Destiny needs little introduction. The latest shooter from Halo creator Bungie, the game has enraptured the gaming public, quickly becoming one of the best selling games of the year. The promise that sold Destiny was an innovative shooter that pulled in elements of MMORPGs to create an experience like no other. Sure, you would run around shooting bad guys a lot, but you would do it with a fully customizable character, using unique gear and weapons, and fighting alongside your friends and random people. Sometimes Destiny lives up to this promise, but a few stumbles here and there have created a game that feels less like a revelation and more like a possible beginning to something great.
Destiny never fails to impress in the visual department
The majority of Destiny is taken up by the campaign and various co-op missions, which take place on four different worlds. Earth, the Moon, Venus, and Mars are all beautiful and varied environments that can truly impress in both graphics and art design. Each of the worlds feels unique and interesting, for example Earth features the ruins of humanity and Mars offers a war-torn desert climate. Destiny never fails to impress in the graphical department as even a jaded gamer like myself found many spots to stop and wonder at the beauty of Bungie’s creation.
The core-gameplay also shines as Destiny shows itself to be the final result of Bungie’s long history with the first-person shooter genre. Bungie essentially reinvented the console FPS with Halo and they have spent over a decade fine-tuning their formula to near perfection. The game feels totally solid and smooth throughout, with no element of the run and gun experience disappointing in any way. The guns feel powerful, the enemies are daunting, and pulling off accurate shots will satisfy every FPS fan no matter what weapon they are using. However, it is when we move beyond these basic elements that the cracks in Destiny begin to show.
Problems first appear while playing through Destiny’s single player campaign. There are about 20 main levels, with extras thrown in such as Patrol and Strike missions. While the objectives might vary, the map will remain the same on each world, simply directing you to different areas as needed. This can be an interesting mechanic, but will lead to many feeling frustrated due to the repetition of some locations. This repetition is Destiny’s main flaw with it extending beyond the maps and into the very structure of the missions themselves.
Almost every level boils down to “go here and activate that”, at which point you will be assaulted by enemies for a few minutes
Almost every level boils down to “go here and activate that”, at which point you will be assaulted by enemies for a few minutes. This got to be so predictable that as soon as I activated the switch I instinctively searched out for where the enemies would come from and the best vantage point to take them out. It is obvious that Bungie was going for a sort of spur-of-the-moment co-op structure, where you and your friends dig in and face off against a horde of enemies. However, it is done so frequently that it becomes tiresome before you even reach the halfway point of the campaign. This sort of simple and repetitive structure can work well in a certain setting, but you need to know why you are doing these things in order to give them any meaning.
Simply put, the story underpinning the Destiny universe is a confusing and almost meaningless jumble of people and places that never comes together to form a coherent narrative. Through the hours I spent with Destiny I never felt like I had a grasp on what I was doing or why I was doing it. Mission summaries full of strange names and concepts were dictated to me with almost no background information. Throughout the campaign I simply went along, following every order and running to every waypoint, with the hope that the universe and my place in it would become clear. Sadly it never did and despite hearing over and over how important your actions are, you never really understand the impact you had on the world or the people in it, even at the very end.
This is made worse by the multitude of enemies that you face, with little to no context given for who they are or why you are fighting them. While playing the campaign you will face off against four completely different groups of enemies, all with fancy titles for their classes. It is clear that a lot of thought went into these factions, with each of them having various hierarchies and bosses. But this information is never conveyed to the player. It feels like Bungie created an entire universe for you to explore but decided to not actually explain anything about it. Some of this information can be gathered through the Grimoire Cards earned in-game, but you need to go to Bungie’s website to read through all of them. By the time you do that you have probably already finished the campaign and the damage is done.
Even at “max level” you can still upgrade and improve your character, either via experience or through better gear
Once you are finished with the campaign and have gotten your character up to the “max level” of 20, the game begins opening up to reveal more content for you to explore. Even at “max level” you can still upgrade and improve your character, either via experience or through better gear. Figuring out how your class functions and choosing its various abilities will satisfy those looking for a more customizable experience. Once you have the character that you want you can take on various modes specifically tailored for your extra powerful character.
Strike missions, where you and two friends tackle a single level with a boss fight at the end, feel like the main thrust of Bungie’s plan for Destiny. They are enjoyable and the search for new weapons and gear help alleviate some of the repetition I spoke of earlier, but the design of the end bosses needs some work. As they are now, taking them out requires far too much time, especially if you aren’t above the recommended level or have incompetent teammates. This is true of some of the other enemies that crop up from time to time throughout Destiny, but it becomes completely insane in the Strike missions. Still, the co-op gameplay is fun, but with only a few levels available most people will likely move on once they’ve experienced everything more than once.
Thankfully there is The Crucible to break up the monotony and offer up some classic player-vs-player action. While you can play it early on, The Crucible truly comes into its own once you have maxed out your character and can begin getting the PvP-specific gear. However, with only a few modes and an overall lack of gameplay variety The Crucible ends up feeling more like an afterthought than a fully fleshed out element of the game. You will have a good time if you decide to dedicate yourself to improving your character, but some of the player abilities and weapons might keep it from feeling like a truly competitive experience. Either way, The Crucible is quick and varied fun that will keep players interested in Destiny even after replaying the campaign and Strike missions gets old.
Even with the terribly confusing story, the repetitive missions, the bullet sponge enemies, and the uninspired PvP Destiny still feels like a good game. Despite the occasional annoyance or problem I still felt like I was enjoying my time throughout and plan to continue playing for quite a while. Somehow Bungie has crafted a totally flawed, yet completely compelling experience within the same game. It may not be the game we all expected, but with some DLC it could get a lot closer to it. And when the inevitable Destiny 2 launches I’ll be right there to see if the promise shown in Destiny can ever be fully realized.
- Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360
- Published By: Activision
- Developed By: Bungie
- Genre: Shooter
- US Release Date: September 9th, 2014
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
- Quote: "Destiny offers a lot of promise, but ultimately fails to deliver on everything it attempts. Still, thanks to Bungie's fantastic FPS design you will have fun playing the game. How much time you are willing to put into it will largely depend on how easily you get past the repetitive missions and maps."