In a column last month, I took a look at the potential for good gameplay to trump other outdated systems and keep us hooked on otherwise mediocre games. The example I used was Destiny, which has a solid core shooter experience but is relatively uninteresting in the story, content, and loot departments. I’ve been playing more of Bungie’s pseudo-MMOFPS, and suffice it to say that even its fun twitch gameplay is starting to wear thin amidst the tired scifi tropes that pepper the game’s meager storyline and the repetitive approach to content.
Ordinarily, I’d be prone to make recommendations for what a developer can do to make the next installment in a game series better than the original. In the case of Destiny, however, it seems that Bungie is banking on a longer, MMO-style life cycle, with updates such as The Dark Below intending to keep players coming back instead of looking forward to a Destiny 2. This model poses some issues for the sweeping changes that I think would need to be made for Destiny to achieve its potential as a current-generation MMOFPS. Bungie would effectively need to overhaul the way the game currently works while creating new content and making sure it all balances out, rather than just putting their effort towards creating a new title.
In any case, here are three things Destiny can do to improve its gameplay experience.
Build Out Content to Avoid Repetition
There’s no getting around it: Destiny is grindy. The current mission setup requires you to return ad nauseam to the same locations to either push the story forward, go on patrols, or repeat content to attain loot and XP. Granted, those locations are gloriously conceived and very pretty to look at, but there’s a feeling of frustration when you’ve returned to the same starting point on the same planet for the umpteenth time that is only marginally ameliorated by the game’s nice environments. It also doesn’t help that the story content isn’t all that interesting, and plays upon every science fiction trope that we’ve seen in games and movies for years.
Upcoming raids like Crota’s End will go some way towards appeasing endgame players, and it’s likely that there will be more high-level single player content coming down the line as well. Still, it would do Bungie very well to add more early game content and reconfigure the way that missions are handled so that you’re not forced to repeat everything so much. It would be difficult to shoehorn that new content into the already established main quest path, but a method for alternate advancement would be welcome. At best, that could mean a new planet to muck around in, or some type of instanced skirmish system that would allow you to dip into new scenarios while you grind through the main quest.
Make Loot Matter
When Destiny first came out, there were some comparisons to the Borderands series in the way that questing and loot are handled, but the itemization in Gearbox’s FPS is way more compelling than that in Destiny. In Borderlands, the modularity of weapons makes finding them exciting even if they’re not particularly useful for your character, whereas in Destiny, there’s never quite the feeling that the next thing you’ll pick up will be worth your attention. This phenomenon may be due to the paucity of loot altogether, but if I’m to buy into a loot grind in the first place, I’m going to need more incentive than what’s currently on offer, which is basically nothing.
Some work has been done on Exotics in Update 1.1 and Legendaries will be getting the nod with The Dark Below, but loot and itemization still need more work to be on par with Destiny’s competitors. Like a lot of things in the game, it just feels a little unformulated and uncompelling. It’s hard to say if Destiny just needs more loot in general, more variation, or more weight given to the items that you can find, but a mix of the three could go a long way towards ameliorating itemization.
It seems like to do anything in Destiny, you have to first run a gamut of holding down buttons and waiting through loading screens. The game runs well enough when you’re actually in an area, but getting from one region to another is unnecessarily encumbered by having to go to orbit, which in turn exacerbates the loading screen issue. Why can’t I just port directly to my next mission from the Tower? Or from a patrol to the Crucible? And why, for the love of all that is streamlined, does the game insist on dumping me out of a completed mission after 30 seconds, without allowing me to have a look around or go to my next quest area? What am I going to do, steal utensils from the Hive pantry?
This issue has a relatively simple solution: permit me to access the world map from anywhere, even if there are selective gameplay-related restrictions to when or where I can fast travel. Allow me to stick around in completed missions at least long enough to choose my next destination, rather than forcing me to go back to orbit and essentially adding another unnecessary step to the grind. An alternative option would be to optimize the game further and cut down on the really long load times, making the unwieldy orbit process a bit of a non-issue, but this seems like it would be a lot more work than just empowering me to travel the planets as I please.
I do think that a lot of these issues are more of lessons that can be learned for Destiny 2 or whatever is Bungie’s next venture, but as it looks that they are committed to sticking with this first installment for the long haul, some steps towards these three changes could really enhance the game’s overall fun factor and replayability. What about you? What do you think Destiny can do to improve?