Whether or not you enjoy Destiny, a game about getting hyped for events before they are inevitably cancelled, it is generally accepted that Destiny has some of the best combat mechanics of any modern console shooter. In my case, these combat mechanics are a little too good.
Destiny launched on September 9, 2014. It was severely lacking in content, but the shooting was impressive. The leveling system was wack, but the shooting was really satisfying. The lack of matchmaking was mind-boggling, but the shooting felt so damn good! Game critics everywhere were pulling out their hair trying to score a game that was both incredibly polished and incredibly flawed at the same time. I didn’t read many reviews because I was too busy teaming up with my wife and friends in the most satisfying shooter I had ever played. I was having so much fun that I completely forgot about the other FPS games sitting patiently on my shelf.
Before Destiny launched, I was highly invested in Borderlands 2 (a bit late, I know) and Battlefield 4, while still managing to fit in some Call of Duty here and there. After a month of playing Destiny, I decided to fire up some Borderlands 2 DLC. Something felt really off with the shooting. I put hundreds of hours into Borderlands 2, and I couldn’t play it for longer than about 20 minutes before I had to stop. I sat there for several minutes trying to figure out what was wrong but came up empty. I launched Battlefield 4. It felt better, but there was still something missing.
Suddenly, it dawned on me.
“These games don’t feel like Destiny. But why should they feel like Destiny? I’ve been playing console FPS games since GoldenEye, and all of them have a slightly different feel. Feeling different never stopped me from playing a variety of shooters for over two-thirds of my life. Why stop now?”
Like a certain R. Kelly song, my mind and body were caught in an epic internal struggle. Like the same R. Kelly song, my body won. Thus Destiny, and apparently R. Kelly, ruined two of my favorite FPS games over 18 months ago.
So what is it about Destiny that makes the combat so satisfying? That is a much more difficult question than it seems. It’s not some unique feature or a ground-breaking control scheme, and it’s not that Destiny has dramatically different weapons compared to other console shooters. The best way I can describe it is a feeling of control. In most console shooters I don’t feel like I have complete control over my actions, whether it’s aiming, moving, or using other abilities.
When I talk about feeling “in control,” I’m not speaking to input lag or even inevitable lag from multiplayer matches. Even in PvE play, there’s always a very slight disconnect between the actions I want to complete and the actions that appear in the game. I’m aware that this is a unique issue with console shooters, as the one-to-one motions of mouse and keyboard controls don’t normally have this problem. That said, if I enjoyed clicking a mouse to shoot things after a long day of clicking a mouse at work, this article wouldn’t exist!
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of FPS games that get very close to that feeling of 100% control. Borderlands 2 and the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises are all games that feel really damn good. All of those games shoot very close to the middle of the player-control bullseye, but Destiny slams dead into the center.
It just feels so... right.
A few months ago my wife and I decided to take a break from Destiny to make more time for other games. More importantly, I looked forward to being able to enjoy other FPS games at some point in my life, and this break seemed like a good plan to allow this to happen. I was wrong. All I could think about while playing other shooting games was the fact that they weren’t Destiny. The 600+ hours of shooting things in Destiny would not set me free me to enjoy other shooters.
Destiny is the girl or guy you broke up with that ruins future relationships before they have a chance to start. No matter how hard you try, that person pops into your head at the most inopportune times. You want to appreciate your new partner for who they are, but you constantly find yourself comparing them to the one that got away.
But wait! The man or woman of your dreams just strolled into the room! They’ve got a great personality, are super smart, have a rockin’ bod, and most importantly, are as in love with gaming as you are. They’ve got style. They have good taste. Their name name is Overwatch, and... their parents are Blizzard? Perhaps I should end this analogy before things get too weird. To put it plainly, Overwatch is a big sexy game that should have helped me get over my obsession with Destiny, right?
When Blizzard introduced Overwatch to the gaming world, the buzz and excitement was palpable. That hype multiplied exponentially during the Overwatch beta, and has continued to grow after the launch. I played the Overwatch beta and was not surprised to find that the shooting mechanics felt off. It’s well known that console FPS games have an issue recreating the same fidelity that a mouse and keyboard offers, and for good reason. I expected Overwatch to feel different on consoles, but I didn’t expect it to feel bad.
Let me clear; I’m not saying Overwatch is bad on consoles. It’s not. In fact, from what I’ve been told, it’s quite good! However, when comparing it to Destiny, my brain automatically detected every flaw and difference in the combat system. This includes tiny differences that I can’t even begin to describe. Again, it just felt “off “when compared to Destiny.
After the beta I consistently heard games media personalities praising the console version of the game. I was surprised to hear this, so I decided to give the final version of the Overwatch a chance. I was (and am) still not sold on the hype surrounding another class-based shooting game, but I lasted a lot longer than 20 minutes, and that says something, right? After subsequent play sessions, I started acclimating to the different feel of the game. At about the 3-month mark of my Destiny break, I was finally able to enjoy a different FPS game, and I felt good about it.
Soon after my Overwatch redemption, Rise of Iron was announced. I decided to jump back into Destiny to see if I was interested enough to invest in a new expansion. The following is a close approximation of what happened next:
Me: “Oh man... this feels good. This feels really good. Hey babe, you should jump back on Destiny and join me!”
Wife (a few minutes later): “Wow, I forgot how good this game feels!”
Me: “I know! Why did we stop playing this game?”
Wife: “Didn’t you want to try other games like Overwatch?”
Me: “What’s an Overwatch?”
Wife: “Uh oh.”
Since that day, I made one concerted effort to play more Overwatch. I managed to make it through a single match. Blizzard’s beloved FPS has been collecting dust on my shelf ever since.
Destiny continues to ruin universally-lauded console FPS games for me 18 months from launch. I’m starting to get nervous, as there are some really great-looking shooters on the horizon that I would like to play. Will Destiny ruin those games as well? Only time will tell.
Destiny, I wish I could quit you.
(But not really because Destiny feels amazing and is still a blast to play with friends! :D)