Reflections On The Destiny Beta
Dumping on Story
I've seen this for Destiny as well as Halo before it... accusations of being silly, derivative, and obscure, and I don't really understand it. Some of it seems to come from those who either don't want any story in their shooters and so don't pay attention to it, or those who are used to the kind of depth you get in an RPG and are put off by things drawn with a broad brush. The Halo series supplemented its backstory with the novelizations, whereas Marathon and Myth used the in-game terminals and journal entries, respectively. I have high hopes that the Grimoire cards you get in-game and then view on Bungie.net will be the best of both worlds here, allowing those who want to explore the world in-depth a chance to do so without overburdening the game with backstory during gameplay or through traditional cutscenes.
Dumping on Dinklage
Some people are put off by Dinklage's flat delivery of Ghost dialogue, probably because it contrasts so starkly with Tim Dadabo's bouncy, psychotic performance as 343 Guilty Spark, as well as the alternately sarcastic and heartfelt turns of Jen Taylor as Cortana. Part of me just thinks it's because the Ghost is a different kind of role, and because we really haven't seen much yet of what the true nature of the Traveler really is, which I think may end up impacting the relationship of Guardians and their ghosts.
The Network Is The Game
Destiny's network code is, at least for me, a minor miracle. I like cooperative play better than competitive play, and while Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST and Halo:Reach all had an online coop mode, it never worked well enough to be playable for me. Part of that is being on the opposite side of the world and having bad Internet connections, but my current connection seems more than sufficient for Destiny to play very well, and a test on the same connection only a few weeks before in Halo: Anniversary yielded humorous, but unplayable results. Something fundamental in how Bungie's engine handles the world and how it is shared is now different, and it is definitely for the better.
You Think You're Big Time?
People are already griping that Destiny is too small, based on possibly legitimate leaked reveal of mission, strike, and exploration location areas from a decompiled version of Bungie's companion app released alongside the Beta. I don't know if the list is complete or accurate or what, but I feel pretty good about what I've seen and what I think is yet to come, especially after Deej said this:
"We think we did a decent job supporting Halo, post launch, but we were only ever able to cater to the competitive set. That left a lot of players out in the cold. That made a lot of the team grumpy. We wanted to do better. So, Destiny is philosophically built support every type of player, and all modes with ongoing activities and events. We look at it quite a bit like television programming, as opposed to a singular film, as we had in the past."
Destiny may not only be closer to becoming what it was originally intended to be than Halo ever did. It may even get closer to becoming what Halo was originally intended to be. I'm forced to wonder if anyone at Microsoft is now questioning their decisions to double down on gaining control over old properties like Halo and Gears of War while letting Bungie go independent and make their new franchise cross-platform. I once was so into Halo's content that I really didn't care about the technology: if they could have sold me a subscription to get ODST-sized content updates once a year or so, I'd have done it without hesitation. Now I think I'd want out of that deal. Instead of broadening the scope of what the Haloverse is beyond the Master Chief, the Covenant and the Forerunners, the way ODST did, 343 Industries is dipping further down into the same well, but the game itself is structured the same way it has been since Halo 2: single player campaign once every two or three years, and competitive multiplayer maps released every once in awhile as DLC.
There's nothing as compelling as the game-changer that Bungie has revealed with Destiny's drop-in, drop-out cooperative universe and the promise of continually updated campaign content as indicated by Deej in the quote above. Destiny's requirement of Xbox Live Gold for fireteam activities (which includes story cooperative play, strikes, as well as crucible multiplayer) is probably the best advertisement for the service Microsoft could possibly have at this point, with Gears of War gone MIA, Call of Duty becoming the new Halo, Titanfall revealed as a paper maché robot, and Halo turning into... I don't even know what. As far as Microsoft is concerned, however, the franchise barely exists, and the pain is mostly felt by Bungie's longtime fans on Microsoft's platform who keenly feel the preferential treatment of PlayStation owners that has been arranged for by Activision and Bungie. The last attempt to curry favor-- giving all Gold subscribers access to the last few days of the Beta, was perceived by many not as recompense for the extra goodies Sony owners are getting, but as a slap in the face to those who preordered Destiny for Microsoft platforms in order to get Beta access, only to see it be given away for free to those who hadn't forked over in advance. Even if Destiny is merely competent rather than stellar (and I think there's little risk of that at this point) being available on four platforms this year gives Bungie the possibility of having a hit on its hands bigger than any MS-exclusive Halo title ever was, and if it sells well on 360 and Xbox One then Microsoft may be scrambling to find a way to neutralize Sony's timed exclusives and show that their platforms are a viable place to play in Bungie's new universe going forward. Right now I'm on 360 because that's what I have, but presumably the sequel will only be available on the newer consoles; if Sony owners continue to get preferential treatment, what reason do I and possibly millions of other Bungie fans have to not switch?