A Date with Destiny

Destiny.

Let’s get the arguments out of the way. No, this isn’t Penny Arcade, the Escapist, or any other video game blog. No, this doesn’t have anything to do with tabletop games. No, you can’t have a free copy. No, the sequel will not be called Destiny’s Child. I think that covers the majority, so without further adieu…

Destiny.

Is.

AWESOME.

I’ve heard that phrase over and over for months now, with similar emphasis, from some of the chosen ones who found money for a PS4 and time for beta access into Destiny. I even thought I understood what they meant, that it really would be an improvement over Borderlands, or Halo, or Diablo as an FPS, or Mass Effect, or whatever the comparison was at the time. But I had no idea that we were really in for the best features of all of the above and some original things too.

I saw a buddy of mine from out of town last week, we’ll call him Smurf, as homage to his Xbox Live account. Just like I didn’t understand how great Destiny is until I saw it for myself, I forget both how much fun everything is when he’s around and how persuasive he can be until I get a chance to hang out with him again. So hearing him ask when I wanted to try out the game was the metaphorical straw that broke the camel’s back. Not if, but when. It didn’t take much, and that did it. I was committed to at least rent it and try it, just to see what all the hype was about.

After resisting temptation to drop everything I already had scheduled for a day or two after the release, I stopped by the Redbox rental kiosk around the corner from my apartment last night on the way home. Having mostly eschewed console games for PC titles and tabletop games lately, I absent-mindedly rented it for the wrong system. Perhaps it was the universe trying to tell me that I would have this game on the Xbox One at some point. One hasty return and re-rental later, and I was headed home for my (first) date with Destiny.

My PS3 had been seeing some use lately, a return to Skyrim has caused late nights and groggy mornings for many a week now. But my poor Xbox 360 had basically been gathering dust for almost two years now. Every once in a while, I would dig out a controller to dive back in to a single player game like L.A. Noire, but I literally had to go digging through a closet for my headphones yesterday, and it took me a few minutes to diagnose and remember to go clear antiquated network settings that hadn’t been valid in two years before I could get online. I also had to clear years of DLC and installed content from my hard drive before I could install the game to be played. But once all that was done, there was no doubt that it was worth it.

The game is beautiful, even on the outdated hardware of the 360, and I can’t wait to see it on a modern console. Linking up with Smurf was seamless, there were no NAT issues, no connectivity hurdles, or instances to change… all these things we’ve become accustomed to dealing with over the years were gone. The mission launch lobby isn’t just a list of your teammates, it’s a view of your ships, with new members sliding in to formation. There’s no such thing as being stuck waiting at a loading screen, players can access and manipulate their inventory and powers while the instance loads. Everything is slick and polished, as though Bungie had a healthy budget set aside for elimination of everything negative about online console gaming, and a Scrooge McDuck style money bin to dive into for funding the good stuff.

As for the gameplay itself… that’s what you really have to experience for yourself to believe it. Smurf and I are a few levels in, just far enough right now to have our first major abilities and our heavy weapons available. These abilities are insanely powerful and awesome (his Warlock fires a devastating dark energy blast, whereas my Titan performs a ground-slam AoE that conveniently fits my play style), but are balanced well enough to not make the combat trivial. Smurf is embracing his roots (he’s been known to have legendary pistol accuracy on Bungie games for years and years), and I’ve re-acquainted myself with the joys of a well placed grenade, charging in with suppressing fire, and then getting vicious up close with shotguns and melee. Working in tandem, we’re pretty vicious. We’ve got a lot of PvP in front of us to make sure we’ve “still got it”, but so far all signs (K/D ratios) point to yes.

My girlfriend recognized the signs right away. She got major “you didn’t have to do that” points by bringing me dinner to the couch. (Really, she didn’t have to, I was still doing the one-time installation of content at that point). She could hear the excitement and pure fun in the voice chat between myself and Smurf as we explored this new setting, and joined in the conversation a few times. Not having followed the hype on this title much first hand, I was as surprised as her to hear Peter Dinklage, her hollywood crush, voicing one of the characters.  She’s already reaching out to friends on Facebook for other “Destiny Widows” who won’t be seeing their significant others as much for a while, but she’s also intrigued enough to watch the action, so I don’t think she really meant it. Maybe I’ll convince her to play at some point.

I really don’t think I’ll be sucked into this game as much as I have other titles in the past, but that’s more a reflection on my life and my priorities right now. Destiny is certainly addiction-worthy, if you were shopping for such a thing. For myself, I’m still trying to decide which version to buy. I’m not sure if I’m ready for the Xbox 1 / PS4 leap, or if I’m fine with carrying on with the 360 version. Whichever platform you choose to play it on, I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong so long as you’re playing. So if you haven’t already, join in the fun and pick up a copy of Destiny today. Or go big, and get the console too while you’re at it.

 

— The Tabletop (and occasional PvP) General