Thursday, April 23, 2015

xBox One: Destiny

I didn't enjoy Destiny and I cannot fully explain, even to myself, why. The game was the highly anticipated (yes, I know its been out for ages, but it was highly anticipated before it came out) from Bungie, the same studio as Halo. They claimed it would be revolutionary, innovative and a ton of other buzz words. What we got was a very very pretty MMO-style FPS. Ahem, Massively Multiplayer Online style First Person Shooter, for the benefit of my non-gamer readers. And that meant grind, lots of grind. But in a world with great art design. Again, grind is the repeating the same task over and over and over and over to accomplish a larger end goal. For example, collecting a resource from the fallen body of an enemy 50 times.

Premise. Its the distant future, long after a big (moon sized big) alien sphere was discovered. That discovery ushered in a new age for mankind, allowing them to leap forward in technology, colonize the other planets in our solar system and reach for the stars. The sphere, called The Traveller, had enemies and they ended our golden age and reduced us to ruin, from massive colonies down to one city, on Earth, with The Traveller floating above. We, as main character, awake from the dead accompanied by a floating Tyrion Lann... I mean, Peter Dinklage voiced robot. We don't know who we are, why we are, but we are a type of hero called a Guardian. Guardians exist to protect The Traveller and hope to discover why we fell and help the system recover. And there are aliens.

The background is sketchy, broad strokes of mystic scifi peppered with post apocalypse. We get more and more as we do missions but it never really fills in anything. There is no real story here, just a translucent attempt at creating a vast world with vast things happening. Hell, we don't even really find out why we were dead and why we lost our memories. There are undead aliens burrowed into the Moon, there are robotic intelligences hanging out on Venus, there are four armed aliens on Mars. All the alien races have boring names like The Fallen or The Cabal or The Hive. It gets rather vexing. Hah. That's a pun on another alien's name, The Vex. Yeah, I yawned at that too. Yawning is par for the course in this game.

I don't get it. In many aspects, Destiny is a loot-gathering, item-upgrading game like Diablo III. You go out and shoot the same enemies over and over to find special items, weapons, armor and stuff in order to upgrade your current weapons, armor and stuff. In fantasy games, this is fun for some reason, watching your guy put on different fancy suits of armor or wield neat, flashy weapons. But here I got so very very bored as I was challenged on fighting enemies for about 10 levels. The grind was very anti-heroic. It always felt dangerous, not challenging dangerous but act-too-cautious-in-order-to-survive dangerous. And that was ignoring the occasionally blundering into enemies you couldn't hope to defeat. It wasn't until about midway through the game, that it picked up and you could actually take down enemies with abandon. And the cool stuff started to drop.

Most of the stuff is usual stuff. Weapons, armor and currency. Much of it were crafting materials of which were almost solely to be saved for later in the game. You also got to upgrade your spaceship, but only in a cosmetic way. The only point of the spaceship was to make the load screens not as boring. So why the frick does my spaceship need a hat. Non-gamer friends? Hats are a general reference to a common cosmetic change to characters in game that have no effect on game play, but make you prettier, i.e. your character can put on a hat. Spaceships don't need hats.

As for the multiplayer aspect of it, it was more like MMO-light. There were always other real people running around in the background but I never interacted. Back in the MMO days I did that as well, but they at least made the world feel populated. The only time, in Destiny, that the other players felt required for the game was during Raids -- special, tougher missions that always had 1-3 people involved. You needed those other players. And of course, there was an arena style area, where everyone could fight everyone. Most MMO players looooove PvP, player vs player. I don't. I just get my ass kicked over and over and over by kids 1/3 my age.

It was around mid-level I realized this was a game for Real Gamers (tm) i.e. those people that understand the minutiae of this type of gameplay. They are about builds, min-ing and max-ing characters, strategies in raids, etc. They use tons of jargon. I just wanted to play a game and have some fun and be immersed in a world. Its why I got bored with MMOs, but at least they had some fun story elements that were always in play. Main missions, side missions, expansion packs -- TONS of story. The story in Destiny finishes after level 20. Yes, quickly done and over. The rest of the game, all the gameplay, everything else you would do with the game is about just advancing your character during hours of rinse & repeat of previous missions. OMG yawn.

Not long after finishing the story, I quit. And I gather many people would say the game is just beginning at that level. But for me, it was done. And I am rather disappointed. It was an Xmas gift, it was a highly anticipated game. It was boring.