“DESTINY, at launch, is a beautiful but empty experience. Bungie has provided a shell of game that might one day be filled with content; but as it stands, lacks any sense of completion.”
Platform(s): PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release Date: September 9th, 2014
I’ve played over 30 plus hours in Bungie’s not-quite-an-MMO-but-maybe-it-kinda-sorta-is first person shooter slash space opera, Destiny. That’s pretty much the better part of a work week, shootin’, lootin’, and scrutin’-izing exactly how they managed to exhaust a purported half billion on this title. Don’t get too hung up about that clocking time as a ringing endorsement, however, as Destiny has many shortcomings.
Taken to its base, Destiny is primarily a FPS with moderate MMO trappings. Borderlands and Phantasy Star Online come to mind first baring its operations. You’ll spend most of your time grinding out loot and replaying missions to upgrade your inventory. Expect to do this over and over.
Which is fine because, mechanically, Destiny is sound. Bungie’s no slacker when it comes to shooters. Their robust lineage of mostly great Halo games has tempered them into an FPS master smith of sorts. Popping off shots and character movement are top notch, with subtle variations between classes and gear set up. Enemies react and animate in intelligent ways, offering challenges through all levels. Engagements feel fiery and involved and very satisfying when finally overcoming a tricky encounter. If you’re even semi-familiar with any console shooter from 2002 and beyond, then you’re set.
Furthermore, Destiny blends leveling, loot, and raids onto the shooter frame. It’s not exactly revolutionary with what Bungie has done, but it’s functional. I was a big fan of Borderlands‘ gameplay and Destiny mirrors it well enough. Of course, teaming up with other players is the only way to go as soloing is woefully tedious.
Graphically, Destiny makes a solid argument for those wanting to upgrade with a new console. The whole set up is one to behold, and probably stands as the first “real” next-gen game visually. Breath-taking vistas engulfed by brilliant skyboxes are expertly rendered. Each planet could easily fill a digital scrapbook of amazing postcard moments. Indeed the artists get a solid pat on the back for their vision and I’m pleased at the varied enemy designs and environmental flourishes.
Destiny also operates at smooth clip without getting too frame-y despite some of the hectic firefights. Load times are rather hefty, but such is the way of trying to sync multiple users into an instanced network. The menus are a bit on the swollen side, as you need to go though about four layers to get anywhere but it’s really a minor personal gripe. Overall, Destiny is polished in most areas that count with only a few questionable design decisions.
Where Destiny begins to unravel is due to its rather meager content quantity. There are four major areas comprised of a few main missions as well as random quests while in a free roam mode. While these worlds are rather pretty, the environments quickly lose their luster. There’s only so many times you can travel through the same area, blasting the same aliens, sorting the same dumb loot before yearning for something new to look at. Supposedly, there will be weekly and monthly additions to mix up the content but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any plans to add new areas. I’m not even convinced that the season pass DLC will expand beyond the four environments.
Doubly so with the mission content.
All in all there are roughly twenty story missions and around six strikes. I’ve easily re-played the same strike – a co-op, non-story quest – about ten times. True, that games of this nature rely on players repeating and grinding for better loot but with only so many missions there’s not much to chew on. Same goes for the patrol mission you find in the open. There are about four types of these reflecting the worst parts of MMOs which is kill X number of baddies or grind for X number of drops.
They’re crafted to be repeatable but are repeated so often that it becomes mundane. Missions typically go like this – guide to a quest marker, hold square to initialize Peter Dinklage’s weak VO, survive enemy horde. Outside a few instances – notably a bizarre sword fighting sequence relatively early on – everything else was unremarkable. And the way they’re tied together is utterly forgettable. Was anything actually accomplished in the story? I have absolutely no idea.
Speaking of story, I would comment on it if Destiny actually had a one. Basically, there is some kind of magical space god – The Traveler – that came to earth and uplifted humans. After a few centuries of incredible leaps in technology, the enemies of this creature/god have come to destroy everything. Big yawn, but I guess it’s something. Yet, it’s all obscured behind a thick and heavy-breathed layer of pseudo-religious babble. You’re the Light fighting against the Darkness and it all feels really lame.
It’s true that Bungie loves their esoteric, future mysticism in their narratives (massive cough Halo) Which is fine. It can be awesome if handled with clever plot lines. It isn’t found here, though and I question the writing talent at work. There are characters mentioned in ways that baffle me. One character popped in a couple of times doling out a lazy “you’re the chosen one” speech and I had no clue who the hell this person was. Nothing is explained and it’s all needlessly veiled.
What I can’t understand is why none of this is really surfaced in the game. You earn and unlock these things called grimoires which flesh out some of the story a bit. However you have to visit a website to check them out. Supplemental lore is fun – agreed – but is this not odd? Why do I have to go to Bungie.net to see these parts of the game? Same thing with the social aspects. Clans are created and managed through the website component. It’s just plain weird.
At least the competitive multiplayer adds some filling. I’ll admit that it hasn’t attracted me that much (I was never one for Halo‘s) but it does offer a few modes to distract you from the monotonous grinding of the strike missions.
I feel as if there was more to Destiny. Obviously, I haven’t the power to divine what business or logistical decisions were made at the executive level at Bungie. Players have been drilled in the head to expect to buy into a Season Pass which ideally is new and fresh content. Yet, it feels like this game has been stripped to the bone. I wish they had included the rest of the game with the launch. The lacking narrative and paltry quests leave me hungry. Destiny is like a very lean turkey dinner without the stuffing.
This all said I do think there is something to Destiny – though, perhaps it’s more of a symptom of my addiction for grinding loot. I feel as if maybe I’ll need to revisit the game in the future to see how it holds up and possibly improve over time. Perhaps, additional content (preferably patched in for free as weekly/monthly instances) could flesh out this otherwise hollow game. Right now, Destiny is a wait and see.