Will Destiny’s downfall contribute to the Death of Video Games? Let’s find out.
First off, let’s address something that really disappointed me; the story. Regardless of what you might think of the Halo games, it’s hard to deny that it’s story has had a lasting appeal, leading to multiple sequel and prequel games, multiple novels within an expanded universe, an upcoming TV series and a proposed movie from none other than District 9 director Neil Blomkamp. Halo has some of the strongest lore and world building of recent video game history, with great FPS mechanics to back it all up. So, when Bungie were left to their own devices to make a new universe to fill with lore, characters and story, what did they do? Fucking none of that.
My thought though is that Bungie just thought “Fuck it, they’ll buy the game anyway. And I’ll bet they’ll be dumb enough to spend the value of the game again for two packs of DLC!”. And they were right. Destiny was one of the biggest financial successes of 2014, raking in $500 million to retail stores and first-parties worldwide. Presumably, people bought in expecting a sci-fi saga comparable, if not better, than the one we got in Halo. Sadly, the lore of the world of Destiny is literally homework.
Want to know who anybody is in Destiny? Think the game will tell you? Think again! Bungie put all of it’s world building for Destiny into something called ‘Grimoire Cards’. These are cards that you collect throughout the game when you beat challenges, enemies and bosses which reveal more about the people, legends and items that make up the world of Destiny. And none of it ever appears in the game. Not once. You’ll be playing through the game and suddenly a character will name-drop a bloke called Toland. Who the fuck is Toland? Everybody seems to know who this Toland fucker is except me. Will somebody please tell me who the shit Toland is?! Fact is, you COULD read the lore if you wanted to. But that requires you to step away from the game, fire up a computer, create a Bungie ID, log into that ID, navigate to your Destiny character, into the Grimoire database, into the category that has the card about Toland, read that card and then WONDER WHY THE FUCK THAT WAS NEVER IN THE GAME IN THE FIRST PLACE.
So to summarise: Story and world building: Shockingly bad.
Next, the loot. Oh boy.
Destiny uses a randomised loot drop system, which sounds amazing because it sounds like Borderlands. It isn't. Whereas Borderlands had guns with randomised parts, manufacturers and battle effects which affected a guns stats that you would find every 5 minutes to keep pushing you forward and your cash flow stocked up, Destiny has a small pool of pre-determined guns which has fluctuating stats that you get at the end of every level because fuck you. Loot was Destiny’s problem from day one, with people searching for ways to get better loot from the get go.
In Destiny’s loot drop system, a random level 2 weak enemy has the exact same chance to drop a rare weapon or armour piece as a level 32 hard mode boss. Similarly, it was possible to get an absolutely dogshit gun after fighting a hard motherfucker for 5 hours straight and equally possible to get one of the rarest guns in the game by simply logging on a shooting a few dude in the face. These are mechanics that still have not been fixed to this day. In fact, you can run the absolute hardest level in the game and get a shitty resource, whilst your friend in the same game can get an overpowered gun or the strongest armour in the game with no real reason for the reward difference. That makes no sense, right? Correct. Did that stop Bungie putting it in? Absolutely fucking not.
Oh, and quickly, for those keeping score, that means that the reward mechanics in this game are fucking horseshit
Let’s talk about the Loot itself, specifically in the post-‘main story’. As you’re completing the ‘story’ of Destiny, you’ll go through your first 20 levels on your character and earn progressively tougher weapons and armour (Assuming the loot system works as advertised, which it rarely does). But then something weird happens. You've for a ton of higher level missions to do and you’re getting instantly killed by looking at the environment wrong. You need to be higher levelled, but it’s impossible to do so through actually playing the game and becoming good at it.
This is where players started to notice how barren and empty the game actually is once you take the grind out of it. Because you’re busy most of the time working toward trying to get a certain armour piece, you notice that you’ve been killing the same big bad for the past week. It’s a clever veil that Bungie has put up because the game is so blindingly short. And it’s THE SINGLE most expensive game ever produced. It looks pretty sure, but it has less levels than the first island of the original Crash Bandicoot. And that came out in 1997. And was made on 1/500th of the budget of Destiny. And it had like four fucking islands and almost four times as many maps as Destiny. There was no fucking excuse!
During the early weeks of the game, there were several occasions where players found endgame exploits, loot exploits or broken mechanics to further themselves in the game. These instances continue even to today, and Bungie has been relentlessly finding as many of these exploits as possible and patching them out. Now, bear in mind that the hardest levels in the game can still easily wipe the floor with a character that you have got excellent armour and weapons for. Added to that are raids that have puzzle or battle mechanics that can actually screw over your entire game for no particularly good reason. Bungie put the loot that was promised to us behind some of the biggest obstacles the game has, most of which are poor design choices and broken mechanics, and players find their way around them with a great deal of ingenuity.
Add to that the bullshit that is shit like Xur; a vendor in the tower who apparently sells random exotic loot, who has consistently sold the same low levelled gear and removed his heavy ammo refill packs, just so people have to grind to get money for ammo and then grind again to get anywhere near the endgame material.
And do you want to know the worst part? I’m still playing.
The gunplay is standard Bungie fare, meaning it controls beautifully, and it is so satisfying to cap things in the head, blow up tons of dudes with fiery homing missiles and take out tough enemies with a sticky grenade. It’s just fun. Not much else to say on that part, it’s just a nice feeling shooter, if you take away all the levelling and grinding bullshit.
And this is one of the very few games where I have interacted with players from around the globe and formed international connections and friendships with people I wouldn't have normally had the opportunity to do so with. Our clan currently features players from across the UK and the US, yet we act like we've known each other forever. The comradery is astounding. It’s properly put my faith back into connecting with other players online and it’s amazingly refreshing to have this kind of friendly interaction with previously unknown players. And you’re all facing the same annoyances and triumphing against the same stacked odds. In a way, that is the real reason to keep playing.
Is Destiny a contributor the Death of Video Games? Maybe, but I’ll keep playing. Because my fellow Guardians need me.