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Opinion: The Trials and Tribulations of Bungie’s Destiny

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If someone asked me to summarize Destiny in a single word, without hesitation I would reply with “polarizing.” For a game that sought to bring players together with a new FPS experience, it inadvertently divided them. Check any news article, forum, or blog and you’ll see either disappointed customers or loyal players who have dumped several hundred hours into Destiny duking it out in the comments. However, Destiny is still going strong with an avid fanbase, is frequently in the top 20 streaming games on Twitch, and just won Best Game at the 2015 BAFTA awards.  Players are still playing, still raiding, and still at the mercy of RNG. For better or worse, I’m one of them. Closing in on the second DLC expansion, House of Wolves (no official release date yet), I thought now would be a great time to address Destiny’s current issues and successes.

Bungie asserts that Destiny is a “shared-world shooter,” while some players may casually refer to it as an FPSMMO. At the moment Bungie’s shared-world description is the most accurate. It doesn’t dive deep enough into the MMO territory to warrant the FPSMMO description, but does take inspiration from the genre. This blending of genres works for the most part and will be refined over time (i.e. Destiny 2). Destiny is in many ways the guinea pig for their 10-year vision for the franchise. At its core Destiny’s main problem involves balancing its FPS and MMO into the overall game structure. Going forward Bungie needs to pick and choose the right elements from both genres to cement their game’s unique identity. On the FPS side, the mechanics are incredible: aiming, shooting, movement etc. are all top notch. Bungie’s MMO side on the other hand barely scratches the surface on what it could be. Bungie should embrace its MMO inspiration and look to include deeper elements into its game, specifically in its lore and social features. Although this may conflict with their current shared-world shooter vision, pushing more in-game lore and MMO inspired social features would only enhance player experience.

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A breathtaking view from atop the Tower. The large sphere is the silent husk of the Traveler hovering above the last city.

If you’ve been following Destiny, or have played it yourself,  you’ve most certainly come across complaints regarding Destiny’s campaign and story. Specifically… how there isn’t one. Rumors quickly circulated after release that the original campaign story was scrapped late in development and a new one was put in this place. From what was supposedly data mined that scenario is a likely possibility, although no one can say for certain what really happened. Speculation aside, Destiny’s campaign is bad (and I don’t use that word liberally). The good news is that Destiny’s universe is quite the opposite. With how Bungie has set up Destiny, there may be no limit to what they could do with Destiny’s universe and where (or when) they could go. The whole solar system is quite literally their canvas and imagination their paintbrush. There are three main issues with their campaign, lore, fragmentation, and presentation. Going forward Bungie will likely refine and perfect how they construct and present their story to players, turning their biggest weakness into one of their greatest strengths. All of the pieces of the puzzle is there, they just need to figure out how to put them together.

I guess the biggest question would be, why is Destiny’s campaign bad? The best way to portray this would be to discuss how Destiny’s campaign ended (no spoilers). Reaching the end Destiny’s campaign you’re likely going to ask three questions after beating the final… um… boss, if you can call it that: What am I doing here? How did I get here? And why is this important? No, I’m not exaggerating. From the players I’ve talked to and myself included, it’s a common reaction to completing Destiny’s campaign. This also summarizes the campaign in it’s entirely. It’s hard to follow the events of the game. Each individual mission feels more like a one-off self-contained mission than something that builds into subsequent missions. As a result the overall campaign suffers. The reason why I quipped about Destiny not having a campaign is that nothing really happened over the course of the game, or nothing that felt important anyway. Yes, you stopped a threat to what little remains of humanity but it doesn’t feel that way. Players do not feel as if they made an impact on the game’s universe whatsoever and seemingly make no progress against the forces of Darkness.

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A level 12 Vex Minotaur. While it may be only level 12, Destiny scales down your damage output and defensive stats to make even lower level enemies more dangerous. Even if you’re level 32, selecting a level 12 mission would prevent you from doing the damage of a level 32.

This feeling that nothing occurred in the campaign also seeps into the lore itself. So how was your ghost able to resurrect you from the dead at the beginning of the game (trust me, not a spoiler)? I for sure don’t know and I’m not sure if we’ll ever find out. What about the three races that make up the game, what exactly are the Exo and Awoken? Details like that are crucial for the game’s universe to work. When aspects such as that are glossed over things start to fall apart. I understand that not every question, or most questions for that matter, will be addressed and answered over the course of a single game. However, the campaign needs to accomplish something. At this point a single DLC release doesn’t give a clear example about how the game’s story will progress. Will the full Destiny experience only be achieved by purchasing all future expansions? It’s unclear if that is the case as The Dark Below focused on a new piece of lore unrelated to the main campaign. Even after the DLC’s release the campaign still feels incomplete.

Those familiar with the game may have noticed something in the preceding paragraph. Answers and information about the game’s lore does exist and lends a little light (pun intended) to questions players may ask themselves throughout the game. So why would I say that some of the lore was glossed over? Well, most of the lore found in Destiny is found via Grimoire cards. These cards are located completely outside of the game either through the Destiny app or on Bungie’s website. There is no way for a player to access the information in-game on their consoles. From a story and presentation perspective this makes entirely no sense. There are so many players who will never bother to go online and wade through important information about the various races, events, and lore. That is, if they’ve actually unlocked those Grimoire cards to begin with.

Essentially Bungie is putting up a barrier between players and the game’s lore. It is entirely dependent on the player’s willingness to unlock, actively seek out, and read the lore. In reality, this is not an effective means to get lore to the players (although, on a side note Bungie’s app in incredible and they keep a lot of interesting gameplay stats as well). The only reason I know a bit about the lore is because I’ve read reddit posts from other players who have actually took time to unlock and read the cards themselves. The depressing part is that the lore is really good, it’s interesting and creative. The use of these cards still baffles me and I’m not exactly sure how they came to the conclusion that this is the best possible way to convey their lore to players. At the very least there should be a way for players to access the cards and read the lore in game. For example, they could have gave players access to their Grimoire Cards in-game at the Tower, and delivered that lore via narration with artistic stills and scenes (possibly even using concept art) to paint a mythic story to players.

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The vast backdrop of a fallen city on Mars.

No example best illustrates the way the Grimoire cards fall flat than the raids. It’s no secret that the Destiny’s biggest gameplay draws are the raids. All around the raids are fantastic, I’ve never experienced anything quite like them in another FPS. They require you to learn how the mechanics work, as shooting everything will not necessarily result in progression. In addition it requires great communication with your raid group. If you’ve never experienced the raid or have yet to jump into one the best way I suggest experiencing it is to find other new players and jump into the raid blind (i.e knowing nothing). When you know how to beat bosses and how the mechanics work the raids do lose some of their luster. With that being said, the raids do focus on a piece of lore, but what that lore consists of is not delivered to players. For example, in the Vault of Glass raid includes a story about a legionless Titan named Kabr who ventured into the Vault of Glass alone. From the few Grimoire cards featuring his story, it’s found out that he created the relic used by players in the raid (and is impossible to beat the raid without using it). None of that information is delivered to players. The first time I saw the name Kabr was on the armor drop I received from the vault. Through a friend weeks afterwards I finally learned about Kabr’s story.

The same situation occurred in Crota’s End. The final level of the DLC had you destroy Crota’s Soul on the moon (not a spoiler, trust me). However, the raid involves you heading back to the moon to defeat Crota. Wait, but we just destroyed Crota’s soul and prevented his summoning? Yep, we did, but apparently we destroyed his a shadow of a soul that existed in this dimension, which prevented him from being summoned here. However, the guardians must travel to his dimension to destroy him. That is a pretty interesting chain of events, however none of that is explained to players in the game. In one instance we have a raid, the Vault of Glass, that is separate from the campaign and Crota’s End that is the final act of the story in the 1st DLC expansion. Both have their problems with how they deal with presenting lore to players. However, both raids work in regards to how they are integrated in the game: either as a separate instance loosely tied to the campaign, a la Vault of Glass, or as the final act in an arc/story like Crota’s End is.

Bungie will have a tough time in building up lore for the raid and incorporating it into the gameplay. It’s not wise to bog down the raids gameplay with lore, but information does need to get to players. One way to do this is similar to how Crota’s End uses preceding story missions, despite throwing some key information in Grimoire cards. Another way would be hiding (but, not making them impossible to find) ghost fragments related to other guardians who have died in their attempt to complete the raid (such as Kabr, or Eris Morn’s fireteam) A narrative can play once the fragment is touched and give lore to the players, similar to how your ghost narrates events in the campaign. In this fashion players do not have to watch cutscenes and can skip over the ghost fragments if they’ve already listened to the raid’s lore. It also provides better access to the lore instead of hiding them outside the game in Grimoire Cards.

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Sparrows are the fastest way to get around the planets in Destiny.

To fully exploit its own lore, Bungie would probably have to incorporate more cutscenes and exposition. I can hear players’ moans and groans from here, but if your goal is to build an expansive universe the narrative has to be there to support it. As we’ve seen, the Grimoire Cards aren’t cutting it. Assuming no other innovative way is utilized to deliver narrative to players, this is a viable option. Done well cutscenes can only contribute to the game. There is a big caveat however… we need the ability to skip cutscenes, or have them omitted automatically. For example, when selecting the story mission directly from the map results in cutscenes, but cutscenes are automatically omitted when playing the daily story missions for ascendant materials.

On the voice-acting side, Peter Dinklage, the voice of your ghost (which has no name strangely) has gotten a lot of flak for his voice work. For those who don’t recognize the name, Peter Dinklage is Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones. While he is a phenomenal actor, doing some research, it seems he’s not had much voice acting experience. Video game voice acting is also a bit different than an animated film. Yes, his performance left something to be desired, especially since your ghost has the most lines in the game. However, there’s only so much an actor can do with a mediocre script. I hate to constantly rip into the Destiny’s story but it’s hard to ignore. It’s one of the reasons the cutscenes are more of a chore to watch (the graphics are gorgeous). I believe the writing/script is an aspect of the narrative that tends to get overlooked.

While the story itself is nothing to write home about, bringing a better story to future DLC and sequels definitely something Bungie is planning on delivering. However, they need to clear some hurdles for a more cohesive story to be possible. Destiny’s campaign is unique from a structural standpoint compared to traditional first person shooters. In Call of Duty for example, you start the campaign and events unfold until you finish it. It’s A-to-Z and it’s hyper focused. Destiny’s campaign is quite the opposite and is fragmented as a result.

Some of this is due to how the level requirements are for story missions. It is not possible for players to complete story missions for the needed experience to progress. Eventually you’ll need to stop playing the campaign and complete bounties, strikes, or jump into PvP for additional experience. It’s possible to forget nuances of individual story missions, leading to a worse understanding of the overall campaign and resulting in player confusion.

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Using your ghost can reveal what types of Patrol missions are available. The green light in the distance indicates a patrol mission, while the symbols on both the right side of the screen and the left (below “Ishtar Cliffs”) indicate where other patrol missions are.

The main contribution to the campaign’s fragmentation is that the campaign and strikes are separate from each other. While the Vault of Glass is technically separate from the events in the game, I’ve already given the raids a pass in that regard. Since the strikes and story missions are mostly self-contained, what results is a campaign with a lot of breadth but not much depth in the story. Utilizing these game modes in a cohesive story would have better served to convey why things were happening and why they are important. Having the strike be the final level of the planet would be a good way to scale up the previous events that occurred over the past few story missions. In this way the story events on each planet could build up to an event, a boss, something and result in a definitive ‘final level’ so to say. Players will play strikes over and over again due to the gameplay, not because of its story. Therefore, integrating the Devil’s Lair strike into the Earth story segment would have served the campaign better. Matchmaking does exist for this anyway, so players who couldn’t complete the strike by themselves would be able to do so. It seems that Bungie is already moving in this direction. In The Dark Below the strike is tied into the events of the story missions, with the strike’s boss making an appearance in several of them.

The final part is Destiny’s presentation of Destiny. There isn’t a driving force behind the game’s story missions or for the campaign in general. Bungie introduces a boss or an enemy by name, but they are killed within that same mission. What results is a Batman without a Joker. It may be generic just to throw an antagonist in and it seems Bungie defers the role of the antagonist to the alien races themselves (primarily the Vex). While omitting this focal point of conflict and using an alien race itself is fine to do, the same problem of breath over depth persists. Destiny introduces four races over the course of the campaign and gives each its own due diligence. However, it never feels like any one race in particular is a threat until the very end of the campaign. It should be noted that Bungie has to set up and give some face time to the various alien races at some point. It may be by design that Destiny focuses on setting up the this foundation while subsequent releases will provide the depth of story and lore surrounding them.

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An example of a player’s inventory, with a bounty highlighted. Players can complete bounties for experience, reputation, and other items. Bounties are refreshed daily.

Due to Destiny’s fragmentation, the campaign doesn’t build to anything and as a result, there is no payoff to completing it. Presentation wise, there is no sense of urgency for players and you do not feel as if the human race/traveler is in any serious danger. This is a big problem and the main issue behind players’ “that was it?” reaction. Some of this can be alleviated in the future with set-pieces. While scripted set-pieces can be a love it or hate it topic for players, their inclusion in Destiny’s campaign will drive that sense of urgency for players. It will also bring with it a true sense of scale to the campaign. While it’s true Destiny does have a massive scale with large expansive backdrops and locations spread out over three planets and the moon, there is a lack of truly draw dropping ‘wow’ moments often caused by set-pieces. Nor, is there a true sense of scale and urgency needed in a game such as this. Their inclusion will also give some missions their own unique identity, leading to more memorable story missions. The last point to make about set pieces is that it would mix up the events in a mission. One of major complaints in nearly all aspects of Destiny’s gameplay is the use of your ghost. At every turn you progress through levels by scanning (or hacking) something with your ghost. The players interaction with the game becomes more one dimensional and tends to gets old fast. Including set pieces could be a way to move against this stagnant gameplay mechanism in a way to incorporate the player more.

To round up the presentation aspect, both NPC’s (i.e. Commander Zavala) and factions do not play important roles in the games world except for selling gear and narrating some missions. The inclusions of these characters in the story would make the game more dynamic from a storytelling and presentation perspective. Having a team of three guardians interacting more with Zavala, Ikora Rey, and so on, would bring about a sense of being a part of something greater, a feeling of being a true guardian. Currently much is done from a single player perspective. Your fireteam members are not recognized in cutscenes or events in the story. This results in a weird balancing act for Bungie. Do they continue pushing the single player narrative, or work to incorporate fireteam members into the narrative? Due to the race and gender diversity, doing so would mean having to shoot nearly all scenes with all possible combinations. With limited time (the developers need to sleep) and money this is not feasible. It may be each players destiny (I promise that’s the last one), to defeat humanities enemies alone, but presenting that feeling of being a part of something greater is important. Especially since much of the game involves being in a fireteam. Incorporating these NPC’s into set-pieces, cutscenes, and the overall narrative may be one way to do so.

I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the campaign since its Destiny’s biggest drawback. Now I’m going to switch gears and pick apart some of the other aspects of Destiny starting with its classes. There are three classes in Destiny players can choose from, each having two subclasses. The main classes themselves are separated by combat and movement abilities, each excelling in a specific stat: titans have more armor, warlocks have higher recovery, and hunters have more agility. Bungie does a great job in separating the classes forcing players to play differently depending on what class they use. Titans popping a shield to protect teammates, hunters going invisible to revive teammates, and warlocks speeding up the cool downs of other players help differentiate how these classes are used. Another brilliant idea was to not give each class an affinity towards a specific weapon category. Having a Warlock excel in special weapons but not in heavy or primary weapon types would cause problems for both developers and players. This current set-up also encourages players to start new games with other classes as well, fostered by the ability to transfer weapons between your save files. The Destiny app was recently updated with a way to transfer weapons and items from a save profile to your vault and vice-versa. Players who have experience forgetting a weapon in their vault understand the importance of this feature.

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The Defender Titan Subclass. Catapult, is one of three ways players can customize how their Titan moves. In this case Catapult gives the Titan’s lift (movement) an initial burst of speed. Other option are more directional control while in the air, or maxing out how high lift can go.

While the subclasses further separate play-styles to a degree, they aren’t drastically different from one another. Anyone familiar with MMOs will recognize that the main classes are representative of common roles in the genre. The Hunter is a DPS, the Warlock is support, and the Titan is a tank. However, none of those classes are truly fit the roles they are inspired by. This was likely by design for balancing purposes, but I think Bungie is missing out on a big opportunity in the raids by doubling down on their MMO inspiration. Take the titan for example. In traditional MMOs the tank class is used to pull enemy players towards them and due to their high defense and health stats are able to take the enough damage and play a defensive role. Destiny’s Titans don’t do that. As my main class I cannot assist my team makes by using abilities that make me a damage sponge, or use physical strength to a deadly advantage. While the shield is helpful, as it currently works it cannot be incorporated into gameplay mechanics to make the class truly unique. If this were to occur then additional balancing issues in PvP will result.

So what is the solution? A third subclass. This subclass should be designed for use purely for Destiny’s future raids. This would allow for a way to truly separate the gameplay mechanics of each class and used with level designs in the raid create unique situations and experiences within the raids. With the exception of the Titan’s shield all super-abilities in the game revolve around killing enemies. The majority of the upgrades in the subclass revolve around small changes to some abilities (i.e. melee effects, super effects, etc.) and how much armor/agility/recovery stats for a particular class. No subclass has abilities that can drastically influence the mechanics of the raid, or how team work with players occurs.

To illustrate my point, those who have played both Vault of Glass and Crota’s End have noticed the difference in the way mechanics were used. Vault of Glass incorporated unique mechanics at every turn, while Crota’s End involved much more straight forward mechanics and had a higher reliance on higher level enemies as a barrier to player progression. From what I’ve seen both raids are enjoyed by fans, but the preference seems to be towards Vault of Glass. There might be only so many ways to introduce mechanics into an FPS, so this third subclass (and subsequent subclasses) could enable Bungie to create more difficult and unique gameplay mechanics, without the need to rely on higher level enemies as an obstacle to progressing in the raid. A segment that relies on the Titan’s ability to take damage, a segment that needs a hunter’s speed, etc. could give Bungie more to play with in raid creation.

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One of the many ways players can shuffle around their stats. Titan Codex III reduces the armor stat in favor of increasing recovery time. Many of these upgrade nodes involve stat edits such as this one.

The social component in Destiny has been fairly polarizing. While Bungie has implemented voice chat, social features are limited. Players are pushing for more social integrating into the game while Bungie has been fairly reserved about implementing more features. The main issue with the current social features is the lack of in-game features resulting in player separation. Players who have friends constantly playing Destiny have easy access to raid groups or Weekly Nightfall strikes (the Weekly Heroic Strike has recently received matchmaking). Players who have a difficult time finding a fireteam are forced to experience the raids with random players. Those who gone this route have probably run into both friendly players, but also ignorant elitist players. It’s the luck of the draw but it shouldn’t be this way.

I understand why Destiny refuses to include matchmaking for the raids and Weekly Nightfall Strikes. They want raids to be run with a close team of players. As someone who has experienced raids in both ways, having a close knit team makes communicating easier. More importantly, its substantially more fun to play with a team you’re familiar with than players found via a third party website. There are multiple ways to find players, either on Bungie’s forums (which I don’t recommend) or third party LFG (i.e. looking for group) sites such as /r/fireteams or DestinyLFG. This is inconvenient for players and offers inconsistent results. This would be less of a problem if in-game options existed for easier communication and group finding. The current method of using external websites or spamming random invites to other level 30+ players in Tower is not cutting it. Bungie could implement a text chat feature for the Tower. Although they are probably hesitant to do so as common problems such as trolling, foul language and so forth would result.

There is a way for Bungie to keep its vision for how they want fireteams to be and give players an easier way to find groups. Right a clan features does exist in Destiny. However, this feature is managed similar to Grimoire cards… outside the game. While players can go to Bungie.net and set up a clan, invite players etc. it is a bit cumbersome. Why can’t players manage a clan, invite players, leave messages for their group in-game? Bungie should look into how MMOs set up their guilds. Specifically, I recommend checking out how Final Fantasy XIV’s Free Company system works. Destiny’s clans should work similar to how these MMO guilds/clans/free companies operate.  The ultimate outcome will enable players to organically increase their clans members within the game. Bungie could also implement measures to motivate players to seek out and join clans, such as more vault space, customized emblems, etc. This would eliminate the need to use outside means of finding players to play with, but facilitate team building as Bungie envisions for their raids. Eventually, players would come across like-minded players and join their clan, or create their own. Other cool implementations would be to have your become affiliated with a faction to reap more benefits, perhaps lowering the cost of armor and weapons for that faction. Formal alliances between clans could also become a reality.

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The originally despised Master Rahool, the Tower’s Cryptarch. He has since been given a stern talking to by Bungie and doesn’t decrypt legendary engrams into rares anymore. Sometimes you can even get Exotics, I got lucky on this one.

Speaking of factions, players also have the ability to join a faction of guardians… or two factions… or all three factions. Joining a faction is arbitrary and has no real impact outside of gaining access to some new weapons and armor. Patrol missions best illustrate this at the most basic level. These are short side missions players can do running around on various planets. Despite what faction a player current is playing under (i.e. dictated by what class item they are wearing) they can take patrol missions for any faction and earn experience and rep for their current faction. Wearing a Dead Orbit class item, while doing a Future War Cult patrol mission gives Dead Orbit rep. It makes no sense presentation wise, but does work well from a gameplay standpoint. This streamlines patrol missions so players don’t need to hunt down specific missions or constantly change class items. For future Destiny installments, Bungie should look to how other MMOs convince their players to join and stay with specific guilds, groups, etc. and try to put some weight behind the player’s decision to join and keep playing with a specific faction.

Bungie has spent a lot of time updating, adjusting, fixing, and balancing its game. Its devotion to crafting the best experience possible is no less than impressive. Some fans have been calling on Bungie to implement weapon and armor selling/sharing. Bungie has to tread carefully regarding what they introduce in order to avoid potentially game breaking mechanics. Their refusal to allow players to share or sell weapons received in the game… is the right call. Yeah, I said it. As it currently works there should not be a way for players to exchange weapons and armor with other players. One of the driving forces for players who continue to pour hours into the game is finding wanted weapons or upgrading armor etc. While this carrot on the stick approach may get on players nerves at times, the ability to get whatever you want whenever you want would result in players dropping the game. Complaints would shift from not getting drops from RNG, to but there’s nothing to do anymore. With online games such as Destiny that rely on a large player base complaints will always exist, it’s unavoidable. However, it is better for both Bungie and players that weapons sharing/selling is not implemented into the game. For players who have not experienced other MMOs, RNG works like this pretty consistently. Players grind dungeons for low drop rates, quite possibly for months looking for their desired gear. With the inclusion of Xur (whether it is truly RNG or not) gives players the ability direct access to exotic armor and upgrades. Without Xur I don’t think I would have half of the exotic weapons I own (well, except for No Land Beyond, but that’s another story).

When The Dark Below dropped last December, Bungie had to increase the current level cap. This also resulted in a need for higher level weapons. The level cap was only a slight increase but the DLC caused some problems. First and foremost, it originally took players weeks reach light level 30 due the way drops worked in the Vault of Glass. Players had to grind ad nauseum on hard mode to finally get their last armor piece to drop. More casual players were not able to reach level 30 until the DLC. This was due to vendors now selling gear enabling players to reach level 30 easily. This put Bungie in a tight spot. Players complained about how their hard earned armor and weapons were instantly obsolete. For House of Wolves it could eliminate the ability for players to buy gear to get to level 32 (new level cap) and force them to go so via Crota’s End. However, what happens to players who do not purchase The Dark Below but only the main game and House of Wolves? How would players get to level 32 to without Crota’s End raid gear? Despite Bungie’s declaration that the same mistakes won’t be made for the future expansions, they do need figure out ways to offer new gear to players who are unable to do so via the raids.

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An example of an un-upgraded weapon. Players can choose different sights that affect stats, as well as other perks. One unintended consequence to frequent updates and patches is shown here. CQB Ballistics indicates a reduction in recoil, but reduced range. However, seen in the stat bars the range is green, indicating an increase, while stability is shown in red meaning more recoil. It is exactly opposite from the description, which results in confusion for players.

New weapons were also introduced into the game and the old legendary weapon offerings disappeared from vendor shelves and are not unavailable for drops. There are only so many guns Bungie can implement in each expansion. It would be in their best interest to keep old weapon drops available, but increase their damage output to the current maximum. The same should be done for raid weapons and gear. Bungie should increase the raids maximum level, for example offering Vault of Glass hard more at level 32. As a result they could also offer the upgraded weapons and armor. As it currently stands, there is less of a reason to run Vault of Glass when both the armor and weapon drops are so far below the maximum there is no point in using them.

Offering higher level raids with updated weapon and armor drops gives players a reason to play older raids. However, players might just keep running old raids and just using familiar weapons such as the ever-useful Vision of Confluence. A viable option would be to lag the older raid gear and weapons, one step below the maximum. Let me explain. The first damage cap for weapons was 300, now it is 331. For the House of Wolves let’s say the maximum is 362. All old weapons from Vault of Glass are now worthless at the highest level of combat. That shouldn’t be the case. What Bungie could do, is offer Vault of Glass hard mode at level 32 with the weapons upgraded at a staggered state. That means players can acquire a new version of their favorite raid weapon (i.e. Vision of Confluence) that still could be used in highest level combat without trumping the new weapons and gear from the newest raid.

When the first Destiny DLC dropped they implemented a way to upgrade currently owned exotics into the more upgraded form. Despite some backlash, this was a fantastic idea. Players were short sighted with their complaints about having to re-level their exotics. Yes, it is a pain to do so. However, it would be more of a pain to be at the mercy of RNG again. What if you finally got the fabled Gjallarhorn early in the game and it became severely outdated with the House of Wolves release? If there was no way for you to upgrade your currently owned exotics you would either need to rely on RNG again, or wait for Xur each week for a chance to sell that weapon. This also includes armor. While it may be a pain to re-upgrade weapons in the short-run, in the long run without this option… it would be so much worse. However, the time required to fully upgrade an exotic weapon or armor, was substantial. Again Bungie finds itself in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. Their best course of action would be to wipe the final three damage upgrade nodes of an exotic and have those three be re-upgraded to reach the highest damage cap. They could also keep adding on additional damage nodes, through Xur, without wiping previously earned experience. This way players will not complain about having to re-upgrade their weapon for the 3rd time, but not have to rely on RNG to give them the newest version available.

The grim reality is that overtime weapons and armor do become obsolete. It is impossible to keep running with the same armor and weapon you received for the duration of the game’s lifespan. Eventually you’ll have to depart with your dearly beloved sword, spear, or in this case gun. Part of the problem with obsolete weapons and gear is Destiny’s fast turnaround time. It usually takes a long time for the first true expansion to come out for MMOs. With Destiny, the content needs to be churned out at a much faster rate. Looking at the leaked information its clear Bungie understands this and will be delivering new content throughout the year. The short turnaround time for Destiny is due to the fast paced nature of its FPS gameplay. Attempting to run through a dungeon quickly in an MMORPG might take 30 minutes, is quite different than completing a strike in 10 minutes (even without skipping anything). Compared to an MMORPG Destiny players experiencing more in less time. That’s just how it works within the context of an FPS.

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A view of the current stats on the weapon and its perks seen at the bottom. Players can hold up to 9 weapons in a single category besides the currently equipped weapon. The same amount can be held or armor. This shotgun does Void damage, one of three types of damage found in the game.

Coupling the nature of FPS gameplay with lack of extraneous activities found in MMOs such as gathering, mining, forging etc, ultimately leads to the “Destiny doesn’t have any content” or the “there’s nothing to do” argument. There isn’t much Bungie could do in this regard as it’s just the nature of the beast. They could include longer strikes, levels, and raids, but they have several constraints in terms of time, money, and resources. It’s a give and take scenario. In this regard I don’t have an ideas or recommendations on how to remedy the problem. With the exception of Borderlands I cannot think of another FPS game that can give players hundreds of hours of PvE content. Even in Borderlands players constantly open the same chests and replay the game on New Game+, or New Game++, or with a different character is the exact same thing as running the same strikes over again. The argument that Destiny doesn’t have content does not stand up in my eyes.

Before concluding, I want to some wishful thinking and odds and ends. I haven’t addressed the crucible yet (online PvP multiplayer). For the most part I think the Crucible is excellent, despite some weapons balancing issues and players’ over-reliance on super-abilities. Bungie offers a wide array of gameplay modes, some that are rotated in and out depending on what week it is. Including too many game modes will parse the amount of players over several game types and could lead to problems in matchmaking. With that being said Destiny is missing out on a guaranteed hit… horde mode. I want a horde mode more than anything in Destiny, and the day it arrives (if it does) will be glorious. The 6v6 PvP multiplayer is the usual set-up, but the 3v3 is a nice change of pace. However, I’m not the only one who desires a 12v12 multiplayer mode. That’s one thing I definitely want to see Destiny reach at some point. Killzone: Shadowfall and other games have pulled this off well, so this should be a possibility.

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One of Destiny’s many ship skins. Hopefully one day, you’ll be able to do more with them than just flying from place to place.

I also expect sparrow racing and spaceship fighting to be available at some point over Destiny’s 10-year lifespan. At the end of this ride if I can’t have PvP dogfighting with my tricked out spaceship with Venus in the backdrop, Bungie screwed up. Realistically, I’m pretty sure it’s coming down the pipes. There’s no way some developers at Bungie aren’t drooling over the keyboards at the possibility of doing it. However, we probably won’t get it before Destiny 2. Bungie should also look into implementing a max level hardcore Patrol mode. It’s nice to do bounties fast, but sometimes I want a bit of a challenge. The ability to pick a level 30 or 32 patrol should be a available to players. Running around with the strongest possible enemies would keep players coming back to the patrol mode. Bungie should also use this to include some unique patrol missions as they current offerings are fairly boring. Scan this, kill that, etc. gets boring relatively fast. Upping public events or hiding secret bosses in hardcore patrol are a great way to mix things up for players. I think that’s it for the odds and ends, don’t think I missed anything… well, maybe for… MORE VAULT SPACE! Although, this is more of a matter of when not if. With a game that offers a lot of fun guns to use vaults fill up fairly fast and more vault space is a must. Managing your inventory can be devastating when forced to delete a weapon for a new one. It’s truly heart breaking.

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The terraformed Venus, now a tropical planet filled with vegetation.

While this article was a bit of a read, it’s impossible to go over every little detail about what worked and what didn’t (i.e. lack of boss diversity, great level design, and other small nuances). The reality is however, the developers get a lot of feedback, they already know where and how they want to improve their game. While they didn’t, and couldn’t say it, they understood where their game was lacking even before its launch in September. The reality is no developer has infinite amount of money and time to create content and updates for their game. They can only do so much at a time. Bungie’s unwavering dedication to interacting with fans and seeking feedback will only make their game better over time. Besides there are so many people who (like me) have opinions based on what went right, wrong, and what they want to see changed in Destiny. Addressing issues and suggesting alterations always brings a different perspective and may provide inspiration for future gameplay changes and patches.

I have high hopes for where Destiny will go in the future and despite its current stumbles, the game can be addictive, its shooting mechanics are incredible, and most importantly the game is fun to play. However, if you’re not someone who doesn’t like to seek out and collect weapons and upgrades, than the amount of time spent playing Destiny would be drastically less than mine. The same can be said for gamers who place narrative over gameplay. Destiny’s raids are something you will not find in another FPS, while top notch PvP is there when you need a break from PvE content. The reality is that Destiny provides much more content than other FPS offerings out there for less. They might charge you $20 for a DLC expansion, but it’s not $15 for a map pack. Going forward a development team with Bungie’s prowess will be sure to address missteps made in the past and improve upon future expansions and installments. We’ve already seen them move towards a more cohesive campaign in The Dark Below and their response to player feedback about what went wrong in that expansion. They’ll continue to learn and improve, a few years from now we Destiny might truly deliver the one the best gaming experiences available.

 

Matthew is one of our games writers on Resident Entertainment. You will see his posts are of a very high quality and an honest view in his reviews is always given. He enjoys taking a very detailed look at the games he covers and takes pride in writing his posts, he is very passionate about gaming and has a lot of knowledge, experience and talent. He is a big fan of Final Fantasy and you’ll find lots of posts of his on the site about this series.

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