Warning: Really Long Post Ahead. I'm not sure if it's actually a Rant because it's factual and not full of expletives, but may as well put in a Rant tag too. But it's post-related because I was playing Destiny 2 for the first time last night.
[TL-DR: Destiny 2 is so different from most games that I had real difficulty playing it. After a while, I kind of enjoyed how bad the experience was, similarly to a C-movie that's so horrible that you invent (and start) a drinking game based on it.]
So, my friend and I played Destiny 2 last night. It was an experience - one that started out bad, went into full magical mystery tour mode, and ended up kind of morbidly interesting. I ended up in a kind of zen-like trace of considering what makes a game, and what makes a game fun to play.
But let's start at the beginning. I was informed by a friend that Destiny 2 was free on Steam, and I spent most of yesterday letting 90GB of space fill on what's left of my SSD. And here I thought a terabyte would last me a while!
I met said friend on Discord, started a voice call, and we loaded it up. That's where I had the first inklings that something wasn't right. The game restarted a few times, saying things like "creating account" and "checking for updates". Then I came to a blank white screen that said "Hit Enter to continue".
This was weird. The game was just sitting at a staging screen and asking me if it was okay to load itself. Most games get at least as far as the main menu on startup. It wasn't a launcher, either, it was a full-screen in-game prompt. I can't see the benefit of this, but hey, I was ready to play and sitting right at the computer so I punched it. Kind of convenient for an MMO game to assume that you'd start the game, go and get snacks, and then pause before loading(?).
After another round of mystery updates, and account stuff (no loading bars, no prompts, just static text in the bottom-right corner of the plain white screen that stuff was happening), Suddenly Icons!
Wait, what? I was expecting an account verification. I kind of thought maybe you'd pick out character name? Nope. Three icons on the screen. Oh, they're probably the three Classes. Yeah, they are. I clicked the left one. It mentioned "Titan", which I already knew from cultural osmosis was the tanky-ish class. Best to start there.
Oh, races! Neat. Human, Reef-person which I only know is a thing from fanfiction, and.... Robot? Sure, Robot. Wow, that's a lot of head options. Maybe this was Mass Effect, maybe it was that there wasn't much in the way of customization? Second option, no customization. Bungie didn't have a lot of dev money for character creation, probably.
Well, it was a console game, maybe picking body types a-la TOR was too much work. Sliders were right-out, that wasn't invented yet. City of Heroes body customization came out in 2004, right? I picked the least-Terminator-looking face (this was non-trivial) and... eye glow color? Blue, that's friendly! I changed the warpaint (on a robot??) to a serial number thingy. I changed the face decal to black to see if it would disappear into the black skull, and it turned dark purple instead. No hiding your bad decal choices!
I get a shot at changing options before starting the game, so I picked a few. 1080p to match my monitor, and full-screen windowed mode, oh, and subtitles because I can never hear the NPCs.
OK! We're in the game. Wow, it looks good. Exactly like the Fallout engine, except with better sky, better draw distance, and ... wow, solid 144FPS.
I thought this game was 3rd-person but I can't see myself. Oh, it's a cut-scene. Ghost introduction. I get some on-screen text to use WASD. (Note: This is the first of only two on-screen instructions that I will ever see in D2.) I note that there's no jumping. That's ok, some Devs don't allow jumping because people get places they shouldn't.
Oh crap, the bottom line of Subtitles are being cut off because my Windows Start bar is showing through. Damnit. I ignore the Ghost and change my settings. Oh, there's a line that says I have to accept the changes before they will apply. That's fine, there's an Apply button somewhere... right? Um. Crap, it's probably at the bottom of the screen and cut off!
What to do. I Google. No results. I complain to my friend. He says that "accept" in this context means the Enter key. I hit it, and nothing happens. What?? I hit it harder! Wait, what? There's a ...it's a wait timer. A line is going across my screen, and I keep Enter down until it takes. YES! Borderless window mode engaged. Ghost is done with his intro by now so I guess that info dump is gone forever.
A dungeon entrance! A gun! Enemies! I note two things: 1) I am rusty at FPS games, and 2) I have limited ammo. Will I run out before the tutorial is over? Despite checking corners, a mob jumps me. Oh, a scripted melee tutorial. Hit key (I forget which one) to punch. OK. (Note: This is the second, and final, on-screen control scheme prompt.) Crap, I died. Good thing no one is here to see that! OK, respawn and... no ammo replenishment, that's ok. I'll just find some. If there is any in the tutorial.
Oh hey, right-clicking zooms in. That helps, my hit rating goes way up. That's odd - I got more ammo at some point but it's not clear that I picked anything up? Weird.
I get a prompt to pick up the ENERGY WEAPON. The ENERGY WEAPON turns out to be a shotgun. A 1980's style one. That fires regular shot. That only has 11 ammo. And then I see a 10-second-long shotgun reload animation. Uh, I'm in-combat, game. Nope, gotta watch myself insert 7 shells one at a time. Dead again. But at least this time it's not my fault?
I get to the end of the tutorial. Boss fight! I shoot a lot but he's got a shield and I get a "no effect" message where the bullet damage should be. Uhhhh? Tutorial right? Wait, my CLASS POWER activated on its own. Some kind of bull-rushing ability. Maybe it's scripted too? I'm not sure but two things happen: 1) The boss's shield is gone and he's taken a lot of damage. Let's hear it for the glowy Titan ram attack!! Oh, and I died again. 3rd time's the charm, right?
But the Boss's shield is gone now so I bullet him to death with my AR. Oddly quickly, but he was only at half health. I walk outside again and into a giant fight between a bunch of other players and a tank. The tank is winning, mostly because of constantly-respawning trash mobs shooting players in the back when they appear.
No one seems to be coordinating or talking. Not that this would make sense due to the constant battle. I briefly wonder if there's a in-game explanation as to why there's a bunch of other players here, but I can't think of anything that would fit the narrative.
We all attack the enemies for a while. Nothing seems to happen, and eventually Ghost says for me to follow him to a ship nearby. I'm not sure if the tank-boss-thing was ever killed or not, but at this point I want to get out of the tutorial so I leave as instructed.
Next hallway and I see a broken ship. I don't mean there's some rust, I mean there's full-on chunks missing. Ghost says he can fix it. I don't know, it looks like it's never moving again, but whatever. Holy **** space magic happens and the wrecked ship moves! Before I can panic about a bunch more Boss mobs showing up I'm teleported into it in a cut-scene.
Wait. If my Ghost can fix the ship and teleport me around, why did I just fight my way through 100 mobs? Eh, it's a tutorial. Wow, the flight it pretty though. Wait... this is a fancy loading screen. Why does a game on a SSD need 90 seconds to load the next area?? Most of the way through the video all sound cuts out so I guess the new area is already loaded but I have to sit through the rest of the loading screen.
And... I'm in The City! Or The Tower, it’s not clear. (Great name, much creative)
OK, so randomly I'm in 3rd-person now and can look at myself. Nice! I have a mini-map in the top-left corner of the screen. It contains me, a ton of blue triangles, and no scale or wall-outlines. OK, so the blue triangles are mobs. And players. And... ok, so the triangles are anything you can interact with. This... isn't useful. But at least it looks pretty?
I have no markers. I have no quests. I have no prompts. Well, there's a guy standing relatively far ahead of me that looks important. Ok, it's the Titan class leader. He tells me how nice the view is up here, with the broken Traveler shell looming above. He tells me I'll see him again later. I guess he's right. He's got quests for me, right? No. Exposition? No. What to do next in vague hints like Everquest 1? No. Um...
Time to wander! I poke around and talk to people. I find the real-money vendor. I have no tokens. I find the in-game weapon vendor. He doesn't give me a quest or exposition, but he does give me a gun upgrade. What? I didn't even really talk to him, or have a chance to buy anything, he just straight-up randomly hands me a weapon. I'm not complaining, but what trope is that because I don't know?
I find my character screen and switch to it. Apparently all the gear is on your character screen in a drop-down menu for the slot. Kind of strange, but explains why there's no Inventory that I can find. I slot my new gun. It also has an energy damage symbol. Does this mean that it counts as an ENERGY WEAPON? Will that tutorial prompt ever mean anything as far as I know? (Spoiler: No.)
My friend can invite me to a team now that I'm out of the tutorial. He does so, and I join from the on-screen prompt. And... the game has voice chat! And so does Discord! After much painful echo, we turn off the Discord audio. And the in-game voice chat quality is complete ****. But it works fine otherwise so we stay in it.
Finding each other... not sure how since there's no friend marker in the UI or the mini-map. I give up on locating him and hunt for the armor vendor so I can maybe score more free gear. I do not discover said vendor. He finds me eventually, and we roam The City for about 15 minutes.
Side note: Once he's in the party/fire-team I can see his character name is his <Steam username>. I guess that explains why my character didn't have a name in the UI anywhere? It's just (always?) your Steam name. Which is weird since you can have multiple characters... I don't worry too much about it - it's just part of Destiny's charm/weird ****. (I sure hope your Steam name makes for a good character name)
No quests or obvious clues about what to do next appear. I do note a voice chat icon above his character's head. That's literally the only way I can easily find him on my screen. Look for the voice symbol above his head (the icon shows through walls, at apparently unlimited distance).
My friend demands that I queue up a mission. I don't know how, but he mentions that he thinks you get quests from the map.
Map? (Tab, twice, because why not use the same key for nested options?) Oh, that's what that is! There's a highly iconified non-realistic ...view(?) of the solar system if orbits were right-angles? I click around it for a few minutes and indeed the map objects are clickable. They give some background info and some quests. Quests! I click on one at random and... nothing happens.
I click on it a second time just to see what happens, and... success! I think? We see a cutscene of the holey ship from the tutorial travelling.
But this time there's two of them. They look exactly the same so I assume that my friend's character ran through the same dungeon mine did. There must be scads of identical ships in that Russian geofront-thing.
After the 90-second animation plays out, we find ourselves in the ...oh hey, it's the Eichenwalde map from Overwatch, with a Fallout 4 skin added. It looks like early 20th-century architecture (now with holes).
There’s other players here, but they don’t interact with us. They’re doing map events and otherwise murdering the bug-soldier foes (is there any other kind? There must be but I’ve only seen one enemy faction so far).
We wander and shoot at things. Most things don’t explode. I get in an argument with my friend over whether ENERGY WEAPON or normal critical hits crack boss shields. We can’t decide who’s correct.
We eventually come across a church. We can’t reach the top floor because it’s too high, but my friend discovers that we can double jump. What? Oh, it works. Okay then. We reach the belltower and there’s an NPC there!
He spits flavor text at us, rather a lot of it, but no quests. I ask my friend if anyone actually play-tested this game at any point. Maybe he’s supposed to give quests but can’t because of… something?
We find a bunch of loot crates and loot them, shoot a bunch of humanoid bugs, and generally aimlessly wander. We help a bunch of other players with some event that consists of a drop-ship that deposits power-armored bug with riot shields - until the event stops. It might be timed, or it might be limited to a certain number of kills, there’s no way to tell.
We don’t seem to be getting experience or money, but I spot a bunch of blue cubes on the ground and pick them up because they must represent something.
We find a bunch of vehicles on the map that seem identical to the ones we can spawn from the Tab menu except they have weak guns that don’t require ammo. If they get damaged they catch on fire. They don’t ever explode or become inoperable, though.
Somewhere along the way, I notice that I picked up a rocket launcher and exactly two rockets. I have three weapon slots now! I also notice that although there doesn’t seem to be friendly-fire, there definitely is self-damage as my rocket weapon-test kills me. Thankfully there doesn’t seem to be any kind of death penalty, so there’s that. Or maybe there is, it’s not like I ever found an XP bar. Or XP reward notifications. Or levels, for that matter.
For lack of anything else to try, we go back to the NPC again to see if there’s any quests. Defying all reason, there is! There’s now three gold squares that represent some kind of repeatable/daily mission.
We…. we can do ...something. Praise the Devs! We also find out that we already did all these things and didn’t get any credit because we didn’t have the missions slotted.
My friend and I get into an argument over whether there is a health bar. He seems convinced that the grey line above the weapon display represents that, but I’ve never seen mine move - it’s either missing or a full line, so I disagree. I mention that there’s 3 blue icons below my gun display that looks suspiciously like Class abilities (there’s supposed to be three, right?), but we don’t see a way to activate them.
It’s probably a key combination that was supposed to be mentioned by an NPC we didn’t find. I speculate that the game was originally a console game so maybe they’re bound to mouse buttons 9 or 10 that ours don’t physically have, but are part of the XBox controller button map.
We travel randomly around the wilder, less city-ruins part of the map and find an alien base. As soon as we get there the game announces that there’s an event, and we’re invited to complete it. Score!! Something about a refueling attempt and we need to stop it, I think.
We stay on our vehicles and fight a giant purple eye that spawns little purple eyes that protect it while trash mobs spawn. In short order we win, and now both our vehicles are on fire but they still work perfectly. And we didn’t even need to use up any ammo!
At this point my friend discovers that we’d picked up dozens of armor pieces and a bunch of weapons. I go to my character sheet and check, and sure enough all of my character’s slots have drop-downs for alternate gear now.
This is great! I wonder when I got them? It’s not like the game told me when I found gear. It probably would have been a big help to use them before now.
I slot my new gear, and then notice that we’ve been haphazardly shooting moving things for hours and it’s late. The shooting part of the game is sure fun, even though all of the game design decisions were apparently made by meth-addled alligators who never played a PC game.
My friend and I talked for awhile about how to leave the map, and we can’t figure it out. He recommends that I log out and that should return my character to The City. I can’t argue with needing to log out, so I try it. I haven’t logged in again so I have no idea if that worked.
My rating: 7 Dingoes out of Rhino. Would be confused and angered again. Will not read multiple Wikis to find out what the default control scheme is, on general principles.