Interplanetary Ass-Kicking with Robots and Magic Sounds Like a Recipe for Success but Somehow Destiny Just Bugs Me.
Destiny is Bungie’s massive multiplayer online shooter. By now, it’s a pretty safe bet that everyone in our demographic has heard of Desitny. On the slim chance you haven’t heard about it, Destiny has players take on the role of a Guardian: a space-travelling, planet-hopping, laser-shooting personage.
It has you hunting down the heads of various organisations, such as the robotic Vex, the insectile Hive, or the wibbly-wobbly Taken, in order to restore light to something called the Traveller. As deep as that plot sounds and how widely-known the game is, I simply cannot get into it.
I know I glossed over it a bit before but that is the extent of the story as it is presented in the base game. Expansions, notably The Taken King, do add a few more characters and areas to flesh out the roster of the world but we’ll get to that in a moment. For new players who are playing through the standard game, there is very little exposition.
There was quite a strong feel of being sent to murder huge amounts of soldiers pointlessly. What little explanation I did receive basically told me to go hunt for Bill Nighy’s lost beach ball on Mars but it turned out not to actually be on Mars.
Destiny also frequently flagged me as having collected a new Grimoire Card and promised an explanation of the relevant plot point should I log into Bungie’s website. Perhaps I’m being unreasonable but if you’re trying to tell me a story, it’s best not to put your glossary and most of the story in another book entirely. Especially if the creature that you are telling me about is important enough to warrant telling me you’ve written about it.
Destiny’s various elements require more integration so that I can buy and enjoy the game without having the Handy Guide to Everything lying around.
Once players reach the missions from the most recent expansion (The Taken King), things do improve. More cinematic cutscenes showcase what is actually going on and the people on your radio are much more vocal about things that are happening. When playing through these missions, I had a pretty decent sense of what I was doing and why I was doing it – for example, when I was sent to Earth to find a stealth drive, it didn’t just feel like busywork. Something I still don’t understand, however, and maybe some more seasoned Destiny players can enlighten me, is why if Crota is a Hive God and Oryx is his dad, why does Oryx need to take the Hive before they’ll fight for him?
What was very upsetting to me was when I looked up a few things on the Destiny wiki. The level of thought and detail behind each of these characters and places is massive. There are events the wiki describes that are not even references (by name or otherwise) in the game itself. I felt rather hard-done-by. Sort of like when your friends go out without you. Bungie had worked on this really awesome and really cool world but never bothered to share it with me.
Destiny is the friend that calls you non-stop for one week a year
Destiny goes through patches of being under enthused about itself to being a bit over the top. Most predominantly, the game keeps its in-battle HUD quite minimalistic. Space during the scene is reserved for ammo, weapon type, and a few choice items like the radar. The effect of this is that times in which Destiny can provide you with information, it vomits huge bundles of data at you. Visits to the tower and trips to your character display screen can be overwhelming for newer players who don’t have a friend walking them through it.
Keeping players interested is a difficult task. Destiny achieves this by having a combination of timed events. Certain public events happen randomly. Things will fall from the sky and need killing. Simple enough. Quests refresh weekly so particularly difficult missions can be redone for powerful items.
Finally, Destiny also has seasonal events. These take place at times throughout the year and usually last a couple of weeks, for example, Sparrow Racing (think Pod Racer but a bit more psychedelic). Once Destiny becomes a loot-based grind, these special events become increasingly relevant. Sure, sometimes they’re fun but exceedingly punishing for players who cannot play during the two week period in which they take place. In my experience, some of the best MMOs have been those that did not allow for a massive power disparity between those who play moderately and those who play non-stop.
While Destiny does maintain this balance at lower levels, these events and the associated gear inject an artificial disparity between the 299 Light player who can play Sparrow Racing for two weeks straight and the 299 Light player who cannot.
Obviously MMOs require an investment of time; and it wouldn’t be fair to have the person who invested 100 hours to reap the same benefit as the person who invested 10. I get the sense, however, that these seasonal events being a primary method to acquire quality gear is too specific.
Nightfalls and other weekly quests are already doing this job. I suppose it begs the question of what is the expected level of engagement from each player? Is one evening a week (lets say, maybe five hours of gameplay) sufficient? Where do we – or where does Bungie – draw the line of Player A engaging with the game enough and Player B not?
First-person shooting games have had competitive multiplayer since either was a thing. Destiny is, of course, no exception to this rule. The Crucible provides quite a robust selection of different modes for players to enjoy when they tire of massacring the other species in the galaxy. But it meets an interesting dilemma: PVP is not Destiny’s primary selling point and it’s not tied into character progression in any meaningful way.
Lets take a look at the first point. MMOs are no strangers to having an arena to fight each other with the battle-axe we got from questing. Because, however, the Crucible only makes up part of the game – and not a particularly large part – it’s development is inversely related to development in other areas.
As Destiny’s PVE expands, as new missions are added, and expansions released, the Crucible doesn’t grow at the same rate. What that means for Destiny is that the Crucible isn’t as polished as the competitive multiplayer in other games. And that’s okay; the dinner party hasn’t been ruined by the salt not being name brand. Because the PVP isn’t as polished as maybe it could be, the Crucible is exceedingly unforgiving – especially for players who may have finished the main story and are looking for something else to do (mind you, there isn’t much if you avoid the Crucible).
With the barrier to entry being so huge, players are often rebuked from engaging with the Crucible. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but these players are then forced into a cycle of repeating the same missions over and over to acquire gear, which is a fine way to lose interest in the game at large.
There are loot drops in the Crucible and so it provides an alternative for players to level up their gear if they don’t want to fight the same hordes of enemies over and over. In my experience, though, players are almost always better off completing the weekly quests. This all feeds into the impression that the Crucible is more an aside than an actual part of the game. On the rare occasions its loot drops are worthwhile, it is during events such as the Iron Banner: pseudo-seasonal events that expire after a while. Which begins the cruel cycle outlined above.
In the end, maybe Destiny isn’t for me. There’s nothing to say it has to be. I’ve given it two chances and spend a fairly decent amount of money on it. With a character somewhere in the 290 Light area, I feel like I’ve given Destiny the time to wow me and it simply hasn’t.
What I’ve spoken about has been what’s irked me about the game. It’s no doubt a nicely presented game but if you don’t have friends to play it with, your time and money can be better invested somewhere else.