There’s no better time than now to walk away from Destiny. The sci-fi console shooter has entered the midpoint phase of its second year, and it’s clear it would take nothing short of a cosmic-sized update — something we're almost positive developer Bungie won't deliver for quite a while — to revitalize the game.
As Kotaku’s Jason Schreier reported Friday, Bungie decided last week to push the unannounced Destiny sequel out of its original September 2016 release window. Meanwhile, the Destiny roadmap for the remainder of the year is up in the air. The only additions Bungie has promised are bite-sized events timed to real-world holidays like the upcoming competitive Valentine’s Day contest. A new raid, the game’s expansive and rewarding group activity, has yet to be announced. If one is in the works, who’s to say Bungie won’t save it for the eventual sequel?
Players very well may get enough content in 2016 to keep them hooked, but the magic of discovery created by the game’s biggest and best expansion, September’s The Taken King, doesn't feel repeatable in the near or even far future. The company doesn’t charge a monthly subscription fee to play. So the game was never truly designed to string players along for years like Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft, despite any misconstrued marketing material about its longevity.
Destiny was never designed to string players along for years
Hardcore players — those who've been mulling over a break for some time now — should now feel comfortable putting Destiny aside. You can always come back, of course, when there's the confirmation of something worth your time on the horizon. But for those who've been sleepwalking through Destiny, waiting hungrily for any shred of information from Bungie about the future of game, today is the day to wake up and walk away.
It’s a difficult choice given the game’s addictive qualities. There’s always more to do: an exotic weapon you’ve put off trying to obtain for months; a level cap you haven’t yet reached on one of your three characters; a rare cosmetic item you’ve spent hours fruitlessly yearning for and yet failed time and again to receive with each successive lever pull of the slot machine.
Your friends may still be playing, which makes it even harder given how Destiny has introduced countless console players — for the very first time — to the unique bond-building experience of a massively multiplayer online game. It’s a double-life where you live, eat, and breathe another reality with friends for hours at a time, multiple times a week. You become intimately aware of the lives on the other end of the headset, and you collectively endure hardships you'll never go through with a majority of your real-world friends.
And I don’t need to tell Destiny players or even casual observers of the game's drug-like qualities. There’s the near-euphoric rush of victory against anonymized human opponents somewhere else on Earth. Or the unmatched feeling of triumph when you and five people — sometimes even total strangers with accents you don’t recognize and whose single-faceted personalities you’ll never get to know — topple a raid boss after hours of failure. Even the soft, steady hum and measured turning radius of the game’s hoverbike can be a source of escape from the randomness of real-world stimuli.
Perhaps, more than anything else, Destiny’s tight and responsive gunplay is what brings people back. It’s found in the audible pop of a certain gun you cherish like a family heirloom and the sound and speed of a rifle scope brought up to your eye with a twitchy pointer finger press. The game’s singular aesthetic experience is a signature effect only the creator of Halo could produce, a dopamine-boosting trigger pull you can never tire of administering.
Destiny is a treadmill, for sure, but a luxury one
Destiny is a treadmill, for sure, but a luxurious one wrapped in a 360-degree virtual reality you can anticipate returning to in the dull moments of a weekday afternoon. Yet it’s good to remind yourself, now more than ever, that Destiny will never end — and that’s by design. As The Verge’s Bryan Bishop put it last September, when he quit the game, "Destiny became a sort of virtual to-do list for me: proceed along the story levels, complete bounties to work up points and currency to buy other things, rinse and repeat."
Of course, my suggestion is aimed at those who have spent the last few months on the verge of burnout. The game still contains moments of triumph and celebrated camaraderie, for sure, but mostly it's just what Kotaku’s Schreier calls "Destiny malaise," or the idea that the game is now a state of mind you enter only to spend your time searching for a destination that doesn’t exist. There are players out there who will continue playing this game seemingly forever, as Counter-Strike and EverQuest and Eve Online players are doing right this very second. For everyone else, recognizing the end of a personal era and hitting eject is the only way to break the habit.
Setting aside Destiny won’t just free up your schedule for healthier activities, it’ll also open the door for new gaming experiences. This year we'll see the release of a slew of hotly anticipated games, from indies like The Witness, Firewatch, and No Man’s Sky, to celebrated franchise installments like Dark Souls III, Final Fantasy XV, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Last year was equally crammed with great games, often left collecting dust on Destiny players' shelves. With its sheer force of will, Bungie's creation turns everything outside of it into a distraction. Stepping back from such a self-defeating title can reorient your entire relationship with video games as an artistic and entertainment medium.
This past week, I put Destiny away for the first time in 16 months. There’s a website you can check, wastedondestiny.com, to see your total play time. My figure: 1,016 hours. That’s 42.3 days, and that number is burned into my skin like a tasteless tattoo I cannot remove. I’m still checking the Destiny subreddit, watching the occasional YouTube gameplay video, and listening to friends in group chat as they play. Like any good vice, I think about returning to the game, if only for an hour.
My time in destiny: 1,016 hours, or 42.3 days
After I placed Destiny into its box and put it on the shelf, I popped From Software’s Bloodborne into my PlayStation 4. I’d sunk about two hours into the game six months ago and gave up, returning to Destiny for its familiarity and defeated by Bloodborne’s punishing structure. The game doesn’t let you progress in meaningful ways unless you put a significant amount of playtime on the line, potentially losing it all if you fail. Bloodborne turns every death into a crucial and painful event.
This time, I stuck with it. Honing my skills, dying repeatedly, and teaching myself the ins and outs of the new experience until I felt comfortable enough to challenge the level’s grandest foe. When I finally felled the boss, the towering and nightmarish Cleric Beast, and unlocked my long awaited checkpoint, I felt a rush of excitement. I’d discovered a new sensation borne out of my deliberate and sustained perseverance and failure, an effect only Bloodborne could produce.
It was entirely different than anything Destiny has conjured in me in months. The feeling of something new in gaming is one I’d forgotten, but I'm glad it's back.