It’s always hard to write when you find yourself stumbling over your thoughts in a vain attempt to clarify just what you’ve experienced.
In this case. It’s assembling words to make something less of a ramble and more of a concise piece. Something that projects just what I feel and what you’ve been expecting to read for the past few days as I’ve made my way through the Destiny Beta.
With that being said.
I’m drawn into the deep fantasy that a well constructed franchise can build through properly maintaining lore alongside the ambitions of individual projects. Halo and the supposed “Bible” that dictate the direction of the franchise comes to mind as a series that gets it right. On the other hand you have franchises like StarWars that saw, over the better half of thirty years, an erosion of fact and fiction; creating a cesspool that forced Disney to clean house. I mention that only because it highlights one of the hardest goals of any franchise: establishing the lore early so the fans cannot swarm in with fiction overriding the original ambitions of any project.
Within the first three cinematic minutes of Destiny I felt my mind at ease with the calming hand of a studio (Bungie) that has long ago figured out the inner-workings of its own stories. Leaving me (and you too) within the first two minutes of gameplay to sit back and laugh with a smile as I pushed myself deeper into whatever awaited me.
Keep in mind that this is a Beta. So this isn’t even close to what the final game will have to offer us.
The lore behind this game is the most refreshing bit of science fiction to have hit the gaming scene since Halo came to light in 2001. The Beta offered hints at what’s going on. But my instincts are telling me something much deeper is going on.
Because on the surface it’s a straightforward story.
Humanity began to expand into space as Earth began to die. As the astronauts pushed deeper into the planets around us they discovered something called The Traveler. The Traveler is this huge orb of ancient prophetical proportions that unlocked the greatest technological and biological hurdles facing humanity. terraforming planets and creating thriving ecosystems where life was once inhospitable. Within this explosion of knowledge and life humanity entered a Golden Age: conquering the stars united as a single species.
It all came crashing down.
Species and unknown forces that had been hunting the Traveler for over a millennium found it. Unleashing a tsunami of death and destruction that brought humanity to its knees. Faced with genocide, war and a collapsed empire; Humanity retreated to the recesses of Earth where The Traveler itself made a final stand.
All of humanities colonies were overran. All the people within the greater empire died or simply lost contact with Earth. On Earth itself The Traveler made its last stand over the Russian Steppes. Creating one last safe zone within the galaxy for Humanity to rally. It is in this safe zone, under the wounded Traveler, where Humanity began to rebuild one last city truly safe.
The Dark Ages swept in, and the city itself wasn’t built without sacrifice. Death and suffering somehow led to a small victory in the darkest of times as Humanity held on to the hope of reclaiming a lost empire alongside The Traveler. Its back against the wall and faced with an ever encroaching enemy it made something.
Listening to the tidbits of dialogue from NPC’s in The City gives hints that even in this weakened state Humanity is on the verge of civil war as issues arise within the politick going on in far off courthouses. That isn’t our concern. But it makes me wonder just how much of humanity is really dead considering the Destiny franchise itself is supposed to be at a minimum of ten years. Locations on Earth such as Chicago could have colonies of humans that have managed to survive. This is all speculation though as the real value in Destiny lies in the gameplay itself.
To that extent, I’ve questioned just why it works. Without actually playing it I find it hard to describe so please bear with me. Imagine the maps in the vein of a Borderlands game. Throw in the character customizations of a game such as Fallout, World of War Craft or Mass Effect. Douse the gunplay with the familiar mechanics of Halo 3 alongside sprinkles of Halo Reach. Mix in simplistic limited yet crucial weapon customizations of CoD: Modern Warfare. Then the generic MMORPG markets and areas of a neutral zone where you can do all your commerce along with acquiring new missions and gear.
It’s a mouthful to describe but it works.
By some divine intervention all of these mechanics blend to be a masterful enjoyment that enable Destiny to separate itself from the clichés of bland that has swept across the gaming industry like a plague. It’s something I haven’t experienced in ages: to be surpised by a game that involves shooting. For all the mechanics and tricks Destiny has up its sleeves there are some things where I’m perfectly content to accept the fantasy alongside the possible. That seamless transition between the fantasy worlds of magic and Wizards exists perfectly within the science fiction setting being presented.
As you push yourself out into the world you come across moments of silence. Where you can see the erosion of humanity seeping through the walls and into the emptiness of life. Abandoned offices withe papers still littered around lit by harsh lights from some unknown powersource. Bombed out cosmodromes littering the area hint at the remains of the great human ambition eager to prove itself on a galactic stage. And all these little details leave your mind awash with curiosity as you walk down the dark hallway. Never knowing whats around the corner but always knowing there will be someone else eager to back you up.
Cocksure of myself I’d push out farther and farther into the cosmodromes searching for adventure only to find myself surrounded. Now, thanks to my Battlefield addiction, I’m used to maintaining a system when being overran. Always have a loaded gun, check your back, use suppressing fire to keep your foes at bay to give yourself space to flank or disengage. Despite all of this I ran into moments where waves of enemy would keep spawning. And as I’d watch my ammo count drop there would be more openings for me to get flanked. Pushed back into an abandoned area. A rat in a cage.
Then the sound of a rifle would crack in the distance.
Those enemies that were preparing to rush me one last time would be caught in the crossfire of another group of players sweeping like I did. Giving me cover to get some ammo and get back in the fight.
And to celebrate we’d dance.
If a Beta was this fun.
September 9th cannot get here soon enough.