Destiny. It’s one of those games that divides gamer opinion. It’s a game you love to hate, but if it gets its hooks in it will be one you won’t want to stop playing. You only have to look at Polygon or Kotaku any day of the week to see that the game has its fair share of issues. Yet these same people at both sites can’t seem to stop playing it or writing about it. So what is it about Destiny that keeps people coming back for more? Well for each person I’m sure the reason is different. For me, I keep coming back to play with my friends, and with the competitive nature we all share we keep trying to out perform each other. Also I am part of a pretty relaxed raid team that can complete the content and enjoys playing together. And if you ask any end game player, they will tell you that the raids are the best parts of the game.
So what is wrong with Destiny? If you’ve spent even half an hour in the game you will probably notice that the game is very, VERY story light. It’s most noticeable after the second mission when in the cut scene the Speaker says “I could tell you about…” and then doesn’t really tell you anything at all. Even better is another point in the game when you first meet “the Stranger” and she says “I don’t even have time to tell you why I don’t even have time.” Thankfully this has improved slightly in the recent The Dark Below (TDB) Expansion. Eris is a character that at least attempts to fill in some gaps. Not many gaps are filled in, but something is better than nothing.
The biggest problem with Destiny’s story is its delivery. There are countless moments throughout the main campaign where the opportunity to fill in the blanks is missed. An example: the line about the wizard coming from the moon, that was cut last year, is early on when the player encounters the hive for the first time. Now your ghost simply says something about the hive being on earth and that’s the end of the mission. If you were to do only the main story missions you would next go to the moon to track down a missing guardian for the speaker. The problem here is that the main story essentially skips two missions about Rasputin, which itself could be better integrated, and doesn’t provide a link between your first hive encounter and your reason for heading to the moon.
My idea to rectify this plot hole would be to have a dialogue with the speaker or your vanguard mentor where you report about the hive being on earth. Following this they maybe send a fellow guardian to the moon to investigate what the hive are doing there, while they send you back to Russia to find out what the hive are after, which would lead you to discover Rasputin. Once you get Rasputin up and running again, you return to your Vanguard mentor where they inform you that the guardian who went to the moon has gone missing and they ask you to seek him out. By doing this it would give the player the sense of inclusion into the proceedings at the tower and also it would give the NPCs a chance to have a personality. I’m not saying this needs to be fully integrated cut scenes, just put a small dialogue tree in when returning to the tower with mission rewards. It might not be much but it’s still better than what is there now.
As I said before, the problem isn’t so much the story itself, but its delivery. Other ideas to help with story mechanics for House of Wolves, or any other future content, would be to include the NPC characters in the missions. For example, have Cayde-6 (the hunter vanguard mentor) show up half way through a mission to help you track down and kill the boss. Doing this it would give your guardian a chance to speak. The few times you guardian does actually speak in cut scenes are the only good parts as it finally gives the NPCs someone to have a back forth dialogue with, even if there is very little dialogue there. Bungie did this is in Halo with Sgt. Johnson, so why not do something similar with the Vanguard mentors.
The other big story problem with Destiny is the Grimoire. Yes all the story that fills in the blanks is in there. But guess what? No one wants to go to the website to read it. I have seen many people say it should be in the game. One of my mates said just for looking at reputation levels he doesn’t even want to look at it on his phone or on a laptop screen. His reason: he doesn’t want to put down the controller to do it. All these things are essentially menu screens that need to be added. Probably a lot easier said than done, but when you pick up any RPG with extra background information/story, you can usually find it all in a journal of some sorts. Mass Effect and the Elder Scrolls series are great examples of this. Even last years Dragon Age: Inquisition has something along these lines (which reminds me I should go back and play this some more as it is bloody amazing). Hopefully this is something be added in the background for future DLC or updates. If you’re looking for a great way to get into the Grimoire, look no further than the Guardian Radio Networks audio Grimoire cards. All voice acted, brilliantly done and worth a listen.
The other big problem that turns players away in droves is the walls that are placed in front of a new level 20 guardian. This was not something I was aware of until I was listening to Flash Point Episode 92 the other week. Essentially Simon, David and David all said they were stuck at the grind to get better gear so they could just participate in TDB missions. From what I was able to understand they were doing the strike playlists, which itself is a great start, but is not the best way to get legendary gear. The problem with this scenario is there isn’t any real explanation on what to do once you reach level 20 in the game. In the mentioned scenario here I would recommend the guys do the weekly strikes to start out as even at the lower levels the chance to get a legendary piece is higher than doing the strike playlists. The problem with this is the minimum level for this is level 24 (prior to TDB it was 22) so having a few pieces of blue gear with a reasonable light level before attempting this would be a good idea. By doing the weekly strike they would gain 3 strange coins (more depending on the level being completed). Once they get thirteen they can trade them in with Xur, in the tower on the weekend, for an exotic piece of armour. One exotic piece starts with a light level of 30 and can be upgraded to 36. That alone would boost a new player up a few light levels. But there are no tool tips or information provided to the newly levelled player to guide them to discover this.
I mean seriously, just put in the tool tip for strange coins that says something like “can be traded for powerful armour and weapons in the tower”. Not really rocket science here. The other big barrier here is weeklies still have no match making, so if you don’t have a few friends to group with you’re on your own for the entire strike, which is doable but for some new players can be extremely challenging and off-putting.
Finally, I want to talk about expansions. I’ve got no issue with the content or how much there was or even the price. My problem is calling it an expansion. If you look at it as a straight up DLC content pack or more like a DLC episode than an expansion, then size and cost don’t seem like a big deal. Let’s compare it to say, a Call of Duty DLC pack. You get maybe 3 or four multiplayer maps and a co-op map and a couple of new guns, for I believe $15-$20. Most people seem to see that as reasonable. Now for almost the same price with Destiny we get a new raid, some new single player missions (which can be done co-op), 3 new multiplayer maps and new weapons and armour. So comparatively, Destiny’s DLC seems like the better deal. I’m not saying the DLC itself is better, that’s up to an individual to decide, but for price it’s on par with what else is offered out there. But the reason so many people complained about it being small or a rip off, and so on, isn’t because of how much was there, but because of the way it was presented. People see the word expansion and immediately start comparing it to say a World of Warcraft expansion or anything else along those lines. Even the last SWTOR expansion had more content, and I think was for a cheaper price (if you pre-ordered and were a subscriber). The Dark Below feels nothing like a true expansion and therefore should not be called one. Naming it as episodic content or a DLC pack like Call of Duty does would have prevented it from being issue before there even was one.
It’s not so much what is in the game that is the problem: it’s that the way it is delivered to the user is poor in performance. Whether it is by design or marketing, it’s these things that let Destiny down. Because at its core, especially when playing with friends, the game is a tremendous amount of fun, glitches and all. I just hope Bungie can turn around the way it delivers its product before the next DLC.