent several rounds in the arcade mode to get a better feel for the controls. Once I got used to them, I was able to keep up in at least the single-player mission and accomplish my tasks with efficiency. Muscle memory led me to try and fly like I did in Ace Combat 7, with disastrous (and hilarious) results.

  • Iden is next sent to secure an Imperial dockyard from Rebel forces so that delivery of a secret weapon system can be completed. However, when ion cannons from a Mon Calamari cruiser threaten the operation, Iden is sent to board the cruiser and disable the guns. Battlefront II does not have its 2005 incarnation’s seamless transition between flight and infantry combat, instead relying on transitions in the campaign to achieve the same thing, but its implementation is likely in part owing to the increased complexity of the assets.

  • The first hero players will control is Luke Skywalker, who’s visiting Pillio in search of Jedi artefacts. As Luke, players have access to a Force push, heavy attack and sabre rush that lets Luke close the distance with enemies very quickly. Heroes in Battlefront II seem more vulnerable than their Battlefront counterparts: against the Stormtroopers on Pillio, I had to be cautious and engage them smartly, since Luke’s health can be quickly decimated by enemy fire.

  • After Luke meets Del, he helps Del fend off attack from the native wildlife. Heroes in Battlefront II have stamina for their attacks, and this is drained on a lightsaber strike, or when a block is used. Thus, one cannot swing wildly for risk of running out of stamina mid-battle, which renders Force-users less effective. Once the onslaught ends and Del unlocks the door to the storehouse, he and Luke part ways after Luke finds something noteworthy in the chamber, with Luke hoping to meet again under different circumstances.

  • Iden’s abilities vary and depend on the mission. For the most part, I utilise them to give myself a boost in a given situation, and here, I fight through Vardos after Iden and Del decide to defect from the Empire. Most people considered this to be a highly predictable, sanctimonious turn of events that reinforces the idea that the Empire is irredeemably evil, rather than the multi-faceted enemy that the extended universe (especially Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy) explored, and ever since Disney took the rights to Star Wars, I admit that the storytelling has been less nuanced than it was previously.

  • From a gameplay perspective, Iden’s defection means that one now has the chance to fight Imperial Stormtroopers and implements of the Imperial forces again: I ended up destroying an AT-ST walker en route to my objective using nothing more than a blaster during this mission. While enemy vehicles are powerful forces to contend with in the campaign, even the absence of dedicated anti-armour doesn’t really mean much, since one could stay out of its attack range and chip away at its health.

  • Of course, having anti-armour weapons like a grenade launcher or rocket launcher will help expedite things considerably. The mission on Vardos also gives players a chance to take the gunner’s seat in an AT-AT and use the famous walker’s arsenal to destroy everything standing between Iden and the Corvus. Despite its power, the AT-AT actually feels a little weak, taking at least two hits to down infantry with its main weapon. This was probably done to balance the reinforcement’s power.

  • After escaping Vardos and surrendering to the Rebel Alliance, Iden and Del decide to help them when Lando presents them with a choice. Flying an X-Wing for the first time, Iden thus disables the Cinder satellites before helping the Rebels take down a Star Destroyer in a mission that would not seem out of place in Rogue Leader. The X-Wing is the Rebel Alliance’s trademark fighter, being a powerful and versatile starfighter that balances manoeuvrability with durability. The interceptors are lighter weight, faster and more manoeuvrable in exchange for reduced durability and firepower, while bombers possess more firepower at the expense of mobility.

  • Once Iden clears the Operation Cinder satellites, gameplay switches over to Leia on the ground. She’s armed with a blaster pistol, can summon a defensive shield, use a flash grenade to disorient enemies and can pull out a confiscated Imperial blaster rifle for increased firepower. It felt great to return to Naboo two years after my first visit in Battlefront II during the open beta.

  • Playing as Leia meant switching out my usual E-11 blaster, the Imperial standard-issue rifle that is versatile and reliable, for a Defender Sporting rifle. I believe Leia used such a weapon at the very beginning of A New Hope, and this weapon is capable of downing a Stormtrooper in one shot during the campaign. It also has the unique ability to be charged for a more powerful shot, making it effective over longer ranges.

  • Leia’s mission is to provide covering fire for Del and Rebel soldiers looking to reactivate an ion pulse to disable all Imperial weapons. The mission takes players through the same parts of Theed that the open beta’s mission covered, right up to the palace doors. From here, the pulse is activated and that’s it for the mission: it looks like to explore the hangar where Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon squared off against Darth Maul, plus the interior of the palace, I’ll need to get into a multiplayer match.

  • The campaign takes players to Takodana (not to be mistaken with SSSS.Gridman‘s Rikka Takorada), a planet seen in The Force Awakens. Players assume the role of Han Solo, who’s there speaking to an Imperial informant who intends to provide intel on the Wookies and Kashyyyk. As Han, players have access to his legendary DL-44 heavy blaster pistol, a highly reliable weapon that can one-shot Stormtroopers.

  • Beyond a reliable blaster, Han also has access to a remote-detonated grenade similar to the sticky grenades of The Division and can charge into a crowd of enemies to knock the first enemy over. On top of this, the DL-44 can have its rate of fire increased. All around, he’s a fun character to play, and there was immense satisfaction in using the DL-44 to blow Stormtroopers away: in most games, pistols are considered to be secondary weapons to be counted in during a pinch, but the blaster pistols of Star Wars are equally as effective at range, handling similarly to the M6C Magnum of Halo.

  • After digging through crates the Imperial informant points out to find the intel, Han fights his way through squads of Stormtroopers to reach Chewbacca. Fighting what felt like an entire legion of Stormtroopers here proved tricky, and while the DL-44 is great for dealing with smaller groups, it’s decided less suited for situations where enemies are coming from all sides. It took use of each of Han’s abilities to get through this stage.

  • Once Chewbacca finishes repairing the Millennium Falcon, it’s time to take to the skies and drive off the Imperial forces that appear. Being a Hero ship, the Millennium Falcon’s large size belies its solid performance. Armed with an afterburner, concussion missiles and an automatic quad turret, the Millennium Falcon is considered to be the best Hero ship in Battlefront II, with Boba Fett’s Slave I being the best vessel for the Villains. Maz will berate Han for bringing the Imperial forces in, but with the Millennium Falcon, they are easily dealt with.

  • Iden and Del find themselves on Bespin once they learn that Admiral Versio and Gideon are here. They disguise themselves as Stormtroopers and infiltrate the Imperial facility, but fail to find either Admiral Versio or Gideon. The flight into the facility has players passing by Beldon, voluminous creatures that produced Tibanna gas (utilised as a hyperdrive coolant and for bolstering turbolaser firepower) as a part of their metabolic processes.

  • After the mission goes awry, Iden and Del just barely get away. The amount of firepower brought to bear on the two is incredible, and I ended up fighting an AT-ST walker as well as legions of Stormtroopers. A mounted turret made it much easier to deal with enemies: while stationary weapons generally turn a player into an easy target for snipers in multiplayer settings, in campaigns, most of the AI aren’t capable of sharpshooting and therefore, with their unlimited ammunition and ability to lay down sustained fire, stationary turrets are excellent.

  • Unlike Rogue Leader, which had players participate in a raid on Bespin to secure Cloud City and the Tibanna gas facilities, Battlefront II has Iden and Del turn their attention towards destroying the docking station for three Imperial Star Destroyers. Iden takes control of a Cloud Car, which were originally intended as private transports but, with the inclusion of blasters, becomes a makeshift light fighter. They are not powerful or durable, but their blasters are sufficient in igniting the Tibanna gas platforms the Star Destroyers are docked to.

  • Iden’s raid on Bespin turns out to be much shorter than the one seen in Rogue Leader: once she’s done destroying the platforms, they will explode and destroy the remaining Star Destroyers. Seeing the different visuals and settings in Battlefront II makes me long for a full remake of Rouge Squardon III: Rebel Strike, which was a sequel to Rogue Leader that added on-foot missions. With the assets of Battlefront II already in place, a remake of Rebel Strike with flight missions from Rogue Leader would truly bring iconic missions to life in the latest and greatest game engine.

  • Such a campaign-based Star Wars game would be very unlikely: the games of old were developed and published back in a time when games had a larger single-player focus, when micro-transactions and DLC were not part of a publisher’s business model and when one would get their full money’s worth for a title. These days, games have a larger multiplayer piece, so it is already something that Battlefront II has a campaign.

  • While I entered Lando’s mission to Sullest with some apprehension, it turned out that Lando’s abilities to deploy smoke, track enemies and automatically lock onto enemies with his blaster were superbly useful: Lando was most fun to play, enhanced by his banter with Shriv. Towards the end of the mission, players get to take control of an AT-ST and use its loadout to melt the Imperial soldiers below. While Lando winds up destroying the facility, to Iden’s disappointment that the Rebels won’t get any additional weapons, the strike at Sullest also sets in motion the final mission of Battlefront II.

  • Players actually have a chance to see the Battle of Jakku now: this is Rey’s homeworld, and by the events of The Force Awakens, the desert planet is best known for the wreckage of old Imperial Star Destroyers embedded in the sand dunes. Being able to participate in the mop-up operation that sees the end of Palpatine’s Empire was a thrilling experience, and it was fun to fly in what is the largest battle in Battlefront II‘s campaign.

  • That the Battle of Jakku is set during a sunset is meant to be symbolic: sunsets mark the end of something, and contrary to the officers’ belief otherwise, the Imperials are fighting a losing battle here. After clearing the skies somewhat, Iden descends to a fallen Star Destroyer and plants explosive devices on TIE bombers to take them out of the equation. She then flies towards the battlefront where the Empire has deployed AT-ATs that have begun firing on a Rebel position.

  • While the AT-AT walkers were originally portrayed as terrifying enemies in The Empire Strikes Back, decades of watching the rebels use Attack Pattern Delta on them, followed by the fact that they actually numerous weaknesses, meant that by the time Iden is asked to tag the AT-ATs for bombardment, I thought nothing of them. I long have wondered why X-Wings were never brought to bear against AT-ATs at Hoth, and the answer for this is simple enough. Except for Luke’s X-Wing, all available X-Wings were scrambled to escort the transport craft, and the second is that while an X-Wing could trivially destroy AT-ATs with strafing runs. This would, however, lessen their impact on the Hoth evacuation.

  • The penultimate segment to the Battle of Jakku sees Iden engage Gideon in single combat in an intense dogfight. While a tough opponent, Gideon is no Mihaly A. Shilage, and I ended up defeating him. With Gideon gone for the present, Iden then lands on the Star Destroyer that Admiral Versio is commanding, clears off the deck of opponents and heads off to rescue her father. He declines to go with her, but admits that the Empire was flawed. Wishing her to make the most of her life, he dies as his Star Destroyer crashes onto Jakku’s surface. Iden escapes and passionately kisses Del in the aftermath, bringing the main campaign to an end.

  • There’s actually an epilogue where players get to step into the shoes of Kylo Ren as he is interrogating an older Del for information on Luke Skywalker, as well. With this post finished, I have one more coming out for today, where I write about GochiUsa: ~Sing For You~. Like that Saturday when GochiUsa‘s second season aired four years ago, it’s a beautiful, sunny morning, and I’ll be sitting down to write about this long-awaited addition to GochiUsa later in the day.

With the first campaign now in the books, I still have yet to go through Battlefront II‘s Resurrection campaign, which is set between the events of the first campaign and The Force Awakens. There is a surprising amount of depth to Battlefront II, and having given the multiplayer a short test drive, I am genuinely impressed with how far the game has come since its initial launch in 2017, where its microtransaction and progression system create a controversy so large, it impacted policy change surrounding how microtransactions could be implemented in a game. Since then, DICE tirelessly worked to improve Battlefront II, and players going into the game today will not see any of the elements that caused said controversy two years previously. Progression is simply accomplished by using a class, reinforcement or hero. Battlefront II has seen three seasons’ worth of updates that added new maps, game modes and heroes free of charge: the game now has Clone Wars content and more options for solo play. Seeing all of the development effort and care that went into Battlefront II is, in conjunction with a well-timed sale, why I picked the game up: good Star War games are rare these days simply because there aren’t very many of them, and Battlefront II comes the closest to being a modern incarnation of Rogue Leader, which remains my favourite classic Star Wars game of all time for giving players a chance to re-enact classic Star Wars experiences. Battlefront II may not allow players to fly down the trench of the first Death Star or fight the Battle of Endor the same way that Rogue Leader did, but by expanding on the universe and placing players at key moments after the second Death Star was destroyed, the game does succeed in bringing back the mechanics and atmosphere that makes Star Wars so enjoyable.

Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash- Applicable lessons for DICE and the Future of Battlefield V

“Let’s start from where we left off.” –Yumi, Peach Beach Splash menu

Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is an unusual instalment in Senran Kagura series, being a third-person shooter where ranged combat with water weapons replaces the traditional hack-and-slash gameplay of previous titles. The titular Peach Beach Splash (PBS for brevity, not related in any way to the Public Broadcasting Service) is an ancient tradition where female ninjas engage one another using water weapons, and fight for the top spot that guarantees the winners anything their hearts desire. Each of the characters from Hanzō, Gessen, Hebijo and Crimson Squad participate in the tournament for their own reasons, whether it be for their friends’ sake, to ascertain their futures or simply prove their worth. As players progress through the game, they unlock various cards that bolster their characters’ abilities, as well as earn in-game currency that can be used to purchase character customisations. Mechanically, Peach Beach Splash is a reasonably solid title that features highly colourful settings, an unexpectedly engaging story that allows even newcomers like myself to gain a modicum of insight into what the characters are like, respectable shooting mechanics and above all, a progression system that encourages replay. The features available in Peach Beach Splash indicate a game where the core mechanics are well-defined, sufficiently to the extent that other Triple-A developers could stand to adopt a thing or two from Peach Beach Splash. One such title is DICE’s Battlefield V, which has proven to be a disappointment of late for its relative lack of content. While I appreciate that DICE has invested considerable efforts into improving gameplay mechanics, and for having introduced the Tides of War, which encouraged me to return weekly, the lack of maps has been put a dampener on my excitement. Further to this, the customisation system, originally touted as being an integral part of the experience, has been remarkably lacklustre.

Peach Beach Splash offers a customisation system that puts Battlefield to shame once a day and twice on Sundays. Players have access to an impressive collection of clothing options right out of the gate and can customise their characters to some extent even before they start the game, and as in-game currency is earned, more options become available. Moreover, clothing in Peach Beach Splash reacts to water effects properly. By comparison, one could swim through a river in Battlefield V and come out as dry as they’d been sitting by a roaring fire for a few hours. From a Triple-A title powered by one of the most advanced game engines known to mankind, this is disappointing: I expect more realistic visuals. The cosmetics system in Peach Beach Splash is sufficiently versatile such that the combination of choices is nearly limitless, and players can precisely tune their character’s appearance prior to setting foot on the battlefield. Besides a deep cosmetics system, Peach Beach Splash also outdoes Battlefield V in terms of its map count. Battlefield V launched with a measly eight maps, and in December, Panzerstorm was introduced, bringing the total to nine. Peach Beach Splash has a total of eighteen maps, bringing additional variety into the base game. DICE could take a leaf from Peach Beach Splash: maps are the core of the Battlefield experience, and a part of what makes Battlefield so appealing is being able to learn the ins and outs of each map over time. Greater map diversity keeps the game fresh, and Peach Beach Splash already nails this. Between the superior map variety and customisation system, Peach Beach Splash‘s developers have evidently gone the lengths to make sure that, even without a live service model, their title remains serviceable. DICE could certainly stand to look at games elsewhere for inspiration on what Battlefield V requires to be a long-lived, successful title in the long run.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll open by mentioning that I’ve got no familiarity with any of the characters of Senran Kagura: I started the game with Yumi, a third year of the Gessen Academy who is said to be cool as ice, but underneath a rigid exterior, is someone who cares for her friends to a great extent. Unlike the main games, all of the characters handle the same, and the choice of character is purely a cosmetic one.

  • Swimsuits, water parks and blue skies are classic summer settings: it is therefore a bit of irony that I played through Peach Beach Splash during the Christmas season. Having bought this on the spur of the moment while I was picking up Valkyria Chronicles 4, I felt that this game would offer simple and frivolous fun, far removed from the more demanding nature of titles like Battlefield V. For one, Battlefield V does not provide players with aesthetically pleasing characters to look at.

  • If I had to be truthful, Peach Beach Splash has unresponsive, slow controls unseeming of a shooter – this is offset by an automatic lock-on system. In the end, while a third-person shooter, Peach Beach Splash lacks the mechanics that most demand skillful aiming, and instead, places more emphasis on cooldown management, which requires a different set of skills.

  • The weapon selection in Peach Beach Splash is basic but sufficiently diverse. The assault rifle-type water gun that is good for medium and close ranges, striking a balance between reload speed and damage output. The water pistol handles like a hand cannon, dealing high damage at the expense of firing rate, while dual pistols allow for a higher capacity in exchange for damage output. There’s a slow-firing rocket launcher that does ranged area-of-effect damage, a water-balloon launcher with limited range but area-of-effect impact, a sniper rifle for precision shots at range and a shotgun that excels in close quarters.

  • More outrageous weapons include a Gatling-gun that has a long reload time but is unparalleled in damage output and a portable hose that handles like a flame thrower. Like Battlefield 4, the assault rifle is more than adequate for most missions. A player’s ammunition reserves is shared with their jump packs, which propel players forward or up. It’s a fun way of getting around quickly and brings to mind the jump packs of Titanfall, even if wall-running is not a feature in Peach Beach Splash.

  • For the main campaign, I ended up playing with a variety of characters, and here, square off against one of the machinations that PBS’ hosts bring to bear. The boss fights were quite ludicrous, being a world apart from the deadly-serious bosses that were seen in The Division. While I’m wielding a rocket launcher here, there’s more than one way to beat a boss – provided one doesn’t pick the close quarters weapons like the hose or shotgun, bosses will go down with enough patience.

  • Some of the characters in Senran Kagura have troubled pasts: Murasaki here is a gloomy, pessimistic character who wields a terrifying power causing her to black out and enter a berserker rage when angered or cornered. She’s normally quiet and soft-spoken, and in Peach Beach Splash, wields none of her usual powers.

  • While Peach Beach Splash might have simple mechanics, the voice acting is on-point and brings the characters to life. I was particularly fond of the different stories each of the characters for the different groups had, and this gave a bit more reason to be rooting for each team as they progressed through the tournament.

  • With a boisterous personality, Homura leads the Crimson Squad, who in Peach Beach Splash, is desperate for work following their departure from Hebijō, and since then, have scratched a living off rocks. While this is more serious in the series proper, Peach Beach Splash has them attempt various money-making schemes, such as comedy skits and the like; the PBS tournament represents a chance to become famous and earn some hard currency for Homura and her team.

  • I rather disliked the missions where an accident results in fires being spread around a map: there’s no indicator on the minimap as to where the fires actually are, and finding them can be tricky, if they’re hidden behind other objects. These missions tested my patience more than any other part of Peach Beach Splash, and I elected to roll with the pistol, which has the smallest profile of any weapon and would also allow me to use my jump pack more liberally.

  • The inability to aim means that boss fights are trickier than they would in other games: in The Division, for instance, I have very fine control over where my character is shooting and therefore, I can always flank a named elite, using my skills to distract them if necessary, and then getting a good flank off, allowing me to target their weak points. This simply isn’t viable in Peach Beach Splash, but I suppose that having superior clothing-water interactions does make up for this to an extent.

  • Besides fights against swarms of weak enemies, Peach Beach Splash also gives players a chance to square off against characters from the other schools. Enemy characters are more durable and will project a shield if their health drops below a certain point, and once they are vanquished, can be finished off by means of glory kills: while not quite as visceral as the glory kills of DOOM, it’s still entertaining to take aim and blast their enemies into humiliation. While body shots are technically possible, having played shooters for a nontrivial period of time, I always go for the head.

  • As I progress further into Peach Beach Splash, I developed my own set of favourite characters to fight with. Murakumo is my current favourite – one of the Gessen students, she hides behind a mask the same way Gundam Unicorn‘s Full Frontal does, assuming the veneer of a terrifying warrior. This belies a shy, insecure personality prone to speaking with a squeaky stutter. Her time at Gessen and with Yumi helps her improve, and I roll Murakumo without her mask for most.

  • Most of Peach Beach Splash‘s campaign missions focus on the schools, but once all of the schools and Crimson Squad’s stories are completed, players gain access to additional missions that showcase other characters. These additional missions are a pleasant surprise and also expose the fact that the PBS Tournament is not all that it appears. The campaign is a bit corny, but all the more entertaining for it.

  • Besides the campaign, there’s also a series of side stories, plus the option to mess with the characters in what Peach Beach Splash refers to as the locker room. I’ve begun customising my preferred characters here, and while I don’t think I’ll ever use the locker room’s more unnecessary (for me) functions, it remains an option for the folks who might have use for such faculties. I have no objection to such features, although it appears that not everyone shares this particular perspective.

  • I’ve heard that Kenichiro Takaki, Senran Kagura‘s main producer, left Marvelous for Cygames after Sony imposed restrictions on the content that is permissible within PlayStation games. Feeling that Senran Kagura would be diminished, Takaki decided to work with a company that would not be subject to the same constraints. These restrictions come from the North American branch of Sony, and sets a worrying precedence for future developers in that North American values, particularly those of the United States, could be used to force overseas developers to comply to arbitrary demands.

  • I personally feel that it is definitely not the place of North Americans to influence decisions that affect organisations abroad, least of all from individuals who have no interest in the game – there is such a thing is not playing what one doesn’t like, after all. It is unfortunate that those who would seek to deprive others of their preferred entertainment exist. It is beyond the scope of my understanding as to why some would do this, and also beyond the scope of this discussion.

  • Over the course of Peach Beach Splash, I’ve been slowly upgrading all of my weapon cards: like The Division, I rarely use the card abilities for skills, instead, placing faith in my choice of weapons and a sure aim. As the end of the game draws nearer, I field Yumi again, and invite readers to take a gander at her profile at the Senran Kagura wiki, which has a rather…interesting description of her physical attributes.

  • The final boss of Peach Beach Splash‘s campaign is a massive entertainment system that shoots lasers. My computer-controlled allies were next to useless in this and were promptly melted. It took me a few attempts to beat this monstrosity, whose attacks, while predictable, are powerful and whose biggest asset is a deep health pool that puts even the Black Tusks’ named elites to shame.

  • I ended up winning by retreating to reload and hammering the mobile entertainment system with the water that I had. Eventually, I’d worn down its health enough, got to the bottom of what was keeping the girls on the island and ended the campaign. My skills from The Division far exceeded what was necessary to do well in this game, and having beat the game, there is the matter of whether or not there I may give other Senran Kagura games a spin. The answer to this is that only time will tell.

I imagine that, were the DICE team to take a leaf from Tamsoft and focus on creating a solid experience for players, Battlefield V could yet be salvaged; Peach Beach Splash represents a polished, smooth product designed with the players in mind. A Battlefield title with more elements inspired by Peach Beach Splash would certainly make a splash, and…I think that’s about as far as I can take this year’s April Fool’s joke. In actuality, while I am quite disappointed with the lack of maps in Battlefield V, the mechanics have seen substantial improvement, and I’ve been having fun with the Tides of War, scored an 18-streak and found Rush to be a welcome game mode. It is the case that I wish DICE would focus on creating new maps and exploring new theatres rather than divert efforts towards minor game modes, but the reality is that I’m not terribly worried about the cosmetics system. The new Firestorm mode has also been a welcome addition: I was hesitant about it until trying it out, and overall, Battlefield V isn’t terrible: it is true that I am bored with the lack of maps, but there’s plenty of other games to go through while I wait for the new maps, which are slated to arrive in May. With this in mind, Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash was something I got during the winter holidays as a bit of a joke. The gameplay is a bit wooden, and somewhat uninspired – aiming takes no skill. With this in mind, I was impressed with the movement system, and extent of customisations available to players in Peach Beach Splash. As well, the character stories did give the game additional depth that I was not expecting: Peach Beach Splash is intended to tie the different schools together, and while I’m not too familiar with the Senran Kagura lore, it is clear that each character has their own story and goals. The main games go much more deeply into the world that is Senran Kagura, but having a bit of story in Peach Beach Splash did much to liven up what is ultimately a fanservice game with no aim beyond showcasing a visually-pleasing cast in swimsuits. It’s certainly not a match for something like Battlefield V, but as far as providing some laughs go, Peach Beach Splash does deliver.

Destiny 2: A Review and Reflection on a Complimentary Bungie Experience

“I am a Ghost; more importantly, I’m your Ghost. And you are one of the Traveler’s chosen. You are a Guardian. This is your destiny.” —Ghost

Earlier in November, Activision and Bungie made their RPG-shooter, Destiny 2, free of charge for all players with a Battle.net account. Bungie’s project following Halo, Destiny and Destiny 2 is set in a future where humans began colonising the solar system and underwent nearly seven centuries of technological advancement brought on by the arrival of a mysterious entity known as the Traveller. This period became known as the Golden Age, although it was brought to a halt by the Collapse, which annihilated human colonies. Players take on the role of a Guardian, whose powers come from the Traveller’s Light duty is to save the Traveller and answer the threat of other aliens. In the original Destiny, players deal with the Vex, semi-organic androids. By the events of Destiny 2, the Cabal forces of the Red Legion, lead by Dominus Ghaul, assault the Last City and drain the Traveller of its Light. Players retrieve a shard of the Traveller to restore their Light, then travel to Titan to repel the Hive and rescue Commander Zavala, who reveals that the Cabal have a superweapon, The Almighty, that can incinerate suns. The Red Legion was sent to the Milky Way two years earleir, and Ghaul had overthrown the Cabal Emperor, planning to take control and use the Light to consolidate his rule. The player then makes their way to Nessus to find Cayde-6, who will be instrumental in taking back the Last City. Ikora Rey is on Io, and after all of the key individuals are present, the player is sent to destroy the Almighty. Returning to the Last City, players confront Ghaul and defeat him in battle. Ghaul attempts to manifest as an ethereal being, but the Traveller reawakens and kills Ghaul. This is where my time in Destiny 2 ends; after the campaign, Cabal vessels appear under exiled Emperor Calus’ command, and Destiny 2‘s endgame begins. Like The Division, Destiny 2 is ultimately about collecting awesome gear and constantly levelling up one’s power level, similarly to how one can bring their Gear Score in The Division up to its cap.

The core enjoyment I’ve gotten from playing through Destiny 2 was being able to experience a very Halo-like game on the PC: ever since Bungie decided to shift their focus, the iterations of Halo past Halo 2 never made it to PC. Thus, when it was announced that Destiny 2 wuold be complimentary on PC, my interest was piqued. The game is a hefty 80 GB to download, and I encountered some installation problems, but once Destiny 2 was set up, I was blown away by the environments. Destiny 2 is visually spectacular: during the first mission where I needed to fight off waves of Red Legion in the Last City, the scenery was stunning, and remained very expansive throughout the game’s outdoors segments. From the forests of Earth to the exotic looking environment in Nessus, Bungie has nailed the environments. There are also many dungeon-like sections, as well, during which players must fight in narrow corridors and chambers deep underground, or in the bowels of a Cabal vessel. Destiny 2 itself is very similar to Halo, with the lore, gunplay and story to match: in particular, the Cabal themselves are familiar, resembling the Brutes of Halo. While there is no Master Chief or Halo Array, there is a Guardian with uncommon powers and a sun-destroying superweapon. The scales of the environments and stakes are similarly high, in typical Bungie fashion. Destiny 2 is, in short, a spiritual successor to Halo on the PC platform, albeit one that encourages replay value through collecting powerful gear rather than attempting to unlock various medals in the multiplayer mode, and overall, it’s a rather enjoyable experience.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The download for Destiny 2 was a massive 80 GB and took over two hours to download. I was very surprised to learn that Destiny 2 was, from November 2 to 18, complimentary: Bungie was intended to promote their Forsaken expansion and as incentive for players to get into Foresaken, made the base game free for a period. Despite how busy things were, I decided that with a Triple-A title available, it would be worthwhile to at least pick the game up and give it a spin.

  • My gaming desktop is five and a half years old now, and its age is showing somewhat. However, thanks to maintenance, and the fact that I upgraded the GPU a few years ago, it’s managing to hold its own, running Destiny 2 at a very smooth 60 FPS, and I encountered no difficulty in getting through the game. The first mission was breathtaking, seeing the player fight the hordes of Red Legion Cabal in the city with massive capital ships overhead.

  • Unlike the Elites of Halo, who are honourable and build elegant, smooth structures, the Cabal are concerned with conquest and power. These massive aliens resemble the Brutes of Halo and are the main antagonists of Destiny 2, and their constructs are similarly utilitarian in nature, standing in contrast with the interiors of Covenant ships. The first mission ends with the player being stripped of their powers and near-death after Ghaul takes from the Traveller its Light. Staggering through the burning city, the player finds themselves out in the wilderness, with Ghost warning them that without the Light, death is permanent.

  • The run through the wilderness with an SMG is set to Journey, an incredible song that captures the desperation and hopelessness of the situation now that the Light has gone from the player. It is rare that a song can evoke such a strong positive feeling in players, and universally, the soundtrack is counted as being one of the best in a video game: Michael Salvatori returns from Halo as one of the composers, and the music so incredibly enhances the atmospherics of Destiny 2 that it is difficult to imagine what the game would be like without it.

  • While I was doing my hike at Grassi Lakes a week after picking up Destiny 2, the soundtrack came to my mind as I climbed up ice-covered trails along a frozen waterfall up to the lakes, and then again as I scrambled along a rocky hillside. The scope of the topics covered in this blog may imply its owner is quite inactive, but I spend a fair bit of my time with lifting, martial arts and walking around – hikes are reserved as special events primarily because of the fuel prices it takes to get out to the mountains. I believe in balance, and I exercise with the same frequency that I game.

  • There are a great many underground, dungeon-like missions in Destiny 2: the opening and closing missions of the game are Destiny 2 at its finest, and the middle missions are very repetitive. By comparison, The Division‘s missions have enough diversity in their environments so that they are a bit more varied: overall, The Division‘s campaign is more fun, but Destiny 2 has more epic environments and music when the game does come through during its beginning and ending.

  • Throughout most of Destiny 2, I ran primarily with a burst-fire rifle for my kinetic weapon: because of the way damage is dealt in Division 2, having an automatic rifle meant burning through ammunition very quickly. Ammunition drops very frequently, but I prefer the precise damage that burst-fire rifles deal against enemies: one or two bursts will drop any enemy provided one’s aim is true, and the weapon’s power level is sufficient.

  • After a day of hiking, I returned home to prepare some vegetables ahead of a raclette party, then while waiting for the party to start, pushed further in Destiny 2. The occasional public event adds a bit of spice to the game, and it’s fun to join random other players in blasting the open world bosses that show up. Because I had not the time to do a campaign mission, I ended up doing some public events and a side mission prior to raclette.

  • Despite a smaller turn out this time around, it was an excellent evening that saw the enjoyment of fondue, sausage, shrimps, raclette-style cheese-mushrooms-peppers-and-potatoes, all the while listening to hilariously bad music while waiting for the food to cook. Once we finished off most of the food, the party shifted downstairs to a card game. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a raclette, and these events are always fun. For the duration of the party, my worries evaporated, and I ate, drank and relaxed as I’d not done so for quite some time.

  • Here, I am on an arcology on Titan: the largest of Saturn’s moons, Titan is presented as an ocean world with large platforms in Destiny 2, a far cry from the methane-filled moon seen in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. However, most of the missions happen indoors, and amidst the platforms and machinery of Titan, the arcology proved an impressive space to move through.

  • The Hive are the enemy encountered on Titan: these insect-like beings are similar to the Flood, especially in how they alter their environment to have a very organic composition. In Destiny 2, there are no specific weapons that work more effectively against the different alien species, and the Hive, while numerous, do not fight the same way the Flood do. One of the more interesting aspects of Halo was that fighting the Flood required a very specific loadout, and so, when one encountered both Covenant and Flood, it was a matter of constantly switching weapons to remain effective.

  • In reality, Nessus is a centaur (a small rocky body with an unstable orbit between the outer planets) only some fifty-seven kilometres across. Destiny 2‘s portrayal of Nessus is a vibrant world with large, geometric constructs attributed to terraforming. It is here that players must rescue Cayde-6, and from a character perspective, the Nessus missions were among the most fun because of Failsafe, a Golden Age AI that sustained damage and as a result, has split personalities.

  • Cycling between a shamelessly cheerful and apathetic personality, Failsafe’s dialogues were very entertaining, bringing to mind GLaDOS of Portal 2. Fighting the Vex here was straightforward for the most part, although I am rather less fond of the missions that involve jumping onto electrified platforms high in the air, where any mistake will involve falling to the surface and necessitate a long ascent back up.

  • Upon returning to Earth, players must return into the dark forest and recover a second shard, which returns the Gunslinger ability. Up until now, I’d been running the Arcstrider, which gave access to an electric staff that dealt massive melee damage. As a Gunslinger, I have access to a flaming revolver that dealt up to ten times more damage per shot than any of my other weapons.

  • Io is the next destination in the campaign after one retrieves the Gunslinger ability: it is a barren world set under a majestic sky dominated by Jupiter. The real Io is a volcanic moon whose geological activity is a result of tidal forces between Jupiter and its other moons. As a result, the moon has many active volcanoes that can spew sulfur plumes 500 kilometres high. Post terraforming in Destiny 2, Io is more hospitable and is home to several mines.

  • Here, I run with an exotic pulse rifle with void properties. This burst-fire weapon proved surprisingly fun to use against the Taken, and on critical kills, could create explosions that damaged or destroyed nearby Taken, as well. Unlike The Division, exotic items in Destiny 2 can be acquired prior to hitting the level cap: I picked up exotic body armour as well as a reward for one of the campaign missions. The approach Destiny 2 takes with exotic items means that as one levels up and acquire more powerful items, the exotics picked up earlier become less viable.

  • The European Dead Zone in Destiny 2 has some of the most beautiful landscapes out of anywhere in the game, and originally, I planned to uninstall Destiny 2 once I’d finished the campaign so that I could recoup the 80 GB of disk space that Destiny 2 requires. However, landscapes such as these offer a compelling case to at least go back and finish off some of the adventures that I’d skipped out on – I only completed adventures in order to get new gear and raise my level up to the point where I could continue with the campaign missions, but it would be nice to revisit some of Destiny 2‘s more picturesque locations again.

  • Upon returning to the EDZ at level fifteen, Destiny 2‘s campaign really kicks into high gear, and it is this part of the game that truly shines. The mission opens with players being granted a Drake tank that handles similarly to Halo‘s Scorpion MBT, differing in that the Drake has an ordinance launcher as opposed to a coaxial machine gun. It was superbly satisfying to blast enemy infantry and tanks alike in this mission, and the mission distinctly feels like the opening stages of Halo 2‘s Metropolis mission.

  • After moving through the tunnels of Earth, players return back into the open, where a Cabal ship is docked. Using the Drake’s main cannons, I blast the shields and couplings, keeping the vessel grounded to end the mission. The next phase is to board the ship and fight one’s way to the bridge to eliminate the ship’s commander, before taking a smaller vessel and make for the Almighty.

  • Compared to The DivisionDestiny 2‘s menu UI was not quite as intuitive for me, especially when it came to skill and inventory management. Despite this, I managed to get by okay, scrapping old weapons and equipping items that worked with my playstyle. Here, in the bowels of the Cabal ship, I use a marksman rifle to engage distant enemies. The marksman rifles and burst-fire rifles are my preferred weapons of choice, providing enough firepower to deal with enemies at most ranges. There are weapons that use special ammunition, as well, but ammunition scarcity means that equipping these weapons would limit players to one primary weapon should they run out.

  • For my part, even if the shotguns and sniper rifles are powerful, I did not tend to equip them. One of the challenges I had in Destiny 2 early on was simply knowing where to go. I recall that in my first mission into the salt mines, I entered the wrong building and tunnels. By this point in the campaign, however, navigation was not of a particular concern: using the Ghost and the waypoints provided was sufficient to get through most places without becoming lost.

  • The heavy weapons of Destiny 2 use a special kind of ammunition and can deal massive damage against bosses. While comparatively rarer to come by, special ammunition still is fairly common, and I make extensive use of belt-fed grenade launchers to make short work of groups of Phalanxes (when there are too many of them to focus on shooting the centre of their shields). At one point, I wielded a sword that could defeat any non-boss opponent in one shot. Like the energy sword of Halo, the swords are constrained by ammunition, but they still act as standard melee weapons when depleted.

  • The fight on the Almighty was a stunner of a mission: set in the punishing atmosphere around the sun, it’s a gripping mission that sees the player fight their way across the weapon to destabilise it and set it up for destruction, in a mission mirroring Halo‘s The Maw. The vastness of the level is apparent, and when Destiny 2 is at its best, its missions are more memorable than those of The Division‘s.

  • While revolvers, known in-game as hand cannons, are incredibly powerful and can one-shot common enemies with a well-placed round to the head (or weak spot), I often find myself fighting hordes of enemies. Curiosity, however, leads me to continue wielding them, and they are quite effective, although for longer range combat, the scout rifles tend to be more effective.

  • The last time I played a game involving stopping a superweapon capable of incredible destruction would have been Halo CE: Bungie is fond of their superweapons, and the Almighty is a Cabal weapon that uses magnetic fields to destablises the forces holding a star together, causing gravity to exceed the thermal pressure of a star. The resultant explosion is powerful enough to level an entire star system, and the Cabal are said to have destroyed numerous systems in this way.

  • Notably, the Almighty is a weapon the Cabal have constructed with their own technology, standing in contrast with the Covenant, who only aim to use the Halo array. Once players destroy the cooling system on the Almighty, the weapon destablises and destroys itself. The threat of total solar annihilation is gone, and now, players turn their attention to Ghaul, the remaining loose end in Destiny 2.

  • Returning to Earth, players fight through the Last City in a bid to stop Ghaul. Once Destiny 2 picks up, its campaign does not hold back in terms of entertainment value, and more so than any other part of the game, save the opening, I was totally engrossed in this final mission, to the point of finishing it in a very short time span. The final mission uses the same song that was heard during the escape from the war beasts in Destiny 2‘s earlier sections, likely meant to signify the beginning of the end and the notion of cycles.

  • For folks looking to pick up Destiny 2, I’m not sure whether or not it will be free again; the opportunity to pick up the game on Battle.net ended on November 18. Players looking to get Destiny 2 now will also need to buy the Forsaken expansion, which raises the level cap and brings new items to the table for players to unlock. On the whole, since I got the game for free, I’ve got no complaints about it; it was quite entertaining, although at present, I’m not sure whether or not I’ll have the time to continue playing for new gear the same way I did for The Division, and so, I’ve got no plans to buy the Forsaken expansion.

  • The final fight with Ghual is titanic and fun: it’s no different than squaring off against the Zerstörers in Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, in that sure aim and liberal application of the Guardian’s powers will make short work of Ghaul who, for all of his bluster and showboating, is still mortal. With Destiny 2 in the books, the question of what I’m doing now is likely to be raised. First and foremost, I will be writing about The World in Colours now that the ninth episode is out, and then turn my focus to Battlefield V, which I decided to buy.

It has been quite some time since I’ve played a Bungie game on PC, with Halo 2 PC being the last Bungie title I’ve completely experienced the campaign of. Like The Division, having proper gear makes a significant difference in one’s performance, and players will find themselves swapping out gear constantly as they level up. Because Destiny 2 is a shooter at its core, having good weapons make all of the difference: players have access to one kinetic weapon, one energy weapon and one power weapon. This is reminiscent of Halo, where kinetic weapons dealt more damage against unshielded opponents and energy weapons were effective for stripping away shields. Power weapons are excellent for boss fights and dealing with large groups of enemies. For the most part, weapons have manageable recoil, and my go-to weapons were the burst-fire weapons, which handle in a manner not unlike that of the Battle Rifle. Short bursts of fire were more than sufficient for dealing with enemies, and interspersed with the appropriate use of one’s super ability and power weapons, Destiny 2‘s campaign was rather fun. For many players, the real fun begins here: advancing one’s power level by completing end-game activities and acquiring increasingly awesome gear. However, as much as I’ve enjoyed Destiny 2‘s campaign, I believe that my journey ends here for the present; the prospect of spending hours acquiring items is admittedly a daunting one. Having said this, I am very glad that Activision and Bungie did make Destiny 2 free: I never expected to have a chance to go through Bungie’s newest shooter, which is likely the closest I’ll come to playing a contemporary Halo-like game in the PC for the foreseeable future.