My Density Has Brought Me To You
Destiny has been on everyone’s radar for a couple of years ever since Bungie parted ways with Microsoft (and Halo). Designed to be the next big thing, Bungie partnered with Activision, planning a trilogy of games over the next ten years with Activision sinking $500 million into development and marketing of the first game alone.
Like Peter Dinklage’s Ghost would say: So, you know, no pressure.
What is Destiny? That is a good damn question. The easy way to describe it would be Halo mixed with Borderlands, with some World of Warcraft, plus a dash of Diablo, and that is the easy way. In truth, it is hard just to say it is a combination of many games. That is a bit of a disservice, but like many said who played the game before release, the only way to really understand Destiny is to play it.
Maybe you haven’t played it and are relying on this review to help you decide if you should help Activision recoup some of that petty cash they put up. For that I am sorry, I just pissed in your cereal. I will try my best to describe what I thought about the game and we will see how it goes.
First and foremost, Destiny is a first-person shooter. Not surprising from Bungie and it is the part that plays to their strengths the most. Controls are tight and less floaty than Halo. If you are any kind of gamer you will feel at home with the controls in no time. No new territory is broken in button mapping, just good old fashioned shooting like we are used to.
There is your obligatory paragraph about how the game controls. Now, let’s get into what makes Destiny unique.
Not content to make “just another shooter”, Bungie has made Destiny always online meaning that while you are playing out your story you will have other Guardians (the heroes of this tale) on the same world as you doing the same. This is the definition of a mixed bag. In one sense, it is annoying for some who like to feel like the hero of their story just to see other players running around.
Thank You, Now Go Away
I personally have never felt so bipolar playing a game before. Let’s say I go back to Earth, Venus or the Moon to grind out some XP and loot. I set up my sniper rifle and start lining up targets just to have some jackass run in guns blazing and take my kills. Thanks, asshole. Of course, he (or she) doesn’t know this, they are just doing the same thing I am, but we’re sharing a world. Welcome to the future. Plus, enemies always respawn in the same areas continuously so I just yelled at Pwnage911 for no reason.
On the other not so raging hand, if I am doing a story mission and get in a bind where my ass is getting handed to me, MaryJaneLvr69 could come up and, in his loving kindness, give enemies someone else to worry about, allowing my shields to recharge and we both take out the bad guys. I wave, he waves back, all is well.
See what I mean.
One of the catches about Destiny is that all missions can be played with three man fire teams. While I get the social nature of this, I found myself doing it on very few occasions. I felt like a solo campaign because that is how I wanted my story to progress. While the game fully accommodates single-player, you can tell in places that Bungie reeeaaally wants you to use friendship as your ally.
Between missions you will spend your time at The Tower, a safe haven for Guardians inside The City which is being protected by The Traveler, a giant orb that came to Earth to share its knowledge and helped humanity go beyond the boundaries of Earth. This came with a price. The Traveler has an enemy called The Darkness and they don’t believe in a thing called love and they definitely don’t want to listen to the rhythm of our hearts.
At The Tower camera moves to a third person perspective allowing you to get a good look at your Guardian as well as other Guardians roaming around. Other players from around the world will be doing business along with you and you can wave, point and dance with them to your hearts content. When you are done doing the Carlton, The Tower is your hub for everything. You will speak to your class leader, receive and collect bounties, buy new weapons, armor and all the fun kill toys you need.
The Tower also can be used as an extended pause button because there damn sure isn’t one when you are on missions. With the game being always online when you begin any mission, whether it is story, strikes or just patrol grinding for XP and loot, you best be prepared to see it to the end. The only hope you have is to find a safe place, or as I call them a “poop zone” where enemies will not (hopefully) find you if you have to step away. There are some caves and buildings that seem to offer respite, but don’t be surprised if you stop to text or have nature call and hear a Vandal shooting your face off.
Here’s A Story, Of A Guy Named Me
Truth be told, I did not get invested in the story as much as I thought I would. Often I would get a chunk of story information from Ghost or some new characters and think “that sounds important and I have no idea why”. It is kind of like playing the first Gears of War. There is a war on and you know there is much more that needs to be fleshed out in future games. Destiny’s story seems like a good introduction to a book that should open up fully later. Maybe that was by design which I completely understand since Bungie is planning on Destiny taking up the next ten years of their time.
While Destiny’s story may be middling, both in quality and in length, the endgame Bungie has in place should keep people playing for a very long time. They have committed to keep content coming with DLC and special strike and Crucible events. Destiny wants to stay on your radar throughout the year and with a heavy list of fall games coming, Bungie determined to keep the Destiny splash big.
Something Destiny excels at is level baiting. Say you are a level 16 and an enemy happens to drop a new helmet. When you inspect it, you see you have to be a level 18 to wear it. Dammit, I want to wear that helmet, to level 18 I will go!
Once you reach level 20, Destiny opens up a whole new set of armor and weapon varieties. Gaining XP is all well and good for getting your character to 20, but after you will be on the lookout for light. Any type of armor (clothing, helmets, etc.) that contain light will help you go beyond level 20. It was a good change of pace for me. If you simply had to keep farming for XP then anyone could reach the level cap of 30 in no time. With you always on the lookout for light, it gave me incentive to go out on more patrols and strikes hoping for that engram drop that will get me closer to 30.
In a game like this, that asks you to go on missions for the sake of leveling up and getting better armor and weapons there better be plenty of variety in the loot. Destiny meets this standard easily. Now, it may not be on the dizzying levels of Borderlands or Diablo, but there is a staggering amount of loot to mine for. Many have complained about the game’s repetitiveness, especially on patrol missions, but I never had a problem losing hours hitting those damn green beacons, even if it is a different variation of the same thing.
This is one of the things that people had problems with. They were expecting some large-scale space-faring adventure. Destiny is that…to a point. Overall, the game’s “single-player” experience is shorter than you would expect. You will only go to three planets and the moon. Once there, the maps are large, but not large enough you can not learn the ins and outs of them and use your Sparrow (think speeder bike from Return of the Jedi) to get around easily. I think many were expecting more of a Mass Effect type of experience.
I will not fault Destiny for something I would praise Diablo for because I did not fully understand what the game was going to be going into it. I had nothing but fun jumping on, not even worrying about story or Crucible, just to run around, shoot whatever came my way, enjoy the experience and if I happened to find a rare engram to decode it was a bonus.
Firefights are hot and heavy with overall difficulty ramping up just enough to make it difficult in places, but not reaching the levels of “why did I throw my controller Verlander-style into the wall?”. Each planets’ missions, patrols and strikes all come with a suggestion of what level you should be at to take it on. You can go in any order you want, changing the difficulty before you land in your ship. If you are quite the hardcore shooter, you might want to go and take on a level 14 strike at level 10. I commend your bravery. I went the route of least resistance. I would grind and get my Guardians a few levels above the suggestion and make it a bit easier. By a bit, a mean a very small bit. I like Destiny’s difficulty settings being set by character level and not a choice before the game.
Making use of all your class attacks opens up combat in a way Halo never could. Grenade attacks, supers, double jumps, using your speeder as a flying explosive, all of this brings a powerful feeling despite being overwhelmed by a giant number of enemies and a giant number you will face, especially on any of the game’s strike missions which can last for quite a while.
Each planet holds its own different species to try and keep your heroic deeds at bay. The Fallen, The Hive, The Vex (aliens from Independence Day) and The Cabal (space turtles from the TV commercial) are all fighting each other along with the Guardians. When you are dealing with The Fallen or The Hive, I could not help get a distinct Halo feeling like when you would be in the middle of fights between The Covenant and The Flood. Even The Hive have an enemy type called Thrall, which basically runs at you screaming like an infected zombie. I can hear Chief calling.
This Used To Be Fun, Bungie
What I was hoping would be the strongest part of Destiny’s package ended up being its weakest point. Bungie’s multiplayer renown is legendary (pun intended), yet somehow anytime I played Crucible I felt an utter lack of fun. It wasn’t for a want of a Halo clone or anything. Sometimes I really could not put my finger on it, but I would finish matches saying, “well I wish I just spent (enter time amount here) doing something else”.
There are four different types of Crucible matches: Control, Clash, Rumble and Skirmish. Other types titled Salvage, The Iron Banner and Combined Arms have come up as limited time events and will pop up from time to time. They all have their varying forms of rules with capture the flag and deathmatch modifiers. They say that player level does not affect Crucible play. Sometimes I had to question that. Don’t get me wrong, I am not being an elitist that makes excuses. I get my ass handed to me plenty and move on because it is just a game, but there were times playing a Control match where it just seemed like someone who was a few levels above me was TOO good. Not because of ability, but because the so-called “leveling down” didn’t seem to exist.
If I had a favorite mode it would be Skirmish. This sees two teams of three in a deathmatch that feels more intimate and requires more teamwork with bonuses for reviving teammates. Maybe it was the slightly smaller scale of Skirmish that I latched onto since the rest of the game has you randomly playing in fire teams of three. Even with finding a mode that I liked, the fact that there is no private matchmaking (yet) hurts especially when you are just a casual multiplayer shooter like myself and would rather play with friends.
While Halo’s multiplayer would give me many sleepless nights (I am not kidding, the sun would be rising), I mostly played Crucible to get any bounties that were being offered for XP and Crucible points. With as much fun as I was having with the rest of the game, it was a bit of a letdown.
Happy (Alien) Trees
One thing no one can deny is that Destiny is a visually arresting game. The landscapes all vary largely between planets and hold their own unique look and historical culture. From the snow-capped vistas in Russia to a city on Venus that made me reminisce on The Last of Us, I frequently found myself admiring the gorgeous worlds Bungie had created. It makes the fact that the story is on the lean side more apparent. Such beautifully crafted environments scream to be given purpose and more than just a few lines from Dinklage as you explore.
You would think with a weak story, lack of space exploration and the multiplayer issues I would be ready to give this game a weak score and be on my way. There’s the catch. I want to go home right now and get back into Destiny. It is addictive. I have never played a game that screams at me to call out its faults and yet all I want to do is play as much as I can.
Here is the reason: Destiny is damn fun. Plain and simple.
Sometimes as gamers we can not deny when a game catches us, not because of its epic storytelling or unforgettable characters, but simply because it has the ability to hit that part of our brain that says “maybe we should stop playing” and our response is “shut up, brain”. Should I have gotten bored by the repetitiveness of the patrols, the disappointing multiplayer, the vanilla story? Most likely. Still, I want to go right now and play it.
Bungie tried to fit many types of games into one ambitious project. They may not have succeeded in some ways and many people are left with lost expectations. I had expectations too and even though some of them were dashed, what remained was a great shooter with enough loot, quality shooting and side objectives to make Destiny a lot of fun.
Isn’t that what we are looking for from our games? Fun.