Never before has a game received as much hype as Bungie’s latest offering, Destiny. The creators of the Halo franchise, one of the best first person shooter and multiplayer games ever made, had a lot of expectation on them right from the announcement of this game and the hype train didn’t slow down even one time. The sad fact is that the gaming community as a whole seems to have held this game up to near impossible standards and while Destiny doesn’t quite hit the stars like some thought it might, it still stands as one of the most enjoyable and ambitious games in recent history. I strongly believe that if Destiny was developed by anyone other than Bungie that it wouldn’t be under such a microscope. I also strongly believe that trying to judge a completely new IP in Destiny based on their previous work with the Halo franchise is unfair and I won’t do it. There’s no denying that the game isn’t perfect but if you pull the cord for the next stop and step off the hype train you’ll find that Bungie gave us one hell of a game to play.
Destiny was never going to be as good as all the pre-release excitement made it out to be. We were told of a game that was going to blur the lines between a first person shooter, a role playing game and a massive multiplayer online experience. It had never been done before with any real success so when that information came to light it was hard not to get wrapped up in all the buzz. In the end we have a game that has elements of all three that doesn’t lean too heavy in any one direction. Let’s make this perfectly clear right from the start; If you’re looking for a hardcore FPS PvP experience, WRONG GAME. If you’re looking for a deep Mass Effect level type of space RPG, WRONG GAME. If you’re looking for World of Warcraft meets consoles, WRONG GAME. If, however, you’re on the hunt for the glorious bastard lovechild of them all… step right up because that’s what this game was meant to be right from the start.
Jumping into the game you’re presented with the option of three classes to choose from; Titan, Hunter and Warlock. The Titan class is your tank who can charge into battle laying waste to mobs with hard punches to the grill whereas Warlocks unleash magical hell with nova bombs from a medium distance but aren’t suited for melee nearly as well. Finally you’ll have your Hunter who is most suited to the long range sniper attacks than anything else. The weapons available in-game may be used by any class but their armour and special perks and attacks are unique. The option to choose your race between Human, Exo and Awoken is purely cosmetic and offers no perk for choosing one over another. Each class has a tiered upgrade structure that while linear in nature still provides players new ways to approach the battlefield every time they receive one. As well, once your warrior reaches level 15 they have the ability to switch subclasses and open up another set of abilities to rank up. As mentioned before, it’s not deep and varied RPG character development but the elements of an RPG are still present.
Gameplay itself is a great mix of gunplay and super powers that allows players to approach the enemy in a number of different ways. You can scope and snipe from a distance or come in like a bat out of hell and drop a Titan’s ‘Fist of Havoc’ into a mob of enemies. Guns are varied not only in looks but in feel as well. Hand cannons, auto rifles, pulse rifles, scout rifles, shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers… the list is extensive. I’ve become partial to the pulse rifle or auto rifle as my primary and a shotgun secondary. Regardless the weapons are there to help any player of any skill level find something they like. Less experienced FPS gamers might stick to bullet spraying auto rifles while veterans choose the super powered, small magazine hand cannon. Pick your poison and get murdering! Verticality is also added to the mix with lift jump abilities launching players into the air to observe the battle from up high.
Once you cap out your character at the maximum level of 20 you can still upgrade their level through an interesting mechanic of an added Light statistic that’s attached to your armour. What this means is you’ll be on the constant lookout for drops in the game. Collecting your engram drops and running back to the Cryptarch is like a digital Christmas because you’ll never know what you’re going to get until you get back to the tower. When a rare engram hits the wastelands of the battlefield you’ll be excited, trust me on that. It can definitely be a grind to hunt out these drops as they are completely random but it is rewarding when it happens. Being able to purchase legendary items from various vendors is costly as well so prepare to put in a lot of playtime to get the best of the best gear. The gear itself, both weapons and armours, also have upgrades that you can unlock adding another small RPG element to the pot.
The biggest detractor from what could have made Destiny amazing is its story or real lack thereof. While there is a story to be told it doesn’t pull you in and offers up nothing more than a lot of rinse and repeat missions. It plays out as a Mass Effect lite more than anything else… it’s good but more depth would be needed to make it great. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a deep world to learn about as evidenced in the lore told in the Grimoire cards you collect along your play through. They’re accessible to be read through Bungie.net as well as the Destiny companion app and provide a lot of background for what you learn in-game. Why you can’t access your Grimoire card collection in game is beyond me and quite an annoyance. Having to log-in online or pick up your phone to check out a card isn’t the end of the world but it would be much more intuitive to be able to pull the cards up as you unlock them. Seeing as it has been mentioned it’s worth noting that both Bungie.net and the Destiny companion app are fantastic resources for all the stats you could think of in the game. On the whole they offer up more information there than Call of Duty Elite did and that was a pay service. If you install the companion app on your mobile device be prepared to spend lots of time looking at it when you’re away from your console!
Where any gamer will have most of their fun is playing through the plethora of game modes with their friends. If perhaps, you fit the stereotype of a loser nerd with no friends, who only comes up from the basement for Cheetos and Mountain Dew Code Red, then you’ll definitely be missing out on the best of what Destiny can offer you. Whether it’s experiencing story mode, running a strike on the moon, wandering the Shattered Coast of Venus on patrol, or battling your way through a 3v3v3 Skirmish match on Mars you’ll likely have more fun if you do them with your pals. Patrol missions are very repetitive in nature and have you running back and forth across the map so a little more variation in that department couldn’t hurt, but again it’s more fun with a group. Coming across public events where you and other Guardians complete a goal together does break up the monotony too. They’re a little infrequent at the moment but Bungie has promised we’ll be seeing more of them in the months to come. Raids are on the way very shortly as well and promise to deliver punishing gameplay that will test the skills of all members on your fireteam. While they’re sure to induce the odd controller throwing rage quit they’ll require patience and communication with other members of your squad. As you and your friends hone your skills you can up the difficulty and tackle all of these things over again and despite the ‘rinse and repeat’ nature of a lot of them you’ll still find yourself coming back.
For fans of the player-vs-player arena you’ll have the Crucible which has a boatload of modes. Control is the 6v6 capture-the-flag style game, Clash is your 6v6 deathmatch, Rumble is a total free-for-all and the aforementioned Skirmish is a three team battle for victory. Other modes like Salvage and Iron Banner are events that only happen once in a while as controlled by the behind the scenes folks at Bungie HQ. I never particularly excel at PvP, I have to admit that, but I still had fun trying to keep my head above water. My sweet K/D of 0.000004 could go down as one of the worst of all time but I have no shame. A lot of complaining is coming around that events in the Crucible aren’t balanced well but I’m comfortable putting faith in Bungie that they’ll be constantly patching and tweaking as the game world is opened up more and more. These imbalances are sure to be addressed and the PvP arena will be improved in the process.
Speaking of patches and game updates I think a lot of what Destiny has in store is yet to be seen. Bungie has promised an extensive run of support post launch so things can only get better and more interesting. This past weekend we saw the introduction of Salvage in the Crucible and were introduced to a special vendor who will accept your ‘Strange Coin’ currency. As of this morning that vendor has disappeared and who knows when he’ll be back. It’s this idea of an evolving game world where I can jump into matches with friends and never know what might show up that intrigues me. It will certainly keep me coming back for a long time to come.
It hardly needs mentioning that Destiny is stunning to take in. The new generation hardware shines as it brings you epic vistas and scarred battlefields. The armour sets and weapons are fully realized with the most intricate of details. Once you level up to 20 and are able to use shaders your mismatched armour sets come to life with jaw dropping colour palettes. When you’re in the game and the pace speeds up with enemies coming fast and furious I’ve not been able to notice any slowdown in the frame rate either. In every situation the game has run buttery smooth. I’ve had the very odd boot from the servers where I’ve disconnected from my fireteam but it’s only been once or twice. Considering the sheer number of people who were playing this game on day one alone it’s hardly a surprise or a negative mark.
No game of this scope and magnitude would be complete without an epic soundtrack to accompany it and Bungie didn’t let us down here. When the crap hits the proverbial fan and the score kicks it into high gear so will your heart rate. Playing with a solid set of headphones or a great home theater will really ramp up your enjoyment of the game without a doubt. The attention to detail from enemy grunts, gun shots, super powers being unleashed and everything in between it is of the highest quality and one of the best portions of the game as a whole. You’ll want to keep a keen ear out for the sound of nearby chests as glimmer isn’t always easy to come by. Listening for that sweet sound has almost become a game within the game for me. There’s been much criticism of Peter Dinklage’s performance as your Guardian’s Ghost (lovingly referred to by many as Dinklebot) for being a bit flat but he is a robot after all. Appearances by Nathan Fillion, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Bill Nighy and many more round out a great voice cast.
If Destiny is judged on the game itself without falling victim to the unreachable expectations placed on it then it stands out as an amazing new IP. Never before has a game managed to merge separate genres quite so successfully and despite some of its flaws it does a lot of things right. Counting on the post launch support from Bungie to expand the game world and fine tune the experience I’d venture that most players will keep coming back with smiles on their faces for a long time to come.