This might be the most unsupported assumption ever made, but I’m willing to bet that a lot of you reading this article either no longer own Destiny or have it buried under the recent avalanche of new releases, waiting for the bloodhounds of DLC to find and rescue it with an invigorating nip of new content.
For something touted as the beginning of a decade-long franchise by its publisher (Activision), Destiny appears to have forgotten that it was running a marathon and completely blown its load on the starting sprint. If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that there’s a direct relationship between the size of a games marketing budget and how little faith the developers have in the game’s ability to stand up on its own merits; Watch_Dogs being the prime example here. With $500 million being thrown to Bungie to play around with, I’d like to see how much was spent on the game and how much was spent on advertising.
The amount of advertising and their pre-launch prevalence on TV and YouTube seems to indicate that they were going after the mainstream gaming crowd; players of Call of Duty and Madden, rather than die-hard WoW or LoL players.
This, I think, was the games doom; they tried to have the best of both worlds and ended up with neither. The influences from Halo were not exactly subtle, which, in turn, kept a lot of people tied up in the PvP arena (basically, a prettier Halo with double-jump). Where it fell down, however, was in the grind.
Limited would be one way of describing it, repetitive to the point of insanity would be a more accurate description. I get that grind is the lifeblood of MMOs, but at least give your players some slight variation in it; patrols were all different ways of saying “go here and kill x amount of enemies” and the small number of strikes quickly became so familiar as to be broken.
And then there’s the raid, singular; which was honestly the most fun I had in the game. It was different, required co-operation and puzzle solving; or at least it did until we watched a play-through because we couldn’t figure out what the hell we were supposed to do. It was a brief, hopeful light of fun, peeking out from under the mediocrity of the grind. Not to mention that the high-level requirement locked out a lot of players who never got that high before being distracted by other releases.
The light system, required to level beyond the soft cap of 20, discouraged a lot of the more casual players and frustrated the core MMO crowd. Admittedly, the patched Cryptarch went a long way to fixing it; it’s hard to think of any singular NPC that was so hated by the internet, but getting the right gear is still comprised entirely on luck – just keep grinding out those murder caves before they’re patched out until you get a slightly better boot. There was none of the raw challenge or chaos chased by gamers, and even the raid has become quite easy to beat in under an hour by parties familiar with it.
Personally, I think Bungie waited too long to patch in content, and I think I smell the faint whiff of Activision in this decision. If, over the course of the few months after release they had released additional strikes and gear, preferably for free, or had shorter, more frequent, and perhaps more detailed events such as the queen’s wrath, they could have maintained interest until their next big DLC. Rather than their current situation where many people have simply lost interest and wandered back to more interesting universes. Which is another point; the story of Destiny has become almost a standing joke among gamers, and I cannot think of a less immersive storytelling tool than the grimoire cards.
There simply wasn’t enough gameplay or story to keep people interested for anything longer than a couple of months. Admittedly, those first couple of months were a lot of fun, and I still remember the excitement of getting my first piece of exotic gear. However, professions and crafting were kind of a missed opportunity, as well as trading between players or an auction house; in fact, social features were pretty much non-existent for the most part. Not having multiplayer matchmaking for either the strikes or raid was especially disappointing for some.
All of this comes together, at least in my mind, to form the picture of a game that was there to get in, make its money and then get out before anyone noticed that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. It was, at least, mechanically sound; there were none of the desperately unfinished features of games such as GTA V online or the more recent catastrophe of Assassins Creed: Unity.
Destiny was, for lack of a better term, destined to be so much more; an expansive universe built by the same people that designed the halo rings and given a functionally limitless budget.
Unfortunately, however, it feels as if it was run through the compromise machine a few too many times. High end, glossy graphics were pushed instead of solid gameplay, and the story was sacrificed for, actually, I don’t know what? Even an online game such as World of Warcraft has a relatively strong story-telling focus if you look hard enough.
It’s just one more reason to distrust the hype train; I was one of the poor saps that truly believed Destiny was going to be dominating the rest of the year, and for the first month after release, I thought I was right. Then the pre-Christmas rush of games hit, and before I knew it, there were three or four games stacked on top of it before I realised that I’d kind of forgotten about it.