Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been talking a lot about Destiny again. Bungie has been revealing the new content for next week’s House of Wolves expansion slowly – which, while that’s excruciating as a fan/writer, it’s a seriously smart business move. The game is coming up on its tenth month online and I think it’s fair to say saw the player base hit a wall a bit a couple months ago. I know I did after I had hit level 32 on my main character. Repeatedly running the raids was more trouble than not, with trying to get the whole group together; and back then the Crucible was still a struggle, since it was before the 1.1.2 patch.
That said though, as soon as the House of Wolves tease came out, I got the same feelings I did last E3 when I saw Destiny. Bungie has always done trailers well – going all the way back to their Halo days – and Destiny is no different. Just seeing the release date was enough to get me interested in playing again, if for no reason other than to shake off the rust. That was before Bungie showed anything. Once I saw the direction that they are taking House of Wolves, it changed my approach. It got me thinking more critically about Destiny again. Why do I still enjoy going on a game, grinding through the same bounties and missions on three characters, this long after launch with a game that has pretty noticeable flaws?
The short answer is pretty simple – it’s just a fun damn game. Even this long after launch I still enjoy doing the same things that excited me on September 9. There’s something pretty visceral about the action – across all three classes/six subclasses – that makes the gameplay seem fresh still. Anyone that’s launched into a Fist of Havoc on a huge group of enemies to clear out a threat knows that it’s a pretty damn awesome feeling. It gets even more so when you’re playing with your friends and that Super keeps the game going.
The long answer to that question though is a little bit tougher. Is Destiny perfect? Not even close. Much has been made – here and across the web – about the poor storytelling decisions, and the disconnect between world-building lore and gameplay. Does Destiny have pretty glaring issues? You bet. On-disc DLC is a pretty hot-topic these days – while I don’t really know exactly how guilty Destiny is of that, it’s hard to argue against the presence of it. There are still plenty of areas – on all the planets – that clearly are gateways into future zones. Easy examples to pick out right away would be The Junction on Venus and King’s Watch on Earth. King’s Watch is particularly notable, because it actually has content already in it. Enemies will spawn and there are ghost shells there. Now, King’s Watch could actually appear in House of Wolves – just based around Fallen as an enemy type. The same could be said for The Junction, although I think that’s more likely going to be saved for even further content – possibly The Fallen King, whatever that may actually end up being.
The problems with the game are there – they’ve been brought up in just about every article about Destiny. But – again, going back to that question of why I still play it – there’s something else about the game. If we look at the game in super simple terms, we can break it down into four pillars: story, gameplay/action, music, and visuals. Three of those four pillars are, quite possibly, the best I’ve seen in recent memory. Killing the game because the story fall flat right out of the gate does a disservice to the other three aspects. The game is one of the best looking games in action – the environments, weapons and armor designs, and FX all are incredible. The music, despite the somewhat rocky departure of Marty O’Donnell, is so perfect in its role. It’s subdued generally, but when you notice it, it’s because it’s awesome. And the actual gameplay/action across the board is as close to perfect as I think is possible. The guns sound powerful, feel powerful and look powerful. The grenades all feel like they have some impact behind them – and behave differently enough to pick them apart. The movement all is pretty damn precise, for each class. It’s the best action in a shooter that I’ve played in a couple years.
Destiny is a strange game that I think still hasn’t quite found its legacy. Generally there’s a good sense of what a game’s legacy will be after this long. I can tell you right now what Advanced Warfare’s legacy will be (better than Ghosts, great debut for Sledgehammer Games, and ultimately one of the stronger entries in the franchise, albeit with some flaws). But with Destiny, it’s still murky. It’s an incredibly fun game, that has serious gaps – but still has a devoted playerbase. The world-building that takes place outside of the actual game is amazing – the Grimoire is fantastic. There’s such an incredible base to build off of, and I think Bungie is aware of their shortcomings and have been trying to fix them as best they can. When we look back at Destiny in a couple years, it’s possible we could say that Destiny was a landmark game. Or that it was the framework for a classic franchise. Or that it was a testament to what could have been. It’s hard to say because each option really could be the result. And ultimately, that’s why I love playing it still. It’s an enigma that I’m going to figure out.