Having invested over 30 hours into Bungie’s open world online shooter Destiny, we take a look at the features and determine whether the game is worth your time and money. Take a look at our Destiny review for the full lowdown on one of this year’s most anticipated titles.
Today we’re taking a look at the long awaited and much hyped Destiny from Halo developers Bungie released under the watchful gaze of Call of Duty Publisher Activision. With such a highly recognized backing on all fronts it’s hard to imagine the game being anything other than exceptional, except it isn’t, and whilst it presents itself as an accomplished online centric shooter, there’s a few things that draw it away from being hailed as the second coming of shooters.
From the offset, players are tasked with choosing a Guardian character from one of three classes. They all shoot guns but have unique quirks to their characteristics which suit varying play styles such as sniping, melee attacks and defensive/offensive capabilities. Once players choose from some rather limited character customization options the game thrusts players on a future Planet Earth where the carnage begins. As players kill enemies and complete objectives, experience is gained which can be used to add more abilities to the Guardian character. The onus on extended play is on gaining all abilities from the standard and sub classes in tandem with a massive focus on hunting for rare weapons and armour. This is essentially the key hook which keeps players coming back for more as standard with dungeon crawlers, and other popular MMO games. It’s a rather solitary offering in this regard as players gain unique to their character rare drops via enemy kills or can be purchased with earned Vanguard points which are hard to come by. There’s no trading system which means players cannot gift or swap valuables with each other, it’s simply not that type of set up which in a way is a shame especially as players can be given rare drops that don’t belong to their current class. Players are then focused on entering missions looking for the elusive loot drops, returning back to the Tower hub and getting it assessed.
Destiny only really comes into its own after some hours of play and once players become familiar with how the game is designed. The aforementioned social Tower area is where players can meet others, form teams, upgrade and purchase new gear and generally set up the character for any future battles. Sadly there’s no proximity chat here which is a shame as players can’t really communicate unless they create specific fire teams. Inviting players also feels a bit cumbersome to the point where it’s easier to ignore. Solo players won’t care so much, but even then when out in the field, a bit of banter with random players would have added a bit more to the experience. Having chat options player side would have helped greatly hear and as a result some personality is lost. So, once players have decided on how to play and who, the next step is jumping into a spacecraft and heading off to either Earth, its moon, Venus, or Mars. With the latter planets becoming unlocked as players progress through the story missions. There’s lots to do on each planet although the core game is shooting and little else.
Looking at the gameplay, Destiny feels well polished with its distinct set of upgradable shotguns, pistols, machine guns, rocket launchers and so on. The game very much follows a standard routine with its weapons design which is shame as a bit more variety and futuristic slant would have been good. That said, the gunplay is tight, and easily forgiving with its headshot auto aiming against enemies who respond reasonably well by getting into cover when shot at and evading when required. There’s a fairly decent selection of enemy types to take down which is good, although in terms of combat killing requires very few tactics other than constant pressure of shooting until they drop. Larger foes present weak spots to aim for, but in most cases the bigger bosses simply ramp up their health making engagements long and drawn out processes.
Each Planet has a number of objectives which are broken down into several mission types which include, story, patrols and strike missions. Players choose either before heading down to the surface and its here where solo gamers effectively join an open game and either go it alone or join those already engaged in the fight. The worlds are fairly open with enemies spawning in at set intervals to keep them well populated at all times. It works, but does mean you can’t clear areas fully as when you move away from an area, the same enemies reappear again. There’s some neat optional co-op play thrown in at random with public events that appear from time to time and require all those in the area to team up and take down the extra tough opponents and netting some greater rewards if successful.
The story missions follow a narrative with the player’s accomplice ‘Ghost’ providing the majority of the voice work. The player character whilst not silent, doesn’t really have much to say throughout other than the odd quip here and there. The story itself somewhat feels redundant despite piecing the game together, it never reaches the kind of epic heights as seen in more focused story driven shooters. There’s a kind of disconnect here as players never really feel part of an overall campaign even though the experiences can be shared with strangers or friends. The story events seem to follow the same pattern where once players reach a designated end zone the ghost is deployed and players defend against tough opposition. It’s a shame the mission variety doesn’t offer much more than this and feels somewhat unimaginative overall. Each mission provides an open map to explore, but the end result always seems to be the same regardless of planet and character level. Story levels can be replayed over and over as customary for an MMO syle game, and once players reach the upper levels of the game’s character progression (level 20) the difficulty options become more varied. That said, the difficulty doesn’t seem to be affected in the open world areas and only changes once players reach the designated end zones which limit respawns and enclose players from interruption.
Patrol missions follow a more open ended approach and allow players the option to freely wander the planet surfaces and look for collectibles, hunt down enemy groups, search for secret areas which contain extra tough opposition or undertake random missions. This option is welcome but is fairly limited as difficulty is set and governed by the story progression and becomes too easy once players have levelled up suitably. That said, as an aside en route to reaching the level cap, these are fun distractions which are made a bit sweeter if part of a bounty requirement which can be set at the tower and grants additional experience once completed.
Strike missions are more structured and require two human controlled team mates to join you. Once in match making game, players work together to complete the objectives which much like the story revolve around defence of the ghost or taking down boss characters. These are fun missions which can last from 10 – 40 minutes, and once level 18 is reached a specific set of playlists become available where those participating are thrust into a random strike mission. Looking forward beyond the level cap and it’s clear there’s far more challenging difficulty settings to use making for a better all round coordinated experience.
Players can also undertake Raid missions once they reach suitable levels which require a six man team to join up first and then head on out to the open levels with no objective markers and an onus on pure team work to get the job done. Sadly there’s no matchmaking option for these moments and single player gamers can simply forget they exist. Raid missions provide some of the more challenging parts of the game, and better loot, which makes it a shame most gamers are going to be excluded from it due to its specific requirements when it becomes available.
For those looking for a more competitive edge, there’s a well accomplished Player versus Player option in the Crucible which offers various traditional game types to mess around with and to prove your worth. What’s neat about this is the player character from the main game carries over seamlessly keeping everything under one banner so to speak and making drop in and out play pretty flawless. With Bungie’s past heritage working with Halo, the multiplayer aspects are pretty good and feature competent matchmaking as expected.
Destiny presents some fine looking visuals from each of its distinctive locales with every area sporting a varied look to suit its environment and comprising of either a day or night overview. Character design is of a good quality although as mentioned customization options beyond armour is limited – not that you’ll be spending much time looking closely anyway. In terms of performance, Destiny runs very smoothly although admittedly there’s few moments where the game is pushed. For the persistent online play it does feel very accomplished with little hiccups during play aside from the occasional disconnect which is frustrating to say the least.
Destiny comes complete with a dramatic and well orchestrated score which fits the sci-fi theme perfectly. It’s a masterpiece which simply complements the gameplay at every turn, despite some moments where silence could have added to the tension. Peter Dinklage who provides the voice of your ghost companion does a fair job of being suitably robotic, and other characters provide solid performances too although overall there’s little dialogue.
Gamers looking for a comprehensive solo game will be pleased with what’s on offer here as the story mode takes quite a number of hours to best and then the post story activities pile on the hours adding massive amounts of replay. Whilst it’s easy to perhaps feel there’s a shortage of locations,each area is filled with numerous zones making the world feel more varied overall. It’s obvious and expected for Bungie to add more locations via downloadable content to expand the universe but as it stands there’s enough here to warrant the price tag. Players reaching the higher levels of the game can then turn their hand to acquiring elusive gear for their character, or start over with a different class if desired. It’s all about the player character progression here and the playground of planets are simply open books to explore. There are additional elements unlocked for those of higher levels such as the Strike playlists, daily and weekly missions and the forthcoming Raid modes. There are also additional secret areas to explore which players have to hunt down. In all, there’s a lot to do here if you’re well in tune with exploring for loot and little else.
Destiny certainly proves that mmo hybrid style gaming on consoles works despite some features being absent such as proximity chat and ways to easily form teams for the game’s greater challenges later on. Whilst the presentation is top quality, what really lets the overall experience down is a lack of variety within the mission structure which all play out in a similar manner. The question remains whether this is the game for you. In a nutshell, Destiny plays well, looks good and has accomplished audio elements making for a well polished experience. Gamers who simply like to shoot things and progress their character will feel right at home as this game is aimed squarely at them. Anyone else looking for a bit more depth or more engaging story might be a little disappointed as these areas are sadly lacking for most of the game. So, if you’re a dungeon crawler fan, replacing swords with guns, then Destiny provides a veritable banquet of temptations to dive in, again and again. If grinding the same levels over and over for stat changing rare gear doesn’t appeal, then the core game will hold your interest, but upon completion won’t provide much incentive to continue playing.
Score 8.5/10 – Review by Robert Cram