written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
It's been a month since launch, mind you we usually like to get reviews of games out to our readers within a week or so from release, but this ambitious game deserved a deeper look that required a commitment more than a week of gaming. So after one month... over 100 hours... sleep deprivation... shooting into a cave... I stand on the bodies of countless Fallen/Hive/Vex/Cabal with some very clear thoughts on this highly anticipated game.
First off, it's been a long time since I've come across a game this polarizing... not just among my fellow gamer, but also among the media. I've seen sites give it high praise or extreme criticism. I find that reviewing games likes this end up quite difficult from a writer's perspective... but I will do my best to convey my personal thoughts on the game.
Destiny comes from some prolific gaming DNA, famed developer Bungie (post-Microsoft-breakup) crafts a brand new space odyssey, but instead of centering it on one single heroic figure… you the gamer create the hero. Building your Guardian is the first step, you can choose between three classes and three races. Humans… pretty much what you expect humans to be, the Awoken… humans that evolved after living on the far reaches of space, and EXO… sentient robots with human emotions. As far as classes go, you have three distinct classes you can choose from. Titan is your soldier… a powerful tank that can absorb alot of damage, the Hunter is an agile gunslinger… bringing a knife to a gun-fight, and the most unique class is the Warlock… basically like a space-mage. Each class comes complete with two different power-sets, both dramatically changing how you play as your guardian.
Regardless of your class, you can equip up to three different types of weaponry and five pieces of armor. Your guardian is armed with a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, and a heavy weapon. Primary weapons are your auto-rifles, pulse rifles, hand cannons, and scout rifles; each has their strength and weaknesses complete with detailed statistics from range to reload speed. Secondary weapons are more specialized; sniper rifles, shotguns, and fusion rifles. Finally the big bad boom come from your heavy weapon which come in two flavors… rocket launchers and heavy machine guns. Weaponry all felt varied and balanced with Bungie diligently patching the overall balance to the weaponry. Armor shields your guardians head, chest, arms, and legs… each class also has a specific armor piece that literally does nothing… the hunter cloak, the warlock arm-band thingy, and the titan… half skirt thing. The last set of armor is more for cosmetic reasons, which makes me wonder why Bungie didn’t just attach a stat buff to it. To further customize your Guardian, you can join one of the three factions in the game and also find or purchase shaders that change the color scheme of your Guardian’ss armor.
The core gameplay of Destiny is a first person shooter, if you’ve ever played the Halo series then this will feel right at home. Thrown into the mix is a loot mechanic and an RPG like customization to your Guardian’s stats. This is by far the highlight of the gameplay, finding that new shotgun or chest piece to give your Guardian just a little bit more of an edge over the waves of enemies that come across your iron-sights. Weapon and armor drops come in the form of Engrams that need to be decrypted in order to find out what’s inside, these are purely random and when the game first launched the Cryptarch was incredibly unforgiving, items come in varying levels of rarity; common, uncommon, rare, legendary, and exotic… but due to the random nature of these engrams, you can decrypt a legendary engram but get saddled with a rare item… this has been patched out recently, now allowing legendary engrams to decrypt to a legendary or higher level item, but expecting something awesome and getting something less than awesome is no bueno.
Being social is the most major part of the game, you can solo the game and story missions aren’t really that cripplingly difficult, but the sweet spot of the entire package is when you play with your friends. You can put together strike teams of up to three guardians, taking out the hoard with friends certainly does alleviate some difficulty but if you crave a challenge you can choose to modify your story missions to play a harder version of the mission with a bonus to experience earned or items found. Aside from story missions to further the plot, you can participate in specialized strike missions which require having a strike team of three players, if you don’t have the friends to play with, the game matches you with other players; a patrol mode also allows you to complete sidequests, find items, and to just explore the world of Destiny. While not the most apt description, Destiny feels like an MMOFPS drawing cues from its contemporaries like the Mass Effect series, Borderlands, and Diablo III.
PVP is held on a separate menu within the overarching Destiny world. This prevents players from trolling other players and forces those playing within the main game world to cooperate or just ignore other players. The Crucible is pure competitive multiplayer, with multiple game types available. While not bad, nothing presented is really unique… I mean there’s team deathmatch and battle royale, but most of the game modes are simply Destiny iterations of other match types. Setting up matches is cumbersome, unless you build a fireteam there is no way to create a private match for you and your friends. I have alot of fun in the crucible, but the inability to create private matches does leave much to be desired.
Aside from shooting things, each guardian has three additional powers mapped to the shoulder buttons. A grenade, a melee power, and a super (by pressing both shoulder buttons). After a short cool down, you can use your powers again. Even jumping can be customized to your playstyle, going for a double jump or a teleportation like “blink” is all your choice. These powers don’t have the same level of balance that weaponry has, some abilities like the Hunter’s Arc Blade or the Titan’s Smash literally dominate everything in its wake. While being completely OP is super desirable when taking on waves of baddies, when playing in The Crucible it just serves to frustrate players on the receiving end of those attacks.
The most frustrating aspect of the gameplay lies solely with Bungie’s inability to explain some of the gameplay elements to the player. Some weapons come with the ability to dole out a specific type of damage in one of four categories; solar, void, arc, and kinetic. What wasn’t obvious was that when playing on higher difficulties, much of your opposition will be armed with color coded shields that could either be whittled away slowly or taken down more efficiently when using a weapon with a specific munitions type. While I discovered this by sheer luck, it would have been nice if Bungie better explained this, perhaps it could be as simple as a message from your ghost.
The weakest link of the entire package is the story; each planet follows a progression of story missions that further explain the ongoing struggle of humanity’s remnants, the Guardians, the Traveller (who I didn’t even realize was that big moon thing) and the darkness that serves to extinguish all that is good in the universe. The story felt like a mixed up blend of tried and true sci-fi plot mechanics while not really bringing much new to the genre. Even character designs feel like they are ripped directly from the backlog of Halo enemies. Destiny’s convoluted story was poorly executed, forcing players to log on to bungie.net to view Grimoire cards you’ve collected whie playing the game, these cards serve to offer a more in depth look at Destiny’s narrative, but the sheer detail in the Grimoire cards feels needlessly uneven when compared to how light the story was presented in the main game. Some story elements are presented in cutscenes, but these moments aren’t nearly presented as often as I hoped.
The voice acting also left much to be desired; Destiny’s voice talent is filled with recognizble voices. Though the cast is filled with the likes of Nathan Fillion (Firefly), Bill Nighy (Love Actually), and Lauren Cohen (The Walking Dead) all voicing NPCs, it sure didn’t feel like these top notch actors were part of the project. Peter Dinklage voices your Ghost, and by far his performance left me hoping that they would release some DLC to change your Ghost’s voice. Everyone sounded bored, and not as if they were portraying bored characters, but rather it felt like nobody wanted to be there. It’s disappointing that a game I enjoyed so much for its gameplay mechanics and (though frustrating) loot system was presented with such a lackluster story. To be honest, I enjoyed making my own story while playing with friends. We’d bullshit over chat or just look out into the horizon and imagine what’s out there, I had this little game where everytime my Ghost would say something along the lines of “they’re coming for us” or “you’ve awoken the Hive!” I’d go into full on Cleveland Brown (from Family Guy) and just go “Ohh Noooooo!”
There’s alot I like about the game; gunplay is incredibly snappy and adding these fantastical sci-fi powers into the mix is a breath of fresh air for such a saturated genre of video game. Though as much as I loved it, and the countless hours and many “Ohh Nooooes” is evident of this love, I can’t look past how disappointed I was with how they presented the story or in Bungie’s inability to explain elements about the game. I have some high hopes for the first expansion, but after a month with the game I’m fairly certain I’ll be hopping back into my Guardian’s boots very soon.
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+ Fun gunplay
+ Playing with friends
+ Grinding for loot
- the DINK (Peter Dinklage)
- lack of direction
- bored voice-acting
- the entire NARRATIVE