Posted Wed Sep 3, 2014 at 07:00 PM PDT by Trevor Ruben
Millions of pre-orders mean fans are ready and waiting, but can the massive promise of 'Destiny' be fulfilled?
Bungie is delivering an ambitious project on Sept. 9. Anticipation, hype, aliens, planets, looting, jumping, and console-warring have brought to us all to this release. Naturally, in the final week, it's of our nature to assume the worst and hope for the best. Here's are the five biggest questions facing the release of 'Destiny':
Cropping up both before and after the beta has been the question of size. Will 'Destiny' be sprawling with planets, eahc a world in whihc to quest and fight the darkness?
Earth, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and an asteroid belt called The Reef have all been confirmed as containing playable locations.
Just how much game content does a single one of these areas hold? Is it it comparable to what we experienced on the Earth of the beta? That seemed small, but then again maybe at higher player levels there's more to be had within the same bounds. Bungie's relative silence on the manner has done little to alleviate this concern.
Old Russia, Earth's only environment and the primary shooting grounds of the beta in July, may have been picked apart by eager explorers, but a question of content is not a question of geography or land mass. It's a question of engagement and incentive, in today's age. Due to the level cap of the beta (level 8), much of Old Russia's potential for the final product went completely untouched, from bosses and high-end enemies gone unmatched to entire missions omitted. Move on to the Moon, which opened up for a meager two hours to beta players, and you've likely got an even smaller percentage of content gleaned by the masses.
However, these are words of comfort in the dark, because the truth is we don't know just how long 'Destiny' is going to last for the average player. If the 32 missions leak is accurate, it is a number frighteningly small for a game going toe-to-toe with MMOs (even if it doesn't like the classification for itself). Then again, a simple number can't enlighten how engaging, replayable and long those missions will end up being. Beyond all of this, the many customization and looting systems in 'Destiny' are built to prolong the experience even more, but, again, to what degree we cannot know just yet. Which brings us to:
The three classes – Titan, Warlock and Hunter – cap out at level 20, but by the time people had hit the beta cap at level 8, seemed apaprent that the classes were pretty similar. At that point in their respective skill trees, aside from the ultimate power moves, the point-to-point, enemy-to-enemy gameplay didn't feel all that different in any class. That's probably by design, to keep things simple early on, but the lingering question remains: what changes later on?
The answers lie in the sub-classes and Motes of Light. At a specific level in either of the three classes, the player will unlock a new sub-class, transitioning the Titan or Warlock or Hunter to, theoretically, something completely different, with a separate upgrade tree and place on the battlefield. Motes of Light, on the other hand, serve as divergent levels beyond the cap of 20, these things you collect and add to your character to get to 21, 22 and so on. Again, theoretically, this makes you unique and powerful in the later stages of the game. There are three subclasses per-class (at launch, at least), and we have no idea what kind of variety there will be with Motes of Light.
Arguably, we know a fair bit about all of these things, but we don't know how they'll improve or even depreciate the game. We don't know if they'll do the things they need to do to justify the things the game didn't already do in the beta without them. Yes, you can find wikis full of data and facts outlining the subclasses, but all you'll get are words and numbers. You won't get the gameplay, you won't get the feel. Remember how different Bungie made the Titan, Warlock and Hunter classes out to be pre-beta? Perhaps it was also so that in the subclasses their individual strengths truly emerged.
And yet, the speedy Sparrows are awesome, so even if we're all the same in the end, the sweet tricks we can pull off will be awesome. Every rock is a ramp, every guardian a target.
There will be DLC, and some of it already seems to be a key part of continuing the game. Is there a strong plan behind it? DLC comes in many shapes and forms, but what will it be in 'Destiny?'
The two Expansions detailed so far, via digital storefronts, are 'The Dark Below' and 'House of Wolves,' both of which promise "new story missions, cooperative activites, competitive multplaer arenas and a wealth of all new weapons, armor, and gear to earn." Whether or not these actually add new areas to the 'Destiny' world is still up in the air. With so many Collector's Edtions on order, we can be sure that these expansions have already been bought by a huge segment of players.
On the other hand, Bungie has promised daily updates to keep players engaged... ,
We don't really know the nature of these updates. Most likely they aren't going to be just one thing or another, rather, new weapons and armor will be peppered in the more common extraneous free-roam objective. With Activision's lead, you can bet there's an extensive, meticulously crafted DLC plan in the works for 'Destiny.' The months and years following the game's release will be peppered with free, cheap and costly offerings, craftily and accordingly using a gamut of consumer-friendly terms like "Expansion" or "Update" or "Add-On Content." Though as safe assumptions go, that's a pretty generalized one. The fact is, we have only a surface look at how Activision plans to monetize 'Destiny' post-purchase, only that the publisher will and the publisher will do it well. For now, it's all $500 billion, with nary a mention of anything resmebling a sequel, or sequel like amount of conent or second $60 purchase.
The most certain thing of all regarding DLC – campaign expansions, such as new planets and new areas within those planets, are an absolute must. The multiplayer didn't go off so hot with the masses during the beta, which makes the campaign all the more important come release. Still…
Bring your own loot to multiplayer, what could go wrong with that?
Introducing a fairly progressive marriage of the two common halves of your modern FPS, the competitive side of 'Destiny' lets you bring in your customized character, armor and weapons from the campaign side. In-game, this means you can have your favorite rocket launcher or sniper rifle with you at all times, but not necessarily the ammo to use them. Finding that ammo and using it well is how Bungie is balancing this out. Less balanced are the super attacks, carried over from the campaign as well, which decimate your foes and recharge over time.
Right now it feels like a half-step. 'Destiny's' multiplayer sits somewhere between frenetic free-for-all and balanced coordination, the systems in place begging to be tweaked just right.
The supers that are so powerful and satisfying in the campaign are a bane to the pacing and flow of balanced competition, and the ability to bring in your favorite loadout, while providing a different sense of incentive on one side of things, proves something a little discomforting – some weapon types, in competitive multiplayer, are simply better than others. Assault rifles are extremely easy to use. The fact that everyone and anyone can carry around a sniper rifle/shotgun and an assault rifle at the same time presents far more issues than improvements to the classic ebb-and-flow. Rocket launchers are dumb. And so on.
This is mostly an issue of acclimation, as people shake off the lessons they learned in past shooters and reassess what it takes to win. Those vehicles on the moon map are great fun, but the counters to those vehicles aren't quite so intuitive. Acquiring heavy ammo, for instance, is of utmost importance but likely overlooked by those without the will to unlearn instincts from the past. That will surely is coming, after a day or two of getting hammered.
That's the best outcome, that people figure it out and adjust, but it also falls on Bungie to do some adjusting as well. These little twists they're throwing around could add up to a great whole.
More importantly, though, the cooperative multiplayer stuff works. The seamless hopping in and out of everybody else's game is one of the essential cruxes of the experience. The beta served many purposes, but ensuring stability was chief among them.
So far the story has been a bit of a tease and an internet meme.
When, finally, Bungie opened up the beta players to the Moon, we got a hint of an actual story, a narrative, with even a modicum of specification beyond generalized platitudes of heroics and fate. Some mysterious character peered at you midway through the mission, presenting a much-needed incentive to actually listen to the dialogue. There's intrigue there, even if at first we need a proxy to convince us.
That's a relief, because, before the Moon, on Earth, my eyes couldn't have rolled further back into my head.
I can imagine Bungie's desire to keep the specifics of the plot under wraps, so this is probably a little overblown, but there's also the issue of the dialogue. We've had years of grandiose pattering about fates and intergalactic races through 'Halo.' We're past that, I think. Thus far though, it's been a very dire world apart from all the fun looting and shooting. The lighter aspects have been, well, seemingly unintentional, but maybe with proper charecterization, a worthy story will shake out. So far, it's just been a brooding tease. Again, that's understandable, but, again, it's a little boring. Hopefully that mystery character's intrigue converts with wide effect by the time the credits role.
One thing's for sure. Planned game updates or no, these concerns will either begin to bear fruit next week, or (hopefully) just be the paper tigers of the biggest launch of a franchise thus far this decade. Here's hoping that everyone who want to gets a chance to find out come launch week.
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