Soapbox: Why Destiny Still Has a Lot to Prove to Me
Posted by Sammy Barker
Sammy Barker takes Bungie's latest to task
I hate being the jaded gamer. Ever since Push Square’s inception, it’s always been my mandate to celebrate the industry from a perspective of positivity rather than cynicism. That negativity seeps into every facet of the medium these days; whether it's obsessing over resolutions and framerates or complete overreactions over the minutest details on message boards, I’ve always wanted to steer clear of that darker side that needlessly inhibits an otherwise entertaining pastime. This is a critical site, though, and despite approaching the recent Destiny beta with my pearly whites on display, I’ve found it difficult to indulge in the hype to quite the same degree as some of my colleagues. These are the reasons why.
All of the elements are there, but why should I care?
Without wanting to undermine the entire point of this somewhat more personal post, I suppose that I should stress that I think Destiny is going to be a good game. In fact, when all’s said and done, it’ll probably be great, and I am eager to get my hands on the full release. From what I’ve seen, however, I won’t be itching to play based on the plot. Despite carrying a reputation for being world beating world builders, I’ve never thought much of Bungie’s storytelling. Halo, in my opinion, was always burdened with pretentious sci-fi mumbo jumbo, and the developer’s new universe appears to suffer from similar issues.
I certainly enjoy the idea of the Traveler, a seemingly celestial city-sized sphere that hangs over a post-apocalyptic Earth, protecting its few remaining denizens from a darkness that deems the deity its adversary. The problem is that outside of the few lavishly produced – yet still ambiguous – cinematics in the beta, this fiction appears to be a passenger to the action. Missions seemingly comprise of markers and combat arenas, with the scantest of exposition from the Peter Dinklage personified cube that accompanies your travels. Co-operative titles always have a problem in this area, of course, as they favour immediacy over illumination – but if the narrative is merely there to contextualise my XP seeking ambitions, then I’m not sure why I should even care.
Strike and out
There was a time when I woke up in the morning and played games all day, only stopping to pour some boiling water on a dried noodle-based snack for sustenance. Those times are long gone, as I now occupy more of my day writing about games than enjoying them. I’m not looking for a sympathy card – I absolutely adore my job – but with less and less opportunity to play, it means that I appreciate it when games value my time. For me, Destiny struggles to do that in a number of areas – others I’ll allude to later – but the Strikes appear to be the worst.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the developer’s desire to challenge experienced players with some more difficult co-operative missions. These multiplayer-based objectives seem designed to provide veterans with something to replay for loot and fake finances once the campaign’s over, but I found The Devil’s Lair in the beta to be quite literally the video game equivalent of Satan’s cesspit. Bullet sponges are perhaps my biggest industry pet peeve – they’re part of the reason that boss fights are rarely entertaining – but both foes in this particular objective take tedium to intergalactic tiers. I appreciate that there’s probably a knack to taking down the Death Walkers and Servitors here, but I don’t glean enjoyment from sitting in a cove firing my weapon for several minutes straight in order to butcher a baddie that should have been dead a long time ago.
Why am I not getting any real loot lust?
Destiny has been billed as Diablo in space, and that’s very much what it appears to be. In fact, it’s better than that subtractive description would lead you to believe, because I think that the moment-to-moment combat is much more satisfying in Bungie’s outer space affair. The gunplay is particularly great, with armaments striking a perfect balance between fun and fierce. However, while its action may be much more entertaining, I’m not convinced that it has the loot lust that its contemporaries contain. Indeed, after several hours with the impending release’s beta, I never once felt myself yearning for a particular piece of kit.
As with many of the points in this post, it’d be unfair to make any firm conclusions based on a clearly limited slice of content – but there were certainly enough options in the server stress test to give me a taste of the kind of weapons that I can expect in the full game. And I’m not convinced that they’re all that interesting. Granted there are different types of firearms – from shotguns and machine guns to assault rifles and more – but the whole system seems to lack that sense of randomness that made opening green crates in Borderlands such a joy. Outside of differing stats and perks, there doesn’t appear to be the same sort of variety here, and I found myself purely making mathematical decisions over what kit to take into battle.
The Tower seems somewhat out of place
The absolute best thing about Destiny is how streamlined it seems to be. Menus are ergonomic and easy to navigate, despite the relative complexity of the game. Meanwhile, it’s incredibly easy to join up with your friends and explore the galaxy together. The Tower seems to fly in the face of all of this, however, as it’s merely a menu masquerading as some kind of third-person social hot spot. There were occasions during the beta where I found myself wandering around, desperately searching for a specific vendor among crowds of shape pulling space men; it’s an interesting idea for sure, but it feels a little out of place.
Part of the problem is that it doesn’t appear to serve any real purpose other than to turn in quests or fritter away glimmer. There are a few balls that you can play makeshift sports with, but it’s a buggy, glitchy, and seemingly accidental addition that highlights just how undercooked this part of the game really is. Reading through associate editor Robert Ramsey’s excellent beta diaries underlined just how purposeless this portion of the package seems to be, as he discussed a tree climbing exercise as one of his highlights in the space. I’m sure that the area will evolve over time, and become a more meaningful hub as a consequence, but at the moment it seems like a self-indulgent interface that sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise reductive release.
Do you agree with the above concerns, or is it far too early to be criticising a game that we’ve seen so little of? Fight back in the comments section below.