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A lot of expectations were set for Bungie’s first original game since they were done with the Halo series. Destiny on paper is an ambitious game mixing in Bungie’s signature combat and storytelling with elements from MMOs and loot-based RPGs. The hype was definitely at a high by the time the alpha and beta came out for players, but as the game’s launch got closer, the concerns were kicking in especially for some of us here at Entertainment Fuse. Destiny does some things right, but doesn’t manage to bring everything together and I expected more from a developer beloved like Bungie.
As Bungie states on the back of the box, Destiny is about becoming legend as you play as a Guardian resurrected by your companion Ghost, voiced by Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones. You have been brought back to bring down the Darkness that has threatened Earth as they’re only down to one last city. Enemies you encounter are the allen-esque Fallen, the Hive, machine-like Vex and the Cabal, who reside on Mars. Bungie’s storytelling was great back when they worked on the Halo franchise, but Destiny’s story is simply lackluster.
You get some exposition at the start of each story mission, but there is no establishment of the world in the four areas you explore, no motivation to killing the opposition other than them potentially destroying Earth and lore to care about that can only seen on Bungie’s website or the mobile app, which is one of many strange design decisions made in this game. Even the characters you meet up with as you progress through the story is there with no attachment at all to either of them. Sure, the Ghost says a lot of stuff, but most doesn’t make sense with a lack of context. By the time I finished the last story mission, the ending felt like an afterthought than having some sense of finality. I expected a lot for Destiny to have a good storyline and established world, but this is the most disappointing aspect of the game for me if Bungie’s past work was any indication.
While the story for Destiny is lackluster, the same can be said for the story missions themselves, specifically the mission design. Most of the mission structure in the game is repetitive in the form of shoot some guys, hold X (Square on Playstation versions) for your Ghost to inspect or analyze something, defend the area from waves of enemies and repeat. Rarely does Destiny throw a twist at you and doing these mundane things for dozens of hours ends up boring even if the combat is good, which I’ll talk about more later. The game does encourage you to replay these missions on harder difficulties and potentially get better loot, but with no standout missions to play through due to how poor the mission design is, you’ll just slog through the grind in hopes of getting vanguard reputation, completing bounties and more.
One of the major concerns in Destiny was the lack of areas you explore as Bungie only shown Earth, the Moon, Venus and Mars. That is indeed the case because that’s it when you thought for a big and ambitious game like this there would be more planets. The areas within the planets are big though, but there is little or nothing going on at all when going on patrol mode other than small enemy encounters while doing side missions that are as repetitive as the story missions. The exception however are the public events where tougher enemies show up for a limited time, but due to how rare these happen compared to the beta earlier this summer, I only encountered three of them in my time with the game so far. For as much time going into how beautifully created the areas are, it is shame how soulless everything is when exploring the environments.
At the start of the game, you create your guardian and choose your class: Titan, Warlock, and Hunter. Unfortunately, these classes basically play the same with minor differences. Each class have different stats with the Titan being defense focused, the Warlock having better recovery and the Hunter being more mobile. They have their own type of grenade they throw and their own super move when the yellow meter is full. The Warlock throws a purple energy ball at the opposition for example while the Titan ground pounds his or her surroundings and the Hunter has a flaming pistol for a limited time. These supers can be changed to something else when at higher levels. Even though I’ve been playing Warlock the entire time, I’m not missing much when seeing the other classes in action other than different special abilities.
The character leveling progression is your standard fare of completing missions, bounties and killing enemies on both PvE and the Crucible multiplayer. You get improved stats of course but also a special ability to your melee attack, different properties for your grenades and super moves, and improved gliding. Weapons and armor are the same deal when equipped, but most of the later upgrades will have more requirements that cause you to explore the areas for specific materials. The cap is 20, but equipping armor with light allows your character to go beyond that and higher levels are required to do certain strikes and raids, which are not out at the time of this review’s posting (the text will be updated with raid impressions soon). The grind for legendary and exotic items can take forever due to a lack of frequency of loot appearing during gameplay.
The loot system is another disappointment being a lite version of what you seen from other loot-based games like Diablo and Borderlands. It just comes down to finding a better weapon that does more damage than the one you equipped, having elemental effects such as fire and void, and keeping an assortment of each weapon type ready. The same is the case for armor looking for better defense numbers and increasing other stats such as strength and discipline (light also when at level 20 and beyond). Then there’s encrypted engrams that can end up as a random item. Especially with going for legendary and exotic items, you have to be extremely lucky when encrypting them. Spending rare items for the chance of the best helmet for example and it ends up being something not for your class is arguably the saddest thing I experienced in Destiny. In other words, all those hours of work can lead to nothing thanks to RNG when it comes to loot. This is something that had a lot of potential especially for a Bungie game, but it looks like they didn’t put much of an effort to making it worthwhile for the grind.
If there’s one thing decent enough about Destiny’s gameplay, it is the combat. The opposing AI will put up a fight and they can occasionally go in cover when in trouble, but it is usually the number of them trying to kill you than their tactics in terms of trying to get an advantage. Even with on a higher level, you’re not as invincible as you think against lower level foes when trying to go Rambo. The guns feel fine and using your class’ special abilities can be satisfying in certain moments, but the combat suffers during boss battles. These boss battles during the end of story missions and strikes are tedious because the bosses themselves are simply bullet sponges taking a few minutes to defeat. Usually, it is just firing at a boss’s weak spot and then running to cover if you’re about to die.
Other than story/patrol missions for PvE, you’ll be spending more time in the tower hub and co-op strikes. The tower is where you buy weapons, armor, encrypt engrams, get bounties and more. However, it’s main purpose is supposed to be where you can meet other players when they’re running around, but Bungie didn’t do a good job with this either. For a game being online only and being able to socially connect with other players, there is a lack of communication when it comes to this. Sure, Destiny is better playing with friends than alone, but using the tower to hopefully meet new ones as Bungie encourages you to go is lacking in execution. Strikes follow the same repetitive mission design and a bullet sponge-like boss at the end, but you’ll usually have two other people along for it thanks to the game’s matchmaking. However, weekly strikes and raids don’t have matchmaking with random players, which is another weird design decision by Bungie, but I guess I can understand why they want those to be experienced with friends only. It still wouldn’t hurt to have the option though.
The Crucible is where Destiny’s PvP multiplayer is at and considering their pedigree for the Halo games, Bungie also dropped the ball here as it is nothing special and exciting. There are the standard modes of domination called Control, team deathmatch called Clash, six-player deathmatch known as Rumble, and Skrimish, a small scale team deathmatch where teamwork actually matters. Salvage was playable last weekend, another objective mode but I don’t know why Bungie decided to have this only for a limited time. The levels don’t matter in competitive multiplayer, but it still does feel like better gear at later levels is highly recommended to go with. Crucible rep and marks can be gained by playing matches for a specific set of legendary gear which is the main reason I’m still playing it along with completing bounties. If you’re expecting to play Destiny just for the PvP, other multiplayer shooters like Titanfall and Call of Duty are better bets than this.
Destiny is indeed a beautiful looking game especially on both the Xbox One and Playstation 4. Some environments have their mystery to them such as going into the depths of the Moon. Unfortunately, the levels are just not busy enough for the graphics to shine even though the character designs are cool. The last-gen versions are not bad to look at either if you don’t have either of the new consoles. The game is definitely polished with a consistent framerate of 30 frames per second, but the load times can be long between the beginning of missions, going to the tower hub, etc. The soundtrack is also top notch to no surprise from the Bungie folks, but the voice acting by Peter Dinklage and other actors ends up falling flat going along with the disappointing story.
Did you want to become legend in a beautiful yet soulless world? That sums up Destiny as a whole honestly. Bungie managed to nail some aspects such as the core combat and the audio/visual presentation, but when it comes bringing everything together, it ends up being one, big tangled mess. There is no storyline at all with no characters and lore to care about, the world didn’t get established enough due to the lackluster storytelling, and the mission design is flat out repetitive and boring. The loot system is also underwhelming and the motivation to grind even past the level cap is not there because there’s not enough areas to explore as you’ll just end up repeating the same content over again till the DLC is out. Bungie will still have daily and weekly content out, but I have a feeling it is more of the same. I expected a lot more from Bungie as Destiny is not as special as some hoped it would be.