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Thursday, December 9, 2021

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Quality over quantity…

1 day, 3 hours, 58 minutes and 48 seconds. According to my Bungie online profile that’s how much time I have spent in Destiny’s ravaged wasteland of a solar system. In that time I have taken 5185 lives. Participated in 112 games. Earned a Crucible medal score of 11,345. A Grimoire score of 1340. Reached the level limit of 20 and surpassed that limit to earn a ‘Light score’ of 24. And all around me I see people at level 26, 28 and apparently out there now, somewhere in the wasteland, walk a handful of level 30s.

Basically what I imagine you are taking from this is NUMBERS. Lots of figures and tallies and scores and levels. And here is another for you, $500m.

That, apparently inaccurate figure, is what Destiny cost to create and promote. But accurate or not it is that number that is most pertinent. Because it is that number, or whatever number it is parading around in place of, that accounts for the impeccable presentation of Bungie’s new venture.

The genres that Destiny attempts to meld are three that deal implacably in numbers and figures. RPGs and MMOs are both spaces in which you are often presented with lists and page upon page of numbers and inscrutable statistics. And the games core genre, the ever popular FPS, comes with it’s own sub-set of figures and stats to pore over. Firing rates, reload speeds, impact ratings, stability ratings.

Destiny Creation

In every aspect of Destiny and it’s worlds though it is that one figure, $500m, that shines through. Because at no point in the game do you find yourself experiencing ‘number-blindness’. Somehow, through Apple iOS-like witchcraft, Bungie manage to make all of the systems and options open to you make near-perfect sense. The presentation in the menus – somewhere you will spend plenty of time – is a joy to behold. Everything is where you expect it might be and everything does what you think it might do. Every number or word or picture can be hovered over to provide a description of what it is. And all of this allows you to focus on the real meat of the game. The thing that, when you hear Bungie (creators of Halo) are involved, you automatically think of. Shooting aliens and space-soldiers.

Thankfully that aspect is as utterly flawless as the presentation. Think Halo and then add $500m and that is how Destiny feels. You’ll plough through gun after gun, each more powerful than the last, and you’ll pop off head-shots one by one. And it has never felt better. Over a day of my life now has been spent in the company of this game, trawling the same areas, shooting the same things and completing the same gameplay loops. Yet it has not even started to creak. It’s not even threatening to get less entertaining. A new upgrade leads to another new upgrade leads eventually to completing an upgrade tree which leads to a new upgrade tree. All the while giving you new abilities to toy with and game-plans to test out. When you slide into combat, unleash a few shotgun blasts and overwhelm crowds of enemies with a super-ability it is impossible not to get a rush of excitement and find a daft grin invading your face. And that represents just one of the infinite ways in which you might approach a situation. With three classes (Titan, Warlock and Hunter) open to you, each with different abilities and specialities, there lies before you hundreds of hours of levelling, upgrading and experimenting.

Destiny Upgrades

And yet…

Despite all of that there is another way in which Destiny is reminiscent of Apple’s ubiquitous iOS. Now, I know little of the world of smartphones. All I know is I have one and you can do stuff on them, and sometimes the stuff people do on them is leaked because that’s what clouds do.

Something I do know is that Apple’s stylish gadgets and beautiful interfaces don’t offer the range of options or depth some smartphone connoisseurs hunger after. And herein lies Destiny’s biggest gripe.

You will find yourself, after the story mission draws to an underwhelming close, faced with a few options. Strike missions, raid missions, patrol missions, story missions with modifiers, bounties and the excellent multiplayer PvP arena. But you will very quickly exhaust all of them. And that is when you find yourself with but one option; do it again. And again. And again. And again.

The frankly magnificent shooting mechanics will make this a joy for some, but a startling disappointment for others. Because the open world that was promised is simply a handful of hub-worlds. Beautiful and expansive and breathtakingly rendered, but very quickly explored. Earth, the Moon, Venus and Mars. Each distinctive and each with variations of enemies. But none hiding anything other than the same missions to do ad infinitum.

The story itself will take about 8 hours to complete and it makes little sense, to the point where you wonder if they even had a writer on the project or just some ideas on pieces of paper swirled around in a particularly small hat. The voice acting is as laughably bad as I have ever witnessed. The magnificent Peter Dinklage, who plays the beloved Tyrion Lannister in HBOs sex-and-dragon-athon Game of Thrones, voices your AI companion ‘Ghost’. And clearly he had no inkling this game may prove to be popular. It has since become the most successful new IP launch in history. So it is now safe to say Dinklage’s lacklustre performance has been witnessed by at least a few people by this point. His disinterested delivery, not helped by terrible dialogue, even spawned an internet meme before the game had been fully released. ‘That wizard came from the moon…’ – the fateful piece of dialogue in question – is a line that the love-child of Meryl Streep and Daniel Day Lewis would have problems imbuing with life though.

Destiny, then, is a dramatically mixed bag. With presentation and gameplay as polished and perfected as I have ever seen, and yet content that doesn’t quite match in terms of quantity. You will find yourself in the same places, hurtling back and forth in shiny armour or a hooded cloak or a coat, with your breathtakingly powerful weaponry on your Star Wars-esque hover-bike. You will be tasked with killing X amount of robots or beasts or surveying a piece of land or scanning a piece of equipment. You will strafe around the Crucible in PvP matches for hours on end. You will earn new weapons, new armour and new upgrades but you will be doing the same things with them.

So we come back to numbers and figures. 1 day, 3 hours, 58 minutes and 48 seconds. And I am itching to add more days, hours, minutes and seconds to that tally. Which I think speaks for itself. Even as the games flaws stare you in the face you smile back. Because it’s just so much fun to do.

Now if you will excuse me I have my eye on a gun I want to buy. I intend to shoot the same things I have already shot so I can earn enough currency so I can buy it and then shoot the same things again. And frankly I can’t wait!

Destiny Screenshot

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