What's Destiny's Destiny?
Launch day is here. You may even already be playing, or watching someone play, Bungie's new quasi-MMO shooter Destiny. I've been playing as much as I can since yesterday morning at 8am ET when the servers went live. To be clear, I originally pre-ordered the game via PSN, and only later found out I would be given a copy by Bungie for review/video/streaming purposes. And, though it's moot now, anyone with the physical copy since yesterday at 8am was able to play. So while today is technically launch day, Destiny's players have already been fighting in Russia, the Moon, and the Crucible for hours now.
Its production values are through the roof, it's gunplay is absolutely rock-solid, and there's a surprising amount of customization under the hood of this sort-of MMO. I say soft-of because while Destiny has a great deal of persistence, and while you will play with thousands of players across the globe, it's more like Guild Wars 1 in the way it pairs you with those players. There's a main city hub (The Tower) where you buy, sell, interact, upgrade, and take a breather. But then everything else is instanced off of that main hub. The game's rather complex matchmaking system will put you in explorable zones with a handful of others, but you're not going to see the starter zone of Destiny overrun with people looking to kill alien boars or spiders to finish their opening quests.
There is a main narrative story that drives you through the game worlds (from Old Russia to the Moon, to Venus, and beyond), as well as plenty of side missions and "Bounty Quests" that require other odd tasks of you. There are Strikes (dungeons), Battlegrounds (The Crucible), and even raids of 8 players as the current PVE elder game. But Destiny still has more in common with a Diablo than a World of Warcraft. The main campaign will probably take a few dozen hours, and then Destiny's shelf-life for players will depend on their desire to raise more characters, hunt for better gear, and take on whatever weekly challenges Bungie issues via the game. I'm more than likely going to rip through the current story, and wait for more content to funnel in via the DLC, because I just don't see much attraction in the elder game at this point. Repeating raids, strikes, and PVP matches just isn't my bad these days, but I'm betting the masses that love a solid Bungie shooter will be playing Destiny for months to come.
Don't get me wrong though, Destiny is an absolutely gorgeous and supremely fun shooter with RPG and MMO elements that hit all the right buttons to keep me playing. But the real wonder I have is just what comes next now that Bungie's big new IP is out on the market? How will the content grow and evolve over time with DLCs and updates? How massive will the matches and instances get? Will we see hundreds on hundreds in large scale PVP? Will the open Patrol zones eventually span all of Earth or just Old Russia? According to Bungie and Activision, this is just the beginning of a 10 year plan for Destiny, and one can only hope that the PC version is still a part of that plan. I love my PS4, but I would kill to have this on my PC too. The mouse and keyboard alone make me want it there.
That's another thing that MMO players will notice immediately about Destiny. Though there is a web and app "Clan" system, there doesn't seem to be anything in game to support that as of yet. You can group and team with nearby players and anyone on friends lists, but even doing that is a hassle because to invite them you actually are taken out of the game to invite them to the party. Social tools are pretty sparse in Destiny all around, as you can't trade or sell items to players either. In a lot of ways, though the game plays incredibly and draws you in immediately, it's plain to see that either A.) Bungie had to rush to get it complete or B.) they don't know quite how to do this whole persistently online game thing all that well. And given that they're part of the Blizzard team now, I'm willing to bet it's option A.
This is me... only not a lady.
Still, rough edges aside, I'm sure the media will continue to heap praise on Destiny. And it is deserving of a lot of praise. Maybe it's my MMO background, but I see a lot of little places where life in Destiny could have been made better. The aforementioned partying and clan woes, along with the constant "To Orbit" to go anywhere all just reeks of poor planning. I'd like to be able to call up my ghost, choose my next location, and go there. I don't first want to load to space, then pick a location, and then load there again. Any sense of cohesive world/universe goes out the window, when you're constantly looking at the spaceship orbit screen. It's gorgeous, but it's still just a halfway point between where I was and where I want to be.
It might sound like I'm being rough on this one. I don't mean to come off that way. Anyone who watched me stream yesterday knows I was having a blast. The moment to moment gameplay of Destiny is absolutely stellar. I just hope Bungie knows that this is just the beginning of the full service life of their magnum opus. The game's out there, it's fun as hell and people will buy millions of copies. Now get to work tweaking the systems, adding more features, and making more content. Because now that you've got all those millions new customers, all they're ever going to want is more, more, more. Present company included.
See you on the Moon, folks. Add me on PSN as BillMurphyMMORPG.