Tag Archives: Destiny

On Levels

Blaugust Post #11

Not too long ago, Tam wrote a post (and a follow-up) about why we should get rid of levels. SAO contains hints of this, mentioning how a level-based system isn’t really fair in PVP contexts, with a subtler hint at the same idea explaining why the second arc doesn’t have levels. In general, I don’t disagree with the arguments presented, but I still think levels are worth keeping.


It’s possible to have progression without using levels, but I feel that having a level as a symbol of how far you’ve come is more important than any actual increases you get from it. Diablo 3 is a good example of this, as each paragon level doesn’t get you much, but it still feels good to get the level up animation and sound. Skyrim likewise gives you a small power boost as you level, but a large part of your power is based on your skill levels, which might be somewhat far removed from your actual level. (A system was introduced after Dragonborn came out that even lets you reset your skill levels and level indefinitely.) I haven’t played a lot of SAO: Hollow Fragment yet, but it seems to work similarly. (It also has the somewhat ridiculous level cap of 250, and Kirito starts at level 100. These numbers are kind of just there.) Tam kind of dismisses this point, but I feel like it’s relatively important. Even at max level in games with vertical gear progression, you tend to make a different number go up (since both WoW and FF14 tell you your average item level). Admittedly, there’s no “ding” noise for hitting ilevel 170.

Ding 70
Yes, I hit 70 on my first character from desecrating a fire.

Baby + Bathwater

I think more than that, my problem is that most level-less systems that I’ve seen so far either aren’t (TSW) or are 100 times worse (Destiny), with a few exceptions. EVE seems to have figured this out, but it has the problem of being EVE. TSW claims not to have levels, but that’s a big fat lie, as your power is 90% based on your talisman levels. If the big skill wheel was all there was, that game could still be compelling, but they felt the need to add a power gating mechanism on top of it. Contrast this with Guild Wars (the first one), which had actual levels, but intended you to hit the level cap (20) about a third of the way through the campaign. The bulk of your time is spent acquiring additional options, especially Elite Skills, which had to be acquired from bosses out in the world. It’s not a level-less system, but it acts like one, and I find it one of the better examples of such.

There are... other problems with this wheel.
There are… other problems with this wheel.

Destiny tried to be like Guild Wars, but is structured more like WoW or FF14. The story is enough to take you to about level 20, and you have “light levels” after that. Most options for getting additional light relied on random drops, and your light level still restricted what you could do, so this ended up being worse in almost all cases than having normal levels. Bungie seems to agree, and is going to normal levels with their first real expansion. Most systems I’ve seen so far that attempt to gate power in a way that isn’t related to level don’t actually fix any of the problems Tam outlined. As a consumer of games and not a designer, levels are easy to understand and mostly work, so I think I’ll stick with them. Changes have to do better than “mostly work”, and so far I can’t think of any that have.

On Burnout

As much as I wish I was talking about a different kind of burnout, this is a post about Destiny. Sorry Destiny, but I think I’m done. I expressed longevity concerns when I started, and the things I was worried about mostly came true.

Exhibit A: Story

Let’s be completely, 100% clear here: Destiny’s story is completely terrible. You’re given very little background, almost no justification for anything you’re doing, and it doesn’t even end with a satisfying conclusion. It’s vague enough that it opens itself up to a lot of alternate interpretation. I’m on board with the theory that we’re the super enemies in some game not yet made. After all, all of the player characters are undead, and years of games have taught us that killing undead by the dozens is the right thing to do. How can I blame the Fallen/Cabal for trying to do likewise?

I don’t really demand a compelling story from everything I play, but most games aren’t trying to pretend to more story than they actually have. Transistor doesn’t tell you a lot about what you’re doing when you start, but the information is there in the game as you play it (and serves a dual function of getting you to experiment with the ability system). Gauntlet has an excuse plot, but it’s not trying to be anything more than that. Destiny doesn’t even have that, as there’s no real “goal” to work toward or a reason for most of the actions taken by the main character other than “The Ghost said so”. This isn’t really enough to keep me moving forward.

Exhibit B: Progression

Progression in Destiny is not exactly what I’d hoped it would be. Initial impressions of the way that the guns, armor, and subclasses level led me to believe that there would be more in the way of horizontal progression after the relatively low level cap. Guild Wars 1 does this, as you hit the level cap about halfway through the story and continue earning skills that can let you construct a wider variety of builds.

Needless to say, this isn’t how Destiny works, and what you get at the level cap is either praying to the Random Number Generator or a long Vanguard/Crucible rep/marks grind. Instead of making levels feel rewarding, it mostly serves as a “you must be this tall to ride” mark, as you do drastically reduced damage to enemies above your level. I don’t really find it fun, and facing this is pretty much where I stopped.

Exhibit C: Variety

to be fair, I did mention this as a concern earlier. Destiny reminds me of Diablo 3 (prior to 2.0) in that items that are “interesting” are incredibly rare, and not really all that impactful except in a few special cases (which got nerfed anyway). The equivalent of Borderlands Red Text items is either up to an incredible amount of RNG or lots and lots of grinding (for Strange Coins). (Contrast with Borderlands, where you get them as quest rewards sometimes.)

Enemy variety is a bit better, and the fun of shooting things was enough to keep me interested in the game for a good while. It was on reaching mars and realizing I’d already seen everything the game had to offer outside of the Raid (which I had limited interest in) that I decided to drop it.


I know a lot of people find this game fun, and I know others never got into it in the first place, but I’m somewhere in the middle. I suspect that if the above were fixed maybe I could find it fun again, but I’m not sure how they’d convince me to give it a try. As-is, I don’t think Destiny is a long-term game for me.

On The [insert noun here]

Arrrr. Now that that’s out of the way…

Destiny is an interesting, and somewhat divisive game. I’ve been playing it a bit, and I’ve been having fun, but apparently not everyone is. It’s not perfect, but I will say that I haven’t had this much fun with a 70s Metacritic game in a long time.

Valid Complaints

Destiny’s story is kind of terrible. There’s a lot of backstory in the grimoire, but you can’t access the grimoire in any way while in-game. Until you get to Venus (more than halfway through the story missions) there simply isn’t much in the way of story at all presented in the missions. There’s also this very annoying tendency to name everything “The [insert noun here]”. The Traveler, The Speaker, The Stranger, and The Queen are all examples. (The grimoire is especially unhelpful in this case, as it also uses these names. Proper nouns have so far been exclusively used for enemies.) I feel like Isey has an appropriate take on the story as presented.

destiny robots
Gun variety has been a bit lacking, although since they reserved special effects for level 20 exotic gear and I’m not yet level 20, it’s a bit understandable. But since exotics are so rare, it might not be excusable. It’s hard not to draw comparisons to either halo or borderlands here, but the former had things like the needler and the plasma pistol and the latter had more interesting weapons than I can count. Destiny doesn’t have this, and in fact the only “non-standard” weapon type it presents is the Fusion rifle.

Why I’m Playing Anyway

Despite the things I just said, and the collective rant in the podcast last week, I’m playing the game, and it’s very fun. The animations for precision kills are satisfying. The super abilities are incredibly fun to use (Even the not very flashy Sunsinger Warlock one). Progression is always enough to hold interest for a while, and that can certainly be found here (even your weapons level up).

Last but certainly not least, playing with other people is a blast. the game’s overarching story isn’t great, but the story of the random things I did with Kodra while wandering the moon is more compelling. It’s not a perfect game, but I do think it’s a great one.

On Upcoming Games

Now is a good time to be a gamer, I think. There are a variety of upcoming titles this year that look interesting, and they aren’t all coming out in October. (In fact, the three I’m going to mention are all pre-October.) Let’s take a look.

Azure Striker Gunvolt

Inticreates is the company actually behind the Megaman ZX games as well as Megaman 9 and 10. As such, I have a lot of interest in their 2d platformers involving guns. (They’re also working on Mighty No. 9.) Azure Striker Gunvolt involves a hero with a gun of sorts used to lock on his actual weapon, witch seems to be electricity wielded in a variety of different ways. This hits the 3DS on Friday, and I’m looking forward to picking it up.



Halo 2 was the last “big” shooter I enjoyed, before everything became Call of Duty and things like it. I was iffy on this one until I got to play the Alpha and Beta with other people, and now I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time in it. It releases on September 9, so I hope I have enough time to beat Gunvolt before this happens.



Red Warrior needs food badly. I know someone else is also interested in this, and I’d hoped to play it soon, but it was recently delayed to September 23. I like arcade-style games like this (I’m apparently the only person who likes Sacred 3, for example) and this looks like an interesting and varied take on the formula. It’s also made by the people who made Magicka, so the deaths should be entertaining.


For more posts about… everything, check out the Blaugust Initiative.

On Moon Wizards

I’m writing a post today that I would not have expected to write a month ago. It turns out that a little bit of content can go a long way.

Hype Machine

I’m usually somewhat bothered by games that receive too much “hype”. Some games the Media seems to pick up and run with, and the end result is never as awesome as what’s promised (kind of like most political campaigns). The latest example of that is Titanfall, a game that received pre-release hype of the highest order, and ended up falling flat after about a month. On the MMO front, I can think of lots of examples, some of which I’ve been burned by personally. So now I have an automatic aversion to hype. I didn’t buy into any of the hype for Destiny, but I randomly got a spot in the Alpha anyway. Now I’m completely bought into the hype, because marketing works.

Caveat Emptor

But sometimes marketing works a bit too well. Playing the Destiny alpha got me to pre-order Destiny and therefore check out the beta, but I’ve also been burned by “marketing betas” before. The most notable example is Champions, which was awesome through the beta process and reworked into something else on Day 1. I’m also going to pick on Firefall, which wowed me with a 30 minute tradefloor demo at PAX East, and then revealed that there wasn’t much else in the game after those 30 minutes. (I hear it’s launching soon, so maybe it actually has content now?) Limited Time Demos are also a trap, and if this turns out to be one, I guess I’m falling right in, because what I did play was quite fun.


Space Magic

Of course, now that I’m jumping in, I’m really jumping in. Decisions like what class I want to play (probably Titan), what weapons I want to use (flux rifles seem cool), and what abilities to take (this one’s going to need some work). I’ve read up on how the skill system works, how weapon leveling works (for weapons that can do that), and any information I can find about the classes and what they do, as part of my drive to know everything. While I haven’t been into First-Person Shooters lately, I did play a lot of Halo 2 through high school, and I’m hoping this recaptures some of that magic. I just hope I’m not being completely duped.