It would be remiss, let alone unnecessarily challenging, to try to critique Destiny without referencing Bungie’s crowning success Halo. Since it’s debut in 2001, Halo has become synonymous with the Xbox brand and is one of the most successful shooters in the past decade – both critically and commercially. With the gauntlet of Halo resigned to Bungie’s past, the Chicago-based studio have been hard at work on their first new franchise in 13 years attempting to redefine the first-person shooter space one again. Whilst Destiny may not spark such a revolution, it is an exceptionally polished title that tries to evolve the franchise ripe for change, though it ends up flawed and a little bit soulless.
Destiny is truly a game unlike any other I’ve ever played; the smoothness of the experience, the near perfection of the gameplay, the wonder of its appearance and delightfulness of the soundtrack, are all marred by a repetition and grinding nature that will slowly but surely wear you down. Without a doubt, Bungie have crafted a simply stunning game that wows time after time and never fails to impress; however, there just isn’t enough of it. It’s the equivalent of a world-renowned chef concocting the most expert three-course meal but dishing up just the starter each and every time.
A Tale of One Guardian
The universe as to which Destiny is set is engrossing and one that will surely expand and become an encompassing bounty of interest. Unfortunately though, the narrative is vastly underwhelming and ultimately forgetful. The ability to recount the gist of the plot is within my capability without additional research, but to understand the real specifics of what actually happens required some memory refreshing – not the best sign.
The Golden Age
Seven hundred years from now, a prosperous period of exploration, peace and technological advancement has withered into nothingness. Humans have colonized planets within their solar system before “The Collapse” saw an end to the Golden Age as the colonies fell.
With mankind on the brink of extinction, the only known survivors refuge on Earth, protected by a white, spherical celestial body named “the Traveler”. The Traveler’s remarkable power allows the Guardians – the defenders of the City – to wield “The Light” – an unknown power – as they attempt to save Earth’s last safe city from an alien threat.
Opening in an area of Earth now known as Old Russia, you play as a Guardian in a solar system plunged into darkness; a small hovering robotic being known as a Ghost revives you before you set out on your adventure to fight back against the Darkness that is engulfing the celestial body ‘the Traveler’ and you solar system.
Across multiple worlds, fighting off a variety of interesting and diverse foes you engage in battle after battle to achieve whatever premise has been thrust upon you this time around. One of Destiny’s biggest flaws is the lack of variety in what you actually do. Whilst most other shooters fail to address the issue of a rinse-and-repeat scenario of clearing out an environment, Destiny feels far too restrictive for such a vast scope of a title.
You go to a predefined location, clear an area of the enemies, move onto the next area, do the same again, continue to do this until you reach the final one where there’ll be a boss and then you’re done. Perhaps it’s being a tad harsh on a title that ultimately does no more nor less than most other shooters, but it doesn’t refrain from it appearing as though the same gameplay loop is short but sweet – which unfortunately isn’t enough here.
Blending aspects of massively-multiplayer online (MMO) titles is a cornerstone of the always-online element of Destiny – something that is brilliant when you want to group up in a three-man fireteam or rely on the suitable matchmaking, but frustrating when you get disconnected whilst playing a mission solo. The grinding nature of leveling up upon completion of the story will be a huge drain for those unwilling to team up or simply unable to; then again the sheer size of Destiny’s launch and the already impressive array of post-launch content suggests that it will maintain a high audience for quite some time.
The lack of true customisation – beyond choosing a class, picking the best equipment, and, at level twenty, an armour shader – is a disappointment and indicative of the many things that are unfortunately absent. Upon selecting one of the three races – Human, Awoken and Exo – you are able to customise their faces; however, for Exos especially, this is redundant as when you select a new helmet your look completely changes and removes any semblance of personalisation.
A trio of classes – Warlock, Titan and Hunter – allow for some specific upgrades abilities but don’t truly lend themselves to one playstyle or another; this is a positive or negative depending on how you like your classes to be structured.
Likewise, you have the option between multiple ships for which to watch during the unacceptably long load times. The inability to have any direct impact onto the appearance of what is essentially a loading prop that you’ll see for more time that I wish to is frustrating.
The post-level twenty advancement requires “light” found on specific equipment which, although an inventive way of levelling up, makes all other equipment with a lower light value redundant and effectively kills any choice with regards to what equipment to utilise.
As previously mentioned, the aesthetics of Destiny are something to behold. Whether it’s down on planet Earth, walking across the Moon or speeding across the lush environments on Venus, Destiny is simply stunning.
The RPG (role-playing game) functions of Destiny are clear to see beyond just the experience levelling of your characters. Enemies are also given a level and display their health bar above their heads, whilst damage is visualised numerically with every successful hit. As a result this means that your character’s level directly impacts the amount of damage you can dish out and incidentally the difficulty of a particular mission for you. With the Crucible (the multiplayer component of Destiny) sharing the same experience as the Vanguard side of the title (any of the normal story missions, strikes, raids or free-roam) it can mean that you could end up doing the some of the earlier missions as a far higher level than required. Thankfully though, various difficulties have been implemented to allow for a challenge to be had no matter your level.
If player on player action is more your forte then the Crucible mode is for you. A well balanced competitive mutliplayer provides a high-octane but focused battle where moments of ultimate power will send waves of satisfaction through you. When you pick up and use the random and fleeting heavy weapon ammo drops or successfully eliminate multiple foes with your super ability it is incredible.
With a set of modes that offers sufficient choice and variety, the Crucible does a good job at keeping things exciting and fresh with your staple shooter genres each with a twist here or there. The benefits of your higher levelled players are nullified so even the early levelled players can have a fair fight.
Strikes are where Destiny really comes into its own though. Teaming up with friends, coordinating and taking on a set of enemies that are perhaps just a fraction too powerful for you will result in some terrific moments and teamwork. Then there’s the Raids – well just a single Raid so far. Designed for six players instead of the usual three, the Vault of Glass is brutally difficult and demands the best from your fireteam. You’re left to your own devices rather than led around by your Ghost and it creates some fantastic, differing experiences.
Destiny lacks some qualities that could have seen it up in the echelons of first-person shooters. Thankfully the key gameplay mechanics are terrific and the universe is waiting for expansion – it doesn’t hurt that it looks beautiful either. However, there’s a real disappointment that the lack of variety and sense soullessness has let it down. If the stream of new and refreshing content continues then this may change in time – and will bode for a bright future for Destiny – but for now it’s a brilliant entree without a main meal to go with it.