Oct 13, 2014


Bungie's new game, Destiny, is an interesting game. It's so flawed on one level, and it invokes such cycnical disdain. On another there are enjoyable aspects that remind one of Halo and Marathon.

I don't really know where to start. Other than this main point: that the game is maddening and fun at the same time.

What's wrong with it?
  • First and foremost this is a uninspired approach to game making on Bungie's part. This has all the hallmarks of a game designed and developed by a company far more interested in money than gameplay. This isn't your Bungie of old. The feeling that people who love gaming run the company is gone. This strikes me as a company that has far more in common with King or Zynga. 
  • The gameplay is designed around the concept of addiction rather than fun. Much of the game seems designed to make you happy in small doses, frustrate you in larger doses, and promise the holy land just around the corner. Everything about the game speaks to this. If I could just get that legendary gun. If I could just find that helmet with 2 more light ratings. 
  • It's a social game so you see other players during gameplay. And what do you see? You see their name and their level. The level in Destiny is a measure of your accomplishments. It's a social ladder climbing metric reduced to a single value to compare against other. I'm 24 and he's 26. He's better. I need to be better. 
  • Most of the game motivation comes from The Level. You can easily work your way to 20 and then up to about 30 or so with armor modifications. It's an asymptotic climb. 21 is not so hard. 29 is brutal. What seems close is not so close.
  • The act of getting "stuff" to level up can in most cases be described as monotonous and for beginners utterly confusing. Before you can buy better armor you need "reputation". And reputation in most cases involves running the most repetitive and monotonous mini-campaigns or patrols and bounties you can imagine. It's Sisyphean in its silliness.
  • The worst thing about Destiny's leveling motivation is that it's largely useless. As you get better you just fight tougher aliens. They move largely in sync with you in degree of difficulty. So what is the point? The point is to compare to other people. Who is the most popular guardian in Destiny and where do I fit in. You can see how this game might appeal to high schoolers and early 20 year olds and baffle an old man like me.
  • The complexity and lack of any obvious help in game is off-putting. I think for a young kid this is essentially pretty exciting but for me it's just archaic detail for the sake of detail. You need to do this first and then this and then do this other thing to get a hold of this item and combine it with.... Bleah! I didn't come here to follow rules. I came here to shoot and kill aliens.
  • There are endless modifications to your character in terms of what they look like and some of these modifications can require endless grinding to get one set of stuff so you can then buy that other stuff so you can get the blue cape. Again this endless preening probably appeals to younger gamers but for someone square in the marks of the marketing salivations of Rockport Shoe Company, this is a god damn waste of time. And the problem with this is development effort is put into this rather than making a compelling game.
  • I've never played Farmville but aspects of this game seem probably what that game is like.
  • The story is so bad that you suspect the writers are fucking with us. So much mumbo jumbo and weak storylines and cliche lines ("What you are doing guardian is brave. You might not make it back."), and invocation of bullshit jargon and oh my god it's terrible. It's fucking awful.
  • While it's a social game it's a lonely feeling game in many respects. Part of what made Halo great were the drops where you went in with other computer controlled marines. It feels great to have them with you making funny quips and it makes the game human. There is no humanity in Destiny.
And yet I keep playing it. Why?
  • It's gorgeous. It's the one aspect of Bungie that lives on. the design and detail are beautiful I just love looking at it. Here's how good it is. Sometimes I just move the camera angle around so I can see my guy with the landscape behind it and think, "I wish I could take a quick snapshot of this."
  • The music is similarly Halo-like in it's goodness. Sometimes I just sit and listen to the music.
  • The general mechanics of character control are flawless. You want to do something and it just seems easier in Destiny than it does in other games. Shooting, moving, jumping, throwing a grenade. Things just seem easier.
  • I'm not a competitive guy. I much prefer the camaraderie of team activities in gaming and Destiny has really fun "Strike Missions" where it groups you with 2 other guardians and you go in and complete a mission. It's fun. I just wish I had friends who had the game so we could do it together.
  • I'm curious where Bungie will take this game. It's designed as a platform to be built on. And I'll give them a bit of a chance to play this platform out. If they do not add some fun stuff and veer away from this "gaming monetization strategy" then I'm squarely going to focus on Halo and drop Destiny.

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