After 5 long years, Destiny is here. Since its announcement in 2009, Bungie have been teasing gamers with trickles of information but it wasn’t until 2013 that we finally saw the actual game. For many gamers, it’s been an almost unbearable wait to see what comes after Halo for Bungie. While every AAA game these days gets arguably too much hype before its release, Destiny is a damn fine game that deserves the attention it gets. The only gripes I have with the game are unwanted side effects that actually stem from its broad appeal, but more on that later. For now, let’s get to know the game.
What is Destiny?
Destiny takes everything Bungie has previously learnt from all their other games, and combines with fresh ideas, and the features of an MMO. I say “features of an MMO” because Destiny is not an MMO, but is instead being called a “shared-world” shooter. There won’t be thousands of other players running around and butchering the game’s frame rate, but there is dynamic events, drop-in drop-out co-op missions and events and loot. So much loot.
Destiny is set 700 years after a catastrophic event has pushed mankind to the brink of extinction. During the “Golden Age”, mankind was able to colonize different planets in the solar system, which led to a great time of prosperity and exploration. All of this was made possible with the aid of The Traveler, a mysterious sphere-shaped entity. The Golden Age was interrupted by an enemy of The Traveler known as the Darkness, which attacked and destroyed all of mankind’s colonies except for Earth, which only has one city left.
Now the Traveler sits above the city, protecting it as best it can, though it no longer speaks to us and communicates through the Speaker, who will “guide” you through your journey (he actually does a pretty rubbish job).
Some of Earth’s inhabitants are able wield a small part of the Traveler’s power, known as “the light”. They are “the Guardians”, and it’s up to them to reclaim Earth’s colonies and wipe out the Darkness before mankind is wiped out once and for all.
When you begin the game, you’re tasked with creating your character. You can be male or female and one of three races. There are the Humans, who are tough, reliable and uncomplicated. Then there’s the Awoken, the blueish-grey skinned race who are rumoured to have been created in the collapse. Finally, there’s the Exo. The Exo were created in the Golden Age to protect humans. They are self-aware and highly complicated robots that are just as capable as any other warrior.
There isn’t a great deal of options for creating your character but similar to The Elder Scrolls games you won’t spend a great deal of time looking at yourself as the game is played mainly in a first-person perspective. I would have preferred a few more faces at the very least; I avoided making a human because all of the humans have Gears of War-style faces with stone jaws. I don’t feel they match all of the game’s different hairstyles and face paints, but a more average face would have. The Awoken and the Exo are fine though.
After you choose your race, gender and look, you then pick which class you want to play as. You can have multiple characters which means you can experiment until you find which one is right for you, so don’t stress about getting everything “right” straight away.
The classes in Destiny aren’t as detailed as in MMORPGs, meaning that fireteams (co-operative teams of three that can go on patrols, strikes and story missions together) can be made up of any combination of the three classes and still have a chance of succeeding in battle. Sure the Titan is the “soldier” of the group, the Warlock wields the Light almost like magic and the Hunter is most like a “rogue” (high risk but high damage), but the differences are primarily cosmetic and based on their special abilities. The Titan smashes the ground with an explosive ground pound attack, or he can create shields in battle. The Warlock can hurl destructive Nova Bombs at their enemies, or can temporarily boost all their abilities while setting their enemies on fire with their melee attack. The Hunter is able to wield a golden gun made of solar energy, which is as destructive as it sounds. His other selectable ability is Arc Blade, which is a deadly lightning-based knife attack.
Every class has a subclass that can be unlocked at level 15, or the player can continue developing their main class or swap between the two at any time.
The main story
When you’re done creating your character, you’ll set out on your mission to save mankind. You actually begin resurrected by a Ghost, a flying sentient droid created by the Traveler. Ghost is voiced by Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage, but it’s far from his best performance. He is frequently dull as Ghost and while I’m well aware that he is playing a droid, there are other super-intelligent droids and robots in the game that managed to score a personality chip. I can only assume that the Dink is present to give the game a broad appeal, but when the voice acting industry has insanely talented people like Troy Baker, Nolan North, Steve Blum, Laura Bailey, Jennifer Hale and more, it just seems like a silly move. This is even more unfortunate when you consider how great a character Cortana from Bungie’s own Halo was.
Thankfully Destiny‘s opening mission while bland, does away with the annoying tutorial level (kinda). You’ll still be introduced to some of the game’s mechanics, but you won’t be tasked with learning how to walk, jump, crouch, etc. Instead, you’ll be earning your shrike (speeder bike) and ship, two things that you’ll absolutely need if you’re going to be hopping around the galaxy.
One problem with Destiny‘s story is very similar to that of other open-world games. When you leave the story’s progression up to the player, it feels weaker. For the sake of your own personal enjoyment (and actually learning what little story there is) I’d recommend doing the story as soon as you are the required level to attempt it. Otherwise you’ll be playing it infrequently and getting gear that’s very much beneath you.
Another problem is that the writing for the story is just generally weak. The only time I was genuinely interested in the story was when I traveled to the Reef, where the Awoken dwell. I found the Queen and her brother to be very interesting characters, but they were literally the only characters I did find interesting, and even then they reminded me of Princess Nuala and Prince Nuada from Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, only more like their emo cousins. The rest of Destiny‘s story falls into the same traps as previous Bungie games – weak characters, an almost silent protagonist and just not enough story development. That isn’t to say the game isn’t fun, it’s just that for the most part, there is a distinct lack of an actual story in the game’s “story”.
Also, the Dink stinks. Maybe his Ghost needs an upgrade, because his dialogue feels like he is a GPS or objective reminder. To put it in perspective, you will travel to the moon searching for a guardian outpost in one mission. Ghost will say something like “here we are… the moon. Let’s find that outpost”. Upon finding the outpost you will see an old computer which Ghost can hack into, which he will again address in the most boring way possible like “Look, the outpost. I’ll see what I can find on this computer”. Bla bla bla one half-assed pseudo-joke later and you’re defending him against an alien attack.
It’s the story’s unique turns and events that are really the highlight of the story, as well as the game’s environments. The first time you travel to the moon or a new planet you will find so much to be impressed by. Venus’ sky is being pierced by asteroids and rain, Earth is littered with rubble and remnants of military bases and the moon is so stark that is almost feels surreal to walk on it. There is also a moment in one of the early Venus missions that will genuinely take the player by surprise. It is so challenging (at least on Hard mode) that it feels like a miracle to survive it, which is great.
While I know there is good DLC in the works, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed by the game’s story overall. I wouldn’t say that I’m disappointed though, as I know that shooters are games with action first and story second and I didn’t know what to expect with Destiny. If it had the complexity, decision making and well-written lore of the Mass Effect games (which had a shorter development time), I would have been in sci-fi heaven.
Destiny‘s greatest strength is the sheer amount of activies that is has on offer. Sure they all revolve around shooting things, but never before has a game been so amalgamative of all its influences. Not only that, but the rewards of each activity will aid the player in another area of the game. A gun that can be obtained only in multiplayer might help you survive a level 20 Strike, or it might need to reach a certain amount of kills before it can be upgraded, which might be a task fulfilled outside of competitive multiplayer modes.
In addition to the story, players can enter the Crucible, go on Patrol, complete Strikes, or go on Raids. The Crucible is your competitive multiplayer mode, which has a number of different modes of its own. I was excited when I saw a number of different modes, but some of them are just different takes on Team Deathmatch. Clash is classic 6-on-6 Deathmatch, Rumble is a 6 player free-for-all (every man for himself) and Skirmish is a 3 player deathmatch on small maps with revives. There’s also Control, where players hold key locations on a map (think Call of Duty‘s Domination) and Salvage, where players compete to hold different relics.
All in all the multiplayer is fun, but the game’s loot system can come back to bite players on the butt here. You might have a great story mode loadout for your character, but it might not do well at all in competitive multiplayer. While you can compete from a very low level in the Crucible, I wouldn’t recommend doing so until you have a complete set of uncommon gear, and even then you will need to be at least level 15 before you can take on most opponents at low-level modes like Control. Once you level up though, you will be having a ball as everybody having unique weapons and armour makes for very unpredictable matches. You will have to learn who is the biggest threat and why, and adapt your tactics with each game.
When you’re not killing everyone or killing nobody at all in the Crucible, you’re also able to go on Patrols. Patrol Mode is a very exploratory mode where you will land on a planet, and pick up various missions from beacons around the area. In the beta, the story covered only a small part of Russia, which made the Patrol mode feel great as the area you could explore in it was so much bigger than in the story missions present in the beta. With the final build of Destiny though, you will see every nook and cranny there is to see relatively quickly. Considering out entire solar system is at threat, it would have been nice to see a lot more of Russia, or even go somewhere other than Russia.
Patrols usually involve similar objectives, but they are a nice way of learning levels, obtaining collectible materials (which can be traded towards leveling up and gaining reputation) and hanging out with friends for a quick game.
Strikes are missions with a higher probability of better loot with a higher difficulty. While the loot drops are very much random, they are extremely beneficial to do and are an absolute blast with a tight-knit fireteam of friends. A friend and I tried to beat a Strike that was a much higher level than what we were, and while we didn’t beat it, we gained a few experience levels and obtained loot that became vital to our future success.
Raids are 6 player co-operative missions of an even higher difficulty. In addition to obtaining random loot, there will also be a variety of different raids with different armour sets and legendary weapons to be obtained by completing the raids a number of times. There are no objective markers or hints given to the players at all, and due to the extreme difficulty, matchmaking is not supported. You best be making friends if you want the best gear in the game!
So how does it play?
Destiny is pretty, smooth and feels great to play. When I say feel, I mean that the shooting mechanics are perfect, the shrikes and other vehicles feel great and are easy to handle and maneuvering your Guardian is a breeze as well. The graphics might not be groundbreaking as the game was in development for a long time (and it’s on two generations of consoles), but the art direction is decent and the lighting is spectacular. When you’re above ground, shadows behave realistically, light blooms and reflects off things as it should and the scenery is quite impressive. Under ground, lighting is even more impressive, with flickering lights, flares and other light sources behaving as they would in real life. There’s also a decent variety in the interior design (though some caves on Venus feel a little too similar to each other) of buildings and caves, particularly those that aliens have converted into bases or lairs.
I mentioned in my introduction that I have a few small gripes that actually come from Destiny‘s broad appeal, which I shall talk about now. Destiny is at its heart a combination of a number of different game types. It’s a shooter with MMO elements such as dungeon raids and social hubs, but it’s also an open-world shooter similar to Borderlands with smaller but more unique locations. It also offers a story that is more on par with Halo than the MMOs it draws inspiration from. While the character system and loot system only benefit from this the actual levels and activities feel repetitive, as the same location you were just in for a story mission is the same place you will need to go to countless times on Patrols. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve seen the same underground area in Russia over 100 times already.
Much like The Sims 4, Destiny has been made with future DLC in mind. The level “cap” is at 20, there is only a handful of Strikes currently available, and the first Raid hasn’t even appeared in-game yet (though it should by the time you read this). There is still plenty to do, but as it stands the story is both forgetful and short, the multiplayer has three very similar modes and there is only a handful of Strikes, which are the funnest part of the game for those looking to experience a challenge with friends. While the game is the most fun I’ve had with a shooter in years I don’t know how long the core game will hold its appeal. With two DLC packs already listed online and a ton of limited-time events popping up I’m certain that Bungie will deliver though.
- The best shooter in years
- A ton of content for the online gamer
- MMO elements really add a fun challenge to the FPS genre
- Repetitive use of locations
- Multiplayer can seem unbalanced at first
- The Dink stinks
Destiny might be the most overly-hyped game since Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4, but unlike those two it delivers a game that is lag-free, problem free and a ton of fun. People will probably use the word “innovative” when they talk about Destiny and while I disagree with that, I certainly feel taking the risk of adding MMO elements to it has more than paid off for Bungie as they have a solid title with an even better future. I’m also for any game that takes the dated shooter genre in another direction.
For all the small gripes I’ve mentioned (and they are small) I can’t stop playing the game. I already have one max-level with one character and by the time you read this I’ll probably have another.
Score : 8/10