Wednesday 20 December 2017

Oh sir, I've confused you. It's not my Destiny, it's everybody's Destiny! As much my Destiny as your Destiny, or, dare I say it, and I think I dare, Graham Gooch's Destiny.

Just in case it’s inexplicably less clear than a Waterford bed-pan I should commence by explaining that I was going to title this post “It is your Destiny!”, but then thought that using an obscure line from a scarcely-known franchise might be terribly confusing, and instead left it to the reader to reverse-engineer that opening based on a shoe shop. It is, of course, well established that the funniest jokes are those lifted from other sources with random words changed then explained at length, so: you’re welcome.

I missed out on the original Destiny, not having a console, mostly seeing references to it in comparison to The Division, which I enjoyed for a fair while before it bogged down in endgame grind. I had a quick go at the open beta of Destiny 2, to check my now slightly aged system could cope with it, and it all seemed rather fun so I jumped in at launch and have been playing pretty steadily for the last couple of months.

At its core, the first-person shooting works very well. FPSs were at the heart of my formative PC gaming, from Wolfenstein 3D through Doom, Half-Life, System Shock, Unreal Tournament and the like, but not so much recently; I think the last one picked up was the DOOM reboot in a sale, but haven’t got around to finishing it yet. It’s satisfying in Destiny 2, and the first, rather than third, person perspective means I feel much less glued to waist-high cover than in The Division. Destiny 2 also seems to have struck a better balance of bullet-sponginess with its enemies; tougher opponents still take a fair amount of fire but the whole setting makes it a bit less jarring that a space-alien-robot-thing with shields is absorbing a lot of damage, as opposed to some chap (even if he is wearing a flak jacket) shrugging off hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

The variety of activities is good as well. The story rattles along well enough; not wildly original but not overly intrusive, cutscenes aren’t too long though not fascinating enough for a second viewing and can thankfully be skipped. Solo play is easily mixed with group PvE, either randomly while roving planets and dropping in to public events or more structured Strikes. Planets aren’t particularly big (in terms of playable area, that is, not astronomically speaking), but have a few activities and loot chests dotted around to reward wandering about. I wasn’t sure about PvP, my FPS twitch skills having withered somewhat, but it’s generally pretty enjoyable (when you don’t run into coordinated teams) and again serves well to mix things up.

It seems Bungie have made a few missteps along the way, though it’s increasingly hard to tell the difference between a few rough edges, fundamental design flaws, well-intentioned but poorly executed ideas and utterly trivial issues, at least based on the more excitable elements of a community. I can’t say I’ve run into game-breaking issues, but then I haven’t been sinking a massive amount of time in; one thing I did notice was innocently wandering around a PvP match with an automatic rifle wondering why the other seven players were rapidly melting everything with Prometheus Lens lasers, a quick Google confirmed that it was an inadvertently overpowered drop, the quick fix for which was to make it available to buy for everyone. It’s held my interest so far; the endgame does slow down a bit into gradually increasing your Power Level a point or three at a time, more dedicated players may run out of things to do more quickly, but I’ve happily got three characters to the level cap, with the story missions of the recent Curse of Osiris update to still finish. A wintery event for the next couple of weeks looks quite diverting; should that pale there’s Wintersday in Guild Wars 2 (though that seems fairly similar to last year), and French tanks have just been added to War Thunder, plenty to be getting on with between various family visits over Christmas.