Welcome to the Daily Grind
Destiny has been out now for nearly a month and I feel I’ve finally played enough to give a comprehensive verdict on the latest entry from Bungie. Having created the blockbuster Halo series, the pressure was on to see if Bungie’s new franchise would once again revolutionise first person shooters. For those of you hoping this game was going to be the earth-shatteringly amazing fps experience you were promised, it is highly likely you’ll walk away unsatisfied and probably more than a little disappointed. That’s not to say Destiny is a bad game, there’s much to enjoy and for the first 25 hours or so I had a blast exploring this new universe Bungie have created. It’s what follows those 25 hours (and a few other things) that unfortunately drags Destiny down.
So let’s start with I liked about Destiny, firstly the look and feel of the game are great. The graphics are clean and smooth, each of the planets looks incredible with stunning vistas and small details which really add to making these environments feel alive. From the birds and rivers of Earth to watching your feet make dusty footprints on the Moon and Mars, the art department have really done well with giving you a space to play in and explore, but making it feel like part of a much bigger environment. From the Moon you can look up and watch as the Earth steadily rotates, and you can see for miles across the sand dunes of Mars. True you can’t actually get your character to any of these places off in the distance but the areas Bungie have created are expansive enough that it will take you a good while to cross, even with your trusty sparrow to hand. As a shooter Bungie’s prowess in the field shines through, controls are responsive and accurate and will feel familiar to Halo players. The 60 frames per second really enhances the gameplay, particularly in the PvP modes. The audio in the game is fantastic, the music is appropriate and well incorporated, weapons sound satisfying to fire and the melee makes a suitable crunch when brought into contact with an enemy’s face.
Progression in the game at the start has a good pace with new gear and weapons appearing often, easily swapped in and out from the well designed user interface. Your character has four slots of armour, head, arms, torso and legs. The sections are of a good size, I found it very hard to accidentally select the wrong item and each of the armour/weapon stats are clear and obvious. On the left of your character are slots for a primary, secondary and heavy weapon working on the same system, as someone that hates examining armour and weapon numbers to figure out which is slightly better than another, I appreciated that Bungie have simplified the process making it easy to upgrade and improve your character. As you complete the story missions you unlock new abilities on a skills tree based around which class you selected at the beginning of the game. You can choose from either Warlock, Titan or Hunter each with their own skills and abilities. I chose Warlock so that I could conjure a giant ball of space magic to hurl at my enemies, Titans are essentially walking tanks and Hunters have the ability to one shot kill for a duration. Each class can learn to double jump and glide, which really adds a vertical dynamic to combat and makes movement feel fluid and engaging. In fact, all the while you are earning experience Destiny keeps you driving forward with new rewards and abilities, which makes you miss it all the more when you hit the level cap at a mere level 20. I don’t feel that I raced to level 20 or did anything to greatly enhance my experience gain other than just playing the game at my own pace and yet I hit the cap far sooner than I was expecting. But once I had finished the campaign (more on that shortly) and hit level 20 my enjoyment of Destiny began to wane.
We were promised that Destiny would evolve and keep us interested post level 20, what happens however, is exactly the opposite. It doesn’t evolve so much as stop. Levelling up becomes about obtaining legendary armour and upgrading it’s ‘Light’ levels, this has a negative impact on character customisation. Having spent ages finding armour you’re happy with you then have to trade it in if you want to progress and wear whatever it decides to give you just because it has one or two points more light. I say ‘decides to give you’ as the loot system in Destiny is appalling. Loot is randomly assigned based not on performance or the challenge completed but purely by luck. Say you’re taking part in the weekly strike mission that Bungie promises will yield rare items, having completed it on a ridiculously hard setting your reward may be something you have, something for another class or you may just get nothing at all. In competitive multiplayer it works the same, if you have an outstanding match and annihilate the other team, come top of the leaderboard etc. it’s entirely likely that you will receive nothing and another player lingering at the bottom of the table, will get something incredible having barely played at all. Destiny post-level 20 seems to have one rule, play the same modes against the same enemies and play ALOT. Success in Destiny is all about who can grind for the longest until they get lucky. It’s all my gameplay consists of now, I log in, check the daily bounties (mission specific challenges that yield a bit more reputation for factions) go do those and then log off again. Earning reputation allows you to buy legendary armour to level up but you have to reach at least three thousand reputation before you can buy anything and at +10 reputation for each activity that takes a VERY long time. Whilst Destiny’s gunplay is fun and well developed, it’s just not quite fun enough to sustain hours on hours of shooting the same four alien factions, who are, sadly, very underdeveloped.
Which leads me on to Destiny’s other shortcomings. As I just mentioned there are four different alien factions for you to slaughter around the universe, and whilst they appear interesting at first there is very little explanation as to their motivations or why you should be shooting so many of them. This partly feeds from Destiny’s extremely disappointing single player campaign, there is next to no explanation for ANYTHING. Characters you meet seem to be deliberately obscure with the information they give you. They have awful lines of dialogue such as ‘I could tell you of the great battle long ago’ and ‘I don’t even have time to tell you why I don’t have time to tell you’. As a result of no-one telling you why you should do the missions they set you, it makes it very difficult to care about any (of the very little) that happens. This is further hampered by the lazy mission structure, objectives consist of ‘go here, hold x, then defend against waves of enemies’. The final mission is nothing unique or interesting, there’s no impressive boss or villain behind it all, just three OF THE EXACT SAME mini bosses to fight. My only thoughts on reaching the end were simply, ‘is that it?’ Coming from those responsible for the expansive universe of the Halo series I was expecting so much more from the story and campaign.
Destiny struggles from trying to bring the social experience of an MMORPG and melding it with the accessibility of the fps on consoles. It encourages you to be social with players sharing maps together and running missions in tandem, which brings a good sense of being part of a shared world but Bungie have also made interaction very difficult. There’s no easy way to message or open chat with other players without going through the Xbox live channels, and you cannot trade items with other players, something particularly frustrating when you can gain loot items you can’t use but your friends can and vice versa. Also there’s a distinct lack of matchmaking, PvP teams are usually mismatched with no account for how skilled players are, leading to some frustrating matches. The weekly heroic strike, which is a harder variant of a strike mission, designed to challenge players for supposedly better loot (if you get it), also has no matchmaking meaning you’re likely to find yourself doing it alone. Which is impossible.
I want to love Destiny, I really do, it has lots of great ideas and things it gets right but the things it gets wrong are just far too frustrating. Awful story, poor loot distribution and the endless grinding just drag down what could have been a real step forward for the fps genre. I would say my overall feeling toward Destiny is one of disappointment. I want to play more but every time I load it up I just can’t bring myself to grind through the same thing for hours for very little reward. I had a great time initially, gunplay is great, exploring the worlds on your speeder-bike-esque sparrow is great fun and (when balanced) PvP provides some great moments with friends. But I just can’t forgive Bungie and Activision for hyping this game to such ridiculous levels when it just feels quite hollow beneath the surface. Perhaps the content I seek will be in the expansion packs they keep pushing but, to be honest, it should have been included in the first place. It’s supposed to be ADDITIONAL content, not ripped out from the original game and sold separately. Destiny just misses out on a slightly higher score because unfortunately it’s lack of new content for post level-cap players and poor mission structure just drag it beneath the 7 mark.
Destiny receives a final score of: 6/10
Reviewed on Xbox One