Leon and I spent a lot of yesterday playing Destiny, like pretty much everyone else with an interest in video games. I've done about six or seven hours, up to nearly level 9, and Leon's done rather more (he's at level 11). We've done a mix of PvP Crucible man-shooting and PvE alien-shooting, some together, some with different friends.
We're still very much in the early game, then, but we thought we'd have a chat about our first-day impressions of Destiny. The short version is that we're both having fun, but neither of us is mega-impressed, and there are a few fundamental things that give us pause about the long-term appeal of the game.
Let us know how you're finding it in the comments, especially if you're a bit further on.
Keza: Okay, so, I did 8 levels' worth of Destiny yesterday and I have to say, it's yet to grab me. So far my favourite thing about it is the zoomy spacebike, which has handling of Warthog-level genius. I'm finding that the bare-bones cycle of gameplay - go to area, shoot many aliens - is feeling super familiar, fun though it is.
Leon: For me I think the game *is* the social interaction. Without that it's a decent shooter but not one I'd make a huge fuss about if I wasn't tackling with mates together. It's always fun to be in a world with friends and play an experience together. To be honest, Borderlands 2 did it first as a shooter, and to some extent it did it better, as there was more exploration and cohesiveness to the experience. This feels like a lot of disjointed things tied together because Bungie say say so.
Keza: Exploration-wise, I think the environments that have been constructed here are pretty breathtaking - I've only seen the moon and Old Earth so far, but Old Russia goes on FOREVER, and has those Halo-style awe-inspiring vistas. But - and I might be wrong here - is there any point in exploring them? I've found some loot chests, but otherwise it seems like all there is to actually find in these beautiful places is aliens to shoot. There's nothing in the way of environmental storytelling, I haven't seen any side-quests (beacons aside, and let's be honest, those are glorified "kill 10 rats" challenges). It feels kind of... empty?
Leon: The locations are lovely but it's odd only having certain bits 'exist' depending on what mission you're meant to be doing. A lot of the time you choose a mission, go back to the same place and a different door is open open. Mission variety does seem a bit limited too. There only really seems to be 'fight off a horde of enemies' and 'fight off a horde of enemies while Ghost takes forever to do something'.
Weirdly the more I think about Borderlands 2 the more I think that did a lot of this better: it was a larger, more coherent open world and a better sense of progression. Developing your character and loadout involved very definite and noticeable changes. In Destiny the changes and upgrades are so gentle that the only real evidence of advancement I’ve got are the numbers over enemies' heads and a different coloured hat.
Keza: That sense of emptiness extends to the Tower for me, too. The vendors and other non-playable characters around there are 100% devoid of personality. They don't even say hello when you interact with them; you press the button and a forest of icons springs up. I mean, don't we even get a "hey, how's it going, Guardian?"
It just makes me wish that this was more like Mass Effect than it is like Halo - that it had characterisation, storytelling and narrative fun stuff to complement the flawless shooty-fun-loop that Bungie arguably perfected in Halo 1.
But, hey - it's fun, right? In the moment, when you're with your friends and you're blasting things, it IS fun.
Leon: I think they’ve built a very traditional MMO structure, with public hub areas and open plains to house magic rat missions and main quests. But the fact that it's a shooter means that it has some of the same weaknesses as other FPS games. Namely that sense of if you want to do anything the game isn’t built for or expecting, it kind of breaks down. Like looking behind a puppet and seeing the man’s arm going into it.
But, yes, it is fun. That moment to moment blasting with friends is amazing but I think this is more about where games are going in the future. Destiny just got there first. Co-op, expandable games are going to be profitable as they'll be easier to continually develop and monetise over time. So we'll see more stuff like this. It'll be like when WoW started, but all over again on consoles.
Keza: You know the thing that made me really wonder what I was doing with Destiny? It was when I was running around Old Russia picking up Patrol missions, and I realised that the exact same enemies respawned in the exact same places about 45 seconds after I left the area. So I was literally doing the same 5-minute loop, taking out the same enemies, over and over again.
Leon: Exactly, it's an old fashioned MMO structure. But dressed up in a $500 million budget. It's really good fun, it looks lovely, but it's a merging of a lot of familiar stuff pretending to be something completely new.
Keza: Well - it's like an MMO, yes, but with none of the story. SWTOR has, what, 200,000 lines of dialogue? This has got none of that narrative stuff to disguise the fairly basic nature of what you're actually doing. Gotta say, though, I find shooting Destiny aliens a LOT more fun than clicking on enemies in Guild Wars (the only MMO I've ever played properly). SWTOR may have all that storytelling and scene-setting going on but it's nowhere near as fun on a moment-to-moment level.
Leon: Bungie has made an MMO that's accessible to the masses that don't do 'dragons and shit'. I just wish there was a more cohesive narrative.
Keza: We played a few hours of PvP last night - how did you find that?
Leon: I'm struggling with the PvP. It's just not clicking for me. I'm not the greatest at competitive shooters but I really, really suck in the Crucible and I've no idea why. I went back to play some Titanfall after the beta to see if I've completely lost my edge and I was fine. I think it's something to do with the feedback in Destiny, there isn't enough noise and vibration for a hit. I really like that that kind of tactile feedback.
Keza: I was prrrretty bad in the Crucible but I did have fun with it. It seemed pretty balanced - what infuriates me about online multiplayer these days is the constant upgrading and vast loadout differentiation. I'm an arena shooter kind of girl: put everybody in a map, give everybody the same abilities, let's see who's best. I stopped with Halo 4's multiplayer after a few hours because it became clear that I'd have to play for about 10 hours to unlock everything and be on a level playing field.
By contrast, even though a lot of Crucible players had different abilities and guns than I did, I didn't feel like I was just getting monstered because other people had put more time in. It was because I wasn't good enough.
Leon: I'm still undecided on the multiplayer. I can't work out what it is I don't get on with, as it's clearly a personal thing rather than an issue with the game. I like story and and a sense of purpose. The main thing that draws me in here is playing with my friends. I'll replay old missions, I'll collect metal weeds, I'll do whatever Dinklage says if my friends are there. Not sure How I'd feel if I was playing it on my own.
Keza: It's the co-operative story missions that are standout, so far - though yes, they could do with some more variety. I really hope that will come in time.
Leon: I think that's it's, it's the long game that will make this. Hard to judge something with a ten year plan in two days.
Keza: Oh, yeah - I'm wondering about the importance of all my various loot, too. Does it really make much of a difference? In the early game it seems to take care of it for you, mostly, but I'm hoping that later on, kit customisation will add more tactical options.
Leon: I really want to feel like my character's developing more as well. I'm on level 11 now I think and I don't feel like anything's really changed, just scaled.
I can't see me going back and building out another character. The fact that most people don't really seem to care or even acknowledge any difference between classes feels like a missed trick. There's no real support interplay or benefit to mixing up the teams.
Keza: So, fair to say that the early game isn't blowing our worlds apart. Will you be sticking with it, though?
Leon: Yeah, for as long as my friends are playing it. It's an enjoyable co-op experience but I don't think it's a hugely ground breaking, industry changing event. Most of it's make up exists in other games, this is simply a new combination.
Keza: I'll be sticking with it for a while, too. I want to see what that $500 million budget has been spent on.
How are you getting on with Destiny so far? Let's discuss!