Screenshot: Destiny 2/Activision

Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?


Destiny 2

I’m about halfway through Destiny 2’s campaign—which means, in Destiny-speak, I have put approximately one foot in the water. We’ll see what it’s like once I’m fully submerged. (We’ll be publishing the first part of a Game In Progress review next week.) You don’t really know Destiny until you’re bored with every possible level and game type and find yourself still slugging through match after match in an endless quest for incrementally better statistics, your eyes on some shadowy Valhalla just beyond the horizon that you hope beyond all reason to exist. It’s a sick relationship this game demands.

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For this reason, I’ve approached the past two Septembers, each of which brought about a new expansion to the original game, with a sense of anticipation followed by deep weariness. For all their incremental changes to various statistical measures, as well as their sometimes-inspired new environments in which to pursue those statistical increases, they were always essentially the same: The same voices, the same places, the same menus and sounds and bright purple laser effects. There was a new coinage for you to vaguely resent, then thirst for. It was Destiny again.

Destiny 2 is, as you already know, Destiny again. Bungie has not dramatically reworked the series; pretty much every review of it out there, as well as your own experiences at this point, tells you what you already know. The menus and sounds and voices and grinds are fundamentally the same, only better, arguably. Less obnoxious or opaque or transparent in their Skinner-box mechanisms, perhaps, but this is not a reinvention of the wheel. It’s not even a reinvention of the tread on the wheel. It’s the same wheel. You bought a new wheel.

And yet—it’s a very good wheel, right? It may just be the thrill of totally new environments, drawn with an almost Naughty Dog-like sense of color and topography, or the pleasure of seeing the experience bar tick up measurably rather than via the slow random dice-rolls of slightly better gear. But there’s an unmistakable sense of excitement to playing the game that I haven’t felt in—well, three years, almost exactly. A good portion of the credit for this has to go to the revitalized open worlds, which are peppered with an Ubisoft-like surplus of “adventures,” some of which involve rote hunting and gathering but many of which cut daring paths through the new worlds, with boss rushes on roof tops and superhero skips along floating platforms. When pre-release hype touted new NPCs and collectibles and a bunch of other back-of-the-box checkpoints scattered throughout the world, I rolled my eyes, but in practice they create the feeling of an RPG-like world to invest in rather than a bunch of lavishly decorated grinding holes.

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Don’t get me wrong—I like a good grinding hole, and if that’s all Destiny 2 ends up being, well, we’ll talk about that when we get there. For now, though—halfway through the campaign and with only a little bit of time spent in the Crucible—it seems self-possessed, invigorated, and brilliantly colorful. It reminds me why I wanted to play Destiny in the first place. [Clayton Purdom]


Nier: Automata

My first attempt at playing Nier: Automata only lasted a few hours before I fell off hard, but everyone’s love for it and our recent To The Bitter End about its stunning conclusion got me finally diving back in to give it another chance. I’m finally at the point in the first route where things are starting to pick up, as you venture out to the forest kingdom and later revisit the opening factory level to see it taken over by a cult whose outlook, of course, has a hell of a lot more meaning than its vocal death obsession. But I can feel myself drifting away once again.

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Screenshot: Nier: Automata/Square Enix

My issue is, primarily, the combat, which I just don’t find very engaging. Many of the boss battles seem to drag on forever and my boredom with them usually overshadows any goodwill that’s won by the visual spectacle. The bizarre turns that follow the mind-numbingly long fight with the Flooded City’s shielded Goliath were enough to reel me back in, but I’m absolutely hating this escape from the factory section. It sports not one but two of my most hated video game cliches: kamikaze enemies (thematically appropriate here, to be fair, but still annoying as all hell) and one-hit-kill hazards, an especially nightmarish combination in a game where failure can result in losing everything you’ve accumulated and upgraded to that point. After a few totally lame deaths, I finally made it up to the boss, and then that went and killed me in an instant with a few nigh unreadable attacks. That’s the point where I walked away. I really do want to give this one a fair shake and I plan on giving it another go this weekend, but I’m really not sure how it’s going to turn out. [Matt Gerardi]