From the title alone, you should get the gist of how I feel about Destiny, but it isn’t the whole story. Honestly, when I’m not getting pissed off by the random number generator (RNG) driven reward system and the fact that I’ve done everything in the game (except the Vault of Glass) multiple times because there’s only a limited amount of things to do at this time and nothing new has popped up in the weeks since its release, I actually enjoy the game.
If you read up on Destiny on Reddit and a thousand other sites, you will find one common thread: the game uses a random number generator to decide what “drops” during the game, whether in combat or at the conclusion of a strike or mission. Sometimes it’s useful, frequently it’s not, usually because you have something better already. Sometimes you’ll be the biggest badass in the game during a strike and get nothing; other times you’ll really suck and get something exotic as a reward. It doesn’t make any sense, but that’s the nature of randomness. Worse, you can go to a vendor, Xur for instance, spend your hard earned Strange Coins and Motes of Light to get a piece of exotic equipment and come away with something completely unusable by your class.
As someone that first learned to program more than thirty years ago and an avid gamer, I understand the attraction to using a random number generator and a look up table (LUT) to determine a player’s loot. It keeps things from getting stale. Is a special reward really special when everyone knows you’re going to get it for completing a particular mission? Not to knock World of Warcraft (which I also play), but that gets boring and predictable. (In fairness, World of Warcraft has had random drops in game for a very long time though most mission rewards are fixed. In the recent Warlords of Draenor expansion, some missions (and/or follower missions) award you a generic item that becomes something specialized for your class’ specialization. So Blizzard has obviously thought about that.) The problem with RNG+LUT is just that unpredictability, especially when you have no ability to trade or sell items that aren’t important to you. In Destiny, that means if you get an item on your Warlock that is only usable by the Titan class, you have two choices: put it in your vault and use it on a Titan character you also created or disassemble it for parts. And hopefully those parts will be useful to you; unfortunately, some items will break down into parts that are only usable by the class the item was intended for, leaving you with parts you can’t use unless you move them to another class. You can’t even sell the parts, at this time, just to try to turn a buck.
Speaking of money… For a game that has no economy whatsoever, there’s a shit load of currencies in it. The primary form of money is called glimmer, which is described as a form of programmable matter. While the concept is interesting, the fact is that the concept is totally wasted because you don’t actually do anything with it other than pay for things, such as weapons, ammo, and upgrades. If you could use it to customize your appearance, make unique equipment or even just put it in your character’s hair to change the style and color, then it would be something neat to play with, and something more than just a currency. Given that it does nothing of the sort, they may as well call it dollars or pesos or gold coins. Want to know something extraordinarily silly? You can only carry a maximum of 25,000 glimmer at a time. Considering a 32 bit integer takes 4 bytes and offers a range of 4 billion numbers (unsigned in this case would be most useful), I really don’t know why Bungie chose to use less than a 16 bit/2 byte number as the maximum amount of cash you can carry. Maybe it’s a practical limit… After all, while you can’t always count on getting precisely what you wanted to buy thanks to the RNG+LUT, you can still buy almost everything that costs strictly glimmer with little effort because you accumulate a lot and many of the enemies, especially the “majors”, drop items that help you earn more glimmer just by killing members of their species. Still, I think the 25k limit is awfully arbitrary, pointless, and oddly specific. I’m pretty sure Bungie isn’t saving a lot of memory by limiting it to a 16 bit integer.
If that was the extent of my money gripes, I’d be fine with it. But, as I hinted at before, there are other forms of currency: Motes of Light, Strange Coins, Vanguard Marks, Ascendant Shards, Ascendant Energy, Crucible Marks, and the recently added Exotic Shards. Aside from the Vanguard and Crucible Marks and Exotic Shards, all of those are obtained RANDOMLY throughout the game, either as drops in combat, mission rewards, upgrades mailed to you for public events or reaching new reputation levels, bounty rewards, decrypting engrams, or disassembling things. And like all other drops, they’re random enough that you can’t count on getting them on any regular basis. Well with a caveat: certain daily and weekly strikes and story missions award Notes and Strange Coins the first time you complete them for their respective periods. The Vanguard and Crucible Marks are earned, however, by either completing strikes and missions or fighting it out in the PvP Crucible. Strange Coins and Motes of Light are used to buy equipment from the NPC Xur; the various shards and energy are used to upgrade equipment when combined with the various resources you harvest on each of the worlds, glimmer, and parts you scavenge from equipment like I mentioned earlier. The Marks are used to buy equipment from the Vanguard and Crucible quartermasters. For a game that is based around combat, there’s a whole lot of economics going on even if you can’t sell your unwanted equipment.
Now, I started this review some weeks ago, and I’m only just now working towards finishing it the day after the first DLC pack was released. While I’ve been playing Destiny regularly since it’s release and still have only stuck my proverbial toe into the Vault of Glass, I have mostly enjoyed the game. My frustrations are illustrated above, and led by the striking lack of content to keep the game fresh for a long time after the initial play through. And that continues in The Dark Below; three new missions, more bounties making you play through things you’ve already mastered, a new strike and raid, and new equipment for $20… (Or $35 or $17.50 depending on your perspective if you purchased the “season” pass.) I can’t say the DLC is worth that much, honestly. Wait for it to go on sale if you can; sooner or later it will be offered for about $10 in some special deal. The missions are tough and interesting story wise, but I find the lack of Peter Dinklage’s narration a bit disturbing even though it was replaced by the new NPC’s. I never thought that I’d miss “Dinkelbot.” (Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Dinklage!)
The bottom line of both Destiny’s main storyline and the DLC is that there are a lot of brilliant scraps of story that are laid out on the table, but there’s so much missing from the bigger picture that you’re not really sure what’s going on. Just like with Watch Dogs, I keep saying that we’re still early in the game’s lifespan, but that is sounding more and more hollow to me. It’s becoming more obvious that Activision, Electronic Arts and other major publishers, distributors and, yes, developers have decided to push DLC as the next big thing in their efforts to make themselves rich. Rather than focusing on making the best damned game they can, they strip out whatever they can get away with to sell as an add-on later, thereby securing their own destiny. While I like Destiny, I think it could have been so much more had this money grubbing scheme hadn’t been a factor.