Much has been said about Destiny, the massive multiplayer online role-playing game disguised as the next big shooter, and since its release a little over a year ago, it has courted both controversy and praise. Coming from the creators of the Halo series, Bungie Studios, expectations were sky high and perhaps unfairly so but instead of the next benchmark of science fiction video games players got an underwhelming story, a confusing leveling system…and loot caves.
A year later and almost everything has changed.
After two lackluster DLC releases, Bungie effectively hit the reset button on the vast majority of their wildly popular game. It was at this point a certain Collective Lifestyle writer caved and gave Destiny and its rebooting DLC, The Taken King, a chance.
A Tale Of Two Games
Destiny, pre- and post-Taken King, has been called a lot of things.
These things are mostly true.
One of the most valid criticisms of Destiny is that its story is paper thin even at the best of times. The plot informs players that at some point in the future, mankind encountered a giant alien orb named the Traveler and thanks to it, somehow, mankind enters a golden age of space exploration and heads out in the solar system. Unfortunately, the Traveler had enemies which all came pouring after it and humanity was pushed back to one city on Earth, directly below the Traveler. Once a player gets up and starts running and gunning, they are soon given plenty of tasks, all of which involve killing vast swathes of aliens. The people assigning these tasks are largely forgettable and most missions follow the pattern of going somewhere important, shooting bad guys, proceeding on to a place where you must wait while your robot companion Ghost opens or scans something, killing more aliens, Ghost finishing so you can finally kill the boss. As you progress, characters in the world will chatter on about encroaching evil which seems at odds with the fact that you can Starlord-dance your way through missions. Players can also unlock info about the world but frustratingly these can only be viewed online at Bungie’s website. All in all, the vast majority of Destiny’s story was largely forgettable and overly serious.
Until the Taken King and then Destiny revealed its secret weapon: Nathan Fillion.
Fillion was already in the game as a talking head who gave you the occasional mission but in Destiny 2.0, nerdom’s golden boy flat out steals the game with some much need humor and self awareness. The first 25 seconds or so of this clip sums up the past and present tones of the game all thanks to Fillion’s Cayde-6. While the story introduced in The Taken King isn’t perfect, it is a welcome step in the right direction and one Bungie hopefully continues to head in.
Shoot, Loot, Repeat
Part of the appeal of Destiny is due to one essence of human nature: greed. Who doesn’t want better and shinier things? With the game constantly dangling the promise of better guns and gear just around the corner, it’s hard not to get sucked into a cycle of “Just one more round.” A lot of late-game Destiny, for those players who have hit max level, is all about the hunt for better gear and this can be done through strikes and raids which are designed to punish all but the most coordinated of players and teams. These mostly fall under the typical Destiny mission-pattern but with usually harder bosses and better prizes at the end.
However, Destiny’s predictability can also be seen as a positive trait.
While a lot of games are getting longer and longer to finish, Destiny never makes the player feel like they have to do more then they want to. Sure it’s easy to become addicted and play until morning light appears in your window but most raids last around 30 minutes unless you’re doing one of the more challenging missions. You can also drop in and out of any area’s patrol zone which is often where some of Destiny‘s most organic fun is found. Sometimes you can wander a patrol area and find nothing but enemies standing idly around. Other times you’ll wander into a firefight between a team of players fighting some monstrous boss or defending a site. Whether you want to show off a new weapon or end up dashing around reviving fallen allies, joining alongside these mysterious companions often brings a great feeling of teamwork and this is easily Destiny‘s greatest strength.
It’s Dangerous To Dance Alone
At one point I found myself on Venus, in a wide open valley, hoping to complete a specific mission. A special group of enemies was supposed to appear at some point and if enough of them were killed a boss would be summoned. There are four different expressions available to players on the D-pad of the controller; two are changeable where you dance or bow or some other expression but the wave and sit down options don’t change. I found a vantage point and simply sat down, with not much to do other than wait. Eventually another player wandered into the area and sat down next to me on top of my rocky outcropping. We ended up taking turns sniping away at far-off normal enemies, bowing and clapping whenever the other player made a kill. Finally the expected enemies appeared and we completed the task and went our separate ways but what stuck with me the most was being able to share a quiet moment with a stranger like that. Sure, Destiny‘s environments all look great and the guns handle like a dream but without people to surprise you Destiny would be a very cold and lonely playground.
Sometimes you’ll turn a corner and find a dance party happening and of course you have to join in. Sometimes enemies will just be hammering you and out of nowhere a stranger flies in and saves the day. You never know what to expect; at one point I even ran into my barber; the fact that that his player name included “barber” and our zip code gave him away. Other times I would stumble across lower-leveled players, not even into double-digits levels, lost and surrounded by enemies. A timely rescue and a point in the right direction and you’re a hero for the moment. Every now and then you might run into a player who follows you around hitting you but thankfully that’s few and far between. For the most part Destiny inspires a sense of community and teamwork, something rare for an online multiplayer game. The best moments of Destiny have nothing to do with bigger and better loot but with all the other gun-waving Guardians. After all, what’s the point of finding a better gun if you have no one to share in a celebratory dance party?
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