First Dinklebot, and now Nolanbot. Why does this keep happening in Destiny?
Peter Dinklage made his debut in a AAA video game in Destiny, as the Ghost that brings our Guardian back to life to push back the Darkness.
His performance came under fire as time went on, and he was eventually replaced by Nolan North in one of the later expansions, retroactively replacing Dinklage in the vanilla version of the game as well.
“That Wizard came from the Moon,” is universally agreed to be one of the most ridiculous lines uttered in recent times in the world of video games, surpassing such gems as “all your base are belong to us” and “I am Error” which get a pass by dint of being mistranslations.
And it sums up the problem with Dinklebot in Destiny perfectly.
It was the writing and direction that turned the players against their Little Light, although at the time, voice acting took an equal part of the blame.
After spending time with Nolanbot in the Destiny 2 beta, I’m even more convinced that this is the case, and that the blame for Dinkebot’s shortcomings should be shifted squarely onto Bungie’s shoulders.
"Listening to Nolanbot and Failsafe harp on is like being in a room full of sugar-soaked children, vying for your attention."
Nolanbot rolled out in The Taken King DLC and papered over Dinklage’s Ghost, effectively wiping him from the lore, aside from that one Easter egg. Dinklage’s understated performance was replaced with North’s cheeky chappy Ghost, who cracks wise in an attempt to compensate for Dinklebot’s lack of emoting.
Bungie are doubling down on sarcastic AI in Destiny 2 with Failsafe, the colony ship AI we encountered in the beta who’s clearly one population short of a colony, swinging from peppy optimist to bloodthirsty psychopath in almost every line of dialogue.
We already know that Bungie played fast and loose with Destiny’s story, admitting that they didn’t know what the Darkness was themselves. It’s very clear now that it was their great big MacGuffin.
The old trope of ‘light vs darkness’ was used to push the story and lend it some weight, as all epic battles between light and dark do.
The lore’s reference to the creation of Ghosts is suitably dramatic, echoing the tone of the overarching story, the importance of their task, and the magnitude of the moment of their conception: "In its dying breath, the Traveler created the Ghosts...To seek out those who can wield its Light as a weapon. Guardians, to protect us, and do what the Traveler itself no longer can."
To have the Ghost devolve into the role of comedy sidekick is somewhat at odds with the gravitas afforded to the majority of the lore and key moments in the campaign.
Not that a bit of comic relief every now and then isn’t welcome - Cayde-6 being the perfect example of this - but the relentless quips detract from moments that should be somber and humourless, that should make you feel like one of the morbidly chosen, resurrected from death to serve as protector in a world on the brink of devastation.
This comparison video demonstrates the difference perfectly, with the stark contrast in delivery of the lines perfectly epitomising the essence of each Ghost. Key moments are lent a sense of importance and urgency by one, and lean towards a cheap laugh in the other.
Admittedly Dinklage may have been a bit wooden in places, but he was playing an AI so there shouldn’t have been an expectation for a huge range of emotion to begin with.
Our Guardians were silent in the Destiny 2 beta, but even in Destiny, they weren’t exactly chatty.
The Ghost acts as the voice of our Guardian, and it soon begins to grate when the litany of its commentary acts primarily as a showcase for witty banter.
Throw in the incessant bickering with Failsafe, doing her best Glados impression, and tonally, the beta felt like it’s all over the place.
Mute protagonists have their place, as do the ones who err on the quiet side. There's an argument to be made for the ‘blank slate’ hero, no matter which side you fall on.
"Our Guardian's voice has been replaced, drowned out by a trio of personalities assaulting our ears with their ceaseless bleating."
The problem with the Destiny 2 beta is that our Guardian’s voice has been replaced, drowned out by a trio of personalities assaulting our ears with their ceaseless bleating.
Our once sage and stoic companion is now quibbling with an even more annoying AI while we silently fend off an army of Cabal bent on stealing our Light.
Nolanbot wasn’t all bad in The Taken King, but paired with Failsafe, he’s a ruddy nightmare.
Failsafe’s presence in the beta was a part of The Inverted Spire Strike, and we don’t know how big of a role she’ll play in the campaign, but even if she only ever pops up in the Nessus, it’s still going to be a nightmarish back and forth between the AI while you’re there.
The whole Ghost debacle exemplifies the problem with Bungie’s storytelling for me, flip-flopping between the heavier tone set by Jon Favreau’s goosebump-inducing Law of the Jungle trailer with Giancarlo Esposito, to the light and fluffy live action Become Legend trailer, with Guardians firing off a joke or sarcastic remark in almost every sentence. Seriously. Almost every line.
It’s always fun when a developer acknowledges the fun side of the community and slips in a tongue-in-cheek reference here and there - anyone who’s trawled through the Grimoire cards will have had a little chuckle at the mention of “Guardians foraging for equipment, dancing, and performing acrobatics with light vehicles,” - but it’s all a bit much now.
Listening to Nolanbot and Failsafe harp on is like being in a room full of sugar-soaked children, vying for your attention, when all you want to do is go and sit in the peace and quiet with the grown-ups.