I’m a classic gamer, more so by financial obligation. I’d love to own every new console and game the moment they’re released, but as a family man with little disposable income, my money is usually tied up in other more necessary things: pull-ups, PediaSure, Mickey Mouse-shaped chicken nuggets, vodka (just for daddy).
For the last 10 years, I’ve always purchased a last-gen console right when the new gen is released, saving me a lot of money on the price of the system and minimizing costs by purchasing used games. It’s nice, but it really sucks to wait.
Thanks to Bungie opening up their beta testing for Destiny to everyone, I was able to try something brand-new for the first time in 10 years, and man, I was so excited. It was an odd feeling, playing something this fresh. It harkened back to the nervous excitement of opening a new NES game when I was a young lad. “Finally, I’m about to play a new game!” Even with such joy, I was concerned. Concerned that it would blow my “back in my day” classic-gamer mind.
I was worried that I’d be so enthralled that I’d throw out all of my old decrepit titles and think, “How can I go back to these rusty old games after playing the newest thing in gaming innovations?”
Risks be damned, I’m playing this bitch!
I’m sure I don’t need to introduce Destiny at all. We all know the developer and everyone’s predilection or blanket hatred for Bungie. I personally felt that Halo was not the greatest FPS ever made. I really enjoyed it, but I was not a fanboy of the faceless, single-dimension, camouflaged-as-mysterious, Master Chief. The enemies of Combat Evolved weren’t all that varied, and fighting often was reduced to a lethal game of peek-a-boo. The world of Halo was beautiful, vast and varied, and the story had some very impacting moments. By far, the greatest thing was their cooperative and competitive Multiplayer. The competitive MP had stellar maps, and hours upon hours of fun and frustration at the same time. Moving on to Halo 2. Aside from expanding the already awesome MP combat to an online arena, and dual wielding weapons, not much had changed from Halo 1. I never owned an Xbox 360, so Halo 2 was the last of this franchise that I’ve ever played.
That being said, I went into Destiny with little bias since I hadn’t played Halo in about a decade. I had fresh eyes and was ready to be immersed in Bungie’s new IP filled with unique designs, untold stories, and fresh gameplay ideas.
What I received in the Beta was far from those hopes. The truth is, I felt very comfortable in its setting, if not totally let down in the familiarity of this “new” game. The game borrowed/relied heavily on decade-old gaming standards, and there wasn’t a real point of “WOW!” other than the graphics. Mind you, I was playing the PS3 version, but even still, they were really stunning.
Warning MINOR spoilers ahead.
The story is your standard “bad things happened (most of which are highly more interesting than where we start you off) and it’s up to you to make it all better.” Think of the movie Pacific Rim. The intro leading to the actual story would have been a hundred times more compelling than the story we saw. Not to say Pacific Rim was bad at all, I loved it, but imagine seeing more of the back story events throughout the film. Holy moly, that would have been the most epic movie ever! The intro to Destiny and where you pick up control felt similar to that. This is a minor issue, but a common mold for stories in gaming and film.
In Destiny, the end of the world is nigh and a Ghost, which is a robot almost identical to Halo’s 343 Guilty Spark, resurrects your dead corpse, telling you that you’re the chosen one, or some ubiquitous crap like that, sending you on the most epic quest to find a rifle so you can play a tutorial mission! You traverse an obstacle course, cleverly disguised as a level, to familiarize yourself with the basic gaming mechanics that have predated Destiny for over 15 years.
There’s jumping AND crouching in this game?! HELL YEAH, BRUH!
The gameplay mechanics of Destiny, which felt fresh with games on the PS2 and Original Xbox, now feels as old and dusty as the bones from which your character was resurrected. The shooting, though satisfying, was equally satisfying 10 years ago, but the guns had great sound though, so there’s that.
The enemies are abundant, spawning all around you. They teleport in or leap from giant drop ships. They lurch and dash in serpentine patterns, popping in and out of cover like a game of whack-a-mole. Sound familiar? It is. The enemy AI and even their run animations are incredibly reminiscent of Covenant forces from even Halo 1. Their weapons are just about the same, too. It really felt to me that Bungie is either simply resting on their laurels or hoping that their target demographic are 13-year-olds who have never played a Halo game.
By far, my biggest gripe was the short missions coupled with the very long loading times. The missions themselves are short-burst; go find this thing, investigate this area, get this bad guy, follow this way point, lather, rinse, repeat. Each of the missions all hurriedly played out the same. You’re dropped off in a similar area of the map, blasting through spawning enemies with peek-a-boo warfare, leading you into an “if you die here, you start over” zone, which you know will be fraught with even more enemies and some sort of boss. With forced tension, but zero impact on the actual gameplay or pace, you quickly get through this zone with nary a scratch, and before you really know it’s over, you’re teleported back to your ship.
This never gave me any real sense of accomplishment. In fact, I just felt ushered from one place to the next by Ghost, voiced by Peter Dinklage (of Game of Thrones and X-Men fame), who seemed to be doing a very sleepy David Duchovny impression. I felt like my children feel when I’m shopping for cookware at Bed Bath & Beyond. This is beyond boring, and I begrudgingly follow along hoping for something exciting and new, like my kids impatiently enduring in the hopes we’ll happen upon a toy section. Only there is no toy section. It’s from cookware, to Egyptian cotton sheets, to motorized foot-baths, then onto as-seen-on-TV trinkets.
Is it too late to tell Ghost Dinklage to “F*** off!” and ask to go back to being a pile of bones?
Along with this handheld pacing, even seeing the legion of other online players in the hub world and within the missions further diminished my sense of purpose, as everyone else is chasing after the same tchotchke in order to finish the same “is this really necessary?” mission. “You guys go ahead, I’m gonna stay back, get a drink and reacquaint myself with the land of the living with this blue-skinned, punker, alien chick.”
So, now I’m sure some (if not most) of you are thinking ill of me for my harsh criticisms of this unfinished masterpiece. To that I ask, what point does honoring the games of old bleed into borrowing, or at what point does it became straight plagiarism? Can I not take offense to these things? I’d be willing to wager that the final product will not be so overhauled as to remove all these tired aspects that were fun 5-10 years ago. I’d be surprised to see any significant differences in gameplay, and enemy behavioral mechanics from this beta into the final product.
Being that Destiny felt so borrowed, I’d like to highlight the parallels that I saw while navigating through this beta:
Borderlands: Probably the most blatant of all. I felt like this game, both in style and function, borrowed heavily from Borderlands. The art style was similar, minus the fun cell shading and vibrant colors. The classes and leveling aspect of your character, the perks, the level-specific weapons, the way the weapons looked and felt, draining HPs from level-ranked enemies, and the bounty board all felt like a bland remake of Borderlands.
Halo: Mind you, I’ve only played through Halo 2, but even with that, there were a lot of similarities. Ghost was almost identical to Guilty Spark while also serving as Cortana. Adding to this annoyance was a very phoned-in Dinklage performance. Why does this robot sound like he’s from North Dakota?!
The enemies looked and behaved like Covenant enemies, the land vehicles controlled in that very distinct Halo-y way, and the characters all kind of looked like Spartans.
The worst Halo rip off in my opinion was The Flood. This was my least favorite aspect of Halo, of which I always thought was stolen from Starcraft. Space Marines, Protoss, Zerg translated to Space Marines, Covenant, Flood. They are a little different, but serve that same sort of feral rushing attack as the Zerg did. Just look at Halo Wars if you don’t believe me. Destiny didn’t even bother renaming them. So they essentially stole something from a game that they had previously stolen from another game. The absurd thing is that Destiny’s Flood were a little different from Halo’s Flood, so why not give it another name?
Is it just me or did Bungie pretty much run out of ideas?
Playstation Home: Stay with me here. Once you’re in the hub world, it suddenly puts you in 3rd-person mode, and you can interact with other online players. You can buy things, upgrade armor/weapons, and roam around in this large, yet very empty area that had little-to-no interactivity. Wait, my bad, you can interact. The D-pad serves as pantomimed emojis which you can dance, thumbs up, sit down, and one other stupid thing that I seem to have blocked from my memory.
Side note: If you make the mistake of hitting the d-pad during a mission, you’ll leave the first-person perspective in order to do your sultry dance moves while alien baddies blast away at your shield. You’ve been warned.
Though the hub world is interesting for about 10 minutes, it felt empty and kind of useless, just like Playstation Home. You can walk around and look at things, but that’s pretty much it, aside from getting weapons and gear.
Those are the games that stood out to me. I also took this to social media, asking the good people of Twitter* what their thoughts were on similarities they experienced in the beta. A lot of people loved it, but the borrowed aspects are undeniable.
*Please note that including these Tweets and Twitter folk does not mean they share or endorse my grumpy point of view for this game.
@RetroInactive It was like Mass Effect, Phantasy Star Online, Halo, and Titanfall had a baby.
— Nicole Hazen (@yaboiksar) July 28, 2014
— Captain Panic! (@JamesFnPanic) July 28, 2014
— Costall (@Costall) July 28, 2014
@RetroInactive The multiplayer had an Unreal/Tribes feel to it. Crazy vehicles and fast-paced kills.
— LuSt (@l7l_LuSt_l7l) July 28, 2014
@RetroInactive Guild Wars
— Kix (@ninjasinflames) July 28, 2014
The only thing that would remotely interest me in this vapid, recycled shooter with borrowed, or downright stolen game design/RPG elements is a good, compelling story, which I felt it did not possess. So even though I can’t afford all the new games, I’m rather happy sticking with my old games that were actually ground-breaking and innovative for their time, rather than playing something that merely seems to piggyback on others’ previous successes.
Even my daughter thought that it was boring and kept asking me to play Turtles in Time, which I was all too happy to oblige.
Oh! I almost forgot to tell you what I really liked about the game. The character customization before starting a new game was pretty neat.
OMG! 10 out of 10!!!