I started playing Destiny’s first expansion, The Dark Below today. I won’t go too much into my feelings on it, but you can get an idea from the first few minutes of the Twitch stream I posted this morning, and I’ll go into further depth on the podcast next week. Suffice it to say, I can’t recall another game that I’ve tried so hard to love and gotten so little back in return. But I can’t quit you, Destiny. You are my density. I mean… my destiny. So, I’m back and within a few hours of playing I find myself right back where I was just before the expansion hit.
Farming. Hence the title… Get it? Let’s move on…
Farming for experience on new items, of which there are a couple. Farming for super kills for the Cleansing Light bounty, which I’ve gotten now two days in a row. Grr… Farming for Vanguard rep since there’s a new item I need that drops from those care packages you get in the mail with each rep level. Never mind that I’m level 9 with the Vanguard and there still is nothing in the game that requires anything above level 3. Farming public events, which I’ll get to in a minute.
You know what I’m not farming for? Materials and/or chests, so I guess that is different from before the expansion. Bungie decided to take out the mat turn-ins at the Vanguard quartermaster and, I’ll be honest, I have a burr up my ass about it. I can no longer farm mats as an alternate path to gaining marks toward my weekly cap. My options are now a) public events (fun, but on an annoyingly inexact schedule) or b) strike playlists (which I don’t care for). Both are conspicuously multiplayer options, while the choice to grind mats solo is now off the table. To say nothing of the fact that farming is the incidental option; while doing other stuff you collect mats that you can later turn in for marks. Now you have to actively work to earn them.
Say what you will about Bungie, but no one can deny they have a very definitive way they want their game to be played. Anything that deviates from that plan gets stamped out of existence like our dearly departed Loot Cave. Rest in peace, dear friend. <Pours one out.> They don’t see the value in us participating in a single repetitive action ad-nasuem, yet apparently playing the same strikes or crucible matches over and over again… well, that’s different.
I’m worried that Bungie isn’t getting the right take-away here. It’s not about whether shooting into a cave or running in a circle for mats is fun or not. It’s about choice. It’s about having more options rather than fewer. It’s about us deciding for ourselves what we find to be fun. Not having Big Brother swoop in and provide some course correction because we’re not playing the game as it was intended. Particularly since, even after the first ‘expansion’ the available content is still charitably described as ‘sparse.’ Especially in light of other recent releases like Dragon Age: Inquisition that offers a gargantuan amount of content in its original offering.
I’m now $80 in to Destiny and I still don’t feel like I’ve got a full game’s worth of content. With the new expansion there are no new planets, no new locations on the old planets and no new areas within the old locations either. Just a new hallway or two that unlock within the three new story missions. My upgrade tree isn’t any bigger, which I guess makes sense since I’m not gaining two new levels of experience, just two new light levels. That third subclass slot is still just sitting there unused, mocking me. And yet Bungie is taking stuff to do out of the game or locking it behind the expansion, as it did with this week’s Heroic and Nightfall strikes. They don’t understand the gameplay value of farming, but they also don’t recognize the reason for it: people choose to farm for mats/rep/etc when the conventional method of obtaining it is a less compelling or less efficient option. It’s a sign to the developers that the players are not as engaged in the game as they should be. Particularly if the business model is to keep offering a new ‘expansion’ every four months or so for another $20, you should want your players to be engaged. If the level of engagement doesn’t improve, before long there won’t be many players left.
Of our original GamerFeed crew, all three of us were stoked for Destiny upto and even through the original release. Hope for the Future kept us going (See what I did there? Eh? Paul McCartney’s soundtrack? Oh, never mind). Here at the first expansion, I’m back playing again on day one. Nick, I believe, is intending to get around to it eventually, but Brad insists he’s walked away, perhaps forever. If Bungie continues to offer meager amounts of new content and stymie the player’s efforts to keep themselves occupied, Brad won’t be the only player to walk away.