Backlog: Aurora Borealis edition

Photo by Jim Trodel

Good news for us Northwesterners: we're finally getting a decent shot at viewing the northern lights from our neck of the woods. If you're in the Portland or Seattle area, make sure you get outside and away from any egregious light pollution tonight for a chance to check out a natural phenomenon that is, as far as I can tell, the result of space wizards who come from the moon.

Yeah, there's a lot of Destiny talk this week. What can I say? It may not be all things to all people, but it's sure trying hard to convince millions otherwise. Also, Doug's on the verge of picking up the new Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS. Based on what I played at PAX, that's a really good idea. Let's encourage him to take the plunge.  – Nick Cummings

Nick

I can see Russia from my spaceship!

I can see Russia from my spaceship!

Earlier this week, I threw out a brief thought that popped into my head after a few evenings spent playing Destiny:

Destiny is AAA game development's Ozymandias moment.

— Nick Cummings (@nickcummings) September 11, 2014

It was just one of those things that sounded good in my head, so I figured why not post it and see what happens? There had to be some truth to it. Thankfully, someone called me out and asked me to explain what I was talking about. I realized I needed to spend some serious time trying to decipher just what this game is all about.

"Ozymandias" is a poem that illustrates the contrast and poetic irony of how great ambitions and massive works are inevitably reduced to rubble by the march of time. And Destiny, with its landmark budget and ambitious, pseudo-MMO structure, is in many ways the biggest game launched by the mainstream, triple-A games industry yet. It's certainly the most heavily hyped game to release in 2014. My argument stemmed from the persistent feeling I have that Destiny, for all its refinement and bombast, is doomed to crumble into obsolescence right before our eyes. The proof, for me, is in how the game fails to deliver the reason for its existence to the player.

Destiny is a spectacular accomplishment in so many ways, but it buckles under the weight of its ambition. For example, the technical & creative art direction is amazing, but for every beautiful set piece there are miles of empty wasteland that the player has to trudge through repeatedly in pursuit of missions that invariably lead to shootouts with large groups of AI-controlled enemies. Its narrative seems similarly audacious, with reams of flavor text for enthusiasts to unlock and peruse in the online "grimoire." Why this was relegated to a website instead of the core game is a mystery, seeing how the few snippets of cutscene expository and the Cortana-like voiceover instructions from your ghost companion seem intentionally vague and paint a frustratingly incomplete picture of your motives and the influence you're having on the game world. The game's acting ensemble is top-tier and their dialogue as written is solid, but thanks to its haphazard expository and wholly unrelatable character designs, the whole thing just falls apart.

It's a fascinating, deep and dense game, despite whatever else it may be. I want to keep digging to see what it's all about, but it feels like a victim of ambition so far.

Doug

I have a dilemma. I'm getting that itch—just like any good junky—to pick up something new. I want a new game; I need a new game. And luckily for me, there are a couple of great new games that have come out. One is Destinywhich Nick and Aaron both have and are greeting with mixed opinions. Nick has posted some of his above, and while he hasn't written them up, I know that Aaron is much happier at this moment. I could join them in a manner of speaking, but that's the rub: I still have just a PlayStation 3, and no timeline to afford a PlayStation 4. Destiny is a game begging for the new-gen, and I don't know when I can join that club.

The other game is another hotly awaited AAA game, but of a very different ilk. Yes, this weekend Super Smash Bros.will be released in Japan; as I type this on Friday night in Japan, the servers have apparently gone live. I'm very close to grabbing my wallet and shambling down to the closest 7-11 to buy a Nintendo point card and set Smash up to download overnight.

Both of these titles are sucking me in based purely on hype, expectations and the zeitgeist. Destiny has begun to dominate the conversation for the minute; I know that Smash will sell a gazillion copies in Japan and I have friends already wondering who all is going to get it right away. But I'm not sure that, outside of the hype train, if either game is something I really want. I'll have to wait and see what the social scene is around Smash, since being in Tokyo may allow for some fun with that, but I'm honestly worried if I'd be allocating $60 on Destiny properly. I'm not in the right time zone (though there has been a decent sized ad campaign for the game here in Tokyo), I'm not on the right console, and I'm not sure how many friends I can play with on PS3.

I'll keep you all updated on which I decide to go with. I'm sure you'll be eagerly anticipating the next chapter in this series.

For the time being I'm trying to get further into some sports games, which should hardly be a surprise. I've spent a lot of time racing in Formula 1 2013 (wherein I've had some quite earnestly rewarding experiences as of late), playing fake collector card game wrestling in the form of WWE Supercard on my phone (somebody delete that app for me and save my free time and battery), and also using community-made save files to "patch up" my copy of Pro Evo Soccer 2014to include updated uniforms, players, and more. Now that I type it out, none of it really sounds like the actions of a young man with all their mental facilities together. Maybe I should just dive into that big AAA first-person shooter instead.