So Destiny talk is kind of dying down. The game released to hype and, well, the core gun play feels great. But in a game that's been agonized over for as many years as Destiny was speculated to have been it also felt empty. Like the void of space we spent our loading screens cruising though. The final game had no real cinematic moment, no real story at all honestly. And while we can all say that the type of game Destiny ended up being really didn't need a story or even a lot of other things I think I have a decent list of games that Destiny clearly should of learned from.
OK, they couldn't really have seen this coming. None of us did. Diablo 3's team pulled the game out of a figurative tailspin to reinvigorate the community. A game that at one time, was the go to reference for the problems of always online games before Sim City's launch jumped back onto the big stage with a big patch and an expansion(more expansion talk later).
Diablo 3's success was that it concisely answered fan problems. They didn't hand-wave the issues off, but fundamentally reshaped the experience expected of playing the game to be about a fun experience for an hour or 2 at a time with a thoughtful long term strategy for gear. Itemization was really worked over and players now had clear goals for what to look out for in gear sets that could really change the way your toon played.
But getting to the gear wasn't so much the goal as part of the new way of playing the game. With the implementation of rifts and greater rifts there was a clear path to improving your gear centering on actually getting together with people to do a group dungeon crawl. Can you imagine that? People might buy a Diablo game expecting to spend a few hours goofing off with friends and killing a million skeletons but they also really enjoyed the rewarding looting experience that pays off in a unique build.
Destiny has a problem. Everyone looks the same. Everyone plays the same. There is only so much rewarding content, and gear is underwhelming at best. You don't feel like it changes the way you play so much as slightly augments it. Part of what rifts got right was adding to the challenge so you wanted better gear to take on new challenges and just see where it takes you. Destiny has a profound lack of itemization suited to this task partly because there are so few actual rewarding activities.
"Hey want to jump on Destiny?" -"Nah I already did my weekly and weekly heroic."
"What about the raid?" "I already got my raid gear. Why turn the only interesting content into a chore that will eventually reward me by making the only interesting content easier to beat? Besides anything else will eventually pop up over the weekend."
Well, you can't really argue with that figurative conversation I just made up.
There's something to say for coming back to a game. A few tweaks from patches and a few months of trying other games can remind you just how unique a game is. Skyrim was one of those games that everyone seemed to pour a ridiculous amount of time into. People still do. But the expansions actually took time to release. In the between time a number of patches released that fixed all sorts of things.
Obviously not everything this is Bethesda we're talking about.
But if you stopped playing the game for a while the moment you load up Skyrim, and the music plays, and you remember the loading screens with their text and portrait, and... oh shit dragons!
Skyrim was a game that clearly understood the design values that made the experience fun. The new content added big and little things that supported this essential feedback loop of exploration and creativity. Players are meant to stumble on to things, finding themselves randomly in a really amazing battle and the next right back picking alchemy ingredients or quietly killing off the entire population. But the rediscovery of what worked so well about the game in the first place was part of why those pieces of dlc worked. Though they did add replay value in many ways largely they could give you a strong experience that you had missed out on post-Skyrim.
And really many games know this. We've had very clear examples where games like Street Fighter have problems selling a new game because for one thing we knew they'd be coming out with a different version before too long and for another the next version would also follow a cycle of game ->DLC -> full game and DLC release for normal game cost.
Destiny fell into the same problem. The focus of the game is a bit too grindy to really give players time to breath. Whereas moving on from a game like Skyrim can be a natural move people who quit picking up Street Fighter games probably actually stayed away. Instead of having loads of content at launch Destiny sought after some quick season pass money. And while they got their money they also found themselves a diehard audience. An audience that had been playing the original raid every week since launch, who played the new raid every week from then on. They got bunt out, but the problem comes when Destiny might actually release some interesting new content in the future. Are these former hardcore players going to jump back in to the same weekly grind.
Borderlands had classes. They actually mattered. You were glad in BL2 to get a siren on your team that could res you from across the field, you were glad to see some gunzerker show up cause it meant some serious damage was possible so your chances suddenly looked good.
Destiny has classes, they just don't do anything interesting with them. Like at all. This however really falls more with the part about Diablo 3 and itemization. Destiny has classes because of itemization. Classes suck because the overall itemization of Destiny sucks. Gear is a choice, however subtly designed, for a player to have a say in what role they want to play. Without this it's just new numbers. I love numbers as much as the next person. I'm playing a Disgaea game now. But Disgaea is decidedly single player. Disgaea doesn't have raids or PvP.
However it has classes, and like Borderlands 2, like Diablo 3, like Final Fantasy's since forever, these choices actually mattered. Part of the problem with Destiny's classes though is they're not given enough to do. So much of the experience is built in case someone is playing without access to other class abilities that there isn't the greatest amount of interesting synchronization going on. Every big raid has a new gimmick. It's not inherently bad, but they're missing out on really interesting stuff. Go play Freedom Wars or Monster Hunter, and even though those games also have you repeating the same sort of content, you find that actually bringing something unique for the team into a fight actually feels really good. Though those games don't necessarily name their roles classes, you're still doing a job. And it's rewarding in and of itself.
This game is amazing. A multiplayer brawler in the shape of Odin's Sphere there is a lot to love. One of the most interesting is the mechanic of dungeon running. When not playing a specific stage one can jump online and go through randomly cycling dungeons, in between "camping" to do a mini game where you cook some food. The food you eat gives you buffs to things like experience gains or attack or gold drops.
These gains stack though so the longer you can keep playing one of these runs the more you get at the end.
But there was another mode, a very random mode that mixed up enemies and bosses and places. This was the mode to play to really test yourself.
Destiny has modes to test yourself too, though they're basically just exercises in cheesiness. The difficulty of these modes is counter intuitive. Though the content itself isn't bad, players are basically just replaying the same content. Players don't feel like they've really stretched their strategy muscles at the end of these encounters so much as finished their chores. And by sectioning the more challenging bits off behind weekly rewards(or expected busywork if you're of another mindset) there isn't any incentive to do the content again. The rewards drop and that's it, time to move on to another game for the rest of the week if the difficulty was really something you enjoyed.
While somewhat in the vein of a Monster Hunter game ROA was a game where you used a card based system to augment your class as well as traditional resources for upgrading things like weapon and gear. It's a great game, filled with a tough but also creative and rewarding system for progression. Basically the exact opposite of Destiny's by the numbers approach to aping popular games.
However that wasn't the only thing it did, ROA also had a story. I mean yeah it was kind of silly, but any large scale fantasy experience is silly if you think about it enough. What matters is the game had a story, you were trying to protect a city from giant monster attacks. Over the course of the chapters you grew stronger, so did the monsters, and it lead to a climactic battle.
Granted there was also a huge post-game to join in after this battle, but the people who made the game wanted you to feel something. They wanted you to feel like you were gearing up for a climactic showdown that would change the world, if only slightly and momentarily. You had to make a stand.
See, it's a very simple concept, but it actually works for creating a mood and emotion. Monsters bad, humans good, so go be a hero. This is literally how every story ever breaks down, but we don't care so much about that so long as the story is told well. Sadly, Destiny falls flat. The world you inhabit is underwhelming, the "story" of the game doesn't seem to lead to much of anything, and this is what's most confounding looking back.
I mean I know we had to wait a week for the raid to drop, but there were no story hooks for the raid. I know there were some things there, like in the background of cards and lore you could look up on the internet. But the raid was really more self contained so we fall back to the actual final missions of Destiny.
Nothing really ever gets set up during the game, there is no real payoff, and I have less understanding of this world than I did before.
And Activision wants me to support this game for the next 10 years?
I couldn't even imagine what the future holds for the world of Destiny. Although I imagine at some point an evil alien god will show up that looks just like the Traveller only with a moustache and goatee. (RIP) Nevertheless I don't know if I could ever give a shit if I tried.
See I'm normally the type of person who thinks more about mechanics and this bigger picture of placement within a broader context. I have the problem of being really near or far sighted but often not really appreciating a game just for it's story. But with Destiny after months of not playing the story is what really hits me. There are way more games that Bungie should look to for spicing up the world and the gameplay, other thoughts about releasing content and pricing they should work on, but how can they really get over their terrible story?
I don't "know" anyone in the world. I don't care about anyone. If anything Xur has pretty much proven to me that all life deserves to be done away with. It's like Destiny is the antithesis of True Detective in that way.
If Diablo 3 has taught us anything it's that honestly anything is possible. But that team made big changes to the game, and they were bold. We know Destiny has a schedule to keep.