ascension

4 Things God of War Ascension got right that Destiny didn’t

So it’s been a little more than a month now since the overwhelmingly anticipated release of this game, and by now, everyone’s either acknowledged that they’ve wrung the game dry of every damn drop of launch-day content, or is still in the process of desperately attempting to grind out some more “fun” from the game whilst holding back tears of disappointment and gently rocking back-and-forth, silently murmuring to themselves, “No no. It’s got great gameplay. It’s so good. Honest. Bungie can do no wrong. Nuh-uh. Everything… Everything’s fine. It’s supposed to last ten years, guys. It’ll get better. …It’s supposed to last. TEN. YEARS!” *complete breakdown.* And though I find it morbidly hilarious that the videogame hyped equivalently to the second coming of Jesus is actually NOT the “next-gen experience” everyone and they’re retarded, fat cohorts were getting wet dreams over, I do still sympathize. It sucks when things aren’t what you hoped they’d be. It happens a lot in this industry. But, nevertheless, the game did come out, and despite what level of denial you may be in, the game is as meh as meh gets. And since I’m going to review all the God of War games, I figured I oughta mix up how those are reviewed. Thanks to the dwindling attention spans of readers, I’m going to be able to knock out two paraplegics with one stone with this piece, as I look to see how four simple things from a last-gen game are done better than in Destiny. An unfair comparison you say? Perhaps, but I’m a madman and no one is  stopping me.

1. So What The Hell Is Going On?

The most apparent failure of Destiny is it’s disappointing lack of a cogent story. The narrative has an intriguing enough premise: Earth life and humanity is almost extinguished by extraterrestrial beings, except for one bastion of safety located underneath a gargantuan ovum in the sky. And the player character, whom can be customized to be one of three races and one of three class types, is brought back to life inexplicably one fine day by a robotic Tyrion Lanister to fend off… “the darkness.” Okay, so kind of a cliche, but perhaps it develops into something better? Nope. Turns out the story remains carboard flat, confusingly unexplained, and lacks any sort of worthwhile motivation to continue other than, “hey, guardian,  keep doing what you’re doing. Bad guys need to be stopped.” There’s nothing to care about, and the faceless characters are so shallow, they might as well just be text blurbs in the loading screens. Comparatively, God of War Ascension maintains a clear-cut goal from beginning to end, shows (not tells) exactly why the player should venture on and destroy the 3 Furies. Though not the strongest of the series due to the flashbacking confusion and the fact that the plot is, by its very nature as a prequel, auxiliary to the main God of War timeline, it’s a satisfying ride seeing Kratos do what he does best: overcome Herculean odds and destroy epic beings of Greek mythology. Bungie seemed pretty content with just telling confused players to access the “grimoire,” which is pretty much a wiki site online. Nice going, guys.

2. What Are We Doing?

Gameplay is undeniably the most critical aspect to any videogame. Interactivity is the defining aspect of the medium, so it’s important to make players feel that, in one way or another, that what input they have matters. For both God of War and Destiny, the central component is as simple as it gets: kill dudes. The key difference here, however, is that killing dudes is literally ALL Destiny has to offer. The AAA videogame market is absolutely sopping-wet with first person shooter titles trying to give players roller coaster-like experiences or any number of gameplay gimmicks to set themselves apart, and yet, Destiny still manages to be as dry as a box of Saltines. Bungie offers a handful of pretty, albeit small, hubs that have enemies scattered about for the player to shoot. …and that’s it. Literally that is all Destiny is. You get a couple guns, a magic power and a grenade, and then you go from corridor to room to corridor to room shooting guys. Some weapons are genuinely cool, but these are the same machine guns, shotguns, and rocket launchers we’re all used to. And it never evolves past that. Literally, what the game expects the player to do is to wash, rinse, and repeat the same thing over and over again. There is nothing, literally nothing, else to it. It’s the fps equivalent of playing solitaire. When looking at Ascension, it’s easy to just say, “well that’s the same thing throughout,” and then you would be pelted with stones for having said that. All games are roughly “doing the same thing” from beginning to end, but evolution of gameplay matters. God of War’s combat changes as continually more powerful weapons and abilities are made available to the player, changing the number of tricks Kratos can have up his sleeve (like being able to freeze enemies in time, bring in a clone Kratos to fight alongside you, various elemental magic abilities, and a Rage meter that rewards players for maintaining large combos). Also, the game breaks up the action with head-scratching puzzles, light platforming, and some really epic set pieces peppered throughout. Guess somewhere along the way, Bungie forgot that videogames that are only interesting for a couple hours belong on Kongregate, not on retail shelves.

3. What Are We Up Against?

Plain and simple, the enemies you face in Destiny follow this template: Draw some clusters of dots on a piece of paper. Make some dots bigger than the others. Now go about adding a slash through each dot. Make sure to take longer with the bigger dots. Got them all? Now wait 5-10 minutes while doing miscellaneous tasks. And now turn the paper over and do it again.  ^This is what Destiny is without any of the window dressing. It is the definition of tedium. The enemies are just Dude, Bigger Dude, and Biggerer Dude, and then you shoot them. Ascension utilizes a variety of mythic monstrosities to fill up its roster, and uses the opportunity to give each of them unique traits that will make the player approach situations differently. A bunch of flying harpies and a centaur are not going to come at you the same way a cyclops and a group of satyrs will. Bungie might need to take a refresher course in videogames 101 because even the Halo series did a better job of mixing things up for the Master Chief. And Destiny could not have lazier boss fights. Honestly, the term “boss fight” shouldn’t even apply. There is no more interaction than simply holding a button down while a health bar slowly (snails look like Usain Bolt, by comparison) drains. God of War, known for it’s epic boss fights, puts on some of the best in its series with Ascension. The bosses don’t even have health bars to distract the player with, and there are so many twists and turns within them, changing the gameplay on the fly, that the player is left no choice but to be completely engrossed with what’s going on on the screen. Seriously, I can’t say enough about how much Destiny’s bosses feel like you’re just wasting your time. And that feeling, is a feeling no good videogame will give a player.

4. It’s not delivery, it’s Digiorno.

Looking at these two games, it’s easy to notice that what players were expecting from them were very different. At the end of its series’ life, God of War players understood almost exactly what they would be getting out of it. Being the sixth entry means there’s already been five other outings which have established what the game will entail. Delivering on promises built on corporate hype and advertisements like Destiny attempted to do, was not going to be easy. When Sony is touting new console designs, Beta and even Alpha access to the game, and just a ton of hyperbole around “next generation experiences” and “Bungie’s magnum opus,” you’d better make damn sure your game is actually doing something new! Literally, the gameplay is something that was already done fine in the PS2 and Xbox era. What about corridor shooting, having a jet pack, and picking up loot is new? “Nothing” is the correct answer. And even at these rudimentary levels, Destiny flounders to have an identity or come off at all entertaining. Super-punching an alien until he ragdolls is fun. But that can’t be all you do. Destiny is that little kid who says one funny joke that makes the grown-ups laugh, and then continues to say it over and fucking over again thinking it will be just as good as the first time. Surprise! Turns out repetitive ad nauseam gets tiresome. So maybe, Bungie, before you release the inevitable Destiny 2, how about you make sure you don’t back yourself into a corner with a bunch of fancy words and false promises.

Finally, just to address a fault both these games have, I need to talk about the multiplayer. Ascension is the first and only title in the GoW series that allows co-op and competitive multiplayer. It takes the traditional game modes we’re all used to in shooters (TDM, CTF, etc) and transposes them into an action game. THIS is actually doing something new. The execution isn’t perfect, as it suffers from some serious imbalancing due to player leveling, but it’s worth a look. The solution to fix it is in the game, (10X xp can be paid for), but it’s not really a great thing to have fun locked behind a secondary payment. Co-op is still good though, as you and another player face off against swarms of in-game beasts as opposed to the OP players who dominate the competitive parts. Looking one last time at Destiny, you just have to shake your head. Like GoW, the PvP is unbalanced, as higher level characters with access to better weapons will cream the newbies, and the PvE is hilariously handicapped by the fact that chatting into your mic is not an option unless in a group you’ve assembled. So unless you got a group of people who want to play as the same time as you, good luck coordinating an attack with randoms. (Perhaps Bungie wants you to communicate through the stupid dance moves that were included instead) Also, both of these games have crap box art. Kratos usually looks bestial and ready to tear some shit up on previous cover art, now he’s seemingly awaiting his dominatrix for punishment. And just like Destiny itself, the art is just so ridiculously bland that it makes me wonder if that was really what they thought was the best they had, or if some sort of mistake was made.

The large sales for Destiny is what happens when everyone who buys a new console realizes there isn’t much to play on it yet desperately try to find any sort of gaming nourishment following one of the worst summer gaming droughts. So yeah, save yourself the buyer’s remorse and pick up Ascension instead of Destiny. It’s more fun and you won’t feel like you’re constantly waiting for the game to get good enough to defend how much you just spent on it. It honestly boils down to: “Do you like to play boring, expensive games or fun ones?”

 

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