Destiny 2 launched today, but if you go and take a look on Metacritic you’ll find that all the big gaming sites are still working on their reviews. A quick look round and most have prominent stories on their homepages explaining why the review isn’t up yet and what the plan is to deliver it.
At first glance that looks like a bit of a problem, but it’s actually something of a boon for the gaming sites, who are now well-versed in providing multi-layered ongoing coverage around the biggest of titles. We talked to Daniel Dawkins, global editor-in-chief of GamesRadar+, and Eurogamer’s reviews and features editor, Martin Robinson, about their approaches to Destiny 2 coverage.
"A traditional ‘line in the sand’ review is pretty challenging. You can’t write a definitive verdict that is all things to all the experiences that people will have with that game. So, to speak for GamesRadar+, our Destiny coverage approach has adapted to reflect people’s changing relationship with the game over the weeks, months and years," says Dawkins.
You can’t write a definitive verdict that is all things to all the experiences that people will have with that game
Dan Dawkins, Gamesradar+
Robinson agrees that a traditional review isn’t the finishing line: "Games coverage has changed massively over the last five years, and an evolving title like Destiny is at the forefront of that. It wasn’t that long ago that we used to have a fire and forget approach to covering video games, with a preview cycle that led to a ‘definitive’ review which would be the final say, and the last substantial piece we’d publish on a game. Games are now too vast, too complex and too fluid for that to be practical, and critical writing has had to adapt."
"When it comes to Destiny 2, our coverage is built around that evolving relationship between game and player," Dawkins states. "There’s a wider discussion around the role of reviews in the modern context, but to focus on Destiny, you’re talking about perhaps the most influential game of its generation. A game that has re-defined the nature of online play, focusing on co-operation as much as competition." No pressure there then from a community of insatiably-dedicated fans.
Games are now too vast, too complex and too fluid … and critical writing has had to adapt
Martin Robinson, Eurogamer
Robinson feels similarly: "With something like Destiny 2, the review is just the start of the conversation as we explore different perspectives, different stories and different angles on a game over its lifespan. I think it’s resulted in a better standard of coverage as we discover games alongside our readers, even if some of our commenters grow a little weary of our obsession with grinding out the best hats for our little fictional space soldiers," noting that near-endless coverage of a specific title can upset members of the community who aren’t long-term players.
And Destiny can take over players’ lives: "It’s a game that recognises the demands of modern life. It’s designed to work as well in long sessions, as it is played in snatches – half an hour before bed, a sly hour in the morning before work – which reflects society’s demands on our time, and the increasing sense of breathlessness and being ‘always on’. It’s all grounded in your very real relationship with your real life / online friends, and how those items reflect status and achievement. In short, Destiny is a game you live with and your character is your second life," says Dawkins.
That kind of ongoing relationship with titles such as Destiny is perfect for content creators, who can then evolve their offering alongside the community’s. From the off Gameradar+ is running a hydra-like review structure: "We’re running a review diary, but from three perspectives, with each writer playing as a different class (Hunter, Warlock, Titan), which we’ll update daily," says Dawkins.
"It’s more about building a conversation and relationship with our audience, and sharing the moments as we find them, critiquing as we go. I’m sure we’ll put a score on it, in the classic sense … but we’ve not committed to a date. It’s more when our panel of writers feel they’re ready to say something more definitive… even though the game will likely already be evolving into something else. We’ll naturally be working hard to cover the game from a tips, tricks and observations perspective, because it’s all about sharing the experience, and that sense of communion," Dawkins concludes.
So the game’s community, and Activision, can expect to benefit fromDestiny 2 coverage for as long as players want it, and that looks likely to be a very long time indeed.