The first of a new series of posts about computer games. Unless I decide that I hate writing about games. If you’re unused to reading about computer games look to the bottom for a glossary. Or just skip this post because I’m going to get a tiny bit technical.
Destiny 2 is free this month for PS4 users who subscribe to Playstation Plus so of course I gave it a look. But not right away. The things I heard about Destiny 1 weren’t great and I had been playing a lot of Titanfall 2 and there’s only so many hours in the day. I only loaded it up because a friend was playing it and recommended it, partly because they know that I’m a reasonably reliable teammate.
I expected to be underwhelmed and that might be why I like it so much. A game like this can over-hype itself to the point where you’re instantly disappointed by it because of the things that it doesn’t do so well and you never come to appreciate the good stuff. If you go in without expecting too much of it you give yourself a chance to notice the stuff that it does really well.
Destiny 2 does have some flaws. It expects the player to have mastered FPS gameplay without considering that much of its natural playerbase would be coming from third person open world games like the Assassin’s Creed series or third person MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. When my other half started playing I had to patiently explain how to corner strafe and, by extension, circle strafe. These are key FPS skills.
There are jumping puzzles. Oh My God, how much do I hate jumping puzzles? A lot. I hate jumping puzzles a lot. I especially hate them when they’re an unavoidable part of the main storyline mission and the double jump mechanic is unpredictable. I spent way too much time waiting to respawn on the rigs of Titan.
Some of the levels are far too dark. I’m all for moody, horror film inspired game play but if I have to look at the waypoints in order to find the door out there’s a problem. Just give me a torch.
Parts of it feel horribly derivative to me. The bad guys often look like someone threw a bunch of Games Workshop figures into a blender and stuck them back together at random.
So what does Destiny 2 do right? Well it’s exceptionally pretty. In every area of the game there are glorious vistas to behold. The character models are beautiful to look at and well animated. While the level design isn’t always perfect the environmental design is top tier. The methane seas of Titan and the structures that stand in them are absolutely stunning. The player character armour and weapons look good too and the armour in particular looks like nothing else that I’ve seen in gaming.
It also sounds great. The music is fantastic and most of the in game sounds are satisfying. The voice acting though is one of the places where the game really stands out. The cast is excellent and includes names like Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Bill Nighy, Claudia Black, Lance Reddick and Frank Langella. Of course great voice acting wont fix a duff script. This script is mostly darkly funny and sometimes grim and dramatic. While it is occasionally clunky it’s clunky in the way the ponderous tomes of classic science fiction are clunky. Given the way the plot and the design riff off the tropes of classic sci-fi the ponderous dialogue works.
I love the story telling. It’s a brilliant example of how to ramp up the stakes. A lot of games don’t know where to pitch the story. We either don’t care much about the story in the beginning or the stakes are cartoonishly high from the start with nowhere to go. Destiny 2 starts with a fairly standard gambit of the player character being brought low and having to regain what they’d lost. But your character loses everything and that loss is small compared to the devastation around them. And around about the time you get your character back up to the level they were at in the beginning and well before you can fix any of the larger problem it turns out that the entire solar system is at risk.
Most of the time Destiny 2 is either hilarious or chilling and occasionally it’s both. I like that. It could go the grimdark route as so many other games do. Horrible things happen right in front of the player and far more horrible things are implied but they’re often juxtaposed with stuff that I find funny. Maybe it’s just me, I do have a very dark sense of humour, so your mileage may vary, but it feels like a deliberate stab at gallows humour. It feels like the people of the game universe are holding onto their sense of humour as a way to remain sane in the face of terrible events.
The game is full of hidden lore and implied story telling. One area is called ‘The European Dead Zone’ and the game doesn’t tell you that it’s in Germany. It’s the German language signs (inside the ruined rail terminal that you will only find if you go exploring) that tell you that.
I’ve already hit the level 20 cap with two characters and I’m close with a third. I’ve made an in-game Clan (it’s called Unloved Season if you’re interested). I will definitely be shelling out for the 2 expansions and probably paying for the Forsaken DLC. That’s as much of a recommendation as I can give – I’m going to spend money in order to play more of it.
- FPS – First Person Shooter. A game like Doom where the player runs around with a gun and the in game gamer shows the player character’s point of view.
- MMORPG – Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. Online computer versions of tabletop role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons.
- Corner/Circle strafe – A way of moving in FPS games that allows your character to edge round corners or run rings round an opponent while still facing them and thus shooting at them. It’s relatively intuitive if you’re using a keyboard and mouse but if you’re playing on a console and forced to use a controller it means learning to use both sticks simultaneously.
- Jumping puzzles – not necessarily genuine puzzles but areas in a level where jumping is necessary to get where you’re going but is not easy and may not be obvious.
- Double Jump – hitting the jump button twice to jump extra high, extra far, or glide depending on the game.
- DLC – Downloadable content. Additional bits of gameplay that you pay for separately but require the original game to work.