Destiny has just concluded what has to be one of the most enjoyable alphas this side of Titanfall, giving an ever-widening number of players the ability to see exactly what the game is about and how well it achieves its goals.
The buzz for the game coming out of E3 was overwhelmingly positive, from a variety of sources. People are loving the game, and there could be entire features written about its user interface and structure.
For today though, we're here to talk about the voice over work that comes in from Peter Dinklage, one of the most interesting actors of our time.
This is the man who took the character of Tyrion, one of the meatiest roles in all of recent pop culture, and made sure he also became a fan favorite on the screen. Dinklage has done great work across a variety of roles in a variety of mediums across many years.
Just... listen to this.
That line has become legendary among the players of the Alpha, and it never failed to stop me dead in my tracks during my time playing the game. The line is so goofy, and played with such a lack of emotion or context, that it just sucks the enjoyment right out of the experience. It's like going on an amazing ride at Disneyland, but the normally exciting music has been replaced by a bored man making armpit farts sitting next to you.
It couldn't have been an easy performance to give. Dinklage is playing an artificial intelligence with no body, so there is no way for him to physically act the role, and we have no idea if he was able to even see the scenes he was discussing when he recorded the lines. Doing voice-over work cold, without great source material or being able to act out the scene or use other actors for reference, is brutally difficult to do well, even for talented individuals. This is why we see the same voice actors popping up so often in games; if you can do it well, you'll rarely be out of work.
The writing itself sounds positively goofy out of context, and not much better in-game. As if someone was making fun of video games rather than trying to make an earnestly told story. The culture and history of the world of Destiny feels like a weight on the shoulders of the player, and that weight is shown through the level design, character models and music. The sense of loss and desolation comes through the art, which is very hard to do, but that feeling is lost in the voice acting and writing ... which is frustrating from a game of this budget.
Dinklage sounds like someone reading a book to a child, and struggling with it. I'm not going to guess if there was any malice here, and I hate to say that it sounds like someone was there just to cash a paycheck, but whatever tools Dinklage needed to provide a first-class performance, whether that be source material or motivation, were lacking. His voice-overs are now one of the weakest parts of the game, and in one sad sense that's kind of good news for a game of this ambition.
It's terrible to begin a journey that's clearly meant to evoke a sense of adventure and grandeur in the player with a disembodied voice that clearly has given up on conveying any kind of emotion. This is the alpha, so there's plenty of times for the lines to be re-recorded, or replaced or improved through some kind of post-processing effect, but for now they actively weaken a game the Polygon staff has been enjoying.
Something went wrong when Peter Dinklage is the worst part of your game, but there it is. Working around a well-known actor's schedule can't be easy, but the game does so many things well to give you a sense of place; it would be a waste if that was lost due to the poor performance of a single person.