Shank’s Spiel: Uncovering My Destiny

Destiny was perhaps the most confounding puzzle I’ve had to solve in a while. Specifically, I wanted to figure out exactly what Destiny is. Now, Dave will tell you that it’s nothing more than a Defiance clone in his endearingly trollish way, but I don’t subscribe to this.

It took me ages to figure out, but I finally puzzled out just what Destiny truly is. The answer may very well be different to those of you who played the beta over the last week and a half simply because your experience with the game was inherently different to mine. And that’s fine. But for me, I really needed to understand what this game is and crucially, what this game isn’t.

I admit that I was on an emotional roller coaster ride with the beta. And I don’t mean this in the way that The Last Of Us left me emotionally drained (and will do so again after I play through the Remastered edition…possibly next week’s Spiel). I began the beta with excitement, which then quickly deteriorated into disappointment.

I was disappointed by the seemingly repetitive gameplay, the shallow open play spaces, and the frequent and definitely noticeable frame drops. The Crucible, Destiny’s PVP, simply wasn’t compelling enough. I didn’t feel the urge to explore. The honeymoon was over.

It was during this disappointment lull when I realized I would have to tease out what Destiny actually is. This process took the better part of a week, but in the end, my findings were well worth the effort. And perhaps surprisingly, what I found wasn’t all that surprising.

After I made this realization, I began to have fun with the game again. I saw the game for what it was and understood what it wasn’t. Slowly but surely, I became cautiously optimistic for the game again.

And this is where you come in. You want to know what I puzzled out. My findings are multifaceted, so let’s explore them thusly. First and foremost, Destiny is absolutely not a “next gen” experience, nor did I ever take it for one. The term “next gen” is pretty much meaningless simply because I own a PC that is quite literally 3.5x more powerful than my PS4. Even on my older PC build from 2011, I was already enjoying “next gen” with the likes of Battlefield 3 with components more powerful than my PS4…in 2011.

Destiny is not some groundbreaking new experience that wasn’t available before. Sure, it may not have been possible on previous consoles, but this type of game has existed for years and years on the PC. Just because this type of experience wasn’t available on consoles does not make it “next gen.” It’s just “catching up” to PCs.

As a brief aside, what I experienced in The Crew beta truly blew me away. That is an experience I haven’t seen on consoles nor PCs. Even though an experience like this could have been done on PCs for years, the fact is it never was. While the visuals were average, a truly seamless open world United States on such a titanic scale is something I have never experienced before. Because of that, The Crew looks to be one of those upcoming titles that will provide a truly new experience.

Destiny is not an open world game either, despite the misleading marketing implying the game’s open world nature. The play spaces are too small to provide for truly rewarding exploration, with random “missions”…if you can even call them that…scattered throughout the world.

These missions are so banal and derivative that one wonders what Bungie actually intended to accomplish with the structure of these Explore missions. They are half-assed, weak, and provide no incentive to actually complete them. This Explore mechanic is by far and away Destiny’s weakest component.

Bungie should have either ditched these missions entirely and focused only on the story missions and multiplayer Crucible, or, they should have created a true open world where you really can travel to the distant horizons shown off by the skyboxes. The fact that Bungie failed to do either is an absolute travesty of what should have been.

But no, these useless asinine Explore missions are not why I am cautiously optimistic about this game.

The greatest realization I made about Destiny, the one realization that liberated me from my cavernous disappointment, is this: Destiny is simply Bungie’s next evolution of Halo. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Bungie learned a lot with Halo. You can see this learning throughout the games they worked on. Combat got tighter, movement more fluid, and story more epic. The culmination of a decade’s worth of development and learning is brought to the forefront in Destiny.

Even though I was exposed to a short sliver of the campaign during the beta, there is clearly something larger at stake, and understandably so, as Bungie wouldn’t have wished to reveal substantial plot points during the beta.

The gunplay, movement, enemy AI, gorgeous soundtrack, sound design, and skybox all scream Halo. The Crucible multiplayer, which is what you’re watching now, is quintessential Halo. Even reloading the shotgun feels so very classic Halo.

This isn’t a bad thing at all. I absolutely love Halo. Even though Bungie is near the bottom of my list of developers who push tech, they are near the top for art, storytelling prowess, and gameplay mechanics. In this regard, I can really appreciate what they’ve done in Destiny.

And this was the piece that took me so long to figure out. Destiny felt familiar while simultaneously seeping cognitive dissonance into my experience, thus leading me to my disappointed phase. The art and storytelling was compelling enough, but the the utterly disappointing Explore missions and overall free roaming experience left me puzzled and frustrated.

But then I began to take a closer look. Destiny is unquestionably Halo. What Bungie have done is retain what made Halo great, that is, retain the epic scope, art design, compelling multiplayer, and shooting mechanics, while introducing RPG elements wrapped in a newly crafted story.

That is Destiny.

To many, this is a bad thing and entirely unattractive. To me, however, this is great. Is this a “next gen” experience? Absolutely not. Is this this something that’s never been done before? No. Is this a revolutionary new experience? Certainly not.

Destiny is none of those things. What Destiny is, however, is Bungie’s spiritual successor to Halo. And this, more than anything else, has me cautiously optimistic about this unbelievably over-hyped game (IGN).

Now, you all know my stance on preordering. I don’t preorder anything unless I implicitly trust the developers and publishers and I believe in their product. They need to earn my trust. On top of that, I absolutely do not support the segmenting of content only to be repackaged and sold to the consumer as “Day 1 Edition.” Destiny has not earned my trust yet, and neither has Activision. This is a game I will not preorder.

Instead, Destiny is a game that I will wait for reviews for and seek out additional gameplay footage post launch. I still have outstanding questions regarding campaign length, level cap, and story variation. If I like what I see, I will buy it. If not, I won’t. It’s that simple.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play more Last Of Us. Console Master Race.

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