Racing to Destiny’s defence

DestinylogoI would hate to be a professional game reviewer tasked with putting a score on a blockbuster like Destiny.  The sense of trepidation you’d have trying to think critically while still giving the developers benefit of the doubt on their intent is a near impossible task that I don’t envy.  That already difficult task is made even harder by the sheer aspiration and ambition of a game like Destiny, where Bungie has made no secret of their intent to redefine the shooter.  Not to mention the possibility of hordes of rabid Halo fans breathing down your neck if they think you got it wrong.

While its nearly impossible to know what was rolling around in the heads of the developer’s esteemed designers, it seems pretty clear that the world wasn’t necessarily expecting what it got from Destiny.  Within the first 24 hours i’d seen lines of people returning the game, and critics throwing words like ‘hollow’ and ’empty’ around in their not-quite-reviews.  It was pretty clear there were some serious expectations from the general gaming populous going into Destiny – the most expensive game ever made – but that what was in the game was a little underwhelming.   Destiny had won over the wallets of players, but hadn’t quite captured the hearts and minds.

And when you read the reviews and comments permeating through every corner of the gamer-verse, a trend emerges, and one that doesn’t paint a very favourable picture of  the fruit of Bungie’s loins.  In short, people feel that Destiny just isn’t big enough.

Now I haven’t played Destiny, so for a comprehensive and insightful look at the game I’d suggest reading this or this, but I couldn’t help but notice many of the criticisms levelled at Bungie’s latest were also levelled at Xbox One launch title, Forza 5.  Being a launch title there was a lot riding on the fifth entry in Turn10’s top of the pile racer, and technically the game achieved everything fans could’ve asked for.  It was a beautiful game that, when the rubber hit the road, was easily the best of breed.  But the broader picture wasn’t so rosy, and Forza 5 suffered as much from its ambition as it did its omissions – at its heart though it was its light-on feature set and diminished track line-up that caused the most outrage.  Everything Forza 5 did right, and it did a lot right, was stigmatised by a perceived lack of content.  Less tracks, fewer cars, and an underwhelming career structure dragged down the review scores to make Forza 5 the worst reviewed game in the series.

But almost 12 months on, that disappointment has subsided far removed from the hype and expectation leading up to the game, and I am still playing the hell out of a game that polarised its players.   Distant memories of turning my nose up at (a paltry) 14 tracks have been replaced of the exhilaration of thousands of laps over dozens of hours in some of the fastest cars in the world all from the comfort of my couch.  And a year on Forza 5 has become a staple of my gaming diet as the pure bliss of Forza’s underlying driving mechanics keep their numerous tendrils wrapped around me and the sweet hum of a supercharged V8 Supercar charging around Mt. Panorama lulled me into a deep sense of security.

You see at some point my appreciation for what the game offered turned a corner and the quantity on offer became less of a point of criticism, and the logical side of my brain realised that the sheer act of playing Forza 5 was enough to keep me going.  The subtlety in the physics, the tangible excitement of hopping into another car and feeling the difference heading into the first turn of Laguna Seca – all of these things were the game’s content, and there is a hell of a lot of ways to experience the beauty of racing Turn 10 has carefully and lovingly crafted.  The content was there all along, it was just the very narrow view that consumers tend to take in quantifying it that was the problem.

And I wonder whether we’re seeing something similar with Destiny, a game that from all reports, seems to be a mechanically sound game let down only be its emptiness.  Whether the solid shooter pedigree is enough to hold people’s attention long enough to keep people playing – like Forza 5 did with me – remains to be seen.  But a game like Destiny, even in the face of criticism, won’t go down without a fight, and as the game gets its claws into select people, as it inevitably will, Destiny may well become the game people imagined it would be.  The question is whether the core of the game is enough to ensure people stick around to discover that the content may have been there all along.

XboxOne Holden

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6 Comments

Filed under Opinions and Hearsay

6 responses to “Racing to Destiny’s defence

  1. lewispackwood

    It’s been fascinating to watch all the stories about Destiny trickle out over the past week or so. It’s never really been on my radar for a day-one purchase, but I expect that, like Halo 4, I’ll end up buying it long, long after the dust of launch hype has settled, and I’ll probably end up enjoying it for what it is – a solid sci-fi shooter. Whether anyone else will still be playing it by the time I get round to making a purchase is a matter for debate.

    One criticism that’s come through loud and clear is that the plot is a tangled, nonsensical mess, and that’s a real shame. It seems that Bungie haven’t learned any lessons since the Halo universe gradually descended into impossible-to-follow silliness, and from the sounds of it, Destiny’s plot is even more convoluted. There were many points in Halo and its sequels where I didn’t have the faintest clue what was going on, which really detracted from the experience in terms of taking away motivation. Seems like Bungie need to get some new writers!

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    • I gave up on caring about Halo’s narrative part way through the third game if I’m honest. Bungie has always been great at lore and context, but never fantastic on narrative beats. Destiny looks to follow closely in that respect.

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  2. The plot of Destiny isn’t a mess, there isn’t really a plot. But does Diablo III have a compelling plot? I’m going to put my own thoughts about Destiny down soon but I have to say, I’m hopelessly addicted to the game

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    • I think you’ve pretty much confirmed what I think is happening with Destiny, so I look forward to reading your thoughts.

      I think the problem with how Destiny is being received is that while there was lag time for when people reviewed the game, they didn’t actually change how and on what criteria they reviewed the game. Expectation on an overarching and epic narrative perhaps doesn’t apply in the case of Destiny, but there’s an inbuilt expectation that it should.

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    • lewispackwood

      Nice one Stu, great review! I’m intrigued enough to give Destiny a go – sounds like it will be worth waiting for some of the inconsistencies to be ironed out though, and perhaps for a bit more content to be added.

      Oh, and the armour system can’t be more complicated than Monster Hunter 3 – I swear I needed a reference book to work out how to level up in that game!

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