Like many other fans of the Halo series, I was looking forward to seeing what new, incredible game Bungie could create after producing one of the biggest franchises in video game history. Destiny looked incredible, at least on paper, and then I played the beta.
Unfortunately, I didn’t give the beta enough of a chance to prove that Destiny wasn’t just a repetitive shooter set in a mundane world. After a mere couple of hours in Old Russia, and a few visits to the Tower during the beta, I was left with the misconception that Bungie’s imagination was tapped out. My mistake was that I never gave the beta enough time to prove me wrong – had I only left earth.
With the retail disc in hand, I was ready to give Destiny another chance. After all, the vast majority of impressions online of the beta were positive. Old Russia was still a bit of a chore to get through, but when I finally left the mother planet, I began to understand how grand Destiny might be.
Arriving on the moon was just the beginning. I was stunned at the level of detail presented everywhere I looked. The craters, the distant vistas, and the infrastructure brought the moon to life. Even the random satellites buzzing by overhead added presence to the scenery. And of course, the celestial bodies, unobstructed by any atmosphere, looked stunning. I ignored whatever objective I had to complete just to admire the art and visuals on the moon. It was then that I fell in love with Destiny.
Bungie made each of the planets and locations unique-looking, filled with rich landscapes and immense detail. As I took it all in, I realized that instead of being a space warrior, I became a space tourist. In fact, the story in Destiny’s campaign is so hollow (which incidentally makes me wonder if the Traveler is hollow?) that I never felt compelled to complete the game, if not simply to earn XP, find more loot, and of course, to gain access to all of the locales.
As I explored the various maps, I began to wish that Destiny was an open-world game. I wanted to explore what was at the bottom of a great chasm, and climb to the top of a mountain that was in the distance. Although there is quite a bit of territory to explore, it is agonizing not to be able to get to see more of each of the fascinating planets. Cross an artificial barrier, and you’ll be warned to return to the battlefield. Jump off of a cliff in order to try to explore a canyon below, and you’ll be penalized with a death.
Along with the limitations in exploration, the game’s story seems to touch on an epic scale, but is only barely there. There are few explanations for some of the more confounding elements to the story. For example, we never learn about the origins of the important characters that show up in the game. Because Destiny’s tale never is fully fleshed out, the campaign concludes with a bit of a whimper, and without true resolution.
Moreover, there is no character development, and there are no relationships between characters that players can see grow throughout the game. There are interesting characters, to be sure, but we are given such little information about them that it makes it difficult to even care about what their motivations might be.
Bungie apparently is hoping that players will pour over the Grimoire cards through Bungie.net or via the companion app, but even then, there is little divulged about the main plot of the game. Perhaps greater detail of the story will eventually be revealed throughout the course of DLC, but for now, all we have is what appears to be an unfinished storyline.
Despite the issues with the story and characters, the gameplay and controls are sublime.
All Roads Lead to Loot
It won’t take you long to realize that Destiny bears a strong resemblance to Bungie’s other creation, Halo. Enemy types (and even the weapons) are all too familiar – they move the same, and even sound the same. The shooting and movement mechanics are fantastic in Destiny, just like they are in Halo, or perhaps even better.
As for the gameplay, Destiny boils down to loot farming. Developers like Blizzard and Gearbox have used similar formulas and have done quite well with their games (Diablo 3 and Borderlands 2, respectively). I must admit that the loot mania is addicting in Destiny, just as much as it is in other games.
There are ultra-rare and exotic equipment to find for every piece of gear your Guardian uses, including three weapon types, various pieces of armor, and even a class-based piece of superficial clothing. Some players have even found exotic spaceships, which aren’t playable components, but only appear during loading screens.
Scoring the loot is the ultimate end of every gaming session, and there are multiple methods to do so. Players can engage in various PVE strike missions (solo or co-op) or raids, which essentially put you back into a component of the main campaign, or can simply roam around the locations picking off random enemies. For those that are more PVP-inclined, there are a variety of gameplay modes, including team-based, objective-based, and free-for-all.
MMO or No?
Destiny is an MMO, although perhaps not in the traditional sense. You won’t run into hundreds of other players roaming around at any given time, but you will see other plenty of other players around while at the main player hub, doing Strike missions, or doing Patrol missions. You can fight alongside them against random enemies, or when the game triggers a “public event” (random boss spawn or waves of increasingly difficult enemies) near your proximity on a planet.
The game however, is not exactly conducive for the social aspect of a typical MMO. There currently is no way to use voice to communicate with anyone outside of your Strike Team group, although Bungie has announced that this will be changed shortly. Further, gear cannot be traded or given away to other players. There are emotes available using the D-pad, which allow you to point, sit, wave, and dance, but since there is no real chat functionality at this time, socializing with random gamers can only be done using Xbox Live’s messaging system.
I am hopeful that Bungie will come through with deeper explanations of the main plot eventually, and Bungie seems committed to improving and balancing various aspects of the game, but you shouldn’t wait for those changes to pick up a copy for yourself. Destiny offers addicting gameplay, stunning graphics, and undeniably perfect controls. Despite the lack of plot development and socialization options, this is a game that you can spend countless nights playing. Destiny is available on current and last gen consoles.
This review was based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.