This year has seen two of the most anticipated releases in some time with Watch Dogs and now Destiny. Unfortunately, we thought that Watch Dogs fell flat. With Destiny, developer Bungie (creators of the Halo franchise) spawned an entirely new sci-fi world to get lost in. They have talked about Destiny being a 10 year epoch including DLC and sequels down the line. The question is whether or not you should be excited for it.
The story of Destiny takes place hundreds of years in the future. A mysterious and massive orb called The Traveler has descended upon Earth, not only advancing our technological abilities but also spawning small mechanical beings called Ghosts to seek out those who are willing to protect Earth and The Traveler called Guardians. That is where you come in. At the beginning of your adventure, you choose from one of three classes: Titan, Hunter or Warlock. Each one has their own abilities, but can wield any type of gun, as to not limit the gameplay possibilities by choosing one over the other.
The rest of the narrative reminds me of the way that Titanfall’s campaign presented its narrative. In case you didn’t play Titanfall, it was not good. It is completely tangential to the action and takes a back seat to it. From a story perspective in Destiny, your Ghost will spout exposition at you without any of it truly making sense because there are no memorable characters. Some of the major characters include:
- Guardian (your character)
- The Queen’s Brother
- The Exo Stranger
You have an issue with becoming attached to characters when the one with the second most speaking lines in the game is actually credited as The Queen’s Brother. Not only that, but what little dialogue there is in the game is delivered in such a cliche and lazy way that there were times where I physically cringed as I was listening to it. The narrative takes you between four areas: Old Russia on Earth, the Moon, Venus and Mars. These four areas are the entirety of where the single-player takes place (with the exception of a location that serves solely as a cutscene). These areas are somewhat large, but missions will have you constantly backtracking through these locales to get to slightly different parts of the map. This becomes repetitive when the locations feel empty, outside of a few set places on the map where enemies will always spawn. By the time you are finished with the story not only will you feel underwhelmed at the areas but also the narrative itself. Everything is rushed and will leave you with about just as much knowledge about this universe as you did when you booted the game up for the first time.
Overall, the story is a major disappointment. Many people write off the Halo universe and lore, but that is a universe in which I became invested. Call me a nerd, but I was so interested that I read several of the books based on the Halo universe and it enriched my love of the games even more. This story feels empty, lifeless, and had me in disbelief as to how lazy the entire effort seemed.
This extends to the loot system in place. Most loot you find is not great and what you do find falls infrequently to the point where it is laughable compared to other loot-driven games like Borderlands or Diablo. Most of what seems to be the best loot in the game is for sale by those vendors on The Tower once you hit level 20. But the fact that it is not communicated to you that you cannot even find Legendary loot until level 18 is ridiculous and really made me angry at the game.
Most of what is on The Tower is not explained, such as how to get Crucible and Vanguard marks needed to buy some of the best looking loot. So the fact that you can only obtain truly great gear after you hit the level cap makes the entire lead up (aka the 20 levels you have to progress through) seem like an aSo the story was incredibly underwhelming, but how does it play? Well, Bungie does know how to make great feeling first person shooters on console, and that has not changed. The actual act of playing the game is what kept me going through the story. For any given activity, outside of competitive multiplayer, you can have two other friends join you on your adventures. It feels like the way the game was meant to be played. Bungie has called this a “shared world” game, meaning that other players will organically show up as you are running around levels making the world feel more active. You can invite them to your squad or keep doing your own thing. However, I recommend going into most missions with at least one other person. Eventually in missions you will encounter “Darkness Zones,” which are instanced to your party so no random players will be present. If you die, you must start back at the last checkpoint, which can become frustrating if you are by yourself. Bringing at least one other person along ensures that if you go down, they can come and revive you.
The problem with the story missions (and side quests you can partake in) suffer from some of the most repetitive mission design I have seen in a long time. Most story missions consist of you fighting through groups of enemies to arrive at an old computer terminal. You then activate your Ghost and he says something along the lines of, “This might take some time,” or “Whoops, looks like I tripped a failsafe,” triggering more waves of bad guys to charge at you. After you defeat the last one, the mission is usually over and you are done. This exact structure is used over and over again ad nauseum. The side missions that you can obtain are almost just as bad and had me flash back to the side missions in the original Assassin’s Creed where there were three activities. In Destiny they are to either kill a bunch of enemies, kill a bunch of enemies and pick up items they drop or go to a specific location to scan it and you are done. These are the same, regardless of planet or level. It seems lazy and really makes you not want to keep playing after a while.
What might keep you playing are the class and weapon abilities. Each of the three classes have an unlockable subclass once you get to level 15, which basically start you over from the beginning in terms of not having any abilities. While at first this seemed like an awful alternative, especially this close to the level cap, but you gain abilities relatively quickly, and I actually ended up liking my second subclass more than my first. Weapons and armor pieces also have upgrades the more you have them equipped and use them. Most weapon upgrades so far have been different scopes, faster reload speed and small predictable upgrades such as that. However, a rare rocket launcher I found has an ability that will sometimes return a rocket into the chamber if you fire and miss a target. I am hopeful for more of these interesting abilities as I delve deeper into legendary and exotic equipment.
What else does the game have to offer? There is the main hub called The Tower that you return to quite often. Here, you can pick up bounties to earn bonus experience, pick up mail or just dance if you feel so inclined. A major issue with The Tower is that you cannot take advantage of almost 85 percent (a very accurate and mathematical guess…) of it until you hit the soft level cap of 20. This game doesn’t really become fun until you reach the higher levels, due in part to the restrictions placed on loot. There are also three different factions on The Tower that you can buy gear from: Future War Cult, Dead Orbit and New Monarchy. Unfortunately, much like the rest of the narrative and universe in this game, there is no real explanation of what the differences are or how they fit into the game as a whole. As you progress through the game you’ll unlock Grimoire Cards that shed light on some of the backstory, but they are only accessible on Bungie’s website which is an awful decision.
There has not been much good in this review. But how long have I played this game? The story missions took six hours with necessary grinding in between missions at points, contributing to around nine hours total. However, when I look at my time played across all modes, (on the very useful Destiny app) I am currently at almost 20 hours. The competitive multiplayer in this game is incredibly fun. Most modes are six on six affairs of either Control (capture and hold points), Clash (team deathmatch), Rumble (free for all) and Skirmish (3v3). Your character carries over from the single player campaign, gear included. Player level advantages are supposedly eradicated so a level two guardian can hold their own, but those at a higher level still have more skills so they still have a leg up. Multiplayer feels similar to Halo but gliding and super moves add a whole new element that can turn the tide of battle. However, there is a downside to this mode as well. While there are a decent number of maps at launch, only four modes and no private lobbies or map voting makes this a bare bones affair.
Besides the PvP (which earns you Crucible marks) there is also a dedicated strike mode acting as cooperative challenges against waves of enemies with a boss at the end. Getting two of your friends together and battling through these are fun . . . until you get to the boss. In almost every strike so far, the final boss falls under the “bullet sponge” category taking 15 -25 minutes to kill which is incredibly tedious especially for how infrequently loot drops sometimes making these strikes a waste of time for upgrading equipment. More strikes will be released as time goes on. Bungie will be releasing new strikes, multiplayer modes and raids for limited times as you can see below.
Ah, yes–raids. The first will not be available until the 16th of this month but they are six character areas that are made to be incredibly difficult but yield big rewards for those who finish. Bungie is off to a good start at making sure the end game of Destiny is something people will want to come back to.
The final two points to bring up are the visuals and the soundtrack. Destiny is a gorgeous game all around. From terrain to character models and from enemies to guns, everything looks good. Fantastic lighting contributes to the tones of specific areas making me be more careful while proceeding at some points than others. The soundtrack is also top notch. Sweeping orchestral tracks make you feel heroic thanks to Martin O’Donnell who was unfortunately fired before the game was released. Needless to say that this is soundtrack I will be picking up.
Overall, Destiny is frustratingly confusing. The first day I played it, I put about six or seven hours into it, playing through a large chunk of the story mode. By the time I turned off my PS4 that night, I was so disappointed with the terrible storytelling, mission design and worldbuilding lore that had been presented to me. I have truly enjoyed Bungie’s narratives in the past and quickly came to the conclusion that multiplayer had been their key focus from day one. However, once I completed the story and began playing the game’s other modes, (strikes and PvP) I couldn’t and still cannot stop playing. The bounties that you can complete for both PvE and PvP were carrots dangling in front of me that I needed to finish (and they refresh often). Deciding which of my two subclasses were the better choice going into a multiplayer mode always had me thinking about what would be more effective depending on the map. To try and sum up my thoughts on Destiny, it is really a tale of two opposing sides. The single-player campaign is cold, empty and lifeless with no heart nor intrigue to invest you into this massive universe that Bungie is trying to build. However, the act of the gameplay itself is so solid that I am going back again and again. Bungie more or less revolutionized the multiplayer FPS genre on consoles and their expertise in this field shines through. Depending on what you are looking for in Destiny, you could be enthralled or incredibly disappointed. I found myself somewhere toward the middle.