Opinion: Destiny Is Great, But Half Measures Hurt

by Daniel Tack on Sep 11, 2014 at 06:53 AM

Destiny is many different genres and games rolled into one sleek sci-fi shooting sphere, but the attempt to distance itself from its strength – being a multiplayer-driven online-only experience – damages the otherwise powerful core. Destiny takes an approach that tries to please everyone by adding completely dismissible story content and slacks on the features that would make it a more powerful entity in the multiplayer space.

I’m level 15ish on my Hunter now (8 on my Titan) and while these are first impressions, they are composed from a significant gameplay chunk featuring story, strike, PVP, and patrol experiences. I like the loot system, I love the PVP, and I enjoy the world encounters and strikes. But things could be better, from core implementation to minor annoyance level fare. Let’s start with one minor quirk that actually speaks to a larger issue:

You’ve grouped up with a few friends and you’re pushing through content, maybe scouring the world in some freeform patrolling or participating in PVP. Someone in your team picks up an unidentified item and wants to find out what it is and possibly equip it. You’re now on the hook to stop everything you’re doing, un-queue from the next PVP battle or head off-planet, and slog through multiple load screens to go see what it is. And then you’re going to have to go through the motions all over again to head back out to whatever it is that you were happily doing with your crew. It’s arduous and completely unnecessary, and extends to bounty turn-ins as well.

When I’m playing, I want to be grouped up at all times, participating in strike, raid, or PVP content. So why is it such a task to get these things going? It seems like many systems in the game break up parties instead of promoting them toward continuing on, there’s no in-game clan or guild system, and meeting people in the open world to play with is equally miserable; communication, the crux of a multiplayer experience, is downplayed and difficult.

The Tower is puzzling in some respects. Deigned a social space, there are no ways to be social. I could see an area designed for pickup groups and, with Vault of Glass on the horizon, somewhere to inspect and chat with other players to prepare a group, as ostensibly you won’t be able to pick up and play the highest tier content. You’ll need a group of 5 friends plus yourself in order to even set foot in it, which is not an unexpected choice, as I expect it to be challenging and coordination will be crucial, but give players a way to meet new people to get the job done.

Public and world events are some of the best content to be had in patrols, but they seem incredibly rare – I think I’ve seen a total of one during hours and hours of patrolling.

Why am I so focused on the multiplayer experience? Two reasons. One, the multiplayer is genuinely great stuff. It’s action-packed, fun, and solid across multiple forms of play from co-op to competitive PVP. It’s fun to take things down in strikes and I can’t wait to be a decked-out level 20+ shooting for Vault of Glass. PVP is a blast, and there’s an appropriate accompanying reward loop. Here’s the other reason – If you’re looking for a scintillating story or the best that Destiny has to offer, you won’t find it in single player.

The “story” is threadbare, and single-player encounters and patrols are snooze-worthy stuff in comparison to any multiplayer encounter. Even with the responsive controls and well-done combat, the single-player and story content are simply uninteresting. And that’s fine, except it’s almost as if Bungie has done everything they can to make sure they let people know at the design level that it’s not a MMO. “It’s not a MMO,” I can imagine them saying. “You can play by yourself, it’s fine, it’s not some multiplayer-only experience.”

If anything, Bungie should have gone all-in on the multiplayer aspects and components, and provided players with better systems to facilitate group and clan play. This game is all about being a pseudo MMO, and the best experiences I’ve had so far have been with other players. Don’t make me fight load screens and communication/interaction systems that seem to have been developed with the “But what about the single playerrrrrrrr” notion in mind.

Go all out and deliver the multiplayer-centric experience that this game is so yearning to deliver. I can understand some trepidation here given response to Titanfall and other always online, multiplayer games, but let’s face it: Destiny is designed to be a multiplayer experience through and through. Even the best single-player stuff – roaming around waiting for a world event to happen – is multiplayer. Forget half measures and embrace the game for what it is, and the potential there.

And so I shall continue my Destiny journey, as a multiplayer trek through swarms of alien lifeforms and enjoyable PVP. I’m having a wonderful time enjoying group aspects in the game right now, and spend much of my time in the Crucible blasting away with my friends list. I expect that it will continue to be enjoyable and addictive with an endless list of friends to group with, but I pity the solo players who are wolfing down a forgettable snack at a table serving a full-course meal.

Check out Matt Miller’s first impressions here, and be sure to stop by for our official review when it goes live.