This past Tuesday, the world was graced with the presence of its most pre-ordered game of all time… DESTINY! You know it’s a big deal when even my non-gaming friends have heard of it. I nearly drowned in the hype surrounding this game, but was unsure of what to expect upon release. I’ve sunk about 12 to 15 hours into the game so far on PS4, and brought a load of thoughts back with me.
There’s no denying that Destiny is IMMENSE; you begin the game resurrected from the dead and shouldered with the responsibility of saving the universe. You aren’t even offered a snack first, which is a bit rude considering the abrupt end to your lengthy death-nap. Bad manners aside, your AI “Ghost”, an adorable little polygon that floats around beside you, is your resurrect-er and guide throughout the game. Your Ghost does everything from offering advice and hacking you into rooms and networks, to sounding suspiciously similar to Tyrion Lannister with an American accent (albeit much less badass).
After setting foot on Mars, humanity discovered The Traveler, an all powerful object/being. Its discovery boosted our technological advancement and led to a centuries-long Golden Age, but the party was cut short by the arrival of The Darkness. The Darkness ravaged our galaxy, sending the only remnants of society fleeing to The Last City of Earth. The Last City is home to The Tower, residence of the alliance of Guardians protecting what’s left of civilization.
In essence, the plot is very Sci-Fi cliche with a great many similarities to Mass Effect (ancient technology leads to a golden age of fun space time, ancient enemy threatens to destroy universe, Earth and a major city are the last stand, only you, hero returned from the dead, can save humanity, shooty shooty, blah blah blah) but I wouldn’t count that against it.
In short, it’s not a bad thing to use one of the most successful franchises of all time as the foundation for your gameplay mechanics.
Destiny is the bastard child of many genres, including FPS, MMO, and RPG, and I think it handles the blend quite well. The game is definitely a first person shooter, but there are enough RPG elements to get you hooked on leveling your character. There’s a distinct “Halo” feel to the game; you can tell that Destiny is a product of Bungie, though the gameplay is not similar enough to Halo so as to feel derivative. In short, it’s not a bad thing to use one of the most successful franchises of all time as the foundation for your gameplay mechanics.
The unique aspect Destiny brings to the table is its Borderlands-esque addition of bona-fide humans to your game world. You can invite up to two other people to join your fireteam and tag along on missions, whether you met them moments ago in a heated dance-off on the Tower, or have had them on your friends list for years. Even if you don’t send an invite, other players will be present in your game world doing missions of their own. You can choose to follow along with them, or wander off on your own adventure.
This “shared world” is what kept Bungie from releasing early review copies to journalists looking to give their input on the game. The developer stated that it just wasn’t possible to recreate an authentic gameplay experience without a properly populated environment. Is this claim justified? No, not in my opinion. I agree that it’s much more fun to team up with others, or to see other players bumbling about the map, but Destiny isn’t a full-fledged MMO. The fireteams, strike missions, and multiplayer (read: Crucible) are all welcome additions, but story mode should be able to stand tall on its own.
Thankfully for you, being a lone wolf is my specialty, so I have lots of experience to comment on. At the time of writing, I currently have a level 13 character. I’ve gone it solo, played with friends, and joined a fireteam with strangers. Joining friends is, obviously, the most fun option, but my natural abhorrence of socializing made lone wolf-ing a more enjoyable experience than going with a random fireteam. Be aware, though, when joining a fireteam of higher rank: if you try to engage enemies at a level too much higher than your own, they are literally invulnerable to you. I’m not sure of the exact cap, but being a level 3 Guardian versus a level 9 Knight was a futile and frustrating endeavor until I figured it out.
For all the personality that they exude, your enemies may as well be cardboard boxes with guns.
If you do join up with others, don’t worry too much about your classes; you can switch up your loadout on the fly to adjust to the play style that fits your needs. For instance, on patrols in an open field I prefer my sniper rifle, contrary to the shotgun I prefer in the tight corridors of a nearby research facility. Aside from the custom weaponry, the Guardians can wield “Supers”, which are a favorite of mine. Supers are special abilities that range from a nearly one-hit-kill golden gun, to an explosive ground-pound move that obliterates anyone nearby (a fate I have often met in the Crucible).
No matter how you play, my personal highlight of the “shared world” system is the public event. Public events often consist of fending off baddies for a set amount of time, or needing to kill off a big boss under a time limit. These events are optional, but fun and challenging. They instill a sense of comradery with your random peers, especially when a stranger sprints through the line of fire to revive you.
Playing solo definitely increases the challenge, which can be fun or frustrating, depending on how limber your thumbs happen to be feeling. For the most part it’s fun, but what it does highlight, and glaringly so, is the flat and repetitive nature of the missions. Nearly all story missions I’ve embarked on thus far can be summarized as, “go here, kill the thing, collect/unlock other thing, beam me up scotty”. Patrol missions offer a bit more exploration and variety, but these often simply revisit old mission areas. Not to mention, once you’ve accomplished your task, you often have to retrace your steps through that area to get back to the main map. The upside is that just as you start tiring of an environment/planet, another opens up for you to plunder.
I must say, the worlds are beautiful; Earth is deserted and has fallen into disrepair, the moon feels cold and desolate, Venus is exotic, Mars is… appropriately red and dusty. The Tower is especially gorgeous and fleshed out, with NPCs mumbling away as you stroll by. My favorite immersive moment was my mentor’s pleading whisper, “Hey… take me with you?” as he sent me off on another quest.
Sadly, despite Bungie’s claims of an “alive” world, that’s where the magic ends. For all the personality that they exude, your enemies may as well be cardboard boxes with guns. This is surprising, and more than a little disappointing, when compared to the Covenant of Halo fame. You won’t be sticking any of Destiny’s grunts with a grenade just to watch them scream and flail to their death.
Rewards / Loot
I was met with another disappointment at the lack of a player trade system, or even the ability to drop your weapon for others to pick up. I assume the choice to leave this out includes some jargon about keeping the game balanced, but it’s still a shame that I can’t share some duplicate items with my friends. There are “vaults” on the Tower in which you can store loot though, which is great because you can create up to three Guardians and share gear between them by using said vaults.
While we’re on the subject of loot (excellent segue, I know) I’m also left feeling cheated of it while exploring. In Destiny, even the most secret looking cave is often bare of a single pebble of Glimmer (in-game currency). In a game with such detailed upgrades and inventory, I can’t help but feel annoyed at that.
After I log off, I’m often surprised to find my thoughts straying back to Destiny and what else I might discover in its universe.
Thankfully, items are granted as mission rewards as well as occasional loot chests or items dropped by defeated enemies. Take a trip back to the Citadel–whoops, I meant Tower 😉 –to take up bounties(challenges) or battle against other Guardians in the Crucible for further rewards.
The Guardians of Destiny are the ultimate badasses. There are three classes, three species, two genders, and a plethora of aesthetic options to choose from. The classes consist of Hunter: the recon, Warlock: the mage, and Titan: the tank. The differences are what you’d expect; Hunter is the light armored range or ninja-esque fighter, Warlock has medium armor and wields magic powers alongside their weaponry, and Titans are heavily armored killing machines.
Destiny’s species have no affect on your gameplay, they’re superficial choices only, and consist of Awoken, Exo, and Human. Awoken’s origins are unknown, but they’re a bluish-skinned humanoid with glowing eyes. Exo are equally mysterious, but are humanoid robots known to have been created by humanity before the Collapse. Humans are… human. But still cool.
My main character is a female Awoken with purple skin, a blue mohawk, and glowing grey eyes. Yea, it’s okay to be jealous.
Sweet niblets, is there customization! Admittedly, I have essentially zero experience with MMO’s but I have to suspect that Destiny’s gear, inventory, and skills system are a simplified version of that of any major MMORPG. The skill trees are VERY simple, the choices are straightforward, and once a skill is unlocked you can equip it or swap it out at your leisure.
Armor can be upgraded by replacing it with stronger pieces, accumulating experience points, or bestowing it with bonus attributes. Discipline, Intellect, Strength, and Light are all modifiers that affect different skills. Discipline relates to grenades, Intellect to Supers, Strength to melee, and Light to damage and leveling.
In addition to a helmet, boots, a chest plate, and gauntlets, Guardians have a fifth, class-specific, aesthetic-only piece of armor. Warlocks have bonds, which are decorative arm pieces, Titans have badges, which are flag-like cloths worn off their hip, and Hunters have cloaks, which are… cloaks. With a hood and a cape… Erm… They’re cooler than they sound! Don’t underestimate the snazziness of a Hunter in a good cloak.
There are endless choices here, especially when combined with emblems (player nameplates), shaders (armor dye), upgraded speeder bikes and spaceships. You can strive to be the flyest Guardian on the Citadel. I MEAN TOWER. Dammit.
I can’t attest to other versions of the game, as I play Destiny on the PS4, but I can tell you my experience.
On both next gen consoles, Destiny runs at 1080p at 30 frames per second.(source) On PS4, the game runs great; the visuals are sharp and the frame rate is smooth. The lighting and water effects are especially nice.
Load screens are sparse, and aside from a slight hitch when traversing large areas, the only load screens that appear are upon launching the game or traveling between planets. These load screens, however, are lengthy. Not a huge deal, as they’re few and far between, but something I felt worth mentioning.
Destiny’s lore is expansive, and is expanded upon further with unlockable Grimoire cards. They’re a treat if you’re into reading backstories and bios. You can easily check up on your cards with the Destiny mobile app, which is surprisingly detailed. The home screen displays official news from Bungie, but if you delve into the menu you can monitor your characters’ gear and progress in game.
I found the Tower map most helpful. You can tap on a merchant’s icon to survey their inventory without having to make the trip back to the tower (and saving yourself some load times). You can also check up on your vault’s content, and examine your character model, stats, and bonuses. It’s essentially a pocket Destiny-pedia of your game progress.
So what’s the verdict? As you can see, I have some complaints about Destiny, but I still enjoy playing it. I don’t know if it will hold my attention all the way to end game, but it’s fun; I’ll log in, blink, and hours will have passed me by. After I log off, I’m often surprised to find my thoughts straying back to Destiny and what else I might discover in its universe.
It’s unfortunate that Bungie didn’t delve a bit further into its Halo/Mass Effect mechanics; a stronger plot and cast would have immortalized Destiny even further among the titans of gaming.
If you’re a fan of Halo’s gameplay and want to see that expanded upon, as well as don’t mind some repetition, Destiny is for you. Is it worth buying a nextgen console for? No, in my opinion, it is not. Destiny is a solid game that gets you addicted to its array of customization, but leaves much to be desired with its soulless characters and lack of mission variety.
Mass Effect + Halo MMO lite
For details on release dates and other related info, head to Destiny’s game page.
** When is it worth the price? — In lieu of review scores, we opt to give our opinion on whether the game is worthy of it’s release day price, or if you should wait for a patch or a sale. **