Destiny is one of the most highly-anticipated and ambitious games of the year. The latest sci-fi epic from Bungie comes with plenty of hype as the creators of the Halo franchise promised something unlike we have ever seen before with a huge, solar system-spanning story and unprecedented social interaction.
Destiny is set in a future where humanity is struggling for its very existence against an evil known as The Darkness. Eons before, an alien object known as The Traveler was discovered on Mars, ushering in the Golden Age of humanity, where mankind spread throughout the solar system until The Darkness arrived and triggered a collapse of human civilization. The survivors gathered in The City, the last remaining human enclave and one that is protected by the now dormant Traveler that hovers overhead.
Players take on the role of Guardians, resurrected humans infused with light from the Traveler that gives them special abilities to help them push back against the forces of The Darkness. Guardians, aided by floating robot-like entities venture out beyond the city walls and throughout the solar system to carry out a variety of missions.
The game itself is a mix of first-person shooters and multiplayer online role-playing games. A more apt description might be a scaled-down version of Mass Effect combined with the questing and social features of World of Warcraft. Players can choose from one of three different classes and level up their character and his or her abilities. Enemies drop loot that can be collected to upgrade armor and weapons.
Destiny can be played solo or cooperatively in three-man fireteams, and you will run into other players during your travels.
So does Destiny live up to the hype?
Unfortunately, the answer is no, at least not yet.
Bungie over-promised and under-delivered, but that does not mean Destiny is a bad game. It has significant flaws, but there is also a lot to like.
Destiny reminds me a lot of the first Assassin’s Creed, not necessarily in terms of the actual game but rather how it turned out.
Assassin’s Creed was billed as something groundbreaking that we hadn’t ever seen before. It was unique and unconventional, with its parkour elements and new gameplay features, not to mention its setting in the Holy Land. It had plenty of potential, but it didn’t quite get there. Assassin’s Creed was a flawed game, and those flaws–repetitive side missions, lack of variety, ease of difficulty, to name a few–kept it from being an all-time great game.
However, Assassin’s Creed was still a lot of fun to play, and even with the flaws, you could easily see the potential. The recipe for greatness was there, it just needed a little tweaking and a few missing ingredients. The game provided a solid foundation that paved the way for much-improved installments down the road.
I feel like Destiny will turn out much the same way. It’s not perfect by any means and definitely has some issues, but there are plenty of positives as well.
First, the bad stuff. There’s not much depth to the game.
Sure, you can go to various planets and the Moon, but you don’t really get to traverse them that much. For example, the Earth missions are all in Russia, and even then, it’s a small part of Russia. You don’t get to visit North America or see the remnants of Europe, it’s all just in the same old cosmodrome.
Speaking of missions, they are rather repetitive. It’s pretty much go here, deploy your Ghost, kill everything, and repeat. There’s no variety. The patrol missions are bland as well. Usually you have to kill a certain number of enemies and collect what they drop, or travel across the map to kill other enemies.
The biggest disappointment about Destiny is the social features. Bungie has long touted the social aspect of this game and how it would be the huge world filled with other Guardians, but that’s not quite the case. Yes, you’ll run into plenty of people as you travel to your various missions, but you can’t actually talk to them. There’s no proximity voice feature, which is odd considering Bungie introduced that feature in Halo 2. It’s not easy to join up with random people; by the time you go through the menus to send them an invite, they may be gone.
Matchmaking is also very limited. The story Strike missions will pair you up with random players if you’re going it alone, but the rest of the missions require you to form your own fireteam if you don’t want to go it alone. The daily and weekly challenges, as well as the Raids, also don’t offer matchmaking with random people.
My biggest complaint about the game is the lack of explanation for pretty much everything.
It’s as if you are expected to actually be a Guardian and know all this stuff. Story points aren’t well explained at all; you’re never told why you are fighting these aliens or who they actually are.
Even worse, many of the features in the game aren’t explained. It’s possible to upgrade your equipment, but they require weapon and armor parts, which you get from dismantling uncommon items. That’s not explained to you; I had to learn it by looking it up online. Another example came when I accepted a bounty to complete five Skirmish matches in the Crucible. Turns out, you have you unlock the different multiplayer modes, which again, was not explained.
Once you reach Level 20, you no longer rank up through XP. You have to acquire Light, but you’re not really told how to go about doing that and how it works. It turns out that you acquire special armor that has a light rating, and depending on that rating, you can advance beyond the soft cap of 20.
Now, on to the good stuff.
It’s a Bungie game, so you know the gameplay is going to be outstanding and that it will work and work well. Everything runs smoothly; there aren’t any glitches or errors that detract from the experience. The mechanics are solid, the controls are intuitive, and the combat is tight and well-done. Graphically, the game is gorgeous with stunning vistas and plenty of minute details. There are a variety of weapon types for different play styles, so players have a lot of choice and freedom in how they can choose to play.
Most importantly, the game is just fun to play, especially when it’s done with others. It is markedly more enjoyable when played cooperatively rather than just on your own.
The Strike missions are a lot of fun and can be challenging, and while I haven’t yet played a Raid (the first one requires you to be at least a Level 26), they look and sound awesome.
Destiny doesn’t reach the lofty bar that has been set, but a solid foundation has been laid. Bungie has stated that it has a ten-year plan for Destiny, and the game was designed from the ground-up with the ability for additions and improvements to be added down the road. The issues with Destiny are relatively minor and can be easily fixed; major rebuilds aren’t required. As time progresses, I believe Destiny will become an awesome game, and even if it doesn’t, Destiny 2 is going to be incredible.
Regardless of what the future holds for Destiny, the present is still pretty good.