I don’t get Destiny. Which is okay, since I don’t think Bungie gets it either, and they’re the folks who made it. It resembles a lot of other games that do what Destiny is trying to do better than Destiny. Sometimes I’m embarrassed for Destiny. It’s like your friend who decides he’s going to wear a cowboy hat because he saw someone famous wear a cowboy hat. “Dude,” you want to tell your friend, but probably don’t, “you can’t just wear a cowboy hat.”
Destiny, you can’t just have meaningless loot drops. You can’t just use the same level over and over and over again. You can’t just make up the endgame as you go. You can’t just stick Peter Dinklage in a sound booth and press record. You can’t just put all your lore on the website. You can’t just dole everything out between long loading screens of a dopey spaceship that exists for no reason other than to adorn the loading screens. You can’t just pretend a gamepad should drive a mouse cursor. You can’t just expect players to do their own matchmaking. You can’t just rip off Borderlands and World of Warcraft without better understanding what makes those games work. You can’t just figure your gunplay is enough to elevate this above Firefall or Defiance.
After the jump, I might be wrong about that last one.
So Bungie doesn’t get MMOs, which is a shame since they’ve tried to make one. But Bungie does get gunplay. And that’s what Destiny is at a moment-to-moment level. That’s what it ultimately comes down to. In the long run, you might be grinding for engrams — don’t ask me what those are — or leveling up your shotgun or trying to finish one of those horrid raids. But in the short run, in the here and now, at the this, you’re just shooting hearty guns at weird things. The satisfying and confounding kick of the reticle, the timing and animation of the reload, the impact of bullets on ragdolling monsters, the ducking and juking and aiming. It’s as good as Doom ever was at Hollywooding the feeling of what it’s like to be a major player in a firefight.
The gunplay is accompanied by a modest set of complementary skills: a melee attack, a rechargeable grenade, and a supercharge attack. Your health is just the shield system from Halo. There’s a simplicity here that games like Borderlands wouldn’t dream of attempting because they don’t have as much confidence in their gunplay. These extra-gun concepts are used to set apart character classes, with nearly enough wiggle room in the various builds to make them maybe feel like character classes. Not that there’s any interdependency in Destiny. What sort of Hollywooded gunfight needs a tank or a healer? But if you want an excuse to roll up a new character to play through the same content, Destiny is all about giving you excuses to play through the same content.
Probably the most relevant thing about your character, as befits a game made by Halo creator Bungie, is which three guns he or she is carrying at any given time. The limiting factor for how often you use a gun is ammo, which isn’t all that limited. Scoop up ammo from dead monsters and fire away using your favorite gun as long as you want, swapping in your secondary and heavy weapons from time to time. This is no Halo where you’re scrounging for weapons, sometimes forced to use something new and different. You are your three guns. Everything is in service to them, or to complement them. What do you like today? An assault rifle? A hand cannon? Ready to see if you can perfect the spin-up timing of the fusion gun? Do you dare attempt a sniper rifle?
If Destiny had simply been an underdeveloped ten-hour single-player linear romp across its handful of maps (with obligatory multiplayer), it would have still been gratifying. But by making Destiny into a half-assed MMO, by throwing in their lot with Activision’s experience drawing out innumerable Calls of Duty, by calling it a platform instead of a game, by recalling some of the open and dynamic nature of Halo’s firefight modes, Bungie is giving us something we can play as much or as little as we want, revisiting it easily whenever we want, in as challenging or forgiving a situation as we feel like playing, alone or with others. For better and worse, Destiny is open-ended and nearly content-free gunplay for as long as you want it to last. Maybe sometimes your friend can pull off the cowboy hat.
From the Creators of Halo and the company that brought you Call of Duty. In Destiny you are a Guardian of the last city on Earth, able to wield incredible power. Explore the ancient ruins of our solar system, from the red dunes of Mars to the lush jungles of Venus. Defeat Earth's enemies. Reclaim all that we have lost. Become legend. Hold out for better loot drops. Grind Vex. Curse the green engram that decrypted into a crappy white hat not as good as the one you're already wearing.