If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you know that I have no love for the Destiny franchise, Bungie, or Activision. I preordered Destiny Limited Edition and have regretted that decision pretty much since the third, if not first, expansion was released. It’s a mechanically sound, beautiful, horribly written, terribly scripted PVP fest with literally no end game. Now if you, unlike me, do buy games strictly for PVP and you don’t mind paying $60 for the same 10 – 15 maps over and over again in hopes of some RNG drops for gear that you ultimately don’t need because you’re already winning at PVP then that’s fine. If you think of Halo and COD as the origins of console gaming, I won’t fault you for your age. But please do me the same courtesy and don’t fault me for mine. Because when I think of the origins of modern console gaming I think of Mario and Sonic. Or even earlier for my true old schoolers who like to bust out the ColecoVision and the Atari. When I think of proper gaming I don’t think FIFA, Madden, CSGO, PUBG. I think The Witcher, Knights of the Old Republic, Ratchet & Clank, God of War. I came up in the era where single player story based campaigns were king, pretending for the purposes of rhetoric that they still aren’t. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, games of the year baby. So for me Destiny is/was a bad game.
I was recently asked to take part in one of those tech comparison tests. Basically they had me play the same game on three different systems (PCs in this case) and compare the performance. For whatever reason they chose Destiny II as their test game. I was not happy about this but I agreed to do the test so I had to stomach playing it. Here’s the problem. I only played the first 20 or so minutes of the game. And I enjoyed it. Furthermore, I enjoyed it enough and was interested in the story enough to think to myself “I would actually like to keep playing this game.” And that angered me because then I realized what was happening to me all over again.
I was not actually planning on buying the first Destiny when it was announced. It looked like a generic FPS that just happened to have a shared world component. And that’s exactly what it is. The way they got me was with the beta. I played the closed and open beta and as was their intention, I got conned. See the beta didn’t give you much but it made you feel like there was much to come. And as I’ve already said, the gameplay is solid. As much as I hate Destiny and everything about how Bungie and Activision conduct business, let it never be said that they can’t design core shooting mechanics. From the beta all the way to when I quit playing the real game, I always enjoyed how it felt to play Destiny. The core gameplay is really solid. It’s one of the few shooters that made me feel like I was actually good at them. And for someone like me who avidly hates shooting games, especially those in first person, it’s very special when an FPS makes me feel good about the gameplay. And I don’t care if you say it’s auto-assist, or the gameplay is too easy in general, or whatever other FPS aficionado bullshit you have to say. The point is they constructed an FPS that at the core level I enjoyed playing and that’s an accomplishment. But ultimately the beta was misleading.
I bought Destiny because the beta led me to believe that the game would have more content than it really did, presented just enough story to get me interested and believe that there actually was gonna be a fully developed and fleshed out story, and again I enjoyed the core gameplay . . . a lot. So I preordered it. And that’s speaking as someone who basically never preorders games. I’ve preordered like three in the last five years and my girlfriend has preordered two others as gifts for me. Of those five games I regret buying/owning three of them. And the fourth one I don’t regret buying but I do regret preordering. So the fact that Bungie was able to convince me to preorder their game, taking into account the last Bungie game I had purchased prior was Halo 2 from literally 10 years earlier, which I ultimately regretted buying as well, is an astounding feat. That’s why I was so unhappy with how I responded to the Destiny II trial session I had.
Bungie tried to pull the same shit on me again, and if I wasn’t self-aware it might have worked . . . again! I played the trial for about 20 minutes and found myself interested enough to want to keep playing. Knowing full well it was the same bullshit. Knowing about the general lack of content and end game. Hearing about the base game trophies being locked behind new paid DLC. All that shit which has come to define the franchise and the companies behind it did not stop me from feeling like I wanted to keep playing the game. And that’s a problem. Not for me. Because I am self-aware. I am smart enough to spot what’s going on. To realize that the opening 20 – 30 minutes has been painstakingly constructed to make players think they’re going to get a full and proper game. I’ve been gaming hardcore since the NES. I’ve been reading about games for more than 10 years. I’ve been writing about them seriously for nearly five. They’re not gonna get me again. But they will and did get many people who aren’t as aware as I am. And that pisses me off. Even other players in the test who hadn’t played it before said they’d enjoyed the game and would consider looking into it. That’s not a good thing. Remember that they are currently running a free trial which will let you play exactly enough to get hooked but not enough to see the truth of the situation.
No this isn’t loot boxes. We’re not talking about EA. But we are still talking about very dishonest and predatory practices, which Bungie has already been accused of before with their slot machine RNG psychology tricks in the first Destiny. They know exactly what they’re doing. They know how to con people. But many people don’t have the knowledge or the defenses to fight against it. Especially casual players.
Now I can’t say Bungie did anything objectively wrong in this case like I would EA. I can’t say that they’ve broken any laws. I can’t even say that we don’t already know better because we absolutely do by looking at Destiny just three years ago. So I’m not gonna do my usual heavy handed call for a boycott or all that dramatic stuff. But I do think this is an important issue that needs to be talked about more and I think we as a community need to do more to try to educate, help, and warn other players, especially unsuspecting casuals, about what’s really going on here and why people need to watch out when playing trials, because if the trial doesn’t give you an accurate sense of what the full game experience is going to be like then it’s not really a trial at all. It’s a dishonest marketing tool and shouldn’t be trusted.