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The problem with Dragon Age: Inquisition has nothing to do with Trevor Morris’s music. It’s gorgeous, and fits in beautifully with the continent of Thedas. You can hear an excellent roundup of the score in The Well of Sorrows.

DA COVER

Morris’s themes are magnificent – a large orchestra, full choir, vocal soloists, loads of brass and percussion, and more. I love the music he wrote.

I don’t love how the music works in the game. If I want to hear all the great music Trevor wrote, I have to literally listen to the soundtrack, because I rarely hear it in the game.

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I’ve put about 27 hours into the game, and I’m slowwwwwwww at moving through games like this. I love to poke around in the forest, search corners of caves, walk along the rivers and lakes, see if I can climb that mountain with my horse, give up on the horse and try climbing it by jumping, give up on jumping and go all the way around, stop for every herb along the way, mine iron and summer stone and blue vitriol from every boulder, kill every bear, loot every cabin, root out all the bandits, mercenaries and apostates, and so on.

While I’m doing all of those things, things that I truly enjoy and adore about gaming, I rarely hear music with any melody.

Here’s why this matters. When I’m away from the game, I never find myself singing any themes from the experience. I don’t walk away humming tunes, wishing I could still be playing.

The Bethesda games, like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, are great. I can hear those melodies and instantly want to be in the game world playing. Same with the Jesper Kyd years of Assassin’s Creed, or Red Dead Redemption. Even Destiny uses melodic content during exploration, and I find myself singing those tunes many hours after turning off the game.

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My only complaint to Trevor is that his ambient music is too ambient. I can’t blame him for this, because I don’t know what the audio directors asked him to do. It’s possible they didn’t want melodic music, thinking it might be too intrusive to the experience.

If that was the case – if the audio directors wanted the music as background only, they succeeded. If I want to hear the best stuff, I have to wait for cinematics, which make up only a fraction of the amount of time I’m playing the game.

DA FIELD

My biggest takeaway from the music to Dragon Age: Inquisition is that I have no takeaway. The only way for me to truly enjoy the great music Trevor wrote is to stop playing the game and listen to the soundtrack with speakers or headphones. To me, as a gamer and a musician, this is a tragedy, and comes awfully close to negating the beauty of Trevor’s hard work.

Think of your favorite open world games that have an exploration/grinding/farming component. What are your feelings about the music in those games? Do you enjoy carrying a tune along with you when you’re not playing, or do you prefer the music to be more subtle?

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends. – See more at: http://www.sumthing.com/blog/#sthash.05TVzAhw.dpuf

Firstly, Happy Dragon Age: Inquisition Day (aka The End of My Social Life Forever).

Secondly, I attended Gamer’s Rhapsody over the weekend; the first of what we hope will be many conventions in the future celebrating video game music and media. Special guests included Dale North (Dragon Fantasy Book II), Jake Kaufman (Shovel Knight) and Rich “Disasterpeace” Vreeland (Fez).

Thomas Spargo organized the event. He’s a student at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, and made his Gamer’s Rhapsody dream a reality.

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I participated in one panel and hosted another, but the festivities Saturday night were my favorite part. The night was full of music, performed by the aforementioned guests, along with the trio Nerd Enhanced Sound and the eight-piece band, Do a Barrel Roll.

I’ve spoken about Nerd Enhanced Sound in the past – they’re fabulous and their set was fantastic. NES is a trio of piano (Mike Vasich), bass (Nick Gaudette) and violin (Zack Kline). The three met in music school and formed a different trio called Orange Mighty Trio. After OMT played together for a couple years, Mike and Nick discovered they both adore video game music, so OMT created their alter ego – Nerd Enhanced Sound. Saturday night, they played Metroid, Marble Madness, Dr. Mario and more. Two gamers battled it out on the big screen during Dr. Mario. It was pretty great.

Do A Barrel Roll… I mean… seriously. Do yourself a giant favor and listen to them IMMEDIATELY. The eight of them met and started playing covers together when they were students at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul. They’re incredible musicians… like sickly incredible. The lead guitarist, Austin, arranges all the music. Believe me when I tell you that what you hear in the recordings on Bandcamp is exactly what you hear when they play live. It’s incredible.

Dale North has a gorgeous voice, and although he didn’t want to perform original music, he did a great set of covers of JRPG ballads and such. Rich Vreeland also has a beautiful voice, and played an unplugged set at the piano singing original songs. Rich has a unique sense of melody and phrasing, bringing a wealth of variety to what might otherwise be a dude singing songs at a piano. I am a horrible person and went home to pass out before I could hear Jake Kaufman’s set.

Jake was a part of the panel I hosted, along with Rich. Jake and Rich are both beloved in the game music community for their chiptune music. However, they wrote such vastly different scores, it was delightful to hear them talk about their approaches and philosophies about their compositions.

My hope is that you will come next year. It’s cold and snowy here right now, yes, but it’s good for you. Plus, just like Minneapolis right across the river, St. Paul has a skyway system ensuring you never even need to leave the comfort of the indoors. All the more reason to spend a weekend jamming and hanging out with your fellow video game music lovers!

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

This weekend in the Twin Cities (in St. Paul, technically), there’s a new game media convention called Gamer’s Rhapsody. I’m participating in two panels, although I think I’m most excited for performances by Dale North, Nerd Enhanced Sound, Disasterpeace and Jake Kaufman. Here are some reasons you should come if you’re in the neighborhood:

Saturday at noon, I’m sitting on a panel called “Hey Listen! Linking video game music to its classical roots”. Coolest part is, this one wasn’t even my idea. Tim Turi of Game Informer, along with the three brothers (two of whom are pictured in the link) of the Super Marcato Bros., hatched that plan. We’ll be talking about how classical music inspired composers from all walks of video game life, 8-bit era through modern game scores.

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Later the same day, I get to have a panel conversation with Disasterpeace (Rich Vreeland, who wrote the soundtrack to Fez), and Jake Kaufman (Shovel Knight). I’m looking forward to this – I’m fascinated by the workings of the 8-bit composer’s mind. Even though Rich and Jake wrote Fez and Shovel Knight using similar sounds, these are two completely different soundtracks. Like BioShock’s orchestral score vs. Dead Space 2. Similar tools, different results.

If you live in the vicinity and want to be connected to the gaming community, this is the place to be. The International Game Developers Association Twin Cities chapter will be there. Several Twin Cities developers and studios, like Yellow Chord Audio, Big John Games and Thought Shelter Games will have tables there.

If you’re into remixing video game tracks, there are a couple must-see options: Dale North has a panel about what makes a remix great, and (trying to contain my glee) OC Remix is coming!

Saturday night is all about the music. Dale North, who is Destructoid’s editor in chief, recently finished a score for Dragon Fantasy Book II. He’s also a singer/songwriter and is doing a set Saturday evening.

Nerd Enhanced Sound is a local trio that normally goes by the name Orange Mighty Trio. These three fellas play covers of video game soundtracks from the old days, like Contra, Metroid, Duck Tales and Marble Madness. There’s plenty of Mario in there too. Piano, bass and violin makes for a great alternative to the originals!

Disasterpeace is doing a set – he’s also a singer/songwriter and I’m looking forward to hearing a different side of Rich’s musical brain. His Fez score was so intelligent and thoughtful – well planned, well constructed – I imagine his other music will do the same.

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Purchase the Fez soundtrack right here!

Jake Kaufman is the only one I’ve never interviewed or met. That right there is reason enough to hear his set Saturday night at the end of a long day! I love his Shovel Knight score and can’t wait to hear more of his music.

If you’re in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, I highly encourage you to come to Gamer’s Rhapsody. It’ll be an intimate group (it’s the first year, remember) so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet folks and ask questions, or show off your own creativity!

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

This fall. This fall was gorgeous in Minneapolis/St. Paul. We had amazing weather – lots of sunshine, and we’ve experienced a slow, steady decline in temperatures (which will continue for weeks).

I’ve missed most of that nice weather, and I’m okay with that. I’m an agoraphobic introvert who’s really great at passing off as an extrovert. I feel this is more complicated than just existing as a straight-up introvert. Regardless, I stay inside a lot, and I play a lot of games.

This fall, I’ve had the opportunity to play several games I’ve been waiting for, like Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Sunset Overdrive, Fantasia: Music Evolved, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments.

Am I playing any of these wonderful games? I played them all for short periods and truly enjoyed each of them. But am I playing them? Of course not, because two other titles came out in the late summer/early fall: Destiny, and Diablo III: Reaper of Souls.

Those damn games are ruining my life. They’re ruining it for quite different reasons, and one could learn from the other, but seriously.

Let’s take D3 for instance. I’ve written about this game enough times in the past – it’s fair to say there are hundreds and hundreds of challenges and goals to work toward in D3. This keeps me interested amidst all the repetition that comes with the game. I always have something to try and achieve, and I’m constantly rewarded with better and better loot, which allows me to battle tougher and tougher monsters.

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Legendaries everywhere…

I can trade with my friends. This keeps my friends interested. I can battle their enemies and win them prizes. We can play together without ever playing together.

The D3 crew knows how to keep me in front of their game. That game is a perfect case study in the “carrot in front of the nose” idea. They wave that carrot loud and proud.

Destiny, like Diablo III, comes with a lot of repetition and far, far less incentive. At most, Bungie gives me binoculars with which I can barely make out the carrot at the end of the infinitely long stick, waving in front of my nose, off in the distance, like a tiny fairy queen on a mini parade float.

Those who play Destiny are after loot. In that game, loot comes inside ‘engrams’, which unlock and become your prize. The best color engrams to find, of course, are purple or gold. Purple is called legendary loot in Destiny, and gold loot is called exotic. Every exotic item I have, I either bought or earned through a special mission (these special missions are granted at random). I’ve never received exotic loot as a random drop, nor have I ever received exotic loot from a raid (arguably, the most interesting gameplay in Destiny occurs in the raid – (the raid being one of the more innovative types of multiplayer I’ve personally encountered on a console).

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…nary a drop.

I’ve had more luck with legendary weapon drops, but the legendary armor drops tend to be for a different class than I’ve chosen to play. So, for every few hundred green or blue drops, I’ll get one purple one, that might not even be of use to me, and I can’t trade it with a friend.

The other night, I realized I’d amassed an entire legendary set of armor for a Titan (class). So I made a Titan character. And this is the rub – once I have the Titan leveled up, I’ll have three characters to run through the raid each week, to run the daily mission each day, to run the weekly and nightfall strikes each week.

Three times. Everything three times. Repetition with the quite rare reward. It’s a lot to ask. It’s pretentious, in a way, to expect the consumer to grind so much for so little. Or is it? Sometimes, I just want a damn reward. There aren’t enough hours in the day or in a week to be properly rewarded from Destiny. What game takes up all of your time, and why? What keeps you playing? How do you personally feel about loot rewards in games? What are your experiences with repetition vs. rewards in games?

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

There are a handful of things I excel at in video games that I struggle with in real life. Here is my story.

Looking for Things

I can spend hours looking for things in games. I’ll search every corner, nook, cranny, drawer, wardrobe, desk, chest, closet, basement, car, crate, vending machine, computer and body for any item, regardless of how important its acquisition is to my character’s advancement. In real life, if I have to look for a specific shirt, I wear a different shirt. If I can’t find where I stored the new tube of toothpaste, I buy another tube of toothpaste. When I leave behind my water bottle for the twelfth time, I buy my thirteenth water bottle.

Running

All players should have the ability to run in games. Commander Shepard in Mass Effect couldn’t run. That was annoying and has, no doubt, prevented more replays of that game than just my own. In real life, I would be the first to die. Not only am I unable to run very far, I hate every second of it. In grad school, I ran for several months before I realized how angry it made me. There was no release of aggression, just a massive surge of it. I love the freedom of running and jumping in games. That does not translate to real life.

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Saving Money

I will save every last scrap of gold to buy that one item I want, whether it’s a weapon, a property, a piece of armor, crafting equipment, upgrades, a car, or whatever. I save currency, resources, potions, upgrades, almost to a fault. Not true in real life. I save some cash, yes, because if I’m lucky enough to retire, it’d be cool to not be broke then too. Games and electronics take vast amounts of my cash reserves. And I’m okay with that, mostly.

Making Passionate Impromptu Speeches

So fabulous at this in games. I’ve pumped up so many armies and forces before battle, leading them to glory. I’ve saved people with my words. I’ve prevented crimes, encouraged happiness, soothed nerves, calmed the grieving and cut down the arrogant. I’ve inspired good and defeated evil, all with my words in games. I’m not as great at this when it comes to real life. I tend to say things wrong, and my words get all twisted when I’m on the spot. I’m fine if I have the time to plan, but that’s not very impromptu now, is it?

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Organizing

I can keep a handle on my inventory. Perhaps this is one reason I disklike playing survival horror, where resource management is often the only way to beat the game… to say I struggle with organization is like saying the Pope is a bit religious. My desk is a disaster (although far, far, far from the worst, I’m happy to say), my house is more or less a mess (I haven’t unpacked from a trip I took two weeks ago), and the only way I can manage to pay bills on time is by doing auto-pay. In many ways, I’m horrible at being an adult.

Relationships

Let’s just leave this one alone.

Dying/Death

There are times I’ve died in horrible situations; for instance, you and that boss are both one hit away from ending a 20-minute battle and the boss strikes first. Or, deaths in games like X-COM are brutal, where dead means dead. I came dangerously close to losing my hardcore wizard in Diablo 3 at level 69 ½ (the goal is 70). But, you know, I can just play again. It might not be quite the same experience, and you might not get all the same gear on the second play-through, but you get to try again. In real life, I’ve lost friends, family, colleagues and pets. It always sucks, as I imagine you know.

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Following Directions

Let’s face it: I’m horrible at following directions in and out of games.

And you?

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

The video game industry has an ongoing identity crisis. Mostly, I’m able to watch this from afar, keeping industry drama firmly at arm’s length. Unfortunately, one of the symptoms of this crisis is manifesting itself in video game soundtracks.

In recent years, as the industry has blossomed, some AAA games seem set on hiring famous film composers to write music. I feel this is a loss that compromises the identity of the enterprise.

For several reasons, the game industry struts around like the red-headed stepsister of entertainment. I often liken this film breaking away from theater in the early 1900s; over time, ideally, these feelings of inadequacy will fade. Yet, since video games make absurd amounts of money, above and far beyond the music and film worlds, I’ve struggled to understand the inferiority complex.

Hiring film composers hardly brings more respect or recognition to games. Consumers certainly buy soundtracks as a result of the composer, but how often will someone actually buy a game as a result? Who purchased Mass Effect 3 because of Clint Mansell? Who bought Halo 4 because of Neil Davidge? Who bought Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 because of Hans Zimmer?

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Did developers make back the exorbitant fees wrapped up in hiring these men (calling a spade a spade), purely from consumers buying soundtracks because of their music? That is so incredibly unlikely. Did they get bragging rights for hiring Zimmer? Yep. Good for them.

The most profound music in games was written by game composers. Or, quite simply, composers who aren’t famous for their films. They’re composers who are famous for their game music. They excel at writing game music. Film composers don’t.

A film composer can write a beautiful theme, but how often will they be the ones to innovate or improve game music? And let’s face it, when Mansell or Zimmer or Reznor get hired, they aren’t writing the bulk of the music. They might write a theme or two, and that’s it. The real game composers fill in the gaps, which is equally as tragic, scoring minutes upon minutes more than the film dude did. The game composers still write the bulk of the music, and get far less credit than they deserve.

Outside of bragging rights, there is no rhyme or reason for hiring outside the industry. There is plenty of talent within it. It’s not like I need to list names like Soule, Kyd, O’Donnell, Schyman… but there you go. Some of those insanely talented composers have been replaced by film composers.

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The message sent? We want real entertainment composers. Video game composers don’t have enough talent, or skill, or name recognition. I think that last part is key: the name recognition. Hiring someone like Zimmer sends conflicting messages. To the rest of the entertainment industry, it’s a “Look at us – we hired Trent Reznor because video games are a big deal.”

To the fans, however, the message is, “Hey, we’re gonna go ahead and hire someone from outside the industry so we can get attention from the film folks”.

Again, how often do consumers buy a game because of the famous dude (spade a spade) hired to do the music? Perhaps they buy the soundtrack, but it seems outrageous to assume that this will make a pub/dev enough additional money to warrant the decision.

Game music makes games special. It always has. Hiring huge names for millions of dollars means the industry loses one of its unique attributes: composers who’ve spent their lives playing and studying games and game music; composers who strive for the best interactive experience musically. Let’s keep those folks in the game, so to speak.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time playing Destiny over the past few weeks. My Hunter is level 26+, and if you’ve played it, you know it takes a tiny bit of devotion to level up your character.

I enjoy the soundtrack, and it nearly always hits the mark. My praise overshadows my criticism.

Additionally, I’m only addressing the soundtrack to the game, not the song Paul McCartney wrote for the credits.

Speaking generally, the audio team did an amazing job implementing the music. Never does the music stop or start suddenly. The loops always wrap up perfectly, and the transitions are flawless. I’m such a stickler for this, because there are some terrific soundtracks that are more or less ruined by how the music was put into the game, and that’s a crime.

Totally not the case with Destiny. It’s really, really well done.

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Destiny’s soundtrack runs the gamut of symphonic to electronic music, with the occasional choir used to great effect. That gamut will be evident in my favorite tracks, listed below. However, this is one of my complaints with these massive soundtracks: it’s clearly impossible for one human being to undertake the arduous task of writing so many hours of music for a giant game. The only solution is to bring in more composers. In Destiny’s case, and so very many other blockbuster games, the musical narrative gets lost.

Thing is, even when Destiny’s score wanders, I tend to enjoy where it goes.

Truth be told, and this is huge for me, Destiny’s combat music is outstanding. Some of the battle music is foreground music, not at all intended to serve as a backdrop. Instead, the music is present and obvious in the best possible way.

My favorite track, however, might be the simplest in its sound. It’s called “Deconstruction”, and I’m so incredibly happy that the person who made this exists.

Next favorite is called “The Great Unknown”. Tonality is a bit ambiguous here, which is the best part, but it sounds a lot like a mode called lydian-mixolydian to me, which is one of my favorites. You get that raised fourth scale degree with a flat seven and it sounds super neat. A band called Elbow does a great song in that mode, I think it’s called “Ribcage”. But regarding “The Great Unknown”, the choir is great and the atmosphere is awesome. Here’s a nice long loop for you.

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I pretty much love all the music you hear when you’re wandering around the tower.

Regarding combat tunes, there are some great ones. I love love love “The Temple of Crota”. I also enjoy “Dust Giants” and “End of the Line”. The dudes I play with online love “End of the Line” too. The best part of “End of the Line” is how it builds during the first big battle in the Sepiks Prime mission. It’s done SO well as the battle builds in intensity – it’s quite remarkable. Ooooh, and I love the “Sepiks Prime” tune too (it’s definitely one of my favorite missions).

On occasion, I feel like the score sounds too terrestrial. I recall the first time I heard guitar and drums, I was momentarily pulled away from the magic of Destiny’s universe. I liked the music though, even if it felt slightly anachronistic. In some ways, the overt acoustic sounds like brass, strings, electric guitars and drums serve as a tether to the human elements left in Destiny’s time. If all we heard were synthesizers, we’d lose that touch. When I consider it like that, I’m content.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

I had an interesting and, at times, heated discussion with two of my friends last night as we battled our way through a couple Strike missions in Destiny.

If you’ve not paid much attention to Bungie’s newest conversation starter, loot is incredibly difficult to acquire in Destiny, unless you farm for it. In Destiny, farming often involves standing with a bunch of random strangers, aiming at a cave in the distance and shooting anything that moves inside. At a certain point, everyone runs out of ammo, so you dart up to the cave, collect all the drops, run back to the standing spot and do this ad nauseam until you score a handful of interesting items. The longer you shoot at the cave, the more loot you’ll get.

It’s not a very fun way to play the game, but it’s effective if you don’t feel like playing the game the way Bungie intended.

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And that’s the sticking point, where my buddy, “Super”, got all fired up. He doesn’t think highly of grinding in a game to get loot. He thinks he gets loot the “straight” way – by playing levels and advancing accordingly.

The problem with his plan is this: Bungie doesn’t award you loot for playing well, at least not from what I’ve witnessed. If you play in the Crucible (PvP stuff), you’ll quickly note that the player with the most kills or the most impressive K/D rarely gets anything at all, let alone a legendary drop of some sort.

I farmed for a couple hours on and off yesterday, and I find it particularly boring in Destiny. A game like Diablo 3 or Skyrim is built on the presumption that players will farm until their eyes bleed. During the load screen, Diablo 3 even tells you that if you’re dying, go back and replay levels to gain XP and to find better loot. How can it be considered cheating, if the game actively recommends you do it?

Bungie, however, is most certainly not recommending that players farm for loot, which brings me to Super, and his soapbox tirade about earning loot the “right” way.

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Do you remember how you could trick Call of Duty 4 into landing in a 1v1 match with your buddy? I can’t remember exactly how, but my friend Ross and I spent hours in 1v1 together just so I could get all my headshots, and so I could prestige all the way to 50. It was much, much harder to prestige in CoD4 compared to, well, any other CoD since. I suppose I call that cheating.

And Super has a point: the players that grind the caves in Destiny and then move on to the Crucible to kill everyone with their questionably acquired legendary fusion rifle really are cheating. But on the other side of the argument was Mazey, and Mazey doesn’t have all the time in the world to “play the game right”. Mazey, who IS the dude in the Crucible who kills the most people and has the highest K/D, got sick of getting stiffed out of loot. We played together for hours Saturday night, and Mazey got ONE item after about 9 rounds of Control. I got far more loot than that, and I’m routinely in the middle of the pack (I made my peace with that years ago).

A lot of this boils down to the American way of keeping up with the Joneses. We all want to have the best, and when we see others who have what we want, we often try to find the simplest and quickest way to get it.

Given that there are 8 billion games coming out this fall, we all need to get to level 30 as quickly as possible, so we can move onto grinding the hell out of the next game.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

Seriously, Destiny is ruining my life, one short week after I welcomed it into my life. It’s not new for me to be consumed by a game, but I’m especially frustrated by Destiny’s hold on my soul while I face down week after week of new game releases. Over the course of the last few days, I’ve started dreading the release of Dragon Age: Inquisition, Sunset Overdrive, Fantasia: Music Evolved, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Far Cry 4 and LittleBigPlanet 3.

I feel like I’m cheating on Diablo 3. All I can do is Destiny. I keep looking at my character on the app and on Bungie.net. She looks amazing.

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I’ve only begun with a Hunter, and she’s up to 21 at this point. It’s no surprise to me that I’m hooked on a game that allows you to micromanage your inventory and obsess over your stats while away from the console.

I’m still not even really sure how to deck her out. I have no idea what to buy from whom, and I’m not entirely certain what types of salvage I should try to acquire. I have about 10,982 Spirit Blooms, or so.

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I wrote an entry here when I learned that Destiny cost $500-million to make. I was concerned that a high price tag would translate into too many people with too many visions and too many directions leading to too many errors. As of now, I’ve had zero connection issues, and I’ve never encountered a glitch. My complaint thus far is the ridiculously brief story, most of which I didn’t understand. Luckily, it’ll only take me about a half a day to storm through it again if I need help comprehending the lore.

I think it’s a beautiful game. There is a balance between colorless, lifeless terrain (like on the Moon) and lush, vibrant landscapes (like Venus). And yes, there is a fair amount of repetition, depending on how much grinding you’re willing to do. I have a particularly high threshold for grinding, that I believe corresponds directly with the amount of time I’m willing to spend interacting with other humans.

Speaking of which, I thoroughly enjoy interacting with strangers on a “whenever-the-hell-I-want” basis. Other players come and go, and I get to decide if I want to help them or keep doing my own thing.

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There are exceptions to this, though, like in the Strike missions. These are co-op missions with up to three players. They’re challenging battles with waves of enemies and incredibly tough bosses. As you move through these levels, Bungie eventually restricts respawning, and if all three players die without resurrecting each other before killing the final boss, that section resets and you begin the entire boss battle over again. When you’re facing bosses that take a solid 20 minutes to kill, it gets frustrating if all three players continue to die. Strategy becomes paramount, and I enjoy that quite a bit. Ammo isn’t necessarily abundant either, forcing you to consider ammo conservation and resource management.

In my opening moments of playing Destiny, it felt like Borderlands without the humor. I still have this opinion sometimes; however, I love the hell out of Borderlands so it’s hardly a criticism.

destiny 3

Here’s the bottom line for me on Destiny: if you enjoy first-person shooters, get this game. Wait until the price is lower if you want, but get this game. There are plenty of enemies – in fact, after you clear an area, the enemies respawn so quickly it’s occasionally frustrating.

I need to spend a bit more time with Destiny’s music before I review that, but look for those comments next week.

——————–
Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

There are loads of Mass Effect and probably some Dragon Age spoilers up in here:

I wrote in defense of Morrigan from the Dragon Age series a few weeks ago. I’ve continued playing BioWare games lately, perhaps in a quest to find an artificial girlfriend so willingly offered up by their titles, or perhaps because I enjoy their stories. Maybe both.

I’ve failed miserably with regards to finding a BioWare mate. In Dragon Age: Origins, I attempted to romance Morrigan with my lady Grey Warden, only to find out Morrigan is straight and can’t be in a same-sex relationship. That’s cool because it’s like life where humans are a variety of bi, straight and/or gay.

However, even though Leliana’s romance meter was set to “LAND THE PLANE”, I forgot to consummate my relationship with her before starting the final mission. So my Grey Warden never experienced true bliss, as it were, before the final battle.

In Dragon Age II, I went for Isabela (every playthrough). All you need to do is be nice to her like once and she’ll spend some “quality time” with you.

isabela

Hawke: “Hey Iz, new bandana?” Isabela: *focuses gaze, stares ravenously*

When I played through the Mass Effect series on the Xbox, I stuck with Liara the entire time. Liara is, hands down, the best romance option. Like, ever. In those early days of my Mass Effect life, I didn’t know that BioWare was all “equality” about their romances and such in games. I encountered a conversation in which my FemShep could flirt with Liara, or tell her I thought lady sex was gross. I chose to tell her I thought it was gross, because in my mind, I thought, this is a video game; they’ll never let me have a same-sex relationship, and they’ll mock me if I agree with her. So I turned her down and lost my chance. As the game progressed, my lack of BioWare know-how led me to accidentally romance Kaiden. The memory of that brings a small nugget of bile to the back of my throat.

Fast forward to now, when I’m all about Mass Effect. I’ve played all three enough times to know what’s what. Kind of.

I never played the first Mass Effect on PlayStation. Oh, dude, I tried. I tried so hard. But I got to the Citadel, and remembered how much walking around Shepard has to do, and how Shepard doesn’t have a run button, and I just. couldn’t. do it.

So I popped in Mass Effect 2 and started that. But surprise! You can’t romance Liara in Mass Effect 2 unless you did in the first one. I mean, you kind of can, but there’s no plane that lands. Liara leaves Shepard sitting on the end of her bed in the Captain’s Cabin, walking away while Shepard depressingly says something like, “Come back soon.”

It gets worse for the ladies who want to romance other ladies in Mass Effect 2. FemShep can romance Kelly, assuming you go save her as soon as the Collectors take her. Otherwise, Kelly dies.

If FemShep tries to romance Samara, it’s bleak. Samara is an Asari justicar who follows “The Code” and cannot be in a relationship. Even though Samara is intrigued by FemShep, Samara still turns her away. Truly heartbreaking, in a video game sense.

If you’re playing as FemShep and you want the romance trophy (aka the Paramour Achievement), you can’t romance a female at all. You must romance Thane, Garrus or Jacob. All of those choices suck, no matter how awesome Thane or Garrus are. Maybe if Thane or Garrus were blue, I’d be down?

Since Samara won’t seal the deal due to her Code, and Kelly may or may not die, the only other choice is Morinth, unless you kill her (which I did since I’m playing as Paragon).

morinth

And choosing Morinth isn’t the most intelligent decision…

It’s a sad, sad state for a gay chick to play Mass Effect 2. After my failed BioWare relationships, I feel like the only true solution is to start over from scratch. Again. Force myself through the stupid Citadel, romance the hell out of Liara, and carry her along through ME2 into ME3.

——————–
Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

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