by Joseph Knoop
I’ve committed a cardinal sin of gaming; I never played any of the Mass Effect games, the series that most critics agree works best with a female Shepard.
In fact, I can’t remember the last time I played a female protagonist in a game where you get to choose gender, if ever. I was a male Wood Elf in Skyrim, the boy in Pokemon had a cooler hat, and if I’m going to romance an NPC in some role-playing game, I’d rather the sexual dynamic be my own.
So when I booted up the Destiny beta, and eventually the game itself, I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to play as a female Guardian. My short-haired, brunette, green-eyed Hunter was ready to save the galaxy, with or without an assortment of friends by her side.
And as is common knowledge by now, Destiny managed to drop every ball in terms of meaningful story direction, thematic coherence, or even just explaining what the hell “The Darkness” was.
What could have been a meaningful journey as the opposite sex became another mindless sci-fi series of grizzled threats and whispered techno-babble. Instead of sending your ghost off to calibrate the “cerebral vortex,” maybe we could get some juxtaposition between what it’s like to be a human Guardian or machine men Exo Guardians. Would my female Guardian receive more information or tools to complete the Queen of the Reef’s mission if she favored her own gender? Would the Queen hinder a male Guardian’s mission? Don’t tell me Earth has suddenly become a bastion of sexless (occasionally actual) automatons, where gender is meaningless. Something tells me the Darkness doesn’t mind influencing gender politics in between crushing civilizations.
One of the most criminally simple fixes to the whole lack of identity would be the option to name your character. It wouldn’t even require changing Peter Dinklage’s dry line reading. A name is such a fundamental aspect of our civilization, from mortgage contracts to birthday cakes, that ceasing it from ever being uttered feels neutering. Who are these Guardians? Surely they must have some thoughts on the whole matter.
Destiny opens in a fairly engaging manner, as your Guardian runs from patrols of the Fallen outside and within the Cosmodrome wall. Your ghost initially finds your body in a pile of car wreckage, reawakening you to serve out your mission. It’s just a shame that we get zero background on how we ended up there. Evidently, we had been serving as a Guardian long before the collapse of humanity, and yet all we need is a quick stroll and nary a shower before we’re back on the job.
I really wanted to know more about Destiny’s world. It’s not every day a giant floating Christmas ornament protects you from the forces of evil. I wanted to structure a character that was fundamentally different from me for a change, just to see how it might affect the greater universe around me. Destiny continues to promise a lot of things, and delivered only a minimum. It’s a technically solid game, but perhaps a few more bugs and less-than-stellar shooting mechanics might have been forgivable in the face of a reason to return. For now, my lonely Guardian sits atop the Tower, surrounded by numerous other players with the same identity issues.
Maybe she should have just kept the helmet on.