Yesterday, I traded in my copy of Destiny and used the credit toward Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Ultimately, Destiny did not sustain my interest as I’ve already finished the “story” section and I was just a little XP shy of level 19. The cap is 30 and I’ve heard the grind between 20-30 is long, painful and only eased if you enjoy playing multiplayer deathmatch — a mode I hate in every game.
The funny thing is this: the game is actually one of the better first person shooters I’ve played. I’m generally not a fan of them, but the weapon mechanics and the ability to upgrade rare firepower were actually appealing elements. The various settings are also quite beautiful and if I liked multiplayer, I probably would’ve keep it, but as I’m sure you’ve read by now, the “story” is nearly non-existent, the backstory shuffled off to an out-of-game website. The single player campaign, such as it is, is quite hollow. That is a legitimate shame. The game was a pleasure to play for the first 12 or so hours, but the closer I got to level 20, things started to get on my nerves:
1. My playing character is a member of “The Awoken.” I have no idea what that is, but once I’m sent out to meet the Awoken Queen, the fact my character is a member of that group is never acknowledged. Once could speculate that the race choice was added after animation and voice acting was complete, but it is an error to allow me to play the character this way and never have it referenced in the story. This little story point is indicative of a much bigger problem.
2. I have no idea who my character is. Unlike Commander Shepard, Ezio Auditore, Edward Kenway, Lara Croft (in the most recent and excellent Tomb Raider) or Batman, the playing character is a complete cipher. I get that this is supposed to increase engagement and speaks to the the MMO origins of the title, but … I don’t play console games to generate my character’s backstory. If I wanted to do that, I’d go back to The Lord of the Rings Online where Everborn, the stalwart hunter and friend of the Grey Company, aids the Fellowship and hopes to someday see the village of his youth in Gondor.
3. Hell, even LOTRO gives me a reason to shoot at things for hours on end. Despite great game play and fantastic stage-boss fights, Destiny gives me no compelling reason to shoot at stuff except for loot. Interestingly enough, the game’s mission system allows me to keep a close watch on how long I play, generally 35-45 minutes per mission. I was generally satisfied with playing a mission or two and then switching the game off to read or watch a video. I don’t think the developer or the publisher meant for me to find a disconnection point so easily, but here we are. In an MMO, this would be death for the title; you have to keep the player active and engaged.
4. The world is, ultimately, quite small. Though the maps seem to go on forever, the four planets in this initial game utilize the same areas for most of the story progression. It leads to a certain samey-ness, particularly if I just want to patrol to level up or earn reputation points (the most obnoxious of all grindfests in any game). I think this is where Destiny‘s hybridization really fails it. In a pure shooter, the map is meant to fly by. In a MMO, the map is part of an exploratory experience. The game, as it currently stands, gives me little reason to ever stop and take in the certifiably gorgeous reality they’ve built.
5. And not to be tin-foil hatty on this, but there is definitely an insidious element to the paid DLC expansions adding to the storyline when, for a $60 AAA game, there was precious little story to find. Destiny is expected to evolve over the next five years, but it’s provided so little on its initial release, I wonder how long it’ll be before the community is nothing but the hardcore raiding crowd looking to score the most elusive gear in the game.
Perhaps when the game matures — and the first year of content is made available for an all-inclusive 20 bucks — I’ll come back to it. There is still some enjoyment to be had in the game, but I heard the siren song of Middle-earth. I can already tell you that in just the first few hours, I’ve had more fun and engagement with Shadow of Mordor than anything in Destiny.
It’s looking like this walk into Mordor will offer me a bit more fun until the main next-gen console event for me: Assassins Creed: Unity.