Yahtzee reviews Destiny 2.
I had a terrible sense of foreboding from the prospect of Destiny 2; maybe it was the way I looked it up on Wikipedia and every bloody paragraph started with the words "Just like in Destiny 1..." I felt like I had enough to go on right there: "Oh, boy! Another installment of the game so emblematic of everything that's wrong with AAA games these days that if you stuck pins in it, then all of AAA gaming would get twinges in its back.
"Another fucking Skinner box drenched in grandiose scenery to distract from the fact that it's got no fucking gameplay ideas beyond 'go to place and shoot the lads over and over again', and no real story beyond 'Here are some lads who deserve to be shot after you have gone to the place. Don't forget to pre-order for your bonus golden catsuit and matching staple remover, although we're going to reward you with new bits of armor every time you successfully shoot a certain amount of lads, the way one rewards a budgerigar with yummy millet seed every time it climbs the little ladder and rings the little bell. So your physical appearance is going to be in a constant state of flux like one of those suits from A Scanner Darkly, but even if it wasn't, every character is over-designed to the point of meaninglessness, so you can't make any kind of mental attachment, which will hopefully pay off in a couple of years when we want you to stop playing this particular Skinner box and buy Skinner Box 3: The Return of Jafar'."
But let's not preemptively write off Destiny 2 like a prom date who picks us up on a riding lawnmower; besides, it's either this or Knack 2, or asphyxiating myself to death in my car, and since the neighbor borrowed the hose pipe, I'm stuck with this. Destiny 2 returns us to the wonderful future Earth where humanity is watched over by a giant cue ball with a vague understanding that it's benevolent and that no giant snooker player is going to show up and pot the entire planet down a black hole. I've played the original Destiny and yet couldn't tell you now what the fuck happened in it, but none of it seems to matter a tinker's cuss, because a generic evil alien race invades the Earth and puts a great big muzzle on the cue ball, taking away the superpowers of Earth's Guardians because they couldn't remember the safe word in time. The main villain is the sort of ridiculously operatic figure one should expect from a Bungie game, and looks a bit like a Muton from XCOM got elected pope.
Fortunately, one hope remains in the form of a lone Guardian who never speaks and has no name, and, if you're me, looks a bit like David Warner wearing bright pink lipstick and green eye shadow, because why would the character creator even have that if it didn't expect you to use it? The protagonist - or, as I like to call them, "Widow Twankey" - crawls out of the ruins of the Earth and manages to get their powers back by, as far as I understood the process, asking nicely. Your job, then, is to get the old band back together, meaning three guys we saw for two minutes in the intro sequence that are apparently important. They haven't got their superpowers back, but I guess we need them to tell us what to do next.
Actually, maybe these guys were in Destiny 1, but just to reiterate, I played Destiny 1 and I haven't a fucking clue. It's classic Bungie characterization: some very determined self-righteous people who do the right thing and have no sense of humor, and some who are designated "funny" characters, meaning they are also determined, self-righteous, and do the right thing, but they also over-clarify their statements a lot and determine aloud whenever a situation has become "not good". These characters' personalities are entirely defined by things they say, not things they do, because they don't do anything; they wait for you to show up and tell you to do things, and those things are invariably "go to place" and "shoot the lads".
So as the only Guardian who thought to ask nicely, we are the only one who can save the handful of hub maps from all around the solar system; just us and the other ten million players running around, but that's probably one of those things we're supposed to suspend our disbelief about. Still, Density 2 at least started off a bit less like a dreary mire of knee-deep cold sausage meat than Density 1; there's a nice, straightforward alien invasion, and for a while, the plot moves along at quite a clip: you start off on smashed-up Earth picking bits of alien shoe leather out of your bruised bottom, and a few time jumps later, you get your powers back, then you piss off to an ocean planet, and you've barely unfurled your beach umbrella before the plot mission's done and it's time to piss off to the next planet. So Destiny 2 has quite a long Pissabout Deferment Index, or PDI, which is the term for the amount of time a free-to-play or Skinner box game gives you to get settled in before it starts pissing you about.
It only started when, out of nowhere, the next plot mission required me to grind up two more levels, which wasn't much; I only had to do a couple of side quests, or rather, "adventures", as they are called here, which I suppose is one way to make them sound interesting. "Ho, traveler! Are you a stalwart enough hero to 'adventure' to a place and shoot the lads?" But then, after the next plot mission, I needed to gain another four levels to proceed, and, yeah, I guess I see what we're doing here now, Destiny 2. Still, at least the scenery's nice; in fact, that brings me to a strange epiphany that struck me while I was playing the game that I'd like to share with you now.
It was while I was following a series of objective markers in order to get to a place wherein might be found some lads to shoot; I paused about halfway down a corridor to take a break from the sheer roller coaster of excitement the mission was turning into and found myself staring at the wall texture. We were in one of the several hundred ancient alien temples covered in somehow-still-functioning LEDs that Bungie have made across their career and the decor had gone for an intricate pattern of narrow lines and right angles, but then I looked closer and saw there were multiple layers of lines, some in sharper relief than others. I got curious and looked around the entire surrounding area for where the pattern repeated, and I couldn't find it! Every part of the wall seemed to be a unique combination of lines and little glowy lights.
Who were you, mysterious wall-texture-designer-person with whom I feel a strange kinship as I gaze upon your work? What ambition spurred you through the years of practice and higher education that brought you to this place? When you dreamed of your artwork being hung upon walls to be viewed by millions, is this precisely what you had in mind? I picture them heading back to their cubicle to touch up another series of functionally-identical-but-slightly-varied wall textures and passing a meeting room where they overhear some designers discussing how best to word the latest iteration of "going to a place and shooting some lads", whereupon they heave a weary sigh and add another few names to the workplace massacre checklist they know damn well they no longer have the balls to execute.
"Are you sure there isn't something else about Destiny 2 you'd like to talk about, Yahtz? Like, say, the PvP? Or the level design? Or the fact that the three different categories of weapons are now called something different to what they were called last time?" NO! I want to talk about how I stared at a wall for five minutes and it was somehow the most interesting part of the game! I'm starting a new wave of game criticism right here; it's called "Up yours, publishers!".
- Worshipper of balls: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- The Traveler originally set up in a field east of Putney but the local constabulary moved him on
- Staring-at-a-wall based criticism extends particularly well to Tetris