48 hours of Destiny – thoughts on the game and its design choices

(let me get it out of the way that I work for a company who worked on the rendering technology of Destiny)


I’m about 48 hours into Destiny.

I started playing as soon as the servers opened up on Monday the 8th 3pm in Finland. This is the time when the game launched in New Zealand, first in the world. I’ve really enjoyed myself for the most part with the frustration stemming from not getting Legendary loot drops that would contain more Light value that would level me up from 24 to 25 and onwards.

I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that a lot of the progression in the game is down to chance. Or so it seems.

I have not played MMO’s much at all. Only about a days worth of Final Fantasy XIV: Realm Reborn. Before that Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast. Realm Reborn was cool, but incredibly overwhelming. Not something I ended up playing in the long run.

Destiny combines MMO elements into an state of the art console FPS. That really has not been done before and I think for the most part Destiny does it really well. I’m completely hooked on the game and have a hard time putting it down. I’m writing this on a flight over to Los Angeles and I can see my clan’s WhatsApp buzzing about Destiny loot or rather, lack of.

So about that luck. What I’m concentrating on in the game now is performing as many Bounties as possible while doing as many Patrol missions as possible, to get Vanguard reputation. Earning reputation level 2 gives access to Legendary gear and level 3 gives access to Legendary weaponry. So while I hope to score some Legendary gear from loot drops that I could use (already got two Legendary items but both for the wrong character class. Aint that a bitch. ), I’m working towards being able to control my own Destiny (pun intended) by getting enough rep and money to buy the stuff instead of relying on luck. I should have started doing that more already in the beginning of the game. So many of the people I play with and talk about the game at work or online, have played far less than me, but are at the same level with better gear and more rep.

You earn Vanguard reputation points by completing Bounties and each completed Patrol gives you a measly 10 Vanguard points. During Patrols you can pick up or rather farm materials that are specific to each planet. So you got Spirit Bloom bushes on Venus, Helium Filaments on Moon, Relic Iron on Mars (aka big pile of black frozen poop) and Spinmetal  on Earth. You can trade those in (50 units) for Vanguard reputation as well.

So while a random loot drop left behind by a killed enemy combatant might give me a Legendary item I so need right now, I’m grinding as hard as I can to get my reputation up so I can just buy the weapons and gear myself.

All this gear stuff really comes into play after level 20 when the grindreally starts. The slight problem is that by level 20 you’ve seen visually everything the game has to offer so far quite a few times over. That is a bit disappointing. The locations are beautiful, superbly realised and the core combat loop is so damn fun that the repetition is fun. I love playing and of course pretty soon the backgrounds don’t matter as much since you just concentrate on the grind, but I still would have liked at least one more environment in the game that shipped. All the levels are well designed, the overall art direction is stunningly good, but while I rather take quantity over quality, for example having Mercury as a playable area (there’s an MP map located on Mercury) would have been great. Considering Mercury and Jupiter are mentioned in the game’s Grimoire lore cards in the same veins as the other playable planes, I’d think they will be playable. However, that’s two planets and there’s two expansions coming. Does that mean there’s one planet per expansion ?

I’ve enjoyed Destiny a lot. I do however agree with some of the criticism it has received, but I’m saddened that the critical reception to Destiny has been so negative, when the game does so many things right and above all, it’s fun. The technology in the game, all the magic behind the scenes matchmaking players into different areas, the ability to change your subclass and weapons and gear at any time during the game, the seamless move into the Crucible multiplayer. These are all extremely complicated things to pull of especially on last-generation consoles for which this game was built. Or rather to work under those limitations.

I never expected much story from the game and definitely didn’t expect something like The Last of Us, which it seems some players did. Yes, the story in Destiny is almost non-existent, but it’s got enough to give a reason as to why you are fighting out there across the galaxy and gives enough context to your actions. I never really understood the stories in Halo after the first game any way.

Still, the game feels sparse and lifeless at times, but I’m quite sure it’s really down to limiting technology and mostly lack of memory. Everything’s a compromise in video games. You are at the mercy of the hardware and in this case, the lacking power of the PS3 and Xbox 360. Destiny does many stunningly complicated things in the background and I’m sure it’s been an epic struggle to get it all working. The game is a superb piece of engineering.

When it comes to giving the game bit more life, what I would really have liked is that the strange lore that you can read at Bungie.net, the Grimoire cards, would have also been in the actual game. Finding Dead Ghosts is like finding the usual diaries, recordings, newspaper clippings in any other video game. Why they don’t give you access in the game to read the Dead Ghosts stories, I’m not sure. During missions and Patrol, when everything is always online, I get it, but I thought it would have been awesome to have a “information repository” or a library sort of place in the Tower where you could go and study these things. Or a Codex like in Mass Effect. The Speaker could have talked about the Dead Ghosts to you involving him much more in the story and game in general. All of the Tower characters need more cutscenes, more personality. The shipwright Amanda for example, wouldn’t it be cool if she gave you some random missions at the Tower instead of just a voice from a radio when you activate a Patrol mission ? That would have made her feel more real and involved in your adventure. Go find her missing cat in the Tower or something. That would have been a great little way of making the Tower characters something more than cashiers.

I do not understand the complaints about not having a “proper” single player game in Destiny. Just make you session private without any Fireteam members being able to jump in your game go do the missions alone. You will still meet up with other players, but that to me is an always an amazing feature of the game. I could be playing a mission or farming alone and other players pop up and everybody grinds together.

There’s something I think a lot of reviews have missed. It’s the positivity and camaraderie amongst players in Destiny that gives me a great feel good factor. I have not felt that in other video games, though yes, Realm Reborn was quite cool, but Destiny is an action game and there’s really not been anything like this on consoles.

The other day I was farming on Mars, looting chests, waiting for them to respawn. Another player came around to do the same…and we helped each other out. We did not chat over voice,  but we still communicated. As one of us found a chest, we used the wave emote function or shoot a few rounds in the air to let the other player know that a chest had respawned somewhere. Then you waited for the other player to show up and open the chest together since they disappear in about 15 seconds once opened. Soon, as I was running out of a room or cave and the other player was on his way, he saw me and that I didnt wave or anything, he knew there was no loot back there and moved to another section to keep our farming going on. Camraderie, Guardians out in the galaxy doing their thing. Very cool.

Destiny is social enough to make that happen. That was awesome. I don’t want to chat with random players, I do not want to use some virtual keyboard to talk to them nor is there need. The game offers enough tools for random players to communicate. People complaining about Raids not having matchmaking need to talk to people in the Tower or just have friends. Not to be a complete dick, but come on, it’s not that difficult to find five other Destiny gamers out there.

It helps players cannot harm each other or steal loot, but the simple act of a higher level player coming in to help with a Public Event or some low level player struggling is a powerful thing. Even if sometimes it ruins your Bounty seeking kill mission or something. I can live with that.

In the end, this is not the end, this is the start of Destiny. This game is a service and its only the beginning. Destiny’s been built in a way that it can be modified and expanded which Bungie is doing. Expansion 1 cannot come soon enough for me!

    • Henri Markus
    • September 18th, 2014

    Nice review, I feel pretty much the same way about the game. It’s immersive and reels you in with it’s gameplay loop.

    The game let’s you negate the RNG by being persistent and by planning ahead, and that’s something a lot of people don’t know, or even want to know. The random legendaries are an awesome bonus that I can get while steadily getting my reputation and mark pool together for full set of armor. The game has even exotic bounties which reward a guaranteed exotic weapon, if you manage to complete it. Ah, love it to bits! GotY for me.

    Good read!

    Also a minor correction:

    Spinmetal – Earth
    Spirit Bloom – Venus
    Helium Filaments – Moon
    Relic Iron – Mars

    • This is NOT a review, but thanks for the positive words 🙂 will fix the errors too.

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