How is Destiny, really? A lot of reviewers have been hard on Bungie's latest science fiction game, but does it really deserve the scores it's been getting?
Article by Mangotron.com reader: Frank Trascritti
There are many elements right or wrong in Destiny, and after hitting max level and playing multiplayer for weeks I can safely say I’ve formed an opinion on both. Many argue that Destiny was held back in its storytelling by being an FPS MMO. However, The Old Republic, for all its microtransactions and irritating repetition, did succeed in storytelling despite being an MMO. Destiny did not. Let’s examine why after we talk about some of the positives of Destiny.
The Multiplayer – You choose these competitive multiplayer options from the Crucible, which is the Guardian’s way of blowing off steam, I’d expect. Destiny’s multiplayer, as expected, is pretty seamless. The different game types are really well done, and offer varying experiences based on player preferences. I prefer 3v3 “Skirmish” game mode instead of 6v6 “Clash”, for example. I find it more tactical and less chaotic. Some players will prefer “Control”, in which you and your team capture territory. There are a lot of options here, and it shows that they’ve really put some thought into it.
My one complaint is that vehicles aren’t used as often as they should. The “Combined Arms” limited game type allowed increased use of heavy ammo and vehicles, but it only lasted for three days in September! I miss the days of old when you and your friends would load up on a warthog just to get blasted into the air by a rocket launcher.
The Multiplayer – You choose these competitive multiplayer options from the Crucible, which it the Guardian’s way of blowing off steam, I’d expect. Destiny’s multiplayer, as expected, is pretty seamless.
The Strikes – Strikes in Destiny are the equivalent of instances in most MMO’s. These are interesting, usually culminating in a fight with a horde of enemies at the end, then a boss is introduced, and finally you have to beat both the boss and the horde of enemies. It’s predictable, repetitive, and so much fun when you have mics. I played the Strike playlist enough to buy most of my armor pieces, but I found the most enjoyment in playing with my friends in a Fireteam. In these groups, we were able to communicate and enjoy one another’s company while trying to complete some scripted event. It was so much fun.
The Strikes are very limited. There aren’t many and you typically play the same ones you played in the single-player campaign, just at a higher setting. This was fun at first, but as you play the same strike over and over, it loses its glimmer.
I once did the same Martian strike three times in a row due to random bad luck. The worst part was that we’d get to the end, then someone would quit, then the other guy would quit, and then I’d be left alone until I also quit. Despite white-knuckled fury, I wasn’t able to beat it. I did eventually, but in those three times in a row I ended up physically hating the Cabal by the end of it.
Three-Man Teams – I remember trying to conquer a boss in Destiny with my friend and I. After we got swarmed by the Cabal for the last time, we gave up. Originally we decided to partner up to tackle him, because we wanted to record gameplay for YouTube. Eventually we were unable to progress and a bitter feeling took root in our perceptions of the game. This is one problem with a three-man team: once one member leaves, you’re down 33%.
I’ve noticed you depend too much on your team mates for Strikes. A person who leaves abandons two people to take on a whole mission on their own, an awkward partnership forged in hatred of the guy who left. Inevitably that partnership will dissolve and then you’ll be alone to quit. This is a huge problem, and there needs to be punishments for abandoning Strikes. So far there’s a reporting system, but you need to have the player’s information on screen in order to report them for leaving, and typically it’s too late by the time they’ve left.
The Story – This has been a big problem for me, since I absolutely loved the game’s setting but abhorred the lack of story. The game is amazing, and the developers have previously commented that it was inspired by “a candle in the darkness”. That idea echoes throughout the game, from all alien races posing a threat, to the imminent fear of the unknown.
The story parts of the game are the cutscenes with your playable character and either the ghost or other side characters.
Players have asked, “Why couldn’t we go to other systems?” Well, within the context of the story, it makes perfect sense. You can’t go to other systems, unless you want to be devoured by creatures in the darkness. The one source of light in the universe (presumably) is the Traveller, who died before the game began. His shell remains as a light source for the Guardians, who seek to defeat the forces of darkness that plague the universe.
Great story, right? Well, that’s actually just the setting. The actual plot of the game is nearly nonexistent. The story parts of the game are the cutscenes with your playable character and either the ghost or other side characters. These never go anywhere, instead furthering a plot that ends abruptly with a boss fight-based conclusion, which only caps the end of the game without ending the story. The actual story concludes with a scene reminiscent of the ending to Star Wars: A New Hope, but more enigmatic and pointless.
Yes, I know, expansions are coming so a conclusion would be premature. However, I expected some kind of narrative structure, some format where an introduction, body, and conclusion were present. Instead we get a setting without a plot, a story that was so interesting, so tantalizingly teasing, that went nowhere. What are the goals of the Queen and her brother? Where are the Vex going, and why? Are there more Travelers out there? We get few answers, and even fewer characters.
The Raids – There was only one Raid when I played: Vault of Glass. It was insanely hard and I could never beat it. Finding people to connect with in a Fireteam before trying to tackle it was also an effort in futility. Even when I would have a good team, we’d lose and eventually one guy would quit and, like the Strikes, we’d be unable to progress with just the two of us.
The gear dropped in the Raids are superior to what you’d find in a Strike. However, it was so hard to find anything and you got so little reward for your hard work that the costs didn’t match the benefit. I think I once got a Mote of Light, but beyond that I never got any good gear.
And explain to me how Bungie could design matchmaking for both the Crucible and Strike game types, but NOT the Raids? I’ve heard they’re fixing this (or have fixed it) but it should have been an option day-one.
I wish there had been more character development, more advancing of the plot, and more characters in general.
To be honest, I had a lot of fun with Destiny. It was enjoyable and I fell in love with the setting and universe. However, a setting without a plot is a sad and lifeless thing, and Destiny fits that perfectly. I wish there had been more character development, more advancing of the plot, and more characters in general. In total, you interact with four or five characters in cutscenes (if that) and ultimately their stories are unimportant.
I don’t like giving review scores, because I don’t believe a score can properly encapsulate an entire opinion about a game. I will say this: if you like science fiction world-building, this game does that very well. If you like coherent storytelling, this game does that poorly. Finally, if you like quick-paced multiplayer with unique abilities, Destiny does that well.
Frank Trascritti – Twitter @frankgamershow
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