Destiny is Bungie’s first game release since their split from Microsoft during which they handed the reigns of Halo over to 343 Studios. It has been hyped for over a year to the point where at least two co-workers from my team took launch week off. It released earlier this month on September 9th, and after playing it for a few weeks I feel I’ve gotten an idea for the kind of game it is.
Destiny has tried to carve itself out a new genre by taking aspects of FPS games like Halo, and the leveling, gear, and grinding aspects of an MMO. Of course Borderlands has already been doing this for years, but Destiny promised to be more social than Borderlands in it’s approach, and to some extent that is true. They have given players a central “Tower” to pick up missions and turn them in, as well as view vendors. However the game offers no text chat like a standard MMO, and even more surprisingly voice chat is only available with people in your own Fireteam. This seams surprising since Bungie was the company that invented proximity chat with Halo 2 and it would have been quite advantageous here.
In addition to the Tower, the missions down on planets are in a open world so you can come across players fairly frequently. The planets are heavily instanced so as to keep each area from being flooded with people, and they seem to limit it to around 10 or so people. However, given the fact that we have no way of communicating as I said above, other people are only ever an annoyance since I view them as somebody trying to steal kills, harvest resources, or take treasure chests before I get to them.
Visually the game doesn’t really look like something I would call “next gen.” The graphics seem a little better than Halo 4 which launched for the 360. This may be in part due to the fact that the game was released for the Xbox 360 and PS3 in addition to the next gen consoles. They opted to keep them all identical rather than to have improved graphics on the newer consoles, despite the fact that none of the players can interact with somebody on a different console. The actual worlds are very interesting to see and explore the first time, but as so often happens with Bungie games, it’s only a matter of time before I’m into an alien ship or structure with plain grey corridors that go on and on. Additionally if you couldn’t see the HUD, one might not be able to tell if you were looking at Destiny or Halo. The similarities are quite extensive. It seems odd that the developers always talked about moving away from Halo to do something else, and then just did the same thing with a new name.
The worlds themselves seem large at first, but after some time you being to realize that each world is actually fairly small. You could go from one end to the other in just a few minutes, and so far we only have Earth, the Moon, Venus, and Mars to explore. Given that you can go from level 1 to the soft cap of 20 in less than 10 hours means you will fly right through all these locations and then find yourself at end game with little else to do but grind gear to increase your “Light Level”. As I said 20 is the soft cap, but you can increase your level additionally by equipping better gear. The “Light Level” as it is called has a hard cap of 30. The real problem is the space between 20-26. All the “Strikes” (3 player dungeon instances) have a blue drop at the end, but even in all blues at level 20 you might make it to 23ish. The only guaranteed purple drops to get you past this point are from a Nitefall strike that is level 28, and the only raid the “Vault of Glass” that has a level 26 requirement. That means you are left to either get lucky and get some drops (I never did), or get your reputation up high enough to buy purples from your Vanguard vendor.
The absolute worst part about hoping on drops however is that when you get a purple engram to take to a vendor to see what you’ve got, there’s an 80% chance that the purple engram will turn into a blue item, and a 20% chance it will be purple. However if it is purple, there is no guarantee it will be for your job. As evidenced by the only two purples I obtained through drops, my Warlock helmet, and Titan gloves (I play a Hunter).
Bungie has been harped on since the first few days of release about this forced grind, and it seems that they have finally taken notice. They have added guaranteed purple rewards to the level 24 strikes, and they have modified the Cryptarch so that purple engrams always give you purple items for your class, with a small chance of it being a yellow for any class. This does little for my Hunter at this point as I’ve slotted all his gear with purple, but it may help if I decided to level another job.
One of the biggest drawbacks so far about end game is that the harder content, the Nitefall Strikes and raid, are not available through the games party finder. You need to know other people to play it with. There are 3rd party websites out there dedicated to matching you up with other players to do this, but I haven’t felt my gear was good enough yet to throw myself in with other people I don’t know. The majority of this lack of people problem is the fact that Ken decided that he was going to play on the PS4, and Matt and Aaron agreed. While they play there, Sam and myself play on the Xbox One. Getting a group of friends organized with multiple schedules and all on the same console has been frustrating to say the least. Thankfully James from work finally bought an Xbox One and quickly leveled to 20, so I’ve been playing some with him as well, so Nitefall Strikes may not be too far away. Raids however will not be feasible without those third party sites, and even Ken on the PS4 is forced into the same situation as they have only 3 people as well.
The problems above makes me quite annoyed that Bungie didn’t make an effort to try and make the servers all shared across platforms. Keeping them all separate is unheard of for MMOs, but as Bungie likes to remind us, this isn’t an MMO, it just feels a lot like one.
All that being said, I did actually enjoy the game. I’ve managed to get to level 27 on my Hunter and I usually have a good time doing strikes and bounties with Sam, James, or sometimes Ken when Sam decides he has better places to be. Looking at reviews around the internet it looks like a lot of people walked away a little disappointing, which given how much hype the game had isn’t very surprising. No game can live up to that kind of expectation. I’ll keep with it for as long as I have some people to play with, or until Assassins Creed released in November, whichever comes first.