According to Bungie’s own assistant community manager, David Dague, aka “Deej,” players who have gotten into the alpha, beta or both for upcoming shared world shooter Destiny have already seen a large chunk of what the game has to offer. On a Twitch livestream, Dague said that the base game players will be buying in September has only one area that can be explored per planet. In other words, anyone that’s played the beta and gone through Old Russia has seen the entirety of locales available on Earth. With only the Moon, Venus and Mars available as other worlds to adventure in, that means that Earth might approximate about a quarter of the content available to players, which, admittedly, is incredibly generous for a beta.
However, it does beg the question, if that’s about a quarter of the entire game, then how big is the retail game itself? On the prominent gaming forum NeoGAF, there’s already a thread with disappointed Destiny fans canceling their pre-orders because they feel that’s too little content to pay full price for. That’s especially true, they feel, when compared to Destiny’s inevitable rival, Borderlands 2, which, itself, was a massive game with numerous locales, lengthy story missions and a completion time of dozens of hours, and that’s not counting the pile of DLC that followed.
In a case like this, players might need to ask themselves, “Exactly what am I expecting to get out of Destiny?” For some, those looking at competitive multiplayer, the apparent small size of the campaign is irrelevant, since they’ll be spending the majority of their time in the game’s PvP arena, “the Crucible.” For people that are fond of loot, the game will potentially be dozens of dozens of hours, grinding out quests and farming collectibles to gain enough points to buy legendary weapons and armor. For people that only want to play the campaign however, depending on the level of skill, each planet might only have two or more hours of story missions, meaning that the game could end up weighing in at only eight hours or less.
This is in pretty stark contrast to earlier Bungie statements, such as Christian Diefenbach’s claim to Brazilian gaming magazine UOL Jogos that each planet in Destiny is larger than the entirety of Halo: Reach. Because of statements like that, many were expecting the size of Destiny’s play areas to exceed the massive real estate of Borderlands 2, but in light of this news about Old Russia being the sole venue for Earth, expectations have to be dramatically lowered. In the past, names and concept art for Old Chicago and Mumbai have been trotted out, but with this latest confirmation, it’s apparent that Earth—at least at launch—is going to be a very small place.
This brings up the other big concern that Dague’s reveal has caused. He carefully worded his answer to say “first version” of Destiny. The game’s publisher, Activision, needs no introduction, having plowed Guitar Hero into the ground with no less than five games in a single year, and stubbornly refusing to lower the prices on Call of Duty maps from the $15 initially charged at launch even to this very day. While every company exists to collect profit, Activision has always been particularly good—and aggressive—about it, leading some to speculate that Dague’s wording points to a game that’s going to have many micro-transactions. These will doubtless come in the form of PvP maps, expansions for single player content, and of course, cosmetic items. So it’s not unreasonable to assume that Earth, with its single locale of Old Russia, will eventually be joined by other locations. For a price.
However, before everyone starts pulling fire alarms, screaming “rip off” and cancelling pre-orders, it’s probably better to wait on the full release of the game to see how things play out. Even in the beta there were areas “gated” by high-level enemies, or just blocked off with locked doors, so it’s clear there’s still areas left to see in Old Russia. And while Activision might want to gouge customers, it’s Bungie that’s making the game and perhaps they don’t feel quite as greedy. It’s not impossible that they might be planning free added content for fans, or simply as a mercenary way to prevent people from trading in their game two days after launch.
It’s certainly disappointing to hear that Bungie has more or less admitted their “massive” game is anything but. However, how the game grows from September onwards—and how much it will cost players—is still very much an open question mark.