Destiny is one of the most hyped and most anticipated games of this year. I didn’t really get sucked into all the hype, as all the promotional trailers and artwork never wowed me. Now I’ve finally picked up and played the game, and I can say that I was right in not being sucked in by the hype, but that doesn’t mean that Destiny should be dismissed so easily. It is an expensive and ambitious experiment by Bungie and Activision that may not quite have paid off how they had hoped, but regardless still offers a lot of merit. I had fun with Destiny, that’s for sure, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its problems.
Destiny is a game about… Well It is a game about a resurrected soldier who is on a mission to save the Earth and its giant floating semi-sentient sphere from an approaching darkness. If that sounds kind of vague, that is because that is how Destiny presents its plot. We are given small snippets of story but there is nothing cohesive or flowing. Narration and exposition is kept to a minimum, almost assuming that the player is already as well-versed in the events of the world as the characters that inhabit it.
Interestingly enough, a lot of the story for the game and its universe can be found on the official Destiny website, which makes people look up the game in a constant cycle spanning multiple devices. While sitting on your couch you can flick through some of the game’s plot on your phone and suddenly get the urge to do a few more strike missions, so you boot up your console and start playing. While it is a clever marketing tactic, it is more than a little infuriating that there is a hefty game sitting in my Xbox that I have to look elsewhere for its story.
Here we go. Destiny is a cross between an FPS and an MMO that draws inspiration from heavyweights in each genre like Halo (no surprise there), World of Warcraft and Borderlands. Taking elements from these games, and the genre’s they represent is an interesting experiment that hasn’t quite paid off how Bungie and Activision might have hoped. No one element of the gameplay is stronger than the other (so it is as much an FPS as it is an MMO) but because of this it also doesn’t specialise in anything, resulting in a game that while fun, lacks substance and excitement.
The game’s characters are split into three classes; Titan, Hunter and Warlock. For MMO players out there these break down into a Tank, and to DPS classes. Yeah, not a whole lot of variation between the classes here folks. Each class has its own unique special ability and proficiency in certain weapons that keeps it apart from its others, but once you progress far enough into the game, the differences in weapons are negligible and you will just end up playing the weapon(s) that suit you best. The addition of a medic-type class would be a great boon to the game and would help with some of the end-game strike missions and raids, but as it stands now all you do is run and gun the opposition.
Mission design is really (and I do mean really) linear, with every mission literally following the same progression: Shoot your way through a few enemies, find something for your ghost to hack, shoot enemies while your ghost hacks, encounter and kill a boss enemy. I’m not exhaggerating when I say that more than 95% of the game’s story missions play this way. While they are fun and engaging in the beginning, after a few hours you start to realise that you have been running through the same motions for eight hours and the whole thing becomes a lot more tiresome after that. You will encounter the same enemies time and time again, adding to the monotony of the experience and making you want to pull your hair out when you come up against your 2000th Dreg. Bosses are visually distinct from their underlings and are a really imposing force, unfortunately there is no finesse or tactics required to face these guys (who are in essence just bullet sponges), only that you hide behind cover to avoid their shots, then pop back out and lay into them a few times, lather, rinse, repeat.
Destiny is designed to be played with other people, and to that end it is an experience that is far more enjoyable with friends. Playing through a couple of the game’s story missions with a few of my buddies was much more enjoyable than sitting on my own shooting wave after wave of enemy, but a lot of that might be because just about anything is fun with other people. Like many MMOs, Destiny is all about the end-game content. Once you have reached the conclusion of the story you are given access to more strike missions and bounties to collect. However, these are just as linear and repetitive as the story misions. Although there is a really satisfying feeling to downing a huge boss with a team of two other players and reaping the rewards at the end of a 45 minute firefight.
That’s really it though isn’t it, a game can feel boring and repetitive but if you are enjoying it then does it all really matter? For the most part I enjoyed my time with Destiny and I don’t feel like my time would have been better spent playing anything else. Though I don’t know if it will be a game that I revisit time and time again over, but maybe every once in a while I will throw it in and take down a strike mission with some mates before putting it back on the shelf.
As is expected from Bungie, Destiny also features a PvP battle area; The Crucible. Once you reach level 5 you can play in the Crucible which acts much like a traditional FPS multiplayer zone. Featuring game modes like Team Deathmath and Control (king of the hill) this will no-doubt scratch the itch that anybody out there is having while they wait for the next Halo title. The controls and the way the game operates do feel a lot like Halo and that will hopefully allow players to transition into the game quite easily. I’m not a big PvP FPS player, so my time with the crucible was less than fruitful, but once you’re good enough you can level up pretty quickly (sharing your character level through PvE and PvP) which can get you access to better loot and more gear in the campaign.
The new Vault of Glass raid mission has gone live and it is a challenge no matter what your level. The mission is designed for players over level 26 and requires you and five other people to tackle it. The worst part is that the game offers no matchmaking for the raid, requiring you to know all of the people that you are going to be playing with. It is an interesting choice considering that Bungie basically created the matchmaking system that we use in gaming today and this feels like a massive step back for them. Regardless, if you can get the requisite number of people for the Raid you will find an experience so much different to the rest of the game. Harder enemies require team-work and precision to eliminate, as well as puzzles to solve and caverns to explore. Basically, it takes that linear and repetitive gameplay that I mentioned before and throws it out the window. Unfortunately though there is only one of these raids available at the moment and its limitations mean that many players won’t get to explore its depths for quite a while.
If Destiny has one thing going for it, it is its absolutely beautiful visuals. Everything in the game looks amazing and really helps set the tone and pace for the world. Lighting is especially notable here as the illumination and shadows really do create the crux of the game’s ambiance. Tackling a horde of enemies in a dark, dank cavern with only a faint green glow to illuminate you really creates that sense of isolation and fighting against the world. Character models are just as well-designed for the characters, NPCs and enemies that litter the world. While enemy types are reused quite frequently in the game, they still look as interesting at the end of the game as they did when you first booted up.
While the visuals are outstanding, they are let down by the fact that the game’s world only consists of a handful of maps. While these maps are all huge and are filled with secrets, short-cuts and other hidden goodies throughout, they do get repetitive quickly especially if you are running through the game’s campaign. You can only see the same beautiful landscape so many times before the novelty wares off. While there is a lot to explore in the game’s maps there is no real reason or incentive to – the only reward available at present are five hidden chests in each map. Finding each of these maps unlocks a piece of loot, and also pretty much eliminates the need to keep searching.
Destiny’s audio is for lack of a better term, a mixed bag. Soundtrack and sound effects are top-notch, but voice acting really lets the game down. Destiny is pretty light on voice acting, instead opting to go more akin to an old western where actions speak louder than words. This creates a sense of tense hostility everywhere, where the only voice you will hear is that provided by your companion Ghost, voiced by none of than Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage. However, Dinklage’s exceptional acting talent seems wasted here as his portrayal of the ghost just comes off sounding bored and uninterested. This could easily be explained away as him being a robot, but there is no trace of roboticness in his voice just sleepy boredom like the lines were recorded when Dinklage got out of bed in the morning. This becomes especially noticeable since it is by far the most prominent voice you hear. Nathan Fillion does have a cameo role in the game, and his energy is always present in everything he does so it is always great to have him on board. Certain characters will encounter the Firefly star more than others, but that doesn’t mean that we all can’t enjoy it.
Thankfully, the game’s voice acting is the least important part of the audio package. The game’s soundtrack and ambient noises are really well done and without a strong story or interesting characters is the primary way that the game conveys its tone. Music is all well picked and fits the environments and situations, while the sound effects of guns and other weapons really feel alive and realistic (this is true even of the outlandishly fictional weapons and abilities of the characters).
Destiny is an ambitious experiment by Bungie, but it is no where near the industry-changing title that many expected it to be. It tries to combine elements of Halo, World of Warcraft and Borderlands to create a game that will presumably last a decade. Unfortunately in its desire to step out it ends up as a jack of all trades but master of none as it fails to excel at anything in particular and the end result is a game that is fun but doesn’t feel in any way to be groundbreaking or genre-defining. The shooting mechanics are tight but lack the finesse of Halo 3 or the Call of Duty franchise, the questing and storyline are bland and repetitive and the loot system leaves a lot to be desired. The newly released Raid content does add a lot to the package, but doesn’t eliminate a lot of the aforementioned problems. Despite its shortcomings, I did enjoy my time with Destiny and a big part of me is looking forward to the future of the game with a cautiously optimistic eye.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.