Destiny's Sparrow Racing League is all filler, no killer
Sparrow racing can be a fun distraction, but it does nothing to calm the fears of players looking for something more than the daily Destiny grind.
"Guardians have been rinsing the King’s Fall Raid to beyond the boredom threshold, and most likely failed to earn a Raid helmet for their effort. So, why wouldn’t you want to partake in what appears to be an easy break?"
In the slipstream of The Festival of the Lost, which ended November 9, Bungie has laid on a more substantial event that is already causing controversy. Is hover-bike racing a viable way forward for a shared-world shooter? Are we over-thinking this, perhaps?
Fans are fickle and that’s a fact, and none more so than with Bungie and Destiny. Even those Guardians that haven’t been supposing how a Sparrow racing league might enliven the Destiny universe will have listened in on similar conversations while in Orbit. It has been a long time coming, but maybe this has contributed significantly to some of the malaise.
After only a few hours leaning into the saddle, it’s possible to experience pretty much all there is to enjoy of Bungie’s official Sparrow Racing League. Essentially two race tracks based on Venus (Infinite Descent) and Mars (Campus Martius), with some seriously helpful loot up for grabs if you’re prepared to rank up and stick around long enough. Helmets and Class Items have been promised to drop at anything up to 320 Light, and we already have a friend who can confirm this (319 Helmet). Guardians have been rinsing the King’s Fall Raid to beyond the boredom threshold, and most likely failed to earn a Raid bucket for their hours of effort. So, why wouldn’t you want to partake in what appears to be an easy break?
Well, as much as we all like to complain lately about having been and done it all in Destiny, the core reason that Guardians assemble has been to enjoy the experience of shooting things and watching them explode – great and small. Blasting and relaxing is something that Destiny caters for very well, if not extraordinarily so.
The first uncomfortable truth about Sparrow racing is that it feels comparatively so insubstantial. With only two circuits that comprise only a handful of ideal routes worth taking, the goals are clear, if not reachable, for most players inside of an hour’s play. The views are impressive owing to Bungie’s adaptations of the familiar territories, including Fallen Walkers and Vex Gates to disorientate drivers. But it’s the lack of variety among the ships’ handling that puts the dampers on so early. Aside from the EV-30 Tumbler that Year One Guardians are sneaking into races to earn their tricks-landed bounties, the differences between the others seem mainly cosmetic, making everyone feel like a cursor adhering to the driving line as opposed to feeling in command of an unusual and volatile machine.
Of course, it is unrealistic to expect a solid alternative to Wipeout or F-Zero, or any other of those 1990s classic console racers. There is fun to be had managing the availability of thrust to dance lightly between boost gates and catch those short-cut ramps cleanly. There are other drivers out there that are better than you, so you may as well enjoy the challenge of memorising a couple of tracks better than they ever can.
What we really wanted to find out was how much of the Sparrow Racing League could be enjoyed for free, especially after throwing real money at Eververse Silver to obtain functionally useless, though visually amusing, masks from The Festival of the Lost.
To Bungie’s great credit, it truly is skill and dedication that stands Guardians in with the best chance of winning big with the loot. If you really want to treasure this event, the SRL Record Book Vol. 1 is available to buy from Tess for 1000 Silver (£7.99) and uniquely (after being patched) records and rewards exploits such as fastest laps/races, tricks landed and gates hit.
That’s fine if you want something for the record, but it does not offer any unfair advantage, since everyone can earn a new Sparrow for completing the SRL Quest issued by shipwright Amanda Holliday. This new Sparrow puts you in with the best possible chance of winning races, meaning that all there is left to stress about is the amount of time at your disposal to enjoy the luck of the RNG. If you feel cheated by the latter, Destiny is not the place for you. But with your reputation rising with Tess, the post-game drops do seem to become better. There’s really no need to purchase Mystery Bags when post-game loot is at least as cool.
"The crowds may be cheering temporarily in the SRL grandstands, but the heartland of Destiny is edging ever closer to becoming a wasteland."
We get the feeling that many Guardians will look back upon the inaugural SRL event with fondness. The one thing we may all justifiably begrudge is how, yet again, the Vault clutter is back to breaking point after finding room for armour with perks that only benefit racing. There simply needs to be a much better system for recording, if not storing, every unusual item that Guardians wish to treasure. Similar to the Exotic blueprints perhaps.
As for the rest of the Silver pickings, the new selection of Emotes is nowhere near as compelling as with the spook-filled Festival of the Lost. Legendary examples, that cost 500 Silver, include Air Guitar, Jazz Hands, Facepalm, Victory Wave an embarrassing Energetic Dance and sarcastic ‘we are not worthy’ Bow Down. Maybe the excitement just wore off, but the Carlton Dance and Thriller routine were much more essential. Similarly, the rare emotes such as Sad and Flip Coin don’t have the lol-appeal of ‘Oh, Please’ and ‘Booyah’.
But hey, it’s your money and maybe we will still be jealous.
In summary, we’re going to call the Sparrow Racing League a success as a standalone event that so many Guardians have been crying out for. It might’ve been more, at the very least a few more circuits to master, but as a ‘freebie’ there’s plenty to be getting on with.
It is, however, increasingly hard to suppress the concern that snacks such as these really cannot satisfy the appetite for greater challenges in the PvE End Game, while solving the balancing issues in PvP once and for all. The crowds may be cheering temporarily in the SRL grandstands, but the heartland of Destiny is edging ever closer to becoming a wasteland.