This weekend was all about Destiny and its expansion, The Dark Below. It’s all I’ve been doing in my free time since its release earlier this week. Yesterday delved into what makes Destiny so good, yet there’s plenty about the game that’s painful.
There are three types of gameplay in Destiny: story, end game and competitive multiplayer. The story is over quickly and there’s little reason to replay them. The story itself is terrible too. I don’t play competitive multiplayer because I’m out-gunned and out-skilled by those who have more time to invest in the game. The end game is where I’ve been spending all my time. That’s when you’re theoretically done with the game, but you keep playing anyway because you want to level up your character and get specific weapons and gear.
This is where Destiny is simultaneously special and frustrating. Special because it does the end game so well for a shooting game; frustrating because you have to play a lot to get the best gear and there’s simply not enough content to keep things fresh.
Have you seen Edge of Tomorrow? Awesome movie. The protagonist is in a war with aliens and he repeats each day over and over again, to the point where he knows exactly where the bad guys are going to be. That’s what Destiny feels like. Grunts coming out here so rocket launcher. Sniper appearing there so get ready.
You repeat each mission so often, you pretty much know what’s going to happen. Despite that, to Destiny’s credit, strike missions are somehow still fun.
Dear Bungie (developers of Destiny), please, more strikes. There should be at least 20 to play from instead of a paltry eight. Focus the $500 million budget there.
Then there are the raids, which are apparently even better than strike missions. In strike missions, you team up with two others. Destiny will randomly pair you with two players of a similar level if you don’t have any friends. Perfect.
In raids, however, you must play with five other people who are actually on your friends list, which sucks given I don’t have any friends. To this day, I still haven’t played a raid mission.
I understand why Bungie did this. I watched a play through of the Vault of Glass raid — all 45 minutes of it — and agree that without tight teamwork and good communication, it’s nigh impossible to complete. That’s fine. What’s frustrating however is that to get the best gear and achieve the highest levels, you have to play these raids. That limits the end game for people like me.
Apparently, I’m not the only one, and the Destiny community has responded with websites dedicated to people looking to form teams. Impressive right? Doesn’t seem ideal though.
Dear Bungie, how about this for an in-game solution. In the Tower — a gathering place in Destiny for players to buy weapons, get bounties, etc. — have a corner where people can invite others to team up.
Vault of Glass, looking for two, must be level 28 and up with microphone enabled.
The want ad is only shown to those who qualify as they approach the corner looking for a team to join. This way, getting a team together isn’t so difficult and it’s not completely random either.
In the meantime, here’s my want ad. 🙂
Playstation 4, Level 29 Hunter with all class attributes sporting a hand cannon, pulse rifle and rocket launcher with microphone enabled.
If you need a team member for raids, nightfall and weekly heroic missions, please add me: Goliath_Slayer.
I am in Asia and usually play at 9 pm Singapore time (or 9 am EST).
In addition to strikes and raids, there are bounties and patrol missions. These are mostly boring, of the kill some bad guys and stand at this specific spot for 10 seconds variety. Boring. Unfortunately, you still have to do them to get the best stuff.
Bungie tried to make this more interesting by making the objectives a little crazy, e.g. melee this bad guy that explodes on contact and which leaves you with a sliver of life, and do it five times without dying, but this is only fun when compared to the boring alternatives. I certainly wouldn’t do them if I didn’t have to.
Having to grind through bounties is one of the worse parts of Destiny.
To add variety, Bungie made public events more frequent in The Dark Below expansion. This means as you roam the game’s world to complete a bounty, a mini-boss might appear that you are asked to kill. Or you might be asked to defend a certain spot against hordes of enemies. And so on. Because other players roam the area, they can spontaneously join in too. These are quite fun.
Dear Bungie, please double down on public events.
Because many can join in, they should be made more difficult. One mission involved a villain called Urzok, who can only be found in a specific area’s public event and is tough to kill; probably impossible to do alone. It was cool to be in that area and see five other players all waiting for Urzok to arrive, and then for us all to act in concert to take him down when he does. More of that please.
The common theme is that the more you can play with other people, the more fun the game.
I was on a quest mission and another player was playing the same quest at exactly the same time. I thought, we should play together!
Here’s what I had to do: “mouse over” his character (not easy to do as his character was running around), open up his profile, invite him. Then we had to trade a few messages to confirm I’m asking to play this specific quest together as opposed to a strike or raid — all the while our characters stood there, vulnerable to enemy fire as we typed on controllers. Finally, he joined and we had a blast of a time.
Why was this so hard? The game should automatically know when two or more players are attempting the same exact mission at the same exact time, and automatically ask whether you want to band together. You can always say no, but I bet the vast majority would prefer to play with others.
This is especially true of harder missions like Nightfall. It’s incredibly difficult to complete those on your own.
The grind and the lack of variety weigh Destiny down. These are like muscle aches — the pain is gradual and seeps in with time.
Unfortunately, the pain can also be sharp.
For example, a week before The Dark Below arrived, I got a piece of Legendary armour — i.e. about the best you can have — which I improved by investing rare materials into it. Then The Dark Below arrives, introduced new armour that made the old one obsolete, and all those rare materials were completely wasted.
Destiny’s ecosystem of gear, currency and materials is a fragile economy. Whenever Bungie changes something about that economy, there are bound to be unhappy people, and Bungie has made a lot of unhappy changes.
Not surprising when you think about it — their objective is to extend the game with as few resources on their part as possible. It’s easier to do that by changing requirements to get certain things than by actually adding content. That’s an equation that’s bound to frustrate people.
For example, I was saving up to purchase a particular gun and close to a transaction. Then The Dark Below arrives and effectively increases the price of the same gun by another 2-3 hours of grinding! Yes, I’m spending more time on the game, but not in a desirable way. That’s the wrong way of extending the game.
Dear Bungie, the right way is new gear, new missions, new areas, more public events, more variety. Easier ways to play with other people.
The wrong way is forcing players to grind more to get the same things.
Destiny seems to get it and not get it at the same time. Perhaps it’s the burden of excessive ambition. Perhaps Bungie is simply trying to do too much.
Here’s my final recommendation and it’ll seem radical: cut the competitive multiplayer and focus on dramatically expanding the end game. That might seem selfish given I don’t play competitive multiplayer at all, but in every review I’ve seen, every comment on forums, they have mostly focused on the strengths of co-op play.
No one is praising Destiny’s player vs. player mode. It doesn’t break new ground, it’s horribly unbalanced, and it doesn’t even differentiate the game at all. So why bother? Why spread yourself so thin?
Is it not better to focus on what works?
And that’s all without mentioning the price of entry. The original game is $60 and the expansion pack — which is more like a DLC in terms of quantity of content — is $20. For people like me, who’ve sunk many hours into Destiny, it’s worth it, but for most it won’t feel like there’s enough.
Take The Last of Us, for example, which actually has decent competitive multiplayer. Yet, no one remembers The Last of Us for player vs. player; it won game of the year awards on the basis of its story. What makes Destiny great is not competitive play but its co-op end game.
Dear Bungie, if you can’t do both modes well, then just focus on one.