Betrayed by Destiny
by Joel Fernandez
It all sounds so grand when you first hear about it. That the creators of the beloved Halo series decided to leave their storied past behind and start over with a game called Destiny. It was presented to the public as a hybrid between a FPS (first person shooter) and a free to play MMO (massive multi-player on-line). In theory, one could play Destiny exclusively all year long and never get bored. In a perfect world, that would be the case. But alas, we do not live in a perfect world. Today’s discussion will be about how the road to gaming hell was paved by Bungie’s “good intentions”.
Hypothetically speaking, the idea is a good one. You gather your friends and take on the game’s various challenges with the expressed purpose of collecting the best gear. To that end, you equip your best gear in order to raise your “light” level so that you can withstand the challenges that await in the six player raids. The raid is supposed to be the ultimate test of skill and teamwork. One that will, at times, test the limits of your so called friendships. When it works, Destiny’s premise is one that deserves praise. The problem is that more often than not, the game fails to deliver what it promised.
Let’s start with the player versus environment aspect. The idea is to raise your power(light) level by equipping the best armor and guns. The higher your “light” level, the more damage you can inflict on and withstand from enemies. By doing so, you increase your chances of succeeding in the advanced difficulty levels. It all sounds well and good. But at some point, it all goes wrong. The game basically forces players to depend on other players in order to get the most out of the game. It’s fine if your friends from your real life play with you. But virtual friendships that are based on gaming are, at best, fleeting.
More often than not, Destiny groups are categorized in two ways. A group is either a bunch of try-hards or a bunch of casuals. Playing with the try-hards means that you could easily meet your weekly quota at midnight during the weekly reset. The downside is that try-hards are a bunch of elitist jerks. If you don’t mind the toxicity, the try-hard clique is for you. Playing with the casuals means that completing a raid could take all day. That’s if the group can finish at all. Perhaps that is why over 50% of Destiny players did not complete a raid during the first iteration of the game.
If a player does not have a set group of “Destiny friends”, the process of finding a raid group gets even more complicated. The first Destiny game did not have matchmaking for the raids at all. Which meant that one would have to turn to a third party website like LFG(looking for group) so as to find enough players to complete the raid. Even though Destiny 2 included matchmaking, it’s hard to imagine the process of playing with “randoms” playing out any differently. Either lightning strikes and your group succeeds in a reasonable amount of time. Or the group falls apart and the matchmaking process has to start all over. Worst case scenario, you find yourself scrambling to find capable team in order to meet your weekly activity quota at an ungodly hour of the night.
Is that what it has come to? Either settling for mediocrity or bowing to a group of unelected, elitist bureaucrats in order to assimilate into the Destiny galaxy. Once upon a time, FPS games could be played either alone or in PvP. Which brings us to the next part of the discussion, Destiny PvP. Fortunately, the player versus player aspect of Destiny does not necessarily force anyone to interact with other players. If only Bungie could just leave well enough alone. They are in the habit of either “nerfing” or “buffing” weapons depending on how many players complain about getting killed by them. Which means that your favorite favorite hand cannon will most likely be watered down to suit the taste of inferior players that can’t cope with the idea of being shot in PvP. Effectively allowing the weak to set the pace for everyone, Bungie seems to revel in the opportunity to play God.
And then there is the ever controversial practice of integrating micro-transactions into Destiny’s economy. In the first iteration of Destiny, micro-transactions were for purely cosmetic differences. They seemed to continue that trend for Destiny 2, but then it was revealed that they expanded on the concept by limiting “shaders” for one time use. Shaders are how Destiny players can customize the color of their gear. Without one, each piece of armor has its own color pattern and the “guardian” runs around looking like they threw their gear together at a local junkyard. The only way to get the desired shader is to either get a random loot drop after completing an activity, or paying for them. It might not seem like much, but this slight encroachment is indicative of Bungie’s increasing desire to capitalize on player vanity. Chances are they will rescind their one-time shader policy and go back to the micro-transaction drawing board so as to find a new way to exploit their player base.
At the end of the day, the Destiny game is gaming’s version of a pipe dream. The premise is that if you commit to a repetitive schedule with your on-line acquaintances, you can level up so that you can take on repetitive tasks at a noticeably higher difficulty level. But to what end? If the goal is to complete the raid and you do so until you max out your “light” level, what is the point of playing any further? The name Destiny implies an epic story with galactic implications. Bungie planned to make up for the anticlimactically bland 3 year story of the first game with a grand adventure that is worthy of being called Destiny 2. But perhaps it’s too little, too late. Maybe Bungie will eventually realize that the Halo series was the peak of their careers and that Destiny is a poor substitute. Either that or they will continue to attract players who don’t have better games to spend their money on. Only time will tell.
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