For one glorious weekend, Destiny 2 turned into the world’s most popular laser tag simulator.
Except it wasn’t meant to. This was all the fault of some ropy playtesting of the game’s first expansion, Curse of Osiris, which introduces a host of new weapons to the online shooter. One of those is Prometheus Lens, a trace rifle (read: laser gun) that automatically reloads every time it racks up a kill.
It’s a pretty similar gun to pre-order exclusive Coldheart, but some snippet of code went skewy, and players quickly realised that Prometheus Lens was comically overpowered. Not only did it turn the expansion’s new single-player content into a cakewalk, but it also crippled online multiplayer mode the Crucible, with the handful of players lucky enough to grab the gun through random drops using it to run amok. With Prometheus Lens in hand, you pretty much just had to point at another player and they dropped dead, prompting some pretty exceptional YouTube content showing off people’s laser-y rampages.
Bungie has been beset by criticism ever since Destiny 2 launched, for what many players see as a string of mistakes and failures that have left the game struggling to stand up to the original. Whatever your take on the game, the developer’s contrite statements have become almost as regular as the game’s scheduled maintenance windows, as it feels like the company is on the verge of apologising for even making the game in the first place.
All of which is why the company’s response to Prometheus Lens has been so refreshing. Sure, it did apologise (it must just be a reflex action by now), but the follow-up wasn’t to patch the game, nerf the gun, remove it, or even cancel the scheduled competitive Trials of the Nine event over the weekend. Bungie lent in. People with Prometheus Lens are wiping the floor with everyone else? Fine. Give everyone the bloody gun then. Let’s just have lasers all over the place and see what happens.
And so in-game vendor Xur starting selling Prometheus Lens to anyone who cared to stop by, and all of a sudden Destiny 2 was the most fun it had been in weeks. Nevermind the new Curse of Osiris story campaign or the Raid Lair, Crucible Laser Tag was just plain fun, with none of the pomp or earnestness that occasionally bogs down the rest of the game. It was meta gaming writ large, a flash-in-the-pan moment where almost every player had the exact same loudout, everyone was optimised, and everyone died ludicrously fast.
“It was the sort of chaos that in 2017 could only happen by mistake, but isn’t this how games used to be?”
It was the sort of chaos that in 2017 could only happen by mistake, but isn’t this how games used to be? It harked back to the days of the ‘90s FPS, giving everyone the Golden Gun in Goldeneye, or switching on Big Head or Paintball mode. The days when we didn’t have to worry about loot boxes, gear drops, or min-maxing. We just dropped into an arena shooter to wreak havoc – even winning didn’t always have to matter as long as you had fun along the way. There are glimpses of this mindset in the likes of Overwatch and Fortnite, which at least abandon the grim ‘n’ dreary aesthetic, but even they’re afraid to truly give in to proper, unscripted chaos.
I can’t imagine Bungie will do anything like this again – at least not on purpose. But what if they did? What if the Crucible had an extra mode that was all lasers, all the time? What if Call of Duty had big heads? Or Battlefront II let everyone run around as Jedi and Sith at once?
Presumably devs and publishers worry that this would somehow cheapen their games, lessen their brands. But why the hell should it? They’re games. Games can (and usually should) be fun. Chaos is fun. Nonsense is fun. I’m all for deep strategy and complex objective play. But sometimes I just want to pretend I’m playing paintball in space, or run into battle as Darth Maul with an over-sized noggin. Prometheus Lens has shown me the light, and now all I want is for games to be silly again.