Review | Destiny
Bungie’s long-awaited, highly anticipated, online first-person shooter, Destiny, is finally here. Its publisher, Activision, created a massive amount of hype for Destiny and boasts a budget of $500 million dollars. So, does the game live up to the hype? The simple answer is no. However, it’s still a good game, and it constantly keeps me coming back from more.
The weakest element of the game is its convoluted, contrived story. In short, it is a huge letdown. Destiny puts players in the role of a Guardian of the last inhabitable city on planet Earth. Hundreds of years ago, an entity called the Darkness attacked the planet. The Darkness is the enemy of The Traveler, a seemingly benevolent spherical entity that humans encountered on Mars. The Traveler ushered in a new Golden Age of humanity, but the Darkness put a stop to that. Guardians are now traveling the galaxy to drive back alien armies that apparently serve the Darkness. The problem: In terms of story, Destiny gives players next to nothing. There are many rumors about why the story for the game was essentially sacked. Joe Staten, the game’s lead writer, left Bungie, and some think this led to other problems with the story. There a lot of cool-looking characters, but they do not bring much to the table. The game raises a ton of questions about the world and what has happened. Answers are blatantly teased but never given. In one cutscene, the even Speaker says he could tell the main character what has happened…and does not.
Destiny does have elements of a good story. One positive is the Grimoire feature on the Bungie app and the Bungie website. The Grimoire adds some interesting backstory and profiles for equipment, alien races and factions in the Destiny world; but it really does absolutely little to rectify the major problems of the story. Also, the Grimoire is not a fulfilling way to see the story unfold. The problems with the story in the game even existed during the beta version. Unfortunately, the final version does not fix any of the issues. The story for the game is absolutely broken.
At the beginning of the game, the main character is dead and revived by an AI robot called Ghost. The character never wonders who he/she was before and what happened to him. How did the main Guardian die? Why is he only being brought back to life hundreds of years later? Not only that, the game casts a lot of big stars in rather pointless, cold roles. With Peter Dinklage’s pedestrian delivery as Ghost, Nathan Fillion as Cayde-6 and Bill Nighy as the Speaker, I was surprised to see such big name talent in roles that really bring nothing to the game in terms of substance or joy.
While the story and plot elements are disappointing, the atmosphere is fantastic. The game has an ethereal and elegant quality that I really enjoy. The music and sound design are fantastic. The various environments and level designs look really sharp and nicely detailed. I enjoy playing around in the world Bungie created. The Bungie staff did an excellent job on the design and ambiance of the game.
Playability for the game is quite accessible. Bungie designed an accessible online first-person shooter with many MMO elements. The controls are great. I enjoy the diversity of all the different classes and the process of leveling up my subclass powers and weapons. A nice touch is the upgrade skill tree for weapons and armor pieces. The shooter mechanics are smooth and tight, and even the melee attacks are really satisfying.
I also enjoy the co-op aspect of the game. Between public events that pop up or strikes, I enjoy how the game involves the teaming up of players to take on enemies. The game’s PvP multiplayer, dubbed the Crucible in the game, is a lot of fun. There is a good variety and balance to the Crucible.
The gameplay does have its frustrating aspects too, though. The story-based stages are incredibly repetitive and can be a slog. The boss fights are not necessarily difficult, but they can take an enormously long time without some overpowered weapons. The reward and loot system for the game is another letdown. Later in the game, after you finish all the main story missions, you will want to play Strike missions in order to continue leveling up. The rewards you gain from Strikes tend to be a letdown, especially when you need certain rare items to increase the power of your gear. Bungie has been working to patch areas where players complain though. Destiny’s loot system relies on a bad random number generator. Since rewards from missions usually didn’t match how hard or how long it took to beat, players would look for areas to kill lots of low-level enemies instead of going through missions. The now patched-out “Treasure Cave” provided me with my first Legendary and Exotic weapons. Destiny really needs to address a better reward or loot system for the game. Otherwise, players will continue to look for Treasure Cave exploits.
I recently attempted the Raids. I understand why Bungie’s aimed to have friends team up to play the Raids together. The Vault of Glass was an insane session. Strategy is absolutely key, and everyone must be on the same page. I wish there was a matchmaking option for the Raids. I would also prefer a more streamlined way to chat with players in order to join clans to play things like the Raids or the more advanced Strikes that do not have a matchmaking option. That said, the Raids do provide a nice extra challenge for Destiny.
I realize Bungie has plans for DLC and Destiny as far ahead as 10 years. However, if the story problems are not addressed, it will be difficult for me to justify playing the game much longer. I hope the expansions will address some of the gameplay problems and frustrations. I get the sense that perhaps the Traveler is not the benevolent bringer of light that he is made out to be. I do not know if this is intentional, but are the Guardians really the bad guys? Bungie took such little care with the story, I cannot imagine staying invested forever in learning the answers. All things considered, Destiny does a good deal right. The game is just not the massive breakthrough it was made out to be.
Final Score: 3.75 out of 5.