So Destiny launched yesterday. I think I’ve only heard one person (personally) who’s had any issues getting into the servers, which if representative of the wider situation, would make this a stellar launch for a persistent online game…maybe even an interstellar launch. HA! Anyway…
I’ve got nothing to say that hasn’t been said. During Alpha and Beta, the focus was on the “what does this button do?” kind of play: checking out the classes and abilities, trying different weapons, searching maps. Now that “it’s on”, the focus is on figuring out how to do things. For instance, we’ve got the Alliance of Awesome clan created via the Bungie.net site, but I was confused about the representation on PS or XB versions — there was a banner saying we were on probation (since remedied). We were also not sure what extreme level disparity would do in a fireteam, since the beta only allowed us up to level 8.
But the game itself is like a cold, light beer: clean and crisp, with what you’d expect and nothing you wouldn’t.
Addendum: Although it’s too early to really trust “reviews”, “first impressions” are also important. They give people an idea of how the game appeals to people in it’s opening moments, and whether or not it’s an impression that we hope is maintained throughout the game, or whether it’s just a really big bang that ends with a constant whimper.
This morning, I’ve seen one first impression piece that has both good and bad points. Firstly, I’d throw in my own prologue to say that retail isn’t really a “first” impression: those actually came through in the alpha and beta. Things have changed, but the conceit of the game has not.
An Ars Technica article this morning hit on three points:
- The intro to the game is the same as the one in the alpha/beta
- The game feels “small” and the zones are repetitively used
- Population and grouping opportunities seem low
I find the first point to be rather short sighted at best, ignorant at worst. How many alpha/beta games have we played? How many take place in totally different areas from what we get to start in for retail? I remember beta testing RIFT and Defiance, both games which I love, and in both I played through the opening zones so many times I could do them in my sleep. And I had to do them all over again in retail. I can’t see how this is a knock against it, as it’s S.O.P. from what I have seen.
Part of the “problem” of scale is that the player is taken out of the map in between story missions. In the case of Old Russia, you’re dropped in to the same place at least twice in a, what? Five mission arc? Each time you’re forced to re-cover previous ground as you range further out from this starting point. So you’ll end up in a new area, but five times you’ll be traveling through the exact same area. I can understand why someone would consider it to feel “small”.
But that’s really if you only make a bee-line to the objective. If you go into “free range” mode, there are numerous areas — both above and below ground — that you can explore. The (early) story missions don’t even use a fraction of the map of Old Russia, which is actually a decent design choice: knowing this, you’ve got a reason to go back in free range mode to explore more areas of the map. When you consider that, and how many enemies are just milling around, doing their thing, the world seems a lot larger than it does if all you do is focus on the objective markers.
And you don’t spend that much time in Russia; You can move up to the moon at level 6, which can be done in about one to two hours if you’re efficient.
Because Destiny is billed as some kind of “open massive world player group persistent shooter thing”, it’s probably accrued certain baggage, compliments of the MMO genre. In MMOs, we’re used to having areas chock full of other players. In Destiny, we don’t get that. We get a handful of other folks in the same zone as us (outside the Tower). It sounds like the Ars article author expected more of an MMO feel, with people bunny-hopping all over the place, dancing naked on a rusty Soyuz rocket, and dueling, while the Fallen look on in confusion.
That would suck, and not just because it’s trite and “theme-park-y”. MMOs are “unrealistic” in that they design themselves to just take all comers. Expecting a massive number of players in a zone, the design decision is to provide content to keep those people busy. Destiny is the inverse: keep the concurrent zone population small, and that way the encounters can be more organic. Bungie is very good at pacing in between encounters, and if there were dozens of players in a zone, then this pacing would be ruined by too many players and not enough content, or an increased sea of content that we’d have to wade through.
Ideally, then, you’ll group up in the Tower and move out from there. It fits the narrative: Guardians are venturing out into the wilderness on patrol or for a specific objective, not going to the crowded beach on Memorial Day.
I’m not saying that the Ars impression piece is wrong, though. Destiny is a shooter, and shooters are peddling adrenaline, split second decision making, and strategy. Narrative slows things down and asks that players pay attention to words and cut-scenes. The two seem diametrically opposed to one another, yet Destiny and other shooters keep throwing them in a closet together, with consistently awkward results. However, with a lack of narrative, Destiny is nothing but an endless corridor of face-blasting aliens with increasingly heavier ordinance, and there’s only so long we can do that before we get bored.
I can’t think of anything to alleviate that short of really paying attention to the story. It gives purpose in between the explosions. But it’s still a weird juxtaposition, and because of a certain level of dissonance, other issues tend to be more obvious and off-putting when trying to find how to manage the narrative and the shooty-blowy-uppy parts of the game.