Why Destiny deserves its GOTY title

Bungie's Destiny

It’s almost a year ago today that I started riding the hype train for Bungie’s highly anticipated console based massively-multiplayer online (MMO) first person shooter (FPS). It was to be the first new IP from Bungie since its hugely successful Halo franchise as well as their first to be released as a cross platform console title with the help of newly partnered publisher Activision. It was therefore unsurprising when Destiny quickly became one of the most heavily promoted and anticipated video avames in history.

My first real hands on with Destiny was at E3 2014. I joined a queue that seemed slightly smaller than the ones around it, largely the tactic I used throughout the whole event, and proceeded to wait the forty odd minutes in line before getting anywhere near a machine. In line I made friends with a guy who’s entire purpose for attending that day was to see Destiny alone. He’d somehow managed to wangle a ticket from his work, an extremely loosely gaming related company – they were a defence contractor, and only had a couple of hours to get in and play.

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That day we got to play Destiny’s relatively standard multiplayer arena component, known as “The Crucible”. It was solid; the maps were well designed, the shooting & aiming mechanics smooth and there were some nice new character abilities to get used to. It was a fun arena experience with a new milieu but it was essentially nothing I hadn’t experienced many times before.

“Destiny is gaming like I’ve never known before. The most confusing thing is that I don’t have a clue what it’s about.”

The story side of the game was playable in the form of a “Patrol” mission in another pavilion as a part of the Sony booth. It offered a similar experience and whilst this one showed off the beautiful spans that was an almost open-world like level design it did little to perpetuate any feeling of camaraderie or need for other players to exist in the same in-game world instance.

I came away from the show feeling somewhat “meh” about the whole thing. It looked cool, had solid mechanics but felt like it was to be nothing more than “another shooter” with the gimmick of other players popping into your world and being able to dance.

It wasn’t until I came back from E3 and the beta began that I started to discover there was a whole lot more to Destiny than just being a standard FPS. I passed on a couple of beta keys to the only two friends whom also owned a PS4 at the time and we all jumped on one night to play.

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By this point I’d played a little solo and knew how to link us together creating a “fireteam” to begin the first round of story missions. There was a lot of dancing, pointing and sitting as the discovery of the D-pad functions occurred but it wasn’t until I sent a text message to the guys saying we should try out the PS4’s microphone that a whole new experience began.

Part of Destiny’s huge success, without a doubt, lies in the simplicity of this generation’s ability to verbally communicate with friends. Sony’s done it best, not only through the design of their controller and it’s ability to accept any of the hundred iPhone headphones you have littering the place, but by also including a basic earpiece and microphone in the box. Instantly the in-game dancing was joined by laughter, the choice of where to go and what to do next a discussion not a guess, there was an entirely new facet to the game.

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For those that had played MMORPGs with any commitment this was nothing particularly new however these are mainly PC based and enjoy the benefit of allowing simple communication to happen via a keyboard in addition to voice. The majority of verbal communication on a console up to this point had been left to trolls and aspiring pros – in my experience.

A few months later in September 2014 Destiny was officially launched. It’s opening reviews were not good.

“It’s a beautiful game, but a hollow experience.” wrote Giant Bomb’s Jason Oestreicher, a sentiment reflected in scores given by gaming big-guns Polygon, Desctructoid and Gameplanet all 65% or below.

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The games’ story was often the most harshly criticised. The beautifully vibrant world surrounding your character was sparsely explained the game instead relying on a player’s desire to learn more by reading lore on the its website. When I surveyed a group of friends who’ve been playing for three plus months now if they could explain Destiny’s story to me the only semi-accurate answer quoted the opening cinematic and the next closest was “I know I’m a Guardian, that’s it”.

The same group of friends are compelled to play the game nearly every day though. Some with long term partners, some married, some with young children even, all of them faithfully logging in day after day to play through what was initially reviewed by one outlet as “grudgingly repetitive gameplay and a bloated, clichéd story.”

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So what is it then that makes the game so much fun? Why are so many people coming back day after day after day? If you were to ask my friend Justin you’d be none the wiser. For him “Destiny is gaming like I’ve never known before. The most confusing thing is that I don’t have a clue what it’s about (or really what I’m doing).” A sentiment shared by many.

Another commonly shared response was in the enjoyment felt for the game after reaching its level cap. Every single person I surveyed that had reached level 30 agreed that the time they’ve played since had been the most enjoyable. When I quizzed them why, their responses again synced: The quest for better in game equipment and weaponry through a variety of game loops Destiny offered.

“Destiny is the only game in all the years I’ve been playing them that has ever been enjoyable enough for 6 of my friends to co-ordinate a time to be online and play together.”

For a few the loop was the all too familiar player vs player (PvP) arena “The Crucible” but for the majority it was the player vs environment (PvE) variations. Strikes (co-operative matchmaker multiplayer missions), Raids (co-operative, large team, long missions) and the most repetitive of all bounty patrols. “Raids are awesome, the grinding though (farming, bounties etc) are fun. Why? Cause the gameplay is fun and I like rad gear.” wrote Mark, a survey respondent who identifies as primarily being a non FPS gamer.

“Playing with others”, “People”, “Socialising”, “Progressing to be better in team play” all responses to the question “Why do you keep coming back?”. Bungie has very cleverly made Destiny in such a way that it taps into a market of almost forced co-operative gaming, made it seamless and even more importantly: enjoyable!

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For me, Destiny is the only game in all the years I’ve been playing games online that has ever been enjoyable enough for six of my brick & mortar (real life) friends to co-ordinate a time to be online and play together. Not once, not even a couple of times, but weekly. We’ve learnt to work as a team, devised strategies to use our personal & character’s abilities to the best use and, most important of all, effectively communicate to achieve a common goal. Getting through a particularly difficult section of Destiny’s first raid, Vault of Glass, is one of my all time favourite gaming memories.

Destiny has very sneakily gotten my FPS friends to start playing an MMO and for my MMO friends fed their love for social, co-ordinated gaming but playing an FPS. I don’t dare tell either group though. It’s like telling a group of guys playing Fantasy Football that they’re really just playing Dungeons & Dragons: Sports Edition.

 

Reckoner had its humble beginnings way back in June of 2013.

Founded by James Croft, along with Peter Wells and Anthony Agius they created what would go on to become one of Australia’s most highly regarded and award winning independent tech blogs.

With its uniquely Australian voice Reckoner is committed to offering a “no-holds-barred” approach to its writing. Beholden to no one but its audience. Reckoner’s goal is to remain completely transparent and honour the trust it’s built with its faithful readership.

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