This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Destiny.
- There once was a game called Destiny
- Looked more like a graphical test to me
- It’s brown, there's a gun
- And it looks as much fun
- As requiring a double mastectomy.
I wrote those very words a while back in response to Destiny hype videos, and I must say I stand corrected: Destiny would only be as fun as a double mastectomy if after you woke up the doctor said, "Well, we were most of the way through the operation, but then our internet suddenly went down, so we had to sew your tits back on and throw you out the nearest window."
I remember a time not so long ago when "always-on" was a dirty word. When Diablo 3 made noises in that direction it earned itself an afternoon on the hobbling wheel, and when the Xbone pulled that shit, we pushed that shit straight back in again. My internet was dropping out like a military cadet with leprosy last week, so even though I prefer to keep to myself while playing Destiny, I kept getting kicked to the title screen because the game's like a psychotic girlfriend who burns all your clothes if she loses sight of you for five seconds.
So according to Destiny's intro cinematic, some alien being called "The Traveller” came to Earth to crash on the couch or something and accelerated humanity into a space-colonization golden age, until the Traveller's rowdy mates show up and start the usual perpetual cosmic warfare thing. "This was the end but-" IT WAS ALSO THE BEGINNING!-was that what you were going to say, Destiny intro cinematic!? It was, wasn't it, you fucking hack!
After deciding on your class and species and embarrassing 70s haircut, your character is awoken in the ruins of Earth by a floating Rubik's Cube voiced by Peter Dinklage, and mad respect to the actor 'cause he's got a voice as rich as Christmas pudding, but this is stunt casting of the highest order and he delivers his words like he's reading aloud from road signs on a long and tedious car journey. His first statement is something like, "You've been dead for a long time and must have many questions?" and he was right. It's just that we never get around to addressing any of them, do we?
Our first task is to find a ship to fly us off Earth and the main plot reason given for this seems to be: so that we can continue with this video game what we are playing.
Molestiny is a first-person shooter that wants to eat its lunch on the MMO's table, set in a series of expansive levels with jolly pretty scenery and which you'll have plenty of time to enjoy as you trek the same terrain five or six times in the course of a linear mission path. The MMO thing comes into it when you run into other players rampaging around the hills trying to encourage you to join their dance academy and if you make any attempt to explore the area beyond your mission parameters, you might stumble upon a hidden enemy, who looks exactly the same as all the other enemies but is about seventeen levels higher and you will have new-found empathy for flies that smash themselves against windscreens.
You see, the scenery is so pretty it has to work its cute little ass ‘til its pubes go crunchy, pulling double duty as both campaign area and grinding zone. You see, after a while I was routinely finding that I was failing to meet the recommended level for the next story mission and I'd have to wander around previous areas rubbing my face in gravel. And as pretty as the scenery is and as true as it is that the first bite is with the eye, you do have to let some other parts of your face get involved at some point or you end up with gravy dripping down your cheeks.
The recommended level advances by about one per story mission, but after a while, a single mission only filled the XP bar by a fun-sized Snickers worth. The intention perhaps is to encourage you to play in multiplayer arenas or raid missions a bit in between the story, but an immediate stop sign is thrown in my face because (on the PS4 at least) I can’t play multiplayer missions without PlayStation Plus, and I’d sooner run my tongue along a dead dog’s taint than pay a fucking subscription for a console I barely use!
"Wait, you’re complaining about not being able to play multiplayer, Yahtzee? You, the hunchback of Quattro Formaggio?" Well, it’s the principle! If multiplayer costs extra, fine! But I want to know it’s because server costs need to be covered or something. And without PS Plus there’s still all these other players running around so it couldn’t be costing them any more to open up the PVP. It’s rather galling when I’m dropped to the title screen for lost connection, when the major online features have been arbitrarily walled off to keep out the second-class scum. Besides, I thought grinding in multiplayer might at least be more fun than grinding patrol missions which have about five hundred ways of saying, "Go to places you’ve already been and shoot the dudes again."
The dudes in question are a succession of hostile Alien races collectively named "The Darkness" and individually after random words from the dictionary: "The Fallen", "The Hive", "The Cabal", "The Vex", "The Hinge", "The Recidivism", "The Felch" and most of them seem to fall into the category of "Dudes", that is to say, "humanoids", with several varieties of size and snazzy armor with bosses having the biggest and snazziest of all. So it’s kind of one-note. The only other recurring enemy type besides growly dudes with guns is floating robots with no limbs, which are the option one tends to go for when all the animators have gone home and you so cannot be arsed, that your arse occupies a different level of reality.
And remember, this is by the guys who made Halo. One can hardly forget because Destiny’s plot is very nearly a find-and-replace and just as simultaneously lifeless and convoluted with enough pseudo new-age cosmic claptrap to fill Cortana’s discarded bra cups. But Halo had a range of enemy types, some of them were humanoid and some of them were little squawky things dressed up like Quality Streets. And in comparison, Destiny is a bunch of dullards hanging around overdesigned backdrops, like a Magic: The Gathering tournament in the Sistine Chapel.
Generally the combat can best be said to be doing its job alright, I suppose; I’d sniper rifle one guy in the head and then watch the rest slide in and out of cover like cardboard ducks on a wire before coming in on the flank and stabbing everyone up. But that can’t change the fact the game is aggressively boring!
The loading times are arse and the need to constantly travel back and forth to the communal hub to hand in quests and items is arse as far as the eye can see. The game briefly comes alive each time the plot advances to the next planet but the new scenery loses its lustre fast as it's wrung out for every drop for grinding’s sake. Even the cutscenes are I hesitate to use the word ‘dry’ only because every character is as warm and engaging as a bowl of cold piss, for cold piss is what we must expect when we drink from the well of MMOs, routinely pissed in by the need for eternal status quo.
Nothing happens, nothing tries to engage or explain, it’s just fight the Darkness until further notice. But what made the Darkness so dark, Destiny? "I dunno, maybe someone pissed in it!"
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- This is not the beginning it is actually the end