Why Destiny isn’t “just a generic shooter”

Thursday, 24 July 2014 08:01 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Destiny isn’t just a generic shooter. It isn’t. Brenna will fight anyone who says it is.


Destiny: shared-worlds shooter


In case you’ve been living under a rock, Destiny is a shared-worlds shooter from Bungie, the original creator of Halo.

It’s currently in closed beta testing on PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Everyone seems to be playing it constantly and you cannot be in the cool kids club if you aren’t.

I think it’s pretty obvious by now that I love Destiny. There’s really only one thing that I don’t like about Destiny, and you know what that is? People who don’t like Destiny.

There I’ll be, enjoying a chinwag with my mates about our latest radventures, swapping screenshots, laughing merrily, swearing it will eat our lives come September. And then along comes some tosser who for some reason feels he has to stick his oar into a private conversation and explain how much he dislikes Destiny.

Most of the time I just give whoever it is a Look (or the virtual equivalent, a failure to answer) and move on, because the last thing I want is for everybody to be required to like the same things. Sometimes I’ll have a little twitch under one eye, as when one chappie said Destiny was no good because one sequence of one mission takes place in the dark and he couldn’t find his enemy. Occasionally I’ll crush a wine glass if someone complains about something patently ridiculous like “you can’t shoot your teammates so it’s unrealistic” (arrrrrrgggghhh half of it is set on the fucking moon you mumpty). But generally I can keep my temper.

However: there’s one particular piece of criticism that just drives me absolutely bugshit, and that’s “Destiny is just another generic shooter”. In an industry saturated with generic shooters, why is it the first one to actually make a real effort to advance the genre in new directions is the one copping that flack?

I’m pretty sure a lot of this boils down to hipsterism; the hype for Destiny is so high that some people are going to come buckets over the chance to prove they’re too good for what we “sheeple” are enjoying, regardless of its quality. But let’s take them seriously for a minute, and talk about why Destiny is not just a generic shooter, shall we?

Because it’s an MMO, basically.

If you don’t like MMOs, I don’t blame you. But imagine if you took the good bits of MMO and stripped away all the bad bits and replaced them with glorious shooting? What you’d have then is pretty much Destiny.

I understand why Activision keep saying “it’s not an MMO”. MMOs are a difficult genre to sell. If you don’t like MMOs, I don’t blame you; they’re fiddly, grindy, and frustrating as all heck if you don’t have a tight crew to work through content with. It’s also not a genre that works well on consoles, for a variety of reasons (although Square Enix has really done a stellar job with FF14; credit where it’s well and truly due), and so avoiding the term in marketing is smart.

But imagine if you took the good bits of MMO (loads of content, co-operative play, an immersive world, raids, flexible character builds, doing emotes in stupid places) and stripped away all the bad bits (combat like a piano rehearsal, mandatory grouping, fiddly controls, nightmarishly complicated character builds, loading into instances, gold sellers) and replaced them with glorious shooting?

What you’d have then is pretty much Destiny. From the moment you launch Destiny’s first post-tutorial mission, you’re in an overworld, and other players are wandering around you. Bungie’s been very clever, though; when you’re on the field, you want be drowning in crowds. At most, you’ll see half a dozen comrades around you at a time, and usually significantly fewer.

So you’re playing with hundreds or thousands of other people, with all the benefits that brings. But you don’t have that horrible feeling of being unimportant in the grand scheme of things because there are hundreds of clones around you, breaking the immersion.

The Tower is played in third person, because Destiny is an MMO.

Moving into instances is seamless. (For those not familiar with MMOs, an instance is a discrete session which admits you and your party members only; randoms can’t come in and mess up your game – or help you.) You get a message informing you that you’re in a dark zone, and that’s it. If you’re in a party and one of you has wandered off, you may see a brief load pause, but that’s it. Most of the time you cross over just like stepping through a door. It’s marvellous.

Strikes are Destiny’s equivalent of raids and differ markedly from their vanilla MMO compatriots by not being a giant clusterfuck. You don’t have to sit around outside a dungeon shouting DPS 4000-6000 LFG for an hour before you find a tank and a healer, because there’s no holy trinity stuff. You only need two other players to tackle The Devil’s Lair (later strikes may support more players, perhaps) rather than half a dozen. Anybody can leap into a Strike without first having to sort out specific gear for the bosses they’ll encounter.

Despite that, Strikes offer much of the satisfaction of raids – long, multi-stage fights with bosses who hit really, really hard. The chance to co-ordinate with your comrades and the great satisfaction that brings.

Maybe you’re just not getting it?

Look, none of us like things we don’t precisely understand – I don’t like entire genres involving base-building and clicks per minute – and Destiny is a weird game. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.

That said, I really, really, really like it, and I wish you did too. Why don’t you cast your eye over some of our Destiny guides to give you an idea of what you’re missing?

This beginner’s guide to Destiny breaks down the basic concepts, for example. Go on, give it a go. We’re not going to shut up about it, seriously, so you may as well get on board.

Character building is a delight. All three classes have broad similarities, in that they each have a super, a grenade and a melee power, all on cooldown timers. Although the beta is capped at level eight, allowing us only a glimpse of how this will progress, investigating the later power tiers and the single subclass in the menu reveals picture of growing complexity and synergy. Is your playstyle run and gun? There are options for that in every class. More of a careful sniper? Options for that. Fond of melee or grenades? Hell, son; build for it.

Switching between these options is instant and easy, so you can adjust as you collect new gear, and best of all the whole thing is so simple – because you only have three powers, your build choices are nowhere near as complex as the huge number of abilities and stats most RPGs offer. Despite that, it’s still tactically satisfying to nail down an approach – and to have it challenged by a tough foe, sending you back to rethink your strategies.

And yet. You absolutely don’t have to do that, if you don’t want to. Players who experiment and discover optimal builds will have an advantage, but if you’re really just into shooting, you can just shoot. Destiny has all the good bits of an MMO, and none of the bad, and yet it is at the same time a genuinely fun shooter that rewards twitch skill and tactical play alike: the stat jiggery-pokery is an added bonus for those who want an advantage, or to take their game to the next level.

If you want to jump into PvP you’ll find a multiplayer shooter along the lines of Halo and Call of Duty and what have you. If you want to call that a generic shooter I’ll have to concede that you may be justified, because it’s not something that interests me and I’m not qualified to judge it. But out there on story missions and Strikes? Working together to chain super attacks? Managing your three cooldown timers with exquisite timing? Rushing to join strangers in public events, or disappearing with your crew into an instance? That’s an MMO. And it’s a good one.

Other reasons Destiny is not a generic shooter include: you can double jump, you can do emotes on the post office roof to annoy your fellow gamers, and you can dance spectacularly. Present your counter-arguments.