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Destiny: A Personal Reflection & Revelation (6/1/15)

I took a break from writing a...weekly-ish blog to see if I'd feel the urge to return. I realized that my attempt at trying to cover a lot of ground within a single week of playing games led to me rambling with no focus. Instead of digging into what really impressed me about a game, I'd spend paragraphs explaining more broad feelings about what I liked and didn't like. I was basically repeating what my friends and I would discuss in our podcast.

In order to get better at writing, I should try and explain myself in more detail - let's start with my return to Destiny and the House of Wolves DLC.

Or "expansion" if you will.

What hasn't been said about Destiny? Bungie's enormous marketing campaign penetrated any form of media a consumer might come across with promises of an expansive universe to explore with your friends. It would be an MMO first person shooter, and it would be around for at least 10 years. Many felt it didn't deliver.

I also denounced Destiny after only a short period with the beta. The small taste of what this game offered was a big red flag in terms of how much content would be available out of the box. From the ads, my heart wished "galaxy spanning rpg-shooter romp with buddies." From the beta, my gut screamed "minimal content, with a focus on grind." No thanks.

Fast forward a few months to me buying an Xbox One in anticipation for Halo: MCC. Whoops. My expectations of jumping back into a series I spent countless hours playing with friends was dashed by poor launch planning and game breaking server problems. I now had a console I'd never really use. One of my good friends had been a slave to Destiny prior to this, so I figured I might as well try it since it was a console exclusive and I happened to have one of those consoles.

After 200 hours with the game, you might say I like Destiny. My playtime probably pales in comparison to the more rabid fans (my friend included, who has almost 500), but for me, that is a huge investment. One might think after that amount of time I'd have nothing negative to say, or rather, that I had accepted the flaws and moved on. For the most part, that's true. But prior to House of Wolves, I was ready to be done with Destiny until the next major installment, or possibly for good.

Crota initially seemed really interesting.
Crota initially seemed really interesting.

The first expansion, Crota's End, didn't offer much in terms of actual content. I was most excited for a new raid, since Vault of Glass really impressed me. At first, Crota's End was another similar adventure where you completed a ritual to summon an alien god in order to destroy it. Thinking of both raids in this way really made the experience for me, because honestly, deicide is pretty fucking cool.

Crota's End fell apart when the internet hive-mind (HAHA get it?!) figured out how to break the puzzles, multiple times, trivializing the whole experience. The raid became a weekly chore to sprint through, fight Crota for 20 minutes and see if you got any raid armor to get to level 32 and run through the raid again and see if you got the hard mode drops...and...then what?

Vault of Glass required a fair amount of coordination and was never easy (at least for me and my friends), and again, as far as I knew, only had one minor cheese that didn't break the raid but made it go more smoothly. It was always interesting. Crota's End was boring after the 3rd time I did it. I began to have an existential crisis with Destiny. Why had I spent so much time playing this damn game? What was the point of amassing all this gear? Why did I pay for the 2nd expansion so far in advance without knowing I'd want to keep playing?

I stopped soon after. I didn't finish leveling up the gear I had - even when I had just got the coveted Suros Regime. House of Wolves was months away and my interest in the game had skipped town.

My Xbox One sat dejected for a few months, getting occasional use out of arcade games and Mortal Kombat X for about 2 weeks. I swore I didn't care about House of Wolves, and would only check it out because I had paid for it. I was part of the crowd that was very against the exclusion of a new raid. I felt ripped off, which wasn't a great way to start off a new round of content. My expectations were pretty low.

I love you. I hate you.
I love you. I hate you.

Instead of a raid, House of Wolves added the new horde-esque mode, Prison of Elders, and a highly competitive PvP mode, Trials of Osiris. I was underwhelmed initially by both, until a pivotal moment resulting from me being kicked from Destiny's servers - just as my team finished the level 32 PoE. As the final boss fell, I was kicked from the game, and unable to rejoin. I did not get the weekly rewards, nor did I get the thrill of opening the final rewards chests. Essentially, the hours I had just spent playing the game resulted in...nothing.

Fury doesn't describe what I felt. It was seething, quiet, rage. I didn't scream. I didn't pound my fists. I sat and fumed. I told my buddy "I think I might be done with this game for good."

A day passed. I realized getting so angry over not getting loot was incredibly silly. Up until that point in Prison of Elders, I was having a blast with the gameplay and challenge alone. I wasn't even considering what gun or armor I'd get. That wasn't the point because I had enemies to dispatch and objectives to complete in a limited amount of time. A total reversal of how I viewed Destiny was taking form.

I wanted to play the game again. My hope and desire was renewed rather quickly, and the weekend was coming up, meaning the second round of the Trials of Osiris. My first outing during the week of release was a poor showing. My buddy and I, as well as a rotating third person from DestinyLFG, never even reached 3 wins, but I wanted to give this mode a chance. I spent a good bit of my Destiny time playing Crucible. I'm still surprised that it didn't catch on with a majority of players, as I think the smaller maps and 6v6 feels great. To each their own.

Our second attempt at Trials this past weekend was both a major success and a major failure. Twice we got up to 4-0, only to lose the next 3 matches in a row. At 5 wins, I'd automatically get a piece of gear that helps increase my overall level, thus opening up more challenging levels of Prison of Elders. (Yes, the vicious Destiny cycle is still in full effect.)

These heart-breaking losses, however, brought my new way of thinking full circle. I wasn't mad that we had lost, and I had missed a chance to further my character with new loot, and that I'd have to wait another week to try again. Instead, I was relishing the high we felt as we swept teams in 5 rounds. I was fully experiencing the tension of reviving team members while under fire. The strategy of when each of us would use our super ability throughout the match, or which way we'd go in the map, was a level of planning I have never experienced in a multiplayer shooter. Even when we lost, our elation deflated, uttering phrases such as "fuck this game," "I don't want to play this again," I was appreciating the feeling.

No shooter has made me feel so invested in the competition alone. Forget the loot and light level and materials and whatever. Looking back, my enjoyment in Destiny has come solely from the gameplay, and the feel of shooting a fairly varied arsenal of weapons. Even mowing down waves of AI-controlled enemies was a blast, which is now refreshed in the more challenging Prison of Elders.

Destiny may have disappointed many - myself included, initially. It was a profound realization that I don't need an end-goal to enjoy a game. I've been so conditioned by the lust for loot over many years of playing rpg's that I let that desire mask what is really great about Destiny - the gameplay. I spent an unbelievable amount of hours playing multiple shooters online, with no goal - why should Destiny be any different?