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I have decided to move my weekly piece to Mondays now that games are starting to get released again. If last week's piece has taught me anything it's that you do not want to release something that you want people to pay attention to on the same day as one of the biggest releases of the year.
Well friends, Destiny is here. The long awaited return by Bungie has been released and it's actually very solid. Unfortunately, Destiny's unique mix of game styles places it in such a unique category that it can be hard to decide just how good or lacking it is. I've played all through the story, tried out the different modes (with the exception of the raid) and put in a solid 15-20 hours in the game, so let's talk about it.
I should first point out that the experience I've had with Destiny has been, for the most part, a pleasant one. I enjoyed going through the story missions and experiencing the new planets as they came along. I didn't even hate Peter Dinklage's performance as much as so many others seem to have. I find him to fill a nice role as a not quite human level AI but not full robot either. Not every companion AI needs to feel like a human. The problem with Destiny is in its strange new mix of genres that it embodies.
Destiny is a combination of FPS, ARPG, and MMO styles of play. Unfortunately, it fails to stand out in any of these categories. If you look at it as primarily a FPS title then you have to notice the lack of emphasis on story in the story mode or the lack of anything really new or unique in the multiplayer modes. The universe that Destiny takes place in is full of potential and could be home to incredibly interesting stories, and yet none of that is given its chance to shine in the game. There isn't quite enough variety in the missions themselves either. Occasionally you'll find yourself in the seat of a weaponized vehicle but they are always one seaters and as far as I saw there are only two types in the entire game, with one not appearing until the last planet. Enemy types and environments change with each planet, which is one thing the game certainly has going for it. It constantly gives you new settings to look forward to and new enemies and fight off.
If you look at it as an ARPG then there's a severe lack of stats to build up or abilities to gain access to on any one character. Each class has three stats; one that lowers the cooldown of their special ability, one that lowers the cooldown on their grenade, and one that lowers the cooldown on their melee ability. Each character class does have its own talent tree to go through but many of the things you'll unlock in the tree are variations on other things you unlock or are just changes in your armor, recovery, or agility. As a warlock your tree has three different types of grenades that work differently, but only one can be used at a time. Similarly you can change how your special ability works, but that will be used so rarely that it doesn't feel as badass or important as it could. Your melee ability is probably the least interesting of the three because it's simply an extra effect that will happen when you melee an enemy. Maybe you'll steal life from the enemy or maybe you'll gain a speed boost, but from a gameplay perspective you're still just punching the enemy.
So do you treat Destiny as an MMO primarily then? If so then you'll have to note the lack of variety the game offers or its major lack of social features. There are three classes to choose from in Destiny, each with some unique features, but regardless of who you pick or what race you choose to play as, you'll still be playing through the exact same content as anyone else. There are no separate paths you can level through. It has been said multiple times, even by Destiny's Executive Producer, that the game evolves as you go through it, becoming a new experience altogether when you reach max level. I don't find this to be a fair statement at all.
One of the most important things to consider when making any kind of MMO experience is a way to keep people playing it. This is something that, currently, Destiny lacks. To say that the “real game begins at max level” is incredibly silly, because you know what you have to do as a max level character in Destiny? The exact same things that you've been doing the entire game. You can do heroic strikes, which in my experience have been exactly the same as they were originally, just balanced around higher level characters. You can do PvP, which you could have been doing the entire time. You can run around doing patrol missions on the planets, which you can do while leveling and also net you next to nothing for doing them.
There will be a single raid for max level Destiny players to go through when it opens, if those players have managed to accumulate powerful enough gear by then and can find 5 other people willing to run the raid with them in a game that has no real social features to speak of. Gathering the gear is a chore in and of itself. It doesn't really require you to go out of your way to do anything challenging, it just requires you to spend a lot of time doing the same things you've been doing.
You can acquire gear in a few ways at max level: it can randomly drop from enemies, you can receive it as a reward for completing a strike, as a chance reward when playing PvP, or by purchasing it from factions. Buying gear from factions is actually the only reliable way to get GOOD gear and it requires a solid amount of grinding to get. The gear you get from strikes or enemy drops or even PvP (regardless of whether or not you win) isn't guaranteed and it definitely isn't guaranteed to be good. After one heroic strike I was given a Rare quality chest piece that was only level 16 and actually had worse stats than the level 14 chest piece I had been using for hours. To get gear from factions you first need to build up that faction's reputation, which is a relatively slow process.
Building up Vanguard rep requires you to either do Vanguard (PvE) bounties or doing Patrol (repeatable) missions on one of the planets. Of the two, only bounties provide a substantial reward in terms of reputation. Patrol missions don't even seem like they were thought out particularly well. If you are a level 20 and you go do a Patrol mission on Mars (the highest level planet) you will get the same boost in reputation as if you did a Patrol mission on Earth (the lowest level planet.) So why bother dealing with the higher level enemies? A solid question. Obviously, that leaves bounties as the preferred way to gather rep, as one bounty is worth at least 5x as much rep as one Patrol mission. Unfortunately, you can only hold 5 separate bounties, regardless of whether the bounties you hold are for PvE, PvP, or a mix of the two. Also, after doing your bounties the robot who gives them to you will run out and you'll have to wait for the substantial restock timer that he has on him.
Once you've reached the rank required to buy max level gear from a faction you then need to have a special type of currency to purchase those items. For the 2 main factions those are Vanguard marks and Crucible marks respectively. Not only do you get an incredibly small amount of these for doing max level activities such as heroic strikes, you can only get a certain amount each week. If one heroic strike nets you 3 marks, and it costs 65 marks to get one piece of gear, and you can only get 100 marks a week, that adds up to me having a bad time.
Bungie also seems to hope that players in Destiny will build a community with one another, but it fails to give players the tools to do so. The only way to interact with other players you meet in game is to invite them into a fire team. There is no optional proximity chat or anything that would allow you to meet others who may want to join you for a raid. If you wish to do a strike mission, which requires 3 players, then the game will find you the players you need. Raiding however, which requires 6 people, has no such feature. You have to gather that group yourself, in a game that doesn't have any features that allow for you to do that.
Now, I've had quite a lot of negative things to say about Destiny, but it has in no way been to just talk shit about the game. I believe that Destiny has a TON of potential and has the capacity and the devs behind it to make something truly unique and special, but it will require some serious work to make the game into what it deserves to be. Bungie has crafted a lovely core game that makes you want to keep playing it, now they just need to make it fun to continue to do so.
The Post That Makes Everyone Hate Me
There are a few things that the gaming community can usually band together to agree on with their hatred. Terrible DLC, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and the way that SquareEnix and Capcom treat their franchises. I'm only going to talk about those last two today. Now, I'm by no means here to defend the companies as a whole, or even to say that the decisions I'm speaking for are necessarily good. Both have made plenty of stupid decisions, as anyone has, and even I can't justify a lot of them. I just felt that SOMEONE needs to take on the role of devil's advocate every now and then, and by god I'll take one for the team if no one else will.
Square is an entity that has made many people's favorite games at one point or another. Square alone can be the reason that people have a hard time agreeing on the elusive (read: nonexistant) “golden age of JRPGs”. Some swear by Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI (like myself!), some stand beside FF VII and FF Tactics, others may fight alongside FF X or Kingdom Hearts.
These days however it seems Square can accomplish nothing but to piss people off. There are plenty of reasonable examples of this, such as their declaration of Tomb Raider being a flop and FF All The Bravest, but one of the biggest sources of hatred is the direction they take with their main franchise; Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy is one of, if not THE, biggest JRPG series in the world. It's a series with so many fans and so many unique takes on the JPRG formula that there is no widely accepted “best” Final Fantasy.
Therein lies Final Fantasy's biggest strength, and the reason that they can now be working on its fifteenth iteration: it constantly tries to evolve and try new things. Every single Final Fantasy entry tries something new and is very obviously different from its predecessor, even among the direct sequels! X-2, for all the hate it gets, has a sizable fan base and manages to vary drastically from its origins. Likewise each entry in the XIII saga makes very notable changes from the others in an attempt to constantly experiment with new mechanics.
There have always been people who will bitch about Final Fantasy's push for something new. People complain about the draw system in VIII, the linearity in X, the combat of XII, and a combination of things about XIII. Here's the thing though, those aren't all the same people. The fact that there is a huge number of people who think that VIII was the best FF and that those are not the same people who think that XII was the best shows that clearly every iteration is very personal and up to you individually to either be on board with or not.
XIII may have had a lot of systems you may not like, but you can't sit there and tell me that it didn't really try to experiment with some pretty radical changes. The battle system is like nothing else and it really twists a lot of what you'd expect into something new. Telling people that the game plays itself is a pretty extreme exaggeration at best.
You can hate Lightning with all of your heart and soul, but at the end of the day the fact that she starred in three games in a row proves that there is a sizable number of people out there who do like her. People like to assume that it's just XIII's creator who obviously has a hard on for her, but one guy doesn't get to convince an entire company that a character is worth more canon games than almost any other Final Fantasy character ever, barring FFVII characters.
Recently Square said that the future of the console market may hinge on the success of Final Fantasy XV. A lot of people took that as either being conceited or an obvious message that they should just give up and remake Final Fantasy VII. Here's the thing though, we're talking about a Japanese company making one of Japan's biggest franchises trying to release that huge franchise onto a new piece of hardware that a very small number of people own in Japan. You think Final Fantasy is big here? Imagine in its company of origin! XIII sold over a million copies in Japan on the very first day. Lightning Returns sold more copies in Japan during its first week of sales than Super Mario 3D World!
If SquareEnix can't sell PS4s with their biggest franchise then how likely do you think they'll be to continue making games for the new generation? It's the same situation with their current announcement to bring Type-0 to PS4 rather than PSP/Vita, another decision that brought a lot of hate and prompted such mind blowing reactions as 'I refuse to buy this game unless it also comes to my Vita'. A game that barely made it out of Japan at all! By putting Type-0 HD on the new hardware they can further incentivize people to pick up that new hardware either now or when FFXV comes out.
“But XV itself is a system seller!” you may be shouting. Yes, but you can't rely on people to pay that much money to play a single game. If you tell someone who likes Halo “Hey, the Xbone is getting Halo 5!” they may go “Oh snap, I may need to upgrade to an Xbone!” But if you tell them “The Xbone is getting Halo 5 AND Destiny; the new game from the company that originally made Halo!” They now have a lot more of a reason to move to that new hardware.
Capcom is another publisher that gets a lot of hatred, and honestly a lot of it really is reasonable. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that their numerable releases of Street Fighter IV or their on disc DLC characters are okay, because they're absolutely not. What I am going to talk about is a franchise that you and I both love and you seem to think that Capcom hates: Mega Man!
Like most of you, I love me some Mega Man. The X games are what its all about for me, but I can respect the original games as well. People's love for Mega Man seems to have made them convinced that the lack of official Mega Man games in recent years means that Capcom OBVIOUSLY hates their franchise, their fans, and money in general. Let's look at this from a reasonable perspective though.
Do you know how many official Mega Man games there are? A LOT. If you count any official game branded as part of the Mega Man franchise there are over 30 games. 10 of which are part of the original Mega Man formula, and 8 of which are part of the X series, which is an evolution of that original formula. No one at Capcom hates Mega Man and no one is there sitting in a board room tapping their fingers going “Yessssss YESSSSS, let the hate flow through you!” as their bank account dries up.
There are no lack of Mega Man games, not even in recent times. Mega Man 10 came out in 2010 and, while there have been no official releases since then, Capcom has done nothing to deter people from expanding on the blue bomber's catalogue on their own. Even other companies that have a spot for Mega Man have been allowed to make use of him. Just look at Project X Zone or Super Smash Bros.
You know what makes a great game? When someone has a genuinely interesting idea and the heart to make that idea a reality. Let me put this another way; do you really want Capcom to put together a Mega Man game solely as a cash-in just because people are asking for one? That's how you get garbage cash-ins. Someone had the idea and the heart to put together Street Fighter X Mega Man and not only did Capcom do nothing to stop it, they helped bring it attention! And that's hardly the only worth while Mega Man fan game out there.
Recently Mighty No. 9 has been getting a lot of press, and for good reason! I would argue that the existence of MN9 is proof of my argument. MN9 exists because someone (the man who brought us so many great Mega Man games nonetheless!) had a genuinely interesting idea for a Mega Man style of game and had the heart to make it a reality. If Keiji Inafune just wanted to continue the Mega Man formula and make some money off of clamoring fans he could have made Mighty No. 9 ages ago as a much simpler and less unique experience. He still would have made a ton of money, but now you; the fans, get to spend that same money on something that was made because someone genuinely wanted to make it, and not because a board room assigned it to them for some easy money.
As I mentioned at the beginning, this piece is not necessarily intended to defend these companies per se. I'd love to see more Mega Man and I'd love to see Square make more varied games the way they used to. This piece has just been to offer a differing opinion that I rarely, if ever, see in the places where these companies are talked about. You may now feel free to spew all of the pent up frustrations that I've stirred up over the course of this piece in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
D-toid Bonus Mission! If any of you are going to be playing Destiny on PS4 then feel free to add me on PSN. Just be sure to let me know who you are!