I’ve been playing Destiny since July 2015 and I started with just the base game. I didn’t know what to expect. An FPS obviously, but I’d ignored all of the hype and trailers and reviews and basically everything that was said about Destiny. Not because I didn’t want to be spoiled, but since I wasn’t hugely into Halo I wasn’t terribly intrigued by a new property from Bungie. I’d heard vague noises that it was an MMO and that it was extremely pretty, but that was quite literally all I knew.
It’s now late November 2015, and I’m up to two raid-capable toons and a bit of a collection of Year 2 exotic weapons.
You could say I’m hooked.
So what is Destiny?
The best way of describing Destiny is that it’s an MMO+FPS-lite. Almost all of the story content is single-player, with occasional bits of collaborative content, like shared missions called “Strikes” where a group of players take on a harder boss.
I find this a really nice structure for the majority of the PvE content. I don’t have to organise groups or try to build a community, I can just sit down and push a button and sometimes need to be matched with some random people and just enjoy content.
In the main worlds interaction with other people is extremely limited, which is really nice. Occasionally you might bump into some people and tackle a timed boss or mini-event, but most of the time it’s just you and the big open worlds. This ends up surprisingly pleasant, as the amount of griefing seems to be quite minimal. I can’t interact with others, I just run through them. I can have my kills stolen, but only until I leave the area and move to another shard.
The story in the PvE parts of Destiny is… well, the first year’s content was atrocious. Badly written, poorly exposited rubbish that barely scratched the surface of what could have been an impressive and interesting world, but completely missed the mark.
Missed the mark so badly that Kotaku wrote an extremely in-depth article on why it was so badly screwed up.
TL;DR: they fired their writers and “rewrote” the story with only a couple of months before launch.
The story was rubbish to the point of being endlessly, actively mocked on the internet. Lines such as “I don’t have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain” and “Be careful! Its power is dark!”
Given it’s Bungie, it ought to have been so very much better.
With the first of the Year 2 content, “The Taken King”, it appears they hired (or re-hired) competent writers. There’s considerably more interaction between characters and considerably more exposition and content that illuminates and expands the world. The writing isn’t on the stellar levels of Mass Effect, but compared to Year 1 it’s a pinnacle of literary achievement.
Once you’ve exhausted the story missions there’s the grind, and Destiny is quite grindy. Finding a bunch of materials to resolve quests, across several days. Having to collect currency, which can only be done over several days. Collecting better gear, which can only be done by repeatedly and continually playing the same parts of the game and doing the same things over and over.
The post-game content is starting to do the Actual MMO parts, the raids and weekly strike missions. These are high-level content and require actively working to find groups of people to play with. This is as predictably hit-or-miss as any collection of people will end up being. Racism and homophobia abounds, angry people and shitty environments.
But also really great people who are kind, form groups that work together really well and work to help people approach content they’ve never approached before.
It’s most sensible to find a regular group to play with, a clan in the Destiny parlance.
The PvP gaming is as much fun as PvP gaming ever is; a lot of fun if you’re great, stressful and miserable if you’re merely good. There appears to be a binning function in the matchmaking functionality, which tries to pair you against players of a similar skill. This would probably be great… if you weren’t on the edge of a bin, as I seem to be. My games tend to follow the pattern of being completely outmatched for several games, get matched down a bin, do really well, get matched up a bin, rinse, repeat.
This makes for intensely frustrating gaming. As soon as I start to feel competent and capable and like I’m having fun, Destiny reminds me that I’m actually immensely terrible and that misery should be my only reward.
So Would I recommend it?
The no part comes in because of how fundamentally awful the base story is.
Getting to the good part of the game, The Taken King, can happen almost immediately, and all the Y1 DLC can largely be ignored, but the result will be that your character will be frightfully underskilled and require considerable grinding to level up the skills and abilities, abilities that are critical to any sort of non-miserable PvP play.
Playing the Y1 content can help with that, but it’s a miserable slog of poor writing.
PvP is a crapshoot. End content is only as good as your friends.
It’s super grindy.
On the mostly side, I really enjoy playing Destiny. The FPS mechanics are well-tuned and very satisfying, and it’s a lot of fun mastering techniques for the raid and getting content that took several days to complete the first time down to an hour and a half of gaming.
The Year 2 story is markedly better, on the border of “good”. The lore of why things have happened is fleshed out, and we begin to see motivations and forces beyond “here’s some mooks, shoot them,” and that’s extremely appealing. There’s hooks for the next DLC content that have me extremely excited. There’s a there there now, a place that feels larger than myself and a world that feels like I want to explore it further.
But on the whole, it’s such an investment of time and energy for such terrible writing that I just can’t recommend it.