Why the first Destiny reviews shot too soon

By Paul Davies, Thursday, 19 March 2015 13:12 GMT

With its BAFTA Best Game award and millions of players logging over three hours each day, now seems like a good time to take an educated view of those early appraisals.

bungie_destiny_bafta

“Destiny is by no means the first, and certainly not the last game to fall at the mercy of an increasingly old fashioned review format.”

This must have been a very long and painful six months for Destiny studio Bungie and publisher Activision. Since around one week after the game’s release on September 9, 2014, the average score for the Next Big Thing after Halo and Call of Duty has hovered around the 7 or 8 out of 10 mark.

To most people this suggests an average experience in prospect at best – a pat on the back but do better next time level of commendation. And yet, here we are with a game that many of your friends, if not you yourself, show online via Xbox LIVE or PSN as playing incessantly day or night.

Let’s pause it there for a moment to clarify two things: This isn’t going to be a discussion on whether expert reviewers ploughing through a week’s worth of Destiny were capable of articulating opinion. Nor is this an attempt to have everyone agree that, hey Destiny is a 10/10 game bro, am I right? However, what I would like to explore is how a low scoring title wins so many hearts and minds while picking up one of the world’s most prestigious gongs. Something big slipped out of this net.

There were plenty, under normal circumstances enough, positive reviews to read about Destiny at launch. The favourable verdict seemed to be a solid 8/10, which while not setting off too many fireworks were guys confidently standing by Bungie’s flawed but brilliant hope for the future.

Yet the glass-half-empty guys were significant in number also, including some big-name websites; the main concerns centered on Destiny appearing unpolished and feeling unfinished. Here we were looking at mostly 6/10 judgements owing to writers owning up to lack of sight of the bigger picture.

destiny light unlock

The divided opinions forged the 76/100 metascore hanging around Destiny’s neck. No matter how trusting the upbeat opinions were at the time, the downbeat reviewers strongly dictated caution. My contention is that neither side had truly experienced Destiny to even its earliest potential; like watching Star Wars and switching off before the attack on the Death Star had even got underway, let alone the iconic trench run. Or, kinda, visiting Disneyland and complaining about the hotdogs.

Crucial components were off the table or simply out of reach at the time reviews were in progress, chief among them the Vault of Glass raid. Although many reviews were published after September 16 when the raid was first available, it was almost as though the professional outlets had agreed with Bungie/Activision, ‘fine we’ll wait for your frickin’ raid to arrive before publishing our thoughts’.

The most vociferous of negative opinions overlooked the Vault completely while the positive paused only briefly for admiration from the tour bus of the raid’s unique, complex and rewarding challenge. The something I mentioned earlier that fell through the net was time: time to observe how a community of players rallied in response to one of the most prestigious goals in gaming; time to allow Bungie to respond to this community with a great deal of self deprecating humour together with a surprising degree of transparency via weekly blog updates. Above all, time devoted to living the journey from ‘kinderguardian’ (credit to Reddit user Svensonasty) to Guardian Lord, suffering the growing pains while celebrating that evolution of a very new and evidently compelling universe.

destiny crota

“The decision to make their Destiny yours to fulfil in partnership with newfound online buddies and a direct line to the studio ultimately appears to have proven the right one.”

The reason this is important to write about is that Destiny is by no means the first, and certainly not the last game to fall at the mercy of an increasingly old fashioned review format. However, Bungie and Activision were the first to entrust their AAA blockbuster to the world at large, bypassing the traditional routes of first-looks, hands-on previews and world exclusive reviews. This might’ve ruffled a few feathers, we will never know. What we do know for sure is that, over time, the decision to make their Destiny yours to fulfil in partnership with newfound online buddies and a direct line to the studio ultimately appears to have proven the right one.

In February 1.14 million players from 16 million registered users queued to buy the exotic sniper rifle Icebreaker over one weekend. Bungie and Activision cannot afford to slow the pace or take such devotion for granted, but the celebrated love/hate relationship that so many guardians have with Destiny is a balancing act that seems well in hand for now.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments