TL;DR- Destiny boasts excellent visuals, an elaborate eco-system, tons of customization, and some of the most solid core mechanics seen in a first-person shooter in quite some time. While this game is a pretty close to heaven-sent for die-hard shooter fans who enjoy MMO-like grinding, non-shooter fans who either have a small amount of patience for the monotonous mowing down of NPCs, or only venture to this genre for narrative driven experiences, may find it tough to fully appreciate Destiny.
Racing across the Ishtar Sink of Venus, I find myself critically pondering my purpose for being here. I have no idea who “The Traveler” is, nor what any of the convoluted mess is that this Peter Dinklage-sounding robot is spewing. On my face: a churning frown of perplexity– though you couldn’t tell from the legendary mask that covers it, which I am currently farming items for so I can upgrade it. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a group of rookie guardians being overwhelmed by Vex forces. I’m faced with a dilemma: continue my personal agenda of farming and scanning enemy outposts for the sake of leveling up, or halt my progress to help the troubled fireteam, receiving absolutely no benefit from the situation. My conscience gets the better of me, and I whip my sparrow into an absurdly sharp left turn just as fast as I finalize my decision– it’s. about. to go. down.
Racing within the vicinity of my targets, I abandon my speeding sparrow and go flying through the air, drawing fire from the surrounding hostile forces. My hunter’s level is too high, thus making their incoming fire seem as if it were being shot from weak and feeble squirt guns, hardly damaging my armor. My gun, on the other hand, is what I like to refer to as “stronk,” and only a couple of clips are needed to dispose of the alien forces. They’re gone in the blink of an eye. As I revive the downed rookies, they all wave before commencing in a group dance session– a nonverbal thank you to me for assisting them.
So, I join them, and we dance. We have no clue why our characters are in this universe, nor what our true purpose as guardians is besides being heavily irritated by legendary engrams. For the Destiny lore is completely unbeknown to us, as the spiritless NPCs of the tower only offer us a microscopic fraction of personality and engagement. But what we do know is, despite all of our uncertainties, we’re having one hell of a time. And for that reason, we are at peace.
Now I realize the true potential that Destiny has: for every place where this game’s narrative is lacking (a lot of places), there’s potential for moments like these, where the player creates stories of his/her own. The moment I just described isn’t something you can experience in any other console gaming experience to date, which is a testament to just how ambitious Destiny is. The game has a lot of MMO-like qualities, but is by no means your traditional MMO. It is a persistent first-person shooter experience that takes place in a universe shared by other players. After two weeks of playing this game, can it be said that Bungie achieved everything they set out to at launch?
Getting this out the way now: no. Destiny‘s storyline is still extremely hard to get into. Blame it on the lack of character development, the lifelessness of the game’s safe haven, the Tower– which feels more like a glorified 3D menu as opposed to an actual colony– or even the possibility that the actual grind of Destiny completely overshadows the narrative that exists. It’s a bit of a shame, considering how fun it is exploring the visually appeasing landscapes of the game. There’s never a deep connection with anything in the game’s lore, and I find myself more invested in what chest piece I’m wearing, as well as what’s required to upgrade it, rather than anything else.
But there is story to be enjoyed, if you’re committed enough to finding it. Some games let their stories play out through written documents or audio logs that you find within the game’s environment. Destiny, on the other hand, forces players to hop on their computers and study Grimoire cards, which are collectible items that give you background on the game’s lore, but are only viewable outside of the game. This definitely does not support Destiny‘s already poorly executed plot, and I hope that for future expansions, Bungie makes a better effort to convey the ideals of the Destiny universe within the gameplay, as opposed to via extracurricular research.
But as I implied before, the lacking plot line is only a petty omission if you take into account how fun this game is. The core mechanics of Destiny are as polished as you’ll find in any first-person shooter. I doubt there’s a better place for the melee attack than the L1/LB button, which is conveniently placed right below the trigger, keeping the game’s offensive-minded functions on the top of the controller. The game also adds to the list of shooters coming out this year that focus heavily on transversal gameplay, giving players the ability to double jump, triple jump, teleport, or use a jetpack to leverage the games verticality infused map layouts. There were lots of progressive decisions made by Bungie in terms of movement, with the ability to quick and easily summon a sparrow being an ingenious way to beckon players to explore and move about Destiny‘s play areas. From a gameplay standpoint, Destiny is a step forward for the console first-person shooter genre.
Competitive gamers are likely to find Destiny‘s “Crucible” component to be loads of fun. This is the PvP (player vs player) area of the game, which allows folks to team up in groups of six, three, or by themselves across several different match variants. Hopping into “Crucible” can be a little intimidating at first, especially for beginners who are playing against more experienced players that have managed to obtain abilities that you unlock at higher levels. It’s worth noting that all of the armor and weapon statistics are disabled during PvP matches, so a legendary gun won’t do more damage than an uncommon. Of course, you can always obtain all of the abilities and gear on the PvE side of the game before hopping into “Crucible,” though that’s not to say that a little practice learning the maps and the flow of “Crucible” matches won’t be necessary.
Destiny‘s eco-system is another area that rewards players for their dedication and patience– the game becomes far more enthralling when you reach level 20, and upgrading light-based armor becomes the only means of obtaining a higher rank. You’ll find yourself even more engaged in the PvE elements of the game like completing strikes and going between planets to farm different minerals and items, as well as completing daily missions and bounties in order to increase your level. The MMO-like grinding can seem repetitive, but once you’re invested in leveling a character, you’ll find it hard to put the game down, especially considering how polished the game’s mechanics are.
Destiny is a game that, out of the gate, could easily fall flat on its face pulling a player into its world. But with a bit of diligence, players will discover that Destiny has a lot going for it: the game is graphically alluring, absurdly addictive and has laid a great foundation for future updates. After a full two weeks with the game, and with the recent addition of 6-player raids, my final rating for Destiny is:
4 out of 5 burritos
This review was completed using a PS4 copy of Destiny provided by Activision. We’ll be revisiting this title periodically as the game’s universe expands and will be on hand this December with a follow-up review for the game’s first expansion.