Story time

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The Crew (p104) prom­ises the kind of free­dom we’re rarely of­fered in games. Plenty of open worlds ex­ist, but more of­ten than not a con­ve­nient bridge col­lapse or po­lice road­block will keep you from ex­plor­ing too far from their de­sign­ers’ in­tended paths. In Ubisoft’s game, how­ever, all of North Amer­ica is avail­able to ex­plore from the off. But if you de­cide, giddy with ex­cite­ment at the sheer scale of the land­scape, to hit the open road too soon, the game will in­stead bom­bard you with re­minders about the story mis­sion you’re meant to be at­tempt­ing and your em­bar­rass­ingly un­lev­elled car. Even though there are no phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers be­tween you and LA, the game will hold you pris­oner if you try to do your own thing be­fore it says it’s OK.

At least if you en­dure a hand­ful of mis­sions up front, you’ll be left in rel­a­tive peace there­after. Des­tiny’sy story never re­leases its stran­gle­hold on your ac­tiv­i­ties, even 150 hours of grind­ing down the line, re­peat­ing un­skip­pable cutscenes for mis­sions you’ve al­ready com­pleted and fur­ther gar­bling a nar­ra­tive that was non­sen­si­cal in the first place. The Dark Be­low (p118), Des­tiny’s first DLC, at least spares us any more time lis­ten­ing to Peter Din­klage do­ing some read­ing. Even so, games con­tinue to thrust lack­lus­tre nar­ra­tives on us when all we want to do is get out into the world and see what’s wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered. Point­ing out that the sto­ries that re­sult from play­ers’ ac­tions are the most mem­o­rable is now cliché, but in the case of The Crew and Des­tiny, their plot­ting leaves lit­tle else to hang on to. Still, the bal­ance is dif­fi­cult to get right even if your game is de­fined by its story. Episode one of Tell­tale’s Game Of Thrones (p112) se­ries spins a good yarn for the most part, but it of­ten does so at the cost of dis­cernible game­play. And in this case, there’s no world to ex­plore to make up for that.

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