Destiny Review – Prologue to Greatness (PS4)
Chances are you’ve already passed judgement on Destiny, whether you’ve played it or not. With a game of such massive scope, it is understandable. We’ve been inundated with Destiny information for the last year and it’s been hard not to either hop on the hype train at full steam, or completely hate Bungie for building the hype to near unmanageable levels, depending on which side of the fence you fall on. Now that I’ve had a chance to sufficiently explore the game for myself, I’ve finally been able to come to my own conclusions on just what kind of game Destiny is.
My first day with the game was the day before release, and most of that time was spent taking on Destiny’s story content solo. I would see a few people around the Tower — the game’s central hub area — but I was largely on my own. This allowed me to focus more on the story and lore in Destiny, but more on the narrative later. Playing the game solo contrasted significantly from teaming up with friends upon the full release. Destiny is designed to be a game played with people. It is possible to play it alone, but the real adventures begin the moment you gather your fireteam to take on a strike that is above everyone’s level. I’ve even had random players that I have come across in the world join my fireteam as we took on a single mission together, and then go their own way as soon as the mission was completed. The social aspect is the real bread and butter, but also has faults.
One such fault is that party chat is limited to your fireteam members. There is no proximity chat or even chat among your team in the Crucible. I played a competitive match where our very own Dan O. joined my fireteam, yet was placed on the opposing team. Even so, our chat was only with each other, and I had no method of communicating with my team. I really wanted to tell that guy that a member of the opposing force was approaching the control point from behind him, but I could only watch as he was melee attacked from behind and we lost control. Even when Dan was on my team, we could only communicate with each other. This can be alleviated by having a full fireteam of six players that want to play the Crucible together, but this is a poor workaround to what should be basic in team based competition. This is one of a few problems with PvP, the others being offset matchmaking and balancing issues with the character abilities.
The story in Destiny is not the primary focus, and is offered in such a way that it doesn’t impede players who just want to play the game. The problem is that it feels so thin in the actual game, and when you have to log into Bungie’s site or app to read grimoire cards for expanded information on the universe, races, and lore, it can mean that much of the intended story will fall by the wayside. Save for a scant number of cutscenes, each mission is explained with monologues during the loading screens. It feels like the story could grow to the expansive levels of something like Mass Effect in the future, but this first outing feels like an encyclopedia of information about the universe that we’re about to take part in rather than a part of a larger story. I’m hoping Destiny 2 raises the bar with excellent supporting characters and intriguing beats to drive the gameplay.
Lack of strongly present story aside, Destiny’s presentation is grand. The first time that I looked back up at Earth after landing on the moon, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of this not just being another map in a game, but truly being in another place away from the terra firma that I was used to. It’s rare that a game is able to evoke that feeling, and while I’ve mentioned it before, Mass Effect again comes to mind. The soundtrack is another piece that expertly pulls every moment in the game together, evoking just the right emotion for each scenario and reacting organically to what is happening in the game.
A lot of the fun that I had — and am still having — with Destiny is in challenging myself. Playing it safe is what feels repetitious, but when I take on the challenges in the game such as high level strikes and heroic missions, I always feel a sense of accomplishment and fun. This is amplified, as I mentioned before, when playing with friends. Destiny’s truly great moments are created by the player, rather than scripted by Bungie. They simply provide the canvas. One such moment had my swarmed on all sides by Vex. I let off a boosted double jump, switching to my rocket launcher on my way up and sending a shell to the crowd right beneath me, killing them all and barely saving my life. Other insane moments come when playing high level strikes with my fireteam, and having to coordinate our every action with constant communication.
Gameplay is fairly straightforward as a shooter goes, feeling a lot like a blend between Borderlands and Halo, both of which are fantastic games, so this is not a bad thing by any means. Missions will grant loot drops that you can use to outfit your character. Beyond level 20, these loot drops are very important to further leveling, as high level items will have a stat called Light that acts as experience for the higher levels. Yes, it is a bit of a grind to reach these higher aspirations, but anyone familiar with MMO’s and Diablo style games will be used to this. It is simply that concept, applied to a shooter.
It’s the little things that make Destiny, like finding the hidden ‘Activate Fan’ command in the Tower and creating a rush of upwards air for anyone standing on the giant fan above the kiosk in the main area. There is also a soccer ball and odd anti-gravity ball in the Tower that you can kick around. Combine these two, and my fireteam and I had tons of fun getting a ball to the roof and blasting it and each other into the air using the fan, laughing hysterically the entire time. Others in the tower noticed our antics and joined in the fun on the roof for well over 15 minutes. This is Destiny; this social interaction and self created entertainment using the canvas and paints that Bungie has given us.
There is a ton of content to support Destiny already, with plenty of future support planned. I have already spent over 25 hours with my Titan’s main subclass alone, and I haven’t even done everything I have wanted to yet. Each class feels unique to play as, not to mention the variance that secondary subclasses offer once you reach level 15. By my math, I could very easily get over 100 hours out of the game with the currently available content, and yet Bungie has still planned to add raids, events, and expansion packs that will offer even more content for players, not to mention the continuation of the franchise in the years to come.
Destiny is a great prologue, but it is still just a prologue. It’s like telling somebody all about Middle Earth; the races, the lands, the set up for the story, but not telling them of Bilbo’s adventures in The Hobbit or the fellowship’s journey in The Lord of the Rings. While it is not the story, there is a certain pull to Destiny that keeps me coming back for more. Bungie have created something special that I think we will see continue to bloom in their persistent support of the game. Destiny is organic in presentation and execution, and like going on a hike on your favorite trail, is never quite the same each time you play. I am still having a ton of fun in this world and can see myself getting many more hours of fun in the weeks and months to come.
Destiny review copy provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. Also available on PS3. For more information on scoring, read our Review Policy here.