Destiny rolling review

Posted: September 15, 2014 by ryanlecocq in Reviews

Destiny1

Here we are again, another game that has so much content that I can’t finish it in a few days (not even without sleep like Dark Souls 2).  So the rolling review is back with a vengeance.  To refresh your memory, a rolling review is where I check in several times while playing, giving my opinions at the time.  This way at the end, you can see how it was playing through, rather than just getting my final word with whatever taste the game left in my mouth at the end.  So here we go, it’s Destiny.  The $500,000,000 game that carries the hopes and dreams of us all.  Unless you only play sports games, in which case stop reading my blog.

Part 1:  The honeymoon.

About 6 years ago, Gearbox promised me a little game called Borderlands.  This game was supposed to feature the perfect combination of randomized and persistent gameplay.  It was supposed to change every encounter each time you played, for unlimited replayability.  It was supposed to have a hard Sci-Fi plot that would satisfy all of us nerds.  I’m not saying Borderlands was shit, but it definitely wasn’t any of those things that good ol’ Randy promised us in 2008.  Finally that game has released, courtesy of Bungie and it is called Destiny.

Destiny is finally that game that blends the best things about MMOs and Shooters in a way that is smooth and smart.  It’s not just a shooter with loot like Borderlands, or an MMO with passable shooting like Defiance.  It’s a real, original blend of two genres that have yet to fully meet.  The greatest thing about Destiny from a design standpoint is how it makes you feel like you’re playing an MMO, while staying within the strictures of normal XBL/PSN matchmaking.

You see this is what Bungie means about a “shared world shooter”.  It’s not really massively multiplayer, yet it feels like it by making each player a roving instance that absorbs and drops others seamlessly based on proximity.  That may be a little hard to grasp if you haven’t played it.  Think of each of our games like amoebas.  When my amoeba gets close to your amoeba, they can combine into one bigger amoeba.  As soon as the different parts want to go different directions, we can split into many more.  Okay maybe that wasn’t simpler.  Basically the game just constantly pairs you with other nearby players without zones, so it feels like you are playing with thousands, when in fact you are never connected to more than 12-16 other players.  A brilliant innovation in matchmaking for consoles that I would go on about all day, but I’m sure people would like to hear about gameplay.

My first 5 days of Destiny were great.  Even though somehow everyone on my friends list went broke at once and didn’t get it, I had fun with strangers and kicked some invading alien ass.  I’m playing on the ‘older than my nieces and nephews’ Xbox 360 and Destiny is still a damn fine looking and playing game.  The controls are tight, the shooting and movement have impact and weight.  The sound design is fantastic.  So basically, it’s a Bungie game.  What amazes me is how well Bungie does Guild Wars.  By that I mean I’m a little surprised to see all of the community and server elements up and running smoothly at launch.  On the 9th I booted up my game, installed and started kicking ass.  No hassles, no nonsense.

Then this morning I got a magical text letting me know that Brice would be joining the ranks of the guardians.  We only got an hour in, but those E.T. mofos felt the serious hurt of being shot by a pair of pros with proper voice comms.  We’re picking up where we left off tonight, so stay tuned for part 2.

EDIT: One caveat

I almost forgot to mention one thing that does really bother me about this game.  When you first arrive on the moon and later Mars, you will immediately notice a problem if you have ever taken a science class.  Bungie seems to have forgotten how gravity works, as being on any of the planets in our solar system feels exactly the same.  The game doesn’t even bother to give a half assed ‘moon boots’ explanation (which would still not explain other objects and vehicle inertia).  I know this is a little nitpicky, but what a blunder and lost opportunity!  I won’t even start on my issues with sound in space in fiction, but this is pretty hard for any science buff to ignore.  How awesome would it be if different raids and pvp matches had different gravity?  A match taking place on the moon or in the asteroid belt would require you to be careful you don’t launch yourself off the map.  It’s not too late Bungie, fix this blunder and LET ME MOONJUMP!

Part 2:  The Mercenaries united.

Finally, a week after launch, people I know are getting online.  Now I can get a fireteam together and really get the most out of Destiny’s content.  I found it a little funny that some people have put 50-60 hours into this game already and are complaining that they’ve run out of content.  The first raid being released seems to have quieted them a bit, but the gaming 1% who can afford to not move for a week have already made their complaints quite vocal.  Personally I’m finding that there is enough Destiny to fill as much time as I can make for it.  I also enjoy just exploring and completing challenges and don’t get the “lifeless” feel that some have complained about.

I have now encountered a couple of times where I was booted from the server and had to resume from the last checkpoint.  It was annoying, but I barely had to replay any content, so once again I don’t get the rage about it.  All in all, Destiny still feels polished and fun a week in, at about 25 hours played.

The biggest thing I can say about Destiny is how much better it is with friends.  I mean friends as in people you actually know, as the public communication is still nonexistent.  Having two of your buddies with you is a priceless experience that will fill hours of your time.  Every random cave can turn into a hilarious moment and each sparrow trip can become a stunt challenge.  Even doing the most boring possible activities will lead to fun with 3 players on voice chat.

I’m still working my way through the campaign, so stay tuned to see if I burn out after hitting level 30.

Part 3:  FUCK!

Please excuse my French, but that’s exactly what I said when my 7th Xbox 360 red ringed at the same moment that we finally got 6 people online.  In fact it was the very moment that the two newest members of our growing clan hit the server that green lines covered my screen and my 360 took a crap.  So I promptly took it apart and did a basic red ring fix, no love.  It’s possible that I could have tried to reflow it again and had luck, but I was about ready to shoot it full of .357 mag and never buy another Microsoft product at this point.

Just as I have the last 6 times though, I broke down and did the minimal effort to get another one.  Brice gave me his last one with a bad laser and I combined the two.  Flashing the drive with a new firmware to make it compatible tonight (Xbox DVD drives are mated to their system) and I should see you G’s (as in guardians) later.  Further update soon.

Part 4:  Back in the Saddle Again

I constructed the Xbox, got back online by 11pm last night.  Got to check out this “treasure cave” everyone’s been talking about all weekend.  My conclusion is you have to be pretty damn lazy to prefer this to the game’s content.  I grant that it’s a pretty good exploit, but the purpose of playing games is to actually play games.  I guess all of us here at BE are atypical to average gamers, because we are all loving the normal gameplay of Destiny.  I’m still not bored of the content, even now that I’m at max character level and can only advance through grinding for gear.

It should take another day or two to get 6 of us above level 26 to do the raid.  I’m planning on putting most of the weekend into it and putting my final statements on the review afterwards.

Part 5:  Conclusion

Now I see the grinding.  It’s not that Destiny doesn’t give you a great value from the initial 1-20 content, or even that there isn’t enough end-game content.  It’s more that all of the end-game content requires a ton of tedium.  It’s almost impossible to do anything worthwhile by yourself at high levels, so this makes your experience dependent on having allies.  The problem with this is that when you are paired publicly you have to depend on other players.  The amount of players who either don’t use voice chat, don’t follow the objectives or just plain suck at video games makes this a risky proposition.  For raids you actually have to invite people you know and play through the entire thing with the same group.  It can take an entire day to finish (though you can do it in parts over a ten day time period), so this is a huge commitment for any player.  All of this together adds up to you doing a lot of easy content by yourself as you wait for people to log on, or the equally tedious route of passing time by getting in random strikes that you may not finish because people are stupid.

So basically the progression of playing Destiny is this:  Whee!  Yay!  Glee! for 50 hours, then frustration for about half again as long just to get to a high enough level to do endgame content.  Almost a month after release I am still not at max level and haven’t completed the raid, though I’ve put in as much time as I would any online game I am actively playing.  So it’s not a terrible progression, as most MMOs (including WoW) suffer this at launch.  It’s just hard to take because I think this type of game is way overdue.  We’ve been waiting for a game like this ever since someone suggested an MMO you could play with a controller.  Now that we finally have an excellent online RPS, we just want to crack out on it.  Unfortunately the flow of joy to your brain is suddenly slowed after the initial playthrough of the main content and that is frustrating.  I guess what I’m saying is that Destiny’s biggest flaw is being too compelling for its’ content.  I want to play it more than it wants to be played.  That’s just not something I usually ever say about a game.

Definitely a milestone title that will suck many hours from me in the future, but for now I have shiny new copies of Alien Isolation and Shadow of Mordor to play and I’m closing the book on this review.

9/10

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