By: Douglas Nash
Destiny is hard game to classify. The game isn’t Halo just in a different universe, nor is it just Borderlands with prettier visuals. Destiny is in fact a whole bunch of different types of game mechanics thrown together that when combined, create a unique feeling game that doesn’t always work. But when it does, it manages to make you forget all about its terrible story, poor loot system, and monotonous levelling mechanics.
It’s best to get this out of the way at the start. Destiny’s story is terrible; not because it’s poorly written (well there’s that too) but because it’s barely there. During the game’s 12 hour story campaign, there are a total of five cutscenes that run maybe five minutes each. The amount of story delivered in this game is so minimal I have yet to find a single person who even knowns what happened in it.
The game even teases the player with promises to delver to some kind of story only to snatch it away one second latter. At one point in the game, one of its many nameless and soulless characters says “I don’t even have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain”. For a game that is meant to launch a ten year franchise for Bungie, developers of Destiny, and the critically lauded Halo series, this lack of a basic story or even named characters is baffling.
To be fair, the game does make an attempt to explain its universe to the player with “Grimoire”cards, which function as the game’s codex. Though there are two massive problems with the cards that cripple the feature and make it borderline pointless. The most glaring of which is that you can only read the cards on Bungie’swebsite, or the Destiny mobile app. Making the simple act of trying to learn about Destiny’s universe something players have to go out of their way to do. I don’t to stop the game to learn why a wizard came from the moon. The second problem is that a neat universe is not a substitute for an engaging story. The combination of poor story telling and world building results in a world that feels soulless and sterile. I don’t care about the world or story of Destiny, and I don’t feel like it cares about me.
Thankfully where Destiny’s story utterly fails, it’s gameplay more then makes up for its short comings, provided you’re playing with friends. If you don’t plan to play Destiny with friends, don’t buy this game. While Bungiehas said that you can play this game solo and have a good time, it is by far the least enjoyable way to play Destiny and while you might have fun at first, Destiny’s limited offering of repetitive single player options will cause you to burn out quickly.
That’s not to say that Destiny isn’t any less repetitive when you play with friends. It’s probably one of the most repetitive shooters I’ve ever played. Though it’s repetitive in the same way game’s like Diablo, Borderlands, World of War Craft, etc are repetitive. Albeit with better encounter design then any of those games which does help to mix up the repetition. The fun of Destiny comes from playing the same levels over and over again with your friends on harder difficulties, in the pursuit of better loot to strengthen your character. The fun, like in many games of this style, comes solely from the combination of hanging out with your friends while also building up your Guardian.
Loot and character progression is Destiny’s only draw to keep players coming back. And to Destiny’s credit, it is really fun upgrade and outfit your character with better gear. When players boot up Destiny for the first time they will be given a a choice of three different classes to choose from: the Warlock, the Hunter, or the Titian. Each class plays more or less the same except with slightly different skills that give each class slightly different passive or active abilities. Each class also has a special, super ability that allow each class to devastate the battlefield in different ways, such as the Hunter’s one shot revolver or the Titan’s massive ground pound. Each class also has a subclass that players unlock at level 15 that can drastically alter their play even further. Though it’s not until the late game where each class starts to feel unique and different, aside from their different supers. Until then it feels like they’re just different space marines with varying senses of fashion.
Late game is both where Destiny is at it’s most monotonous and its progression least fulfilling. Up until the end game, progress is a steady upward progression where you slowly replace your older gear with newer, better gear of increasing rarity. When you hit the soft level cap of 20, Destiny throws in a curve ball. To increase your level over 20 you have to equip armour that has a new “Light” stat attached to it. The only gear in Destiny that has Light attached to it is rare gear, legendary gear, or exotic gear. Getting said gear brings the sense of progression to a halt, and it is here that Destiny devolves into a slow slog.
The reason for this is because in an attempt to make your gear matter more, the loot drops are few and far between. To the game’s credit, it does make my ever growing arsenal of death machines feel far more meaningful then it would in other loot driven games. Though, there is nothing more frustrating then running a Strike (Destiny’s three person co-op mandatory missions) for what feels like the millionth time only to get uncommon gloves.
To be fair, Destiny does offer a second route to get legendary gear through the game’s faction system. Players can grind out Vanguard marks earned through the game’s single player and co-op content. Alternatively, dudes that really want to shoot stuff can grind out Crucible marks through the game’s competitive multiplayer, aptly called “The Crucible”. They can then use these currencies at the requisite faction after they have amassed enough reputation with that faction to buy stuff from them.
Though once a player has finally gotten that Legendary or Exotic item they’ve been dying to get their hands on, it is on the begging of the post game climb. This is because in Destiny each individual item be that, a weapon or piece of body armour also has it’s own progression tree. Just like all of Destiny’s othercool ideas it tries to implement. It winds up making progression feel like a chore. So what conceivably came about as an idea to make players more attached to their gear, becomes a grind fest as players are forced to go back to lower level zones to farm endlessly for upgrade materials.
Destiny is best enjoyed as something you don’t actively pay attention to. So get your podcasts ready if you don’t want to feel like you aren’t actually accomplishing anything in the game.
Destiny’s actual end game content such as its weekly challenges, which are just strikes reworked with different difficulty modifiers, or Destiny’s raid known as The Vault of Glass are a total blast with friends. I have to stress with friends because there is no matchmaking for these activities and they are so challenging that if you to do it with random players you wouldn’t get very far.
Though unlike other missions that are super stingy with Legendary or Exotic gear, these missions will throw these items at you non-stop. This refreshes the aspect of item discovery from the start of the game. Having said that, once you get one of those ultra powerful items you still have to back into the world to farm materials to upgrade it.
Destiny’s competitive multiplayer also bears a quick mention. You unlock it the second one of your characters reaches level 5 and it certainly becomes far more interesting in the end game. Destiny’s multilayer plays like a mix of both Halo and Call of Duty with the focus on precision of a Halo game and the speed and weapon and skill progression of Call of Duty.
When players enter The Crucible, they are equipped with all of their weapons, skills, and armour. Players can also gain experience and gear through competitive multiplayer which means that fighting other players never feels like you’re wasting your time.
In an attempt to make multiplayer more fair every combatant, regardless of actual level and effectiveness of their equipment, fights on the same level. So regardless of how much defence your armour se can boast or how damaging your gun can be, it doesn’t matter in The Crucible. Everyone is the same.
The Crucible won’t light the world on fire and it probably won’t overtake Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Halo itself. But it is fun in its own right and I’ve lost hours using my new weapons on countless other players.
Destiny is a a deeply flawed game that puts far too much emphases on grinding as a primary mechanic, but if you’re looking for a fun game to play with friends you’d be hard pressed to find a better option.