Candied, crushed sago't gulaman
Thanks to our founder‘s funding, I got to play Destiny the day it came out. Common practice for reviewing games is finishing it ASAP, and pumping out the article days soon after its release to get the most out of the buzz that comes with a fresh title. With all the hype surrounding this particular game, all the more reason to get those scores up to capitalize on all the attention.
However, to do that with Destiny might not be the best way to tackle all of its offerings, despite the brevity of its “campaign” mode. Fortunately for us at Kambyero, we are not shackled by the business realities that don’t allow major gaming sites to give the game the proper time before passing judgement on it with the finality of a review.
So I spent the rest of September until the first few days of October taking in as much as I could of what the game was providing. I played through all the story missions and the strikes. I’ve taken on the daily and weekly activities such as bounties, the heroics, the nightfall challenges, and the Queen’s Wrath and Iron Banner events. I’ve patrolled Earth through Mars, and earned enough Gold Tier ratings in public events.
I’ve gone through the entire Vanguard Strike playlists and all the PVP modes to have access to every piece of gear almost every vendor has to offer. I’ve maxed out the two subclasses for my Warlock who is just two levels away from hitting the hard level cap of 30. I’ve a complete set of Legendary gear with a couple of Exotics. I’ve played with and against all the different classes and subclasses, gaining a good knowledge of how different they play based on teamwork and adversity.
I’ve finished the Vault of Glass, the game’s single available raid, and even participated once in shooting a solitary cave with a group of strangers.
I think it’s safe to say that I’ve seen all the game currently has.
With that said, I can still say in full confidence that all of the major complaints about what’s wrong with Destiny hold true.
There is only an inkling of a plot in the game, and there is practically nothing to compel you to read what bits and pieces of narrative and world-building you can get from the Grimoire cards inexplicably hidden away in Bungie’s website.
There are no characters to care about despite the large cast, unless you count the abusive relationship most players had with the pre-patch Cryptarch.
There is no variation to the story and strike mission design save for one instance where you get to use a sword instead of your gun, and another where you fight multiple bosses instead of one big one.
There are only four worlds to explore, and you’ll be going through the same areas over and over even on different instances because of how you’re spawned in one location and one location only no matter the mission.
Farming materials to upgrade gear can be time-consuming and is certainly monotonous. Spicing it up with patrol assignments boils down to “kill x number of enemies”, “kill this specific enemy”, or “stand in one place while your Dinklebot does something while spouting gobbledygook that it barely pretends to care about”.
Attempting to accelerate the process of getting better gear also requires players to get more reputation to access gear and more marks to actually buy the gear. It wouldn’t be such a drag if you didn’t have to go through the same uninspired content over and over again.
There is no matchmaking for the daily/weekly heroics, the nightfall, and the raid. Considering the challenge they can put up, some players just don’t ever get to see through all of them, and many are required to go through a third party service just for a chance to finish the content.
There is no easy way to communicate with players you meet in the lobby or in any of the other game worlds if you don’t have a microphone, limiting you to four simple gestures that hardly communicate any meaningful message besides “I notice you”. Voice chat itself is limited in that you cannot talk with people on the same team as yours when in match-made strikes or even in the PVP team modes. You have to invite players into your fireteam and for them to accept it to be able to hear each other. Although the intention to prevent vocal abuse or grief from trolls and foul-mouthed individuals is nice, this also hinders what should be a selling point of the game – the potential to make human connections.
Even the simple concept of being part of a clan is limited, as you can only create and join a clan through Bungie’s site or the companion app, and they don’t serve any other purpose aside from unlocking a couple of trophies/achievements.
The only PVE mode that really shows ambition in design and fully realizes the importance of teamwork is the very last thing a dedicated enough player would tackle – the raid. It’s also locked off by high level requirements that require a great time investment to attain, and a bare bones social system that does not make it easy in any way to get a full party if you don’t have five friends who all have the game, play at the same time on the same console, and are fully equipped to take on the raid.
There is very little variety in weapon usage in PVP as well, given that it’s so much easier to do well when using either a full auto rifle or a shotgun. There are only two PVP modes that don’t have the primary goal of killing the opposing force, and one of the two is only available when Bungie decides to make it available.
The two special events that rolled out, the Queen’s Wrath and Iron Banner events, don’t offer any new experiences either. What gear they offer is functionally indistinguishable from what’s already available.
For the Queen’s Wrath event, we only have more difficult story missions with modifiers we’ve already seen in weekly strikes. When players started dismantling all the Legendary gear they were getting from the Kill Orders, Bungie was quick to patch that out despite the process being one of the standard methods of attaining the hard to earn Ascendant Shards.
For the Iron Banner, you are stuck to one PVP mode, and the promise of making gear levels actually matter doesn’t seem to be true at all. Bungie also had the great idea to make it so you don’t earn any reputation for the Iron Banner vendor when your team loses, creating the unfortunate scenario where players quit soon after they see their team falling behind. I don’t necessarily blame them, as why waste your time in a losing effort when you don’t have any incentive to keep playing? And when new players are connected to the same match into the losing team, it’s not long until they see the score and abandon the game as well. Winning even becomes hollow when you know you got the victory because the other team quit just a third of the time limit in.
At least they had the courtesy to offer slightly more challenging bounties for PVP and PVE that… seem to only have one or two rotations that you’ll be taking the same bounties for the majority of the time.
With all these faults, you’ve got to be asking yourself “How did this guy manage to keep playing this game for a month?”
The praise I gave the game in my Destiny Beta feature also still apply to the main game. It’s still a visual showpiece that utilizes all of the PS3’s power and marries it with a distinct artistic flair. The combat mechanics are still a joy with the energy you feel bounding across terrain and dishing out pain to alien scum, whether it’s with bullets, bombs or your flashy supers. It is immensely satisfying popping heads one after the other with a handcannon that delivers a hefty audible punch and force feedback on your controller, as the recently beheaded baddie’s body convulses in a tingling death rattle and sprays out glimmer and potential loot.
And there’s still something that’s innately enjoyable when you’ve got a friend or two with you to take on hordes of baddies and an ultra tough boss in the end, especially on the higher difficulty missions where some semblance of strategy is required. Clutch revives to prevent the entire team dying and losing progress, a stranger suddenly joining when you’re being overwhelmed on your own, or just a well coordinated attack that takes out a boss in an efficient manner are all exhilarating experiences that I’ve personally witnessed in the end game.
PVP is simple enough as it is, but the dynamism player mobility in Destiny brings always makes for frantic yet fun times when I need to go through it to up my Crucible rep through bounties and get marks to buy Legendary gear. It doesn’t hurt that I do pretty well despite my hesitance in the beginning because of its fast-paced run-and-gun style, especially coming from my… expertise in the methodical multiplayer mode of The Last of Us.
Exotic gear make up for the lack of imagination that’s apparent with most of the other lower rarity gear. You have a fusion rifle that can unleash a devastating torrent of insta-kill laser beams in full auto, an assault rifle that shoot enemy-penetrating bullets that ricochet all over the area, and a rocket launcher that spits out cluster missiles that track targets among other powerful weapons. The exotic armor are sights to behold, with gauntlets that flow and glow with solar energy, helmets made of an alien dragon skull or decked out with a mohawk, and chest pieces with intricate emblems and markings fitting for space knights.
The real highlight of the game is the Vault of Glass. With new sections to explore, and 8 wholly unique segments that demand an unprecedented level of tactical thinking and cooperation, it is by far the best thing Destiny has going for right now.
All the players on the fireteam have to be on their A game, with leveled up gear and a full understanding of their specific class’ abilities to know how best to use them for their assigned roles. Constant communication is key to figuring out the patterns, knowing when and where to move and what to attack, and recuperating from emergency deaths that could easily lead to a team wipe.
Finishing it after having to swap out a majority of my fireteam three separate times really gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment. It also helped solidify a sense of camaraderie with complete strangers who also just beat it for the first time, and even a hint of personal pride that I managed to get through it when most of my original team members just couldn’t do it anymore.
It’s such a shame then that the content given the most creative effort in creating was put in the very end of the base game, sealed away behind a pathetic excuse for a story, and a dull, repetitive mission slogfest that will have you grinding away in unsatisfying reward loops.
There have been rumors that Destiny went through massive changes in late 2013 that surgically removed core parts of the game to fit a marketing scheme and a DLC-based business model. Despite the skepticism one might have for industry rumors, it’s easy to be cynical and side with the conspiracy theorists because of Bungie’s track record in creating fully fleshed out, realized video game worlds, and how bereft of content the game is in comparison.
I never followed the hype generated by Activision’s promotional tactics, but even without those gigantic expectations set by a multi-million dollar advertising campaign, and the time and effort I’ve put into playing through everything the base game currently has, I’m still let down by Destiny simply because of all the potential it has for greatness that it fails to reach.
I’ll just try to beat the raid on hard mode to get all my gear to level 30, and then I’ll promptly put this game down.
Until the expansion comes out oh god what
has Activision have we done to AAA video games