Destiny is arguably the most hyped and anticipated new IP release in video game history. The series begins with a tremendous budget of reportedly over $500 million and was developed and produced by two of the biggest names in the gaming industry: Bungie and Activison. It is also Bungie’s first project since splitting with Microsoft and giving up the Halo franchise.
All of the hype and attention in this case is a double-edged sword. While someone out there is definitely making a lot of money from Destiny’s sales, all of the fame means that Destiny is living under a microscope. Every aspect of the game is under heavy scrutiny more so than your average game mostly because it’s a Bungie game that isn’t named Halo, and the attention that its $500 million dollar advertising budget for the series draws.
All of that being said, all of this is par for the course in a lot of ways for AAA games, and Activision is certainly equipped to handle the craziness that comes with the territory. There is one aspect of Destiny though that is not common among AAA games and is being lost on many critics and consumers. Destiny isn’t like every other big name shooter because Destiny is more like a MMO, even if Bungie doesn’t explicitly say it.
While there’s no doubt that Destiny is a shooter at heart, it has so much in common with MMOs that you would have to go out of your way to not see the obvious inspirations. Whether its pseudo-MMOs such as Phantasy Star Online and Diablo or traditional ones such as Final Fantasy XIV, there are common elements (and faults) that go along with being a member of that genre. If Bungie were to just embrace the MMO angle, it would explain away a lot of its problems.
There have been a lot of complaints about the story and they aren’t wrong. The story is bland and by and large forgettable. Why? In MMOs, the story doesn’t matter that much because the “real” game doesn’t really start until you complete the story. Storyline missions in MMOs are almost an extended tutorial to prepare you for postgame.
Endgames in MMOs are designed to keep you playing for as long as possible (especially if it has a subscription). The game out of the box always has (or should have) its own postgame in place. In the case of Destiny, it’s all about increasing your strength beyond the level cap by the use of “Light”, a practice that is very common in the genre. For example, in FFXIV, each player can continue to grow despite reaching cap by getting stronger weapon and armors and increasing their “Item Level.” Sounds familiar, right?
The more light you have, the higher your level will become, and you’ll be able tackle more difficult versions of strikes, story missions, and raids. That leads to the other aspect of MMOs (especially loot-centered ones such as Diablo or Phantasy Star Online) that doesn’t always appeal to the masses: gear obsession.
For MMO fans, having the best gear is like a drug. You have to have it. You grind out the hardest bosses or repeat the most efficient farming techniques so you can have the best gear you can. What do you do with that full set of legendary gear after you finally obtain it? Well you probably just do everything all over again but now your damage is higher than it ever was and you complete it way faster. Plus, you’re future proofing yourself for patched in content, another aspect that is uniquely characteristic of MMOs.
Future content updates, events, and expansions are always aspects that need to be considered when properly judging MMOs. There’s a reason many video game blogs choose not to review MMOs as soon as they are released. One reason is to evaluate its endgame but also because these games are constantly changing. We have seen with Destiny that it only took two weeks for Bungie to add the Vault of Glass raid and The Queen’s Wrath event. Additions such as these, coupled with paid expansions, means that the game that people play on day one is likely going to be much more fleshed out over time.
If none of this sounds appealing to you, you’re not crazy. Destiny is a game released to the masses but not for the masses. and despite not officially being called a MMO, it certainly looks, talks, and acts like one. So if you’re not a fan of what Destiny is bringing to the table, it’s probably because MMOs just aren’t your cup of tea. If you go into Destiny knowing to expect repetitive loot-driven gameplay and a thin story (typical for these types of games), then you’ll come to appreciate the things that Destiny does really well, instead of getting hung up on these quirks that come with the genre.