I’m going to be really bloody mean to Destiny.
Because if somebody doesn’t nip this in the bud, then Bungie and Activision and their ilk and their imitators will think this standard is acceptable. And it is not acceptable.
Um… also, because it’ll be a larf…
Destiny was billed as a sweeping Science Fiction spectacular. This is evidenced, not least of all by the sheer multitude of Star Wars references. The Traveller is the Death Star. The Sparrow looks like a speeder-bike and sounds like a pod-racer. The Fallen look like General Grevious. Even the quotation “I have a bad feeling about this…” makes an almost mandatory appearance. Ironic then that in a bid to ape the most beloved Sci-Fi in pop culture’s history, Destiny narrates, characterises and sounds consistently poorer than its universally reviled prequels.
I’ll spell that out, just for emphasis – Bungie, the creators of Halo, have crafted a fiction so bland, so shockingly insipid, it makes The Phantom Sh*tting Menace look like a supernova of wit and imagination, penned by the late Iain M. Banks!
Destiny’s fiction is less than worthless. It has negative worth. I’ll be submitting my invoice to Activision shortly. But does the gunplay at least counterbalance the gaping singularity where Bungie’s personality used to be? You’d be forgiven for brainwashing yourself into believing it does. I did for a spell. ‘Surely Bungie weren’t sniffing glue and necking turpentine for the entirety of Destiny’s 5+ year development cycle’ my mind said. Or thought. Or whatever.
In any case, for the purposes of contrast, I decided to return to Halo: Reach, to better see how Bungie have upped their game.
Spoiler – This was a mistake.
Objectively (coz I’m no more a fan of Halo than Destiny) the quality of gunplay has deteriorated substantially in the four years since Halo: Reach. In Reach you had a much wider variety of weapons to avail of from, a host of grenades, shields and assorted ordinance to compliment your arsenal and a selection of special abilities with generous cooldown timers. In addition there were vehicles and turrets and environmental explosives injecting variety. And this quaint little notion going by the name of Enemy AI…
Now a good developer will notice the correlation between challenge and Enemy Artificial Intelligence. Meanwhile, a bad developer might erroneously equate Enemy Artificial Intelligence to Enemy Hit Points. What class of a developer is Bungie then, that starts as the former and wilfully degrades into the latter?!
Yes, sure, I’ll happily concede that Bungie have successfully transferred the smooth motion of transitioning a cursor around a screen. And look, they’ve even gone to the bother of making it look like a gun. Are we really celebrating this as an accomplishment now? The fact that the shooting is responsive in a first person shooter where literally the only thing asked of you is that you shoot?!! Should I also pen a thank you letter to Activision because whenever I boot up Destiny it DOESN’T spit sulphuric acid into my mouth?!!
Okay, true to my word, I’m being deliberately bitchy.
So let’s spare a thought for the ancillary gameplay, which makes Destiny such a rich experience…
You can still toss (but not cook, heavens forfend!) grenades.
Only now it’s restricted to one at a time.
And only when the 1-2 minute cooldown timer has expired.
Thanks Bungie! This scarcity has really made me appreciate the something something…
Aping manys the MMO, you’re Guardian can also trigger a super attack.
This can take up to five minutes of gameplay to charge.
And is easily botched via vague aiming mechanics.
Bungie’s acclaimed verticality returns. Levels are tiered and players can moon jump.
In fact, the MasterChief Special was bounding over a Covenant squad, empting clips and lobbing grenades before gravity drags you back to earth. In Destiny, you can jump higher and farther than ever.
But as soon as you pull the trigger, you drop like a stone.
So basically you can’t do the MasterChief Special any more.
Which is just as well because I hate doing awesome fun things in blatantly fictitious video games…
I’m going to speed this up, because you’ve got better things to do than listen to me rant and I have better things to rant about! Destiny offers a paltry eight different weapon types, two of which are shotguns, FOUR of which are rifles. Destiny’s skill tree is more like a skill shaft, you unlock what you’re told to, when you’re told to. Destiny’s UI is, unusually, cursor based and you must click and hold face buttons for up to three seconds to advance. This last one in particular feels like Bungie and Activision* are taking the piss.
At this stage, more than a week on from initial release, you may have heard Destiny apologists stressing the fact that once you spend a score of hours playing and eventually hit LEVEL TWENTY, Destiny really comes into its own. And to an extent this is true. Gameplay remains unchanged (and thus comparatively poor in contrast to the similarly themed, superiorly executed Borderlands 2 and the fluid mechanical perfection and gameplay diversity of Far Cry 3). However rare loot, motes of light, vanguard points and stat modifiers evolve Destiny’s previously inert RPG elements. End game Destiny is as much about customizing your Guardian to fit your play style than it is simply clearing objectives.
But let’s ignore for moment the fact both enemy and player levelling wholly negate the need for a more powerful arsenal shall we….
If your game takes twenty f**king hours to get good, then your game is f**king bad!
In fairness, the writing was on the wall. Bungie has been in Damage Control mode for weeks now. At one point they responded to concerns that Destiny may be a tad slight on content with the insistence that a competitive multiplayer mode equates to infinite content.
Which is a strong contender for the lifetime achievement award in the category of “Willfully Moronic PRspeak.”
But why come down so hard on Destiny? Why am I bothering?
Why write one thousand words on where it fails when there are scores of games orders of magnitude worse released every single year?
Destiny enjoyed such a marketing storm in the months leading up to release, it became the very face of Video Games. Vaunted sites and respected journalists ran week long features and multiple part reviews for Destiny where they wouldn’t if it were any other game, be it FPS or MMO.
The Old Republic didn’t get this coverage.
Elder Scrolls Online didn’t get this coverage.
GTAV didn’t get this coverage.
Hell, Call of Duty doesn’t get this coverage.
Destiny, by virtue of its sheer pervading presence has become the de facto ambassador for Gaming to the wider world of arts, media and entertainment. Classical musicians know about Destiny. Acclaimed authors know about Destiny. Venerated directors know about Destiny. F**k it, my Mam, who knows nothing whatsoever about video games, knows about Destiny.
And they all think Destiny is the best we have to offer…
That’s not on, bud.
That’s not on.