I often made the same sniffy dismissals of Destiny common to everyone who has yet to play Destiny.
"It's just grinding! The story missions are all the same! Peter Dinklage sounds like an Applebee's waiter reading back a to-go order!" It goes on and on.
A combination of boredom and curiosity have driven me deep, way, way deep, into Bungie's dark thrall, and now I'm changing my tune. Not in a gradual way, either. I've fallen. Hard.
How did this happen?
I'm actually taking breaks from writing this piece to do public events so I can complete a bounty. ... Oh, who am I kidding, I'm taking breaks between public events to work on this piece. That's how bad it's gotten.
I have a message for the haters who say Destiny is Dullsville now that I've fully embraced the game with all its peaks and valleys and relic iron nestled in between:
The truth of Destiny's generic nature may be more complicated if a crackpot theory I cooked up while farming helium filaments yesterday is even partially accurate.
Bungie has provided a sort of endless ocean
I had finished a story mission that I knew, for a fact, I had completed at least twice before. I couldn't remember a single scrap of it. It was almost eerie. Whatever the opposite of deja vu is, that's the feeling I was experiencing. The quest was dull, obviously, because it was a story mission in Destiny. It was also completely new to me.
What if Bungie crafted the dialogue and mission design of Destiny's story to be intentionally generic?
Skating over the same ice
Think of a special moment from your favorite game. How about when Sephiroth kills Aerith? Oof, that's a real sock to the gut, huh? But would that moment have the same emotional impact if you had to watch it 30 times in the hopes of getting legendary boots? Destiny avoids this problem by not providing any memorable moments.
Think of your favorite line from a video game. Maybe all that stuff about cake being a lie — boy, that sure got less pleasant the 100th time you heard it referenced, didn't it? Destiny gives this problem a wide berth by making every one of Dinklage's lines a variation on "that thing we need to shoot is close by," "there's that thing we need to shoot" or "why don't you press square so I can float around this computer for a sec."
The literal sweet nothings that Ghost whispers into your ear are so defiantly dull that it's literally impossible to say if you've heard a specific one before. As Twitter user Exo Hunter observed when I floated this theory last night:
@JustinMcElroy are the Destiny missions the elevator music of game design?— Exo Hunter (@DJ_Rainz) January 11, 2015
Now keep in mind: I am not arguing the point that these missions are good or pleasurable; they are not. What I'm arguing is that they are classically generic in a way that will not degrade over time and repeated viewings. They are the Phil Collins of mission design. You're not going to discover that you love "I Can't Dance" upon a 20th listen, but you're probably not going to markedly dislike it more than you did initially. It simply is. Eternal and perfect mediocrity. Or, as Patrick Bateman might explain it:
Some of you who've played Destiny much longer than me may be scoffing. Perhaps you've played these missions so many times that much like a well-seasoned wine enthusiast, you can detect the subtle differences between them. "Winter's Run is fine," you scoff, "but I vastly prefer the oaky tannins of Scourge of Winter."
Maybe you grizzled vets think I'm at the apex of a Destiny addiction bell curve after which I will once again be well-aware of the mind-numbing repetition Bungie has built its MMOFPS on. To you higher-level players I can say only this:
Will you run me through the last Crota mission so I can get the Murmur fusion rifle? It'll just take a sec, promise.