Crimson Days, Destiny's new attempt to pull back players, is all about couples - but it fails to properly address either of the game's two biggest problems. Once again, players are faced with a limited amount of things to do. And, once again, players are being left feeling like that haven't been properly rewarded for their time and efforts even if they do choose to engage and take part.
The week-long event went live last night. It centres around a new two-on-two competitive mode and... that's really all there is to it. I played 25 matches and found it very, very similar to the existing Trials of Osiris offering available in the game already every weekend.
Having two players per team rather than three forces you to communicate better, and the idea of an added buff if your team-mate is eliminated is a nice touch, although in reality it's unlikely to tip the match back in your favour. (Also, the effect illuminates your character in red, which deliberately or not destroys your chance at stealthy invisible kills).
Crimson Days is Destiny's third seasonal event, following October's well-received Festival of the Lost outing (back when events were new and more substantial Destiny DLC was still expected) and December's Sparrow Racing addition (again a welcome addition, but one which felt more like a beta test for a future, better-rounded feature).
Bungie's latest offering is not only the smallest event so far but also the one which offers the least change from the standard Destiny experience. That would all be fine if there were significant rewards on offer - but this is not the case. Two fairly unattractive shaders and emblems are available for Destiny completists, while two themed Ghost Shells (chocolate and sugar candy) can drop at up to the game's level cap of 320 Light.
Up to 320 light being important to note - there's no guarantee your Ghost Shell will drop at anything approaching a useful level. It is another example of the double RNG prevalent in Destiny's second year - not only do you have to wait for the thing you want to obtain, you also then have a second numbers game where you hope it arrives at a useful level. (It's an issue especially prevalent in Destiny's latest Raid. During the game's first year, Raid gear was guaranteed to drop - when it actually did - at the current level cap. Not so anymore.)
For what it's worth, I didn't get a Ghost Shell in my 25 matches with a friend. Another friend played 19 matches separately and didn't see one drop either. But even if I did get a reward worth playing for, the two-player nature of the match (and there's no matchmaking, so you need a friend, or a stand-in found via the internet), does not encourage further play. I've seen stories of players ditched by their teammates as soon as they got a Ghost Shell reward after hours of grinding, with the unfortunate other partner leaving empty-handed.
There is one short questline (simply, stick the event out for seven matches to get an emblem) then daily and weekly bounties for the same lower-level items already in the game. It feels like an event knocked together in a few weeks since Bungie got back from its Christmas break. Why couldn't there be a reward for completing a set number of matches with the same partner? Or a jokey one for partnering with several people in the same week? Or any other guarantee your time would be rewarded?
The top threads on Destiny's Reddit at time of writing are all critical - love towards Bungie is not in the air. "Wasn't this supposed to be 'on-par' the same size as Festival Of The Lost?" (359 comments) focuses on Crimson Day's lack of scope. "If this is the pace of Destiny's 10 year run, count me out" (642 comments) centres on the lack of additional story content since The Taken King launched back in September last year. More damningly, "A long, constructive criticism of 2.1.1." (121 comments) addresses the changes to Destiny brought in last night alongside Crimson Days, and how Bungie's well-intentioned removal of special ammo at the start of matches has already been nullified by fans using ammo-generating weapons.
Destiny fans - who can be, to be fair, be super hardcore - frequently feel like they play the game more than Bungie and have a better idea about what things Destiny needs. With word of a delay for Destiny's sequel and the sudden departure of the developer's chief, Crimson Days feels indicative of Destiny's underwhelming current state.
It remains to be seen what Destiny's long-promised larger DLC update will add when it arrives in the spring. For now, though, players are left with something brief and unsatisfying rather than a blossoming romance.