I’ve played a lot of hours of Destiny, both the original and the sequel. I’ve played all the DLC, all the Raids, done daily activities, danced like a fool, and shot thousands and thousands of aliens and players. It’s all been a generally enjoyable experience that I got to share with friends. For the most part. But after all these hours and all this Content (with a capital C) the thing I am most struck by is how totally empty the game is.
“Live in your world, play in ours” was what Sony advertised almost two decades ago. Now, it feels like we’re no closer to a world worthy of that play time as we were back then. As Astrid Budgor eloquently put it for Bullet Points Monthly, “Wipe away the gladhanding frippery of ‘quality-of-life improvements’ and ‘the promise of its predecessor’ in Destiny 2 reviews and you’re left with a whole lot of nothing.” When you strip away those things, what do you really have?
So early one morning, as I was catching up on the latest content in Destiny 2 I spent a quiet minute just kind of standing around. I didn’t race off to an objective. I didn’t allow myself to follow a roving warband. I didn’t respond to any of the games many notifications that Something Exciting was happening nearby. I just kind of stood and took in the world. And there wasn’t anything to see.
The world we live in is constantly vibrating with activity. Even if you don’t live in a large American city like I do its not hard to walk outside and see something happening. Earth is just full of things to see and do at any given second. Perhaps most of them aren’t terribly exciting but the world is full. Ours is world worth living AND playing in.
Instead, Destiny is a world completely devoid of the things that make a world worth playing in. Completely devoid of wildlife or meaningful interaction outside of wresting the lifeforce from a hostile being, is world that is functionally dead. With almost no flora and no fauna the world of Destiny is a tomb-like monument to guns. A full functional shooting range where everything is carefully calibrated to help you get your gun off.
Unlike other games which at least make vague implications about activity outside of the players interaction, Destiny feels as though it goes to sleep when you’re not looking at it. Perhaps the most chilling thing is how it feels like a Disney World of guns. The few civilians and robots who mill mindlessly about have no purpose, they exist solely as window dressing. Even quest givers and vendors make no effort to display wants or needs. For a game with so much noise and activity none of it seems necessary or that it builds to anything.
The moment you stop firing your gun Destiny ceases to function. Without that simple action there simply is nothing to Destiny. The big, wasteland vistas of the dead and dying mean nothing if you can’t usher the dying to their doom. A world populated only by foes to kill is simply a graveyard waiting to be. If the point of a game like Destiny is to offer escapism, shouldn’t it be a world worth escaping to?