This article was originally written by myself and published to 8BitChimp 18th August 2015
We are now a month away from The Taken King and Destiny players are preparing to face wrath of Oryx. But as the Guardians ready themselves for the new challenges hidden within the Dreadnaught, how qualitative is Destiny after a year of updates and two offerings of DLC?
Destiny has fast and exhilarating gameplay that stands on par with the best First Person Shooters around, if not a head above the rest. The addictive and exciting gameplay is indeed part of the reason why the community has lasted so long, and in so great a number. Unfortunately, the gameplay has not been without its issues, especially when it comes to balancing weapons and abilities. When Destiny first launched, auto rifles were a guardians first, and often best option, for a primary weapon with fusion rifles occupying the special slot. Fusion rifles were especially annoying in Crucible (PvP) with unfair range in relation to the damage they could deal. Bungie’s initial tinkering to the weapon balance served little purpose, other than to nerf certain exotic weapons (RIP Suros).
Then, about five months back, they instigated a crippling update that nerfed both auto rifles and fusion rifles out of existence. This patch was designed to bring the other weapons, specifically shotguns and pulse rifles, in line with their fellow weapons. In reality, this patch made auto rifles and fusion rifles mostly unusable, while still failing to make pulse rifles a strong alternative. As such, hand cannons and scout rifles are the main go-between’s for PvE players, while exotic primaries are more or less a must for PvP players. Additionally, some of the character abilities, specifically a tactic known as “Blink-Shotgun”, is practically unstoppable. Ultimately, Bungie have failed to discover how to keep weapons powerful and enjoyable to use in PvE, without appearing over-powered in PvP. Very often a particular weapon or weapon class that needs adjusting in the Crucible will be nerfed out of existence for PvE activities as well. All of this results in great gameplay mechanics, that unfortunately feel broken in the moment to moment gameplay.
Destiny’s original offering of PvE content was poor at best. The story missions were highly repetitive; go here and defend against three waves of enemies, or go here and kill a boss that amounts to little more than a bullet sponge. While a number of strikes (3 player co-operative missions) were included, they too were repetitive and followed the same structure that the single player missions relied on. Furthermore, both DLC packs have failed to majorly improve on the PvE offering. Dark Below was the worst offender; offering story missions that were shorter and more simplistic than those in vanilla Destiny.
The second DLC, House of Wolves, did offer some more interesting concepts in terms of single player missions; incorporating mechanics from raid activities such as jumping puzzles and objectives that need to be destroyed within a set time-frame. House of Wolves also offered Prison of Elders, an arena style game mode. Several factors helped to keep Prison of Elders fresh, including elements of procedural generation and six bosses, all with unique mechanics. While some of the boss mechanics were interesting, such as a boss that requires you to avoid touching the floor at certain points, and the various mechanics of the Skolas fight, they lacked enough nuance and variation to keep players interested. Additionally Prison of Elders suffers from repetitive natures such as fighting in the same arena and completing one of only three objectives. While the procedural nature of Prison is appreciated, more features need to be added to keep the game mode fresh and unpredictable.
At the end of year one there is little reason for players to partake in PvE content; the single player missions are repetitive and unimaginative and the three-player strikes lack mechanics to justify needing three players. Then there’s the story of Destiny which is bare bones, lackluster and boring, and that’s in the places were a narrative is present! Furthermore, the narrative remains paper thin, sadly, despite the game’s extremely interesting lore and extraordinary premise.
Of course the primary offering for Destiny’s PvE elite are the game’s raids, Vault of Glass and Crota’s End. Vault of Glass remains, to this day, one of the greatest examples of competent and intriguing game design. Even now, the Vault holds an air of mystery; with Guardians still speculating about the existence of a sixth chest. Unfortunately, Bungie has failed to update the Vault of Glass; with the maximum difficulty level not increasing in line with the increased level caps that came with the DLC releases. As such, Vault is now barely a challenge for those of us who have been able to reach the cap. Crota’s End also suffers from a lack of updates and is equally less challenging since the subsequent increase in the level cap. Additionally, Crota’s End failed to captivate the community in a similar vein to that of Vault of Glass. There is little to no speculation about hidden secrets in Crota’s End, and it failed to deliver on the complexity or enjoyment of Vault of Glass. Finally, the absence of a raid from the House of Wolves DLC means that Destiny’s PvE elite have either left the game behind or are sitting in the Tower, idly counting down the days to The Taken King.
With Bungie’s previous work on the Halo franchise, you may expect PvP to be the main reason to still be playing Destiny. Unfortunately, despite the studio’s heritage, Destiny’s Crucible has been plagued with weapon imbalances and a lack of game modes. In vanilla Destiny, players were only offered four games mode; Control (Capture the zones), Clash (Team Death Match), Rumble (Free for all) and Skirmish (3v3). Three of these modes are inherently similar, effectively offering players only two choices between one objective based game mode and variations upon death match. Utterly baffling was the lack of a capture the flag style game mode, something that is still missing to this day.
Frustratingly, Destiny does have other modes to offer; combined arms (Vehicle warfare on large scale maps) and Salvage (Whereby the objective is to capture and hold a relic), that for some baffling reason Bungie decided to make theses modes playable on alternating weekends only. Since then, Bungie has also included Doubles (2v2), Elimination and even Inferno (Hardcore) versions of the previous game modes, but like with Salvage and Combined Arms, these are also only playable for a week before being switched out. Additionally PvP still lacks private matchmaking, custom game modes and map voting! PvP players also suffered from a lack of desirable rewards. The gear and weapons that PvP players could acquire was often inferior to those rewarded in PvE activities. This was fixed, in part, by Iron Banner – a monthly activity that offered gear comparable to raid gear. Unfortunately for many, Iron Banner was too ‘grindy’ to be worth the eventual rewards. Thankfully, Bungie took this on board offering several methods to decrease the time it takes to earn good rewards from Iron Banner.
Iron Banner aside, the only mainstay for PvP players lies in Trials of Osiris, a game mode that was added with the House of Wolves DLC. Trials is a highly competitive elimination style game mode, which gives teams of three players rewards based upon how many wins you can achieve before accumulating three losses. This mode offers addicting hours of adrenaline filled gameplay wrapped up in enough tension to give you a a heart attack, as you desperately attempt to make you way towards the Lighthouse – a location that offers Trail’s most lucrative rewards, that can only be reached by achieving nine wins without any losses.
In terms of maps, both DLC’s have offered strong additions to the roster, but unfortunately the majority of maps – including the original maps – are plagued with dreadful imbalances, whereby the side your team is spawning on can often dictate your ability to succeed. Overall, Destiny’s PvP offering can offer enjoyable and memorable moments, in no small part aided by the increased variation that House of Wolves provided. Unfortunately, the lack of game modes and the balancing issues that afflict both; the game’s maps, and weapon roster, are an exasperating thorn in the game’s side – preventing Destiny’s PvP from outshining its competitors.
Destiny is a game that has been plagued with issues since launch. Bungie has received copious criticism from both critics and the community, and often have been very slow to respond. However, they have responded. Ascension (The ability to upgrade any legendary weapon or armour piece to maximum damage/defence rating – introduced in House of Wolves), means that players have a reason to complete old activities. Diversity has been added to both the PvE and PvP suites and one complaint that no longer exists is the lack of available content (A typical week in Destiny can consist of running up to 4 different Prison of Elders, 7 different daily story missions, 2 raids, a nightfall and weekly strike and several attempts at going flawless in Trails of Osiris, never mind bounties, vanguard strikes, crucible, and repeating all of the above with alternative characters). Instead the question is why would you want to still be playing these activities? Most are repetitive and in some cases have not been updated since release. Furthermore, while Destiny certain has a sufficiently large table of loot, most players will have already acquired the majority of what they seek, baring a few hard to find exotics (I’m talking about you Gjallahorn).
Finally, there is the question surrounding the accumulative price of Destiny and its two DLC’s. With a combined total now reaching a minimum of $100, and a further $40 minimum been asked for The Taken King, my biggest complaint against Destiny is the cost. The game still holds an element of mediocrity that it needs to overcome, in order to justify the high price tag that “Day One” players in particular have been charged. That being said, the $60 offering that will be available in September to new fledgling Guardians is definitely worth a look. If you have yet to play Destiny; the current series of improvements, in addition to those promised with The Taken King, mean that now is a fantastic time to join the ranks, as the game is finally beginning to deliver on the initial promise. As for us battle torn and aging guardians, year two of Destiny looks set to be an exciting time full of promise, fingers crossed Bungie provides enough to do to justify the time we’ve been waiting, and that hefty price tag!
While Bungie has, and continues to make necessary improvements, Destiny is still a far reach from the potential it promises.