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‘Destiny 2’ Review Part One: You Can’t Take it With You

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The concept of the original Destiny was an ambitious one.  It was more than an attempt to build a “shared world shooter” where players would suddenly find other players helping them along with their missions, though that was what it was billed as.  More than that, it was an effort to build a habitable, cohesive universe and tear down the boundaries between modes of play.  It wasn’t the “next Halo,” experience many anticipated, though it had its similarities.  It wasn’t a linear campaign on one side and a multiplayer game on the other.  In concept, it was grander than all of that.  In application, well, it came pretty close.  Close enough, at least.  Destiny 2 provides a clean slate, a fresh endeavor to realize that ambitious dream, and thus far it hits much closer to the mark.  Destiny 2 provides the clean and clear narrative the original always lacked, a much more welcoming and rewarding universe to explore, a well-woven world that is easy to access and comfortable to traverse, and innumerable quality of life improvements that make the game a pleasure to play.  Though not without faults, Destiny 2 immediately abated many of this writer’s fears and provides an experience sure to be heralded as “what Destiny should have been all along.”  To be candid, the sequel is also massive, with content I’ve yet to experience and more content on the horizon.  Consequently, this is only part of the review, a review in progress, if you will.  Here’s Goomba Stomp’s review of Destiny 2 thus far, a look at the campaign, the world, and its inhabitants.

Destiny 2 is a tale of loss, rebirth, and reclamation, and it’s easily the best narrative ever delivered by Destiny.  A fierce faction of the militaristic, “Cabal” alien confederation, the Red Legion, have invaded the last city on Earth, captured the Traveler (the source of player’s power), and destroyed the Tower, the home of the Guardians, and all players have fought to collect and preserve in Destiny with it.  At the helm of this siege is Dominus Ghaul, a strong and cunning general who feels the Traveler chose wrong in leaving the light in humanity’s hands who’s willing to go to great lengths to prove it to all who’ll bear witness as he lays claim to what he views is rightfully his.  It’s up to the player to restore their light, reunite the Vanguard, and put an end to Ghaul and his formidable Red Legion.

Veteran players will certainly feel a sense of loss seeing the social space they’ve called home for three years left nothing but embers, all of their loot gone (goodbye, Gjally), but even newcomers are sure to feel the weight of proceedings as they traverse a decimated Tower in the game’s early, harrowing sequences.  Gone are the days of disembodied voices giving expository dumps between stages like in the original Destiny.  Instead, players are treated to strong visual storytelling in and out of missions and gorgeous, engaging cinematics between stages effectively displaying the pathos of Ghaul, the precarious situation the Guardians find themselves in, and strong characterization of the supporting cast, taking characters like Zavala, Ikora, and Cayde-6 and making them relatable, human characters and not just quippy scenario builders.  Paired with sensational voice acting, it was a rare treat seeing these characters face their mortality and the fear that brings for the first time in centuries or getting to see them fight for the City despite the likelihood of their own demise.  All of this storytelling is punctuated by a truly brilliant, evocative score that seamlessly transitions as players progress through stages, building to heartrending crescendos or invigorating, memorable melodies.  While the dialogue is on point, some of the best storytelling is in the wordless moments where the visuals and score perfectly set the stage.

Speaking of setting the stage, one of the best changes from the original Destiny is the ever present director guiding players to assorted activities across the map, eliminating the need to constantly travel to orbit.  Story missions are now found planet-side alongside returning Public Events and Patrols, all highlighted on the director.  Public Events are far improved, incorporating fun, often familiar puzzle elements from the predecessor’s Strikes and Raids.  These Public Events can be elevated to Heroic Public Events by going the extra mile and fulfilling specific, secret requirements, often changing the completion requirements, as a result, making for some thrilling, more rewarding variation.

More excitingly, Destiny 2 introduces a handful of new activities to tackle across each planet.  Adventure missions are perhaps the best of these, which works much like a story mission, often expanding specific narrative threads and potentially foreshadowing future content while keeping the player in the public player space.  Not only do these Adventures explore new narrative space (one highlights another potential Cabal threat, for instance), they often highlight portions of the map players might not otherwise traverse or spend much time in.  Lost Sectors are also new to Destiny 2 and are semi-hidden areas, often operating like secret passageways across the map, all featuring cool stage design, and a loot-guarding boss at the end.  Each planet also features its own vendor, allowing players to turn in collectibles from across the map for valuable rewards all to sweeten the deal.  Undoubtedly, players have much more to do across each planet, and, what’s more, Destiny 2 does its best not to take players out of the experience.

It’s not just the map and story that have gotten make overs; character classes, subclasses, and the gun system have all gotten an overhaul.  New gun classifications, including grenade launchers and submachine guns, make their debut in Destiny 2.  The weapon system has also been rearranged so that most weapons classified as Secondary weapons in the original Destiny are grouped with Heavies, now labeled Power weapons (ie. rocket launchers).  In their place, players now have Energy weapons, weapons nearly identical to the “Primary,” now Kinetic weapon slot, only modified with a specific burn ideal for burning through specific enemy shields.  It’s a welcome change that balances both PVP and PVE and ultimately allows a wider range of play.

Each class, Titan, Hunter, and Warlock, all have a new rechargeable abilities to go alongside their grenade and melee abilities.  Hunters, regardless of subclass, have a Dodge ability, which, beyond being a solid evasive maneuver, allows the players to instantly reload their weapon in hand or buffs the damage of their melee depending on the perk selected.  Similarly, Titans have a new Barricade ability providing a half shield easily shot over, or a full on wall depending on the character setup.  Finally, Warlocks have a new Rift ability, which generates a small pool offering instant healing or a pool which buffs damage, again depending on the perk selected by the player.  These inclusions make the classes more dynamic and bring vital new roles to each.

Each class also features a new subclass replacing an existing one from the original game.  Hunters have the new Arcstrider class, capable of decimating waves of foes at close range.  Titans continue their defensive trend with the Sentinel class, which conjures a Void shield fit for bashing enemies or sending it careening in their direction Captain America style.  Ironically, the Sunsinger Warlock class wasn’t resurrected for Destiny 2.  Instead, Warlocks have the aerially oriented Dawnblade Solar class with which they can cast fiery blades from above.  The new classes are a welcome fit and mark a more versatile form of Super ability for Destiny.  While subclass customization is limited, ultimately focused on the selection of one play style over another, the rapidity with which subclasses can be fully unlocked is a welcome change to the tedious grind present in the original Destiny and ultimately can be justified as a balancing measure.

Level progression has also been fairly streamlined.  Characters gradually gain experience before reaching level twenty.  After that, each level up earns players new Bright Engrams which can be traded in at the Eververse (Destiny‘s microtransaction market) for fun cosmetic items including shaders, ships, emotes, and some fun, rare, exotic items as well.  Consequently, players can earn everything from Eververse without spending a dime IRL.  The rest of player’s power comes from their Power Level (it’s over 9,000!  Sorry, couldn’t help myself).  Power Level is determined by armor and weapons found in traditional Engrams by completing specific events or randomly dropped by enemies.  Rather than players constantly having to equip their best gear to ensure Engrams are dropping at the highest possible level, Destiny 2‘s smart inventory system does everything for the player, calculating the highest possible reward based on everything in the character’s inventory and vault.  It’s one of many quality of life improvements that makes Destiny 2 so much more gratifying to play than the original.  Other enhancements include further gun, armor, and even Sparrow and ship modification, static weapon rolls for balancing and to eliminate pesky RNG shafts, improved loading times, much larger currency caps, way more vault storage space, and, of course, in game lore.

And that’s just the beginning!  In most regards, Destiny 2 is a marked improvement over its predecessor.  A clear and engaging campaign, immense balancing, gorgeous visuals and cinematics, more activities than ever before, one of the best, most dynamic game soundtracks I’ve heard in while, and much more ensure Destiny 2 will see as much play as its predecessor if not more.  That’s not to say it isn’t without its hiccups.  The single use shader system seems like a step back (especially if they’re going to try to create limited time ones), a bit more subclass customization might be welcome, among other issues like connection stability, but overall, the grievances are minimal compared to the game’s successes thus far.  As for the rest, Destiny 2‘s PVP arena, the Crucible, the game’s staying power, and a collection of endgame activities tune in later for the conclusion of this review including coverage of the raid and Trials of the Nine.

Tim Maison

Tim is not the droids you are looking for. He resides quietly in the Emerald City where he can often be found writing, reading, watching movies, or playing video games. He is the Xbox editor for Goomba Stomp and the site's official Pokémon Master.

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Game Reviews

‘House of Golf’ is No Hole-In-One, But it is Below Par

‘House of Golf’ may feel appropriate for Switch, but a lack of variety and reused content make this course nearly reach above par.

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Perhaps adding the word “mini” to the title would have been far more appropriate regarding the in-game circumstances of Atomicom’s newest family arcade sports styled game House of Golf. In the slew of golf games currently available on the Nintendo Switch, House of Golf may feel the most appropriate for the console’s capabilities due to its key focus on simplicity, portability, and accessibility, but a lack of diversity in individual hole design and reused content nearly makes this humdrum course reaching above par.

Simplicity is a key focus within House of Golf’s core mechanics. Controls, menus, and even gameplay are as simple as video games can get. The left analog stick operates the camera and holding down the A button fires your ball with a distinct power meter located on the right-hand side of the screen. Your goal is to attempt to achieve a hole-in-one or stay below a par number that changes depending on course and difficulty- just like regular golf, mini-golf, or any form of golf you can imagine. It never gets more complicated than that.

House of Golf may claim that its selling point is that it contains over 130 different holes divided into 5 different environments- or rather rooms- and 3 difficulties, but variety becomes bland after less than an hour of playtime. Despite there being five different environments, after completing one course on either the medium or hard difficulty setting, you practically have experienced all there is to do. Courses always remain compact and easy to navigate, but the game never gets challenging or adds some sort of flair that allows each hole to stand out from one another. It is a shame considering that the fluid gameplay foundation the courses are built on might just be the most tightly controlled golf game available on Switch.

As the title of the game implies, every course is designed around the interior aesthetics of a house- a rather small one at that as the game chooses to focus on table-top scenarios- quite literally. Each hole is rapid-fire short and manages to achieve a miniature sense of scale. They are stylized well but the game often reuses assets for each room despite the settings being entirely different. The atmospheres themselves manage to create a comfy aesthetic for each hole that only adds more cheerful feelings to the laid-back easy-going gameplay on top of a soundtrack that is extremely mellow yet quaint, but when you are on a nine-hole course that never completely changes that atmosphere can become tiresome.

What initially seems like House of Golf’s greatest strength though is being able to choose any environment, hole, and difficulty directly from the get-go, but this feature quickly takes the game south rather unintentionally. As soon as you open up the game, players can accommodate to their own personal skill level leaving the vast majority of them to skip more than a third of the levels. With no learning curve or incentive to play the game on its lowest difficulties, House of Golf rapidly begins to dwindle in new content.

When it comes to the ranking system, it is designed exactly like a traditional mini-golf game where your goal is to achieve a set number of strokes that will keep you above par. Stars will be awarded to players based on performance- a hole-in-one obviously being the highest gold star rank a player can achieve and a triple-bogey being the lowest. These stars, however, only unlock one feature: golf ball designs.

Extra unlockable golf ball designs are the only in-game rewards to collect throughout the game- and it is nothing to look forward to or worthwhile to commit to. They are charming to gander at for more then a couple of seconds, but they serve no real purpose in the long run- not even when it comes to the multiplayer. Rather then these rewards being applied to each individual player’s ball, House of Golf does not allow players to choose what golf ball design they wish to use. For some ridiculous reason, whatever player one chooses is applied to every golf ball.

Speaking of, while the singleplayer can be rather tiresome, House of Golf’s one notable addition that might just keep you on the course for longer than a few hours is the inclusion of a local multiplayer ranging from two to six players. Multiplayer presents a higher-stakes challenge for each course, which makes gameplay not only far more satisfying to win at but overall entertaining to play. Due to the compact course designs, often you can mess with your friend’s positions and overthrow the score of each hole. Multiplayer was clearly the go-to way to play as it is the first option that appears on the main menu.

One thing that should be noted is that only one joy-con is required for everyone to play as there is no other option to use multiple controllers- a convenient addition that you have to wonder why more games do not have it on the Nintendo Switch. It is by far the game’s most redeeming quality that absolutely deserves mentioning. For a game where one player controls the field at a time, this streamlines a lot of issues outside even that of the game itself.

It is no hole-in-one to ride home about, but Atomicom has managed to create an arcade-style sports game that is a mix of both simplistically relaxing and mildly infuriating. In its final state, the lackluster courses can make this one turn into a quick bore, but adding a few friends to the multiplayer scene can turn House of Golf into a few delightful hours. At its retail price of ten dollars, any Switch owner planning on picking up House of Golf should wait for it to land in a sale target-hole. It is not bad by any means, but there are better places to look to fill your golf fix, especially those looking for a single-player experience. For a cheap alternative, however, it might just be worth it for the multiplayer alone.

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Game Reviews

‘Riverbond’ Review: Colorful Hack’n’Slash Chaos

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Sometimes a little bit of mindless smashing is just what people play video games for, and if some light sword-swinging, spear-stabbing, laser-shooting giant hand-slapping action that crumbles a destructible world into tiny blocks sounds like a pleasant way to spend a few hours, then Riverbond might just satisfy that urge. Though its short campaign can get a little repetitive by the end, colorful voxel levels and quirky characters generally make this rampaging romp a button-mashing good time, especially if you bring along a few friends.

Riverbond grass

There really isn’t much of a story here outside something about some mystical leaders being imprisoned by a knight, and Riverbond lets players choose from its eight levels in Mega Man fashion, so don’t go in expecting some sort of narrative thread. Instead, each land has its own mini-situation going on, whether that involves eradicating some hostile pig warriors or reading library books or freeing numerous rabbit villagers scattered about, the narrative motivation is pretty light here. That doesn’t mean that these stages don’t each have their various charms, however, as several punnily named NPCs will blurt out humorous bits of dialogue that work well as breezy pit stops between all the cubic carnage.

Developer Cococucumber has also wisely created plenty of visual variety for their fantastical world, as players will find their polygonal hero traversing the lush greenery of grassy plains, the wooden piers of a ship’s dockyard, the surrounding battlements of a medieval castle, and the craggy outcroppings of a snowy mountain, among other locations, each with a distinct theme. Many of the trees or bridges or crates or whatever else happens to be lying around are completely destructible, able to be razed to the ground with enough brute force. Occasionally the physics involved in these crumbling structures helps gain access to jewels or other loot, but this mechanic mostly just their for the visual appeal one gets from cascading blocks; Riverbond isn’t exactly deep in its design.

Riverbond boss

That shallowness also applies to the basic gameplay, which pretty much involves hacking or shooting enemies and environments to pieces, activating whatever task happens to be the main goal for each sub-stage, then moving on or scouring around a bit for treasure before finally arriving at a boss. Though there are plenty of different weapons to find, they generally fall into only a few categories: small swinging implements that allow for quick slashes, large swinging implements that are slow but deal heavier damage, spears that offer quick jabs, or guns that…shoot stuff. There are some variations among these in speed, power, and possible side effects (a gun that fired electricity is somewhat weak, but sticks to opponents and gives off an extra, devastating burst), but once an agreeable weapon is found, there is little reason to give it up outside experimentation.

Still, there is a rhythmic pleasure to be found in games like this when they are done right, and Riverbond mostly comes through with tight controls, hummable tunes, and twisting levels that do a good job of mixing in some verticality to mask the repetitiveness. It’s easy for up to four players to get in on the dungeon-crawling-like pixelated slaughter, and the amount of blocks exploding onscreen can make for some fun and frenzied fireworks, especially when whomping on one of the game’s giant bosses. A plethora of skins for the hero are also discoverable, with at least one or two tucked away in locations both obvious and less so around each sub-stage. These goofy characters exist purely for aesthetic reasons, but those who prefer wiping out legions of enemies dressed as Shovel Knight or a sentient watermelon slice will be able to fulfill that fantasy.

Riverbond bears

By the end, the repetitive fights and quests can make Rivebond feel a little same-y, but the experience wraps up quickly without dragging things out. This may disappoint players looking for a more involved adventure, but those who sometimes find relaxation by going on autopilot — especially with some buddies on the couch — will appreciate how well the block-smashing basics are done here.

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Game Reviews

‘Earthnight’ Review: Hit the Dragon Running

Between its lush visuals and its constantly evolving gameplay, Earthnight never gets old, from the first dragon you slay to the hundredth.

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Earthnight

In Earthnight, you do one thing: run. There’s not much more to do in this roguelike auto-runner but to dash across the backs of massive dragons to reach their heads and strike them down. This may be an extremely simple gameplay loop, but Earthnight pulls it off with such elegance and style. Between its lush comic book visuals and its constantly evolving gameplay, it creates an experience that never gets old, from the first dragon you slay to the hundredth.

Dragons have descended from space and are wreaking havoc upon humanity. No one is powerful enough to take them down – except for the two-player characters, Sydney and Stanley, of course. As the chosen ones to save the human race, they must board a spaceship and drop from the heavens while slaying as many dragons on your way down as they can. For every defeated creature, they’ll be rewarded with water – an extremely precious resource in the wake of the dragon apocalypse. This resource can be exchanged for upgrades that make the next run that much better.

This simple story forms the basis for a similarly basic, yet engaging gameplay loop. Each time you dive from your spaceship, you’ll see an assortment of dragons to land on. Once you make a landing, you’ll dash across its back and avoid the obstacles it throws at you before reaching its head, where you’ll strike the final blow. Earthnight is procedurally generated, so every time you leap down from your home base, there’s a different set of dragons to face, making each run feel unique. There are often special rewards for hunting specific breeds of dragon, so it’s always exciting to see the new set of creatures before you and hunt for the one you need at any given moment.

Earthnight is an acrobatic, dragon-hunting ballet that only becomes more beautifully extravagant with every run.”

Earthnight

Landing on the dragons is only the first step to slaying them. Entire hordes of monsters live on their backs, and in true auto-runner fashion, they’ll rush at you with reckless abandon from the very start. During the game’s first few runs, the onrush of enemies can feel overwhelming. Massive crowds of them will burst forth at once, and it can feel impossible to survive their onslaughts. However, this is where Earthnight begins to truly shine. The more dragons you slay, the more upgrade items become available, which are either given as rewards for slaying specific dragons or can be purchased with the water you’ve gained in each run. Many of these feel essentially vital for progression – some allow you to kill certain enemies just by touching them, whereas others can grant you an additional jump, both of which are much appreciated in the utter chaos of obstacles found on each dragon.

Procedural generation can often result in bland or repetitive level design, but it’s this item progression system that keeps Earthnight from ever feeling dry. It creates a constant sense of improvement: with more items in your arsenal after each new defeated dragon, you’ll be able to descend even further in the next run. This makes every level that much more exciting: with more power under your belt, there are greater possibilities for defeating enemies, stacking up combos, or climbing high above the dragons. It becomes an acrobatic, dragon-hunting ballet that only becomes more beautifully extravagant with every run.

Earthnight

At its very best, Earthnight feels like a rhythm game. With the perfect upgrades for each level, it becomes only natural to bounce off of enemies’ heads and soar through the heavens with an almost musical flow. The vibrant chiptune soundtrack certainly helps with this. Packed full of driving beats and memorable melodies with a mixture of chiptune and modern instrumentation, the music makes it easy to charge forward through whatever each level will throw your way.

That is not to say that Earthnight never feels too chaotic for its own good – rather, there are some points where its flood of enemies and obstacles can feel too random or overwhelming, to the point where it can be hard to keep track of your character or feel as if it’s impossible to avoid enemies. Sometimes the game can’t even keep up with itself, with the performance beginning to chug once enemies crowd the screen too much, at least in the Switch version. However, this is the exception, rather than the rule, and for the most part, simply making good use of its upgrades and reacting quickly to the challenges before you will serve you well in your dragon-slaying quest.

Earthnight

Earthnight is a race that’s worth running time and time again.”

It certainly helps that Earthnight is a visual treat as well. It adopts a striking comic book style, in which nearly every frame of animation is lovingly hand-drawn and loaded with detail. Sometimes these details feel a bit excessive – some characters are almost grotesquely detailed, with the faces of the bobble-headed protagonists sometimes seeming too elaborate for comfort. However, in general, it’s a gorgeous game, with its luscious backdrops of deep space and high sky, along with creative monsters and dragon designs that only get more outlandish and spectacular the farther down you soar.

Earthnight is a competent auto-runner that might not revolutionize its genre, but it makes up for this simplicity by elegantly executing its core gameplay loop so that it constantly changes yet remains endlessly addictive. Its excellent visual and audio presentation helps to make it all the more engrossing, while it strikes the perfect balance between randomized level design and permanent progression thanks to its items and upgrades system. At times it may get too chaotic for its own good, but all told, Earthnight is a race that’s worth running time and time again.

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