Review in Progress Part 1
Earlier this week Destiny officially released to tremendous commercial success. Lauded by Activision Blizzard as the biggest franchise launch yet in video game history, it achieved $500 million shipped on day one. These sales are to retailers and digital distributors not to the end users but it is pretty safe to bet at this point that Destiny is on a fast track to be Activision’s third billion dollar franchise joining Call of Duty and Skylanders.
Setting aside Destiny’s commercial success I’m going to share with you my journey from Earth to the Moon and beyond over the coming weeks. This week I really struggled to enjoy my time with Destiny which is absolutely something I did not see coming. After the hours I sunk into the game in Beta I assumed it would be a no brainer that I would dive right in and be on the moon in no time. Such was not the case. But to be honest I might be partially to blame suffering from a little self-induced Beta fatigue.
I spent a lot of time in Beta leveling a Hunter and Titan to level 8 and then taking a Warlock to 6. I participated in a lot of PvP too. I played through the entire Earth campaign three times. Because of this my fourth time through has been less than compelling. Old Russia is great, it’s a wonderfully designed post-apocalyptic wasteland with remnants of a better time scattered through out. It’s full of nooks and crannies that you can explore and find out just how deep that rabbit hole goes. Typically they lead to Fallen, nefarious space pirates scavenging the planet Earth, who are substantially higher level than you and will quickly turn you into minced meat. Points of interest off the beaten path like this give a reason to come back to the earlier zones once you hit those higher levels and Russia would normally just turn into a fond memory.
Predominantly I spend my time playing MMORPGs (shocking huh?). Destiny has done a masterful job of actually grabbing my attention and making me care about a game that would not normally be on my radar. The game appears to be inclusive enough to garner the attention of MMO players and I devoted an entire column previously on how Destiny can be considered an MMO. Because Destiny is such a multiplayer focused game it really highlights some of the deficiencies the game has in regards to its social systems. While Destiny is easy to play with people you already have on your friends list it can be difficult to play with strangers. Your friends can drop in and out of your fireteam and when they do you can voice chat. However in Strike Missions (dungeons) and PvP when the game uses matchmaking that voice communication is missing.
You can work around it in PvE by having the fireteam go into orbit and go back to the missions but that takes time and is ridiculously cumbersome. While some people might look at this as a welcome omission, not having to potentially hear the ravings of lunatics halfway around the world, others would still like to be able to talk to the players they are supposed to be working with. A fix for both would be to be able to mute people you don’t want to hear. There is also no area chat. This is a feature that PlanetSide 2 has done very well. Voice communications based on proximity. Again this doesn’t have to be a feature that Destiny forces on their players but it looks like a value-added system that should have been implemented in the game when everyone that is playing on the PS4 already has a microphone and headset. Another social feature to which most MMO players are accustomed is guilds. Destiny does have their own version of guilds known as clans but the creation of clans cannot be done in game. It requires you to access Bungie’s website to administer and communicate to your members and followers. While Destiny does have a very interesting app available on iOS and Android that allows you to manage your character it has some issues when it comes to communication. Bottom line is if Bungie really wants to focus on replayability and multiplayer the game could stand to have some quality of life upgrades in the communications department. The social usability aspects of Destiny are some of the most suspect we’ve ever seen in a game that’s focused on multiplayer.
Another game that I find my self drawing comparisons of Destiny to is Diablo but to be fair it would work comparing Destiny to most ARPGs. Diablo is just the most recent I have spent a lot of time playing. So far it appears that Destiny has a heavy emphasis on character development through skills and loot collection. Much like Diablo. While I haven’t experienced this yet I have also seen players completing the main story line before they reach level 20 and they managed to do this in less than a day, which leaves me concerned over the length of the game. At this point players are chasing the carrot of better gear and earning their skills on their subclass. The big question is will this be enough to keep players interested? While it definitely does so in the ARPG genre will it be enough in a persistent online first person shooter? Since I’m just now reaching the moon I may be putting the cart before the horse.
Hopefully with breaking new ground on the moon my interest will springboard back to full tilt and I’ll quickly find out what the endgame is really like. Hopefully next week I’ll have some pleasant things to say about Mars and Venus as well as some new level 22+ weeklies that Bungie has said will start up next week. If you are playing the game on PS4 feel free to add me on PSN at Grakulen. Also let me know about your experiences so far in the comments below. I’m anxious to find out what our community thinks of this sort-of MMO.
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