Destiny is one of the most stupefyingly average games I’ve ever played. But I cannot stop playing it.
Update 18/06/2013 — New post coming today, but like a moron I forgot to email myself the stuff so that I could finish and upload it at work so it’ll have to wait till the evening.
If you asked me a question via the Ask Hentzau box in, oh, the last month or so, I just found out that Gmail had been helpfully rerouting them to my Spam folder. I will hopefully get around to tackling the backlog soon.
This is terrible.
A little over a year ago I wrote a two-part history of Bungie Software. It took in their early games – Pathways into Darkness, Marathon and Myth — which were nearly all superb in one way or another, and then abruptly stopped with only the barest mention of the series that’s eclipsed all Bungie’s other achievements: Halo. There were several very good reasons for this, first and foremost of which is that Halo is Microsoft’s flagship game series and it’s already had countless column inches written about it. There’d be little if anything new that I could add to the discussion, even if that discussion is one so corrupted by PR and marketing that it’s now reaching the point of parody, and so that was where that particular pair of posts ended.
This finishes up my history of Bungie during the pre-Halo years; the first part can be found here.
Part Two: Myth.
Myth is a game that is remembered for all the wrong reasons. I suspect this is at least partly down to a marketing misstep on Bungie’s part, as it was the first ever 3D strategy game and that was the element they subsequently played up in all the previews. This was a mistake; the 3D in Myth is kind of janky and horrible and doesn’t really add much to the gameplay, and what’s more the game uses 2D sprites to represent its units which doesn’t exactly help it in the looks department. As a result the first Myth game was critically panned1 as a failed experiment. Some of that criticism is fully deserved – Myth’s gameplay is, to me, a fascinating tactical challenge, but I can easily see how it would have provoked feelings of revulsion in reviewers used to the Command & Conquer RTS paradigm – but I would be willing to bet a fair amount of money that those critics didn’t get too far into the game before dismissing it out of hand. Because, once again, Bungie have turned what is otherwise a merely fairly solid game into far more than the sum of its parts through the addition of a well-told story.
It may be difficult to believe in this age of Halo and Halo and yet more Halo, but Bungie Software used to be in the business of making some very, very good games. That these games have only achieved a cult following rather than the recognition they deserve is mostly down to two things: Bungie’s acquisition by Microsoft in 2000 in order to use Halo as a flagship title for the then in-development Xbox, and that Bungie started out as a Mac developer at a time when the iPod was a tiny, tiny glint in Steve Jobs’ eye. The latter meant that three of their best games were released on a format that no-one was really paying any attention to – as with today, the Macs of the early nineties were for artists and writers, not gamers – while the former brought them massive public attention at the cost of everyone conveniently forgetting that they’d ever existed as a separate entity to Microsoft. I’m going to spend the next two of these columns trying to turn back the clock by explaining just why Bungie’s old games are so fondly remembered by those who played them.