Date Released: August 9th, 2014
Platform: [Reviewed: Xbox One], Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3
Genre: MMOFPRPS (Massively Multiplayer Online First-Person Role-Playing Shooter)
Rated: T for Teen
I know what you guys are thinking, and yes I know that it’s been over two weeks since Destiny has come out. So why am I just getting now putting out this review? Well, I was playing it this whole time, but in large part, I was having difficulties reviewing it. I’m a huge fan of Bungie and I have played every single Halo title, but Destiny is truly something that has yet to be tackled in a FPS. It’s a first-person shooter at its core, yet it’s designed like a MMO and progresses like a RPG, hence the ridiculously convoluted genre description I made up. While Destiny falls victim to some of the tropes of the genres it borrows from, there is also an undeniable addictiveness to it, and the more you play the more hooked you become.
In the far distant future humanity is visited by a large, spherical, and benevolent entity simply known as The Traveler. His arrival brings unparalleled prosperity to humanity, granting us advanced intelligence, elongated life, and the ability to explore beyond earth and colonize planets previously uninhabitable. It was the Golden Age of humanity and with it, our destiny to live amongst the stars. But then, at the peak of the Golden Age, a horrific entity known as The Darkness who has been looking for The Traveler, wages an all-out war on humanity.
The power of The Darkness nearly wipes out every human in the solar system, but with The Traveler’s last ounce of strength, he protects the last remnants of survivors and wards off The Darkness. This war however brings about The Collapse and mankind is forced to live in the protective shadow of an incapacitated Traveler in The Last City on Earth. Many years later, a sentient A.I. discovers and resurrects your long-dead body. This Ghost believes that you can wield The Traveler’s Light against The Darkness’ forces and help stop its impending return as a Guardian of Earth.
As awesome as the backstory is, the main story missions don’t receive the same level of creativity, nor does it really get you invested into the drama behind Earth’s struggle for survival. Destiny may provide you bare-bones basics, but a compelling narrative that does not make. I then look at it as an MMO rather than a shooter, which makes me want to be a little lenient because the stories aren’t all that great in most others, but at least you know backstories, character histories, faction histories, etc. In Destiny you collect Grimoire cards throughout your travels, and once you have obtained a card you can go on Bungie.net to look at them and read up on more of the lore of Destiny. It’s a pretty nifty feature, but I have a small problem with this, which I will get back to later. Destiny has a rich lore full of potential; I know this is the first of a new series, but going with the vaguely ambiguous route is kind of disappointing, especially when know that crazy, complex, and larger-than-life stories is Bungie’s forte. I have no doubt that it will reach those levels in the future, but it does not show here in the main story missions.
However, where the game falls flat on story, it makes up with good old fashioned terrific level design, gameplay, and enemy A.I. These three elements are definitely what I expected from Bungie and more. While you will be visiting the same locations often, the design of each is so well designed that different missions that take place always feels fresh. Don’t even get me started on the enemies of the game! There are 4 alien races that use the power of The Darkness against you: The Fallen, The Hive, The Vex, and The Cabal. Each race has unique tactics that they employ, like the bulky, highly militarized Cabal who rely on heavy armor and weaponry to overpower their opponents. The robotic Vex uses their sheer numbers to overwhelm careless Guardians, stacked with no fear of death, The Vex is the perhaps a Guardians worst nightmare.
As a Guardian you have powers at your disposal to drive back The Darkness. Starting off, you can choose one of three main classes: Titan, Hunter, and a Warlock. You’re equipped with basic gear which you can replace with higher level armors and weapons as your level up. Each level achieved unlocks abilities in your subclass unique to your class like forming a protective shield around you or tossing a ball of void energy for a devastating ranged attack. These abilities are called Supers and using them in tandem with other Guardians abilities or deploying it at the right time is paramount to success, more so when you tackle harder missions. Higher level weapons and armor can also be upgraded to increase damage output and other useful abilities; if you’re particularly fond of a weapon you can stack the effect with an armor piece that makes you nearly unstoppable with it. Increased magazine size with blinding fast reload speed anyone?!
The level cap for Destiny is 20 and I know that seems a bit low as it is as it’s pretty easy to reach in one play through of the main game. But there is a level beyond 20 that isn’t achieved with experience points, but with Light ratings on Legendary or the coveted Exotic gear. Once you reach level 20 new game modes will be unlocked that will put your skills to the test. Another problem arises being part MMO is that grinding is required of you to continue unlocking new gear and subclass abilities. But this is where the addictiveness kicks in; finding new armor with higher and better stats and passive abilities is like early Christmas and once you get loot fever it’s hard to stop. A sense of worth is developed and you find that the time invested in your character as you look upon them donning Legendary and Exotic gear is so satisfying. It’s that need to keep improving that will keep you coming back for more. Come for the gameplay, stay for the cool helmet with flames for horn!
Destiny is and online-only title, which right off the bat presents a problem for some. If that’s not a problem, you are introduced to the very first social first-person shooter. Guardians all gather at The Tower, the main central hub where you can take and complete bounties, encrypt engrams found on the frontier, collect rewards, talk to the multiple vendors to purchase new weapons and armor, and interact with other Guardian. Now being online-only just begs Destiny to be played with friends, and of course there is a feature to have you and your friends form a group, or a clan, to face The Darkness as a (hopefully) well regulated fireteam. Now if you can recall, I have small problem with the aforementioned Grimoire cards, and starting a clan is in the same boat – they both require you to go to Bungie.net. Why must you bury cool features like this within the website and not have it integrated within the game itself?! I rarely see an actual member of a clan playing so it’s a shame to see this feature underused, especially when bonus rewards are granted to those who play with their clanmates.
Regardless, you are not required to be in a clan to play co-op or join a fireteam. Destiny was made for cooperative play and having two other players on your team definitely is a nice balance to the game’s difficulty, especially when tackling its three other modes of play: Strikes, Raids, and the Crucible. Strikes are essentially longer missions that have you squaring off against one or more bosses, who can easily be identified by finding the biggest and most intimidating enemy in the room whose health goes down ridiculously slow. Raids is a testament to one’s own skill as much as it’s about their communication with 5 other players. Only those who can work together efficiently can hope to overcome a single Raid.
The Crucible is Destiny’s competitive multiplayer where Guardians can test their mettle in several game modes, such as classic team and free-for all death matches, and control where you must capture three zones on a map to score points. No matter how powerful you are in the “single-player” portion of the game, in the Crucible everything is balanced out including your weapons and armor, for the most part. This balance makes each bout a contest of skill and every round is high-octane action that will have you going in all-focus mode, though having those armors that grant passive abilities help too. And this means that newcomers that are joining higher level opponents can still have fun. There are instances where some Supers are better than others. The Hunter’s second subclass has them pulling out a knife and with increased speed, armor, and insta-kill attack, he can potentially annihilate the opposing team in an instant. Talk about overpowered.
There has been more than one time when Destiny’s stunning visuals left me utterly speechless. From expansive horizons on Earth to the towering volcanos on Venus, the distant future is beautifully captured. Hell, the moment you reach Venus, a now highly-volatile planet, is when you get that sense of wonder. A future where you get to walk on a vegetative Venus is insane! It is when your reach the final story mission is where the most amazing view can be witnessed, in context with what is it and where it is, it is a grand sight to behold.
Destiny tries to be multiple things at once and it succeeds in most regards. Bungie has two decades under their belt with the first-person genre, and it shines through with tight responsive controls that I believe is still unmatched today. Though the RPG element are pretty light, interacting with Guardians in and outside The Tower gives you a sense of community, rather than just it being every man and woman for themselves. Destiny becomes more fun as you continue to invest into your character and unlock new gear, which in turn, unveils the surprising depth that is only apparent when you play beyond level 20. There’s plenty that Destiny could’ve worked on, but with new events going on like The Queen’s Wrath and others that will come in the future, you’re guaranteed to keep coming back for more well into 2015. And for a first entry in a brand new IP that simultaneously creates a new subgenre, that’s what I call paving the way toward destiny.
Overall Rating: 4.25/5