Activision largely stood by while its rivals scrambled after the App Store gold rush, but it, and Bungie, have clearly been paying attention: Destiny offers up daily and weekly challenges that echo the structure of a mobile game. Each day a selection of missions offer up extra XP, dollops of currency and the odd Ascendant upgrade material, while the Nightfall Strike offers those of level 28 and above an XP boost to everything they do until the weekly Tuesday reset. PVE and PVP modes and events, some of which add new rep bars and vendors, come in and out of rotation. Executives fret constantly about the secondhand market, but this is the best incentive to keep the disc in the tray Activision has yet produced. in the thick of battle, with your shield long gone and ordnance raining around you, your downed teammates urging you to keep your cool, it’s hard to care.
Not making you care is what Destiny does best. Even in the worst sessions, where four hours have been traded for a pile of Relic Iron, an upgrade on a gun we rarely use and some low-level gear we immediately destroyed, there is a tangible sense of progress. The benefit of wrapping the game in so convoluted a framework is that everything you do has a consequence, even if it’s miniscule in the grand scheme of things. You are always working towards something, and it’s always something worth having. It is incredibly hard to put down.
So Dinklage was right. Destiny is amazing. It’s amazing that one of the most respected studios in the world, with enormous amounts of money and time, could have made a game with so many needless issues. It’s amazing that a studio under contract to Activision Blizzard, the company that defined the MMOG with World Of Warcraft and the loot grind with Diablo, could have made a game that so often misunderstands both. Yet what is most amazing of all is that despite its litany of weird little problems, Destiny is fantastic, its combat up there with the very best, the thrilling rhythm of its battles still not fading the 30th time through, and it has no single systemic problem that is not fixable. This, as Activision is so fond of reminding us, is a decade-long project. For all the problems with the game’s story, its structure and its pace, Bungie has nailed the mechanics at the first pass. The next nine years are going to be very intriguing indeed.