Before you read this you should know that this is not a Destiny review; at least not in the sense you’d expect. Understand that I’m not even claiming to have come close to finishing what Destiny has to offer — and be wary of anyone who has. Instead, this is more of a commentary of sorts, it’s me trying to sort out just how I feel about Destiny — one of the most polarizing games I’ve ever played. It’s a game full of complexities; it feels like a living, breathing, evolving entity of its own and while that’s a very unique idea, and one that allows the new franchise a lot of room to grow, it also becomes evident pretty early on that it gets in the way and not even Bungie seems to know where to take series. One things for sure, it’s a game everyone should at least experience — try to follow along.
Destiny is brainchild of Bungie, the creators of the mega popular Halo series and Activision; most well known for Call of Duty and being everyone’s favorite company to hate (well, maybe next to EA). The pedigree of both developers and their history with shooters is evident right away as the shooting mechanics are incredibly sound and feel ahead of many of the establisher first person shooter series. Weapons are weighted well and feel good in your virtual hands, what’s more the game is a bit like Borderlands in a way because there are so many guns to unlock. While they’re not nearly as fun as the weapons you’ll find in Borderlands (Destiny takes a much more serious tone when it comes to its weapons), I did find myself excited to check out what my newest weapons could do and take them into battle. Many of the weapons are just recolored or slightly different than the one before it, I had to keep checking the damage rating to make sure I was getting rid of the right one since they all looked so similar.
With Destiny, Bungie knows it’s bread and butter — creating remarkable action movie style gun battles. Each mission challenges players pretty fairly to their level and introduces new enemy types at a pretty steady rate. You’ll have to think on your feet for most of the missions, especially during the missions that don’t let you respawn. It’s not exactly permadeath for your character, but you’ll be second guessing many of your moves when failure means you’ll have to go back to the last checkpoint in a mission, and for many of Destiny’s longer missions, that means re-trekking over a lot of ground. That’s perhaps where I enjoyed Destiny the most though, when it takes me on a planet spanning mission and I’m trying to think my way out of it, and I’m often down to my last bit of health when it’s all over.
That being said though, Destiny takes few chances when it comes to it’s core game that it can get very repetitive, very fast. Each mission may have different objectives but it almost always comes down to you moving from area to are and shooting down waves of aliens until you move on to the next area…where you’ll shoot more waves of aliens. You’ll go on patrol and raid missions that will feel different early on, but eventually you’ll realize that they all feel incredibly similar. From the moment it was properly revealed to the world at E3 two years ago, Bungie promised something different with Destiny and at least on the surface, it seems like they failed to deliver. I would have loved if the game featured more action centered set pieces like games like Uncharted or Wolfenstein. To be fair, word is that Bungie is working on DLC that will completely change the way we play Destiny, including platforming and puzzle solving mechanics that haven’t been seen in the game so far.
That’s the big draw of Destiny though — the allure of the unknown. Throughout your time with Destiny you’ll travel to a number of planets and collect a ton of different loot. It’s a ton of fun to jet around the solar system and search out loot and adventure. I was a bit disappointed that much like the different guns, a lot of the loot ended up looking similar to other pieces with only minor variations but it’s still a lot of fun to seek out these rewards. It’s in this way that Destiny often feels like it’s own living, breathing and constantly evolving organism; I feel like regardless of how much of a planet I’ve seen and how many times I’ve shot aliens in the same location, it always feels like I’m going to find something new and that says a lot for the longevity of a game like Destiny.
The overall experience of Destiny may feel like it’s living and breathing but the world that inhabit it feel like almost the exact opposite. There’s a distinct lack of voice chat options in Destiny that take away from the experience immensely. You’re really only able to talk to another player if they make the commitment to join your strike team, which spoiler alert — no one but your friends will want to. How was this a good idea? Destiny is a game about the journey, hell; the tagline is even “Become Legend;” but the game’s inability to let me talk to other players makes it a boring journey at times. The game’s hub world is The Tower, which brings together all of the Guardians to equip loot, collect bounties and form Strike Teams; it would be so much fun to be able to meet up with different Guardians and chat them up in the Tower area, maybe ask them where they got their cool loot, or share stories of missions they were just on.
It’s a bit ridiculous that you can’t just voice chat with someone else in the game. Like a lot of recent games, Destiny blurs the line between single player on online multiplayer by having everything take place on one persistent world and for the most part, it’s very successful at it. It’s very cool to be having trouble with a mission and suddenly a group of silent guardians swoop in and help you out but it’s a bit frustrating when you can’t even help each other out by strategizing in any way. Take for example one of the missions I played on the moon stage of the game where I played the entire thing with a player I’ve never met before. We played literally the entire hour and a half mission together but couldn’t communicate because we hadn’t made some sort of weird team commitment to each other. It would have been great to be able to tell my mysterious partner what I was seeing, or let him or her know what that I had discovered the weakness of a boss character we were trying to fight. I found myself yelling it at my TV, but of course they couldn’t hear me.
Bungie also hasn’t been clear as to what Destiny really is, and it suffers a bit as a result. It’s core DNA is no doubt born from shooters before it, but Destiny also shares a lot of its core gameplay with MMORPGs. You’ll play Destiny mostly like a shooter, but enemies tend to attack in packs, more like an MMORPG, but interestingly enough the enemies feature very smart AI, much like the enemies of Halo before it. Bigger enemies can be bullet sponges — it took myself and my partner nearly thirty minutes to defeat a mid-level boss in the mission mentioned above and while the feeling was incredibly rewarding when we finally did beat it, it was bait ridiculous, especially for a mid-boss. There’s nothing wrong with mixing genres in games, but Destiny doesn’t seem ready to commit to to either of it’s ideas.
The story in Destiny leaves a lot to be desired, at least it seems so. There are a lot of fan theories floating around the internet that all point to Bungie holding their cards close to their chest with Destiny, but what’s here is a bit boring. The story only really interjects itself into small portions of the game, and there’s very little in the way of exposition to build on. Just know that you’re a Guardian and your job is to shoot the Darkness. Got it? I actually have been having a lot more fun with Destiny when I don’t pay attention to the story, and make up my own backstory; I’m an assassin, I’m a treasure hunter, I’m a freelance mercenary ala Guardians of the Galaxy. I just really didn’t want to be just another Guardian — especially when there were a lot of other, more powerful Guardians around me.
Bungie also doesn’t really explain much beyond the basic ideas of the game at all. Sure, you’ll get the normal tutorial on how to run, shoot and summon your speeder vehicle but beyond that you’re just left to kind of figure everything out on your own. You’ll collect items called Engrams, what the hell you do with them and what they are is only hinted at when you first start finding them. You can also collect mail and bounties from the Tower but you’re not given much of an explanation as to what you have to do to complete a lot of these extra missions, you just kind of stumble into them. I don’t need to be led by the hand in a game, but I do want at least an explanation to the rules of the world, especially when it’s a brand new franchise.
It wouldn’t be much of a Bungie game without competitive multiplayer and Destiny delivers with it’s crucible mode, which delivers fast, fun and frenetic PvP action that you’d expect from the team behind the legendary Halo 2 multiplayer. It’s a lot of fun to use all of your leveled up skills and weapons to test your skills against other Guardians. Be warned, just like other multiplier shooters, there are people who are already really friggin’ good at the game and you’re likely to lose a lot, at least at first. For what it’s worth though, Destiny has a great sense of progression to it and you’ll feel like you’re getting better at it before too long at all.
Destiny is a game that I expect to spend a lot of time with in the coming year. Just how much time depends on just how much Bungie and Activision are planning on adding to experience over the coming months. I’m having a lot of fun with the game, but it often feels like I’m doing it despite it’s best efforts for me not to. It’s an interesting and unique first person shooter with the potential to become a massive franchise — if it develops its fan base and universe the right way. Are you playing Destiny? I’m curious to know what you think of it so far, comment below and let us know!