The Next Few Hours: Destiny

Current Status:  Hit level 17 last night after finishing the first mission on Mars and having a successful Crucible run with some new friends.

A week after its release, my feelings about Destiny have become rather complex.  On the one hand, the things that are bad about it continue to be bad – laughably, horribly, stupifyingly bad.

On the other hand, well; I’ve spent the last 11 hours of my all-too-brief free time feeling more and more drawn to it, discovering the harmony within its gameplay rhythms, enjoying the slow but steady pull of new weapons and armor, exploring what there is to explore of Venus and Mars, and even dipping my toes into the PvP.

There’s no kind way to say this, and if you’re playing it you undoubtedly know this to be true:  the missions are dumb.  Go to point X, run the gauntlet, deploy the Ghost, fight off wave after wave after wave until the Ghost is finished.  (Indeed, the only way the missions could be worse is if your Ghost took damage.)  The reasons for doing any of this stuff are never explained – and if your answer is “But it’s in the app!” or “But it’s on!”, then you’re missing the entire point.  You can’t expect me to remain immersed in your game’s world if I have to have my iPhone next to me while I’m playing it – and when the only time I can read it is when I’m not actually playing.  I’d rather the use of audiologs, frankly, than having to read about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it on my iPhone when I’m in the bathroom.

And the game is also weirdly slavish to classic fantasy RPG conventions, even right down to the names of your enemies.  Why are the Vex – a robotic race of enemies – named Goblins, Harpies and Minotaurs?  Why are the Hive – insectoid-looking things – named Knights, Acolytes, Ogres and Wizards?   This is supposedly a sci-fi space opera – why am I fighting dragons?

Speaking of the Vex, and speaking of the shitty writing, here’s a case in point:  the very first mission on Venus leads you to a library; as your Ghost is analyzing this weird white digital tree thing, it suddenly cries out “Oh no!  The Vex are here!  Take cover!”  Who are the Vex?  It is not explained.  The fight isn’t particularly difficult as compared to previous firefights, but it is unnecessarily long and frustrating, being that the Vex keep teleporting in from elsewhere.  Why do they present more of a threat than any of the other murderous alien beings I’ve been fighting for the last 10 hours or so?  That is not explained either, until after the fight is over; and even then, it’s not explained in a clear, unambiguous way.

Later, you are told to go to the Rift to seek out how to enter the Black Garden.  (I could be mistaken in those names, but honestly – they’re so generic.)  After some weird bluster by some dude doing his best Tom-Hiddleston-as-Loki routine, he says that he’ll grant you access if you bring back the head of a Vex captain.  Your response (and keep in mind this is one of the only lines of dialogue your character says in the entire game thus far) is:  “Why do you need a Vex head?”  And faux-Loki replies – and I’m paraphrasing, but this is more or less the gist – “Oh, we don’t.  But you’re going to do it anyway.”

As I continue to unlock planets, I feel myself wanting to explore and poke around in various nooks and crannies, but more often than not (and by that I mean 90% of the time) those nooks and crannies are literally empty, and usually cut-and-pasted from other, similarly empty locations.  Every once in a while I’ll find a chest or a dead Ghost, but the rewards for doing so are minimal.

I could go on, but after a while it feels both like nit-picking and kicking a fallen horse.  The writing is simply terrible; this has been evident since the alpha.  It’s unfortunate.  One could argue that at least it’s not racially tone-deaf or sexually insensitive the way dozens of other AAA games are, and I suppose that’s true, but that’s very faint praise.

I continue to come back, though, because despite the lack of any compelling context, the shooting is enormously fun.  I’ve become rather adept at the scout rifle, and pulling off a string of precision kills is incredibly satisfying.  (It’s a useless weapon in PvP, given that everything in the Crucible happens 100x faster than in the story, which is probably why I’m so terrible.)

And it goes without saying that doing this all with friends makes the overall experience infinitely more enjoyable.  Joking with buddies instead of slogging through P-Dink’s endless mono-drone is definitely my preferred soundtrack, and having a full fireteam makes the story’s missions far less tedious.

There is potential here, to be sure.  I certainly aim to finish the story, and I presume I’ll hit level 20 before I see the credits.  I’m not sure how much longer I’ll stick with it after that, given that Shadow of Mordor drops in less than 2 weeks, and the flood of fall releases ensues shortly thereafter, but for the time being I’m having a rather pleasant go of it, and maybe I am starting to feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth after all.

(Shooter Of The Year still belongs to Wolfenstein, though.)

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