I’m of the mind that you can never truly say you hate something unless you’ve loved it first. I hate Destiny. But that’s also because I loved it, once.
Destiny didn’t have me at “hello”. I pre-ordered it back in 2012 because of Bungie’s pedigree, not because it was a game I was truly intrigued about. I scheduled a blind date with someone who reminded me of someone I once knew.
When the beta finally arrived my mind was blown. I had an incredible time. Soon after, I proposed via blog post.
Our betrothal was to be delayed – I was on vacation when release day rolled around – but that didn’t stop me from reading about the game. To my dismay, people were beginning to point out flaws. The game is too short. It’s repetitive. It’s a grind. The story sucks. There isn’t a lot of content. Players were already exploiting it. Apparently Destiny wasn’t a game but a simulator for shooting bullets into a cave.
When I finally got my hands on the game, I found myself acting like the overprotective guardian of something that was misunderstood yet beautiful.
“It’s an FPS, of course it’s repetitive! You shoot aliens, what more do you want?!”
“It’s part MMO, of course it’s a grind!
“There’s a ton of content! Average gamers aren’t playing this game as much as you are!”
I look back in embarrassment because I naively believed those statements.
As I played on, the cracks appeared and new fissures emerged. The first sign that something was off came from Peter Dinklage’s floating AI companion, the Ghost, the main driver of narrative. His robotic-yet-not-really delivery irked me, and there was a sense that he was only doing this for the money (which he’s entitled to, but still…).
But Dinklage wasn’t the main problem. Every monotonously-delivered piece of inane dialogue about the Hive and the “Sword of Crota” become more difficult to stomach. Each meaningless cut scene and voice cameo (I see you, Nathan Fillion and Lance Reddick) further widened the cracks in the facade. I was being had.
As fun as it was, Destiny wasn’t very witty. But it was smart in a manipulative sort of way. The relationship was turning into a long con, and I was the mark.
I continued to play the game because I wanted to see if the story would improve, buoyed by the assertion by others that the game “really opens up once you hit level 20.” And I admit, I was also addicted. I soldiered on, quickly rising in ranks. I played the story, begrudgingly did patrols, and discovered the joys of The Crucible, Destiny’s multiplayer component. Testing my mettle against others online was invigorating, and it awoke a competitive fire that kept me going.
At level 18, I was finally receiving decent rare-level item drops for my troubles as well as Crucible currency. I joined a cult led by a female robot in a robe (yeah, wtf?). I was also plowing through the campaign mode; I simply ignored what the Ghost was saying, overlooked the presence of bit characters like the Queen and her brother, and played with reckless abandon in an effort to just get to the end, which I did with little fanfare.
People were right – Destiny does open up at higher levels. After level 20, the game stops being so stingy and awards you with more item drops, though at that point many of those items turn out to be worse than the gear you already have. That’s how I finally realized what the long con was. Activision drew us in slowly while telling us that bigger and better things are coming. Despite the warning signs, we fell for it. Hard.
Destiny is a fickle, demanding and manipulative mistress. It starts out as a decent shooter with a simple story about shooting aliens, but becomes a game about farming and meticulous strategy around loadouts and gear. There’s almost no explanation for a lot of the later-game concepts, forcing the player to look up the information online and drawing them even deeper into the community.
It strings you along with the hollow promise that the broken, indecipherable story will make sense in the end, but after the single player campaign is complete that you come to the realization that the story was inconsequential. Without further grinding, you’re locked out of what is apparently the best content in the game – the Vault of Glass Raid – an event that requires players to be at least level 26 to participate, though level 28 or higher is recommended. Once you reach level 27, it becomes more difficult to advance without “ascendant materials” to upgrade your armour. These materials are more difficult to come by, and at most, Destiny only doles out a couple pieces a day to the most diligent players.
I’ve never actually participated in the Raid. I hear it’s fun. My friends who are still addicted and hoping to reach level 30 are constantly formulating strategies to complete it faster so they can play through it several more times a week. People have even created multiple characters, replaying the entire game several times over in an effort to maximize their earning potential, and then sharing the spoils with their main character.
If you’re willing to overlook all of the above – grinding for XP, farming materials, and playing levels over and over again to advance your character – then you’ll love Destiny. I, on the other hand, was hoping for a more cohesive single player experience – one that didn’t hide its best missions behind a ridiculously high barrier for entry. Is that too much to ask for?
Buried deep within the facade lies the makings of a good game. But somewhere along the way it went wrong. You can blame the developers for giving up on some promising concepts. You can blame the publisher for greedily turning Destiny into a cash cow. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that something beautiful that was once loved has quickly turned into something exploitative and thus reviled.
And so I finally traded in Destiny. The $35 gift card was an adequate consolation for a two-month love affair that turned sour and frustrating towards the end.
There are times when I wish I had it back, especially during fits of rage in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare matches when I long for Destiny’s beautiful and poetic Crucible. But those moments quickly fade and I snap back to my senses. It’s a game that asked too much of me, and when I gave in, it asked even more. I’ve had enough. My friends are still “Addicted to the D,” but not a day goes by where I don’t tell myself “It’s ok… at least you got out when you had the chance.”
And me? I’m doing fine. I’m still married to my wife IRL, but I’ve got a new game on the side. This one promises to be as exciting as Destiny, a long-distance relationship with the nation of Kyrat. I think I’m in love, again.