The hype surrounding Bungie’s and Activision’s latest outing, Destiny, was monumental to say the least. Bungie had abandoned the Halo franchise to embark on a new journey, one that lead to the rumour of a 500 million dollar budget, as well as being one of the biggest pre-ordered games of all time. The beta back in July captivated fans across the world, but could Bungie really deliver an experience capable of holding the attention of gamers for the next 10 years? Yes, you heard that right. Bungie have an ambitious plan and hope, or possibly expect, you to be playing Destiny online for the next 10 years. If this is the case, Destiny’s launch would have to do more than live up to the hype.
We saw back in July that Destiny, visually, is stunning. The choice of landscape, lighting and character models are sublime. The post apocalyptic world is vibrant and excels that of even Enslaved: Odyssey to the West or the more lush moments in The Last of Us. In short Bungie’s universe is mesmerising.
Essentially the game is an online co-op first person shooter with MMO/RPG elements, whose inspiration could easily be taken from Halo (inevitably), Borderlands and even Warframe. It is the latter that Destiny has the most in common with. Destiny is about destroying your enemies to level up your ‘Guardian’ and effectively becoming the most powerful warrior in the whole universe. Farming kills to enhance your characters abilities, gears and weaponry is what the whole game is about, and yet this is the one aspect of the game that, primarily, is to Destiny’s detriment.
Although no real promises were made, the perception was that Destiny was a huge expansive world with a huge amount of tasks to do. Sadly this isn’t the case. Destiny purely relies on the addictive nature of gamers wanting to be the best or most powerful player out there, something becoming more and more common in games. The story, or lack of, derails any substance Destiny may have. The absence of characterisation is also very apparent. Everyone you encounter is either a mindless enemy or a shopkeeper. At no point during the online campaign do you really feel that you are changing the scope of the universe.
You are a ‘Guardian,’ a warrior who has sworn to protect the last remnants of Earth. When humanity began to reach to the stars, the enormous spherical being known as ‘The Traveller’ appeared and humanity truly began to prosper. Humans colonised neighbouring planets and the new-found technology saw humanity transcend into a golden age. However, ‘The Traveller’ brought with it an enemy, whose armies were so vast that Earth’s days were numbered.
Or where they?
At the start of the game you select which Class your guardian will be, Titan, Warlock or in my case Hunter. Each has differing abilities to suit your play style. Opening the game, your Guardian is brought back to life by a ‘Ghost,’ a small life form that has broken off from ‘The Traveller’ and accompanies all Guardians.
Sadly, Destiny falls prey to the mundane and generic messiah complex storyline were you are ‘the one,’ yet Destiny doesn’t really utilise or immerse the player in that belief. Something that Halo managed to achieve masterfully.
You are acutely aware of the other online players running around, attempting to accomplish the same feat. Even when you buddy up in a fire-team, your companions are not part of the cut scenes. Whilst Destiny would really benefit from a strong story and interesting characters, the feeble attempt to include one is contrite. You could just as easily play Destiny and know what to do without seeing a single cut scene.
Initially Destiny began to disappoint me. After playing the beta and finally getting my hands on the completed game I was hoping for so much more. These early stages of the game were pound for pound the same as the beta. There appeared to be little hope in sight as to whether this repetitive shooter was going to be able to break the mould and set itself apart for its rivals.
However, not all is lost. Bungie and Activision, before the games release, reached out and warned readers not to take early reviews to heart. They felt that 10, perhaps even 20, hours spent with Destiny would not be enough to fairly judge the game. And in some respects they were right.
Whilst I still believe that Destiny should have included a strong storyline, once your character reaches level 20 and you have managed to complete the main campaign, you are free to roam the planets activating side missions (via green beacons) or replay the various story missions, with the option to increase the difficulty. Once you accept that Destiny is a shooter MMO, largely focused upon levelling up your character, you will begin to see that the game isn’t as flawed as it may initially appear. The gameplay soon becomes fun and your character can embark on new challenges, albeit ones that still involve shooting a lot of aliens, but Bungie intend to bolster the content of Destiny over the next 10 years via either free or paid for DLC. If they are true to their word, which so far they have been, there will always be something new to discover.
Raids, a missions based co-op mode which involve 6 players, are one of the new main features that are available. We will have a separate and full review of Raids coming soon.
The levelling up system to Destiny is something I greatly appreciate. The system is accessible to new players but also offers an array of abilities and subclass options to choose from. Players not only can upgrade their abilities but can spend currency on upgrading weaponry and gear, all the way down to their boots. Each subtle upgrade is quick to do and doesn’t require much thought process, which allows you to quickly jump back into the fray. This is in stark contrast to games like Warframe and although the levelling up system is a fantastic one, it can become very daunting to newcomers, something Destiny does not suffer from.
However, as expected Destiny does become repetitive (we can argue the finer points on what game isn’t repetitive later). Bizarrely the game almost draws attention to the fact, as differing missions often see the player returning to the same old ground over and over.
Also, the approach to almost every situation is the same. You just run in guns blazing, unleashing all of your special upgraded attacks at the enemy. This initially is fun but the game is crying out for something much more. You can’t, for example, approach a situation with stealth. The game simply will not allow you. If you somehow manage to make your way to a group of enemies and knife one in the back, the rest of the group will automatically hone in on you, whether you are hidden or not. This is reflective of the poor AI throughout the game. It seems greater numbers are the only way to offer up a challenge in Destiny, as few enemies utilise the available cover, and on the off-chance they do they spring out of it in an attempt to shoot you.
Completing Destiny’s main campaign isn’t that difficult. Destiny sense of difficulty is completely imbalanced. The run of the mill missions are incredibly easy throughout the game, yet instead of a steady progression, the games difficulty jumps into overdrive as boss battles or ‘Strike’ missions, which have to be tackled with up to 2 other players, are at times insanely hard. It is at this point your kill/death ratio will take a severe hit.
Should you get a little tired of all this friendly co-op shenanigans, you can just to pit your skills against your friends online in the Crucible. Currently there are 5 game modes that revolve around controlling zones to score points or various permutations of team death match. Whilst very little is new here, the competitive multiplayer does actually work very well. I’m not the biggest fan of the Halo Multiplayer (yes, there, I said it), due to the fact I am pretty poor at it. But for newcomers Halo can be tricky to gain any traction. Players will always choose the DMR over the Assault Rifle, suggesting a slight imbalance in weaponry, and whilst there are early murmurings and gripes about the Titan class being overpowered in Destiny’s multiplayer, I find that a players favourite weapon or character class differs greatly from one another, often leading to some fantastic and tactical skirmishes.
Destiny is definitely a game suffering, as a result, from its own hype. The worlds that were supposed to be free to explore with friends don’t quite deliver. Yes they are beautiful and yes they can be fun. However, Destiny has little diversity for those seeking it, but that is not to say that Bungie haven’t created a game worth returning to. If Destiny has 10 years to progress and improve, we could see the transformation, from what is essentially a well made shooter, into something truly special. But only time will tell.