After months of anticipation, developer Bungie and publisher Activision shipped the $500 million juggernaut that is Destiny. Described as a shared-world-shooter, Destiny blends the MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) genre with the FPS (First Person Shooter) genre. The result is a game that, while failing to live up to the hype, still delivers on an enjoyable experience. As a note – due to Destiny having two distinctly different modes this review will discuss the Player versus Environment (PvE) and Player versus Player (PvP) modes of the game individually.
PvE Multiplayer – Story, Patrols, Strikes, and Raids
Calling Destiny a shared-world-shooter is obviously a marketing strategy, because make no mistake, Destiny is an MMO. Particularly when it comes to the way the game is represented in PvE. Less than an hour into the game, players can take their characters, referred to as Guardians, into environments that are occupied by other Guardians. While Destiny notifies you when other players are near, you can usually see each other engaging enemies nearby. For most of the story, players can completely ignore these other players, work with them on events, or join together to form groups called Fireteams, which are necessary for some of the more challenging areas. Developer Bungie does a good job of removing other players from your view when you enter into certain areas in the story. Having the choice to play solo or with a Fireteam is certainly welcome, but Destiny is best played with others. The grind of killing enemy after enemy while waiting on your Ghost (a tiny robot companion voiced by Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage) to open a door or access some random information is far more enjoyable when you are joined by other Guardians. If you use the Playstation’s party interface you can chat with the members of your Fireteam, and while you have to leave the game temporarily to properly set this up, it works incredibly well when activated. Playing with people you have not added to a party chat can be enjoyable as well, but there will be no conversation between members without it.
Destiny’s story is told through PvE and leaves much to be desired. Basically, there is light and darkness and Guardians fight on the side of the light with the enemies referred to as the darkness. The early parts of the campaign give players the feel that they are a part of a much bigger story. Unfortunately, the narrative falls into far too many Sci-Fi clichés and, most importantly, it fails to truly explain what is going on. The main narrative is supported by a lore which can be found in the way of items called grimoire cards, but most players won’t even pay attention. Additionally, players can return to Destiny’s locales for patrols, which can be accessed by selecting beacons strewn all about the land. The patrols usually involve killing several enemies to collect some nondescript item, or going to a seemingly random area on the map so Ghost can scan it. Disappointingly, doing patrols and collecting bounties for completing said patrols is part of the grind necessary to upgrade your Guardian’s armor and weapons.
Revisiting areas is another part of Destiny that will give players pause. While the locations are all beautifully made, after heading through the same tunnel on three separate occasions, things start to get old. Even in new missions, players will find themselves asking, “Didn’t I do this already?”
Strikes and Raids are enjoyable and can be considerably more challenging than Destiny’s story missions. Not only is being on a Fireteam required, players who are not members of a team will be linked with other guardians to take on these challenges. Being forced to team with others might not sound exciting to some gamers, but I have made more friends online playing Destiny since its release than playing any other game in recent memory.
PvP Multiplayer – The Crucible
One of the most important aspects of Halo’s beloved multiplayer is the map design, and Bungie shows its pedigree by delivering that same appeal in Destiny’s PvP section referred to as The Crucible. Regardless of where you are on a map, you are never too far from the action. There are also plenty of places to hide, even in plain sight. The greatness of the maps is particularly evident in Control, which is one the five PvP modes Bungie has made available since Destiny’s release. Control is the typical Hardpoint or Hardpoint domination mode, which requires teams to acquire a post from the other team long enough to raise the team flag and score points. Regardless of the map, A and C are readily accessible to one team or the other, but the B location is usually a place not to take likely as turnover between the two teams occurs at this spot most often.
Other modes include Rumble; which is a free-for-all for six characters with every person working alone, and multiplayer mainstays such as team deathmatch, referred to as Clash. All of the modes are fun to play, and what is probably most beneficial is the fact that leveling your Guardian up in The Crucible carries over to Destiny’s PvE gameplay and vice-versa. The only negative worth mentioning about The Crucible is the matchmaking. While the game puts everyone’s weapons on the same level-playing-field when playing in almost every mode within the Crucible, there is still a difference from a Level 20 Hunter and a Level 5 Hunter. The former might not be more powerful than the latter, but he/she has more skills available. It seems The Crucible would have been best served if players were afforded the chance to play with others at or around their own level. By no means does this break The Crucible, but it is certainly worth mentioning.
It is also worth mentioning that The Crucible has events during which additional modes become available at different times, including the Iron Banner, a mode that removes the level playing field and allows Guardians to battle it out and determine who truly is the best of the best.
On both the PS4 and Xbox One, Destiny’s visuals are examples of money well spent and the graphics in the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions are noteworthy as well. Destiny’s settings take place on a few locations throughout the solar system that were once inhabited. Everything from scenic vistas to the ruins of a place long forgotten, look better than you could expect. Graphically, Bungie did a good job of creating how planets such as Mars and Venus would look if they were ever inhabited. There are moments in between the action that players will find themselves taking in the sights because everything looks that amazing, and much of it feels lived in. The Guardians themselves look great especially as characters level up and acquire new armor. I often find myself opening up the game’s companion app on my iPhone just to look at the character I have created. While they do not look as good as the Guardians or the environments, enemies are well-depicted and there are enough distinct types that you can recognize each type of enemy, even if you are looking from a distance.
The mechanics in Destiny are some of the best ever in gaming. Moving around the game’s environments feels fluid and responsive, whether you are walking, running, or gliding through the air, players will feel in control of their Guardian. Shooting enemies feels good as well, and all of the guns seem to have the right amount of recoil. The melee attack which differs slightly between each class is the best melee ever put in a first person shooter. I struggle to explain the sheer joy that comes with punching an enemy in the face – it feels intuitive, and while shooting enemy after enemy can grow stale, punching them in the mouth or jabbing them with a blade never seems to do so. Destiny has easily the most forgivable auto-targeting in the First Person Shooter genre, simply aiming and firing will bring players plenty of gratifying headshots. Unfortunately, the auto-targeting can be annoying at times, particularly in the PvP modes when you’re attempting to shoot one enemy but end up shooting at another. Despite that flaw, Destiny feels great, and a new bar has been set for First Person Shooters.
Due to revisiting areas several times, Destiny is a game that often feels bigger than it actually is. This is helped by the magnificent soundtrack. From the game’s onset, sound in this game pulls you into the world. Whether you are in a shootout with a screen full of enemies or hovering in space choosing your next destination, the soundtrack feels both Sci-Fi and epic. The soundtrack is composed and directed by Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori, and also includes input from Beatles’ member Paul McCartney. Names are mentioned here because these individuals deserve tremendous credit: Destiny’s soundtrack is one of the best in gaming.
An Interesting Package
The sum of everything above has created much debate throughout the gaming community. Destiny is a game that people will either love because of its beautiful graphics, outstanding mechanics, and exciting multiplayer or loathe because its story is lacking, the grinding through patrols required to upgrade your Guardian, or because Destiny just is not as big as it seems. In my opinion, Destiny is the foundation of something fun, exciting, and different. The lack of a good story can be overlooked because it is fun to play. But Destiny’s true triumph is in the social arena. This is evident every time you receive a message from someone you did not know with an invite to a Fireteam or to ask you where they can find a particular weapon or piece of armor. As stated above, Destiny does not live up to the hype surrounded by the game, but what it does give us is something worth experiencing.
+ beautiful graphics
+ outstanding mechanics
+ exciting multiplayer
– weak story
– too much grinding for items
– repetitive environments