It’s been two weeks since Destiny burst forth into our lives and a week since the scores of reviews had their say on its confusing story and absolute beauty. So how have we all got on since we took our critical hats off and got down to playing the game for ourselves?
Well, frankly, excellently frustrating. That would be my two word comment. I got very lucky not long after our review was published and I got a legendary weapon drop. A Grim Citizen III auto rifle. This thing has been a fantastic help for all the missions I’ve played due to its power and I achieved level 24 very quickly… That’s when it stopped. Of course it can be done, as demonstrated by Twitch streamer N3AC3Y who not long ago became the first person to achieve level 30. But the road to light and legendary gear is filled with the grind of death.
Personally, this isn’t a terribly bad thing once you do something. This is something that you really need to let go of in order to actually accept the game’s MMO properties, and that is to realise that it isn’t Halo. It may feel like Halo, there may be sounds you recognise like the health bar regenerating and its low health alarm noise. There are even nods to Bungie’s former goliath on Mars with a Master Chief helmet shaped outpost (By the way, kudos to the person who found the Destiny easter egg in Halo 3: ODST. That made me grin a very large satisfying grin). But it isn’t Halo and you soon realise that, to coin phrases I hear on YouTube videos, the grind is real.
The reason I say that it isn’t a bad thing is because, compared to my experiences on World of Warcraft, EVE Online and other MMO’s, I’m actually having quite a lot of fun for the most part shooting the crap out of many heads/bodies/eyeballs in order to collect my bounties. The problem has come from how many times I’ve had to do the same missions to collect these on various difficulties. In fact around half of the strike missions now can be easily traversed within 10-15 minutes if you’ve got a good team. But the frequency of the drops of legendary gear, or higher light level armour at the least, is incredibly frustrating. Games like WoW have so much wikipedia presence that you could probably take a good guess at the available loot in a dungeon and what it will do to help you progress further, therefore choosing your experience to help you level how you want to or need to. Destiny does not have that.
There have been farming points noted by people, like the cave in the Skywatch area of the Cosmodrome which is a glorious alcove of drops, and doing the strike playlists help you to get those Vanguard Marks so you can buy the gear. But for the most part, it can be a long and repetitive struggle to up your level to a point where you can now do a raid… I haven’t yet been able to do a raid. There are lots of cool things that Bungie are doing though to keep our interest. The new Queen’s Wrath bounties (her of the strange Rift throne and jerk brother) give you another different way to collect tailored legendary loot outside of the crucible factions. There’s the now traditional “kill the devs” multiplayer fun which will earn you specific emblem kudos. My friend got an Exotic bounty randomly which will grant him a legendary or exotic item upon completion. So there are things there but personally, having been stuck at level 24 for nearly a week, the lack of progression is frustrating.
Which is why I think I’d have liked better rewards for finding the Golden Chests that are scattered about the four playable planets. Some are easier than others to find but more often than not, the loot is only a slight bit better than if you found normal chests. Another issue is the lack of anything in vast swathes of the Venus and Mars maps. Bungie have been excellent at utilising the space in other games to hide different things and, even though you can find the Ghosts for Grimoire rewards, there is a lot of places where sneaky and useful things could have been hidden. This is made all the more frustrating by the repetitive nature of the strike playlists at times. There’s only so many ways you can play the Summoning Pits on the Moon for only level 16 decoherent engrams when you’re a high level on a high level difficulty. Speaking of maps, I’ve found the lack of in-play maps to be quite frustrating too. Just to know generally where you are on a map, or where you’d like to go would be quite the addition. It’s a bit of a personal niggle because I enjoy looking at where I am when free roaming a world but the only accessible map is the tower map and that’s in the tower. I think we could do with some of the planets too.
Destiny’s patch updates have nerfed some of the difficulty in removing some ultras from the game. I’ll be honest, when I was starting at a lower level I agree that this probably needed to happen. And if my fireteam suddenly becomes two people instead of three then it does make quite large portions of high level strike missions incredibly difficult. But it is a bit sad because when you do have a challenge and your team pull together and create some kind of unspoken unity and tactics, even without voice chat and via random matchmaking, it feels very satisfying. So to lose those harder people is a bit sad. It’s a shame the game couldn’t just adapt its own difficulty dependent on the amount of people playing as well as their level but I’m guessing that’s a super technical thing to do so if nerfing is the answer then so be it.
Another thing that I have needed yet seem unable to find in drops is the Ascendant Energy needed to upgrade my super cool gun. I’ve got the high level drop of Ascendent Shards coming out of my ears but unless I find a random public event and get a daily reward, I seem unable to get them. I don’t know if this is because my level is too high so the game drops it less due to it being a lower level item, or if I’m not playing on the right difficulty level to get it. But suffice to say I’ve been six days into the final upgrades to my weapon without the energy I need and, whilst it shouldn’t be easy, it shouldn’t be this hard either.
I think when I’m playing Destiny with my friends and talking about it over our fireteam chat, the one thing that stands out is its potential. Whilst we have all these little niggles to what we feel is an excellent shooting game when we’re playing it, we still see the large areas where cool things could happen. Not where it could improve or where things could be nerfed. In fact the frequency of higher level drops is the only real gaming niggle at this stage that I really have. For all our moaning about the story, or to be more precise the lack of it, the game is more enjoyable to play at this stage because there isn’t any story in the narrative sense and you don’t even care about it anymore. If someone had just got this game, I’d say complete the story. Grind it out a little bit just to up your level and get the “things you have to do” element of it done as quickly and as smoothly as possible. Yes it’s a confusing story but in the scheme of Destiny’s later game, the one you’ll ultimately spend the most time doing, it is of practically no consequence and for your level, you’ll get a cool gun at the end. That maybe a slightly strange bit of advice when coming to a game, especially a Bungie one, but in a way the lack of narrative keeps the end game so open that we don’t really get closure and feel like we want stop playing. I have no idea if that is what was intended but in my case, that’s what they’ve achieved.
The game is still beautiful though so I’d recommend it purely for that and, two weeks on, I still want to play. I still want to max out my two subclasses, I’m still hunting trophies and despite the grind and the lack of drops for me. But that fact that I’ve managed to sink nearly two and a half days of total play in to Destiny, I can see myself staying for a long time. And if you have a group of friends that you can play with, or you have some fun experiences with a small randomly matched team and complete various missions, that is when Destiny is at its best. Because after all, there’s nothing better than having a dance off at the tower or between your friends after a successful strike.