Like most game playing citizens of the Geek Nation, I wound up buying Bungie's newest Full Tilt Shooting Space Opera, "Destiny" last week. Short version, the plot feels like it's been cobbled from half a dozen other space operas, the characters are flat and I finished the story section just as it felt like it was starting to kick into gear*.
And I spent pretty much my full two days off playing it, stopping only to eat and expel waste.
Needless to say, I need to explain myself.
From the Wikipedia Page for "Destiny".
Destiny is set seven hundred years into the future in a post-apocalyptic setting following a prosperous period of exploration, peace, and technological advancement known as the Golden Age. In a universe where humans have spread out and colonized planets in the Solar System, an event known as "the Collapse" saw the mysterious dissolution of these colonies, the end of the Golden Age, and mankind teetering on the brink of extinction. The only known survivors of the Collapse are those living on Earth, who were saved by "the Traveler," a white, spherical celestial body whose appearance centuries before had enabled humans to reach the stars. The Traveler now hovers above the last safe city on Earth, and its presence allows the Guardians — the defenders of the City — the ability to wield an unknown power, only referred to as "The Light."
Upon mankind's first attempt to repopulate and reconstruct after the Collapse, it is discovered that hostile alien races have occupied mankind's former colonies and civilizations and are now encroaching upon the City. The player takes on the role of one such Guardian, and is tasked with reviving the Traveler while investigating and destroying the alien threats before humanity is completely wiped out.
It's clear that Bungie is sliding into whole mythic adventure thing. And because the characters are archtypes, there's not that much personality to them. Occasionally, your Ghost (The little doohicky that stays with you the entire time and helps you map out the terrine.) throws out the occasional dry witticism. And because he's voiced by Peter Dinklage, they occasionaly land.
But for the most part, the dialogue in the cutscenes is servicable. And the whole tone of the narrative portions is serious without sloping into ponderous.
The gameplay though, that's a horse of a different color. And that color is Gun Mettle Gray!
As anyone who's played any of the Halo games for a hot minute will tell you, Bungie is really good at two things. Creating beautiful worlds and making it fun to shoot things in them.
All the environments are georgous and run in 1080P with a shockingly smooth frame rate and range from an abandoned Cosmonaut station to a terra-formed Venus. And while all the missions can be boiled down to "Shoot a lot of baddies and then throw this switch/scan this area/get this doohicky" type, they make up with it a wide and varied arsnal of weaponry that run the gambit from Hand Cannon to Rocket Launcher. And they are all great fun to unload on wave after wave of inhuman baddies.
And let me tell you that there is nothing better then getting that perfect head shot and seeing the head go pop so hard that you feel it in the controller feedback. Great Stuff.**
But it's not the shooting that keeps you playing. It's the loot.
Now the Good Lord*** knows that picking up loot from your fallen enemies and from scattered chests in the play area is a time honored video game trope. But Bungie has refined that trope to it's purest form, doling out goodies on a regular basis that you have to keep playing in order to get the next thing you need to level up. Even if it's a piece of equipment that's weaker than what you have equipped, you still have to grab it in order to disassemble it for parts that you can use to upgrade the equiptment that you have.
The game is the button you push with your nose to get a piece of cheese.
And it never. Runs. Out. Of. Cheese.
But perhaps the most diabolical thing about the game, the thing that almost borders on a social engineering experiment is this.
"Destinty" has been called by it's creators a "Shared World Shooter". Basically, that means that you share the same playspace with hundreds of players at the same time, all the time. Which means two things for you, the player.
One, you cannot play this game offline.
Two, you cannot pause the game.
Let me repeat that last point. You! Cannot! Pause! The! Game!
I mean, you can go to the character screen but because the gamespace is constant, odds are if you spend too much time at that screen, you will be murdered. That means if you have to stop for whatever reason, (Meals. House fire. Girlfriend showing up at your door in racy Steampunk themed cosplay.), you have to stop whatever mission you're on and "go into orbit" thus leaving your objective unfinished.
Now that's not so bad if you're just doing patrol missions but The Flying Spaghetti Monster help you if you're two/thirds of the way on a story mission or worse, on a Strike Mission with two other players. You will not get the Vanguard Points you need to advance and the other players will call you a dick.
So, let's review.
A constant reward system + a game space designed to discourage pausing = A constant crack buffet.
Needless to say, "Destiny" has now been reclassified as an "Days Off" only game.
So, can I honestly recommend the game? To artists who have no day jobs and depend
on constant productivity to make a living, you must avoid this game like your relative who gets all his information from Fox News.
However, if you are an independently wealthy introvert who is trying to block out all contact with the outside world, then you should embrace it like that high class hooker you'd hire on weekends if you only had the guts.
All others, your milage may vary.
*SPOILER RELATED CAVEAT. I finished at The Black Garden which I assume is the end of the current story. And it's my understanding that this is meant to be the first in a series of four games supplmented by the occasional expansion pack. So maybe the narrative will get more interesting as we go.
**I would like to quickly add that head shots are only awesome in video games. In real life, they only bring sadness and misery to the survivors. Real life murder is wrong, Mmmkay.
***Do not interpret this colloquialism as an endorsement of any belief system. Theism is for the birds, Mmmkay.