[The following article represents the sole views of Anthony Taormina.]
Over the last decade or so, I’ve played more than 300 different games. Some have taken just a few minutes of my time, while others have outright consumed sizable chunks of my life. Skyrim, for example, was a big draw in 2012, as the quest to complete every Guild mission consumed me.
But even though games like Skyrim or Call of Duty have been huge time sinks for me, they have all paled in comparison to one of this year’s big games. Of course, I’m talking about Destiny.
Not since Halo 2 on the original Xbox has a game taken up so much of my life that it’s all I think about. Whether it’s picking up the next day’s bounties, running the Vault of Glass, or trying to get my Icebreaker to max level, Destiny has become as much a part of my daily routine as bathing or eating. And it’s for that reason that I can definitively say Destiny is my Game of the Year.
Now, it’s important to explain first and foremost that when I say Game of the Year I do not mean best game of the year or even top game of the year. Destiny is my “Game of the Year” in that when I think back on 2014 I will instantly remember playing this specific game.
In fact, when the Game Rant writers get together to create our top 10 it will not be at the top of my personal list. That’s because while Destiny has been a time-consuming experience since launch I can acknowledge its many faults. Here’s a game that is guilty of many sins, from its razor thin story to its overly grind-y requirements, but most of all it feels like wasted potential. All that money and all that time, with a developer this talented, and somehow Destiny is what we got? I don’t fault anyone for being instantly turned off by the game.
And while Bungie has been regularly updating Destiny with new features and bug fixes to bolster the experience, they have done so with a strange M.O. Sometimes they acknowledge a bug (like the heavy ammo disappearing bug with raid armor) and go two months without fixing it, but then when it comes to removing exploits they are lightning quick. In a way, it’s as if Bungie has a greater focus on making Destiny less fun than more.
Amidst all that, though, Destiny has still been a mainstay of my PS4 disc tray, only seeing the light of day when a review copy came in. And even then, there was always time to squeak in one Nightfall Strike or quick Atheon kill. I like many even gathered around the Tower on Friday mornings to see what new exotics Xur had for sale, even if I knew heartbreak was his most bountiful commodity. There wasn’t a single day where I didn’t want to play Destiny and it’s been a long time since a game has had that type of pull.
Most gamers can agree that the mechanics and the presentation in Destiny are exceptional, and that has been enough for me. The open beta proved that this was a game to watch and amidst all my disappointments with the content and story, the gameplay still kept me involved. I knew that Bungie was purposefully putting a huge barrier between me and the best loot, but for some reason I was compelled to break through. In other cases I might have simply put the controller down and never played again, but with Destiny the addiction developed early and to this day may cloud my better judgment.
For a little bit early on, it even seemed like I had been able to shake Destiny, but then I took a shot at the Vault of Glass and was once again hooked. Tackling Atheon was easily one of the most satisfying multiplayer experiences I had encountered in some time, and outfitted with new gear I was on a quest for level 30. Then once I hit that threshold, the quest for hard mode’s most prized loot was on. I wanted it all – every exotic, every piece of raid gear, and of course the Vex Mythoclast. But once I had them, the game never seemed to lose much of its luster.
Then, around about December, it looked like Destiny‘s grip had finally loosened, but shortly thereafter The Dark Below DLC arrived. Once again, there was a new raid to explore, new loot to collect and level up, and a few (emphasis on few) story missions to complete. The DLC’s release was both the most exciting and confounding moment of the year, as it further emphasized how threadbare Destiny was as a retail product (read: on-disc content) and how clueless Bungie was when it came to their fan base, but despite all that I was entrenched more than ever and still am.
It’s strange to write about how much you love and how disappointed you are in a game within the same post, but Destiny elicits such emotion. It’s a title you enjoy complaining about while logging your 100th hour with it. The game has no place on a top 10 list for so many reasons, but for a lot of people it will be their game of the year. The extremely tight shooter mechanics, gorgeous visuals, and immersive communal experience can hook players so deep it’s hard to shake free.
Destiny is not the best game I played all year, but it feels like the only game I’ve played all year. And for that reason alone it deserves some recognition. Now excuse me while I go play more.
Follow Anthony on Twitter @ANTaormina